If you're one of the leading authorities on meat, you need a good outdoor grill. So you can expect Bruce Aidells' Viking to be frequently smoking.
It's a shiny bit of stainless steel and modern convenience glinting amid an otherwise earthen environment of wood, stone and brick.
When Aidells set out to build a house that would be the crown jewel in his Arts & Crafts collection — a collection that includes everything from pottery and furniture to glass and lamps — he was committed to making it a meticulous homage to the design movement that flourished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The 4,200-square-foot home above Dry Creek Valley, outside Healdsburg, is inspired in particular by the esthetic of Charles and Henry Greene, Pasadena-based architects who were masters of Arts & Crafts design.
But as a cookbook author and artisan sausage maker married to one of San Francisco's most celebrated chefs and restaurateurs, Nancy Oakes (Boulevard and Prospect), Aidells wasn't about to make his kitchens museum pieces mainly for show.
The spaces get heavy use by this cooking couple, whether they're preparing quiet meals alone or for friends or they're putting together a feast for the charity events they host.
Working with architect Greg Klein of John Malick and Associates, contractor Ken Finley of Healdsburg and a dream team of specialists and artisans, most based in Sonoma County, Aidells settled on indoor and outdoor kitchens that function almost as a single unit, separated only by wood and glass. They are both practical and functional, without sacrificing any of the hand craftsmanship and detail work that went into the rest of the house.
At the heart of the indoor galley kitchen is a real wood-fired roasting spit set within a herringbone brick hearth. It shares wall space with a modern range and oven, all beneath a massive hammered copper hood with forged steel handing.
The counter is real butcher block of thick maple, set over an 11- by 16-foot island — playfully compared to a small continent — that provides ample area for prep work on one side and for laying out food buffet-style on the other side.
"This is how we entertain," said Aidells, preparing a lunch of grilled hamburger, salad and fresh-picked squash from their extensive garden. "When we do have people over, we have them congregate in the kitchen. This allows them to do that and stay out of our way."