PCC Natural Markets: Bringing Bread Full Circle

PCC Natural Markets

The PCC Natural Markets staff on a tour of our Sodo production facility.

Nestled between the folds of the rolling Palouse Hills and Blue Mountains sits the Walla Walla Valley. Ripe with meandering creeks that feed the Walla Walla River, this fertile land is home for much of Washington’s agriculture, including Williams Hudson Bay Farm. Owned and operated by brothers Tom and Ray Williams, this farm is part of the PCC Farmland Trust. Founded by PCC Natural Markets in 1999, the Farmland Trust is a way to help keep Northwest organic farms in the hands of farmers.

As Leslie Mackie searched for new ways to feature nutritious, locally sourced ingredients in our products, she learned about the Williams brothers’ whole-grain wheat processed by Fairhaven Mills. We began testing the organic whole wheat flour in some of our breads and found it added a wholesome nutty, sweet flavor perfect for our Whole Wheat Cider bread. Now, whenever you bite into a sandwich or burger made with our Whole Wheat Cider loaf, buns, or dinner rolls, you’re enjoying the Williams brothers’ harvest.

“I have always been a fan of PCC Natural Markets,” says Leslie Mackie. “But, with such a nice tie to the PCC Farmland Trust, it seemed like a natural progression to sell these delicious buns in PCC locations.”

More and more, consumers are interested in knowing where their food comes from, but Seattle has long been ahead of that curve. Leading the charge for sourcing better food from sustainable, trustworthy producers was PCC Natural Markets. What started as a food-buying club with just 15 families back in 1953 is now the largest consumer-owned natural food retail co-operative in the country with 10 locations spanning from Issaquah to Edmonds and plans to open its 11th location in Columbia City this summer.

As of 2014, you can find PCC shelves stocked with everything from our seasonal items like Colomba Pasquale to breadbasket staples like Rustic Potato Rolls and, of course, our Whole Wheat Cider Buns.

“Customers are loving this partnership,” says PCC’s Grocery Merchandiser Scott Owen. “We began selling Macrina breads in King County locations and they sold so wonderfully well we expanded the products to all of our stores.”

Upon a recent field trip to our production facility in Sodo, we were able to show PCC staff exactly how that flour, processed at Fairhaven Mills, and produced on a PCC Farmland Trust farm, is turned into a loaf of bread sold in their stores.

Sharing food made with the very best ingredients, sourced as close to home as possible is something we take great pride in and solidifies our bond with PCC.

“It is such a joy with work with PCC,” adds Leslie. “The staff is appreciative of our products and genuinely excited to sell our breads.”

Meet Our Family: Blake Gehringer

Food Safety Department

Born and raised in the Deep South, Blake Gehringer proved his knack for culinary arts was no fluke when he landed a pastry chef apprenticeship despite the stiff competition. He settled into a coveted position as head pastry chef at an upscale restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina. But, fate had different plans for Blake. During a visit to Seattle, Blake fell in love.

“When I returned to North Carolina, Annie sent me a Seattle ‘recruiting’ package. In this package was an application for Macrina Bakery,” Blake recalls. He couldn’t resist the strong pull West and three months later he was back in Seattle, only this time, it was for good. After a brief stint in construction, a term with AmeriCorps, and some time in the donations department at the Habitat for Humanity Store, Annie (now Blake’s fiancée) persuaded him to return to his passion for pastry, gently prodding him with that same job application.

“At this time Macrina required a pastry and baking education, which I didn’t have,” says Blake, who earned his degree in construction management. “I must have made a decent impression on [Production Manager] Jane Cho, though. She gave me a chance.”

For three years, Blake played a pivotal role in Macrina’s Retail Pastry Department at Sodo. But, just over a year ago, we decided to enhance our high food safety standards by forming a dedicated Food Safety Department. With his dedication, upbeat attitude and penchant for leadership, we knew right away that Blake was the person to head up this new team.

Trading a rolling pin for a clip board, Blake now oversees new protocols for impeccable standards in all areas of the company while guiding staff on proper procedures.

“It forces me to wear different hats at any given moment,” Blake says, running through a list of things he documents each day, ranging from allergen control to equipment maintenance. Working with people who are passionate about Macrina and being part of a supportive team makes it all so much easier, he adds.

Since the inception of our new Food Safety Department, Blake has been at the forefront of our Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point program and helped us excel with top-notch food safety audit scores.

