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Chefs' Special

After Getting Job at New Disney Restaurant, Andy Sutton Finds 'Beverly Hills of Santa Ana'

April 07, 2001|ANN CONWAY

In the spotlight: The ranch-style residence in historic northern Santa Ana of premier chefs Katie and Andy Sutton, and their daughters Grace, 3, and Sarah, 9 months.

Formerly of Napa Valley, the Suttons moved to Orange County last summer after he landed the executive chef position at the Napa Rose restaurant in Disney's new Grand Californian Hotel in Anaheim.

The three-bedroom home, built in 1958, is in Floral Park, a pristine neighborhood accented with spacious emerald lawns that Andy dubbed "the Beverly Hills of Santa Ana."

The tree-lined area--once dotted with farmhouses and orange, avocado and walnut groves--showcases architectural styles that include hacienda, Beverly Hills bungalow, Mediterranean, Mission, English Tudor, French Normandy, Cape Cod and Art Deco.

"It's a beautiful little community," said Andy, 38, adding that he checked out "200 homes" in the county before the couple settled on the one-story, taupe-colored house with the sunny front courtyard. "When we saw it, it felt just right."

The stylish-yet-unpretentious home "had a Midwestern air about it," said Katie, 36. "It reminded me of where I was raised--in a ranch-style in Wisconsin."

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First impressions: A stroll up the home's brick-paved entrance walkway reveals two of its dramatic design elements: the black double-entry doors--flanked with twin pots containing neon-yellow sweet broom--and the charming, gated courtyard.

It is in the courtyard, Andy tells you--snapping a leaf off a Mexican lime tree--that the couple has created a potted garden that contains some of the edible plants they use in their home cooking.

There's lemon grass, thyme, rosemary, parsley and St. Johnswort. And there's a tree that bears Buddha's Hand, a freakish-looking fruit that's entirely edible, Andy said. "In Napa, our backyard was filled with edible plants."

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Kitchen with a future: You'd think a couple of precocious cooks--he was executive chef at the acclaimed Auberge du Soleil in Napa; she was executive chef at the Hess Collection Winery--would have a state-of-the-art kitchen.

Not the Suttons. "The kitchen is deplorable," Andy said. "The house had been totally redone except for the kitchen. But, we figured everything was complete except our area of expertise, so, someday, we could have some fun with it."

The small, light-filled kitchen features a built-in electric stove that, when more than three burners are employed simultaneously, "flips a power breaker," he said. "The same thing happens when you use the microwave and the oven at the same time."

The kitchen and adjacent dining area sport some attractive decorative touches, though: wall-hung bouquets of dried lavender tied with ribbon, tiny earthen pots filled with spices such as herbs de Provence and colorful posters.

The couple plan a kitchen revamp featuring an industrial-style, six-burner stove, refurbished cabinets and slate floors. But they have no plans to enlarge the space, even though the kitchen occupied one-third of their Napa Valley home.

When the couple decide to expand their living area it will most likely be in the form of "a larger home, closer to the ocean," Andy said.

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Doing what they do best: People lucky enough to get an invitation to dine at the Suttons' get a creative presentation along with expertly prepared cuisine.

Take the Asian-themed meal they prepared recently for a few grateful neighbors. Served in lacquered Bento boxes, the courses included braised Korean short-ribs, pork pot-stickers floating in a Thai "seven herbs of healing broth"--a specialty of Katie Sutton's--spicy Vietnamese chicken wings and a papaya-jicama ginger-soy salad.

Or the "How to Host a Murder" dinner (a cuisine game developed by Decipher Inc.) they hosted last fall to celebrate Andy's birthday. The scene: The last train from Paris. "It was about a murder taking place on a train during the time when the Nazis were invading France," he said.

The fun began in the couple's traditional living room--dubbed "the cocktail car" for the event--with its cookbook-filled bookcases and bank of French doors. There, costumed guests--many of them from Napa--reclined on a cushy Hunter green sofa as the Suttons served up tasty appetizers such as smoked salmon and truffled quail eggs and samples from their collections of fine wines and champagnes.

Then it was on to the "dining car"--the Suttons' dining room, which, appropriately, is furnished with Napoleon's hat-style chairs--for the main course: coq au vin.

Guests then retired to the living room for French cheeses, cognacs, coffees and almond-apple tarts.

Not only is the 2,100-square-foot house a step-saver when it comes to raising a couple of lively little girls, it's "a great place for spending intimate time with friends," Andy said.

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Ann Conway can be reached by phone at (714) 966-5952 or by fax at (714) 966-7790.

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