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Wonder of wonders

Well, the bad news is that I seem to have fallen into a black hole called Delancey.

But the good news is that we’re open. And that Brandon and I are still alive! And that somehow, people are coming to our little restaurant! And, get this: I actually managed to take a picture of one of the pizzas. Wonder of wonders! I can die happy now. No, really, right now. I’m tired.

This particular pizza looks sort of cockeyed and misshapen, but please bear with me. (Secretly, I like them that way.) It also looks small, because it’s sitting on a huge metal plate. In person, it’s our normal size, I swear, which is to say about 12 inches in diameter. This pie was a test run one afternoon, when Brandon bought a case of padron chiles and was trying to decide how to use them. He tossed them with olive oil and gray salt, roasted them in a skillet in the wood-fired oven, and then stemmed them and tore them into strips. They’re medium-hot - enough to make your lips burn, but not incendiary - and the best part is, they have a huge amount of flavor on top of that heat. Maybe this is a useless comparison, but they remind me of some green chiles that I once had on a cheeseburger in Albuquerque. (I have a soft spot for New Mexico.) Anyway, Brandon put his roasted padrons on top of a pizza with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, aged mozzarella, and Grana Padano. It’s on the menu now, and we call it the “Padron.” That’s about as creative as our naming scheme gets around here.

It’s hard to say how these first weeks have gone, because we’re still so much in the thick of it. We’ve been running on adrenaline, for the most part. But it’s gone as smoothly as I could have hoped, I think. There have been glitches to work out in the kitchen, and a certain amount of slowness, and a few requisite catastrophes: refrigerators breaking, exhaust fans not working, beer taps not working, my head almost exploding, and so on. But people are coming in to eat, and we get to cook for them, and that’s what this is about. When everything goes right, and when people leave happy, it feels better than almost anything. Last night was our tenth night open, and for the first time, just for a second, I was able to look around and smile at the people at the bar and think, Here we are. We’re actually doing this.

Before we started this process, I understood on a cerebral level that people in the restaurant industry work hard, but I didn’t really know what that meant. I somehow didn’t realize that Brandon and I would be at Delancey from 9 am to 1 am the next day, every day, or that we would be on our feet for 95% of that time. Granted, we are very, very inefficient right now, and we have a lot to fix and learn and decide and improve, but there are certain parts of this work that won’t change. Like the fact that many of our vendors deliver at nine in the morning, and that someone has to be there to meet them. And the fact that the dough has to be made after service each night, around 11 pm. And after the dough is made, the floor has to be swept and mopped. You would not believe how much flour winds up on the floor of a pizzeria. It will not be controlled. I think it actually breeds at night, while we sleep. It’s devising a plot to take over the world. I’m sure of it.

I know that I have a tendency to make opening a restaurant sound about as fun as being eaten alive by a bear - and it does sometimes feel that way - but to be fair, I should tell you that there’s a lot of magic in it too. Like, for example, around four in the afternoon, when the servers start to set up the dining room. I wish you could be there. They set the tables, light the votives, and fill the water glasses, and on the surface, it seems like pretty routine stuff. But the room has this quiet hum to it, this sort of potential energy, that I find so peaceful. I look forward to it every day.

And there’s this table. Someday, when I get to eat in my own restaurant, I want to sit at this table in the window. I like to fantasize about it sometimes. It’s better, at least, than thinking about flour particles breeding.

Actually, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a quote that I used to have written on a piece of paper on the wall near my desk. It was by the German poet Goethe, and I don’t know where I first heard it or where that piece of paper is now, but what it said was, “Do not hurry. Do not rest.”

I think about it almost every day. It’s only six words, but it sums up right now so well.


Tonight at five

It’s very peaceful at Delancey right now. I’m going to try to remember what this feels like.

Wait. Is the art in this photo crooked, or is it just me? Maybe my eyes are crooked. Anything is possible. Delancey opens tonight at five.

There’s no signage outside the building yet, but that’ll be fixed soon. It’s at the top of our to-do list. In the meantime, for those of you in the Seattle area, maybe this map will help you find us? Our address is 1415 NW 70th Street. (It might be helpful, too, to know that we’re one block north of Ballard High School, directly across the street from a bar called Tarasco, and right next to Honore Bakery.) Like our signage, our web site is also still a work in progress, but our phone is up and running, and I consider that a small victory. The number is 206.838.1960. If you would like to reserve a table, please note that we take reservations for parties of six or more only. We’re open from Wednesday to Sunday, dinner only, from five to ten-ish.

A number of you have asked about our menu, so I should probably tell you about that, too. It will change often, depending on the season and what we can buy from local farmers, but this is the one we’re opening with. The scan is wonky, I know, but bear with me. If you click on it, it will enlarge to a much more readable size.

