Salumi: The Best Cured Meats in the Country?

Meat lovers speak of Salumi in hushed, reverent tones as though they’re in church, or maybe just worried an eavesdropper will beat them to the Pioneer Square deli and get the last culatello.  

And it’s been this way for 20 years now! 

That kind of hype is beyond incredible in an industry that favors the hot new thing. Just this month Tan Vinh, of the Seattle Times, included Salumi’s porchetta sandwich (juicy, slow-roasted pork laced with fennel stuffed into a Macrina Giuseppe Roll) in his list of the four best sandwiches in Seattle. And this comes on top of just about every major food writer in the country having written in ecstatic tones about Salumi’s meats and sandwiches over the years. 

Of Salumi, the late Anthony Bourdain said, “That is a holy place for me.” In 2005, Ruth Reichl, tasting Salumi’s mole salami, said, “(I taste) cinnamon, clove, a lot of clove. And that faint edge of chocolate. God, it’s so good. It’s such a surprise. It makes the pork seem so sweet. Oh, my god, it’s like he’s invented something new here.” She went on to suggest that Salumi’s mole salami would sweep the nation.  

But salami is not an entirely easy thing to make. It takes a lot of skill, equipment and specialized curing rooms. Despite enlarging their production space, Salumi could never meet demand. This is why Gina and Brian Batali, who took over operations when Armandino, the founder and Gina’s father, retired, sold Salumi in October 2017 to Clara Veniard and Martinique Grigg. 

Clara and Martinique were food lovers with Harvard MBAs and plenty of leadership experience looking to invest in a local business together. “Both Martinique and I were long-time lovers of Salumi,” Clara says. “We’d travel to visit relatives carrying sticks of Salumi’s meats.” Gina and Brian were at a point in their lives where they felt Salumi could take a step to the next level, and they weren’t at a stage in their lives where they wanted to do that. A mutual acquaintance bridged a connection, and after a few coffees at Grand Central, both parties felt they’d found the perfect fit.  

Clara and Martinique donned hairnets and spent the first year apprenticing, listening and learning. “We wanted to learn from as many voices as we could what makes Salumi a really special place,” Clara says. “So many people came together to make Salumi what it is today, Armandino and Marilyn, Gina and Brian, the people that work there, and the customers. We worked in all parts of the organization, including arriving at five in the morning to make salami.” 

In November of 2018, they made their first big change: moving the restaurant from its sliver of a space to the former location of Rain Shadow Meats at 404 Occidental Ave. “We hadn’t planned to move, but it was just perfect for us—only two blocks away from our old location—and as a former butcher shop, it had everything we needed. We reused everything that was already in place,” Clara says. 

Spacious and filled with light, the new Salumi retains the filled-with-good-smells charm of the old space. Beloved features remain, like the private dining room and communal tables, but now there is more seating and a line that moves three times as fast. 

Next up: a state-of-the-art production facility in South Seattle. Clara says, “Last December, we got to the point where we literally couldn’t fill most orders. I remember selling the last salami stick. It was a customer who came to the back door. We had one stick to offer them. My sisters and parents-in-law were shocked at Christmas that I didn’t bring them any salami.” Now Salumi will have the capacity to be able to meet customer’s needs. New flavors and new product lines are also in the works.  

To find the best meats, Salumi is going straight to the farms. “We’re taking a hard look at the farms we source from, and how they treat their animals,” Clara says. “Everything will be all-natural.” 

Through the changes, what makes Salumi Salumi are the same recipes and the same crew. “Culture is number one for us,” Clara says. “We have people who’ve been here since the very beginning. The first person who Armandino hired still works for us. It amazes me the level of care that I see from everybody on the team. They take great pride in what we’re doing here.” As Salumi grows, there will be more leadership roles and room for people to grow with the organization.  

At Macrina, we’re thrilled to be a part of Salumi’s growth and are impressed at the seamless way Clara and Martinique have taken the best parts of a sacred Seattle treasure and made them even better. Ruth Reichl’s prediction that Salumi’s cured meats will sweep the nation just may come to pass.  

The State of our Wheat: A Historical Perspective

At Macrina, we are increasingly turning to freshly-milled local flours. Both of our newest loaves, the Skagit Valley Sourdough and our Whole Grain Baguette sold at PCC Natural Markets, are made exclusively with locally grown wheat and freshly-milled flours.   

Photo Courtesy of Joe Drazan and the Bygone Walla Walla Project

Twenty miles to the northeast of Walla Walla is the small town of Waitsburg, once a mill town. Now, it’s better known as a side trip for epicures out on a food and wine tour of Walla Walla. A summer drive there takes you through some of the most scenic wheat country: soft undulating Palouse hills covered in golden wheat, glimpses of the distant blue mountains, a gently winding road, and weathered grain silos.  

