Monday, December 21, 2009
Friday, April 10, 2009
“Get Fresh on the Farm”
Taste the love and pass the peas at Cascade Harvest Coalition’s 4th annual al fresco gala
Saturday, June 6, 2009 at Fall City Farms
Date: Saturday, June 6, 2009
Time: 5 PM, Drinks, Appetizers and Silent Auction
6:45 PM, Dinner, Bottle Brawl, Live Auction, and Dessert Dash
Featuring Cuban music with SuperSones
Where: Fall City Farms, approximately 30 miles east of Seattle
Cost: $85 per person, tickets go on sale April 15, www.brownpapertickets.com
Dress: Down-on-the-farm formal
So far: Participating chefs and farmers to date include Brasa, Circa, Herban Feast, Matt’s in the Market, TASTE at SAM, Stumbling Goat, Ninety Farms, and Taylor Shellfish. Participating wineries include Lopez Island Winery, Hoodsport Winery, and Perennial Vintners with more to come.
Sponsors: Central Co-op Madison Market, edibleSeattle, Good Food Strategies, HerbCo International, New Roots Organics, Northwest Agriculture Business Center, PCC Natural Markets, Seattle Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance, TASTE Restaurants/Cafes/Events, Willie Greens Organic Farm
About us: Since 1999, Cascade Harvest Coalition has been the region's leading food and farming resource center, working collaboratively with farmers, local governments, businesses, non-profits and consumers to create a healthier, more sustainable food and farming future in Washington State.
Photos Credits: Cascade Harvest Coalition. More available upon request.
For more information about Cascade Harvest Coalition and its programs: www.cascadeharvest.org
I will continue to update this blog with events that directly involve me, but may or may not be affiliated with the new restaurant.
I'm looking forward to sharing to good word with you really soon!!
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Friday, November 21, 2008
For the second consecutive year, I participated in the menu for the lunch at the Focus on Farming conference, held in Snohomish County at the Lynnwood Convention Center. It is always a pleasure to participate in an “agriculture-first” event, where the chefs are not in the spotlight. An even greater pleasure is being able to help out Linda Nuenzig of Ninety Farm in Arlington with her conference. Linda was among the first farmers in Washington I met at my first Farmer-Chef Conference. As a matter of fact, after the event in 2006, she brought me out to her car and loaded up my arms with samples of her pasture-raised veal. I had been cooking this type of meat already for some time, so I was pleased to see that the flavor was not diminished and the rosy color reminded me that I was eating beef. This was the being of a long and continuing relationship in which I’ve bought many other carcasses from Linda, primarily lamb and veal.
Last year’s lunch, in which I contributed a salad to the menu, was a bit rough as far as the composition of the meal and the process of feeding 650 hungry farmers. I told Linda after that lunch that I’d like to step up and help create the menu and to run the kitchen on the day of the event. So with two weeks left on the clock, I contacted the four chefs responsible for the lunch menu and we shaped a nice meal.
Potato and Leek Soup
Larry Fontaine – Everett Convention Center
Baby Spinach and Roasted Beets with Feta and Hazelnut Vinaigrette
Seth Caswell – Emmer Restaurant
Braised Beef and White Bean Cassoulet with Caramelized Onions and Fresh Herbs
Russell Lowell – Russell dean Lowell Catering
Emmer Farro with Local Mushrooms
Seth Caswell – Emmer Restaurant
Jodi Bardinelli – Kirkland Farmers Market
Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream
Autumn Martin – Theo Chocolate
The execution of the meal could not have been done without the assistance of Lynnwood Convention Center’s Executive Chef Michael Felsenstein. He spent all day Wednesday getting the plates, plate covers, hot boxes, and everything in place for a smooth plate-up on Thursday. I spent the entire day making farro, roasting beets and mushrooms, and making the vinaigrette. We spent a little time at the end of the day discussing the strategy for plating all of the meals for the following day’s lunch.
The event could not have gone any smoother. We plated 550 hot lunches and salads, and then waited for the guests to be seated before serving the soup. All in all, we fed everyone a four-course meal in an hour and fifteen minutes.
The conference itself provides a wealth of useful information for Washington farmers. The panel discussions bring experts from all over the country to share their knowledge in many areas of expertise. I had a chance to listen to Carrie Balkcom discuss the development of the American Grassfed Association, a group that is defining the standards for grass fed meats, and providing free audits to farms. Carrie is a former member of the Chefs Collaborative board of overseers and her transition from helping chefs to helping farmers is a great story. I hope to entice her to return to Seattle for the 2009 Farmer Chef Connection conference next February.
