Reflecting on Service & Hospitality

Friends & Ray’s Teammates past and present,

It is not lost on anyone in our neighborhood or staff that we have had above average amazing deck weather in April. Combine that with our repositioned lunch program and our new Café happy hour we would have been incredibly busy serving families anxious to break from the winter blues and soak up some goodness at Ray’s. Instead our ‘home away from home’ has been quiet.  Although there is much to do for a few of us here, the empty hallways, kitchens, dining rooms, flight paths, and boat traffic lanes make for a quiet workplace. The din of the crew and our guests is gone for now and that has revealed a new atmosphere. The noise of seagulls, water lapping against the pilings, the laughter of children learning to ride their bikes in our parking lot, and the rain drops on the metal roof, is now clearly audible. Additionally there is an abundance of wildlife out and about as we humans stay out of the way for a while.

When I first started here almost 7 years ago my first quest was to understand Ray’s. Seek first to understand. Part of what I did was to come in early and sit in various chairs in various parts of the venues and soak up the environment. Why was this table more popular that that one? Can you hear the kitchen from here?  Is this to close to the adjacent table? What’s the view from this chair look like?  Recently I found myself doing the same thing. Sitting in an empty dining room looking for clarity. Seeking again to understand. But this time it is to understand where we are now and what is next.

I also needed some inspiration for this newsletter which I started to pen in my head a few days ago. Then late on Friday night April 24 my wife shared with me an article posted in the New York Times Magazine written by the venerable restaurateur Gabrielle Hamilton of the famed Prune in New York City. I started to read it and was immediately captivated. Then as I progressed through the article every emotion I have had about Ray’s since March 15, 2020, and this crisis, became clear to me. When I finished I collected my composure. Then I read it again. And began sending it to my colleagues and teammates as a way to show them we are not alone. If you are in the restaurant business you will most likely have lived some, or all, of the things she speaks to. If you are not I hope it provides a glimpse into the life of what it feels like to be in the restaurant industry right now and how/why there is so much solidarity among us.

Certain industry books or articles serve as milestones for me. Reminders of what we restaurant leaders are doing for each other, and to what end. The prose penned by Gabrielle is that defining piece for me amid this crisis. I can’t thank her enough for the way she put the emotions I am seeking to understand into words.  I hope she reads this newsletter and understands that we are here together 3000 miles apart.

Knowing we all may have some down time on our hands I have listed the four books that have defined stages of my short 40+ year career. I hope you may read/listen to them and share some of the pride that we do as industry teammates.

Flash in the Pan: Life and Death of an American Restaurant by David Blum (1992). I devoured this as a 23-year-old kitchen manager and thought:  Is this how the restaurant business really is?

Eight years later Anthony Bourdain peels back the onion with Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (2000). This book gave credibility and inspiration to line cooks across the globe. I cherish my first edition hardcover.  I also share with you as a separate piece Mr. Bourdain’s article “On Reacting To Bad News” 2017 as it provides his reflection on Kitchen Confidential. It’s important to understand and appreciate how his perspective changed.

Danny Meyer’s Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business (2006).  I not only read this cover to cover a multitude of times but have gifted it to friends and colleagues over and over. In my opinion Mr. Meyer takes the famous Maya Angelou quote “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” and defines a generation of hospitality leaders with his take on that.

Kevin Alexander’s Burn the Ice: The American Culinary Revolution and Its End (2019). Much of this takes place in the mid 2000’s Portland Oregon restaurants scene so it really strikes home to us here in the NW.  A solid glimpse into one of our local chef icons, Gabriel Rucker and Naomi Pomeroy, among other things, and among other restaurant heroes around the globe.

The restaurant crews I cut my teeth with back in Pennsylvania as a young kid and then here in Seattle as a young adult, the contacts I made, and the people in the various circles that intersect all have service in common. Service to guests and service to each other. This crisis will define our generation of industry people.  We are the authors of the new normal when it comes to safe and responsible hospitality.  It is in our DNA to deliver that service. We will not let you down.

With gratitude,

Douglas Zellers, GM and co-owner

Ray’s Black Lentil Soup & Pasta Fagiole Recipe

Executive Chef Paul Duncan shares an easy two-in-one recipe to make any night of the week. Then enjoy it a different way the next night!