The History of Mills

Until 2009, the old mill loomed at the end of Main Street. Then, it burned to the ground in a mysterious fire. The mill was just one of the three early mills still standing in the state when it disappeared. At one time, there were nearly 160 mills in Washington State. The mill that Sylvester M. Wait built in 1865 preceded the town that grew up around it, employing generations of millworkers until it closed in 1957. 

Photo Courtesy of Joe Drazan and the Bygone Walla Walla Project

Though not native to the state, wheat thrives in Washington. It was first planted at the Hudson Bay trading post at Fort Vancouver in the 1820s. Early settlers learned that the soil and the climate made for abundant harvests. As the state’s population boomed, new arrivals filled every corner in Washington, and they planted wheat. But what grew well in Skagit Valley was different than what suited the drier climates of Walla Walla County. An incredible diversity of wheat flourished statewide. By the 1880s, transcontinental railway lines pushed through Washington, and mills like the one in Waitsburg could finally get their inexpensive, high-quality wheat to the bigger populations West of the Cascades. Still, local mills in the coastal regions continued to grind local grain, and many small farms across the state grew a variety of grains, some for flour, some for feed. 

The local mill was pushed to the point of extinction by turn-of-the-century technological change that ushered in a commodity flour with a very long shelf life. One by one, the local mills folded and wheat production became increasingly centralized. By the time the Waitsburg mill closed, it was one of the few early rural mills still operating.  

Photo Courtesy of Joe Drazan and the Bygone Walla Walla Project

Wheat breeders refined wheats for high yields and ease of processing. By 2005, there were only two operating flour mills in Washington State, both producing primarily commercial-grade white flour. The effort to create uniform flours that didn’t spoil created vast quantities of flour, but also took much of the flavor and nutrition from our flour and the products made with it. 

Local Wheat Renaissance

Fortunately, we are in the midst of a local wheat renaissance driven by the artisan bread movement and the invaluable research, wheat breeding, and educating done by Dr. Stephen Jones and his team at the Bread Lab located in Skagit Valley. We have mills specializing in grinding whole grain heritage wheats popping up, including Cairnspring Mills, in Skagit Valley, and the Fairhaven Organic Flour Mill, in Burlington. Both produce excellent fresh, stone-ground flour with superior flavor, nutrition and baking properties. At Macrina, we are increasingly turning to freshly-milled local flours. Both of our newest loaves, the Skagit Valley Sourdough and our Whole Grain Baguette sold at PCC Natural Markets, are made exclusively with locally grown and freshly-milled flours.   

The Waitsburg Mill may not come back, nor many of the small, forgotten wheat towns. However, the diverse flours they once produced are returning for the same reason early settlers planted wheat everywhere: the taste that freshly milled whole grain flours provide. 

Leslie 

From Field to Table, Our New Whole Grain Baguette

Macrina’s Whole Grain Baguette

Our newest loaf is the result of an inspiring partnership with PCC Community Markets. Using organic wheat grown on PCC Farmland Trust land, we collaborated with PCC to develop a field-to-table baguette that takes advantage of the fantastic food resources that Washington State offers.

Scott Owen, the Grocery Merchandiser for PCC Community Markets, was the creative force behind the partnership. “I’m trying to knit together all of these great local partners, but really put the farmer at the center,” says Scott.

The result is an airy, crusty whole grain baguette with a tender, moist interior and open crumb. The natural sweetness and the rich, complex flavor of whole grain flour shine through, complemented by just a hint of sour from the natural leaven. Not only is it one of our best-tasting breads, but it’s nutritious and supports sustainable local farming.

The Farm

We think of bread as coming from the bakery, but it would be just as natural to talk about the field from which it comes. The Williams Hudson Bay Farm, located near Walla Walla in what may be the best wheat-growing land in the world, is one of the largest Certified Organic and Salmon-Safe farms in the region. It is also a beneficiary of the PCC Farmland Trust, which supports farmland preservation, organic production, and sustainable practices.

Tom and Ray Williams, the third generation to work their family farm, grow the two types of wheat—Edison and Expresso—we blend for our whole wheat baguette. “We’re fortunate that the Walla Walla Valley is an excellent place to grow food,” Tom says. “We have great soil, water, all of the resources that it takes to grow organic crops.”

The Wheat

Organic Edison wheat is a dark northern spring flour developed by a professor in Bellingham and improved by the internationally renowned Bread Lab, located in Mount Vernon. Edison wheat is sweet and buttery with a lovely golden color, and it gives our baguette a robust whole wheat flavor.

Organic Expresso wheat is a hard red type 85 that gives the chewy crust of our baguette its dark, caramel color, lends suppleness to our dough and adds loft and tenderness to the interior of the baked loaf. The slow ferment of our dough helps bring out the rich, earthy flavor of the mildly sweet grain.

