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A Special Place

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Sam calls Delancey, the pizza restaurant owned by friends Molly Wizenberg and Brandon Pettit, his Cheers. He spoke so highly of it when we started dating, but because I lived in San Francisco at the time I couldn’t quite envision what a special place it was — I hadn’t yet been. After a few trips to Seattle, more than a few slices of pizza, one long, very blustery boat ride out to Coupeville with Molly and Brandon that included Molly’s banana bread and mussels at Toby’s, I started to understand. When I finally moved to Seattle to join Sam, Delancey welcomed me into the kitchen on their days off so that I could bake Marge Granola. The very loose agreement was that I’d stay a few months until I got my feet on the ground and found a production kitchen of my own. I think I was there a good year. And today when Sam and I are too tired to cook, we’ll head over to Delancey to say Hi to Brandon or Joe, give Katie or Kim or Noelle a squeeze, learn one of Mariko’s new signature handshakes, and share a pie. This Winter, Sam’s nephew Kevin moved to Seattle from New Jersey and now he’s there too, working at the bar next door, Essex. Niah, the head bartender, makes my favorite cocktails in the city, and we’ll almost invariably run into neighborhood friends like Ashley and Gabe, Kip and Sasha, or Amy and Michele. So now I get it — it is more than a restaurant. It’s where everybody knows our names.

To back up a moment or two, Delancey is really what brought Sam and I together. I had read  Molly’s blog for about a year before starting Marge in the Bay Area and I’d saved enough to think about hiring a web designer for the business. At the time, I found myself caught down an internet rabbit hole one night searching for designers and came across the site credits for the Delancey website. I’d noticed that a guy in Seattle by the name of Sam did the website and… it turned out I really liked his work. I reached out to him and he wrote back with a very formal email (if you’ve ever written Sam, he comes off more like an articulate 80-year old than an articulate 35-year old). Many of you know the story that follows –how we eventually fell in love– but I sometimes pause and think about how it likely wouldn’t have happened had it not been for Delancey … and for Molly. I’m so grateful that I stumbled upon this place that Molly and Brandon  have created. And so grateful that it ultimately led me to Sam.

Delancey Pizza

If you haven’t yet been to Delancey and had the pleasure of eating a slice of Brandon’s pizza or snuck one of those delicious sea salt chocolate chip cookies home, Molly’s beautiful new book might bring more than a little of that experience to you. I received the review copy for Delancey probably about a month ago, dove in and finished in a few days’ time. I had a lot going on and remember feeling really guilty for just laying on the end of my bed and reading … but I found myself enveloped in the backstory behind the faces and place I’d come to know so well at the restaurant.  But it’s not just the story of building and running a restaurant, it’s also the story of how Molly found her way within it all (ultimately realizing that a line cook wasn’t her destiny), and about how she and Brandon found a balance in their own marriage and time at home. I think a lot of people who haven’t worked in the food business tend to romanticize what it really looks like: you see bakers on their morning shift or waitstaff in linen aprons and think it all looks so lovely (!) when in reality it’s cleaning out a hood at 12:30 in the morning, a chef quitting on you a week before you open, or navigating spreadsheets and payroll and staffing and ordering. Thanks to Molly’s book, you will be drawn into this world, and you’ll be sad that it ends. If you’re lucky and live in Seattle you can just come in for a drink tonight at 5 once you get to the final page. If you live far away, you’ll have to put it on your list for your next visit.

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If you’re expecting to find pizza recipes and all of the characteristic specials that comprise the Delancey menu in Molly’s book, you may be disappointed, I suppose. The book is largely narrative with a good number of recipes scattered throughout — recipes that Molly notes are ones they served early on when she cooked there, foods they wished they had more time to make, recipes that friends made for them when there just wasn’t time to cook, and favorites from home. While I have more than a few bookmarked, the one that called to me first was Brandi’s Coconut Rice Pudding. Brandi was the head pastry chef at Delancey in the early days and has since gone on to open her own cooking school and community kitchen called The Pantry. I’ve volunteered and taken a number of classes there and can’t recommend it enough (Craft cocktails! Layer cakes! Cooking a whole salmon!)

I tweaked her recipe just a bit in using brown basmati rice instead of more traditional basmati rice — and in doing so, found that my cooking times differed from what Molly mentions in her recipe. My pudding took almost twice as long to cook, actually (depending on the type of rice you use, this could be a common occurrence). Molly also suggests setting 1 cup of the milk aside and adding it at the very end once the pudding is finished cooking and because I was in a hurry and was, apparently, really excited about this pudding I added it all at once so I will include my method below. I also splurged and used a whole vanilla bean instead of the 1/2 that Molly calls for. It all worked beautifully.

Brandi’s Coconut (Brown) Rice Pudding
I’m not sure if we’re just hearty rice pudding eaters, but Molly’s recipe notes that it yields 8-12 servings and we definitely found it to be more like 6-8 servings, so I suppose just consider what kind of eaters you have at home. In the recipe, Molly mentions topping the pudding with roasted cherries if you’d like; I ended up roasting a quick batch of strawberries to spoon on top although I think I prefer it plain.

