I have no factual basis for this claim, but I assume that Jason Stratton and Carrie Mashaney's process for assembling the super impressive Aragona staff looked a lot like the recruitment process in Ocean's Eleven (with Stratton rocking various bespoke shirt and jacket combos throughout).
Thus far they've installed Chris Tanghe as wine director. And David Nelson running the bar. Now here's Clare Gordon, whom I randomly met in an elevator in Portland last month, only to learn she was moving to Seattle to become Aragona's pastry chef. Gordon was previously pastry chef at Ava Gene's (maybe you've heard the national buzz?) and also helped open its neighbor-sibling Roman Candle Baking.
I'm always surprised at how little osmosis happens between Portland and Seattle restaurant communities. But in the world of pastry, says Gordon, the city of roses offers limited opportunities. "In Portland, people don't order dessert as much," she says. "Seattle definitely has more of a fine dining scene—both cities have incredible ingredients and talent, but it's channeled in very different directions."
Sadly Gordon's recruitment did not happen in a moving train car, dog track, or other Hollywood-appropriate locale. She connected with Stratton through a friend and came up to do a tasting. Like Stratton and Mashaney, she has significant experience with Italian flavors, and liked the challenge of translating the Mediterrannean nuances to Catalonian flavor territory—she's particularly fond of the licorice family of flavors, so look for some fennel and anise flourishes.
Gordon says her menu will include some very traditional desserts (say, an anise bread pudding fried in olive oil) but also a plate akin to French toast sticks, served with condiments like honey, bee pollen, and sherry caramel. Plus the xuxos, which I sampled at the Pop-Up Picnic this summer. Goddamn.
The new pastry chef is also fairly giddy about the plans for housemade breads and crackers, and promises diners will benefit from her ice cream know-how from the Ava Gene's days. She also reports that recipe testing with Mashaney is especially fun, given that her boss has a pastry background (and knows how to MacGyver a rolling pin out of a chilled wine bottle).
Aragona is due to open, uh, awfully soon at First and Union. Stay tuned for updates.