“Freshly milled whole grain flours provide the best flavor,” Leslie says. “When I started Macrina in 1993, flours like these weren’t commercially available. What is happening now in the heritage grain movement is one of the most exciting developments in baking in a long time.”

The Grain Mill

A hundred years ago there were thousands of wheat farms across America supplying thousands of local mills. Now, most of those mills have closed. Milling is centralized and flour has become an international commodity. Fortunately, in Washington State we have Cairnspring Mills. Located in the scenic Skagit Valley, the mill is a technologically modern flour mill with the throwback philosophy that the local flour mill is an essential part of a vibrant food economy. They work with local farmers committed to sustainable farming. Every batch of grain is milled separately to preserve the integrity of the grain and the unique flavor of each field.

“Cairnspring works directly with the baker to customize the milling process to their needs,” Leslie says. “Unlike most millers who process whole grain, Cairnspring removes some of the bran, while still keeping the integrity of the flour. They provide a steady supply of the high-grade flours we need and the consistency is remarkable.”

The Dough

Freshly-milled whole grain flours work best with a slow fermentation, which helps develop subtle, bright flavors and hydrates the bran. We use our Casera starter, which is the original Macrina starter Leslie created from Champagne grapes planted in her backyard. A slow rise is a critical part of developing the grain-forward flavor and airy crumb of the loaf. Then, as with all our breads, we hand form each baguette and bake it until the crust is dark and caramelized.

The Bread

“I am as excited to be baking today as I was when I opened Macrina 25 years ago,” Leslie says. “Developing our Whole Wheat Baguette was a fun challenge. I visited the Williams Hudson Bay Farm to meet Tom and Ray. Standing in the wheat field gives you a whole new appreciation for what it takes to create a delicious product. We are privileged to be able to use some of the incredible wheat grown there and to have Cairnspring Mills to mill it freshly for us. Through PCC Community Markets, our Whole Grain Baguette will be widely available and bread lovers will taste just how good freshly-milled whole grain flour tastes.”

Macrina’s Aloha Café Opens on Capitol Hill

On the corner of 19th and Aloha on Capitol Hill, Macrina Bakery’s fifth and newest café opened at 7 a.m. on Thursday, September 6. Leslie Mackie, Macrina’s founder, worked the counter with new crew members and employees pulled from other locations.

A Warm Welcome

It is a very bright and cheery space in the open, white-tiled kitchen. The sun filters through from the skylights above and mixes with the natural light coming from the wall of windows on the north side of the café.  Whether they knew one another or not, people filled the many communal tables, spending time together and taking in the new location.

“We had a line out the door for two hours that morning,” said Scott France, Macrina’s president. “So many people from the neighborhood have come up to tell me how eagerly they’ve been waiting for us to open. It feels great to be welcomed so warmly.”

Many who had been watching the extensive remodel these past couple of months commented on their favorite design features: the wall of rough wood that was uncovered in the demolition phase, so stunning that we had to clean it up and keep it; the long, white marble display counters filled with loaves of bread, cakes, pastries, pies and savory items; the exposed wood joists that form the ceiling. One welcoming neighbor even brought in a large vase cascading with flowers from her garden.

Macrina Bakery Day

Macrina received a welcomed surprise when Mayor Jenny Durkan proclaimed September 6, 2018, Macrina Bakery Day in honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary and our impact on the city. The full proclamation is worth reading as it honors so many of Macrina’s deeply held values:

Old Meets New

The new café is located in the same space once occupied by the Surrogate Hostess, a community bakery, and many customers mentioned it. Those who spoke of it remember it fondly as the bakery that once served as a gathering spot in the neighborhood. Macrina hopes to fill that role and to enrich the community with Leslie’s passion for artisanal baking.

“I couldn’t be happier with how the space turned out,” Leslie said. “And seeing so many smiling faces coming in for a pastry or lunch was fabulous. Opening our fifth café has been a wonderful capstone to our 25th-anniversary celebrations.”

Hi Spot Café

Hi Spot Café: A Neighborhood Restaurant

“It’s wonderful to have a place like the Hi Spot Café, a true neighborhood restaurant. Formula places are starting to take over, and speed is always of the essence. The whole ritual of leisurely going out —spending time in the community, enjoying yourself, talking with friends or family, having a delicious cup of coffee and terrific brunch— is such a thrill! Seattle is a big brunch town, and the Hi Spot Café is one of the places that have made it so.”

-Leslie

The History

In a rapidly growing city, where hot new restaurants come and go like wild mushrooms, it is reassuring to find a place that has been making the same mushroom omelette since 1983. Hi Spot Café, located on 34th in Madrona, is so homey, it is actually built into a 1904 Victorian house. You enter through a storefront, which is set up with a coffee bar and pastries. Dining areas are up a short staircase connecting it to the house. The various rooms provide semi-private spaces, making the restaurant feel less crowded than it usually is.

