Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Party House and Party Nuts

I first encountered the Party House about 10 years ago while driving with my friend Kim. "We're going to go by the most tacky house you've ever seen," she said. For three miles I would question every ranch sporting too many potted plants on the porch and some gargoyles, asking, "Is that the one?"

"No," she'd say. "You'll know it when you see it."

"Is that it?" I'd ask as we drove by a two-story with a phalanx of those bent-over-lady stand-ups in the garden.

"Trust me," she reiterated. "You'll know it."

And then we came upon an indescribable sight. A huge windowed mansion with Gothic light posts, a circular driveway winding around a nautical-themed iron fountain, Christmas decorations displayed in the upper left picture window, even though it was September, and porches that made elaborate waves from the second floor. "Holy Pete, what is that?" I screamed.

"That" was the Party House.

For years the house held a strange fascination for me. It and the two other houses on the "compound" were owned by an (it's fair to say) eccentric dealer in concrete who had bought a small ranch house several decades prior, gussied it up with Italian mafioso decor, and proceeded to buy the surrounding properties, building two other houses (his main residence and the Party House). The complex was constantly being updated, added to: a gargoyle here, multi-colored glass block there.

Last summer Phil and I drove by the house, and noticed the weeds were getting out of control and there was an IndyRepo.com sign in the front. The house had been foreclosed. I immediately decided we needed to buy the Party House. Phil was a little more reluctant, thinking perhaps the price was a bit out of our range and, well, the house was horrific. But I loved the idea of never having to give directions to our home. "We live in that abomination on Kessler," I would tell new friends, adding, "when you get there, just park anywhere near the life-size dolphin fountain."

I got our realtor to book me a showing, and was blown away by the sheer workmanship and vision coming together in such a tacky interior. Rooms flowed by half-staircases into other rooms. The place was huge but had only had three bathrooms, one that was in process and for which you needed to turn sideways to walk between the toilet and bathtub. The first-floor bathroom was a half-bath with a glass door directly facing the toilet. All of the floors were Italian tile -- not a bit of hardwood or carpet to be found. Walls were lined top to bottom in native quartz. The home didn't have an official bedroom or closet, just room after room of flat surface. The "kitchen" was actually a little island with small appliances that would only work for heating up appetizers or giving the caterers somewhere to set their things. None of the house was up to code. It was a wreck. "I don't know," said my realtor as we walked in, "it makes me think of hookers."

And yet, I thought about the house constantly, checked the listings to see the price drop, drove by anytime I could.

The place eventually sold for half its listed price -- not much more than our little Cape Cod. This weekend the boys and I drove by and saw that the weeds were under control, palettes of wood were outside awaiting new projects, and the house no longer felt abandoned. The original owner, who died last fall several months after being foreclosed, would be pleased that his vision didn't go to ruin.

In honor of the Party House's new lease on life, I'm sharing a Curried Pecan recipe that's been a party go-to for me for a few years. These are so incredibly good, with the sweet curry balancing the rich pecans; I think I first found the recipe in Real Simple magazine, but I'm no longer sure. These lovely orangish-brownish nuts would be perfect in bowls perched around atop Gothic Italian-tiled tables, while the booze flows too heavily and party-goers attempt to keep from falling down open staircases with no railing. And the nuts can be made in a tiny kitchen that's only good for heating appetizers and giving the caterer a place to set things.

Curried Pecans

1 pound (about 5 cups) pecans
1 egg white at room temperature
1 tsp. water
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. curry powder (I use 1 Tbsp. hot and 1 Tbsp. mild)
1 Tbsp. sea salt

Heat an oven to 250 degrees. Pour the pecans on a cookie sheet in a single layer and toast in the oven, stirring once or twice, for about 10 minutes -- until the room starts smelling like wonderful warm nuts. In a big bowl, beat the egg white and water until it's frothy and thick. Stir in the toasted nuts, and then the sugar, curry powder, and sea salt. Mix around well, and then pour back onto the cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake for about an hour, stirring every 20 minutes or so.

Cinnamon Nuts: For a variation, substitute 4 cups almonds, walnuts, or a combination for the pecans. Substitute 1 Tbsp. cinnamon for the curry. Lower the salt to 1 tsp. Lower the sugar to 1/2 cup.

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Blogger davitydave said...

You'll find any excuse to talk about the Party House. Once you told me about it, I have to drive by anytime I'm in town. I hope the new owners don't normalize it -- if that's even possible.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Cindy K said...

Can you blame me for obsessing on something like that? And "normalizing it" would entail bulldozing it and building a nice Colonial in its place...

4:04 AM  
Blogger Tristan said...

My wife and I just moved to Broad Ripple, and every time we drive by it on our trips hauling stuff to the new place, I think to myself "I wonder if the people in that crazy house would give us a tour?!?"

I'd love to see interior photos.

11:37 AM  
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