Thursday, March 24, 2011


''It's very fancy on old Delancey Street, you know'' – Lorenz Hart  

Welcome to the real thing.  You know you’ve found it when you’ll drive halfway across town at half past four to satisfy a hankering for really great pizza.

Situated on a quaint residential street in Seattle’s North Ballard neighborhood, Delancey is a place like that.  In addition to mighty fine pizza, they’ve got the unassuming location, the diverse and bustling crowd, an uber-amiable wait staff and food that falls somewhere between comforting and inspired.  Consider it the destination you’d gladly burn fuel for; which is good, because unless you live in the neighborhood or accidentally stumble upon their doorstep, it’s not exactly next door.  Then again, don’t most sought after places require a measure of seeking out? 


Delancey is flanked on one side by a fanciful umbrella shop and on the other by a tiny but impressive French bakery.  There’s a yoga studio on the corner and across the street, two additional restaurants round out the scene.  Housed in a one-story brick building, Delancey’s dark facade is punctuated by a series of picture windows, giving the exterior an airy vibe in summer and a welcoming glow in cooler months.

Should you miss the 5pm seating, be prepared to join clusters of patient dinner folk parked just inside the front door.  A decidedly hip, albeit unpretentious hostess predicts wait times and takes drink orders with unsurpassed warmth and poise.  With a glass of wine in hand, the wait is entirely bearable.

The entry is home also to the tiny pizza kitchen, upstaged by a narrow counter and a handful of French barstools.  These coveted perches offer diners an ideal vantage point from which to witness owner and chef Brandon Pettit as he works intently beside the self-built woodfire pizza oven.  Pettit’s mop of brown curls, encircled by a rolled up bandana, sway to-and-fro as he shapes each pie with tremendous passion and intensity. 

In fairness, Delancey is more than just one man’s dream.  Pettit’s wife and cohort in business, local author Molly Wizenberg, has been by his side from the get-go.  Their restaurant came to fruition in 2009, shortly after Ms. Wizenberg wrapped up her first book, ‘A Homemade Life’.  Not surprisingly, Wizenberg threw herself into the role of restaurateur with the same fervor and gusto she summoned when writing her bestselling memoir.

The dining room’s spartan interior seamlessly unites a minimalist aesthetic with retro funk furnishings and a few welcome pops of color from framed photographs suspended on whitewashed walls.  Hanging lamps in red orange enamel cast a warm glow on the buzzing scene below.  A kitschy communal table, circa 1965, offers a nostalgic nod to grandpa’s rec room, sans shag carpet and avocado-hued walls.  Smaller, poured concrete tables paired with vintage chairs offer yet another thoughtful juxtaposition of old and new. 


Much like its surroundings, the menu is concise and unfettered.  Seasonal salads and pizza toppings abound and local, organic produce prevails.  Standing pizza offerings are punctuated by specials such as the ever-popular clam pie or one with stinging nettle pesto.  The Jersey is an old-school tossed salad with classic Italian vinaigrette, ribbons of purple cabbage and carrot, crunchy golden croutons and a snowfall of grated parmesan.  In summer months, try the sweet corn, feta and Billy’s tomato salad, all sunshine and tang laced with the sultry sweetness of just shucked corn.  Cooler months bring the likes of grilled treviso scattered with buttery breadcrumbs and topped with tendrils of preserved lemon and paper thin parmesan shavings.


Pizzas are thin crusted and slightly larger than a dinner plate.  With salad and dessert, one is easily enough for two light eaters or one ravenous diner.  The toppings are balanced, fresh and alive with flavor.  An array of choices include a few cheese variations, pepperoni, sausage or hot salami, a white pie and my favorite, the crimini with fresh mozzarella and thyme on an olive oil base, to which I religiously add prosciutto.  The salty, savory combination of mushrooms and prosciutto accented by a subtle hint of fresh earthy thyme is nothing short of miraculous.  Add to this the pristine canvas of a well-crafted crust and its a done deal.