The storefront, which was connected to the Victorian when it became the café in 1983, was originally built as a bakery. The baker and his family lived in the house. In fact, it would be accurate to say that generations of Seattleites have been getting breakfast at this location for 114 years.

Hi Spot Café Store Front

The Store Front

Mike Walker has owned (he bought it with a partner he’s since bought out) and operated the Hi Spot since 1994. He knows many regulars by name, even more by their favorite dish. “When I bought it it was a true to life hippy hangout,” Mike says. Great food, baked goods, tasty brunch, and a relaxed atmosphere made it a community favorite. Mike grew the business organically by focusing on doing more of what already worked.

Hi Spot Café 1994

Hi Spot Café in 1994

In the early nineties, a national CBS ad campaign called Breakfast for your Head had featured Hi Spot Café. “Tourists who’d seen the commercial used to make their way up here to take pictures of themselves at the Hi Spot.”

Breakfast, Brunch & Lunch – No Dinner!

Hi Spot Café serves breakfast, brunch, and lunch, seven days a week. Mike tried dinner shortly after taking over, but it didn’t work. Back then, there were very few other restaurants on 34th, and the neighborhood could be dangerous at night. Madrona, like Seattle, has undergone enormous change and people now flock to 34th for dinner, but Hi Spot Café won’t change again. Old school has worked for them, and they still even have an AOL email address, which to them is a point of pride. As flashy new restaurants draw the headlines, they can sometimes vanish as fast as they appeared, it is refreshing to know a place can thrive by not changing.

“Over the years people have said, You should do this, you should do that,” Mike says. “I listen, but I took over a place that had a vision. I’ve worked to honor that, making small improvements over time. A steady vision of what your restaurant is and what it should be is essential. In a rapidly changing city, we are a point of stability. We know who we are and our customers value that.”

Cherished recipes and a steady vision aren’t all it takes. Finding great ingredients and suppliers is another key. “I’ve been using the Macrina Herb Roll and the Brioche Bun for 24 years. Macrina’s Brioche Buns make the best hamburger buns. I first got to know Macrina and Leslie when I was managing the Pink Door. Later, she lived nearby and frequently came in to eat.”

Eggs All Day

Hi Spot Café has 25 employees, many of whom have been there for years. The chef has been there for 23 years; some waitstaff are going on 15 years. “I’ve got very loyal people,” Mike says. “I treat them with as much respect as possible. I’ve worked in 28 restaurants and I fashion my management style on what not to do with employees.”

When warm weather arrives, the Hi Spot patio opens, doubling the seating. Even with the extra tables, don’t be surprised if there’s a waitlist. In addition to locals, people from all over the city flock to the restaurant. Occasionally you may even spot Mike McCready or Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam.

All of this happens with nothing more than word-of-mouth advertising, but the occasional blast of national attention doesn’t hurt. Four years ago, a recipe from Hi Spot Café was featured in an issue of Rachel Ray Every Day. “I don’t know how they found us,” Mike says, “but I’m glad they did!” The recipe was showcased alongside other breakfast recipes from across the United State, and the “El Pacifico Omelet” was chosen to represent Washington.

“We just keep doing what we do, making breakfast and lunch, eggs and Reubens,” Mike says. “I don’t really change the menu. I carefully add to it. It’s hard these days to find a place that makes a really good BLT, a great tuna melt. We make All-American food, simple with high-quality ingredients, and we consistently prepare it well. It’s an honest plate for $13.95.”

Edible City: A Delicious Journey

On view at MOHAI through September 10, 2017

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(Photo courtesy of MOHAI)

There may be no better way to know a city than by the way its people eat. Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) currently has a beautiful new exhibit, Edible City: A Delicious Journey, which explores Seattle’s culinary history over the last two centuries. You journey across shorelines that provided abundant seafood to Native Americans in this area and trace the influences of Pacific Rim nations on signature dishes in four-star restaurants. If you haven’t already seen it, put it on your calendar. You’ll appreciate this place we call home all the more.

The exhibit, which runs through September 10, 2017, was curated by two-time James Beard Award-winning food writer Rebekah Denn. An exhaustive researcher, she writes beautifully. Enthralled by the exhibit, we recently asked her some questions to learn more.

Leslie

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(Photo courtesy of MOHAI)

How did you get involved in the project?

RD: MOHAI first contacted me in October of 2014 to see if I had ideas for how to tell the story, so I’ve been working on it on and off for two years.

What came first: the idea for the book or the exhibit?

RD: The exhibit idea definitely came before the book! But we ultimately wanted a way to preserve some of the exhibit and expand on the stories.

When I first met with the MOHAI staff, they asked me if I had any questions about doing the exhibit. I said, “What’s my biggest problem going to be?” One of the designers said, “You won’t have room for everything you want to say.” That was so true, but the book helped get at least some more of the information out there, and some of the really striking photos from MOHAI’s archives. We also got to include some recipes that we think of as Seattle signatures, and artist Julie Notarianni illustrated them for us.

