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You win

When I moved to Seattle, I lived a gray shingled apartment building on Northeast 67th Street, a speedy bus ride to the UW, where I had just started school. My apartment had deep-pile carpet the color of weak tea and a floodlit view of a parking lot, but it was mine, mine mine mine mine mine mine mine. Even getting a utilities bill was exhilarating: it was in my name! I bought cheap produce at the stand a few blocks east, found a good Thai curry place a few blocks to the west, and got takeout from an Indian restaurant down the street. I started this blog in that apartment in 2004, and I lived there when I met Brandon in 2005. At some point around then, before he moved to Seattle in 2006 and we packed up my stuff and hauled it to the Ballard duplex we’d rented, somebody told me about a restaurant nearby called Eva. It was small, well-regarded, a polished neighborhood place with a menu closely tied to the seasons, the kind of menu that used kale before any of us knew the word, let alone dreamed of uniting it with the word chip. I was still a student, and most days, I couldn’t afford a restaurant like that. But somebody told me that Eva had a spectacular young pastry chef, a woman named Dana Cree, so I saved up, or maybe I waited until my mother came to town, and I went.

Dana was doing a series of throwback desserts, I think - if I’m getting this wrong, and I’m almost certainly getting it wrong, I hope she will tell me - and I seem to remember having a sexed-up homemade Ding Dong, and maybe a chocolate rice pudding with caramelized Rice Krispies on top, and a butterscotch pudding, dark and rightly salted. Dana’s food was playful and intelligent, irresistible, impeccable, each flavor and thing in its best possible form. We followed her to Poppy, where you can still, and should, get her Nutter-Butter Squares (crispy! creamy! crackly!), and then she moved to Chicago, lucky Chicago, where she is now pastry chef at Blackbird. This year, for the second year in a row, she’s a nominee for Outstanding Pastry Chef in the James Beard Awards.

Also: she has a great rhubarb compote recipe.

Nine years ago, Dana had a blog, and on that blog, she posted what she called Orange Rhubarb Compote, or what I call Dana’s Rhubarb Compote. It’s simple, and it’s perfect, and every spring, almost a decade later, it’s still the rhubarb recipe that I think of first.

I’ve already got plenty of rhubarb recipes, and you probably do, too. A lot of days, I think the best thing you can do with rhubarb is roast it, period. All the other days, though, I think of Dana’s rhubarb compote, cooked on the stovetop until it’s thick, spiked with orange liqueur and softened with butter. It comes together in twenty minutes and keeps for a week, easy. And though there’s booze in there, it’s not boozy; the orange liqueur is there to support the rhubarb flavor, to underline it, amplify it, join in the chorus. The butter, for its part, is also there to quietly support, smoothing the rough edges from the rhubarb and giving it a subtle, welcome roundness. Dana’s rhubarb compote might be my very favorite thing to stir into a morning bowl of plain yogurt, less sweet and softer than my second favorite, jam. You could also serve it with shortcakes and whipped cream, as a sauce for ice cream, spooned into pavlova, slathered on pancakes or waffles or French toast, or - my friend Matthew’s idea - on top of a toasted English muffin spread with mascarpone. In general, I like it icy cold from the fridge, though June prefers it warm from the saucepan. Any way, you win.

Dana’s Rhubarb Compote
Adapted from Dana Cree

Over the years, I’ve tweaked this recipe slightly. Her version suggests halving the rhubarb stalks lengthwise before slicing, so you wind up with 1-cm cubes; I get lazy and just cut the stalks crosswise into chunks. The chunks are still small enough that some break down during cooking, while others just get soft and plump, making for a variation in texture that I like very much. As for sugar, Dana’s version uses ¾ cup sugar for 1 pound rhubarb, but I’ve come to prefer mine with slightly less, roughly a scant 2/3 cup. I know that ¾ cup, or even 2/3 cup, might sound like a lot, but the rhubarb can take it. You could use less, sure, but keep in mind that the sugar also helps thicken the rhubarb’s juices and give the compote its body, so if you cut back too much, the texture will be different. The most recent time I made it, I doubled the recipe and used 1 ¼ cups of sugar, just FYI.