Pettit’s crust is a divine culmination of his visits to beloved pizza kitchens throughout the states as well as those in Italy.  He has honed a product reminiscent of some of the best; while distinctly his own.  You will crave this crust long after sinking your teeth into its burnished exterior, resplendent with thin, crackly bubbles giving way to a chewy, satiny center that is airy yet substantial.  The flavor is layered, robust and almost nutty with a depth that is lacking in most thin crust pies.


Wines at Delancey are often local and always well-priced.   Pettit and Wizenberg are staunchly committed to offering luscious, affordable wines; each selection carefully considered to compliment their menu offerings. 

The welcome addition of pastry chef, Brandi Henderson, formerly of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, was the icing on the proverbial cake.  In the heat of summer, Henderson’s dreamy cloud-like pavlova topped with delicately sweetened, whipped Greek yogurt and fresh local raspberries is cool and creamy, tart-sweet perfection.  Come autumn, her spicy ginger cake with roasted pears and luscious butterscotch is pure poetry.  For a simpler finish, Delancey’s trademark bittersweet chocolate chip cookie with a touch of grey sea salt is always on the menu.

Delancey is open Wednesday through Saturday, 5 pm – 10 pm and Sundays, from 5 pm – 9 pm.  Phone- 206.838.1960

Be on the lookout for The Pantry at Delancey, where Pettit will partner with Brandi Henderson and Olaiya Land to create a community kitchen offering hands-on cooking classes, family-style dinners, private events and locally sourced catering. 

pie. pie. pie.

Ever heard of a pie slam?  You are not alone.  Until last month when I signed on as a willing participant, I was as clueless as the rest.  This, after I swore I would never enter another cooking or baking competition.  Having previously subjected my culinary endeavors to the scrutiny of judges in both a whoopie pie bake-off and a holy tomato contest, I can attest to this:  I do not care for losing.  Not one bit. DSC_2438

So, what exactly is a pie slam?

The pie slam, as we know it, came into being when two gals with a penchant for baked goods and the written word joined forces to host a pie baking contest with a twist.  In addition to baking a pie, contestants of a pie slam must write a short story about said pie and then read their story aloud before an audience and panel of five judges who determine the best combined story and pie.

When my husband gently reminded me of my sacred vow to never again compete in the food arena, I was quick to dispel his qualms by pointing out how vastly different this was.  The pie slam wasn’t going to be just another baking competition, it was a chance to merge baking and writing, two of my favorite things.  How could I resist?

Jessie Oleson, of Cakespy, and Wendy Sykes, of Four and 20 blackbirds, hosted the event in Cakespy’s Capitol Hill headquarters on March 14, also known amongst math nerds as ‘Pi Day’ (i.e. 3/14).  The five judges included Nancy Guppy of ArtZone, Dani Cone of High Five Pie, Kate Lebo of Good Egg, and pie slam co-conspirators, Oleson and Sykes. 

On the day of the pie slam, nine contestants placed their entries on two long tables draped with cotton candy pink linens.  Dainty blue cards showcased the names of the contestants and their pies.  The room filled with nervous anticipation as starting time drew near.

the pies


Each pie was distinctly different, from traditional fruit varieties to the fantastical lunchbox pie topped with chocolate-dipped potato chips, yet only one would take home the blue ribbon.

At half past six, Wendy Sykes introduced the judges and called the first contestant to read her piece.  It was me.  My heart raced as I stated my name, pie and the title of my story (see below).  Being first is no picnic.  My voice wavered at first but steadied as I delved in to my piece and hoped for the best.  One by one, the entrants came forward and shared their stories.

the contestants


The judges sampled each pie in conjunction with its story. 

1. Max Snyder shared his highly entertaining account of baking an apple ‘pie’ in his dormitory.  2.  Sarah Spiller reminisced about her grandmother’s pies and revealed her love affair with pumpkin pie.  3.  Stephanie Crocker, of Sugar Bakery, considered which pie she loves best and settled on apple with a domed top.  4.  Brook McDonald read a playful poem about her Lunchbox Pie, a peanut butter banana filled creation topped with chocolate covered potato chips.  5.  Wendy Johnson shared tender memories of the pies her mother baked for her father and recalled which one he loved best: blueberry.  6.  Alexander Jhin merged cake and pie in his story and in his ‘Pake’, a chocolate cake baked atop a cherry pie.  7.   Aharona Ament told a story of a boy named Fig, who was born on Pi Day and loved to bake.  She baked a fig, apple and walnut pie.  8.  Kate McDermott, of Art of the Pie, used a pie server as a prop as she engaged in a dialogue with pie and considered why she loves it so.  She baked a shaker lemon pie.  8.  Sarah Dapcevich (that’s me) told the story of a couple who shared a piece of pie at their favorite restaurant.  The pie she baked and wrote about was chocolate cream pie with macadamia brittle and malted whipped cream.

