The Thanksgiving Rush

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Thanksgiving is such a special time of year, a time for family and friends to come together to celebrate food. Not surprisingly, the Thanksgiving holiday is the busiest time of year for us at Macrina. Demand for our offerings has grown every year. So many customers have told me how helpful it is to get items from us—our pumpkin pie, for instance—that allows them to spend more time with family and friends, offerings they know will shine.

And isn’t it really the sides and the pie that make the Thanksgiving holiday? I enjoy a slice or two of turkey, but what I go for is the stuffing, the vegetables, the cranberries, the rolls, and at my table anyway, various crostini with interesting spreads. To this end, we make a stuffing mix that has gotten very popular. We used to sell the stuffing mix only in the cafes, making it with leftover bread. Now we bake loaves just for the stuffing mix. You can find them at many places that carry Macrina’s breads. Our crostini and spreads have also taken off, as have our dinner rolls, our Winter Pear Crown and, of course, our pies.

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Loaves of bread waiting to be prepped into our stuffing mix

We start our planning in early September when I sit down with our lead bakers, our savory department, and our retail managers. We talk about past favorites and new ideas. We test recipes. When we finally have our season’s list of offerings, we talk about logistics. This is no small challenge. Even with our fabulous space in Sodo, which once seemed so big, we are bursting at the seams. The spatial challenges and work-flow planning fall on the capable shoulders of Production Manager Jane Cho. The mixers run around the clock now, with three shifts managing dough production. On Thanksgiving eve last year they mixed nearly 20,000 pounds of dough. A seasonal crew is brought in to help with the production and packaging of the stuffing mix. Given the limited floor space, Jane maps out the production floor on charts that resemble architectural renderings.


Loaves of Guiseppe awaiting delivery to local grocery stores.

I work with Head Baker Phong Bui on all the items, such as this year’s Porcini Roll Tray, or the Winter Pear Crown, a sweet bread spiked with black pepper. Mi Kim, our head pastry chef, stays busy prepping lots of pie shells, pies, and ingredients to be ready for the big Thanksgiving rush. She says, “Every day is a busy day for our bakers once the holiday season is here! Long days are logged from everyone when needed, and we have fun doing it!”

In our savory department, Savory General Manager Marilyn Mercer and her team, in addition to preparing items for the cafes, are busy making the spreads, including a new one, a smoked trout spread. Savory Assistant Manager Elizabeth Hall says, “It’s Scandinavian-inspired, with smoked white trout from Gerard & Dominique, a premium purveyor of smoked fish, located right here in Washington state. We blend the smoked trout with a hint of horseradish, cream cheese, scallions, parsley, chervil, and lemon.”


Our pastry case stocked with Thanksgiving treats.

The cafes must also do lots of extra planning, upping their pars to ensure they have enough on the shelves for their customers. Crystal Kitchin, general manager of cafes, starts the month off with a two-night Thanksgiving tasting. Each member of the retail staff tastes the products and learns how different items pair so they can help guide customers. On Thanksgiving Eve the management team comes in early in the morning to put together the long list of special orders that have been placed throughout the month. Elizabeth Krhounek, general manager of the McGraw Cafe, says, “Being here at 2:30 in the morning in my pajamas to get all the orders ready is really fun, also putting on music we usually can’t listen to in the store. Last year my lead came in wearing his red onesie pajamas.”


Crystal checking to make sure all the orders are organized for pick up.

While all the extra work provides new challenges, it’s exciting to see all the teamwork. “In production you see everyone moving fast, working their hardest, but we have fun,” Jane Cho says. “It’s exciting. And then after months of planning it’s just suddenly over and we get to enjoy the holiday with family and friends.” It really is a rush, in every sense. I love it all.

Our Thanksgiving menu is now available for the whole month of November. We will be taking advanced orders for the holiday through noon, November 23rd.


Garden Pumpkin Pie Video

Last year was the first year I grew my own squash for our Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. We did a taste test between canned and fresh, and surprise, fresh squash won. My favorite pumpkin variety is the New England Pie Pumpkin. You can find the seeds in many local garden stores. It’s fun planting a garden in April, nurturing it through the summer and waiting for the squash to ripen in the fall. It’s even more fun cutting that pumpkin up and turning it into pie!

