Keith Kreeger

By Camille Styles

The first time I encountered Keith Kreeger’s pottery was at the media preview dinner for Qui (which soon became one of Austin’s hottest dinner tickets in town.) I immediately noticed how Keith’s modern handmade pieces provided a welcome contrast to the striking food presentation on the plate, its simplicity highlighting the culinary artistry while also making it feel a bit more down to earth. Since then, I’ve spotted his work all over town and scooped up a few treasured pieces of my own, and I’ve also been lucky to get to know the man behind the pottery. Turns out, in addition to being a masterful maker, Keith’s also one heck of an entertainer, and he and his lovely wife Evangelina invited us into their Austin home as they prepped for one of their legendary dinner parties. Their theme was inspired by a recent trip to Spain, so the menu centered around (what else?) a steaming family-style pan of paella. Click through for all the delicious details…

*photos by Kate LeSueur

My entertaining style in 5 words or less:

Real, comfortable, welcoming and fun.

Negronis are one of the classic cocktails and I don’t stray from the norm. It’s equal parts gin, vermouth and campari. Play around with different gins and vermouths until you find your favorite combination.

* Get the recipe for Keith’s Classic Negroni here

What scares you about entertaining?

Evangelina and I are pretty laid back about entertaining. But my biggest fear is that we don’t get the salad on the table. I’m usually doing all of the prep and cooking and Evangelina always makes the salad. 90% of the time the salad stays in the fridge for the entire evening as we get caught up in having a good time with friends.

Current favorite color palette for parties:

We’re pretty neutral with our colors. Our house is a variety of grays and my work doesn’t usually have more than a pop of color. We get most of the color for the parties with flowers in my vases.

The perfect dinner party playlist:

We kind of run the gamut during our parties form pop to indie rock to hip hop. At the last party I had to quickly buy Gerardo’s “Rico Suave” during dinner just to see peoples faces react to hearing that song again.

My must-have entertaining tool:

A sharp knife and a dish towel over my shoulder. I have never liked potholders and that towel is like getting the uniform on for me.

Always in my refrigerator:

Eggs. Butter. Bubbles. Fish Sauce.

The taste I’m always craving:

Besides a Negroni? I love asian food and will almost always sneak away from the studio for sushi, ramen or pho. Our kids have become professional ramen slurpers thanks to Ramen Tatsu-ya.

My signature entertaining dish:

I always like to try new things but for a big group you just can’t beat the ease and showmanship of a paella. It always makes a huge statement and is basically a one pot dish. A very large and beautiful one pot dish.

Top 3 tips for a great paella:

  1. Season your stock. I usually just use store bought chicken stock but will season it up with some extra root veggies, lobster tails, shrimp shells to help give the paella another layer of flavor. 
  2. Dont stir the paella too much. After you add the stock to the mix give it a few quick stirs and then leave it. It’s not a risotto…just let it be.
  3. Don’t be afraid of the heat. Paella is traditionally made over an open wood fire. When cooking on the stove top keep the heat on medium or medium high and let the bottom get crispy (but not burnt). Those crispy rice bits on the bottom of the pan even have a word for it in spanish, socarrat. Scraping those bits up is going to be your new favorite part of paella.

Get the recipe for Keith’s Paella Mixta here

The entertaining rule I rarely break:

Always have good ice and enough food. There really is nothing sexier than a big ice cube in that negroni. Oh…and never let the guests cleanup…ever.

My dream dinner guests:

We love having our families over and just hanging out. It’s a rare occurrence since everyone lives out of town but some of the most fun dinners we have had are when our families are both visiting at the same time. As for a dream dinner that won’t ever happen… think I’d have to say Gore Vidal. I’m sure he would kind of dominate the conversation but it would be amazing to hear. Also Jose Andres. I’m kind of a control freak in the kitchen but in this case I would sit back and let him do his thing.

This quote from Keith’s site is too fitting not to mention:

I think that a meal with friends that you’ve spent hours preparing calls for dinnerware crafted with the same care. I think flowers picked fresh from your garden look better in a vase you’ve picked as well.

My standard host/hostess outfit:

I’m usually just in jeans and a some sort of denim shirt. I know that trend is probably way over but it’s still my go-to. Evangelina is always in a black dress.

The restaurant meal I’ll never forget:

Etxebarri about an hour outside of San Sebastian in Spain. We went this summer and Evangelina was mad that I made the reservation instead of heading right from El Rioja to San Sebastian. But, we drove past a small town and into an even smaller town with a beautiful mountain backdrop. We had a 10 course tasting menu where every single course was cooked on a custom wood fired grill. We sat on the patio surrounded by farms and mountains. Everything we ate that day was the absolute best version of that ingredient I’ve ever had. The first course was a tomato served with lightly smoked mozzarella that was made in house with milk from that morning. I wish that sort of food ecosystem was possible here.

*all photos by Kate LeSueur