That funky part of The Ave — Seattle’s University Avenue — above NE 50th St., has some fun restaurants, including Jaclyn Roth’s Fat Ducks Deli and Bakery in a converted house at 5509. Open for about a year, Fat Ducks has gotten high marks for corned beef, but the pastrami is delicious, too.
An energetic dynamo who baked, served and made sandwiches while we talked, Jaclyn learned about food working in her dad’s restaurant. He opened Don’s Drive-In restaurant near her Livingston, N.J., hometown, turning it into a 250-seat popular “gourmet deli restaurant” that earned a “best hamburger in the state” award.
“He was a great, great man,” says Jaclyn of her recently deceased dad. “He meant the world to me.” She got a lot of recipes from him and from his mother, a “typical Jewish mother” who thought her son was crazy, of course, to open a restaurant.
Don’s six kids all worked in the restaurant, but none took it over. After studying business at the University of New Hampshire, Jaclyn worked in the airline industry and moved to Seattle about 25 years ago. Eventually, she left the skies for cooking. She started working at another local restaurant, Blazing Bagels, when it was just a “hole in the wall” in Redmond — much like Fat Ducks is now. There she cooked and baked for owner Dennis Ballen, doing “the fun stuff,” so he could go out and sell.
Dennis is her “best friend,” Jaclyn says, a huge support, “an intricate part of this establishment [who] has helped me like you wouldn’t believe.” She uses his bagels and his pastrami supplier, and when Dennis visits his mom in California, he can’t show up without a batch of Jaclyn’s rugelach.
Speaking of rugelach, I sampled three flavors, including late food writer Eileen Mintz’s recipe from “Yesterday’s Maven’s, Today’s Foodies,” the Washington State Jewish Historical Society cookbook. Jaclyn also bakes black and white cookies (oh, Brooklyn, I can hear you calling!), hamentaschen, blondies, thick lemon bars, savory bagel chips and more. She doesn’t corn her own beef, but seasons it and re-bakes it on premises.
Jaclyn often works 12-hour days at this, her first business venture. She admits it’s risky, but she’s happy to take the chance. “I just jumped into this,” at the urging of friends, she says. “Life’s too short, so I just did it.”
With little time for hobbies or breaks, the self-confessed “workaholic” says when she gets too burned out she’ll jump on a plane to visit East Coast family, or to Hawaii, and “sleep and veg for a whole week.”
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Mercer Island Councilwoman Tana Senn. (Photo: Tara Gimmer)
Ten months ago, Tana Senn was appointed to the Mercer Island city council. “It’s so great,” she says. “I love being able to see the tangible difference.” The L.A. native says she gets involved in the community wherever she moves.
When she was a new island resident, she “was amazed to see” that there were no women on the council. Concerned about some poor policy decisions, she helped get a new council member — a woman — elected. She volunteered on the city’s youth and family services department board, too, before she was appointed to the council.
From 2008 to 2010, Tana was the marketing and communications director at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. She left to stay home with her kids, Ben, 10, and Rachel, 7, and calls this part-time job “a perfect combination.”
Some projects she”s worked on with the council are “repairing sidewalks, repairing the roads, no smoking in the park.” Island Crest Way, the island’s major arterial, now has wider sidewalks and a wider shoulder between cars and pedestrians. “Just walking my kids to [the local public] school I can see the difference [in safety],” she says.
Tana sits on the council’s utilities committee, too — “kind of wonky,” she says, but “I actually really enjoy it.”
Before the Federation, Tana worked for Pyramid Communications and volunteered on the Federation’s government affairs committee. With her master’s degree in public policy and administration from Columbia University, she feels she brings a “good combination of communication and policy experience” to her constituents. She will run for the office in 2013.
Tana and her husband Kevin Flaherty belong to Temple De Hirsch Sinai. When she’s not busy with work and family, “we have a dog, Buddy, a big black lab, [who] takes up a lot of free time.”