In your research, what are a few things that surprised you?

RD: a. How many times what is old becomes new again. There’s a 1927 letter I love from Pike Place Market warning a vendor against selling spinach from California when local spinach is available (they threaten to confiscate his spinach!). Similarly, back in the 1940s, Angelo Pellegrini was encouraging Seattleites to eat fresh, local, seasonal foods — his writings are absolutely on-point for modern diners. You could also slip some of the menus from oyster bars 100 years ago into a modern restaurant without anyone noticing (except maybe the price list.)

b. How it seems that people have always wanted to find a way to stay in Seattle once they got here, and how prescient some observers were about what Seattle’s food scene would become. Actually, let me quote you a paragraph from the catalog about the Boeing bust years (which in turn quotes Roger Sale): “Given the flagging economy, it might have seemed an odd time for a restaurant renaissance, yet food provided an entry point into business for job-seekers who didn’t want to leave their beloved hometown. Restaurants were perhaps the best example, wrote historian Roger Sale, of a new consumer culture where it seemed everyone laid off from Boeing wanted to turn a lathe or cook an omelet. Young workers and female entrepreneurs entered the field, attracted by small-scale projects that weren’t beholden to banks and didn’t require a corporate slog to the top. “Cheeses, wines and coffees Seattle had never heard of became available,” Sale wrote. It was possible, he presciently suggested in 1976, that this rush of activity could push the city into an era of culinary greatness.”

c. I’ve written about food in Seattle for well over a decade, and I learned so much that I hadn’t known… like the story of the huge Crescent spice company that was based here (now part of McCormick), producers of Mapleine, a hugely popular imitation maple flavoring. Or how every era seemed to have its own version of our Tom Douglas. Again, from the catalog: “In the ‘20s and ‘30s the name Clare Colegrove was “associated with good eating in Seattle,” by one account, with alliterative eateries like the Purple Pup. Walter Clark, known as the dean of Seattle restaurateurs, owned an astonishing 55 restaurants between 1930 and 1970 (including the iconic Twin Teepees), according to old-Seattle expert Clark Humphrey. A critic once wrote that it was unlikely anyone in Seattle had not heard of Clark’s restaurants. A few decades later, it was unlikely that anyone had.”

What primary sources did you rely on for foods and restaurants for Seattle’s early history?

RB: I spent some time in MOHAI’s archives and found some fabulous materials (menus… matchbooks…photographs…cookbooks…the sign from the original Manca’s and the equipment from the Sagamiya bakery!) The museum staff members and public historian emeritus Lorraine McConaghy were also invaluable in helping track down material, from ancient newspaper advertisements to a still-working farm machine used to make berry-picking boxes. Nancy Leson let me raid her archives and interview notes from her decades covering the Seattle restaurant scene. People and institutions were unbelievably generous. Angelo Pellegrini’s children shared stories of their dad and agreed to loan us family treasures. Bob Kramer invited us to tour his workshop and see how he forges his world-famous knives. Jerilyn Brusseau and Greg Komen loaned us original Cinnabon items, including their cinnamon tasting notes from the Restaurants Unlimited Inc. kitchen. Jon Rowley brought us letters from Julia Child (they had a running correspondence on salmon and on peaches, among other subjects.) The Seattle Public Library let us borrow items from the library’s Pike Place Market collection, including a grand old ledger book from the wartime years and buttons from the Save the Market campaign. (Speaking of SPL, their online archives are an amazing resource. When we had questions like “When was Maison Blanc destroyed in a fire?” the library website let us simply search Seattle Times archives from 1895 onward from our desks. (The answer: It was front page news on April 30, 1960.) The owner of the Monorail Espresso cart delayed her own plans for the cart so that we could include it in our displays. “Starbucks Melody,” the blogger, brought over pieces from her personal collection like bottles of “Mazagran,” the company’s first bottled beverage. Mario Batali gave us permission to use a video of his grandmother Leonetta making ravioli… and then, when we visited Armandino Batali and his daughter Gina at Salumi, they loaned us a Merlino olive oil tin that was the “Leonetta” brand, also named for her (Armandino’s grandparents founded the Merlino company.) Serendipity! And the people who are a part of Seattle’s modern food history shared their expertise (including Matt Galvin, who served on the advisory committee) and their stories. The founders of the Beacon Food Forest sent over the original maps for the project; Seattle Neighborhood Farmers Markets dropped off the bells that they ring to open and close the market. Allrecipes staff members did Seattle-based recipe searches for us. The thank you list could go on for pages.

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(Photo courtesy of MOHAI)

New Bakery: Making Kent a Little Sweeter!

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Lady Macrina watching over us all.