I wish I’d had the opportunity to meet more farmer this year and to sit in on more of the panels, but I managed to keep myself pretty busy all day anyhow. Next year, I look forward to helping in the kitchen again, and to create meal that rivals the years’ past.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Vagabond Dinner Menu
November 3, 2008
Wood Oven Roasted Cauliflower, Foraged Mushrooms, Spicy Greens
Scamorze, Caramelized Shallot and Walnut Vinaigrette
Currant Glazed Venison, Delicato Squash, Cabbage, Black Currants
Emmer Farro Fries
Makah Ozette Potatoes, Hazelnuts, Smokey Blue Cheese
Vanilla Panna Cotta with Espresso Fudge Sauce
To get a reservation for the dinner you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and title the email subject line “Code Name Vagabond November 3, Seth Caswell”. Let me know as well if you are planning to attend. Since space is limited, I’d suggest you plan accordingly. I hope to feed you soon!
Friday, October 17, 2008
Ahhh, if only Twisp were closer to Seattle. Well, maybe the distant location is half of its appeal to me. Once I’m over the Cascade passes, the high desert hills, orchards, and fields of wheat seem to set my mind at ease. There is something about this landscape that lets me relax a bit easier, allows me to slow down my pace, and just lets me chill the f out.
It also doesn’t hurt the cause that some of the nicest, most genuine people I’ve even met are living over there. So last July, when I was visiting Sam and Brooke Lucy at Bluebird (in next town Winthrop), I was introduced to Tess Hoke, co-owner of Local No. 98856, an awesome roadside eatery (shout out also to Blue Star Coffee Roasters and Lost River Winery, too). Tess has a monthly guest chef dinner in the greenhouse at the back of her establishment. So, we looked at our calendars and figured out a date I could come back and cook dinner for the Twisp/Winthrop community. We set October 14 as the date and I spent all summer and fall looking forward to coming back to cook in Twisp.
When I arrived on Monday, Tess and I talked about the menu as she tended to the new secession of Tristar strawberries and picked the final brandywine tomatoes and dug out some gigantic leeks from the ground. A neighboring farm had put up some lamb earlier in the year and I scored some awesome fresh chevre from the folks at Pine Stump Farm. I had brought over some goodies that Jeremy Faber of Foraged and Found had procured for me in the Cascades earlier in the week – golden chanterelles, cauliflower mushrooms, fried chicken mushrooms, and hedgehog mushrooms. I had all of the makings for a fantastic farm dinner!
Before I get into the menu details, I’ll tell you I was excited by a sign I saw posted at Local on Monday afternoon. Scheduled for that evening at the Twisp River Pub (delicious fresh hopped IPA) was an event sponsored by the Methow Conservancy, a conservation and land-preservation group that cares greatly for the Methow Valley. The speaker was Mick Mueller, and ecologist and very knowledgeable mycologist from the US Fire Service. He gave a great presentation on the mushrooms found in Washington, the distinctions and classifications of the hundreds of varieties we can find when out for a walk/hike/ride through the woods. He brought about 15 examples of fungi as well as an in depth slideshow that enlightened the crowd of nearly 75 mushroom enthusiasts. Of course, I couldn’t resist showing him the goodies I’d brought over, and I wound up giving him a stray Matsutake that I had. He gave it a strong whiff and we both agreed that that mushroom isn’t for everyone. He had to leave the Valley the next day, so unfortunately, he wasn’t able to stay for the dinner at Local.
On Tuesday, I arrived at Local early and prepped by myself for most of the day. With some afternoon kitchen help from Amy (yes, my former sous chef, Amy!) and Linda, we cruised easily into the dinner hour and fed the 32 guests who had been sipping some fine Lost River Winery Merlot, Syrah and Community Red wines. The menu was as follows:
Cascade Mushrooms, Melted Leeks, Goat Cheese Croutons, Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Leg of Lamb, Emmer Farro Fries, Braised Cabbage
Roasted Seckel Pears, Local Honey, Concord Grape Sorbet
Yes, you read that correctly, I made farro fries for Twisp. You should have been there because they were the best ever! Amy made a really nice sorbet with the fresh grapes we had. And all in all, it was a successful local Local farm dinner. I can’t wait to come back next year!
