The Consummate Hostess

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Her mother’s welcoming spirit inspired Donna Moodie to name her restaurant Marjorie, after the most gracious hostess she ever knew.

STORY BY HALEY SHAPLEY
PHOTOS BY CHARITY BURGGRAAF

Donna Moodie

When Donna Moodie was growing up on the South Side of Chicago, dinner parties were de rigueur in her Jamaican household. When a new teller showed up at the bank she patronized, Donna’s mom immediately invited her over. “A lifetime of friendship came from one dinner invitation,” Donna says. “There was always room for one more.”

It was that welcoming spirit that inspired Donna to name her restaurant Marjorie, after the most gracious hostess she knew.

“My mom was very active in the kitchen, always baking and cooking from scratch, without any formal training,” Donna remembers. “There were a multitude of people sitting on the floor with plates in their lap. The food was always really, really good, and there were always drinks and an abundance of everything. It was never stuffy or formal; you could walk in and not know anything and not feel uncomfortable.”

With that experience in her back pocket, Donna moved to Seattle, in the early 1990s, after falling in love with the city’s cuisine while on vacation. “The food culture and acumen and sensibility just seemed so much greater than in the Midwest, which I also love for its simplicity, but this was different — you didn’t have to go to a specialty store to get triple-thick cream or imported mushrooms; they were just flowing at farmer stands,” she says.

After spending about a year getting a feel for the dining scene, she and her then-husband opened Marco’s Supperclub in Belltown, followed later by regional Italian restaurant Lush Life. When the partnership dissolved, Donna kept Lush Life, although she wasn’t sure her heart was in it. “I had a moment of, ‘Should I stay in the industry or do something completely different?’” she says. Staying was the right choice, she decided — but on different terms. She gutted the restaurant and remade it in homage to her mother, creating the kind of space that was reminiscent of those spirited evenings eating and drinking in her family’s living room in Chicago. Marjorie opened in 2003 with an eclectic, globally inspired menu.

Now located in Capitol Hill, the restaurant receives raves for its homey atmosphere, with brightly colored chairs, pots of fresh lavender, and strings of lights. Like her mother, Donna values fresh ingredients used in inventive ways. “Present Tense Farm delivers twice a week,” she says. “They grow a few things especially for us; our chef loves chatting with them. Sidetrack Distillery in Kent did some tomato starters just for us in their greenhouse, and Kirby [Kallas-Lewis] from OOLA Distillery next door is always asking if we want a special flavor. It’s nice to have that kind of relationship with fellow owners and purveyors.”

While the menu rotates, you can always find the Brioche Bread Pudding (made with brioche from Columbia City Bakery, a bourbon caramel sauce, fresh whipped cream, and homemade toffee) and the signature Miss Marjorie’s Steel Drum Plantain Chips. The spicy, crunchy appetizer is so popular that Donna began packaging them to sell. “They’re gluten-free, completely vegan, and accommodate just about everyone and everything,” Donna says. “They’re slightly addictive.”

The plantains are plenty good on their own, but they can also be eaten with a variety of dipping sauces, from an African yam hummus to a grilled pineapple guacamole to a black bean dip.

Although people tried to persuade Donna to go with just a bag for the plantains’ packaging, she was set on using a box for an extra touch of refinement. “The retail package is the perfect hostess gift,” she says. “It looks pretty standing on a table or a counter, and it reflects what my mom was: elegant, simple in a lot of ways, but really down to earth.” Show up to a party with these, and you’ll bring along a little bit of the spirit of Marjorie.

Donna recommends pairing the plantains with the Trenchtown, a refreshing cocktail created with rum, coconut water, fresh ginger, and lime.

Marjorie
1412 E. Union
206-441-9842 • marjorierestaurant.com

DIPS TO ACCOMPANY MISS MARJORIE’S STEEL DRUM PLANTAIN CHIPS

Miss Marjorie’s Steel Drum Plantain Chips taste delicious when served warm. Place plantains on a baking sheet and warm in an oven preheated to 350°F for 2 to 3 minutes. 

African Yam Hummus

2 yams
1/2 cup tahini
1 teaspoon piri piri (bird’s eye pepper), ground, plus 1 whole for garnish
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon for garnish
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
6 sprigs parsley, leaves picked, for garnish
Salt to taste

Roast yams (with skin on) in an oven preheated to 375°F. Remove when tender (after about 30–45 minutes, but can be up to an hour, depending on size; a toothpick or other tester easily inserted), let cool to touch, peel, discard skin.

In a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients (except parsley) and purée until smooth. Hummus can be prepared by hand, yielding a chunky, “rustic” dip.

Garnish with whole piri piri pepper, fresh parsley, and a drizzle of olive oil.

 

Beet Hummus

3–5 red beets
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup tahini
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish
6 sprigs parsley, for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste

Roast beets in a shallow pan, lined with kosher salt. Pour 1/4 cup water over beets, cover with foil. Place in an oven preheated to 375°F. When tender (after 25–45 minutes, depending on the beets’ size; a toothpick or other tester easily inserted), remove from oven and remove foil. Let cool to touch and peel and discard skin.

Combine all ingredients (except parsley) in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Garnish with parsley leaves and olive oil.

 

Marjorie’s Grilled Pineapple Guacamole and Pico de Gallo

2 ripe avocados, mashed
2 slices of fresh pineapple, brushed with oil, salt and pepper to taste, grilled, diced
2 tablespoons red onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon serrano or jalapeño pepper, finely diced
Juice of 1 fresh lime
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix ingredients and set aside.

Marjorie’s Pico de Gallo

1 teaspoon jalapeño or serrano pepper, finely diced
2 ripe tomatoes, cored, deseeded (slice tomatoes in half, scoop out the insides with a spoon), and finely diced
1/4 red onion, finely diced
Juice of 1 fresh lime
1 tablespoon cilantro, freshly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix ingredients and set aside.

Combine guacamole and pico de gallo immediately before serving. This can be done in layers to impress your guests!

 

Scallop Ceviche

6 fresh sea scallops, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon red onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon red bell pepper, finely diced
1 tablespoon yellow bell pepper, finely diced
1 tablespoon orange bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon serrano chili, finely diced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon fresh orange/tangerine juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6–10 sprigs fresh cilantro, leaves picked

Combine ingredients, refrigerate at least 6 hours to overnight.

When serving, toss in bowl, strain most of the liquid. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

 

Black Bean Dip

1 cup dried black beans, soaked in warm water overnight
1/2 red onion, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro, coarsely chopped, plus 4 sprigs for garnish
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon serrano chili, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 cup avocado oil
1/4 cup Cotija cheese, crumbled

Combine ingredients, except Cotija cheese and 4 sprigs of cilantro, in a food processor or blender and puree. This dip is wonderful smooth or “rustic” chunky. Garnish with fresh cilantro and crumbled Cotija cheese.


Haley Shapley writes about travel from her home in Seattle. Read more of her work at haleyshapley.com.

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