Not too long ago, I was working away at our Sodo bakery marveling at how small the space had become. Our team was working shoulder to shoulder, each process a fine-tuned choreography of mixing, forming and baking with counter space at a premium. My mind wandered back to 1993. When I first opened Macrina Bakery, I had six employees, and 847 square feet packed with a French Bongard oven, a stack of convection ovens, one mixer, an espresso machine and steel baker’s racks to cool the bread. I had been dreaming of having such a kitchen for years and here I was producing a full line of artisan breads, muffins, coffee cakes and tarts. Business took off through word of mouth, some very beloved wholesale customers and some very positive reviews. All my energy went into baking. Soon this kitchen was bursting at the seam and after only a year, I leased the adjoining space, enlarged the kitchen and added a cafe. We were able to offer more pastry items, develop some savory dishes and add new breads. It was a time of incredible growth for Macrina.

Eight years later with another cafe open in the Queen Anne neighborhood, production was moved to a larger space on 2nd Avenue. With more space, more ovens and better equipment we were able to organize better and again add items to our line of breads, pastries and savory items. We even improved some old favorites. Business continued to grow. Our cafes were thriving and more and more wholesale customers were added to our family. My crew and I shared great highs and weathered growing pains that tested our collective graciousness.

And soon we needed more space.

In 2008, with new partners, we found an industrial building in the Sodo neighborhood. We doubled our kitchen size, had plenty of parking for delivery vans and space for a cafe that could feature big windows both outside and into the kitchen. There was even space upstairs for administrative offices. I thought we would never fill all the space! The expertise, dedication and experience of my managing partners allowed me to step back from business operations and spend more time in the kitchen. We invested in and learned from our talented staff who are devoted to making the best breads and pastries. We improved ingredients, sourced more local products and services, and added sweet and savory items our customers requested. We increased our delivery area, our cafes were thriving and our growth continued.

Remarkably we outgrew this space quickly.

For the last few years we’ve been bursting at the seams again, forced to find more efficient ways to work within our confines. So, after a year of planning and another 6 months of construction, we have moved again!  Our new bakery is in Kent, which I like to refer to as the new Sodo (industrial, up and coming). I am in love with our well thought out bakery, with impressive temperature controls, the tools we need to keep up with demand and enough space for each team to spread out.

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The first bake in our new home.

As I was working shoulder to shoulder in our Sodo space that day not too long ago, I was very much looking forward to sharing the new space with my team. Now that we have officially moved in, I am even more excited. I love seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces as they acclimate to their new home. We no longer have to push racks of bread around to get into the walk-in and we aren’t tripping over pallets of flour. I love having the space to create.  I am working on a new line of pastries that will blow you away.  You will have to stay tuned to see what we have coming later this summer.  Trust me it is worth the wait.

I think I speak for all of us when I say we’re very excited about Macrina’s future.

Leslie

 

Space Needle

I had the pleasure of dining with Phuong Bui, Macrina’s head baker, and his wife at the SkyCity restaurant to celebrate his 10 year anniversary. It was a big treat and fun for him to see the bread he bakes on the tables of one of the most iconic locations in the country. Nothing beats the remarkable view or the delicious food of this longstanding Seattle restaurant.

Leslie

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The Space Needle

Imagine this: It’s 1961. Seattle is soon to host the World’s Fair. You walk into a bank and announce that you plan to build the tallest building west of the Mississippi and slap a revolving restaurant on top. Oh, and so it’s ready in time for the fair, you need to build it in about 400 days. Might as well ask for a time-traveling DeLorean while you’re dreaming.

But somehow they pulled it off, sans the DeLorean. A group calling itself the Pentagram Corporation, which included a few of Seattle’s most recognizable businessmen, didn’t need a bank loan. They were the bankers and developers of the day. The risk was sizable. 550 feet of risk. 467 dump trucks of cement poured to a depth of 30 feet of risk. $4.5 million dollars of risk. They sought nothing less than to present a vision of the future to the rest of the world.

Seattle_World's_Fair_and_Mt_Rainier_C13119Billed as The Century 21 Exposition, the World’s Fair of 1962 in Seattle also featured the monorail. Just before the fair opened The New York Times wrote, “The high-speed, quiet monorail cars catapult northward from the heart of Seattle for a few breath catching moments, then glide to a stop. There suddenly, all around you, are glimpses of the world of tomorrow.” The monorail was the time-traveling Delorean carrying hordes of visitors to the world of tomorrow.

Back then, world’s fairs were major spectacles, attended by people from around the globe. Seattle was a company town, a yawn of a city that functioned as a Boeing bunkhouse, and a long ways from growing up and joining the ranks of major American cities. Much of the world then thought Seattle rhymed with fetal.

As the structure went up, doubters arose. The Committee Hoping for Extra-Terrestrial Encounters to Save the Earth—CHEESE (an appropriate acronym) claimed to have plans from the 1962 World’s Fair that show the Space Needle was constructed to send transmissions to advanced beings in other solar systems. True story.

