Girls Night In with Hostess & Chef Melissa Shoaf

Jack Pratt with his parents on the farm

WLM - Melissa Shoaf

When Forrest and Melissa Shoaf decided to create a dream house they didn’t exactly start from scratch. Instead they found a Tudor/French eclectic home that had just the style of architecture they were looking for.

 

WLM - Girls Night In

STORY BY ANGEL KANE

When Forrest and Melissa Shoaf decided to create a dream house they didn’t exactly start from scratch. Instead they found a Tudor / French eclectic home that had just the style of architecture they were looking for. All that was missing … the couple’s personal touch.

WLM - Outdoor GardenWith Forrest, that meant plenty of light and the perfect sanctuary for reading. For Melissa, a well-designed kitchen and space for an outdoor garden sealed the deal. Now their Bethlehem Road abode is a mixture of town and country with a few contemporary elements, such as art and light fixtures combined with weathered antique furniture and accessories.

The tour of this home doesn’t start when you open the front door. Rather, it starts with their beautifully landscaped yard and raised garden beds.

To give the backyard pool more presence, Melissa created a mini garden around it, using billowy grasses, fleshy succulents and showy orchids. Soft greens and blue-grays dominate the patio. But the outdoor furniture covered with richly hued fabric provides a pleasant jolt of vibrant color that repeats on other pieces of furniture. Casual but swank is the most accurate description of the outdoor living area, but it suits the Shoaf’s easy living style.WLM - Melissa Shoaf

A few steps from the pool you will find a stylish veggie garden that yields many of the ingredients that Melissa – a classically trained culinary chef – uses in everyday cooking. “It’s simple to incorporate fresh vegetables when they are so easily accessible.

WLM - Veggie GardenThat’s why I love the summer months. Even if you don’t have space for an outdoor garden, flowerpots offer a space-saving alternative. If you have a large pot, that’s the perfect place to plant tomatoes,” Melissa said while clipping fresh basil for a dish she will be making for a cooking class later at her home.

Before Melissa takes us on a tour of this breathtaking home, we stop in the kitchen where Melissa offers up a cool glass of lavender infused lemonade, then begins to tell the story of her new business venture.

Food has always been a big part of her life, so it made perfect sense for Melissa to attend culinary school. It was after they moved into their dream home that she began the process of starting her dream business. The idea for Forte’ Chefs was born out of what this mother of three said is a necessity for today’s busy parents.

WLM - Chef Melissa ShoafWith her signature chef hat and smock, Melissa effortlessly chops herbs and explained, “Our service is meant to simplify dinner for a family or create an atmosphere for an exciting culinary experience. I design meals specifically for the client's likes, dislikes, allergies, dietary restrictions or caloric reduction. We shop for food and prepare meals daily or prepare multiple meals for the week. We enjoy cooking for small dinner parties and giving cooking demonstrations. Our goal is to use local organic produce and proteins.”

Melissa’s love for all things ‘foodie’ began at an early age. While her friends were watching cartoons, she was camped out in front of the television watching The Frugal Gourmet and Julia Child’s Kitchen on PBS. It’s hard to miss the built-in bookcases filled with a very impressive collection of cookbooks. As her guests start arriving for a cooking lesson centered on fresh salads and homemade dressings, Melissa begins to focus on the class.

With all ingredients close at hand, she starts the class by describing different tastes and textures of a variety of lettuces and the proper way to prepare them with your favorite salad veggies. When she begins preparing the salad dressings that will accompany the salads, she shows guests several varieties of oils that will serve as the base of her dressings. Then she gives some practical advice that all cooks–experts and novices–should listen to. “There are a few items that you should always have in the kitchen. Olive oil, white or red wine vinegar, dry pasta and tomato sauce, French baguettes (keep in freezer until needed), garlic, citrus and eggs.”

After her guests all sample the first salad made with arugula lettuce and topped with fresh watermelon, cantaloupe, feta and a dressing made with shallots, mint, olive oil, mustard and honey, Melissa gives tips on finding the perfect wine pairings for each meal. (See below for a complete list of ingredients)

The evening continues with an amazing meal consisting of three different salad courses and a delicious peach and ice cream dessert.WLM - Preparing dinner

And to delight of all the guests, when dinner was done, Melissa led a tour of her breathtaking home. Much of the furniture found in the house is repurposed pieces. The home is filled with muted tones of blues and greys that serve as a backdrop for the large windows that showcase the twinkling lights of Lebanon at dusk. One of the repurposed pieces that caught our eye is a round dining table made from an 18th century wagon wheel surrounded by velvet covered chairs. But the crown jewel of their home is the authentic solid mahogany bar that shipped in several pieces from England. The Shoafs fell in love with the stained glass backsplash and the history it holds. The effortless style of the large rectangular living room that houses the bar and wagon wheel table was probably the biggest challenge to decorate.WLM - Interior

“Because this room is so long, my decorators at Atlas Interiors in Nashville, convinced me that the only way to make the room more functional was by breaking it up into different living areas. That’s what we did, and it worked out,” Melissa explained.

After we tour the rest of the home the talk turns back to food, when Melissa was asked what her favorite food is. She dismissively waves her hand and says, “That’s like asking me who my favorite child is. But I guess if I had to pick it would probably be risotto on a chilly day or braised short ribs and polenta.”

So after a night filled with delicious food, conversation and a valuable lesson on cooking in the perfect setting, everyone agrees that Forte’ Chefs is a much needed and welcome addition to Wilson County.

For information on Forte Chefs, visit their online presence at http://www.fortechefs.com/

Melon Salad with Arugula, Frisee and Mint Vinaigrette

Recipe By: Melissa Shoaf Serving Size: 4
Ingredients:
1 bag arugula, washed
2 cups frisee, washed, ends trimmed
1 cup cantaloupe, large dice or balled
1 cup watermelon, large dice
1/2 cup radish, thinly sliced
2 ounces goat cheese or feta, crumbled
1/4 cup lime juice
3 tablespoon shallot, minced
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
2 teaspoon lime zest
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons mint leaves, chopped
1-1/2 teaspoon tamari or soy sauce salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. Mint Vinaigrette: Combine lime juice, shallot, vinegar, zest and let stand 30 minutes. Add olive oil, mint, tamari and whisk or blend until emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste and adjust seasoning.
2. In a large mixing bowl, add arugula, frisee, melon, radish, salt and pepper. Coat with vinaigrette. Mix well and arrange on plate. Garnish with desired cheese and fresh mint leaves

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