Tag: professional cooking
A couple of weekends ago, we packed up the better part of the restaurant kitchen, crammed it in the back of a pick-up, and drove two and a half hours east to cook an all-day anniversary party for a pair of longtime Delancey regulars.
We rented a big house along the Wenatchee River, about ten minutes from the property where the party was held, and we brought as many people as we could fit inside, including a set of 8-month-old twins and one almost-two-year-old June.
If you’ve ever been to Leavenworth in the summertime, you will remember how hot it gets. It hit 100 that weekend, and no one had air conditioning. The flies were out and biting. But the party guests were somehow still cheerful, playing lawn games, hula hooping, napping in the grass, clambering down the hill to cool off in the river.
Brandon and Co. got up at 6:30 to start smoking a billion pounds of brisket, ribs, and pork shoulder. Ricardo manned the smokers; Brandon and Ben and June ran errands; Amy drove to Idlewild Pizza to borrow their ice cream machine (thanks, Eric!) and churn twenty quarts of vanilla custard. At some point, Cody showed up, and Katie and Kyle and Michelle, and some Campari shandies. I got to sleep in(!) and read a decent chunk of a YA novel (that I, for the record, refuse to feel embarrassed about), and then June and I crashed the party and at least one of us ran around waving a half-eaten hot dog bun like a lunatic.
Actually, I shouldn’t call it crashing. The couple who threw the party had invited our staff to be a part of it, to sit down like everyone else and enjoy it. Of course, it’s hard to actually do that, and between running platters of food and bussing empty plates, we wound up perched on ice chests or leaning against the folding tables of our makeshift kitchen rather than sitting at the table they had set for us. But to have been included was something in itself, because that’s not standard protocol. When you work in a restaurant (or at a grocery store, or as a bank teller, etc. etc. etc.), if you do your job well, your work makes you invisible. Most often, we as customers only notice service when it’s really, really bad, because when it’s good, it feels effortless, natural, so subtle that you can’t really point to it. As customers, it can be easy to forget that someone is working hard to make us feel that way. So it means a tremendous amount to me, and to Brandon, and to all of us, I think, who have ever cooked and served, when we can get to know the people we are working for, and when we are included not only to work, but also to play. And now I am getting sappy.
In this case, they even called us over for a round of applause. WE HAVE LIVED THE DREAM.
Because it was so hot that weekend, the river was only cold enough to take your breath away for a minute (as opposed to permanently), and when I managed to ease myself in, I was rewarded with watching an otter swim by. We are having a summer. Hope you are, too.
I’m typing this post from my cousin’s kitchen table in Oakland, California, where June and I are visiting for a family baby shower and have stayed long enough to eat four slices of red velvet cake, get stuck twice in rush hour traffic on I-80, and sniff every single rose in Rockridge while out walking the neighborhood at 6:49 in the morning, killing time before the rest of the family wakes up. We fly home tomorrow, and then, on Tuesday, I leap into that heady, unnerving thing called Publication Day, otherwise known The Day Your Copy of Delancey Will Finally Ship, If You Pre-Ordered It, or, The Day You Can Find It In Your Local Bookstore, If You Didn’t. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeah!…Read more
I am typing this post from the back office at Delancey, where I’m holed up, working on a deadline, while Brandon and Co. prepare a five-course meal for forty-five in celebration of a gorgeous new book. Deadline: I will destroy you. In more ways than one. But I had to take a break to pop into this space, and to send up a cheer – if you can, in fact, hear me from back here behind the Essex walk-in – that it has been nine years today since this site was born. Nine! I was a delinquent graduate student then, giddy to be creating a space to write about things other than Michel Foucault and discourse analysis and anything described…Read more
You women who manage to keep up smart, articulate blogs while raising young children? You women who manage to keep up smart, articulate blogs while working and raising young children and doing all that household stuff that most of us wind up doing? I throw myself at your feet. I don’t have anything remotely original or insightful to say on the subject; I just think you’re remarkable. I have childcare twelve hours a week, jobs with flexible hours, a supportive spouse, and a kid who (usually) sleeps well (please don’t let this jinx me, please don’t let this jinx me), and yet I fight to get to this space. Of course, part of the problem could be that, each night,…Read more
I MADE IT! By which I mean, I managed to not go into labor before, in the middle of, or in the days immediately following the opening of Essex. VICTORY. I imagine that I will very soon start cursing the fact that I am still pregnant, but for now, I feel like I should be given a medal, or a cocktail. Since neither is a viable option, I made myself a pan of flapjacks and ate a quarter of it in one sitting. I haven’t written a lot about Essex here, not because it has felt like any less of a big deal than Delancey, but because the first half of this year, which was when the project began to move forward,…Read more
What I do now
So, I wasn’t kidding about the black hole. But I’m sorry to have been gone from here for so long. I’ve missed you. Delancey is getting easier. As of two weeks ago, we now have a prep cook to work in the mornings, which means that instead of going in at 9 am to receive the first deliveries, Brandon can now go in around 11 am, and I go in sometime between noon and 2 pm, depending on the day’s prep list. We still get home around midnight, but it feels a lot easier than it did a couple of weeks ago. We’re getting more sleep, for one thing, but even more importantly, we know what to expect now. That’s…Read more
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…Read more
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.)…Read more
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…Read more
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…Read more
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…Read more
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,…Read more
The dead who dream
We are long overdue, I think, for a Restaurant Day. So much so, actually, that I’m not sure where to start. But I guess the front door is as good a place as any. I know I haven’t mentioned it around here much lately, but The Thing That Will One Day Be Delancey marches on, slowly but surely. With emphasis, I guess I should say, on the slowly part. We are doing this on a very slim budget, which means that most of the work is done with our four hands – mainly Brandon’s, actually, to be perfectly fair – and with borrowed labor, borrowed pickup trucks, and borrowed tools from friends and family. I can’t imagine doing it any…Read more