1 pound (455 grams) rhubarb stalks, trimmed and sliced into ¾-inch chunks
½ to ¾ cup (100 to 150 grams) sugar
2 Tbsp. (28 grams) unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. orange liqueur, such as Cointreau, Grand Marnier, and the like

In a medium bowl, toss the rhubarb with the sugar. Set it aside while you melt the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the rhubarb, the sugar, and the orange liqueur. Allow to cook, undisturbed, for about 2 minutes, until the rhubarb begins to release its juices. Then gently stir, and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is very juicy and those juices begin to thicken. The compote is ready when the rhubarb is tender and beginning to fall apart and the juices look thick, about 10 to 15 minutes. This is a cook-it-until-it-looks-right-to-you situation: trust your judgement.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and serve cold, cool, or warm.

Yield: maybe 1 pint? I always forget to measure.



In three months, this site will be eleven years old. Three nights ago, I got to stand on a stage in New York in front of hundreds of people I admire – including Martha, THE Martha, who looked foxier, and younger, than anyone – and accept a James Beard Award for this blog.

I was so nervous, so totally electrified with terror, that my right eyelid twitched for six days leading up to the ceremony. I hope I never forget what it felt like, after so much hoping, to hear my name called. I hadn’t planned a thank-you speech – if you take your umbrella, yadda yadda, it won’t rain – but once I was up there, everything felt oddly clear and slow, and I managed to thank my friend Chris Oakes, the person who suggested that I start a blog; and Dorie Greenspan, author of the first cookbook I ever owned, who was sitting right there, at stage left, smiling; and then Brandon, of course; and my dad – of course, my dad. I want to think he heard. Then somebody whisked me away to take a picture, and there was a party with a lot of good hair, and a late slice at Joe’s Pizza, and I finally limped to my friend Brian’s apartment in Brooklyn, where the world’s most comfortable air mattress was waiting in the living room. But when I woke up the next morning, I realized that I had forgotten to thank my mother(!!), and also you. I wouldn’t have the heart or the guts to write anything if I didn’t think a real live person, somewhere, somehow, might read it. I’m here because you’re here. Thank you for that.

(Photo by Sarah Lawer, excellent company at table 28.)


I like to imagine

The only bookshelves in our house are in June’s room, one and a half walls of built-ins that bracket the space like a capital L. The previous owner had used the room as an office, as far as we can tell, and we planned to do the same. We set my desk under the window. I had just started writing Delancey then, and I pounded out the early chapters there - or, more often, avoided pounding out the early chapters by watching nuthatches flit around the giant evergreen outside. At some point, we decided that having a baby would be good idea, and to make room for her, we moved my desk to the dining room, replaced it with a crib, and hung her name on the door. And that is how it came to pass that the only bookshelves in our house are in June’s room, three people’s worth of cookbooks, fiction, grad school texts, and picture books, climbing the walls. I like to imagine that this will make some kind of lasting impression, that she’s absorbing novels and recipes by proximity as she sleeps, maybe, or that she’ll grow up to remember the books as a quiet, reassuring presence, like the old lady in the rocker in Goodnight Moon, the one whispering "hush." I like to imagine.

In any case, the fact that we have only limited space for books is frustrating, but it’s also nice, because I get a real thrill out of getting rid of books we don’t use. We could buy some bookshelves, yes - or I could just cull the herd once a year and revel in the satisfaction of that until it’s time to do it again. For now, we’ve chosen the latter, and last week, I hauled four bags of books to Half Price Books. Cheap thrills!

Anyway, as I was doing this latest round of culling, my hand paused on the spine of Breakfast, Lunch, Tea, by Rose Bakery founder Rose Carrarini. I’ve had the book since shortly after its publication in 2006, and though I’ve used it twice at most, I can’t seem to get rid of it. I like its spacious layout and the way the food looks tidy and geometric, but also clearly handmade. A loaf of polenta cake is impeccably square in cross-section, but the powdered sugar on top is uneven. One arm of a star-shaped gingerbread cookie bends slightly, gracefully, toward another arm, like a sea star on the move. A small lemon tart is clean and round as a clock face, but the lip of the crust rises gently at four o’clock, where a finger pinched it shut. This is food I want to look at. Rose Bakery also has handsome concrete-and-metal tables, which you can see in a picture on page 57, and we liked them so much that, based on that picture alone, we copied them at Delancey. All that said, I never use this book. I almost never even pick it up. It takes up shelf space. My fingers itched.

