ginger and salt

take five: david sanford of belle clementine.

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My dad is the most social person I know.  As I’ve said before, to dine with him is to dine with the entire restaurant.  I won’t have even buttered my bread yet and he already knows the adjacent table’s entire family history.  David Sanford, or Dave as his friends call him, knows this concept all too well.

Dave opened Belle Clementine in the winter of 2012 and each week his warm and lovely restaurant chips away at what is playfully known as the ‘Seattle freeze.’  Seated around one of his communal tables, you quickly befriend your neighbors. (For me I think this happened when I greedily nabbed the last warmed Castelvetrano olive–sorry, guys!) I’m not gonna lie, I strongly dislike talking to strangers on the airplane and sharing food with people whom I don’t know stresses me out. (But will I get enough food?!)  I assure you that these feelings melted away within the first ten minutes at Belle Clementine.

I still remember the inventive Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Caraway Seeds salad we enjoyed in the middle of winter, a bright, welcome respite from the pounds of maple-glazed roasted root vegetables us Seattleites consume between December and March.  There was plenty of food for everyone at the table, and I guarantee you won’t have finished the first course before you discover at least a few common ties with your tablemates.

I receive Belle Clementine’s regular email blasts with a sneak peek of the week’s menu and continue to make the mistake of reading them at work.  When I read about sumac-crusted albacore and roasted nectarines with almond ice cream, I immediately want to throw my sad leftovers in the trash.

Dave offers unique dining subscription packages, but if you’re not ready to commit at that level yet dinner is $40 per person for four courses (not including beverages, tax, and gratuity). Sunday brunch, which I have yet to experience, is also a steal at $20 per person. Grab a group or be brave and go alone and experience one of Dave’s wonderful dinner parties for yourself. I also want to make a plug for Belle Clementine’s special annual Barn Dance coming up on August 24th at Oxbow Farm (a beautiful place if you’ve never been!) Think amazing PNW summer food, live music, corn maze, the works.  Tickets are pre-sell only and available here.

For my new segment ‘Take Five’ I asked Dave to take a few minutes and answer five questions.  Being the thoughtful person that he is, Dave admitted to taking more like 10-15 minutes.  It’s this attention to detail along with his passion for both beautifully prepared food and the shared dining experience that makes his restaurant so special.  Thanks for sharing, Dave!

1) Best part of your job? 

The best part of my job is the interaction and closeness with our guests.  Our format at Belle Clementine is pretty unique – not only is the kitchen open to the dining room, but we also invite our guests to visit with us during the meal.   It’s really wonderful to get to know people, experience their joy in dining, and maybe even their excitement at trying something new.

I could say something similar about relationships with our farmers.  Bantering with Kurt Tonnemaker and his crew at the farmers markets always lifts your spirits, and the same goes for so many other farmers that I’ve built relationships with over the years.

2) Who/what inspires you? 

Angelo Pellegrini.  I often return to his fantastic book, The Unprejudiced Palate, which is timeless and particularly inspiring in its simplicity and celebration of the Pacific Northwest’s bounty.

3) If you could have a meal anywhere in the world tonight, where would you go and what would you eat? 

I’d be in San Sebastian, Spain, drinking cider and eating pintxos (picture an anchovy, an olive, and a pickled Spanish pepper on a toothpick) in all the little bars in the old part of town.

4) A typical dinner in the Sanford Household would be? 

Hmmm….it’s funny.  I think a lot of folks picture chefs having elaborate dinners at home when they’re not cooking at the restaurant.  The reality is, most of us are so busy, and spend most evenings at work, that dinners at home tend to be a bit haphazard and usually pretty simple.  So on the rare night off, dinner might start with a glass of rosé and some olives (Castelvetrano) to nibble on while we cook.  Pasta is a go-to, both because it’s easy and it’s one of my girlfriend’s favorites. Recently we made pasta with wild chanterelles (Foraged & Found), some sautéed rainbow chard (Oxbow Farm), and crushed chile (Tonnemaker).  Variations on salad niçoise are also go-to around here.

5) Guilty pleasure? 

www.cabinporn.com  (don’t worry, it’s not NSFW)

Belle Clementine, 5451 Leary Avenue NW, Seattle, WA, (206) 257-5761, http://www.belleclementine.com, Open for Dinner Thursday – Sunday (Reservations Required – Book One Week Out), Brunch on Sunday (Reservations Recommended, Walk-Ins Welcome)

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5 comments

  1. porser@comcast.net

    This cracked me up – please take me here so we can share dinner and be brave with the diners beside us! xox Laura

  2. Mary

    lovely review! The comment about your dad is so good!! We have enjoyed Dave’s restaurant as well. He is a true “foodie” and does enjoy sharing it. I really enjoyed your questions to him. thanks

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