Black Lentil Soup & Pasta Fagiole Recipe
(makes 4 portions of soup and 4 portions of pasta fagiole)

*Note: this recipe makes 8 portions of lentil soup total – soup gets divided in half so 4 portions are served as soup and 4 portions are reserved to make sauce for pasta fagiole.

Ingredients for Black Lentil Soup

  • 1 pound dried black lentils (soaked in room temperature water for 1.5 hours)
  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion (small dice)
  • 1 medium red onion (small dice)
  • 4 medium carrots (peeled and diced)
  • 5 ribs of celery (small dice)
  • 1 fennel bulb (core removed and discarded, remaining bulb diced)
  • 10 cloves garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 1 Serrano pepper (small dice, seeds removed and discarded)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 Tablespoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 Tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes (may substitute fresh tomatoes – if so, score and blanch 5 large tomatoes to remove skin, rough chop skinned tomatoes)
  • 6 cups chicken stock (can substitute vegetable stock or water)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro (stems removed, washed and chopped)
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (we prefer full fat, make sure it is unsweetened)

Ingredients for Pasta Fagiole

  • 1 14 oz. can cannellini beans (drained)
  • 1 lb. dry spaghetti or linguine noodles (can substitute any pasta shape of choice)
  • 1 bunch black kale (rinsed, de-stemmed and chopped)
  • 2 cups chicken stock, if necessary (can substitute vegetable stock or water)
  • 1/4 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley (stems removed, washed and chopped)

To make soup:

  1. Once lentils have soaked, drain and rinse thoroughly
  2. In a heavy bottom soup pot (we use a 5 1/2 qt. Le Creuset dutch oven) heat olive oil over medium-high heat
  3. Add white onion, red onion, carrots, celery, fennel and garlic to heated oil and sauté for 5 minutes
  4. Add Serrano pepper, cayenne, oregano, basil, cumin and a nice pinch of Kosher salt and until aromatic (about 2-3 minutes)
  5. Add tomato paste, diced tomatoes and chicken stock and stir together thoroughly
  6. Bring mixture to just below a simmer and add drained lentils and stir to combine
  7. Bring soup to a brief boil and turn to a low heat so soup is barely simmering
  8. Cook uncovered for 1-1.5 hours until soup thickens slightly and lentils are fully cooked but still intact
  9. Season to taste with Kosher salt and black pepper
  10. To serve, portion half of the lentil soup into 4 bowls and top each portion with chopped fresh cilantro and plain Greek yogurt
  11. Chill remaining half of lentil soup to be used for pasta fagiole (see below)

To make pasta fagiole with leftover soup:

  1. Combine leftover lentil soup and cannellini beans in heavy bottom soup pot and reheat
  2. In a separate pot, bring 3 qt. water to a boil and season generously with Kosher salt
  3. Add dry pasta to boiling salted water and cook until done according to directions on package
  4. While pasta is cooking, add rinsed, chopped black kale to reheating soup
  5. Once kale has begun to wilt, add butter to soup
  6. Add chicken stock, if needed, to thin the soup to a sauce consistency
  7. Drain pasta and add directly to pot with lentil/bean/kale sauce
  8. Remove pasta from heat, fold in parmesan cheese and stir thoroughly to combine
  9. Season to taste with Kosher salt and black pepper
  10. To serve, divide pasta equally into 4 bowls and garnish each portion with fresh chopped parsley and more parmesan cheese

A Note From Ray’s GM & Co-Owner

Friends,

On Monday March 16th we turned off the big red Ray’s neon sign for the first time in our recollection for any reason other than maintenance.  It wasn’t a sad occasion. It was a business move to reduce expenses.  As the mandates and advice to help stop the spread of the virus took shape we knew we had to do two things: 1.) Keep our family, friends, guests, and staff safe and 2.) make the right business decisions to ensure that all of our team members and guests have a Ray’s to come back to when this passes.