“The best part of my job is being able to interact with all departments on a daily basis. It’s a fantastic community to be a part of. Also, the bread, my gosh the bread!”

Colomba Pasquale: A Springtime Tradition

Colomba Pasquale for EasterSo many wonderful things mark the arrival of spring: sun-drenched days, flowers in bloom, fresh produce in the market, and our favorite, Colomba Pasquale. This bread has been an Easter menu highlight for years, ushering in a new season and adorning tabletops alongside tulip-filled vases.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a bakery in Italy not spilling over with freshly baked loaves of Colomba Pasquale this time of year. Hailing from the Lombardy province in Italy, “Colomba Pasquale” translates to “Easter dove.” Similar to Panettone at Christmastime, this bread is widely known in Italy as a favorite for Easter celebrations. While it’s less common in the states, our customers look forward to it each year.

Studded with candied orange peel, topped with a baked glaze of sliced almonds, and dusted with powdered sugar, our Colomba Pasquale is just as delicious fresh as it is toasted. Slices can be drizzled with honey and served with fresh fruit for a pre-Easter Egg Hunt brunch, but its also perfect with afternoon tea. Whether you’re looking for a hostess gift or just want to add some extra sweetness to these spring mornings, Colomba Pasquale is a natural.

Be sure to pre-order a loaf or two for Easter morning. Colomba Pasquale will be available in our cafés through April 12.

Demi Baguette: The Not-So-Humble Ham and Cheese Sandwich

Earl of Sandwich

The first sandwich started with a few basic ingredients: meat, bread, maybe some cheese. We’re talking about the fabled lunch of the great food innovator John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.

Sandwiches have come a long way since the Earl’s day in the 1700s. Americans eat about 200 sandwiches on average each year. Whether you prefer yours stuffed with egg and bacon at breakfast, towering with turkey at lunch, or griddled with cheese at dinner, we’re willing to bet you’ve enjoyed at least one sandwich today.

While we serve a smattering of sandwiches featuring creatively combined ingredients on our breads, our Demi Baguette sandwich goes back to basics. This Lunch Menu mainstay is stuffed full of savory ham slices, creamy Fontina cheese, tendrils of fresh organic field greens, and a smear of lip-smacking Dijon.

Not only is our ham and cheese a comforting classic, only a little grown up, it’s uncompromising in quality. Recently we looked for a way to improve this sandwich, which led us right to Hempler’s. Located in Ferndale, Washington, just a hop, skip and jump away, the family-owned company has made mouthwatering, high-quality ham for over 80 years using ingredients with sustainability in mind. Pit-smoked and sweetened with a bit of honey, Hempler’s ham is completely free of allergens, gluten, MSG, phosphates, and artificial color. It’s also nitrate and chemical free. Who knew something so basic could be so good?

Get a taste of this new ham on our Demi Baguette at any of our cafés and let us know what you think.

The Seattle Food and Wine Experience

Leslie Mackie discusses Macrina Bakery’s auspicious start and the buzz surrounding SWFE in an interview with TableTalk Northwest last year.

If you haven’t scooped up tickets for the Seattle Wine and Food Experience (SWFE) yet, you had better act fast! VIP Tickets to Sunday’s event are sold out and general admission spots are going fast. This annual culinary event of epic proportion features the Northwest’s best food paired with the finest wine, beer and cider from around the world.

As you sample your way through Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, be sure to stop our table in Les Dames d’Escoffier Alley for a bite of Seeded Sardinian Flatbread layered with Smoked Salmon Mousse, pickled slaw and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

“What really sets SWFE apart from other food and wine events are the carefully crafted experiences within the event,” says SWFE Producer Jamie Peha.

In addition to tasting food and beverages from more than 200 vendors, this year SWFE invites you to taste reserve caliber wines with QFC wine stewards, learn how to cook with beer, refine your sense of smell during the Wente Vineyard Aroma Experience, and guide your palate to the perfect wine with help form Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.

“We want guests to walk away with education about the beverage and food products they encounter at the event,” adds Jamie.

Les Dames d’Escoffier Seattle, this year’s event beneficiary, is a wonderful non-profit organization of women leaders in the culinary world whose focus is on raising scholarship funds for women in the food, beverage and hospitality industries, while also supporting community outreach and local sustainable-agriculture projects.

Click here for more event details and ticket information.