Way back in July, I was approached by Zach Zink of the Pike Place Market to help with a fundraiser for the Tilth Producers of Washington. They are an organization of over 400 growers that promotes “ecologically sound, economically viable and socially equitable farming practices that improve the health of our communities and natural environment.” Sounds like something right up my alley! I’d been familiar with the big annual event they organize that gathers farmers from all over the state for a weekend of networking and workshops to offer organic agricultural techniques, research and issues. I’d also attended a Farm Walk at Stokesberry Sustainable Farm, one of ten half day workshops that is cosponsored by WSU. Those are educational and fun activities that can also provide the forum to exchange meaningful dialogue regarding farming techniques and theories.
So Zach asked me to put together a brunch menu and he’d source the goodies for me. He also managed to get Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin to come and give remarks to the brunch attendees. The brunch was held in Carnation at the Carnation Tree Farm in barn that has a converted loft. The views from the top of the barn are of the tree farm and a nicely sized garden and, in the distance, Tolt-MacDonald Park.
I kept the meal fairly simple, given that I had only a small home-style kitchen to work in for a meal for 40 people. A mixed greens salad dressed with fresh blueberries, goat’s cheese and a basil-mint vinaigrette was accompanied by a winter squash soup garnished with an herbed sour cream. Grandview Mushroom Farm donated some shiitake and chanterelles which were used with Larkhaven Farm’s aged sheep’s milk cheese to create a savory mushroom frittata. Rosemary and garlic spiked fingerling potatoes and wilted Lacinato kale were passed around the room on platters. For dessert, I baked some emmer flour biscuits and served it with deliciously fresh whipped cream and a simple raspberry coulis. The dairy products came form Golden Glen Creamery, and I highly recommend seeking out their products. A quick shout-out to some of the other farms that donated goods to the brunch include: Full Circle Farm, Alm Hill Garden, 21 Acres Farm, Growing Things, Sidhu Farms, Baird Orchards, Willies Greens, Herbco, Bluebird Grain Farms, Nash’s Organic Farm, Columbia City Bakery, Caffe Vita and Madison Market who supplied oil, wine, and various sundries.
It was nice to see some familiar faces, including PCC’s Goldie Caughlin, Growing Thing Farm’s Michelle Blakely and King County’s “Farmbudsman” Steve Evans in attendance. Councilman Conlin’s comments were perfect for the feel of the event. “Food is a people connector:” was the theme of his remarks. He noted that the Seattle City Council is moving into new ground on many fronts with their effort to strengthen the King County Action Food Policy Council. First, continuing to find ways of getting local food into our schools, hospitals, and institutions. Next, by giving more funding to established groups like Food Lifeline and SPU’s Food Recovery Task Force. Finally, he stated the goal of the Council to free up land that the city and county have had control over for decades to provide for more community gardens and P-patches. I was amazed when he said that there are over 2600 people who participate in community farming in the city’s gardens, but that the waitlist has another 2600 people waiting for a place to grow their own vegetables. Conlin’s objective is to have nobody on the waitlist and put the dirt in the people’s hands.
Monday, October 6, 2008
The second annual American Traditions Picnic was held on Sunday at Daybreak Start Cultural Center in Discovery Park. Even though the rains held off, we decided to host the event indoors this year, which we were happy to do since the structure is so beautiful with its design of whole reclaimed logs and plenty of natural light. This annual event is cosponsored by Chefs Collaborative and Slow Food Seattle. It is a derivative of the RAFT (Renewing America’s Food Traditions) picnic that was the brainchild of Professor Gary Paul Nabhan. The RAFT event was the culmination of three years of discovering America’s lost food traditions, distributing the seed to farmers, growing the new “old” produce” and finally getting chefs involved to cook these ingredients for the public to taste and savor.