Pie slam collaborators, Wendy Sykes and Jessie Oleson, tally the results

While the judges deliberated and tallied the scores, pie slam attendees mingled, noshed on pie, perused Jessie’s cute-as-a-button shop and admired her delectable artwork. 


In the twinkling of an eye, the results were in:  First place went to Kate McDermott, of Art of the Pie, for her shaker lemon pie and pie dialogue.  She took home a handmade blue ribbon and a framed watercolor by Jessie Oleson.  Runner up was Alexander Jhin with his inventive ‘pake’ and witty story involving a cupcake who aspired to be more than just a cake.  He received a retro oven mitt, handmade by Wendy Sykes.  Congratulations to the winners and to all the contestants in the first annual Cakespy Pie Slam.  See you next year!

DSC_2502  Jessie’s husband, Danny, and pugs, Porkchop and Olive, came out to support the pie slam

Below is the story I entered in the pie slam.  It’s a fictional tale drawn from several meals eaten at Bar Tartine, my favorite restaurant in San Francisco.  I have a theory that a restaurant is only as great as its dessert menu.  Considering the fact that dessert is typically the last impression, it is surprising how often a stellar meal is punctuated by a mediocre confection.  The pie in this story was an actual dessert served at Bar Tartine and it did not fail to impress.  I tried my best to recreate the pie and have included a recipe should you care to make it yourself.

  Win or lose, the pie that won my heart

The Most Beloved One

Vera caught her breath as she doggedly mounted the final step of the endless staircase leading up from the subway platform. A sudden gust of wind tousled her loose waves and she shivered a little, bracing herself for the chilly five-block stroll from metro station to restaurant. Never mind the broken escalator; Vera avoided those mechanized steel beasts even when she was wearing sensible shoes, which of course tonight she wasn’t. It was a small price to pay for looking this good, she rationalized. A shock of electric blue dress peeked out beneath her gray wool coat and she smiled the satisfied smile of a woman who knows she will turn heads.

Clyde caught hold of Vera’s arm and linked it with his own as she gladly leaned in to the warmth of his body. His easy manner and boyish good looks complimented Vera’s own youthful countenance and confident stride. The two turned a corner and joined the Thursday night crowd already hungrily pacing the sidewalks in search of dinner and respite from the biting cold. This short stretch of pavement was home to some of the best dining the city had to offer; a veritable tablecloth spread before the discerning diner.

Amid the myriad of choices, Vera and Clyde remained devoted to but one. One beloved establishment captivated their hearts, minds and bellies in flawless succession. Vera felt her pulse quicken as they approached the entrance. Black lacquered window frames reflected a neon glow from the street lamp hovering overhead. A near invisible sign hung from two metal hooks, arrogant in its austerity as though taunting passersby to overlook the place.

The famished, windblown duo stepped inside where a rustic chandelier crafted entirely of antlers shed soft light on scattered tables, diners, and wait staff. Wide plank walnut floors were a throwback to earlier days. A few well-appointed vases overflowed with wild, brambly flowers, softening the edges just enough. Vera let out a contented sigh as the din of the bustling interior drew her in. Across the table, she locked gazes with Clyde, their faces aglow in eager anticipation.

They sipped tart sweet huckleberry aperitifs, inhaled still warm, thyme-scented gougeres, like bitty poufs of cheesy, eggy nirvana, and sunk their teeth into fragrant, unctuous dates filled with tangy, creamy local gorgonzola. They marveled over thick slices of bread with a dark crusty exterior and chewy, satiny center. When the main courses arrived, there was room still for delicate pillows of ravioli with ricotta and stinging nettles and goat prepared three ways, each a revelation of taste and texture.

