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Some idea

So, Delancey is opening its doors on Wednesday, August 12, at 5:00 pm. I’m a little short on words to describe how I feel about that, but maybe this picture will give you some idea.

Brandon feels pretty much the same, I think. Maybe with a touch of queasy on top. Or maybe I’m just projecting. Hard to say.

Nah, actually, we’re very, very excited. This is the part that we’ve been waiting for. It’s been a long time coming, and though I don’t know that we’ll ever feel completely ready, we’re close. Or close enough. I just hope we get some sleep sometime soon, because apparently, I’m already having a hard time keeping my eyes open.

And we’re in the middle of a record-breaking heat wave. The restaurant has no air conditioning. I’m going to sit here and massage my temples for a while. That’ll help.

But hey, you know, today is the fifth anniversary of this blog. Five years. Five years! It’s pretty amazing. You’re pretty amazing, people! Thank you. You make me so happy.

And it’s also our second wedding anniversary. That’s not so bad either.

Between now and the 12th, we’re holding soft opening dinners. My mother arrives today to lend a hand, and then my in-laws come next week. I might not be able to write a coherent sentence for a while, but I’ll have photographs for you. For sure.

See you in a couple of days.

P.S. To those who have asked questions about various aspects (lights, desserts, etc.) of the restaurant: I promise, promise, to answer them soon. I could talk about that stuff all day.

P.P.S. For local readers: I’m so, so sorry to say that the soft opening dinners are sold out. We opened them first to family and friends, and then to a mailing list that Brandon has been compiling, and they went fast. We can hardly believe it. But if you would like to get information about future special events at Delancey, please send an e-mail to delanceyseattle (at) gmail (dot) com with “mailing list” written in the subject line.


The whole point

I am pleased to report that we are finally approaching the part of this restaurant thing when we actually get to cook. It’s kind of amazing.

The construction is essentially done. There are some details left to complete, like installing acoustic paneling (to cut down on noise), hanging art and mirrors, and setting up the computer system, but we’re very close. Two of our construction workers - I’m not going to say who (rhymes with “Holly” and “Mandon”) - accidentally glued an eight-foot-tall chalkboard to the floor on Sunday, but it’s okay. It came up easily enough. We’re really very close. And we still seem to remember how to cook, which is promising, since that’s the whole point.

About ten days ago, we held a private dinner at Delancey. The evening was a collaboration with our friends Olaiya and John, part of a series of charity dinners that they organize and host under the name Little Spark, with proceeds going to Women for Women International. It was our first time cooking for paying guests, and needless to say, there was a certain amount of terror involved. And a lot of excitement. And adrenaline. If you were there, I was the crazy lady in yellow rubber gloves, standing at the dishwasher until 1 am, grinning like an idiot at the empty plates.

Dinner was served family-style, and the focus of the evening was pizza, but we served a full three-course menu, starting with wood oven-roasted vegetables and ending with chocolate chip cookies with sea salt and housemade ice cream. Everything but the pizza was mine to do. I went to the farmers’ market the day before - though once we open, we’ll be buying from a couple of local farms who deliver, as well as a produce distributor who works with other local farms - and bought what looked good: bundles of small carrots, the freshest broccoli I’d ever seen, bags of small yellow potatoes, and a fat bunch of parsley. I wanted to keep it simple. So I cut the broccoli into florets and tossed them with olive oil, salt, ground cumin, and ground coriander. (A lot like this, actually, minus the shrimp.) When they came out of the oven, the florets were charred in spots, frizzled at their edges, so that they crunched softly - like water chestnuts, I decided; I love water chestnuts - between your teeth. We squeezed some lemon over them, and that was it. The carrots were left whole, tossed with olive oil and salt and roasted quickly, so that they caramelized without turning to mush, and then they too got some lemon, along with a splash more olive oil and some aleppo pepper. But what everyone asked about, and what I wanted to tell you about today, was the potatoes.

That’s them in the photograph up there: steamed potatoes tossed with salsa verde. But ignore the steamed part. Steamed potatoes are totally fine, but for the dinner, we served them halved lengthwise and roasted, so that they were crispy and browned, delicious even before the salsa verde came along. Either way, however you do it, I am here to tell you to make this sauce. It’s similar to sauce gribiche, in a sense - both have parsley, capers, olive oil, and lemon - but it’s simpler, quicker, easier to bang up if you don’t have an herb garden at your disposal. (Ours was an early casualty of the restaurant. It’s now so far gone that our landlord actually mowed it the last time he came over.) If you, like me, tend to buy a bunch of parsley for a recipe and wind up with half of it moping around, festering in your crisper drawer, this is for you.

Basically, you take roughly equal parts capers and Italian parsley, and you moisten them with olive oil and lemon, and then you season it all with some garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and a couple pinches of salt. I imagine that it might be good on chicken, or some cold leftover steak, but it’s insane on roasted potatoes. If you really mean business, toss it into the potatoes when they’re still hot, and then lean over the bowl while the whole thing opens up and blooms: the tangy capers, the brightness of the lemon, the fragrance of the olive oil, the grassy green parsley. I can smell it just sitting here.

Salsa Verde for Potatoes

For this recipe, we use capers in brine, and we don’t rinse them after draining. And just so you know, you can multiply this recipe to make a lot at a time, but you’ll want to watch out for the garlic. Its flavor tends to grow exponentially, and it can quickly become overpowering. For large quantities, add garlic to taste.

Oh, and just in case of confusion: the term salsa verde is a sort of catch-all used to describe a variety of green herb-based sauces, so if you’ve seen other salsa verde recipes that looked different from this one, that’s why. (For example, there’s a salsa verde in my book that uses cilantro, chiles, and lime juice. Nothing like this one, but pretty killer on roasted cauliflower.)