The food and chef combinations this year were fantastic. Author and chef instructor Kären Jurgensen brought several students from Seattle Central Community College to assist in the preparation of freshly shucked Olympia oysters with a sage and huckleberry granite. Top notch restaurants Tilth and La Medusa made creative uses of Makah Ozette potatoes and eggplant, respectively while Oliver’s Twist and Taste at SAM made wonderful seasonal combinations with heirloom tomatoes and apples. I translated last year’s salad into a new presentation of Speckled Trout Lettuce and Foraged Lobster Mushroom Vinaigrette with Estrella Family Creamery’s Alderwood –smoked scamorze. My personal favorite (and I can speak for most of the crowd, was Dustin Ronspies’(Art of the Table) Pulled Churro Lamb. He told me he braised it for 18 hours and added lots of season goodies. The flatbread, chickpea puree and relish were perfect compliments to a well thought out dish. Dustin’s kitchen help (Phil) grilled Riley Stark’s reefnet sockeye salmon to perfection with the fire prowess of Lance McCune by his side. Homemade birch beer was concocted by private chef Lesa Sullivan using her grandmother’s recipe.
Riley Starks spoke to the crowd about the privilege and pleasure he derives from his reefnet salmon fishing operation. The chance to pay homage to ancient fishing techniques, and the ability to share the fishery with chefs, fishermen and the public makes the reefnet program very special for Riley. I have been one of lucky folks who spent time on the reefnet gear fishing for sockeye, catching and then cooking those awesome Fraser River-run salmon. Any and every chef should have this opportunity.
Mary Hunter is a storyteller visiting Seattle from the Makah tribe via Neah Bay. She shared some of the family traditions that are important to her, her family’s history and the significance of maintaining these stories. The meaning in eating traditional foods is transferred through family recipes, annual rituals, and the telling of stories. Mary came in contact with the Seattle Chefs Collaborative a few years ago when member Ashlyn Forschner visited her at her home on the Olympic peninsula. The stories and recipes the Mary shared with Ashlyn and with the crowd at the Daybreak Center on Sunday put our event into perspective. As a culture we eat what is familiar and comfortable to us; if we distance ourselves from our traditions were are sadly alone, but by remembering and honoring those traditions were are happily together as a culture.
An important feature of the picnic, which certainly should not be dismissed as a footnote to the day, was to delivery of our picnic foods to the homeless tent city in a nearby field. The residents of “Nickelsville” were grateful to accept the meal and the participating chefs brought the dishes into a large teepee that served as a makeshift buffet station. I addressed the folks who were living in the temporary city and some of the Slow Food members who joined us in our procession. I was very fortunate to be giving the food to a group of fellow human beings who would appreciate the meal for its warmth and strength. I know my fellow Slow Fooders appreciated the meal as well, but I don’t think they were without alternatives. To know that you will be taken care of by someone at all times is something we take for granted. When you do not know where you will live in the coming days or where you will get the next healthy meal, there is a greater level of appreciation for human good will. Mary Hunter then thanked the residents of the tent city for being brave enough to endure the resistance they often must face. The hope of some can be the fuel for others.
On occasion, one event can really sum up a lot of what I am trying to accomplish as a chef in Seattle. Sunday’s American Traditions Picnic delivered for me on many levels. I was able to source produce and feed a concerned and involved public group a dish that represents what is best and delicious right now in the Puget Sound. I was able to bring a group of chefs together who think similarly about ingredients and the dishes they create. Finally, and most importantly, I was able to feed a group who think of food on a most basic level – that of nutrition and subsistence. I am thankful for this event to be able to make a contribution to the food community on all of these points.
Friday, October 3, 2008
Serves 8 as salad course
1 bu salad burnett
1 bu bronze fennel
1 bu chives
1 bu mint
1 bu lovage
1 bu tarragon
1 bu sweet cicely
1 lb mixed sweet peppers
1 bu white pearl onions
2 ea Savoy cabbage
1 bu thumbalina carrots
1 bu rainbow carrots
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp red wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
1) Mix the Herb Salad: Wash and dry all of the herbs and pick the individual leaves off of each of the herb bunches. The chives can be cut into ½” batons and the tarragon may be lightly chopped if the leaves are large. Mix all of the herbs together and set asides, covered lightly with a damp towel.
2) Make the Vinaigrette: In a small bowl whisk together 1 Tbsp and 1 tsp vinegar. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Set aside.
3) Prepare the Vegetables: Roast, peel, and roughly chop the sweet peppers. Peel and cut the onions in half. Slice all of the carrots on a Japanese mandoline or slice very thinly with chef’s knife. Shred the cabbage with chef’s knife.
