Well. World events don’t seem to get any less troubling, so we might as well get back to business. Yes?
Last week, I said that I wanted to tell you about a new project, and I still do. It’s a project that grows out of Delancey, but it’s a whole new thing: a business headed up by two of our friends, Brandi Henderson and Olaiya Land. Brandon is technically the third partner, but this baby really belongs to Brandi and Olaiya. It’s called the Pantry at Delancey, and we’re all very excited about it. Excited. Maybe that word isn’t strong enough. Elated? Too strong? Thrilled? Let’s go with thrilled. We are thrilled.
Maybe you already know Brandi.
She’s the executive pastry chef at Delancey. She’s been with us since December of 2009, when she moved up from San Francisco to take the job. Those of you who have been to the restaurant will recognize Brandi as the woman behind the Meyer lemon budino, the cider-poached apple with ginger streusel, the rhubarb shortcake with mascarpone cream, and the cannoli with blood orange and candied pistachios. I daydream about that cannoli sometimes. She also makes the ricotta that we use at Delancey, writes a blog called I made that!, and in her meager spare time, likes to cure meat. (That’s pancetta up there, in the top picture.) In general, Brandi likes making things, and that’s why we like her. And handily, she’s trained as an architect, which also makes her good at building things. She’s currently the construction foreman for the space that will soon be the Pantry. She’s also in need of a massage.
Brandon met Olaiya in 2006, shortly after he moved to Seattle, when they worked together at Boat Street Cafe and Kitchen. The first time we ate dinner at her place, she made baked eggs with caramelized onions, and as you can see, I still remember it. A month or two later, she braised a pork shoulder in Coca Cola and served it to us with a pile of warm corn tortillas, and even though we were helping her move and had to sit on the floor to eat, I still remember that, too. In the years since, Olaiya has run her own catering company and taught cooking classes at Sur La Table, PCC, and Delancey. I think it’s fair to say that she’s a gifted teacher. She makes it look like an afternoon stroll. I’ve gotten to sit in on her classes a few times, and if you’ve ever taken a cooking class from me and felt that you learned something, it’s not because of anything I did: it’s because Olaiya taught me how to teach.
We’ve cooked a lot together, eaten a lot together, and worked a lot together. Actually, I wrote a fair piece of my first book while sitting next to her in a coffee shop near her apartment. And I wrote the bulk of the proposal for my next book the same way. I feel lucky to get to work beside her, both independently and collaboratively. And really, when you get down to it, that’s what the Pantry means to me: making things, and making our way, with our friends.
I guess I should tell you what the Pantry is? Forgot about that.
The Pantry is a community kitchen. It’s a space for hands-on cooking classes, family-style dinners, private events, and locally sourced catering. It’s located directly behind Delancey, on Alonzo Avenue NW, with a garden entrance designed by Fresh Digs. (There’s only mud and fence posts right now, but not for long.) There’ll be a 16-foot farm table, a cooking camp for kids in the summertime, and a small retail area stocked with independent food magazines, Weck canning jars, Delancey cookie dough and pizza dough, all our best stuff. Brandi and Olaiya already have a number of classes in development: a pizza-making class with Brandon, butchering and meat-curing with Russ Flint of Rainshadow Meats, a food writing course with Francis Lam, a City Chickens class with the good people of Stokesberry Farm, classes with Olaiya, classes with Brandi, a class or two with me – more than I can easily list here. And eventually, the Pantry will also make a lot of products for Delancey, products that we currently have to source elsewhere, like fresh mozzarella, pepperoni, bacon, pancetta, and salame. The projected opening date is sometime in late spring. Cross your fingers.
I took these shots a few Saturday mornings ago. They’re outtakes – or, at least, I think they’re going to be outtakes – from the Pantry’s website, which our friend Sam is building. (More pages to come.) We were sitting there that morning, Brandi and Olaiya and Brandon and Sam and I, at the communal table in the dining room at Delancey, with cameras and film and blood orange peels everywhere, and Olaiya said something that I’m going to paraphrase badly, but maybe the spirit will still come through. She said something like, Look at this! Can you believe we get to do this? Each of us doing what we like to do, each of us doing what we do best, all of us working together?
I’m happy for our friends, and happy for that.