Party on the Wharf
Beverly and Prentiss Smith build lasting friendships over sunset suppers on the wharf.
ABOVE LEFT The Smiths created a tradition of playing “Amazing Grace,” sung by Judy Collins, on the stereo and toasting the dwindling sun over Mobile Bay.
ABOVE RIGHT Prentiss Smith and wife Beverly, known as Jingles to the grandkids for her endless array of bangle bracelets and big earrings, welcome guests for a sunset supper on their Fairhope wharf.
By the time most couples reach retirement age, they are set in their ways and in their group of friends. But Beverly and Prentiss Smith were ready for a change in a big way at that stage in life. They raised their family on a farm in Brookhaven, Mississippi, but vacationed at Perdido Key. The couple decided it was time to retire on the water. All their children had graduated from college, and Prentiss was wrapping up a career in radiology. They poked around every town on the Gulf Coast, looking for that perfect spot, but they kept coming back to Fairhope. Finally, in 2004, the pair made the leap.
“I found this lot with a run-down old house on it,” Beverly remembers. “Prentiss told me, ‘If you quit buying shoes for a year, I’ll buy it for you.’ With my fingers crossed behind my back, we did it!” The existing structure was donated to Sister Julie at Catholic Charities, and the couple began work on their dream retirement home with architect Clay Adams of Walcott Adams Verneuille Architects. In the end, the team created a magnificent home with sweeping bay views and all the privacy you could want, all with a decidedly comfortable coastal feel. Prentiss and Beverly set out to make it not just a house but a home.
ABOVE LEFT Craig Key and Jolane Edwards serve up dinner.
ABOVE RIGHT Louis Braswell enjoys a store-bought ice cream cone, part of Beverly’s plan to keep it simple but delightfully unexpected.
Starting fresh in a new community requires a lot of work, and Beverly vowed not to turn down any invitation for two years until they built a network of friends and neighbors. “I just had to put myself out there,” she says, after joining countless organizations, volunteer groups and clubs, hosting nonprofit fundraisers and Page and Palette book signings at her new home. What might be work for some just comes naturally to Beverly. “I enjoy people, and I love getting to know their stories and their accomplishments. It’s fun for me.”
Since they moved to town, the Smiths have acquired a wonderful group of friends who attend several weekly dinners and lunches, and Beverly still lives by her “don’t turn down an invitation” rule. New acquaintances have turned into dear friends, and it’s hard for many to remember a time when the Smiths weren’t a part of their closest circle of friends.
Geography and kinship aren’t the only things that changed for the Smiths. Beverly’s entertaining style certainly evolved, as well. Back in Brookhaven, in her younger days, entertaining was often about making an impression. These days, she says, she’s not trying to impress anyone. A recent birthday party for her and two close friends involved countless boxes of Domino’s pizza, though styled beautifully with wooden pizza pans and brown craft paper, of course. Beverly’s casual dinners have style and flair, and she has an impressive inventory of serving pieces and accessories to draw upon. But she swears that isn’t important. “My friends have traveled the world and eaten great meals. I can’t cook anything to knock their socks off. I just want to give them a chance to spend time together. That’s what it’s all about.”
Sparkling Flowering Hibiscus Cocktail
The wild hibiscus flowers in syrup can be purchased at The Garage Studio in Point Clear. Each preserved hibiscus actually blooms before your eyes when placed in the bubbling cocktail!
3 ounces prosecco or Champagne
1/2 ounce St-Germain liqueur
1 wild hibiscus flower
1. Combine prosecco and St-Germain in a Champagne flute. Gently place wild hibiscus flower in the bottom of the glass. Serve immediately and watch the hibiscus “bloom”! Serves 1.
Beverly's Tomato Basil Jam
This jam is delicious on cheese but can be used a thousand ways in the kitchen!
2 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
3 cups sugar, divided
1 [1-3/4-ounce] package powdered fruit pectin for lower sugar recipes
1. Peel, seed, core and finely chop tomatoes. Place 3 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes in an 8-quart saucepan. Save any remaining tomatoes for another use. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
2. Add lemon juice and basil and stir.
3. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar and the pectin. Stir into the tomatoes. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Stir in the remaining sugar. Return to a full rolling boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and quickly skim off the foam with a metal spoon.
4. Ladle hot jam into hot sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch of space at the top of jar. Wipe the jars clean and add lids. Screw on tight.
5. Process jars in boiling water for 5 minutes. Start the timer when water comes back to a boil. Remove jars and cool. Makes 5 half-pints.
2 containers store-bought hummus
olive oil, to taste
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1/2 pint pitted black olives
4 ounces crumbled feta
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped*
1. Spread hummus evenly across the bottom of a serving dish with 1-inch sides. On one diagonal half of the hummus, use the back of a spoon to create swirls. Drizzle this side with a generous amount of olive oil to taste.
2. Slice the tomatoes longways into quarters. Top the plain side of the hummus with tomatoes, olives and feta. Drizzle this half with a little more olive oil and then sprinkle with the fresh chopped parsley.
3. Serve with plain pita chips. Serves 10.
*To make ahead, assemble without parsley and refrigerate. Add parsley just before serving.
Beverly first had these caprese shooters while traveling with Lynn and Johnny Roberts. She loved the idea so much, she searched the Internet until she found the right thing. The disposable medical pipettes can be purchased online through Amazon and other retailers. They have tons of fun culinary uses!
24 (1-milliliter) disposable medical pipettes
1 pint grape tomatoes
24 basil leaves
24 pearl mozzarella cheese balls
arugula, for serving
Maldon salt, to taste*
1. Fill droppers with olive oil. Use dropper as a skewer and put 1 tomato, then 1 basil leaf, then 1 mozzarella pearl on each dropper. Do not poke all the way through cheese, allowing cheese to act as stopper for dropper.
2. Serve over a bed of arugula. Sprinkle with Maldon salt just before serving. Serves 12.
*According to Cooks Info, Maldon salt is an English sea salt. It comes in large, thin, uneven, crunchy flakes that have a very clean, pure salt taste. It is meant to be a finishing salt. Beverly buys hers at The Happy Olive in Fairhope.
Beverly purees any leftover salad in the food processor, adding a little extra olive oil and cheese as needed, to make a delicious pesto!
2 (5-ounce) containers of arugula
2 Meyer lemons
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
Maldon salt, to taste
1. Place arugula in a large serving bowl. Zest the Meyer lemon over arugula. Cut the lemons in half and squeeze the juice over the arugula. Drizzle olive oil across
the top and add shaved Parmesan cheese. Finish with a sprinkling of the Maldon salt to taste and toss gently. Serve immediately. Serves 10.
5 pounds headed shrimp, peel on
salt and pepper, to taste
5 bay leaves
1/4 cup oregano
1 ounce Reese garlic juice
1 teaspoon Crystal hot sauce
2 pounds salted butter
New Orleans French bread, for serving
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place shrimp in a 4-quart Pyrex baking dish. Completely cover shrimp with salt and pepper until you think that you have ruined them. Spread bay leaves over shrimp. Sprinkle oregano, garlic juice and hot sauce on top of seasoned shrimp.
2. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cut lemons in half, squeeze juice into butter and stir to combine. Add squeezed lemon halves to butter. Pour lemon butter over shrimp.
3. Cover and bake 40 to 50 minutes. Serve with New Orleans French bread for dipping and lots of napkins. Serves 8 - 10.