4) Cook the Vegetables: Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in large sauté pan over high heat. Before the oil is smoking, add the onions and carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté for three minutes until the edges of the carrots begin to brown. Add the cabbage, salt and pepper to taste and cook covered for an additional six minutes. Remove cover and allow liquid in the pan to evaporate for one minute. The vegetables can be served hot or at room temperature.
5) Assemble the dish: Place the vegetables on eight salad plates, In a medium bowl, mix herb salad with vinaigrette, salt and pepper. Place a small pile of the herbs on top of the vegetables and enjoy. Bon appétit!
Lobster Mushrooms with Fennel and Tomato
serves 8 as a side dish
1 lb lobster mushrooms
2 ea fennel bulbs
2 pints mixed cherry tomatoes
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tsp fresh bergartten sage, chiffonade
1 ½ Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
dry white wine
freshly ground black pepper
1) Prepare the Mushrooms: Brush off any dirt with a coarse brush. Cut the lobster mushroom (if large) into quarters. Slice each mushroom piece into ¼” thick slices and set aside in a bowl. Heat a large non-stick pan over high heat. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil and mushrooms in a single layer. Sauté for three minutes and season with salt and pepper. Deglaze the mushrooms with a splash of white wine. Set mushrooms aside.
2) Prepare the Fennel and Tomatoes: Remove most of the fronds from the fennel bulb. Using a Japanese mandoline or large chef’s knife, thinly slice the fennel into long strips. Remove stems from tomatoes. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the tomatoes and cook until they begin to blister. Remove the tomatoes and add ½ Tbsp olive oil to the pan. Cook the fennel for four minutes until it begins to soften. Add thyme, sage, salt, pepper and the blistered tomatoes.
3) Finish the Dish: Rewarm mushrooms and toss with the fennel and tomato mixture. Transfer to serving platter and garnish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy!
The very first local farm to get in touch with me when I returned to Seattle in 2005 was Full Circle Farm. A certified organic farm with restaurant and farmers market sales as well as one of the countries largest CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs, the farm stood out amongst the small farms of Carnation. When I finally met the farm’s owner, Andrew Stout, I understood why we were draw together – Andrew’s belief and passion about producing high quality foods for the local market and my desire and obligation to transform this produce to delicious menu items was a natural fit. I was immediately impressed right away not only about the diversity, variety and quality of their produce, but also the level of service provided by sales manager Lance McCune.
Three years later, some faces at Full Circle have changed, but the attitude has not. Maggie Hoback and Emily Thompson, guided by the inspiration of Andrew, are continuing to emphasize the role of the small farm in community and they are looking to the coming years as making the farm a model of sustainable farming and center of community and educational activities. I look forward to the opportunities that will be presented to me and other Seattle chefs in helping to forge their visions.
So, more details about the dishes I demoed for the visitors to the farm. I absolutely LOVE Full Circle’s selection of herbs, and so I wanted to make a dish featuring an herb salad as a garnish. I hand-picked several bunches of tarragon, sweet cicely, bronze fennel, spearmint, chives, and salad burnett. I had hoped for lovage as well, but the harvest was unavailable for me. The fragrant collection of herbs were tossed with a little raspberry wine vinaigrette and served over a sauté of just-pulled yellow and orange baby carrots, and Savoy cabbage, which Maggie indicated had been harvested by her only an hour earlier.
On my table display I had several large lobster mushrooms. Throughout the day, people asked what they were which is no surprise – the Pacific Northwest is one of the only places this beautiful mushroom grows in the wild. I’ve loved cooking with them because the earthy flavor and toothful texture yields to an aroma that complements many styles of cooking. For this demonstration, I wanted to provide more fragrance from freshly sliced fennel bulbs and the sweet juiciness of cherry tomatoes. I added a little sage and thyme to some tomatoes that I had blistered in a pan. The fennel was wilted slightly and the mushrooms were seared in a skillet. Everything was brought together to simmer in the tomato juice for a few minutes and the result was a versatile side dish that could accompany salmon, halibut, lamb or even pasta noodles.
Thanks go out to Full Circle Farm for providing me with the delicious ingredients for the cooking demo, to Maggie and Emily for helping to organize the day’s activities at the farm, to King County for continuing to promote the region’s seasonal bounties, and, of course, to everyone who came by the demo to grab a recipe, watch the cooking, and tour Full Circle Farm. Hope to see everyone at the farm next year!