But then, then, I remembered having seen a recent mention of it online, and that this mention came from my friend Shari, she of the sweet potato pound cake and the raspberry-ricotta cake recommendations. She’d posted a shot of some date scones she’d made from a Rose Bakery recipe, and she’d raved. I decided to let the book live another round, and I added dates to the grocery list.

Now. You probably don’t need another scone recipe, and I don’t either. But I will be keeping this recipe, need it or not. The dough is made from half white flour and half whole wheat, which means that it gets the flavor of wheat without its weight. It’s sweetened only lightly, and with brown sugar, so most of its sweetness comes from the dates themselves, dark and fudgy. You could stop right there and have a great scone. But this particular specimen also includes freshly grated nutmeg, which gives it - and, in my experience, any baked good that uses nutmeg in sufficient quantity - a certain intoxicating eau de doughnut. The scones bake up sturdy but tender, biscuit-y, and between the whole wheat and the sticky dried fruit and the spicing, they double as both a weekday breakfast and a totally racy afternoon snack.

One final aside: your scones will not, and should not, look as date-y as mine do. The recipe as written in the book has both weight and volume measures, and I learned the hard way that the weight measure for the dates is incorrect. It calls for 250 grams of pitted, chopped dates, indicating that this should equal a scant ½ cup. Because I like to bake by weight, I didn’t even look at the volume measure before I cheerfully stirred in the entire 250 grams, or more than half a pound. I like dates, but there’s a limit. 250 grams, as it turns out, measures to nearly one and a half cups, or nearly three times what you actually need and want. The recipe below reflects my correction.

Oh, wait, another aside: Spilled Milk will be live, live live live! at Town Hall this Sunday night, April 19th, and though the show is sold out (?!?!?!?!), there will be a limited number of standby tickets available.

Oh, and this is really the final aside: to celebrate the paperback edition of Delancey, which will be released on May 26th, I’ll be reading and signing at Omnivore Books on Food in San Francisco on Saturday, May 30th, at 3:00 pm. I can’t wait.

Happy weekend.

Whole Wheat Date Scones
Inspired by Breakfast, Lunch, Tea, by Rose Carrarini

Carrarini says that these scones should be eaten warm, with lots of butter, and eaten slowly. Eaten slowly! Riiiiiiiiight.

As for kosher salt, I use Diamond Crystal brand, and though it might seem like a trivial detail, the brand does make a difference. If you use Morton’s, note that it’s saltier than Diamond Crystal, so use less.

125 grams (¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
125 grams (1 cup) whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 heaping tablespoons golden brown sugar
60 grams (4 ½ or 5 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, diced
90 to 100 grams (½ cup) pitted, chopped dates
150 ml (2/3 cup) whole milk
1 egg, beaten well

Set a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Whisk to blend well. Add the brown sugar, whisking again, and then add the butter. Using your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture, rubbing and pinching the butter until there are not lumps of butter bigger than a pea. Stir in the dates. Add about three-quarters of the milk, and using a fork, stir it into the dry ingredients. If it seems too dry and crumbly, add more milk as needed, but start sparingly, so that the dough doesn’t wind up sticky. Once the dough is coming together, put down the fork and finish bringing it together with your hand, pressing it and turning it to incorporate all the flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and massage it into a disk roughly 1 inch tall. Cut the dough into 10 even wedges (or squares, if you want, or you can use a cutter to make circles), and arrange them on the baking sheet. Brush lightly with egg.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the tops are lightly golden. Serve warm – or, if eating later, reheat gently before eating.

Yield: 10 small scones


March 31

Early Friday morning, I boarded an airplane to Washington, DC, and on the way there, using my Motherly Time-Management Skills, I managed not only to sleep for two hours, but also to read one New Yorker and the entire current issue of Lucky Peach. I was in DC for a conference, and to celebrate my nephew’s fifth birthday (Lego-themed party! Lego-shaped candy! BTW, IMO, the blue ones are best; avoid yellow). But this morning, back at my desk, I’m still thinking about that Lucky Peach. In particular, this Jeremy Fox story and this endive story. But really, the whole issue was great, so smart and so weird, that I even mentioned it to the nurse in my dermatologist’s office this morning. That’s a strong endorsement. Somebody should use it for a book blurb, like, "So-and-so’s Very Good Book struck me so deeply that I couldn’t stop talking about it, not even while getting my moles examined."