Eventually, we’ll get a stamp with our logo and bang it down at the top of each menu with some nice, orange-red ink, but until then, I’m writing the restaurant name by hand. It’s kind of a pain, and sometimes my mind wanders midway through the stack and I lose my ability to spell, but it makes me happy. So, I should mention, do chilled peaches in white wine.

I made these on a whim last week, tossed them up onto the menu, and they might now be my favorite dessert. (For this week, at least.) You just take some peaches, slice them, toss them with sugar, and then dump a bottle of dry white wine on top. Then you put them in the fridge for a while. You can serve them after only a half-day or so, and they’ll taste fantastic, like a very classy, grown-up version of peaches in light syrup. But after a whole day or two, they start to go translucent, and then they’re even better: thoroughly soused, barely sweet, cool and refreshing, almost dangerously easy to eat. (I did not mean to make that rhyme. Or half-rhyme. Whatever. Swear.) Before summer ends, you really should make some. I insist. Especially if you live too far away to come to Delancey and let me make them for you.

Chilled Peaches in White Wine
Adapted from A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes, by David Tanis

I’ve tried this method with a couple of different wines, but my favorite is Domaine de Pellehaut “Harmonie de Gascogne.” It’s on our wine list, and it’s hard not to love: crisp and light, a little grapefruity, not too expensive - and perfect, perfect for peaches. And about the peaches themselves: be sure to choose specimens that are firm and meaty, not watery or mealy.

8 ripe peaches (white or yellow, or a mixture), washed well and rubbed dry
4 Tbsp. sugar, or more to taste
1 bottle (750 ml) dry white wine

Slice the peaches thinly. (I get about 16 slices per peach.) Combine the peaches and sugar, and toss gently to mix. Add the wine, and toss gently again. Taste, and adjust sugar as needed. (Brandon likes them a little sweeter than I do.) Cover, and refrigerate for several hours - or up to a few days, if you want.

Serve the peaches cold, in a glass or shallow bowl, with a small ladleful of their liquid. Eat the peaches with a fork and then drink the liquid left in the glass.

Yield: about 8 servings


Figuring it out

I meant to post this last Friday. You can see how well I did with that.

I also meant to take a picture of some pizza, since that’s what this whole business is about, but that didn’t work out either. The cook we hired to help Brandon with the pizzas didn’t show up for his first official day of work - the day before our first pre-opening dinner - which has left only Brandon and me in the kitchen. That means that I do my work at my station, run over to his station to help top and finish pizzas, and then run back to my station again. This has not left much time for photography - or breathing, or thinking, or sleeping. If I ever see our no-show again, I am going to break his face. Mark my words. In the meantime, Brandon has burned his business card in the pizza oven. Do not cross us, people.

But as of this evening, we’ve found two people to work part-time until we find a full-time cook. We’re going to sleep better tonight.

And not only will we sleep better, but I will dream of tomato salads. I have three boxes, three whole boxes, of these beauty queens sitting at my station. These particular specimens, called Big Beef, were grown by Billy Allstot, a farmer in Tonasket, Washington. Billy grows the best tomatoes at the farmers’ market, and they cost a small fortune, and we’re so proud to serve them. For our first pre-opening dinner, I used them in a composed salad, along with fingerling potatoes, green beans, hard-boiled egg, anchovy, and shallot vinaigrette. The second night, I cut them into thick slices and topped them with fresh corn cut from the cob, cherry tomatoes (again from Billy), basil, and more shallot vinaigrette.

My mother was here for our first dinner, and as it turns out, she is an absolute champ of a sous chef. She also bought sunflowers for the bar, and on our night off, she treated us to beers and bourbon sours. She was in town for five days, and I don’t know how we could have made it without her. I cried when she left. I have never been as tired as I am right now. I never even knew that I could be so tired.

But I never seem to get tired of making raspberry yogurt popsicles, which is good, because I’ve already made almost two hundred of them. I’m in love. They’re one of two items on our soft opening dessert menu, along with bittersweet chocolate chip cookies with gray salt. The popsicles up there, the ones in the photo, were from one of my test batches, made in small glass juice jars. At the restaurant, I make them in vodka shooter glasses. I’ve only broken two glasses so far, and our dishwasher has broken three. It’s not a terrible record, I don’t think. We’re figuring it out. Not just popsicles, but everything.

I can’t say much more tonight. It’s almost midnight, and I’m still at the restaurant, and I’ve got tomatoes to go home and dream about. But if you want to read a bit about one of our first dinners - and get a look at the pizza! - go read this. And for a peek into the dining room this past Sunday night, click over here. (Thank you, Lorna and Viv!)

I’ll see you in a little bit.