Friday, September 19, 2008
On Wednesday, I was inspired by the warm and sunny September weather at the Wallingford Farmers Market. I set up my gear at the demo booth and began to wander around the market. The neighboring stand was occupied by my dear friends at Alm Hill Gardens and Carrie from Growing Washington drew my attention to the freshly shucked beans on display. I recognized (and love cooking) the Vermont Cranberry beans and Jacob’s Cattle beans but next to them was what looked like a fresh flageolet bean. Carrie informed me that the bean was actually a WSU research product that was a cross between the flageolet and the white cannellini bean. So Zach Lyons, the market demo coordinator quickly brainstormed and aptly named the new bean “flageollini”.
Because I knew this afternoon was going to be one of the final sun-drenched days we’d be seeing in Seattle for some time, I looked to the freshly harvested ingredients of the late summer to make a dish with the beans. I found some super-ripe heirloom tomatoes from Billy’s Tomatoes, sweet red bell and red lipstick peppers, corn, and red onions from Alvarez Organic Farm, and I used some of Alm Hill’s garlic and basil. My idea was to create a stew with the peppers, onions, and tomatoes, and cook the flageollini beans in the juices that came from the tomatoes.
The real inspiration, however, came from the beautiful, just-caught coho salmon brought from the coast by Wilson Fish. I’ve been lucky to develop a relationship with these fish mongers and they’ve always been excited to provide fish for me to play with. David offered me a side of glistening salmon and I demonstrated to the market-goers the simple process of deboning, filleting and cubing the fish. My intent was to quickly sear the fish and then let the warm bean and corn stew gently finish cooking it through. I grabbed a loaf of Tallgrass sourdough bread, sliced it into bite-sized pieces and fried them in a little olive oil. I served the stewed salmon with the beans and corn atop a single crunchy piece of bread. A delicious afternoon snack!
At Thursday’s Queen Anne market I was really thrilled to see some of my favorite farmers had set up stands – Oxbow Organic Farm and Local Roots – both from Carnation. I came with a little plan to this market. I had cooked some emmer farro earlier and wanted to prepare a tasting for the market as a way of promoting my restaurant, as you know, called emmer. Emmer farro is an ancient whole wheat grain. It is considered to be one of the first domesticated crops but over the centuries it lost favor to higher-yielding wheat crops. Recently this grain has been recultivated in the organic fields of eastern Washington.
I wandered down the market lane and I picked up the following ingredients: from Local Roots – purslane and shallots, from Oxbow – purple haze carrots, purple cosmic cauliflower and white cauliflower, from River Valley Ranch – fresh chevre, and from Billy’s Tomatoes – purple and red bell peppers. The emmer farro, of course, was from Bluebird Grain Farms but they were not at this market (look for them at the Saturday University District farmers market).
I made a very simple preparation for the salad I had in mind. First, I sliced and browned the cauliflower florets in a little oil with salt and pepper, and then I cut a brunoise (small dice) of the peppers and carrots. I tossed this with the prepared farro and with a vinaigrette I made with the shallots, Dijon mustard, blueberry vinegar and olive oil. Finally, I crumbled the goat cheese and tossed it into the salad. I served the farro mix on top of the succulent purslane leaves. Many people at the market had never tasted purslane before. It is a plant (actually a weed) that has typically grown as a cover crop by farmers between seasons of successions. It has a lemony bite to it and it has a nice texture that complements many salad ingredients. You can pickle the stems!
Monday, September 15, 2008
Cascade Harvest Coalition is the type of organization that affects so many people in so many ways. Its campaigns range from seeking livestock and produce processing facilities for local farms to mediating between state organizations and local interest groups to large projects like the Puget Sound Fresh label found in grocery stores, restaurants (and the side of buses) throughout the region. They receive funding from state agencies and national grants, non-profits and small businesses. But one of the biggest sources of funding comes from the annual fund-raiser Food Lust at Fall City Farm. I’ve participated in the event for the past two years as the Executive Chef of Stumbling Goat Bistro, cooking Bluebird Grain Farm’s emmer farro with sea beans and asparagus in 2007 and preparing Bruce Dunlop’s Lopez Island Farm delicious pork this past year.