4171626313_f5d5797ce6Another fun fact: Elvis filmed a movie at the Space Needle during the World’s Fair named, aptly enough, “It Happened at the World’s Fair.” In the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, reporter John Voorhees described the insanity surrounding The King: “The biggest attraction at the World’s Fair continues to be Elvis Presley, who may turn out to be the biggest boon to the sellers of camera film since the Space Needle was unveiled.”

Fast forward a little more than 50 years and Seattle has been transformed from the scenic hillside town without an interstate to one of the fastest growing major cities in America. In the shadow of the Space Needle, South Lake Union has been transformed by Amazon’s growth. Boeing is still a major employer, but the local economy has diversified, much of its new growth driven by the technology sector.

amazon-campusThrough all this growth the Space Needle has provided a spectacular revolving view of the city’s evolution; neighborhoods torn down to build Interstate 5, construction cranes raising Belltown to new heights, new high-rise towers, more cranes, more towers, and suburbs oozing further north, east, and south.

While some today consider the Space Needle an anachronistic vision of the future, more Jetsons than anything that looks like the future today, it has always symbolized a city leaning into the future. So, when the weather is clear, take the elevator up 500 feet to the SkyCity restaurant and enjoy the Macrina potato rolls (or a basket of our pastries at brunch) while you peruse the menu and take in the revolving view of this beautiful city. We’re proud to play a small role in such an iconic location.

space-needle-northwest-scenescapesAnd lastly, while you’re enjoying your meal don’t forget that only the interior rotates, not the external structure. If you set your drink on the window ledge, it’ll slowly drift away from you. More than a few enterprising and frugal drinkers have enjoyed their neighbors fine scotch, or their cocktail; one after the next, helpless to resist as they just kept appearing on the window ledge next to their table.

Visit this link for a long list of Space Needle fun facts.

Wedding Cakes

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I didn’t intend to get into the business of wedding cakes, exactly. I wasn’t particularly averse to it – it’s just that when you’re busy with the daily routine of bread and pastries, throwing a wedding cake into the mix sounds complicated. And wedding cakes can be pretty show-offy, lots of frills and sugar flowers, with a greater focus on glamour than taste, and as subject to the vagaries of fashion as bride’s dresses are. I worried it was too far from my focus to keep up. But when my sister Allison and brother-in-law Marty asked me to do their wedding cake, I jumped on the opportunity.

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Their wedding was January 22, 1994, just six months after I’d opened Macrina. They needed a cake to serve to 250 guests. Amidst the chaos of running a new bakery, I set to work making a large cake with four tiers. The bottom cake was 16” in diameter. I vaguely remember each layer being a different type of cake. The wedding was in Portland. I loaded the layers flat into the back of our delivery van. Fortunately, the weather was winter cold. Heat is not good for the cakes and the icing. I worried that the cakes would get damaged, but everything survived the journey. I assembled the cake there, decorating it with a white-chocolate, cream-cheese buttercream, edible gold flakes, and fresh flowers. I was so proud of the way it turned out.

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Since then Macrina has done hundreds of wedding cakes. The style is much the same as the one I did for my sister—simple, fresh and elegant. Once I’d done a few, word of mouth brought in newly engaged couples. For years, I coordinated and delivered the wedding cakes. I made many a cake delivery with my daughter Olivia. Her baby backpack had a frame that allowed it to stand and she would sit patiently while I stacked, finished, and decorated the cakes. In 2002, our pastry department took over the wedding cakes. Significant improvements were made to the wedding cake department. Our decorating got more creative while remaining simple, fresh and elegant.  About ten years ago we added wedding cakes to our website. This has been a great discussion opener for interested couples.

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Today, Anna Moomaw-Parks is our wedding cake coordinator. She gathers details, manages the schedule and delivery and is the point of contact for couples and wedding planners, all to make sure our customers get the best possible service. Anna says, “Wedding cakes aren’t the primary focus of Macrina. They are a special thing we do, and we work hard to make them special. We don’t have a team of people producing them. One of our pastry chefs, Mariah Eubanks, makes and decorates the cakes. We’re careful not to take more orders than we can handle. It is an important day for the customers. We want to be sure we do all we can to make it wonderful.”  About a year ago we had the pleasure of making a cake for Anna’s wedding.

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I love the way our tradition has evolved while holding to its roots. Mi Kim, our head pastry chef, baked and decorated all the wedding cakes for several years. A couple of years ago she trained Mariah, seamlessly passing the tradition to another talented pastry chef. Now Mariah is designing a Macrina wedding cake for her own nuptials this coming October. She’s leaning towards the almond torta cake with the same white chocolate cream cheese buttercream I made for my sister’s cake.  Of course, she won’t be making her cake. Superstition says the bride who bakes her own cake is asking for trouble.