Valentine’s Day Brunch: Cherry Brioche French Toast

Cherry Brioche French Toast

Instead of scrambling to find a last-minute Valentine’s Day dinner reservation, whip up a delicious brunch for your Valentine – or your favorite single friends. Our Mini Cherry Brioche is only available for a limited time and it makes a wonderful French toast. Topped with warm maple syrup and rich brandy whipped cream, it’s a sweet way to start the day whether you’re happily single or blissfully coupled.

Cherry Brioche French Toast
Click here to print this recipe!

Ingredients

For the brandy whipped cream:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon brandy
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla

For the French toast:
5 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
*1 Mini Cherry Brioche
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter

*Available in our cafés.

Serves 2

Preparing the brandy whipped cream:
In a medium bowl, place the cream, brandy, sugar and vanilla. Mix with a whisk or hand-mixer until the mixture holds its shape, about 2 minutes. Set aside until ready to use.

Preparing the French toast:
1. In a medium bowl, place the eggs, vanilla, brown sugar, cream, cinnamon and nutmeg and whisk to combine. Pour custard into a shallow baking pan.

2. Cut the brioche into 1-inch thick slices. Dredge each slice in the custard, making sure all sides are evenly coated.

3. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm the vegetable oil and butter. Lay the brioche slices in the pan and cook until both sides are golden brown.

4. Divide French toast slices among 2 plates. Serve with a drizzle of pure maple syrup and a dollop of brandy whipped cream.

Pike Chocofest 2015: Sip, Savor and Swoon for a Good Cause

Pike Chocofest 2014

One of the sweetest events of the year is just around the corner – and we aren’t talking about Valentine’s Day! We’re getting ready to make mouths water at the seventh annual Pike Chocofest.

Crafted with beer and chocolate lovers in mind, Chocofest covers three levels of Pike’s Microbrewery Museum this Sunday, February 8, from 6 to 9 p.m. As you sip and savor your way through the event, stop by our table where you will find our delicious Mini Cherry Brioche with savory barbecue pulled pork. For the perfect bite, pair it with a sip of a sweeter, full-flavored beer like Pike Kilt Lifter.

In addition to welcoming nearly 100 food and drink purveyors, Pike Brewing Company is debuting its Chocolate Cask Beer Festival. This new section of Chocofest features about 20 breweries that will incorporate chocolate into naturally carbonated cask beer.

Tickets for Chocofest are on sale now for $50, which includes all the food you want, a commemorative tasting glass, 10 drink tickets, live music and discounted parking. All proceeds from this event benefit the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance (PSA), an organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the waters of the Puget Sound. This year, Chocofest will also include the Save the Sound Valentine Store where guests can support PSA by buying treats for their loved ones.

Click here for tickets and more event details.

Queso Fundido Recipe: A Winning Game Day Dip

Queso Fundido Recipe

Bring some sizzle and spice to your game day party with our Queso Fundido recipe! This popular Mexican appetizer is the perfect snack for football season, and it’s easy to customize to your crowd’s taste. Turn up the heat with roasted jalapeño or make it vegetarian-friendly by swapping the chorizo for sautéed mushrooms. Serve it with our Crostini instead of chips or slather it on warm tortillas. Your guests will be cheering for more!

Queso Fundido
Click here to print this recipe!

Ingredients

4 ounces chorizo, casings removed
6 ounces Jack cheese, shredded
4 ounces mozzarella, shredded
5 ounces goat cheese
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1 Hungarian pepper, poblano chile or red bell pepper, roasted
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, chopped
3 scallions, chopped Salt and pepper to taste

Makes 6 servings

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush a 9-inch baking dish with oil. In a skillet over medium heat, saute chorizo until thoroughly cooked. Remove from heat and crumble or dice once it has cooled. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the Jack, mozzarella and goat cheese, then mix in the chorizo and 1/3 cup of cilantro.

3. Place the cheese mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

4. Peel the roasted pepper, remove the seeds, and dice into 1/2-inch pieces. Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat. When the butter begins to froth, add the garlic, remaining cilantro, and scallions. Saute until the garlic is fragrant but not browned. Add the diced pepper and season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Layer the sauteed vegetable mixture over the cheese and serve immediately.

