Down the Aisle:Caroline Ventura

Co-Owner of Calliope and Designer + Owner at BRVTVS Interview and Images by Aimee Brodeur

I've had the pleasure of knowing Caroline for a few years. I've always been so impressed with her aesthetic, both as a jewelry designer and as a fellow vintage lover. Caroline is the epitome of laid back and effortless cool. It didn't surprise me that grocery shopping with her would be unique and often times hilarious. Joined by her furry sidekick Daryl, we talked about adventures of solo eating while our husbands are out of town, first dates in fancy restaurants, and why it's always a good choice to order the burger on the menu.

Thanks for coming over to meet with me, is this a typical market day for you?

Not usually. Michael, my husband, is out of town, so I’m shopping for one today.

When my husband’s away, my shopping routine totally falls apart. I basically will just pick up a side of potato salad from the bodega, a bottle of wine, and call it a night.  It’s pathetic, but somehow I feel like more liberated with my reckless eating lifestyle.

Same! Michael is away every year at this time so it’s sort of like my bachelor week. I pretty much ordered pizza every day for like a week. I’m pretty sure I ate old pizza that I shouldn’t have been eating. But then I noticed it made me feel like crap. I let the dishes pile up and I really lived like a bachelor.  This year I’m going to try and cook for myself as much as possible, and this time I’m actually do a full house purge and clean while he is gone.

So what is your normal “the husband’s in town” grocery shopping routine?

Shopping in New York is a lot different than in Los Angeles.  When I lived in LA I would go grocery shopping once a week, or maybe twice a week max, and just get a ton of food.  But here it’s not so easy, so I tend to buy per meal or every day or two. Michael is the main cook of the house. I’m really lucky, and he is a really good chef. I don’t even consider myself a cook.  I just buy good ingredients, throw it together, and hope for the best.  In some weird way it makes me feel like we are living in the suburbs by having our grocery shopping dates. It helps us take our mind off of the day to day stuff we deal with at work.

This year I’ve made a big effort to cut down on my food waste. I find that when I shop for multiple meals I don’t always end up using all of the food that I am buying.  My days end up being so different, and if Michael and I have a rough day we don’t always feel like cooking for an hour in the kitchen.  If I feel lazy, I’d rather order in.  And if I have spontaneous plans with friends I feel guilty that there is food in the fridge that is going bad.

Any special rituals you and Michael have created over time that are centered around a meal together?

Sunday morning breakfasts. Michael works partial days each Saturday, so Sunday is family day.

How did it begin?

I think it was before I moved here to NYC. It was just something we started doing together instead of leaving the house and going out to brunch.  At the time our apartment didn’t have a dining table so we would sit on the floor and read the paper and make some coffee.  We even went through a little phase where we were putting a little booze in our coffee every Sunday morning…that was fun.  We try to keep Sundays a little slow.

So what’s on the menu for you tonight?

I’m planning on doing a salad with tomatoes and peaches and a pan fried sausage. Since it’s just me tonight, Daryl (Caroline and Michael’s dog) will be my dining companion for the night, and he will end up getting a piece or two.

Since we are both from California, was there a shift in eating from one state to the next?

I’m not sure if this sounds cheesy, but I definitely eat for the seasons since I moved to New York.  Being from California, I didn’t know the concept of not having access to avocados year round…or corn.  I’d eat corn in February back in LA.  But now it’s really nice- I have this weird bittersweet interaction at the end of the summer…I think I have slight PTSD from being young and in school. The end of summer is always really tiring for me.

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“In some weird way it makes me feel like we are living in the suburbs by having our grocery shopping dates.  It helps us take our mind off of the day to day stuff we deal with at work.”

 

What ingredients would I always find in your fridge?

I’m obsessed with orange juice for some reason. I have to have it first thing in the morning, but I like the orange juice that you almost have to eat. I love it pulpy.  

Any other items that you’re sure to find in the pantry?

Good bread. The bread scene is really upping it’s game here in NY- I think we are taking a cue from San Francisco.  Maison and Kayser just opened up by us, which is really good.  Then there is High Street, and their bread is just incredible.  We had some friends coming over the other night, and instead of doing a really gratuitous cheese plate, I just bought some really nice bread, sliced it up, and had good butter with a little sea salt on top.  Really simple.

So where does your inspiration for meals come from?

I try and listen to what I crave.  I try not to restrict my eating at all- like if I want to have a burger, I’m going to have a burger. I know it probably sounds really annoying coming from a relatively thin person, but if I don’t allow myself to have the burger, I’m just going to fuck it up anyways.  Instead of just eating the cheeseburger, I’ll still eat a bag of chips and a bag of candy just to punish myself.  So I try to just listen to what my body wants.