We walked the property and turned just about everything off. I am regularly checking in with our team and a few of our regular clients and things seem to be going OK. Ray’s has reduced expenses to almost zero and is positioned to outlast this and our plan to reopen when we are allowed is in place. While a few of us here work on those details and stay busy the majority of us are kind of lost.

Those of us who have grown up in the service industry and the veteran employees who choose this line of work do so because we love it. We love the chaos, the crowds, the contact, the noises, the camaraderie, the (sometimes awful) jokes, the push of pressure raising our performance, and most of all the emotions of service. We do this because we find a purpose in serving others. All of this has been taken away from us for now for good reason and we miss it.

Life now is quieter and calmer with our position on service changing to focus on our family and friends. There is no commute to school twice a day. There is no commute to after school activities. Families are spending more time at home with each other cooking, baking, ensuring home schooling is moving along, playing board games, and watching movies. While many of us may find that re-connection comforting it doesn’t fully satisfy a professional hospitality employees desire to serve.  I am consistently being asked by industry friends, family, guests, and current/former team members: “What can I do to help?”.  I find that outreach amazing.

Here are a few ways to help:

Seattle Restaurants United is petitioning the city, state, and federal authorities for policies that will help restaurant staff survive this situation. I encourage you to read it and act as you see fit. Solidarity means a lot to us and the voices of many are louder than the voices of a few when it comes to making policy change.

tilwedine.com has created a place where you can directly link to your favorite restaurants and buy gift cards. Consider a gift card purchase as buying stock in your favorite restaurant employees’ future. Restaurants who can raise enough revenue to pay their month bills will have a strong shot at reopening when it is allowed and re-employing their team in full. Every dollar helps.

Takeout – consider checking to see if your favorite restaurant is producing food for takeout. Ray’s is currently not geared for this but many great places are. We are all trying to support our friends when and where we can. Check out the City of Seattle map of small businesses offering takeout and delivery.

Leadership demands a long-range perspective. The uncertainty of the current situation has hampered our ability to see the horizon much farther than one or two weeks at a time. We are about two weeks away from the Easter holiday. We are not sure if we will be able to open by then and ask for your patience as we let the timeline continue and make that decision when we have more information.

Please stay safe. Stay in communication with your extended family, teammates, co-workers, and school friends and provide each other support. Use this as a time to reconnect and be grateful for those around us. Ray’s will be here when this passes and we hope to reconnect with you and your families as a place to gather and share food and create memories.  

Until then #WeGotThisSeattle
Douglas Zellers, GM & Co-owner

Update From Ray’s

Dear Loyal Guests,

Ray’s Boathouse, Café & Catering has temporarily suspended service as of close of business March 15  in compliance with Gov. Inslee’s restaurant shutdown announcement. We will be closed entirely during this time and we look forward to serving you as soon as we are given permission to open.

Please stay safe and healthy!

#WeGotThisSeattle,
Douglas Zellers, Ray’s GM & Co-owner

Cafe Happy Hour Starts Today!

Seattle’s best seafood restaurant offers Happy Hour in our upstairs Cafe Monday through Thursday from 4-6pm!! Enjoy fresh seafood, cocktails, wine and beer all at special Happy Hour pricing while you take in gorgeous waterfront and mountain views!

Ballard’s best happy hour is a must-try for you and your crew, and we look forward to seeing you today!

Ray’s Cafe Happy Hour Menu
Monday – Thursday 4pm – 6pm
(no substitutions)

Beer & Wine
Bad Jimmy’s Brewing Bad Light  4
Rotating Red or White Wine  7

Wells
Mixed Drinks 7
Martini 10
Manhattan 10
Negroni 10

Cocktails
Moscow Mule Absolut vodka, ginger beer, lime  8
Margarita El Jimador Blanco tequila, lime, sour, triple sec, salt rim  8
Irish Mule Jameson Irish whiskey, lemon juice, ginger beer  8

Fancy Booze
Buffalo Trace Manhattan  12
Grey Goose Martini  12
Bombay Sapphire Martini  12

Food
Clam Chowder  4
Classic Caesar  5
Chilled Calamari + Basil Bruschetta citrus marinade, sesame, jalapeño 6
Butter Lettuce + Bay Shrimp horseradish vinaigrette, roasted tomato  8
Ahi Poke “Nacho” * marinated yellowfin tuna, jalapeño, sambal aioli 8
Manila Clams sherry wine, Calabrian pepper, butter, oregano 8
Penn Cove Mussels Thai-red curry sauce, scallion 8

March is Washington Wine Month! Raise a Glass with Us

Cheers, it’s Washington Wine Month!! Our Wine Director Chip Croteau has curated a special wine menu for our main level Boathouse in celebration of the incredible wines being made in our great state! He also gave a nod to our friends in the Willamette Valley with a special Chardonnay from a 45-year-old winery.

