#2 Working at Salumi

Most people aren’t thrilled when they receive a text early in the morning asking if they can come into work. Then again, most people don’t get to work in a pork haven with people whom you consider family. On days that I work at Salumi, I practically jump out of bed and skip the two-mile walk to Pioneer Square. I started working at Salumi Cured Meats in April of 2008 and I left my full-time position after two years there. Between my trips to Boston for wedding activities and trips to see David while he was working on a project in Eastern Washington and Southern California, my travels began to conflict with my work schedule. Now I am fortunate to be able to fill in whenever Gina (the owner, along with her husband Brian) needs an extra body.

When I do get the opportunity to work at Salumi, it feels like putting on a perfectly worn, warm sweatshirt. I tend to be a bit rusty the first five minutes, but then it’s back to business as usual. In early January, unfortunately my co-worker Melanie was home sick with an ear infection, but fortunately for me I was asked to work (and thrilled to be able to earn some money for the first time in months). I started my work day with a coffee from nearby Zeitgeist, threw on my apron, and I was happy to have the opportunity to catch up with co-workers and customers. Salumi is like a small family and I miss the atmosphere and camaraderie. I took my co-workers for granted when I was full-time and I didn’t realize how much I missed them until I was alone in a kitchen for hours while older men came in describing their bunions and hemorrhoids. Customers often ask us if we are a member of the Batali family and our answers are usually the same, “No, we’re apart of the Salumi family”. It’s not just a line we give the customers, that’s how it really feels. Sometimes we pretend we’re all sisters to see if we can throw the customers off a little just for fun, and usually the go along with the gag (not being deterred that there is a near 25 year age spread among us). I miss the day to day banter with our regular customers, talking to the pleasant customers who come from near and far to taste the famous cured meats and I even miss the bitter customers who come in with a bone to pick with everyone and everything. I’m grateful to be asked to work and join in the fun, be surrounded by incredible food and still be part of the family.

Irma and I

Salumi

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#3 Hello’s & Goodbye’s

From the Space Needle (Photo Taken by Vinny Foley)

To Spire's

The two weeks that we spent in Seattle recently was a whirlwind of entertaining, eating, drinking, spending time with friends and now it seems like a blur.  I was looking forward to the hello’s after being away for two months. We are so lucky to have close friends in Seattle that have become our west coast family. David and I knew there was a chance David would get called back to England, but we put that in the back of our mind and tried to enjoy the time we did have with friends. We filled every minute possible spending time with friends, and enjoying each other before the phone call came and we would have to start packing for England (again).

We went over Vinny’s and Kelly’s for pizza and board games. Shane and George came to the condo for dinner and I squeezed in as many dates with Shane as possible. Matt and Jenny joined us for sushi at Shiro’s. Mitch, David and I ate Yak at Perche No, one of the best Italian restaurants in the city. We went out to eat with Mike and Jen to Pintxo for Spanish tapas. Chris took David and I out to a “good-bye”breakfast. I went back to all of my vendors that I normally shop at to explain that I leaving again for just a few more months (I promise!)

The phone call came sooner than expected and we were on our way to the airport faster than I was mentally prepared for.. On my last day I ran into Salumi for good-bye hugs and kisses and I could just hear my grampa saying, “There she goes, in-again, out-again Finnigan!” For our final night in town and our last hurrah for a while, David and I visited Jeri and Dan for Wild Boar Ragu with Joe and Jane.

I am normally able to leave Seattle and Boston without excess emotion because I am always happy to see my east and west coast families, but this exit was very different. I had just returned from a two month trip and wasn’t mentally prepared to pack up again considering I hadn’t finished saying my hello’s and there was one bag yet to be unpacked. David and I ran up to the roof quickly for one last look before our car service arrived. We needed wanted to take in one more breath of salt air and have one last look at view we would miss (again) so much. I had tears streaming down my face as we left the roof and headed for the car. The tears stopped eventually and turned into laughter on the way to the airport when our cabbie was entertaining us with stories of his family and joking about Indian food in Seattle. I found myself hugging the cabbie goodbye when he told us he would look forward to picking us up when we returned and hearing about our food and travel tales. Thanks to the cabbie and the business class lounge, there were no more tears. My sadness was replaced by excitement, if only for the time being, while we made our journey back across the pond.

I’ll be back to Seattle in the Spring and I have a lot to look forward to. The daffodils and tulips will be in full bloom, spring produce of peas, artichokes and asparagus will be abundant and plentiful and I will be thrilled to be home with David, entertaining for friends and cooking for the Brothers.

