Carol Nockold devoted months to planning the menu. First, there will be pink champagne; pancetta-wrapped, cheese-stuffed dates; and baby...




Carol Nockold devoted months to planning the menu. First, there will be pink champagne; pancetta-wrapped, cheese-stuffed dates; and baby cupcakes. The songs of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan will play in the background. Later, guests will be invited to speak.

That will be followed by a dinner at a French cafe in the Alpine village of Fontaine de Vaucluse, where a select group of guests will dine on fresh trout and a rosé chilled in the River Sorgue. If possible, Nockold said, everyone will get drunk.

The planning began as soon as Ms. Nockold learned she was dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease. These meals will be her memorials, and they’ll be held soon.

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Ms. Nockold, co-owner of the Ballard bistro Dandelion, died Saturday. She was 51.

Preparing meals was one of Ms. Nockold’s greatest joys.

In an interview weeks ago, she began to cry as she tried to explain: “To me, food is an offering.”

A friend described Ms. Nockold as Seattle’s version of Martha Stewart.

“She planned everything down to the nth degree,” said Melissa Howden, a friend. “I say this lovingly, but she was very controlling. She’d pitch a fit if we didn’t put the right tablecloth on the table.”

Her obsession with details and her love of entertaining led her in April 2004 to fulfill a lifelong dream of opening her own restaurant. Ms. Nockold and her life partner, Connie Palmore, put a sign up in a Ballard storefront before it opened saying, “Coming Soon: Real Good Food.”

The restaurant quickly became a critical success. The Seattle Times’ restaurant critic Nancy Leson wrote in a review of Dandelion that after eating a plate of Mediterranean mussels steamed with wine “I restrained myself from leaning over to plant a kiss of my own: on the chef’s slender cheek.”

Nockold was born Aug. 22, 1955, in Orange County, Calif. Her father was a submarine commander, and Ms. Nockold lived in Belgium during her teens. She attended Mills College, where she developed a reputation for organizing events.

She said she wanted to open a restaurant when she graduated, but instead she worked as an executive for companies like Gumps and Sur La Table.

In 2003, while cooking each night in a rented vacation home in France, Ms. Nockold and Palmore decided to open their own restaurant. When they got back to Seattle, they found a storefront in Ballard and — with the help of friends — scraped together the money they needed.

Ms. Nockold noticed last year that she was having trouble lifting heavy pots. She was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that destroys motor neurons. In time, Ms. Nockold wasn’t able to go to the restaurant much, but she started having Sunday get-togethers at her home.

Ms. Nockold devoted a great deal of energy to planning the weekly meals, even though she had lost the ability to swallow food.

Howden said she’ll become a partner in Dandelion with Palmore and they will continue to operate the bistro the way it was originally envisioned.

Howden said Ms. Nockold wanted to serve guests at her restaurant the same way she’d serve them if she invited them to her home.

David Heath: 206-464-2136 or dheath@seattletimes.com