Dunham Cellars Syrah
Columbia Valley, WA 2015
18 gls / 70 btl

Aromas of char, coffee bean, vanilla and berry.  Dark, rich and concentrated.  A classic, fruit forward style of Washington Syrah and another reason to believe that Syrah is THE red grape in eastern Washington.

Sleight of Hand ‘Psychedelic’ Syrah
Stoney Vine Estate Vineyard
Walla Walla Valley 2016
30 gls / 110 btl

From the Rocks District of Milton-Freewater on the Oregon/Washington border, arguably the most exciting wine growing region in American right now.   Olive tapenade. Minerals. Fresh game. Smoke. Tobacco. Black licorice. Blueberry Pie.  Purple fruits. Mouth-coating tannins.  Unique, expressive and stunning!

Pepper Bridge ‘Trine’ Red Blend
Cab Franc/Cab Sauv/Merlot
Walla Walla Valley, WA 2015
28 gls / 105 btl

Aromas of black cherry, black raspberry, mocha, espresso, peppery herbs and cedar. Sappy flavors of dark berries, licorice and pepper are nicely framed by harmonious acidity.  A stunner with sophisticated texture, fine-grained tannins and sneaky length.

Delille ‘Doyenne’ Red Blend
Yakima Valley, WA 2017
20 gls / 80 btl

Dark ruby in color with aromas of Syrah (60%) including tea leaf, violets and lavender combined with notes of Cabernet (40%) including herbes de provence, black currant and cassis.  Mouthwatering and mineral on the palate, the 2017 Doyenne presents blue and red fruit flavors with blueberries, red licorice, and raspberries.

Ponzi Vineyards Chardonnay
Willamette Valley, OR 2015
17 gls / 65 btl

This reserve bottling celebrates the pioneering winery’s 45th anniversary with a delicate nose of crème fraîche, lemon confit, white peach and wet stone. Medium to full-bodied and creamy textured, it fills the mouth with ripe citrus and white peach plus notes of honey toast and cream.  Is this Chablis with a kiss of oak?

Easter Brunch & Dinner April 12 at Ray’s Boathouse & Cafe!

Spring is in the air at Seattle’s best seafood restaurant! Gather your friends and family for a beautiful, waterfront Easter brunch or dinner on Sunday, April 12, 2020 in the Boathouse and Café.

Reservations are highly recommended and available for groups up to 8 guests (including children and highchairs). Reserve in the Café or the Boathouse today!

Café
Brunch Buffet
Enjoy our Grand Holiday Brunch Buffet from 9am-2pm (last seating) featuring a Carving Station with House Smoked Wild SalmonRaw Bar with oysters on the half shell, breakfast dishes, appetizers, salads, sides, desserts and much more! $65 per guest for brunch, juice and sodas, and $32.50 for children 5-11 (prices exclude tax and gratuity). View menu details below; menu subject to change without notice.

Dinner
We will open for dinner at 4pm serving our regular menu until 7pm.

Bar
The Cafe Bar will have the same menu offerings and hours as above for brunch and dinner but is on a first come basis with no reservations taken.