The pie crust recipe I use is Flaky Pie Dough from More From Macrina cookbook. We sell this pie as well as many other Thanksgiving treats at our cafes. Do come visit and see what we’ve got cooking. Watch the video to learn how I prepare my special pumpkin pie and follow the recipe links below.

Garden Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Flaky Pie Dough Recipe



I love the breads made by Jim Lahey at Sullivan Street Breads in New York City. He’s one of America’s great artisan bakers. He bakes most of his crusty European-style breads until they’re quite dark. They come out of the oven burnished, with an amazing crackle when you bite into them. But he also makes a few loaves with thin, light brown crusts. My partner, Matt Galvin, sampled an airy bread of his on a trip to New York – not quite baguette, not quite breadstick and not quite focaccia.  Matt suggested something like this would make a nice addition to our line of breads. I set out to create something similar but uniquely Macrina.

Stecca, a soft “sweet” (meaning not sour) baguette, is made with our yeast-risen ciabatta dough. The loaves are baked closely together, “kissing” we call it, which results in soft sides. This makes it an ideal bread for sandwiches of all kinds. It has a light, golden crust and a well-aerated irregular crumb structure. Stecca is now available in all of our cafes.

Beginning in 2016, we will begin offering a Green-Olive Stecca exclusively in our cafes. Studded with green olives, brushed with extra-virgin olive oil, and garnished with fresh herbs this bread is hard to resist.

Pan de Muerto

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In Mexico, Pan de Muerto, or bread of the dead, is a flavorful sweet bread traditionally baked during the weeks leading up to the Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, which is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd. All month leading up to the official celebration people enjoy this bread. On Dia de los Muertos, the bread is taken to the gravesite, often along with the favorite food of the deceased, and eaten there. Food is very important to the celebration, for it is thought the dead are driven back to the living by the scent of their favorite foods.

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Our Pan de Muerto is made in honor of this wonderful tradition. A soft round of sweet, yeast-risen bread with a crunchy cinnamon sugar glaze, ours is studded with fresh orange zest and spiced with orange flower water, cinnamon, cardamon, and cloves. We lay two crossed links of dough over the top to symbolize crossbones. They represent those no longer among the living. This bread, sliced and toasted for breakfast or dipped in Mexican hot chocolate as an afternoon snack is a decadent treat.

Pan de Muerto is in our cafes up through the Day of the Dead. You can also find it at Metropolitan Markets and Town and Country Markets.



Un Bien: On Their Own

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“These are the guys that turned down Guy Fieri,” Ornella Lorenzo blurted out.

“Not because we didn’t want the exposure,” her husband, Lucas Lorenzo protested. “We’re just not the best at publicity, actually we’re pretty bad. I mean, look at us. We suck on paper. We didn’t attend a fancy culinary institute, we’ve never traveled the world sourcing the best international flavors. We just grew up working with my dad, day in and day out, learning the recipes and cuisine he brought with him from Cuba.”

Welcome to Un Bien, the child of Paseo, or more accurately, a restaurant by the children of Lorenzo Lorenzo (his real name), the founder and former owner of Paseo, arguably Seattle’s most celebrated sandwich shop. For over 20 years, until it’s abrupt closing last November, Paseo was a favorite of locals and travelers alike. Lorenzo’s two children, Julian and Lucas Lorenzo, worked weekends at Paseo while in high school and full-time for the last five years. When their father, amidst some legal trouble, abruptly closed both stores, Julian and Lucas were left without jobs.

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Four months ago they opened Un Bien at 7302 15th Ave NW in Ballard, at the former site of Burger Hero (and Lunchbox Laboratory before that). They’ve painted the building a Caribbean-pink and are serving many of the same sandwiches that made Paseo famous—such as the nationally-renowned Caribbean Roast. They use the same bread Paseo did for 20 years, the Giuseppe Roll made by Macrina, the perfect roll for a robust sandwich like the Caribbean Roast—not so soft that it collapses under the weight and juices of the marinated pork, aioli, onions, lettuce, and jalapeños, and not so firm that the sandwich’s ingredients spill out into your lap (or at least most of them) when you take a bite.