Speaking of being struck, I learned this weekend that this blog is a finalist in the Saveur Blog Awards, in the Best Writing category. My fellow finalists are some of the writers I admire most, online or off, and I’m elated. Elated! Whoever nominated me, whoever you are, thank you.  Voting is open through April 30, and if you feel moved, you should take a look at the finalists in all 13 categories and cast your ballot. (You must be registered at Saveur.com, yadda yadda, but it only takes a second.)

And speaking of elation, next month I’m going to Alaska, somewhere I’ve never been. We’ll be in Sitka, to talk to a class of fourth graders about the chemistry of pizza (Brandon) and writing (me). The teacher who invited us has also lined up a reading for me at the public library, so if you find yourself in, or near, or even remotely near Sitka on the evening of Monday, April 27, please come to Kettleson Memorial Library at 7:00 pm. I’ll be reading, and there will be books for sale. I will try not to talk about Lucky Peach, or moles. But I might talk about something else that you should read: "Eating Well at the End of the Road," which is wonderful - and about Homer, Alaska - and very rightly nominated in this year’s James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards.

As I type this, a fine hail is falling steadily on the roof. It sounds like television static from the next room. After just four days away, Seattle seemed impossibly green and wild this morning, like a caricature of itself. It made me think of an interview with Mary Oliver that I listened to a few weeks ago on On Being, and of her poem "The Kitten," which has always meant something to me, even before I could really understand it. It’s good to be back in my city.


The bean doctor

I believe everyone should know how to doctor a can of beans. I also believe that, having said this, I have become my father. I also believe I would do anything, anything, absolutely anything to get R. Kelly’s "I Believe I Can Fly," which lodged itself in my head as I was typing those first two sentences, back out of my head again. Spread my wings and fly awaaaaaaaaaay

I come from a family of bean doctors. The beans we ate most often were baked beans - Bush’s brand, I think - to which my dad added brown sugar and Worchestershire sauce. We ate them whenever my mom was out for the evening, usually with boiled hot dogs. It felt like a secret that only he and I were in on, and it was my favorite meal as a kid. It might still be, because you can’t improve on a combination like that. Burg could also be known to crack open a can of cannellini beans, rinse them, and dress them with pesto to make a quick salad. If he was feeling frisky, he would then plate his cannellini salad by carefully piling spoonfuls of it onto individual endive leaves, as though he were making canapés for a banquet. He could throw down.

I married a bean doctor. We always have canned chickpeas and black beans in the cabinet for Brandon’s chickpea salad with lemon and Parmesan or his quick black beans with cumin and oregano. One night last week, when he needed a late dinner after work, he drained and rinsed some chickpeas and tossed them with warmed leftover sauce from a batch of penne alla vodka. As for me, if I happen to have pinto beans around, I make Luisa’s, or rather Melissa Clark’s, fake baked beans. (The. Best.)

I know that some people look down their noses at canned beans: maybe they don’t taste or feel quite the same as perfectly cooked-from-dried beans, and they can be higher in salt, and then there’s the specter of BPA in the can lining. I do keep dried beans around, and I cook them often, and sometimes I do a good job of it. But there is nothing inherently wrong with a canned bean. Being told otherwise makes me tired. Canned (or jarred in glass, if you prefer) beans can be very good - especially brands like Progresso, Bush’s, or Goya - and it doesn’t take much effort, or much time, to make them great. VIVE LE BEAN DOCTOR.

My cousin Katie makes something called Creamy Beans, and she shared her method with me a few weeks ago, when I called to pick her brain about seven-minute eggs. You upend four cans of beans - black or pinto are best - and their liquid into a saucepan, add a chunk of butter, and shake a bottle of hot sauce over the pan for ten seconds. You stir it all up, and then you let it simmer gently until the liquid is thickened and the beans are starting to break down. Katie learned about Creamy Beans from a co-worker, and now she and her husband Andre usually make a batch once a week, have it with or for dinner, and then eat the leftovers in the mornings that follow, with seven-minute eggs on top.