As far as Vera was concerned, the question of dessert was no question at all, rather a resounding affirmative. True to form, Clyde insisted he could scarcely accommodate another crumb, let alone dessert; but you go ahead, he murmured. Overcome by a sated stupor, Clyde reclined in his chair while Vera intently perused the nightly selection. Despite his admonition to the contrary, Vera knew her man could never resist anything dark and chocolaty. She zeroed in on chocolate cream pie with malted whipped cream and macadamia nut brittle, willing it to be as ungodly good as it sounded.

When the pie arrived, Vera’s desire to share was momentarily dampened as she contemplated the less than generous slice set before her. She slid the first forkful in her mouth and audibly moaned as the silky chocolate filling and buttery graham cracker crust mingled with comforting malted whipped cream and the salty sweet crunch of macadamia brittle. With his fork poised, Clyde no longer waited for an invitation. Vera didn’t mind. Pie this good was meant to be shared.


my two biggest fans

A big shout out to my dear husband and sweet daughter, who gamely accompanied and cheered me on at the pie slam.  I may not have won first prize but I went home with my two most prized ones.  XOXO

  this one prefers lollies over pie.  kids.

   before and after: the downside of trying all nine pies

Saturday, February 5, 2011


food we like


One warm evening in late September, rather than jog my neighborhood loop, I opted to run downtown for a change of scenery.  Once in the city, I passed Seattle Art Museum and made my way down the Harbor Steps headed for the nearby waterfront.  Halfway down, I skidded to a halt in front of an unfamiliar rustic slate sign with a chalk drawing of a portly pig and two words: Lecosho OPEN. 

Had Armandino Batali created a sophisticated new counterpart  to showcase his empire of meaty goodness?  The rustic pig  is no doubt synonymous with Batali’s famous cured meats though he by no means holds claim on swine as a restaurant logo.  I peered through the window, breath fogging the glass as I absorbed a warm, convivial scene within.  The vibe was unpretentious though decidedly posh and a menu posted outside had me salivating with its chic French bistro meets laid back Pacific Northwest meets hip gastro pub offerings.  Had I not been clad in head to toe spandex, I would have found the pull irresistible. 


Ever the cautious diner, I tend to rely on the good word of those with a greater sense of abandon and deeper pockets than my own.  Because dining out requires either a babysitter or a third wheel, choosing with care is imperative. Thus, my initial excitement was promptly filed away and might have stayed that way had Lecosho not come up the following week during my daughter’s soccer game.  Her coach, a local wine distributor, offhandedly mentioned the new spot as the latest venture of veteran restaurateur, Matt Janke, of Matt’s in the Market Fame.

At Matt’s, Janke brought the bounty of the farmer’s market to the table with a flair for inspired simplicity.  In his postcard-sized restaurant on the second floor of the Corner Market building, daily offerings were unfussy, never contrived and consistently delicious.  Buttery pan seared trout, local greens and rustic walnut tart were par for the course, prepared with love by Matt himself in a postage stamp-sized open kitchen.  After selling Matt’s a few years back, Janke remained under the radar, working gigs at Wild Ginger and Ballard’s hotspot, Bastille, before taking on this new space, previously occupied by Japanese restaurant, Koji Osakaya.  


Another six months might have passed but for one fateful Saturday night when my family’s unanimous hankering for Lunchbox Laboratory burgers was kiboshed due to a hand-scrawled sign on the door unapologetically stating, ‘Sold Out’, followed by the discouraging news of a one and a half hour wait at nearby pizza hot spot, Delancey.  It was late.  Stomachs were rumbling.  Tables were full.  Then it came to me: Lecosho.  It was new and relatively unheard of.  The odds were in our favor.  I called.  Sure enough, they had a table for us.

Seated in a cozy nook at the far end of the space, we perused a menu abundant in local meats, plentiful seafood and half a dozen tempting sides.  In a nod to old school but with a twist, a bibb wedge was topped with crisp pancetta, drizzled with silky toasted onion ranch and garnished with roasted romas like gleaming rubies sidled up to a pyramid of green.  My daughter went gaga for potatoes fried in duck fat while my husband set his sights squarely on ribeye steak, seared to juicy perfection.  I opted for comfort in the form of roast chicken with creamed farro and braised greens.  A thoughtful wine selection seamlessly played off the menu.