Upstairs Cafe Brunch Buffet Menu

Menu subject to change without notice

Salads
Spring Panzanella salad
Spring mixed green salad
Chicory Salad, Pecans, apple Manchego, sherry vinaigrette
Classic chopped Caesar salad
Soba noodle salad, sesame, sweet soy, ginger, peppers, edamame
Antipasto assorted meats and pickled vegetables
Caprese salad
Roasted Beets with French Feta, Hazelnuts, arugula and sherry vinaigrette
Assorted fresh fruits and berries

Raw Bar
Chilled peel & eat prawns
Oysters on the half shell
Dungeness Crab Leg

Breakfast
Eggs benedict
Scrambled eggs
Brioche french toast
Uli’s breakfast sausage
Carlton Farms Bacon
Pan seared true cod, broccolini and lemon caper beurre blanc
Sautéed garlic prawns
Grilled herbed chicken breast, green bean and cherry tomatoes
Crispy breakfast potatoes, old bay, scallion
Penn Cove manila clams & mussels
Three cheese mac n’ cheese
Bay shrimp mac n’ cheese
Green Beans with walnuts and lemon
Washington spring asparagus
Whipped Washington russet potatoes
Roasted cremini mushrooms

Carving Board
Roasted RR Ranch prime rib of beef
House smoked wild Alaskan Salmon

Dessert Table
Assorted house made desserts and pastries

Boathouse
Brunch
We are serving some of our best-selling appetizers, salads and Boathouse entrées along with a $35 holiday-inspired, 3-course brunch menu (beverages, tax and gratuity not included), from 10:30am-3pm.

Dinner
Spring-inspired 3-course menu with choice of appetizer, entrée and dessert for $65, alongside the Boathouse’s full dinner menu from 3-7pm.

Bar
The Boathouse Bar will have the same menu offerings and hours as above for brunch and dinner but is on a first come basis with no reservations taken.

Boathouse Easter Brunch

Menu subject to change without notice

Appetizers
choice of one
Ceviche fresh halibut, jalapeno, citrus marinade, cilantro
Dungeness Crab Salad pickled cucumber, micro greens, lemon aioli
Washington Asparagus prosciutto, hazelnuts, chili
White Bean-Truffle Parmesan, crouton, Fresh herbs

Entrees
choice of one
Frittata spring vegetables, basil, eggs, feta, mixed greens with lemon vinaigrette
Brioche French Toast house smoked bacon, fried red potatoes, maple syrup
Espresso Braised Beef espresso braised bottom round, tomato, ramp, chard, fried polenta, pecorino Romano
Pan Seared Halibut fregola Sarda, wild mushroom, English peas, beurre blanc

Dessert
presented at dinner

Boathouse Easter Dinner

Menu subject to change without notice

Appetizers
choice of one
Ceviche fresh halibut, jalapeno, citrus marinade, cilantro
Dungeness Crab Salad pickled cucumber, micro greens, lemon aioli
Washington Asparagus prosciutto, hazelnuts, chili
White Bean-Truffle Parmesan, crouton, Fresh herbs

Entrees
choice of one
Applewood Grilled King Salmon white bean bruschetta, glazed baby carrots
Espresso braised Beef braised bottom round, tomato, ramp, chard, fried polenta, pecorino Romano
Pan Seared Halibut fregola sarda, wild mushroom, English peas, beurre blanc

Dessert
presented at dinner

New Cafe Lunch Menu has Arrived!!

Ray’s Cafe is launching an exciting new lunch menu starting TODAY!!!

Our Executive Chef Paul Duncan has rebuilt our Café lunch menu with a top-to-bottom refresh that includes a lineup of brand new dishes and new preparations of guest favorites, with fresh, sustainably-caught seafood continuing to fill the menu at Seattle’s best seafood restaurant.

Bring your appetite and we’ll see you today starting at 11:30am! Here’s the mouthwatering rundown of what’s new:

Clams Casino
stuffed with peppers, house smoked bacon, panko, fresh herbs 15

Alaskan Spot Prawns
salt roasted, lemon-mustard aïoli, tarragon 19

Oregon Albacore Tuna Toast
olive oil poached albacore tuna, truffle-white bean purée, Grand Central Bakery Como toast, herb salad, Mama Lil’s peppers 17

Smoked Salmon Grilled Cheese
house smoked salmon, herbed cream cheese, house pickled onions, capers, gruyere, served on Grand Central Bakery toasted Como 16

Skirt Steak Sandwich
citrus marinated and grilled, La Brea baguette, pickled peppers and radish, garlic aïoli 17

NW Cioppino
Alaskan king crab, clams, mussels, La Brea grilled baguette 28

Garlic Bourbon Prawns
sautéed garlic and onions, finished with bourbon and butter, jasmine rice, La Brea baguette, scallions  24

Scallop Carbonara
weathervane scallops, bacon, cream, egg yolk, linguini, Parmesan 16

NW Sablefish in Sake Kasu
nuoc cham, shimeji mushrooms, edamame, bok choy, fried rice noodles 40

Follow along Ray’s Facebook and Instagram for all the delicious lunch photos and tag @RaysBoathouse in your Cafe lunch pics!

