Exterior designer Daniel Keeley and chef Jen Lewis come together to create a memorable Thanksgiving feast at Keeley’s Fayetteville home
Imagine for a second that you are friends with one of the most talented garden and exterior designers in the state and he’s invited you to his home for Thanksgiving. What’s more, he happens to be friends with one of the area’s top chefs and you’ll be dining on fare she has created especially for this evening. Sound too good to be true? Not if you’re friends with exterior designer Daniel Keeley of DK Design and chef Jen Lewis of Jen’s Art of Cooking. The pair chose a cool night last autumn to gather with new and old friends for an updated take on Thanksgiving traditions. Dubbing the evening a “friendsgiving,” guests took in the beauty of the garden spaces at Keeley’s personal home while enjoying an innovative and freshly made spread prepared by Lewis.
Keeley, who shared the renovation of his 1,000-square-foot home with readers on the At Home blog and the finished interior project reveal in our October 2013 issue, planned his outdoor spaces with the same meticulous approach he uses with clients. “I actually designed the garden in my mind first—before I ever thought about the interior of the home,” he shared in the 2013 interview. The home’s entire exterior space is divided into zones, which flow gracefully from one to another.
For this party, Keeley welcomed guests at both the front door and through a side yard entrance into the home’s backyard. With appetizers and drinks in hand, guests were invited to sit for a spell in what is known as the garden room. Along with wooden benches and a round table—perfect for serving or seasonal displays—an abundance of mums, gourds, and fall foliage enliven the space and signal that autumn is in the air. From there, the group moved to the outdoor dining room when dinner was served, and ended the evening by relaxing in the outdoor living area. Designed on an axis, the bench, buffet, and dining table all align to create a seamless, structured flow from one space to another.
Prior to the guests’ arrival, Keeley and Lewis spent time in two other zones: the grill area, which features a massive stainless steel TEC Infrared grill, and the newly planted vegetable garden. “I’ve never had a vegetable garden, so it’s been fun to experiment,” Keeley says of the ornamental and edible garden that features lettuces, cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower in the fall.
While Keeley was excited to host the evening at his home—it was actually the first outdoor party he held after moving into the renovated space—he turned to Fayetteville-based chef, event planner, and recipe developer Jen Lewis when it came time to decide on a menu for the evening. “I wanted the food to be both rustic and comforting—a twist on Thanksgiving traditions,” Lewis says. “I love using elements of the outdoors and food in a more natural or rustic way when served.” This was especially true of the Pumpkin and Sage Soup, which was dipped from the shell of a hollow pumpkin. “It adds color and really makes for a beautiful presentation,” she says.
Lewis was also mindful of Keeley’s own personal taste, opting for a masculine, simple cocktail to greet guests and garden-fresh vegetables as a side. Rather than a traditional turkey, Lewis and Keeley prepared a Berkshire Pork on the outdoor grill. The pork came off the grill while guests were mingling, allowing them to experience the aroma and giving the chef an opportunity to cook outdoors. A more traditional cranberry sauce related the meat back to the holiday’s culinary roots. In the presentation of the dessert course, Lewis honored Keeley with a nod to the setting as well as his line of work. Small clay pots filled with streusel delighted guests before they ended the evening in good company around the fire pit.
Apple Cranberry Ginger Potted Streusels
For the streusel:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup lightly toasted walnuts, chopped
1/4 tsp. table salt
6 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
4 tart baking apples, such as Granny Smith or Pink Lady
1 ¾ cup fresh or frozen cranberries (thawed)
3/4 cup plus 6 Tbs. granulated sugar
3 ½ Tbs. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Note: Aside from regular kitchen tools and utensils you will also need four small clay pots from a garden store or nursery.
1. Season clay pots with vegetable oil and place on cookie sheet. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and place the cookie sheet and pots in oven while it heats. Remove the sheet and pots from oven when it is
preheated. Set aside.
2. Make the streusel. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, walnuts, and salt. Using your fingers, blend the butter into the flour mixture. Set aside.
3. Make the filling. Peel, quarter, and core each apple. Cut each quarter lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices and then cut each slice crosswise at 1/4-inch intervals to make tiny rectangles. In a food processor, pulse the cranberries with 3/4 cup of the sugar until coarsely chopped. In a large bowl, combine the remaining 6 Tbs. sugar with the flour, ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon, breaking up ginger clumps with your fingers. Toss in the cranberry mixture and apples.
4. Divide the filling equally into pots and top with streusel. Cook approximately one hour or until bubbling. Carefully remove from oven.
Exterior design Daniel Keeley, DK Design, Fayetteville, (888) 670-4899, dkdesignoutdoor.com
Menu selection and food preparation Jen Lewis, Jen’s Art of Cooking, Fayetteville, (479) 871-4139