Rosemary Warren-Green greeted me at the door and ushered me into their ample kitchen. The midmorning sun streamed through the east-facing windows overlooking an English-style country breakfast table. Clearly, this was the heart and soul of her Providence Plantation home.
I explained I was there to poke around in the pantry, take a look in her refrigerator and talk with her and her husband about food and how shopping, cooking and eating are different here than in their native home in England. Smiling broadly at the stranger across from her, Warren-Green couldn’t have been more open and nonchalant about the whole ordeal.
“Where would you like to start?” she asked.
If one were to mistake the tidy, well-ordered kitchen as a showplace rather than the stalwart workspace of the household, they would be mistaken. The Warren-Greens’ kitchen, with cut spring flowers adorning the central butcher-block island, is a central family meeting place, breakfast and lunchtime café, daytime planning area and late-night bistro where Christopher and Rosemary can catch up over a glass of wine and some midnight nibbles for a perfect capper to the busy schedules of these two Charlotte notables.
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A musical power couple
Rosemary Warren-Green’s husband, Christopher Warren-Green, is the music director for the Charlotte Symphony and the London Chamber orchestras. In North America, Christopher has worked with the Minnesota Orchestra on several occasions and made an acclaimed debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2007. He has also performed with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington D.C., and the Houston, St. Louis, Seattle and Vancouver symphony orchestras.
Christopher made international headlines when in April 2011 he conducted the London Chamber Orchestra during the marriage ceremony of Prince William and Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey. The service was televised to millions worldwide. He was also invited to conduct for Queen Elizabeth’s 80th birthday at Kew Palace and Prince Philip’s 60th birthday concert.
Rosemary is an accomplished violinist, teacher, orchestra leader/concert master and has performed on soundtracks for several feature films. She was a protégée of the late Lord Menuhin, with whom she had the privilege of performing as soloist. She has been consistently acclaimed for her solo performances, including collaborations with such renowned conductors as Simon Rattle, Yuri Simonov, David Atherton and Richard Hickox, and orchestras including the Philharmonia, Hallé, Singapore Symphony, Scottish Chamber and Royal Philharmonic.
Rosemary serves as the artistic director of the Winterfield Strings youth orchestra, a student musical group of second through fifth grade elementary school students who have formed a partnership with the Charlotte Symphony.
Favorite kitchen accessory left behind
The Warren-Greens relocated to Charlotte from England in 2010 and began what Rosemary refers to as “our great American adventure.” Leaving their 600-year-old farmhouse in the countryside outside of London behind them, the Warren-Greens, with youngest son Jamie in tow, arrived in Charlotte to a welcoming community, new restaurants to explore and huge American grocery stores, but absent their favorite kitchen accessory, the venerable and very British Aga Cooker.
For the uninitiated (read: American), Aga Cookers are cast iron, gas-fueled, enamel-glazed cooking stoves that use radiant heat (they are always “on”) to gently cook food.
“Sunday lunch was a weekend tradition for us making full use of the Aga,” says Christopher.
He fondly recalls his favorite use for his beloved stove. “It was very traditional for us to cook up roast beef or lamb with turnips, potatoes and other root vegetables in the Aga slow oven early in the morning, head off to visit with friends for a few hours, come back at midday and have a wonderful roast lunch. Rose makes a fabulous Yorkshire pudding (similar to a popover or quick bread) in the roast juices and gravy.”
Rosemary adds that most all of her vegetables and produce came from the neighbors. “We were quite fortunate. Living in the countryside, we were able to get potatoes and beans from one neighbor and turnips and carrots from the next,” she says. “We traded eggs from the chickens we raised, it was a nice exchange.”
Enjoying a home cooked meal
The couple can be quite the globetrotting pair, particularly when their work takes them to the far corners of the world. And while they both indicate they are adventurous eaters, Rosemary with a predilection for Indian fare and Christopher enjoying Brazilian food, the couple generally prefers a home-cooked meal to those found in fancy restaurants.
“Sometimes our favorite meal is at 11 p.m. or so after Chris comes home from a performance,” says Rosemary. ”While it’s late, a great way to unwind is with a glass of wine and some cold meats and cheese or a nice fish stew, some mussels and just relax over a simple homemade meal.”
A peek in the Warren-Green refrigerator reveals about four meals’ worth of advance meal prep according to Rosemary. I spy some mussels, a chicken, sausages, a roast, eggs, yogurt and lots of berries.
Christopher admits to breakfast being his favorite meal of the day, and Rosemary says one of Jamie’s favorite breakfast treats is a fresh smoothie with berries and yogurt. “The important thing is whenever possible we sit down together as a family,” says Christopher. “It really keeps us grounded and connected to each other’s lives.”
Their pantry has traditional American staples like jams, mustards, flour sugar and dry goods though the traditional British holiday jar of mincemeat is also display. One section of the larder is dedicated entirely to ingredients for soda bread.
“We love it,” says Rosemary. “And I simply must have it fresh on hand, and it goes great with smoked salmon.” Rosemary says her secret ingredient for Rosemary’s soda bread is pinhead or steel cut oatmeal.
Rosemary consults with some of Great Britain’s most well-known chefs through her extensive cookbook library. Her bookshelf features the likes of wonder-boy Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey, renowned baker Andrew Whitley, Jane Asher and Delia Smith.
Hard to find snacks
When asked what foods they pine for but can’t find, they both say Galaxy chocolate bars, a favorite of their son’s. With Charlotte becoming more global on the foodie scene, there wasn’t much more they missed save an occasional breakfast sausage and kippers, which is smoked herring.
“If I could find decent kippers in Charlotte,” says Christopher, “that would be something.”
What do they miss about the American table while in the U.K.?
“That’s easy,” says Christopher. “Krispy Kreme!”
I didn’t have the heart to tell the maestro that, indeed, the sugary confection has found its way across the pond and can be found in three shops around the city.
After all, we do want the Warren-Greens returning to Charlotte after their summer break.
Recipes courtesy of Rosemary Warren-GreenA great all-in-one supper, delicious served with pickled red cabbage (recipe follows). Serves 6-8.
1 leek, sliced in chunks
3 pounds skirt steak, cubed
1/2 pound kidney, preferably ox, cubed
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pint beef stock
1 pound carrots, cubed
1 turnip, cubed
2 parsnips, cubed
5 medium large potatoes, cubed
Salt and pepper to taste
Puff pastry to cover
Fry leeks in olive oil until soft and translucent, transfer to large casserole. Brown meat in batches and add to casserole. Cover with stock and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to boil cook in low oven (250 degrees) for 2 hours. Add diced vegetables and potatoes, continue cooking for an additional half hour. Roll out puff pastry. Transfer mixture to 5-pint pie dish, cover with pastry. Bake in oven (350 degrees) for 20-25 minutes until pastry has risen and is golden brown. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Pickled Red Cabbage
2 pounds red cabbage, shredded
1 pound onions, sliced
1 pound cooking apples, cored and grated
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2-3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients in large casserole. Cover with tightly fitting lid and cook in a low oven (250 degrees) for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Stir once or twice during cooking. Can be made in advance and reheated.