During the auction at this year’s event, a dinner for 12 was offered by Linda Neunzig of Ninety Farm in Arlington. Although this item was not on the auction sheet, an impromptu corralling (by Linda) of some of the chefs in attendance that night resulted in the largest fund-raiser of the evening. The plan was for myself, Tamara Murphy of Brasa, Autumn Martin of Theo Chocolate, Alison Leber of Beecher’s Flagship Program, and Gary Knopp of VineOne, under the “front of the house” guidance of Mina Williams, foodie-extraordinaire, to prepare a meal of farm products and scrumptious wine and cheeses for the lucky guests. Celebrating her birthday at the Food Lust that evening was Erin MacDougall, a King County Public Health official (and also foodie extraordinaire). Erin gave herself the birthday present of this wonderful dinner and invited 11 of her dear friends to join her.
The weather couldn’t have been any better – late summer sun shining on happy and hungry faces, followed by a full harvest moon rising over the jagged Cascade peaks. After a tour of the Ninety Farm property, including a demonstration of Linda’s corgi team in action while rounding up the sheep in one of the pastures, Linda brought everyone to the dinner table on the lawn between rows of lettuces and the horse corrals. The guests nibbled on and eggplant marmalade, Summer Gem tomatoes filled with gazpacho and pork (from Tamara’s pigs) and cranberry beans on crisp apple slices.
As the evening proceeded Tamara and I plated up three courses – a chanterelle and bread soup with chive crème fraiche, a raw salad composed of herbs, carrots, squash and lettuces that I’d picked from Linda’s garden only an hour before (part of our 20-foot diet we’re promoting ), and an entrée of Ninety Farm Katahdin lamb roasted in “la caja china” served with emmer farro, lobster mushrooms and braised garden greens and broccoli and sage. Each course was thoughtfully paired with wines from Gary’s collection that included a remarkable Zinfandel from Ravenswood and a 2002 Covey Run Late Harvest Riesling that poured like liquid gold.
Cheeses from Beecher’s and a fantastic molten chocolate cake with raspberries and herb-infused cream finished the meal. Autumn chose to bake her cake in the cutest little Mason jars and she showed her confectionary talents with a cocoa cookie and chocolate tuile as creative garnishes. Each guest parted with hand-made chocolates from the Theo shop in Fremont.
It is always a pleasure to cook a meal consisting of locally sourced products, but it is an even more gratifying experience when you’ve harvested the vegetables a few hours earlier and then transformed them into a delectable feast for guests who really care about this sort of thing. I am fortunate to Linda, Tamara, Autumn, Alison, Gary, Mina, Bruce and Jill for helping to put on this special dinner. But I am especially pleased that Cascade Harvest Coalition benefited from Erin’s generosity and deep regard for the local food economy.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
As much as I attempt to limit my ingredient list geographically to the great PNW, I can’t get it all here. The great triumvirate of foodstuff that are not produced locally includes coffee, chocolate, and olive oil (I love bananas but I could do without them in the restaurant kitchen). Most of us in Seattle have no problem sourcing coffees from exotic sources that are benefiting from the roaster’s good conscience (i.e. Caffe Vita and Vivace). And lately, chocolate has been brought into the country by refiners who have met and approved of the methods and labors in a slew of worldly destinations. Look no further than Theo Chocolate for a gleaming example of a socially responsible international business.
But olive oil, a common cooking ingredient produced by many “first world” countries, has been coming to the US for over a century. Today, some very large producers produce huge quantities of varying qualities of olive oil. Although California has been able to produce small amounts of high quality oils, there rarely is enough of the good stuff to keep in the pantry on a regular basis.
Fortunately for the restaurant community in Seattle, and those foodies in the know, there is a great small company, Ritrovo. These committed educators painstakingly search the Italian countryside to find small, organic producers of highest quality oils, pastas, nuts, and grains. Founders Ron Post and Ilyse Rathet have brought their passion for the finest Italy has to the table for Seattle top restaurants. A conversation about the quality of the risotto (or chick peas, almonds, salts, or vinegars for that matter) they import versus the alternatives will have you convinced in no time, that the products with the Ritrovo endorsement are the ones you want to serve to your restaurant guests.
I’ve had the privilege of participating in cooking demonstrations for Ritrovo on a few occasions, and most recently, on Friday, I was on Bainbridge Island to create dishes for the customers of the Town & Country market near the ferry terminal. As an infrequent visitor to the islands, I was amazed that this small grocery chain invoked the spirit of a small town market where you know the clerks and other customers by name and greet them and ask “How have you been?” and actually care. While I was helping Ilyse and the store’s culinary coordinator, Sharen, to demo the Truffle and Salt and Fennel and Salt products, the grocery’s customers would stop by for a nibble and catch up on this week’s gossip.
