Legendary for her culinary skills and the epitome of southern hospitality, Katherine Brown is as known for her pound cake as she is for her family. As this week’s The Big Five guest, she gives a peek behind the curtain into what it takes to pull of a fabulous dinner party, and why the art of entertaining is as important this holiday season as it’s ever been.
Give readers a little background on yourself and your family’s history in Flagler County.
My roots in Flagler County run deep. I was born and raised here and a 1969 graduate of Bunnell High School. My sister is your friendly tax collector, Suzanne Johnston. My father worked at the cement plant in Flagler Beach till it closed and he bought a Gulf Service Station on US1 and 95 at the St Augustine exit. My mother taught 2nd Grade at Flagler Beach Elementary School for many years and my niece Suzie Johnston is currently the Mayor of Flagler Beach. My daughter Angela Moody McKay and her family live here, so I have well-loved family all around me. Family is everything to me.
How did you get into gourmet cooking and entertaining?
I have never been intimidated by a kitchen or a cookbook. I do love kitchen gadgets and my favorite is my immersion blender, which I use mainly to make my homemade Tomato Basil soup and Cream of Asparagus soup. Having parents that entertained friends and family, I was always taught the correct way of doing things. I always claim I was raised by the Queen of Etiquette because my mother wanted things done right and I try to follow in her footsteps to make her proud.
You host a Ladies’ Night Out each year and design a noteworthy menu. Where do you come up with your ideas and recipes?
My first Ladies Night Out was in December 1997 in Savannah, Georgia where my husband and I lived for 29 years before moving back to Flagler County. My first dinner consisted of a Salad Supper of Polynesian Chicken Salad, Pea Salad etc. Of course, all the recipes were from my mother. As the years progressed, the menu became more elaborate, Chicken Magnolia on puff pastry shells, baked fruit, Pea Salad on lettuce cups and desserts were always chocolate! I searched all year for “different” things to try and wanted the AWE factor. Blowing up balloons and dipping them in chocolate were always a big hit. Pop the balloon and remove it leaving you with a beautiful chocolate cup to fill. These days my dinner starts with Appetizer course, Soup course, Salad, Entrée and then dessert.
Dinner parties and entertaining are becoming lost arts. What are some of the finer points of a successful holiday dinner party?
I love beautiful things and using the china, crystal and silver would make my mama proud. I was taught the proper way to set the table with the napkin on the left, the knife on the right with the blade facing the plate, beverages on the upper right side of the dinner plate, bread plates on the upper left of the dinner plate. I swear my mother is watching me from heaven and nodding her head and saying, “Yes!” Planning ahead, making lists and checking things twice helps ease the stress of wanting things perfect. I like things color coordinated and this year I had deep purple tablecloths, napkins and chair sashes. It was beautiful.
Why is entertaining so special to you, and how does having a multigenerational guest list ensure traditions are carried on?
I truly enjoy entertaining and thankful that my husband Warren helps. Entertaining gives me the opportunity to continue the art of a beautiful table with the finer things that don’t get used too often. I suggest that if you have china, use it. If you have sterling silver, use it. Crystal, the linens, use it! My sister Suzanne loves to be involved and is a huge help. She is loaded with ideas and always gives her suggestions. And my daughter Angela always comes the next day to help in the kitchen and get things back in order. They know how I like things done and never disappoint. My guest list is filled with the closest people in my life, and those closest in their life. And having a few men serve is always a delight to the ladies.
This menu this year was a different. I had Halibut Cheeks flown from Pike Market in Seattle to serve as my entrée. And my sister Suzanne insisted on an “over the top” individual charcuterie for each person which was served in a crystal wine glass that belonged to my mother.
~2021 Ladies’ Night Out Menu~
The 2021 Show Stopper
Charcuterie – The Recipe (Ingredients)
Genoa salami with olive topper
Murray’s Aged Manchego cheese with Sopressata Grande on purple flower skewer. Spain’s most famous cheese. Manchego is a protested cheese, meaning the traditional recipe must use 100% Manchego sheep milk.
Grissini Totinesi Breadstick
Mediterranean Sea salt cracker
Seedless cucumber spear
Devils on Horseback – date stuffed with cheese, wrapped in bacon, dredged in brown sugar and baked until done.
Cube of Murray’s Cavemaster Reserve Stockinghall Cheddar. Aged in caves at Cornell.
Winner of Best of Show 36th American Cheese Society competition.
Mortadella with pistachios topped with a Cornichon
Candied pineapple half and dried apricot
Caprese Salad – tomato, mozzarella and basil leaf. Pipette filled with balsamic reduction.
Rogue River Blue Cheese – World Champion of the 2019/2020 World Cheese Awards. Each wheel is wrapped in Syrah grape leaves that have been soaked in pear spirits. Only blue cheese ever won from the USA.
Humboldt Fog Cheese – 2018 World Championship winner. Soft ripened goat cheese. Each handcrafted wheel features a distinctive ribbon of edible vegetable ash.