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They opened with a staff comprised entirely of former Paseo employees. Business has been brisk, largely fueled by word of mouth. To keep up, they’ve recently had to hire two new employees. Lucas works the kitchen in the mornings, Julian in the evenings. They are busy at lunch and then again later at dinner. As their father was, they are very protective of the secret ingredients in the marinades. But they’ve tweaked things a bit, finding ways to speed up the line by making the kitchen more efficient, adding a helpful new POS system, and accepting credit cards, a big difference from the cash-only days of their father’s Paseo.

On a recent weekday afternoon, Un Bien’s long outdoor communal table was full, a steady line at the order window, the kitchen a bustle of activity. Lucas, his wife Ornella, and Julian stood in front, tired from the days work, but grateful to be open and doing their own thing. “We feel very fortunate for the reception we’ve gotten,” Julian said. When asked about the future Lucas said, “We still have to get through our first winter. We work to make the food we know the best we can. We’re proud to make our father’s recipes, to carry that on, and also to be doing our own thing. One day at a time. We’re restaurant people, that’s what we do.”

Un Bien:  7302 15th Ave NW; Open Wednesday-Saturday 11 am – 9 pm and Sunday 11 am – 8 pm; Closed Monday and Tuesday

Sunset Magazine


Sunset Magazine is featuring my kitchen in the October issue. Truth be told, the article is sweet to include me, but the true focus is my all-time favorite cabinets. Kerf Design, located in the Interbay neighborhood of Seattle, built them. The owner and designer, Nathan Hartman, is a sweet, quiet man with a remarkable, creative aesthetic. He designed the cabinets for my kitchen with function in mind, aiming for a sleek, modern look. The cabinets are constructed of one-inch maple laminate plywood. To brighten them up and add a sense of playfulness we added colorful laminate inserts. The farm-style open shelves work well for me. I appreciate being able to see where everything is and it forces me to be clean, like working in an open kitchen. I don’t think the cabinets could be more beautiful. Surprisingly they are far from the most expensive in their league. Initially, I worried about how they would hold up. I’ve seen plenty of home kitchens that look spectacular but don’t look like they were designed to get a lot of use. I knew mine would, and it has. The cabinets have held up beautifully. The magazine is on newsstands now, or you can check out the article here.



Expect the Unexpected: Green Tables Summer Supper


You know what they say about the best-laid plans. When I got involved in the planning stages of Les Dames D’escoffier’s Green Tables Summer Supper, an annual fundraiser for an organization I’m part of, no one could have predicted the historic windstorm we would have to deal with. August in the Pacific Northwest is about as reliably sunny and beautiful as anywhere on the globe. We get our wind and our rain alright, just not in August.

This year’s Summer Supper was an elegant outdoor tour of Washington’s Skagit Valley, a place with some of the best soil in the country and one of the state’s premier growing regions. We wanted to show off a variety of the great foods that grow in the region. Guests were invited to tour the Taylor Shellfish Farm at 12:30 in the afternoon. The next stop was Hedlin Farms, a 100-year old farm comprised of 300 acres of seed crops that ship around the world, 40 acres of organically grown produce, and 2 acres of hothouses lined with beautiful heirloom tomatoes and peppers. From there everyone moved to La Conner Flats, a scenic farm with 11 acres of breathtaking European display gardens. The capstone to the day was a dinner al fresco featuring Skagit Valley ingredients at Cathy Conner’s 1890’s home on Fir Island, prepared by several Les Dames d’Escoffier’s chefs, including myself.

Four days before the event we were very nervous about rain. Just rain, not the unbelievable winds that the tropical storm heading our way from Hawaii would bring. Cathy Conner borrowed six tents to provide cover for the dining guests. Set for rain, should it happen, we procured the best local foods and wines, we chopped, marinated, and baked. The sold-out event had to go well. It’s a really important fundraiser for Green Tables and provides grants to support teaching and training students to cook seasonally healthy foods and garden-to-table concepts.


Low tide at Taylor Shellfish

As guests began to show up at Taylor Shellfish, the fierce wind howled off the hills, gusts reaching over 50 miles per hour. (I would learn later that we experienced record high winds for the month of August.) The tide was out and guests walked right out to the oyster fields to look at geoducks and baby oysters in various stages of development. With seriously wind-blown hair, guests finished their visit with a delicious tasting of Shigoku oysters paired with a crisp white wine from La Conner’s Hellam’s Wine Cellar. So far so good, but I sure worried about those tents.


