Karen Lenahan

Something‘s Cooking

As a little girl, Karen Lenahan loved food—preparing it, experimenting with it and, of course, eating it. Years and years before “foodie”-ism turned vogue (and then ubiquitous), Lenahan was already the real deal.

That lifelong enthusiasm suffuses Small Kitchen Big Taste, her young, surprisingly well-established meal delivery and catering business. Its bright brick-and-mortar location, opened last November 1 after a year and a half operating out of a rented kitchen, is a burst of youthful, modern energy in an unlikely-looking industrial building at 420 Sackett Point Road, North Haven.

In her mission to prepare tasty meals from whole ingredients—“clean,” she calls them—that are local and organic “whenever possible,” Lenahan enlisted the help of another chef (and clearly kindred spirit) Sarah Fitzmaurice, who graduated from Boston’s Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. Although Lenahan is the sole owner, she calls Fitzmaurice “a wonderful partner who has been there from the beginning.”

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“What are we making today?” is a common discussion point between the two. The in-store menu can change that often, with seasonality considered, and a lot of their items are naturally gluten-free. A typical day might feature a fresh fish dish and maybe a grain-fed steak entrée, plus a roasted vegetable salad. Customers can text or email their orders, stop in to select from a glass case or refrigerated shelves or can sign up for home-delivered meals, which go out every Monday and Wednesday. The range of possibilities is quite wide and exciting: past dishes include Organic Roast Chicken with regional Northfordy Farm Ramp Pesto; Shrimp and Lump Crab Fra Diavolo with Zucchini Noodles; Asparagus “Clean” Quiche with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Roasted Beet Quinoa Tabouli; Turkey Meatball and Spinach Soup; Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Beet Top Greens; Nutella and Chocolate Chunk Bread Pudding.

During a recent visit to the minimalist facility in North Haven, Lenahan made a yummy-looking salad from watermelon, honeydew and cucumber with feta cheese and fresh sprigs of mint, keeping an eye on roasted boneless breasts of chicken in fresh tomato-basil sauce with roasted sweet potatoes. Also prepared that day were Thai chickpea burgers with a soy and scallion dip, a quiche of zucchini and shallots, broccoli slaw, roasted spring vegetables and, for dessert, peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes.

For catering, Small Kitchen Big Taste says it sticks to “small events,” which don’t always seem so small. The business floats an implicit maximum of 100 on its website; then again, SKBT recently helped cater the annual Leonardo Challenge party at the Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop, which hosted hundreds.

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Lenahan is proud to say that there’s no set catering menu, as she and Sarah prefer to meet and personalize the food offerings to suit the occasions and the tastes of the participants, observe dietary restrictions and capitalize on the best of the region and season. Creativity extends to the kinds of events they do as well; one really neat idea is a gender-reveal party for expecting parents, where Lenahan knows the sex of the baby even before Mom and Dad do. The ultrasound is mailed to her by the medical technician, and Lenahan uses the appropriately colored cupcake filling, either pink or blue. Then everyone at the party discovers the answer at the same moment by taking a coordinated first bite.

In another inventive move, Small Kitchen Big Taste offers cooking classes for children ages 5-9. Calling them “a blast,” Lenahan says that, to date, kids in groups of six have made pizza dough and decorated their own personal pies, combined nutty ingredients into granola and made frozen chocolate-covered banana bites. Classes aren’t just for the tykes, though; if you have a group of 6 people at any age, SKBT can put together a class tailored to you.

As if all of that weren’t enough, Lenahan has her eye on producing a line of fresh, wholesome baby food, which her new baby daughter Emilia, now all of 12 weeks old, will be sure to taste-test. What a lucky kid.

Small Kitchen Big Taste
420 Sackett Point Rd, North Haven (map)
Mon-Thurs 11am-6pm, Fri 12:30-5:30pm
(475) 238-8470

Written by Bonnie Goldberg. Photographed by Dan Mims.

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