I did manage to make a couple of tasting dishes that showed the salts versatility and range of applications. First, with a leg of Ellensburg lamb, I made a marinade of garlic, thyme, olive oil and Fennel and Salt. I then sliced a fennel bulb and sautéed it with chanterelle mushrooms and shallots, which then got a liberal season with black pepper and the Fennel and Salt. After grilling medallions of the lamb and placing it on the warm fennel slaw, I topped it with a fig and balsamic gastrique. For the second demo, I wanted to show how the simplest summer ingredients could benefit from the great flavor of the Truffle and Salt. I sliced some heirlooms tomatoes and a nice red Italian frying pepper and seasoned them with the salt and macerated them with olive oil and sherry vinegar. The fish guys gave me a nice rockfish filet that I seasoned with none other than the Truffle and Salt and I grilled small pieces. The fish was served atop the tomatoes and a drizzle of the tomato’s juices and a dash of the Truffle and Salt finished the tasting.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
I dropped in to the market today because I am planning to do a couple of cooking classes at Grange Cafe in nearby Duvall. Grange Cafe is a cute, year-old restaurant in a beautifully renovated Grange Hall right in the center of the quaint town of Duvall. Judy Neldham owns the place and has been making every effort to serve seasonal, locally produced food in her restaurant. That task is made a lot simpler because her brother is none other than Luke Woodward of Oxbow Organic Farm in Carnation. Most chefs and market-goers know about Oxbow's awesome produce and incredibly kind staff. I ran into Luke’s wife Sarah at the market as well as Adam McCurdy and his wife Shira who were running the stand today.
Carrots, beets, onions, zucchini and beans are all looking delicious these days. Adam says that the autumn squash are still small, but that the cucumbers are just starting to come on. We should expect the summer season to run later this year because of the cold spring. I’d imagine that soil temperatures stayed pretty cold all year after our long winter.
The Carnation Farmers Market is only running for another three weeks, but the best stuff is just coming in. I’ll be there for the next two weeks where I’ll be meeting the folks who have signed up for the cooking classes at Grange Café. We’ll do a little shopping at the market and then head to the restaurant to cook a meal that will be matched with some delicious local wines. Call Judy at Grange Café for more info.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
As the season begins to shift into fall, I thought it would be a good time to update all of you on my upcoming events and the progress of my restaurant, emmer, slated to open in spring 2009.
As many of you know, I have completed the business plan for emmer and am in lease negotiations for a space in an incredible new building. My vision is to create a restaurant that not only showcases the best of seasonal, local cuisine, but that also reflects sustainability in its construction, design and business practices. emmer will break new ground in this area. By working with LEED (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) standards, my hope is to create a state-of-the-art facility that can become a model for new businesses, particularly restaurants, in the coming years.
Turning a vision into a restaurant takes time, creativity, hard work, and a fair amount of capital, of course. I am extremely fortunate to have connected with many people who share my vision for creating a restaurant that is highly sustainable— from the tomatoes to the salvaged building materials. I have the seeds of a great development team in place. Yet these connections are just the beginning. I welcome interest from the
volunteering, events, and dinners
Over the course of this too-short summer, I also had the opportunity to strengthen my relationships with the local food community. After speaking to students at the
Until emmer opens in the spring, I will continue to volunteer time at farms and will also be keeping my knives sharp at a number of dinners, classes, and events. The following gives a sampling of events I will be participating in this autumn:
- September 9, 16, 25: cooking classes at Carnation Farmers Market and Grange Cafe in
(http://www.grangecafe.com) Duvall, WA
- September 27: King County Harvest Celebration Tour at Full Circle Farm in Carnation, WA (http://king.wsu.edu/foodandfarms/HarvestCelebration.html)
- October 5: American Traditions Picnic,
Daybreak Star Cultural Center, (http://seattle.chefscollaborative.org) Seattle, WA
- October 14: Local Farm Dinner, Local 98856 in
(http://www.local98856.com/) Twisp, WA
- November 3: Vagabond Dinner, TBD,
Thanks again to all of you for supporting me in my exciting new endeavors. Feel free to email or call me if you’d like more information on emmer or any of my upcoming events.