Serves 8 or so

Slightly adapted from: Delancey 

3/4 cup (135g) brown basmati rice
1 1/2 cups (350ml) water, plus more for washing the rice
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups (475 ml) coconut milk
2 cups (475 ml) whole milk
1 cup (235 ml) heavy cream
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (112 g) natural cane sugar
1 vanilla bean

Put the rice in a medium bowl, add cold water to cover, and swish the rice around with your fingers to remove the excess starch. Drain and repeat.

In a heavy large (4-quart) saucepan, combine the 1 1/2 cups water, the washed rice, and the salt. Place over medium-high heat. When the water begins to simmer, cover the pan and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the water is absorbed, about 15-25 minutes — depending on your rice. If there’s a little excess water, simply drain away. Then stir in the coconut milk, milk, cream and sugar. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add the pod as well. Increase the heat to medium and continue to cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender and the mixture thickens to a soft, creamy texture — a good 60 minutes.

Remove from the heat and discard vanilla pod. Transfer the pudding to a storage container. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Serve in small bowls, with roasted strawberries (or cherries) if you’d like.

 

  1. Posted May 6, 2014 at 8:28 am

    Essex/Delancey was one of my very favorite dining experiences of our trip to Seattle last year. Your post reminds me that food is such a social experience, and that the pleasure of eating can be so heightened by love and atmosphere. I am really looking forward to the book. Thank you for sharing this recipe.

  2. Posted May 6, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    That this place has woven itself into the fabric of your life in such amazing ways makes me love it all the more. It never ceases to make me wonder how as each of us pursue our passions, the ramifications ripple out and touch those in our proximity. Nice book review and I’m eager to try this rice pudding.

  3. eric G
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Delancy has a story to the Riverbed tile on the oven wall from Heath! Perhaps that adds to your feeling of home? Miss you Megan!

  4. Posted May 6, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    Everything about this! I remember those days!! Thrilled for all of it (you + Sam, together, Molly’s book, this delicious life). xo

  5. Posted May 6, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    What an awesome story, I love how the stars just aligned for you! And coconut brown rice pudding….sign me up. Delicious!

  6. Posted May 6, 2014 at 11:42 pm

    Absolutely love restaurants that are so good, they feel like you’re eating in someone’s home. And I adore rice pudding!

  7. Posted May 7, 2014 at 9:38 am

    I’m intrigued by your description of the book. Finding balance in my relationship, and in my life in general, are things I think about often. Like getting a glimpse into an artist’s process, I enjoy learning how others navigate their lives to find balance. Thanks!

  8. Posted May 8, 2014 at 10:48 am

    It’s totally cheers. And really the reason why we can’t imagine moving out of this hood. We love bumping in to you guys there too. Pretty magical.

  9. Posted May 8, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    Delancey is the only place I go for pizza (and the cookies!!) when we’re in Seattle! Wish it were a bit closer so I could experience the cheers vibe ;)

  10. Posted May 10, 2014 at 6:21 am

    Your beautiful descriptions make me want to take the next flight to Seattle and take a seat at Delancey. And that rice pudding…yum!

  11. Posted May 13, 2014 at 7:19 am

    I cannot wait to pick up my copy of this book. I loved Molly’s first one. And like you I adore their pizza and l always have the sea salt chocolate chip cookie each time. Thank you for adding brown rice to this recipe. I will be giving this a try. I’ve attempted it in the past and it never quite worked out well.

    PS- I really love reading your blog.

  12. megang
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    Thanks, Danielle! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the blog. Yes, just know with brown rice the cooking time is a bit wonky (as I note in the recipe), so give yourself a bit more time than you think you may need to cook it down. Enjoy! ~Megan

  13. Posted May 19, 2014 at 4:24 am

    I’m pretty jealous of your proximity to Delancey! (and to the awesome food blogging mecca that seems to be Seattle!!) I went on a wild goose chase yesterday in search of a bookstore that had a copy of the book that I could enjoy on the last day of my long weekend…but alas, it looks like I’m going to have to wait. I think it was A Homemade Life that really solidified what I wanted to do as a food blogger, telling the stories that go along with the food I make.

    I hope one day I can eat my way around Seattle…..

  14. Posted June 8, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    This is funny. I have just stumbled on this blog for the first time and the first post I read was this one – about Orangette, which I have read for years, and Delancey where I will be going when I visit Seattle for the first time this Autumn (all the way from London…). I wonder if I need to book… Anyway, just wanted to say that it was a coincidence. Oh, and I LOVE rice pudding.

  15. katie rankin
    Posted July 23, 2014 at 11:49 pm

    Megan! Sweetest post! Also, as you may have heard, this is my all time Favorite Dessert
    CHEERs
    see you soon

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