Po Do: When Ketchup and Mustard Just Won’t Do

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It’s hard to believe that Po Dog is still in its infancy. In the last five years, Owner Laura Olson has built the Po Dog brand from the bun up, garnished with a heaping helping of media blitz, and made it the Seattle icon it is today. Now, with five businesses under her belt and a team of 47 employees, you would think Laura was ready to take a break, rest her feet, eat a hot dog. No way, she says, hinting that there could be a new business idea marinating at her Pterodactyl {Group} headquarters. We’ll just have to wait and see. To tide us over, Laura took a minute to discuss everything from Po Dog’s illustrious beginnings to sourcing great ingredients.

How did you get into the food business?
I’ve worked in the food and beverage industry since I was 15 years old. I put myself through college while working full time as a server. Upon graduation, I got a “big girl” job (a 9 to 5-er) at a recruiting firm. Although I loved the company and people I worked for, I didn’t have a passion for the job itself and found myself missing the face-to-face interaction I had with people on a daily basis while working in the food industry. I quit my job one day and decided to pursue my passion for food, people and hot dogs.

Where did the inspiration for Po Dog come from?
I have traveled the world and a lot of my culinary inspiration comes from the places I’ve been and the foods I’ve eaten along the way. When I find a meal I really fall in love with, I always come back and try to recreate it hot dog-style at Po Dog. There was the hamburger-with-crazy-toppings movement going on for a while, and I figured, why not do the same with the tube meat that I love?

What’s your favorite hot dog of all time?
I created my own hot dog that I call The Green Machine. It has cream cheese, fresh cut lettuce, dill pickles, sport peppers, scallions and celery salt. It’s fresh and delicious!

How did you decide to team up with Macrina for your Po Dog menu?
I knew how important it was to have a really great bun. I wanted something that wasn’t too heavy since most of my dogs are piled high with toppings, and I also wanted something unique. I couldn’t find any local bakeries that would work with me on creating a bun that would fit the size of my hot dog until I met with Rebecca [Early, Wholesale Sales Manager]. It was the perfect marriage. I wanted to stay as local as possible with all main ingredients, and the bun was one thing I wouldn’t budge on when it came to a local partnership. Macrina made a brioche hot dog bun that was the perfect custom fit for Po Dog. We feel pretty special for that.

What are some of the highlights from the last five years at Po Dog?
Wow, it’s been such an amazing five years. We were featured in one of the biggest selling issues of People Magazine in 2012. Hoda Kotb from the Today show took a bite of our peanut butter and banana hot dog on live T.V.; we filmed for the Canadian show, Get Stuffed, in 2013; and most recently we filmed for the Travel Channel’s Food Paradise that will air early in 2015… We hosted a couple of Seahawks players for toy drives in the past couple of years, and we were also part of the Tillamook Cheese Tour where we gave away over 300 free Mac n’ Cheese Dogs in less than an hour! It’s been a great ride.

Where does your passion come from?
I love what I do. It’s not a job for me; it’s my life. I think it’s extremely difficult to be successful in business without being passionate about what you’re doing. I was working 16-plus hours a day for the first three months nonstop after I opened my doors. I remember there were times I would come home and get into bed exhausted as all heck and not be able to fall asleep because my legs were throbbing in pain from the craziness of the days. Never once during those long, hard days did I ever think I wanted to quit or stop doing it. I love my customers and the brand that I’ve created.

If we peeked into your fridge, what would we find?
King Estate Pinot Gris, about 15 different kinds of hot sauce, and Red Bull. I cook more when we have houseguests otherwise; it’s pretty sparse in my fridge.

Fueled by frankfurters and hungry for more, there’s no stopping the Queen of Gourmet Hot Dogs. We can’t wait to see how she’ll top the last five years.

Party Bites: Create a Crostini Bar

Crostini

A build-your-own-Crostini bar is a fun way to serve up some sweet and savory bites at your next party. You don’t need a lot of time or creative flair to put together a Crostini station that your guests will relish. Simply team up a bag or two of our delicious Crostini with a mix of seasonal toppings. The possibilities are endless, but here are our suggestions for how to wow your crowd:

  • Fill a basket with your favorite Crostini. We have a variety of flavors, but our Wheat Herb Walnut Crostini is both flavorful and versatile.
  • Top a tray with a sampling of cheeses, like triple cream, aged cheddar and goat cheese.
  • Provide a variety of tasty additions, like sliced apples, local honey, fruit preserves and Marcona almonds.
  • Add in a couple of dishes of your favorite spreads. Our Roasted Artichoke Spread and Fig & Olive Tapenade are both crowd pleasers.