6 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. capers, drained and coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. finely chopped Italian parsley
2 medium garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1 ½ tsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes

Combine the ingredients in a small bowl, and whisk to mix well. Set aside for 15 to 30 minutes, to allow the flavors to meld. Toss with hot roasted, steamed, or boiled potatoes. (But preferably roasted.) Salt to taste, if needed.

Yield: enough for about 1 ½ lb. potatoes


We'd have to run

I’ve got to hand it to you people. You really know how to welcome a girl back. Thank you.

I have so many things to tell you about, but sitting down to do it is not so easy. Last week was a blur of pizza-testing, potential staff-interviewing, convection-oven buying, and kitchen-rearranging, and then on Saturday evening, just as we were rounding up a long day of errands, Brandon gashed the side of his thumb on a sheet of stainless steel in a home improvement store. I looked down at his hand for an instant, just long enough to see a lot of blood, and then I gave him a Kleenex and proceeded to quietly hyperventilate. Clearly, he was going to lose his thumb. I mean, right? He wouldn’t be able to cook. We’d lose the restaurant before it was even open. We’d be up to our eyeballs in debt. He’d get depressed. He’d fall in with a bad crowd. Actually, it would probably be worse than a bad crowd: it would be a dangerous street gang whose initiation requirements would include the ritual severing of a finger. (He’d be a shoo-in.) He wouldn’t come home for weeks. I would cry myself to sleep. One night, high on who knows what, he would steal some money from one of the gang leaders, and he’d bring it to me, stumbling and crying, promising to come home, to help me pay down our debt. We’ll start over, he would plead. But they would put out a hit on him, and we’d have to run. We’d go to Oklahoma, to my mother’s house, to hide. He would have to live in the attic, and I would have to tell people that he was dead. It would be hard, but sometimes, when I had a little pocket money, I would buy his favorite Tropicana orange juice, the kind with just the right amount of pulp, and late at night, when no one could see the attic light flick on, I would sneak it up to him, the whole half-gallon, because it was the only thing that could make him happy. It was all over for Delancey, but we would have each other.


As you can see, Saturday evening was pretty scary. We went to the emergency room, and there was more bleeding, and four hours later, he was discharged with a hefty supply of gauze and medical tape. Turns out, the cut is deep, but it didn’t hit any tendons or ligaments or bone, and he’s going to be okay. One-handed for a while, but okay.

And I’ll be back tomorrow with a recipe for you.


It's all there

Well. That took a little longer than I expected. Thank you for hanging in there, and even more, for being so understanding. I missed you all, and I missed being here.

I was having a pretty rough time a couple of months ago. You could probably see it more clearly, actually, than I could. I have never, ever, done something as consuming as this opening-a-restaurant business. Even writing a book doesn’t compare. People had warned us that projects like these always take twice as long and cost twice as much as you expect them to, and dude, that is Seriously. No. Joke. It’s been like Little Shop of Horrors over here, only the role of Audrey II, the man-eating plant, is being played by a small neighborhood restaurant called Delancey. This thing, it eats up more hours, and more cash, and more human flesh – last week’s tally: 1 splinter, 1 blister, 1 army green bruise, and 3 burns – than I could have ever imagined.

The truth is, for a while, this restaurant scared the crap out of me. I didn’t want to say it in those exact words, but it did. You might remember that when I first announced it, I said that Brandon was opening a restaurant? That’s how it started. It was his idea. I was wary. My love for food has always been about home cooking, not the restaurant industry. I like the intimacy, the quiet, and the scale of home cooking. A restaurant is a different beast. It’s exciting, to say the least, but it’s also unrelenting. It means that you work when everyone else is playing. It means long hours, little security, and even less money. I should also mention that I’ve seen a restaurant gleefully chew up and spit out one marriage and cheerfully maim a second. As far as I know, home cooking doesn’t mean, or do, any of that. This is the kind of stuff that I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Still, I wasn’t going to stand in his way. I knew how much he wanted it, and I wanted to support him. I knew that his vision for this restaurant was a humane one, more like an overgrown dinner party than a scene out of Kitchen Confidential. I knew that this restaurant, either way, had the potential to turn our lives upside down – to take us over, really – but in the beginning, it was still pretty abstract. It was easy to brush off. It was easy to pass him power tools and Cool Ranch Doritos, and to cheer. Until it actually did take us over, and then I had a lot of thinking to do.

And what I decided, ultimately, is to stop thinking so much. Rather than fight it, or worry that the shape of our lives is changing, or what the hell are we doing, or whatever, I decided to get right in the middle of it. I decided to work in the kitchen at Delancey, full-time. I had originally thought that my involvement there would be on the periphery, that I would help plan the menu and develop desserts, and that I might be the host a couple of nights a week. But a few weeks ago, when we cooked our first practice dinner there, a thank-you for our designers and a few friends, I was in the kitchen with Brandon, making arugula salads and washing about eight million dirty dishes, and it just felt right. I was so happy to be working with my hands that way, to feed a room full of people and give them a good night. I felt like a part of the place. And it reminded me of something that Brandon said to me a few months ago, when the construction seemed like it would never end. He said that even though I couldn’t see it yet, this restaurant would embody everything that matters to us. And he was right. It’s all there.

So I’m going to be in the kitchen, manning the pantry station, when we open. That means that if you order a salad, some cured meats, some pickles, or a dessert, I’m your girl. I have no lofty dreams about how long I’ll be able to do it full-time - I want to keep writing, and doing both might be nuts - but it’s right for right now. Things are only going to get busier around here, but it feels like a good kind of busy. I’m ready for it. And I can’t wait to share it with you.