A Tuscan Feast

There are few events in life where one looks back and describes it as truly magical. Our engagement party at JM Cellars in 2009 was one of those nights. I feel confident saying that everyone there felt that magic. The founders of Salumi, where I use to work,  Armo and Marilyn Batali (yesMario’s parents) were guests that night  and were blown away with JM Cellars. The wine, the grounds, and the  owners John and Peggy all usually have that kind of effect on people. Armo was really excited following the party and talked often of holding some kind of event there.  On August 21st, the Tuscan Feast finally happened and the magic was back and in full effect. The night was a benefit for the Chef’s Collaborative with Armandino Batali and John Bigelow, along with Chef Roy Breiman, . I was working the event and my husband David along with our good friends Joe and Jane were in attendance. Guests were able to make gnocchi with Marilyn, stuff sausages with Chef Roy and stretch mozzarella with Armo . With my Italian upbringing and working at Salumi for years, I was expecting an extraordinary amount of food, but I don’t think anyone (besides the Chefs) could imagine what this feast would entail. There was a large circular wooden table approximately 15 feet in diameter tiered with platters covering every inch of space. From the porchetta & veal loin stuffed with sweetbreads to the prosciutto and figs & manila clams smothered with caramelized onions, every morsel on the table was delicious and decadent.
More importantly than the food (I can’t believe I’m even typing those words) were the people who made the event happen and the guests that attended. There were farmers, foragers, bakers, chefs, foodies, photographers, wine makers, and executives, (by executives I mean the founder and creator of Amazon, Jeff Bezos) I think it would be safe to say that the Seattle food community was well represented. There was an exceptional amount of talent present that night and everyone shared the passion of local and seasonal food. It left you feeling warm inside with a beaming smile on your face, truly wonderful. Listening to Armo, Chef Roy and John talk about one another was something special that I had not been apart of before. Armo inducted John and Peggy into the Salumi Family which almost made me shed a tear.  John, Peggy, Armo and Marilyn are people who I respect tremendously and to be apart of this night was such a blessing. I couldn’t help but think back to the engagement party and be thankful for that special night and bringing the people together who meant a lot to David and I. The Tuscan Feast was a once in a lifetime opportunity. My husband looked happier than I had seen him in years Part of it being that he was surrounded by food, and people with such a strong passion and respect for one another and the food; The other part being he made gnocchi with Marilyn for almost an hour. David made unbelievably perfect gnocchi and it was hard to believe it was his first time. Marilyn MAY have mention that you don’t have to be Italian to make good gnocchi, but I’m choosing to ignore this comment. This feast is yet another example of what kinds of fireworks can happen with you bring together great people, mouth-watering food, and lots of love.

INTERACTIVE STATIONS

  • Gnocchi
  • Mozzarella Stretching
  • Old World Prosciutto Slicing
  • Handmade Sausage

THE FARM TABLE

ANTIPASTI

  • Clam Fregola
  • Salt Cod .Bacala. Tomatoes and Capers
  • Handmade Sausage with Grapes
  • Heirloom Tomatoes with Fresh Basil, Chemlali Olive Oil
  • Fresh Lima Beans with Olive Oil & Tuna Genovese
  • Fennel Salad with Burnt Citrus, Toasted Coriander
  • Prosciutto, Figs, Arugula, Balsamic
  • Grilled Salumi Cotto, with Soft Cheeses
  • Grilled Veggies Antipasti
  • Pimento, Red Onions, Pickled Radish
  • Baby Zucchini with Flowers, Aubrergine, Baby Cauliflowers, Young Carrots

PIATTO PRINCIPALE

  • Stuffed Veal Breast-Cima Ripiena
  • Tuscan Porchetta- Stuffed Pork Belly with Crisp Skin
  • Gnocchi with Spare Ribs

DOLCE

  • Rhubarb Tart with Basil Foam
  • Fresh Berries Italian Ribbon Sauce
  • Poached Stone Fruits Sweet Vanilla Verjus

Me, Armo, One of the cooks, David

Joe making Sausage

David making Sausage

Marilyn making Gnocchi

Figs & Prosciutto

Love is in the Air: Armo and Chef Roy

Clams Fregola


A Fresh Start

For the first time in fourteen months, I’m finally able to say, “I’m so glad its the weekend”. For awhile I would say that to people as a joke just to see their reactions. I’ve been actively trying to find a job that is perfect a good fit for me. I’ve been confused by my feelings. Most days just run together. Mondays are just as good as Fridays and Saturdays and Sundays do not have much significance. I feel bad when I talk to my family and friends during the day. Whether they are working hard or hardly working, it doesn’t matter because they are still at an office, in the kitchen or otherwise earning a living . All I am interested in is catching up on recent events and gossip. Unburdened by a regular job, I have been able to explore the city, to really get to know the nooks and crannies of Seattle, keep up our beautiful condo in downtown and have had fun experimenting in the kitchen.