Actually, now that I think about it, I have another ritual around burgers! The first night Michael goes out of town when he is off for a trip, I order a cheeseburger.  It’s my weird way of finding comfort. And I started doing it without even recognizing that it was happening.  Then our Seamless account is linked to his email, and he would get the orders.  After a few times of it happening, I would get a text from him at the airport saying “Enjoy your milkshake!”

Do you have any favorite cookbooks?

I don’t own a ton of cookbooks because we cook so much from memory.  Michael is usually just throwing shit over his shoulder and flipping stuff out of the pan, and I’m like, “okay easy buddy”. But then I love every bit of it.  When I find an ingredient I like to cook with, some recipes are like muscle memory.  You start to understand what flavors work together.  We usually focus on one item, whether it’s a vegetable or protein, and build from there.

Do you both have friends and family over often? Have you mastered the art of the dinner party yet?

It was stressful in the beginning to play hostess. We would end up having a lot of leftover food that wouldn’t get eaten.  I think we learned over time that the simpler it is, the better.  During the summer, we just make a nice big salad, add some grilled meats, and always have a good amount of wine. For our current place, we designed this table that by day is a coffee table, but can adapt for guests.  If we want to have people over for dinner, we can raise it up, swap out the legs, and add 2 leafs to it so it can seat a good amount of people.

What items do you two splurge on each week.

Wine.

Good answer.

And meat…good quality meat. We are lucky to live near a great butcher, Hudson and Charles.  We also splurge on quality olive oil.

What is your favorite meal that Michael makes for you?

He makes a chicken stuffed with red rice, chestnuts, and mushrooms. And then I’ll add some sliced fingerling potatoes with olive oil and salt.

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“It’s special to eat dinner at a place created by someone we really love and respect, and it’s nice seeing our friend excel at what they do.  It’s very inspiring.”

 

Have you revived any recipes or dishes you used to have as a kid growing up?

I don’t know if that was just a product of being a kid in the 80’s, but my mom did a lot of tuna casseroles and chicken with cream of mushroom soup… out of the can.  That’s a lot of what we ate. My favorite thing my mom made when I was growing up was chicken and dumplings, and now and again I’ll crave it. But I don’t crave the tuna casserole…

I ate a lot of hamburger helper.  I also remember when lemon pepper was a condiment used as often as salt.  To this day I still can’t eat chicken breast with lemon pepper.  So would you say your eating habits have changed over the last ten years?

Definitely.  I think because Michael and I were long distance for a while, our honeymoon dating phase lasted longer than it would have if I had lived in New York.  When we would finally be together we would go out to crazy extravagant dinners, not like expensive…. but we would just be those assholes who were in love.  We would eat way too much, and we were eating a lot of heavy restaurant food.  In that way our eating habits have definitely changed.  We still go out but we are a bit more thoughtful about it, and our habits have been pared down a lot.  I think that also just comes with getting older.

Favorite date dinner spot?

Estela or Altro Paradiso. It’s food I never get sick of eating. I was just there the other night and had a an amazing mackerel with grapes.  It’s special to eat dinner at a place created by someone we really love and respect, and it’s nice seeing our friend excel at what they do.  It’s very inspiring.

Any new food habit you’re proud of introducing into your routine?

Yes! I start by making a batch of quinoa for breakfast, and then I’ll saute some Swiss chard and add a hard boiled egg to it.  I noticed that I don’t really crash from that.  It’s a steady carb and protein that keeps me going throughout the morning.

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Are you a coffee drinker?

I am. It’s kind of my morning meditation.  I’ll wake up, grab Daryl, we will do a walk.  I get a cup of coffee, then weather pending, I’ll go and sit somewhere with him, usually by the water, and be quiet for 20 minutes.

I hear that- I’m one of those people who likes the act of going to the coffee shop though, that’s a thing for me.

The thing is…I am actually getting myself a home espresso machine just because I realized how much money I was spending on coffee each day.  So now I’m just going to make it at home and walk outside with my mug.

That’s cool too. You will be one of those comfortable New Yorkers taking a morning stroll.

Yeah, the crazy old ladies with their dogs and coffee mugs. I guess I have to get a good mug.

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Take-aways:

  1. CalliopeCaroline's West Village Storehttp://welcometocalliope.com/
  2. BRVTVS, Caroline's Jewelry Linehttp://www.brvtvs.com/
  3. Maison - Kayserhttp://maison-kayser-usa.com/
  4. Altro Paradisohttp://www.altroparadiso.com/
  5. Estela NYChttp://www.estelanyc.com/
  6. High Street on Hudson"Their bread is just incredible."http://www.highstreetonhudson.com/