I’ve made Creamy Beans twice since Katie told me about them, once with pinto beans and once with black beans. Pintos don’t break down much - it’s mostly about letting the liquid thicken and get creamy - but with a long simmer, they become wonderfully tender, even more than the average canned bean. Black beans break down more easily, though I stopped cooking mine before they really did; I let them cook just until they were fudgy, gooey. In any case, the butter gives them a quiet richness and heft, while the hot sauce brings acid to offset their natural earthiness. It’s sort of a cheater’s version of refried beans, sort of. June cheerfully ate bowlfuls of Creamy Beans on their own, while I topped mine with eggs and more hot sauce - and once, feta, though it didn’t totally jibe. Next time, I’ll slice avocado on top and grate some sharp cheddar.

Have a happy week, all.

Creamy Beans
Adapted from Katie Caradec

I’m no fan of the liquid in cans of beans - it’s just so... slimy - but this is a recipe where it really is useful. Take a deep breath, and dump it in.

As for butter, Katie doesn’t measure it, but she told me that she probably uses two tablespoons for four cans of beans. I prefer mine with more butter, ideally with a tablespoon per can. Brandon also suggests adding garlic, pressed or minced, and that’s very nice, too. It adds a faint depth of flavor. But I defer to you.

Also, note that this recipe can be scaled down as needed. When I made it with black beans last week, I only had one can in the house, and it worked just fine - and in less time.

4 (16-ounce) cans or jars pinto or black beans
4 tablespoons (56 grams) unsalted butter
Hot sauce, such as Frank's Red Hot (my choice) or Yucatan Sunshine (Katie's choice)
A garlic clove, pressed or minced (optional)

Pour the beans and their liquid into a medium saucepan. Add the butter, maybe ten or fifteen shakes of hot sauce, and the garlic (if using; see above). Stir to mix. Place over medium-high heat, and bring just to a simmer. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has thickened and looks creamy and the beans are very tender, maybe even falling apart. For pintos, I let mine go for about 1 hour, though Katie says hers only take about 30 minutes. You can cook it as long as you like, really. Cook it to your taste. (And keep in mind that the beans will thicken further, and get creamier, as they cool.)

Serve hot, with seven-minute eggs and any other toppings you like: hot sauce, avocado, cilantro, grated cheese, etc.

Yield: enough for dinner for two, plus three or four breakfasts, depending on how you serve it


Doing it right

I believe in everyday cake.

I may have remembered to floss four times last week, up from my usual count of zero. I may have had avocado toast one sunny morning at Vif, with za'atar, aleppo pepper, preserved Meyer lemon, and celery(!). I may have even rediscovered R.E.M.'s superlative Green after forgetting about it for twenty years and then sung along loudly and with feeling to "World Leader Pretend" and got goosebumps during the bridge like I used to when I was seventeen. But nothing makes me feel like I'm really living, really doing it up right, like having a cake on my kitchen counter on a weekday.

About a week ago, my friend Shari posted a photograph of a cake on Instagram and declared, "New favorite, I think!" Instagram has more shots of cake than there are particles in the Milky Way galaxy, but then again, you may remember that Shari is the person who, six years ago, introduced me to sweet potato pound cake. Her opinion is not to be questioned. And as I studied her photo, I realized that her cake, pale gold and splotched with berries, was from a recipe that I had read and dog-eared only the night before, as I thumbed through the March issue of Bon Appétit: a simple, single-layer cake enriched with whole-milk ricotta and spiked with frozen raspberries. Ding ding ding!

So I picked up some ricotta over the weekend, and on Monday afternoon, when I found myself with a free half-hour, I made a cake. This is a cake that you can actually throw together, not just in word but in deed: there's no mixer required, just a spatula and a whisk and an arm. The batter is thick and rich, like a mousse, and bakes up light, pillowy, terrifically moist. (I know everybody hates the word moist now, but I don't mind it. British recipe writers seem to be into damp, but that usually reminds me of basements, or other people's towels, or the point in a day at the beach when your bathing suit starts to itch.) A few people on the Bon Appétit website have commented that they would reduce the sugar, but I wouldn't: it's just right, especially against the tart shock of the berries.  If anything, I'd up the amount of raspberries by a third or half - or, whoa, hey, maybe try it with frozen sour cherries instead? Ricotta and sour cherries. That's doing it right.

Happy weekend.

P.S. If you've got time to make your own ricotta, do. There's a recipe in Delancey, and what you don't use for the cake, you can use on crostini, on toast with jam, in pasta, on pizza, stirred into eggs, you name it.

P.P.S. More everyday cakes here. And this looks a little more involved, but man oh man.