Our bibb salad was an enlivened juxtaposition of tangy, salty, creamy goodness with rich sweet caramelized tomato, a generous smattering of toothsome bits of cured pork and buttery lettuce enrobed in velvety dressing.  A side of five thick, crisp brown potato slices nested in a petite oblong dish were promptly bogarted by my potato-fiend offspring until intervention afforded a relatively reasonable distribution.  She now requests goose fat with every meal.  I did not argue when presented with my husband’s Oregon ribeye, plump and proud with two round pats of smoky bleu butter and a touch of coarse sea salt.  The last time a steak of its caliber passed my lips was last fall in Paris, at acclaimed, time-honored bistro, Allard.  My husband said little as he enthusiastically made headway on the Mad Hatcher farms roast chicken.  Our daughter dreamily devoured bites of steak, chicken, farro, greens and potatoes, giving the place her wholehearted stamp of approval. 

At halftime, we swapped plates and compared notes.  The chicken was a revelation, all chickeny flavor intact and rivaling the steak in its masterful preparation.  Creamed farro channeled risotto with its satisfying chew and flavor infused grains.  Braised greens were given the royal treatment, studded with flecks of house cured pancetta.   Thoughtful service mirrored the meal with a welcome lack of pretention and genuine attention to detail.  For dessert, we shared three dainty scoops of brightly flavored gelato sandwiched between two brown butter shortbread cookies with a hint of pink peppercorn in a sublimely refreshing finale. 


My optimistic husband took this outpouring of admiration at face value and promptly booked a table at Lecosho for my upcoming birthday.  Despite our flawless introduction, I was skeptical.  Could the restaurant live up to its initial allure or would it prove a one-hit wonder? 

On the big night, I dolled up and crossed my fingers.  We kicked off the celebration with housemade duck liver mousse, smooth and velvety save for a smattering of tart sweet dried bing cherries and flakes of crunchy sea salt.   The mousse was addictive, like savory candy for grown ups.  Birthday or no, I summoned the willpower to not lick clean the dainty ceramic dish in which it was served.  Next, we shared steamed mussels in a briny broth laced with the flavors of sweet fennel fronds and smoky spears of spicy chorizo.  In an ode to our first visit, we revisited the bibb salad, ribeye steak and roast chicken.  Each dish lived up to if not rivaled its prior incarnation.  Wait staff graciously presented the birthday cake my darling husband had special ordered from my favorite bakery.  I felt like a queen. 

We anticipated good food but were rewarded with perfection.  Round two proved Lecosho not only gets it right but they do it night after night in flawless succession. 

Go-go to Lecosho.  Your belly will thank you.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

a day at oxbow farm


A-l-l-i-g-a-t-o-r…. b-i-n-o-c-u-l-a-r-s…. C-a-r-n-a-t-i-o-n…., as in Carnation, Washington, our intended destination on a wet Saturday in October.  My husband drove intently, squinting through the rain soaked windshield while my daughter Annabelle and I  passed the time spelling words by seeking out letters on license plates and roadside signage.  Located a mere forty minutes east of Seattle, Carnation is home to more than a dozen local farms and we were headed to one of them. 


Our destination was Oxbow Farm’s 11th Annual Harvest Festival and we were eager to muddy our rain boots with a healthy dose of authentic farm culture.  Good food was a given: the organic farm provided plenty of roasted salmon and grilled vegetables, straight from the field; while two rows of tables adorned with brightly hued oilcloths were heavy under the weight of side dishes and desserts, presented potluck-style.  My own contribution was a twist on my standing pumpkin cookie recipe:  Instead of icing the tops, I sandwiched maple buttercream between two cookies in an autumnal take on whoopie pie. 