On our drive over to Hedlin Farms, the second stop, we saw many trees and branches down. Dave Hedlin and Serena Campbell have been farming the family land since 1974, the fourth generation to do so. Serena gave a gracious tour, explaining why the soil is so good for growing organic seed crops. The farm produces the bulk of the cabbage seeds for the kimchi market in Korea. Plump large heirloom tomatoes filled their hoop houses. Cherry tomatoes tasted like candy picked right off the vine. During high season, they pick half a ton of tomatoes every day.

In between snacking on the tomatoes and enjoying the scenery of the farm, I learned the power had gone out. I conferred with the kitchen crew. We’d prepped really well, but we still had a lot of cooking to do, heating up sauces, sautéing spinach and gnocchi, roasting the potato gratin, and so forth. With all the trees down we couldn’t count on the power coming back anytime soon. We’d all planned on going to each stop but leaving the last stop before dinner a little early. Scratch that. We needed more time to deal with the unknown. A bunch of us made a beeline for Cathy’s house to see what we were up against. Stressful as it was, I never doubted we’d figure it out, somehow. One thing you learn working in a busy kitchen is to expect the unexpected. You hone your improvisational skills and make the best of what you’ve got.


The group moved on to La Conner Flats, a smaller family-run farm, with beautiful gardens that, I hear, got a little roughed up by the winds. The farm would be a perfect venue for a wedding, with its beautiful broad lawn filled with different varieties of pear and apple trees, and at the back a gazebo surrounded by circled rows of different colored roses. Amongst many other crops, they grow delicate teeny-tiny cucumbers, all of which are reserved for Canlis restaurant. It was at this farm that the Seattle Culinary Academy created the farmer/student partnership that Les Dames d’Escoffier made possible. The guests enjoyed wine from Hellam’s Wine Cellar in La Conner and local cheese while touring the gardens.


Meanwhile, back at Cathy Conner’s house, we surveyed the damage. The wind had blown the tents many feet from where we’d set them up. And there was no power. Fortunately, we had several grills, and the stove top was gas. A team worked on fixing the tents and readying candles while the rest of us tackled the food. As we were lighting the grills, the winds began to die down, thankfully. Between the grills and the gas burners in the house, we were able to do most things. The challenge was the potato gratin that needed to bake for 45 minutes. We improvised. Grilled gratin it would be. After starting it, we moved it to the grill’s warming rack. While we couldn’t caramelize the top, it cooked beautifully.

The candles cast a beautiful light on the tables. It would be a lovely setting. But without any electricity we would have to be sure we got everyone back to their cars before the daylight vanished. Out in the country it gets very dark. We would have to stay on a tight schedule. Everyone worked together and we stayed on pace.

The guests arrived on time and in good spirits, despite the wild weather. Cathy’s home, barn, and gardens are absolutely stunning. The guests were led on tours by the women of Les Dames while enjoying a summer berry vodka spritzer and passed appetizers. Mother nature had whipped up quite a storm, but it wasn’t going to stop us. We seated everyone for a starter of homemade gnocchi and grilled spot prawns, followed by an entree of sockeye salmon and a chimichurri spiced lamb chop, and finally an apple crostata with my quince caramel and Cathy’s soft cream. Exhausted, but exhilarated, I gave my best heartfelt thanks to everyone, while holding a candle that kept blowing out. It had been a fantastic day. Everyone had a great time. The rain even held off until just after the last guest made it to their car.



Leslie Mackie opened Macrina Bakery in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood in 1993.  Leslie has been an active and devoted member of the Seattle chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier since 1992.  She finds her work with the Dames to be a wonderful source of mentorship, camaraderie and resource sharing.

To find out more information about the Les Dames d’Escoffier Green Tables programs, click here.

Sweet Week


Macrina’s head pastry chef, Mi Kim, has a visible presence in our cafes—in the cakes, the croissants, brioche, cookies, and much more—but you rarely see her in person since she’s usually busy in the kitchen turning croissant dough by hand, making Pate a Choux, or putting her artistic touch on a wedding cake. But with Seattle’s Sweet Week approaching, and a recent feature article in bake, a leading trade magazine for members of the baking industry, she’s in the spotlight.