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We are currently in the midst of wedding planning season. Quite a few engagements happen over the holidays, with weddings planned for the summer. Mariah has been busy meeting with couples to design their cakes.

Looking through pictures of the cakes we’ve done over the last 20 plus years makes me so proud of our tradition of fresh baked, delicious and beautifully decorated wedding cakes. And I am very pleased that and so many couples wanted to include us in their special day.

Leslie

For more information on our wedding cakes please visit our website.

Baking with Julia

julia_bakingHappy Birthday Julia Child!

One of the bakers here at Macrina noticed that Julia Child’s birthday was coming up on August 15th and suggested I write about my experience filming Baking with Julia in 1996. It just so happens I’m currently in Boston visiting my dear friend Susan Regis, a super host as well as a James Beard Award-winning chef so the walk down memory lane is timely in many ways.

Susan accompanied me to Julia Child’s house for the filming of my episode that memorable summer day in 1996. Susan, who has presided over some of the most storied Boston kitchens, knew Julia Child through the Cambridge food network. I was glad my supportive friend was with me because I was going to cook in Julia Child’s kitchen. The Julia Child’s kitchen! It still gives me goose bumps to think about it. I’d done cooking classes before, but not on television and not standing next to Julia Child’s famous pegboard. It was a dream come true, and yet I was absolutely terrified.

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I’d met Julia Child briefly back in the 80’s when I cooked at Jasper’s, a great restaurant on the Boston waterfront in its day. I was very surprised and honored when I got a call and heard that Julia Child was interested in featuring me in an episode of Baking with Julia, the show that would go on to win an Emmy Award and a James Beard Award. Macrina had only been open for three years. She traveled to Seattle, visited the bakery, and loved it. I wanted to do bread, my true love, but they had already lined up several very prominent bakers to be on the show. Julia loved our pastries and convinced me to make tarts.

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When the time came, I flew to Boston and with Susan in tow made my way to Julia Child’s imposing Cambridge clapboard house. The house was bustling with activity. There was a prep kitchen set up in the basement and her kitchen was transformed into a studio, full of lights, people, and cameras. There was a make-up artist, the cookbook writer Dorie Greenspan, who was writing the companion cookbook to the show, the producer Geoffrey Drummond, and several others bustling about.

It turned out that the night before we were to film there were some electrical problems and the air-conditioning had gone out. They’d had to bring in a generator and had hooked up an ad hoc cooling system. Silver accordion ducts poked through windows and out of hallways blowing cold air. Those cameras put out a lot of heat. Even with all their efforts it was still mid-eighties in that kitchen. It didn’t feel like a good omen.

I planned to make two crusts, our classic pie crust, and our crostata crust. With the pie crust I would make three tarts, a French Apple Tart, a Baked Yogurt Tart with Blackberries and Almonds, and a Blueberry Nectarine Tart. With the crostata crust I would make a Raspberry Fig Crostata. As filming started, we found the dough had to be kept in a cooler between takes. It was too hot and tart dough can be a prickly creature in warm weather. My nerves might have overwhelmed me in this less than ideal scenario if Julia Child wasn’t so graceful. She asked me instinctive questions, leading me along, smoothly adding details to help the home cook. I relaxed in a few minutes.

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The rest of the day was a blast, even with the hot kitchen. The tarts came out perfectly! I even got to the crostata. Evidently I was fast, and we managed to film more than enough for one show. So I got a bonus half-show that just focused on the crostata. All of the humor and wit and personal connection that you see from Julia Child on the show came across even more between takes. It was unbelievably stimulating and thrilling to be there.

As I packed up my stuff, tired, hot, and exhilarated, little did I know that the best part of the day was yet to come. Susan invited Julia Child over to her house for a barbecue on the roof. Susan lived in a North End brownstone, four flights of stairs to the roof. Julia Child was 84 years old then, her husband Paul had passed away two years earlier. To my great surprise, Julia accepted the invitation. Geoffrey Drummond and Dorie Greenspan accompanied her. She scaled the four flights just fine, took a seat in an Adirondack chair and held court with a roof deck of people, most half her age. She talked of meals and wines, recalling nuances of flavor and special dishes fondly. What a memory she had. I think we grilled pizzas and I know there was lots of great food. I barely remember all that now. What I remember is Julia Child, sitting on the roof sharing her passions, not at all pretentious, incredibly approachable, humble, and full of grace.

That experience is one of the great memories of my life. The cookbook turned out beautifully. I was so pleased that in addition to my tarts and crostata they included my potato bread as well. It’s so much fun to be back at Susan’s recalling that day.

Happy Birthday, Julia Child. You will never be forgotten.

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Leslie Mackie

Watch Baking with Julia featuring Leslie Mackie  http://video.pbs.org/video/2250839787/