Dining

In My Kitchen: Holly Hartnett, Owner, Venue

February 2010

Kitchen Cred Since the age of 13, Holly Hartnett, a native of Omaha, has worked in kitchens. She's done everything from making bagels and dishwashing to bartending and waiting tables, but when she opened Venue on Highlands Square in November 2008, the dream of owning her own place was realized. At home, she loves to cook and can often be found paging through her dog-eared Alice Waters cookbook, or whipping up a batch of her favorite fettuccine.

Cooking Favorite
Hartnett received this hefty, 12-inch Lodge cast-iron skillet as a gift from her mentor (chef Sandy Whye from V. Mertz Restaurant in Omaha). She appreciates its versatility. "You can use it to cook vegetables, sear meat, make cornbread, anything really."

Stained Glass
Among wall-hung plates, an Italian painting, and other trinkets that complement Hartnett's kitchen is a collection of blue and green Murano wine glasses with a matching decanter. The colorful glassware is from Venice, but she purchased it in Florence during a four-year stint in Italy.

Take A Shot
Venue is the only restaurant in the state serving Dry Fly vodka from Spokane, Washington, as its house vodka. Most people haven't heard of the small-batch liquor with subtle vanilla undertones, but Hartnett swears by it at the restaurant and at home. www.dryflydistilling.com

Spice It Up
Hartnett says she and Venue's chef, James Rugile, believe in keeping food simple. "You taste all the ingredients he uses. A little cayenne pepper or smoked paprika adds flavor, but not an overwhelming amount of heat. It just gives you that tinge on the back of your tongue."

Funky Functional
Several colorful tureens accent Holly's kitchen, including a beautiful blue and white one she bought for $3 in Boulder. They sit on her shelves side by side with vibrant John Dennison ceramic bowls that she's collected over the years from her native city of Omaha.

Chicken Fettuccine
(Serves 4)

  • olive oil
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 6 cloves garlic, slivered
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • 16 ounces frozen young peas, blanched
  • 2 jars marinated artichoke hearts (Hartnett prefers the hot ones)
  • lemon juice to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cayenne to taste
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 1 pound fettuccine, cooked and strained

In a deep sauté pan, heat three tablespoons of olive oil and add chicken. Sear until golden; remove from pan. Once you are able to handle the chicken, cut into bite-size pieces. Lower heat and add more olive oil if necessary. Add garlic and cook until lightly golden.

Add chicken, cream, and goat cheese to the pan and simmer until chicken is cooked through. Add peas, artichoke hearts, lemon juice to taste, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Add Parmesan to desired consistency. Add cooked pasta to the pot and combine all ingredients. Serve additional cheese on top.

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