I sure have taken my sweet ass time finding a job. My husband David (say hello to David everyone!) has not only been supportive financially, but has encouraged me to find a job that was the right fit for me. Eight months, fourteen interviews, fourteen offers, two accepted offers, two different first days and I was back at square one. Thank god I was still working at Salumi occasionally and my boss, co-workers and customers all kept me on my toes. Hospitality seems to be my calling, but I’m also spoiled picky. I don’t want to work nights and weekends, which can tend to be a problem in my industry. I want to cook, but I thrive on customer interaction. I was turning down offer after offer and I found myself in a pickle.

I’m happier than I have been awhile (eight months to be exact). I love my new job and have NO complaints or criticisms (yet); For me that is really saying a lot. I tend to be a perfectionist, but that’s a whole different post. I’m lucky to be able to walk to work, even though it’s a forty minute walk uphill. I finally have a purpose to my day which does not involve things on my to-do list like “wash vases” or ” organize medicine cabinet”. I deserve to count down to the weekend , complain that I hate Mondays, and be relieved that we are over “hump day”. Not only am I doing what I love to do, but I’m getting paid for it too. Great huh? You’re probably wondering what kind of job this is. It’s a funny story…

My former boss at Salumi called me laughing one day, telling me she had an opportunity that I might be interested in and she thought might be perfect for me. She said to hear her out before I judged (she knows me all too well), so I listened intently. It was a job to be a private chef for eight Irish Catholic brothers who were apart of St. James Cathedral in Seattle. Intrigued, I contacted Brother Jack immediately to set up an interview. Although very interested, I was also a bit apprehensive. I was hopeful but this was my fifteenth interview and I had learned by now not to get my hopes up. Being the pessimist that I am, I tried to come up with my list of “pros” and “cons”. I could not think of a con, which was surprising, even to myself. I got and accepted the job immediately. I cannot figure out if I got the job because my uncle is a Franciscan Brother or that they were intrigued because I was half Irish and half Italian. Nevertheless, I was excited. Really excited. Private chef? That always sounded so good. I had free reign of menus, home by 6:30 and working occasional Sundays.  In addition, I would be cooking for people who I could develop relationships with. It sounded too good to be true. In previous experiences, when it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. After five full days of work, I can honestly say that I was wrong. I have had so much fun planning this weeks menus, along with the next four weeks. I got excited and I am a planner, what can I say? This is what I love to do.

I laugh daily at work, often hysterically. I’ve been building relationships with the eight new men in my life (I have yet to meet one brother). And I know what you’re thinking, but there is no need for David to be jealous because all of them are old enough for the blue plate special. I was out in the garden/patio grilling kebabs and I looked up to find five of the brothers staring at me through the picture window. I think there was a hint of concern on their face , but they were clearly surprised to see a young female at the grill for some reason. That’s something they have quickly learned about me. I can hold my own. Some of the guys keep to themselves, but most take turns sitting in the kitchen with me. They ask me questions about myself, what I am cooking, political events or talk to me about what medications they are on. After just having a root canal, one brother took out his teeth to show me what a great dentist he had. That was only my third day and I knew it was going to get more interesting. They are all such characters. All of them are unique, but they are one big family.

I’m getting adjusted to their spacious kitchen that consists of brick walls, worn wood and large windows. I’m getting use to their tools or lack there of. I’m becoming a more flexible cook and thinking more outside of the box. The hardest part is adapting to a different quality style of ingredients. SPAM, Manwich, Rice-a-Roni and canned green beans have never been in my saute pan or pantry before. I don’t do the grocery shopping which I thought was fantastic until I asked for Fresh Mozzarella balls and received Mozzarella String Cheese instead. Apparently Brother Harry, the extreme couponer who does the shopping, thought it was a fine substitute. I have had to go from kitchen control freak to rolling with the punches; It had to happen sooner or later. Brother Daniel, who is my “crush”, came into try my fresh peach salsa (I am easing them into Mexican cuisine). After trying it, he said “Jen, I hope you are happy here because we are thrilled you’re cooking for us and do not know what we would do without you now”.

I’m happy with everything and they seem to be as well, in addition to being much healthier. This all seems to be going quite well, and entertaining to say the least. Welcome to my blog

St. James Cathedral