Nothing says ‘farm to table’ quite like platters heaped with roasted salmon filets, caramelized brussel sprouts, grilled squash, marinated carrots, pickled beets and local artisanal cheeses.  A large rectangular basket cradled just baked, dimpled foccacia while paper thin slices of rosy radishes and cool lemon cucumbers adorned an enormous bowl of mixed greens, straight from the garden.  Another massive bowl spilled over with luscious purple black concord grapes.  Every dish had been made from scratch or plucked from nearby fields in an impressive showing of late harvest bounty.  


With a wealth of delectable offerings to choose from, our plates were soon brimming with beautiful, delicious food, an edible still life in muted shades of green, orange, crimson and violet.  Just as we poised our forks for the first bite, someone called out, “Time for the pumpkin parade!” and in a testimony to her sorely lacking farm prowess, Annabelle opted to run through a mud slick with inevitable results.  The subsequent look of bewilderment was almost as amusing as her exceptionally muddy bum.  She quickly recovered and joined a group of children assembled near the pumpkin patch.  Many girls were dressed as fairies with rubber boots peeking out beneath the hems of gossamer gowns and glittering wings sprouting from sensible rain jackets.  Just in time, a kind young woman handed Annabelle a posy of wildflowers and tucked a brown eyed susan behind her ear. Then off the children marched, weaving through the pumpkin patch and on to a magical pumpkin fairy house.


Near the fairy house, a greased pole challenged thrill seekers to scale its lofty heights in pursuit of pats on the back and a chance at grabbing hold of envelopes fastened up top containing farm stand coupons.  Live music drifted out from a canvas tent where three toe tapping musicians performed a steady stream of lively bluegrass melodies.  Annabelle sagely bypassed apple bobbing from a deep tub of water teeming with the collective saliva of countless children before her.  We eluded pouring rain in the warmth of a greenhouse whose skeletal frame and diffused glow gave the distinct feeling of being cozily situated in the belly of a  beguiling whale.  Annabelle plopped down on the hay strewn floor where she found abundant supplies for fashioning a gourd adorned necklace and enchanting marigold crown.


Bedecked in her harvest accoutrements, Annabelle led the way to the children’s living garden, a lush wonderland replete with a nonsensical winding tunnel and dizzying sorghum maze.  Hushed silence filled the nearby bean teepee where a handful of children contentedly shelled and munched on edible beans plucked from walls comprised of trailing vines.  A tractor engine rumbled in the distance and moments later, both tractor and hay wagon came into view.  Passengers disembarked and as the driver hopped down, we anxiously inquired, “Are we too late for a hay ride?”

“Nah,” he replied.  We’ll keep running as long as people keep coming.

Relieved, we clambered onto the truck bed, bracing ourselves for a bumpy ride as the tractor lurched forward, pulling the wagon along a makeshift dirt road forged between two fields.  Steady rain proved no match for the fervor of our guide, Oxbow farmer Adam McCurdy.  His love of the land was deeply apparent as he impassionedly detailed the workings of the farm, from glories to pitfalls.  Caught up in the beauty of the moment, Annabelle whispered longingly, “I want to live here."  Before heading home, we trudged through tangled vines and mucky muck to pick our first ever pumpkin patch pumpkins.  Jubilantly we emerged with three fat and jolly, mud-flecked specimens.

During the drive home, with rain drenched clothes and rosy cheeks, we cranked up the heat and relived memorable moments of our day at the farm.  My husband grew up surrounded by farmland in Northern Holland and relished in the opportunity to reconnect with his childhood and to share that connection with his daughter.  Annabelle was smitten with the children’s living garden and pleased as pie with her great orange pumpkin.  I came away with an empty dessert platter, a full belly and a profound respect for the farmers who grow our food. 


In recent years, our family has increasingly supported organic, local farming.  What began with small changes has grown into a greater sense of responsibility to both ourselves and our community at large.  The food tastes better, is better for you and benefits the local economy.  In addition, buying locally grown food benefits farmers and their families.  A day at the farm provided newfound understanding of the vital connection between the food on our plate and the farmers who grow it.

Special thanks to Katherine Anderson of Marigold and Mint for graciously inviting our family to this delightful event.  Katherine’s grandfather bought the land on which Oxbow farm is situated, back in the 50’s.  Her father now owns and operates the farm with the help of a talented and devoted farm crew.