P.P.P.S. Earlier this week, I wrote on Saveur.com about one of my favorite things, the seven-minute egg.

P.P.P.P.S. Luisa started a good discussion about food magazines, and I'd love to know what you think.

And this P.S. thing is getting ridiculous, but P.P.P.P.P.S. My favorite (ancient) photograph of R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe.

Raspberry-Ricotta Cake
Adapted very slightly from Bon Appétit, March 2015

1 ½ cups (210 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups (325 grams) whole-milk ricotta
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup (100 grams) frozen raspberries, divided

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan (I used springform), and press a round of parchment paper into the bottom.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and kosher salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, ricotta, and vanilla until smooth. Gently stir ricotta mixture into the dry ingredients until just blended. Then fold in the butter, followed by ¾ cup of the raspberries, taking care not to crush them. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it evenly, and scatter the remaining raspberries on top.

Bake the cake until it is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes before unmolding. Cool completely before serving.

Yield: 8 servings


While the house is quiet

Today is our Sunday, and everyone but me is napping, sleepy after a lunch of cheese toast and cucumber salad. While the house is quiet, I should probably be doing tax paperwork and résumé reading and other sacred rituals of small business ownership, but:

- I’ve never felt confident about picking favorites: my favorite movie, favorite song, favorite food, favorite whatever. I don’t have many favorite anything. But I do feel confident about saying this: Michael Chabon is my favorite novelist. His first novel The Mysteries of Pittsburgh has been my favorite book for two decades, since I first read it at sixteen years old. He also wrote The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which won a Pulitzer Prize, and plenty more since that. I finally got around to starting Wonder Boys, his second novel, and I like it so much that it’s taken me almost a month to get through only the first two hundred pages, because I want to read and reread every sentence over and over and over, just sort of roll myself around in it. For example, this: "'Is he kidding?' said Miss Sloviak, all of whose makeup seemed in the course of the ride from the airport to have been reapplied, very roughly, an inch to the left of her eyes and lips, so that her face had a blurred, double-exposed appearance." I MEAN.

- Also, This American Life is killing it. Amateur Hour!

- Also, Invisibilia. They’ve only made a handful of episodes, so you can catch up quickly, and you should. The Secret History of Thoughts is fascinating, and Fearless, too. (I particularly like the idea that fear = thinking + time, and that if you take away either one, and you can’t have fear.) Good stuff.

- Speaking of fear, ha ha HA, I’m helping to lead a class called "Varying Your Voice: A Workshop on Writing in the First, Second, and Third Person" at the IACP conference in Washington, DC, on Monday, March 30th. I’ll be co-teaching with Jess Thomson and Kathy Gunst, both longtime pros and forces of nature, and while our workshop does unfortunately require a separate day pass, it’ll be worth it.

- My friend Natalie brought over some Persian cucumbers one night last month, and I had forgotten of how good, and how versatile, they are. They’re not exactly winter food, but we’ve been eating them every day, in salads (usually with a mustard vinaigrette and feta) or on their own, as a snack. Our family of three took down six of them at lunch today.

- It’s handy that we’ve been eating so many cucumbers, because when we’re not eating cucumbers, we're eating cheeseburgers. Brandon spent the better part of last year testing and perfecting a wood-fired burger for Essex (using grass-fed beef from Skagit River Ranch, with not one but two secret sauces), and he put it on the menu last October, as a Sundays-only special. But now, as of a couple of weeks ago, it’s available five nights a week, Wednesday to Sunday. June pronounces it "booger," and she eats a full half of the thing. She’s an animal.

- I’ve mentioned before that every Tuesday is Taco-&-Tiki Night at Essex, but I haven’t told you what’s for dessert: our own choco taco. (There’s housemade ice cream in there.) It isn’t entirely in my interest to tell you about it, because any that we don’t sell on Tuesday are mine to eat for the rest of the week, but I’m trying to get better about sharing.

- Our friend Edouardo Jordan, the supremely talented chef de cuisine at Bar Sajor and a supremely nice guy, just launched a Kickstarter campaign to open his own neighborhood restaurant. Go, go, Edouardo!

- I mentioned recently on Instagram that I, Ms. Didn’t-Learn-to-Sew-Until-Age-36.5, had sewn a hexagonal patchwork pillow from a (wonderfully clear) tutorial I found online, and a couple of you asked for the link. Here you go.

Be right back.