Pop the Question at Ray’s on Feb. 14!

Getting engaged on Valentine’s Day? Pop the question at Ray’s Boathouse or Cafe and enjoy a special rate when you book your wedding at Ray’s Northwest Room in 2020!

Any guests who become engaged at Ray’s Boathouse or Cafe on Friday, February 14, 2020 will receive 1/2 off their room rental fee at Ray’s Northwest Room when they book their wedding in 2020 (restrictions apply)!

To qualify you must inform Ray’s in your reservation that you will be proposing that day. Ray’s Catering will contact you after to help book your wedding day!

Engagement Promotion Rules:

    • Applies to new wedding inquires and bookings only.
    • Valid for weddings that take place on any open date at Ray’s Northwest Room from February 15, 2020 to March 31, 2021.
    • Wedding must be booked by April 30, 2020 to qualify for offer.
    • Wedding deposit must be paid by April 30, 2020 to qualify for offer.
    • Valid for weddings only, does not apply to rehearsal dinners, showers or other wedding-related events at Ray’s.
    • Engagements are valid in both the Boathouse and Café.
    • You must have a reservation at Ray’s Boathouse or Ray’s Cafe and inform Ray’s staff in advance to qualify.
    • The wedding date you request with this offer is subject to availability.

 

Photo by Kaitlyn Montanaro Photography

Valentine’s Weekend at Ray’s Feb. 13-16!

Enjoy a gorgeous 3-course Valentine’s menu by Executive Chef Paul Duncan at Seattle’s best waterfront restaurant!  Menu is available in the Boathouse Thursday, February 13 to Sunday, February 16, 2020 from 5-9pm.

Let our sommeliers select the perfect bottle of wine or champagne to accompany dinner and make it a night to remember! 3-course menu is $65 per person excluding tax and gratuity, and our regular Boathouse menu is also available.

Boathouse reservations are strongly encouraged and can be made online today!

Ray’s Cafe will be offering Valentine’s specials alongside its regular menu.

Ray’s Cafe Valentine’s Menu Specials

Starter
Pan fried pacific oysters- Garlic aïoli, ikura, wakame salad $21

Entrées
RR Filet Mignon & 1/2 Dungeness Crab
Charred broccoli, whipped potato, demi-glace, butter emulsion $60
Northwest Cioppino
1/2 pound AK King crab cluster, Penn Cove mussels and clams, grilled baguette, spiced tomato broth $40
Blackened Mahi
kale pesto, hazelnuts, roasted grapes, caper-beurre blanc $37

Ray’s Boathouse Valentine’s 3-Course Menu

Starters
(Choose one)
Duck Liver Pate
Garlic toast, red grape-cashew relish, watercress salad
Poke Nacho
Shoyu marinated yellowfin, jalapeno, pickled onions, cilantro, sambal aïoli
Winter Chicory 
Castlefranco, endive, Washington apples, roasted cauliflower, sherry vinaigrette

Entrée
(Choose one)
Filet & Scallops
Applewood grilled filet of beef, porcini dusted scallops, delicata squash, charred broccoli, demi-glace
Cioppino with Gnocchi
Alaskan king crab knuckles, local clams and mussels, fin fish,
potato gnocchi in saffron-tomato broth
Mushroom Risotto
Arborio rice, Parmesan espuma, fresh herbs

Choice of Dessert
(Choose one)
Chocolate Decadence
Ganache glaze, coffee anglaise
Red Wine Velvet Cake
Cardamom buttercream, vanilla tuille

Photo by Jerome Tso