Sweet Week, in its second year, is a little like restaurant week, but a lot sweeter. For a full week, beginning this coming Monday, September 14th, through Sunday, September 20th, at participating restaurants and bakeries, you’ll find special $5 items and samplers not ordinary on the menus. Mi Kim created this years’ Macrina offering, the Mini Banana Cake. It features layers of banana cake and chocolate cake filled with roasted bananas, whipped cream, and glazed with ganache. Mi Kim says, “This cake has it all. Delicious layers of chocolate and banana cake, bananas roasted with rum and sugar that turns into a bit of a caramel, and whipped cream to lighten it all up!” The new cake is so good that once Sweet Week is over, Macrina will continue to offer it throughout the fall.

Mi Kim also has an entertaining and instructive blog, A Piece of Mi, filled with sweet and savory recipes, baking insights, and bits of her life.

We have all enjoyed taste testing Mi Kim’s new cake around here, I hope you get to enjoy our new Mini Banana Cake soon.

Leslie Mackie


Challah Crowns

challah crownThroughout time people have gathered to break bread, brought together by warm loaves made from simple ingredients: flour, water, salt. Some special loaves bring people together with religious significance. Challah is just such a loaf. A traditional egg bread in the European Jewish tradition, the rich, golden loaf is similar to brioche or the Russian babka. It is typically eaten at the meal marking the beginning of the Sabbath, the day of rest. Traditionally the loaf is braided to symbolize unity. Some loaves are sprinkled with poppy seeds to symbolize manna from heaven.

At Macrina we make Challah every Friday, offering it in both plain and poppy seed. Our recipe came from our friend Andy Meltzer, a former baker at Macrina, who is currently a baking instructor at the Culinary Institute of America. He got the recipe from friends in upstate New York. Our Challah is such a favorite, I included it in the first Macrina Bakery and Cafe Cookbook. We form ours into three braids. It bakes into quite a beautiful loaf. Our challah is a deep golden mahogany color and has a firm crust. Its soft, tight crumb pulls apart easily. Gently sweet, the bread is great toasted, turned into delicate french toast, or passed around the table with a meal.

On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, challah takes on extra significance when it is formed in a circle to recall the cycle of the year. For this occasion the bread is often dipped in honey to represent hopes for a sweet new year. We refer to the circular Challah we make for Rosh Hashanah as a crown. Whether challah is part of your religious tradition, or you just love sharing great food with others, come try this beautiful, symbolic loaf for yourself.

This year Rosh Hashanah starts Sunday, September 13th and ends Tuesday, September 15th.  Our three cafes will be well-stocked with challah for the duration of the holidays.




King County’s first ever CHOMP! festival celebrates local food and green living. The event takes place on September 12th and 13th at Marymoor Park. On Saturday the 12th, King County Executive Dow Constantine and I are hosting a farm to table kickoff dinner. The ticketed event will be held at the Clise Mansion Garden at Marymoor Park’s Willowmoor Farm. I’ll be cooking with several other of Seattle’s top chefs. Come join me for a great meal made from foods grown and produced right here in King County, local beer and wine, and live music. Proceeds from the dinner benefit the Snoqualmie Valley Preservation Alliance, a nonprofit organization committed to protecting the rural character and the viability of farms, residents, and businesses of the Snoqualmie River Valley. Tickets for the dinner are limited. Order your tickets here.

On Sunday, September 13th, Chomp! takes over Marymoor Park with a full day of free programming. Two stages will feature some of the best indie music and ethnic folk performances. There will also be cooking demonstrations, local craft beer and wine, food from local, sustainable businesses, plenty of hands-on activities, and interactive demonstrations from King County farmers and businesses. Kids will enjoy a “Pea Patch” that will include family-friendly musical performances, pizza dough tossing lessons for youngsters, and many other fun activities.

Chomp! will be fun and informative. It benefits our local food economy by celebrating local farmers, chefs and restaurants that use locally-sourced foods, and local organizations that specialize in healthy food, sustainability, and social justice. Come dance, eat, drink, learn, and grow. All while supporting something really important. What’s not to like? Click here to learn more about the event.

I hope to see you there.