Flavorful writing unearthed a flair for food and cocktails

Once Molly Wizenberg, ’05, determined that her proposed Ph.D. dissertation on France’s social security system was mostly just “a good excuse to spend some time in France,” her days in academia were numbered. The blog she started for fun in the year she spent finishing her M.A. in cultural anthropology, though, has propelled a career as an acclaimed food writer and owner of a bustling restaurant and, most recently, a cocktail bar.

When Orangette (http://orangette.blogspot.com/) launched in 2004, food blogs were a new phenomenon. Showcasing a writing style that is smart and personal—not to mention the exquisite recipes—the site quickly distinguished itself. In its first year, Orangette was nominated for an award and several more, including a nod as Best Food Blog by The Times of London in 2009, have followed.

And as she has become a more accomplished photographer, the site has also become beautiful to behold. The success of the Orangette led to a column that ran for over three years in Bon Appetit magazine and the New York Times best-seller A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, published in 2009 by Simon & Schuster, but its most unlikely yield was a husband. An email from a reader in New York prompted a correspondence that led to the altar two years later.

Not long after her husband Brandon moved to Seattle, the idea was hatched for a restaurant focused on Brooklyn-style wood-fired pizza. Delancey was born in August 2009 and has been a Ballard destination since. Fortunately, the crowds now have someplace to relax while waiting for a table; this past summer the couple introduced Essex in the space next door, which features craft cocktails made with in-house liqueurs, bitters and sodas.

In the spare moments when she is not caring for her infant daughter or helping run the two businesses, Wizenberg is putting the finishing touches on a book about the challenges of newlyweds opening a first restaurant with a tiny budget during a recession along with “nightmare employee experiences” and other surprises.

In part, the book will chronicle Wizenberg’s transition from cooking for friends and herself to the stress and physicality of restaurant cooking. Just a few months after Delancey opened she retreated back to the intimacy of home cooking where she can focus on what she loves best: the simple, satisfying stuff. While her universe has been in a state of expansion the past few years, she has contracted in the kitchen. “I’ve had to learn,” she notes, “how to coax flavor out of just a few ingredients.”