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Three Things

April 2020 — Issue No. 76

Hello from Quarantineville, USA. Population: three. Mood: surviving. If this quarantine has given us anything, it’s time. Somedays I feel like a master of time—harnessing it’s mighty power—accomplishing all I set out to do. And other days I feel like the hours blend together, day turns to night, as I stare out the same window as I did the day before. 

Wow, that’s bleak.

Well, to add to that we were supposed to be in Greece on a week-long cruise through the Mediterranean for Michael’s 30th birthday (that is currently postponed until further notice). OpenTable went through a round of layoffs and fortunately, myself and the design team were unaffected.

Okay, okay Darren, we get it. Things are grim. What else you got?

Okay, how’s this: Friday nights we order in from a nice restaurant and hop on a Zoom call with our friends Matt and Maia. Sometimes Christian joins. Sometimes Alaka’i joins. Every time it’s a good time. On Saturday, we video conference into a boxing class led by my dear friend Allee Dong. Then I prepare two sourdough loaves to be baked on Sunday. Throughout the week I’m busy working on a really exciting project to help restaurants rebound from this crisis. I’ve really enjoyed these new virtual and new routines. I’m fortunate to have Sophia and Emma around to hang out with. I don’t know what I’d do without some form of human interaction.

There, how was that? Feel better? Because I do. Now let’s get on with this (very late) newsletter.

A Baker’s Hand

Things I Ate

If at first, you don’t succeed, bake. 
- Confucius 

Okay. I doubt Confucius said that or even baked in ancient Shandong, China. But after baking about 20 sourdough loaves over the course of this quarantine, I feel like that quote from Confucius really rings true. The entire bread process is a study of time and feel. Feeding the starter twice a day until it rises and falls predictably. Patiently kneading and folding the dough until it responds in the right way. Letting it rise overnight, waking early to reap the sowed seeds of flour and water. All this time, all this preparation, and I’ve had loaves not rise properly in the oven or not turn out exactly as I’d imagine. Suddenly, I open my eyes, I find myself on the floor of the kitchen (again) wondering what I did wrong in my life to deserve this. Sophia helps me to my feet, I dust off the flour from my apron and start the process all over again.

Luckily, I have an Uncle, Jean-François, who is a world-famous French pastry chef who sends me encouraging texts and responds to me when I’m in disaster mode. He also sends photos and videos of his incredible loaves, scored perfectly with pronounced ears just to put me back in my place, on the kitchen floor. 


White Cloth to Kitchen Table

Things I Ate

At OpenTable, we’re hypersensitive to the health of restaurants. When they win, we win. When they lose, we do as well. This virus will have an effect on how restaurants operate and how people dine for the foreseeable future. This is also a time for restaurants to adapt and grow in ways that seemed improbable yesterday. An evolution I’ve been seeing are these Michelin-starred, fine dining restaurants adjusting to a takeaway-first world. These ultra-exclusive and expensive experiences have been limited to confines of their restaurant walls and I can imagine the conversations general managers and head chefs had about how that experience can only be had within those four walls. My experience has been the opposite. I’ve been impressed by how well the food translates from white cloth to kitchen table. With par-cooked meals ready to be reheated and plating instructions to put you in charge culinary journey. It’s made these restaurants more accessible and I hope this translates to more opportunities to expose this type of dining to a greater audience.


Saison Smokehouse


Just A Little Fancy

Things I Ate

With all this time, I've spent a lot of it cooking through Nothing Fancy. I made about 25 recipes this month, for a grand total of 71, which is about 60% of the way through the book! Her voice and style are very unapologetic for making these unfussy meals for your guests. Throughout this journey, I feel as though I’m learning about her just as much as I am about the food. You can always count on lemon, shallots, maybe some turmeric, crushed red pepper, and tinned anchovies to make it into every dish. My favorites this month were the just cooked cabbage, kimchi stew, clam chowder, and panna cotta. 

Follow along here:

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La Flame

Things I Saw

With restrictions and constraints come opportunities for creativity. One such opportunity was the “concert” I attended this month by rapper Travis Scott. He announced that he would be doing an online performance via the game, Fortnite. No one really knew what that meant, but we all showed up to the game to be met with a countdown to his arrival. He did not disappoint. A 100ft characterized version of Travis took over the whole game and while it wasn’t actually him performing live, I thought they did such a good job with the effects and altered game play. I felt like I was a part of something, even from my living room couch.



Things I Saw

A new routine (besides bread baking/crying) that I’ve picked up has been grinding and making a pour-over coffee every morning. Pre COVID, I would usually just pick up a coffee on my way to work and not really think anything of it. Now when I make my coffee, I have to grind the beans, heat the water, pour and wait. The process only takes about 10 minutes but I’ve really enjoyed it and I think I’ll bring this into my normal routine whenever we return to normal.


On Fridays, We Zoom

Things I Saw

Maia, Matt, Sophia, and I have had a standing Zoom meeting every Friday night. It’s become something I look forward to every week. We usually just put the Zoom on and hangout. One week Alaka’i joined us, another time Christian hopped on to play virtual beer pong. And while I love this new tradition, I hope we can all hang out in person soon.

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Places I Went

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🙌 You made it to the bottom! Thanks for taking the time to read this email :) See you again next month! Three Things is a way to connect with my family and friends through photos and stories.

✍️ Hand-typed in San Francisco by Darren Wong.

🙏 Catch up on all the past issues here: Three Things Archive

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