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/

Farm to Brunch: Touring Seattle Tilth

logoEarly this June I visited Seattle Tilth’s farm incubator in Auburn with Marilyn Mercer, Elizabeth Hall, Mandela Turner, and Crystal Kitchin, Macrina’s brunch team. We were especially excited to visit the farm – Macrina is one of the lucky few establishments that buys freshly grown vegetables from Seattle Tilth for our weekly rotating brunch menus.

Seattle Tilth started in 1978 with its Urban Agriculture Center in Wallingford. The Tilth Association began as an alternative agriculture movement with the aim of supporting and promoting biologically sound and socially equitable agriculture in the Pacific Northwest. While the parent association disbanded in 1984, Seattle Tilth has continued to grow and thrive with a stated mission today to inspire and educate people to safeguard our natural resources while building an equitable and sustainable local food system. They teach people to grow food organically while taking care of the environment through a wide variety of classes, programs, and community events. There are classes for both kids and adults, many of them located in Seattle’s most diverse and densely populated urban neighborhoods. They’re an amazing resource for organic gardening education in the region.

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One of their newer programs is the farm incubator.  Matthew McDermott, the director of Seattle Tilth Farm Works, and Chris Iberle, the Food Hub Manager, led us on our tour of their forty-acre site in Auburn. They call it “The Red Barn Farm.”  While we walked through the fields of young starts, Matthew filled us in on the history of the land. Originally owned by former Seattle Supersonics Greg Ballard, who bought the land for a kid’s basketball camp, it was later donated to Seattle Parks and Recreation. They make it available to Seattle Tilth Farm Works as part of their Parks Urban Food Systems program.

The program provides farm business training and support to immigrants, refugees and people with limited resources in South King County. Each year they add ten new farmers to their training program that runs from February to June, reserving ten spots for returning farmers. Their aim is to help new farmers get into small farming, teaching them not just the elements of organic farming through hands-on experience, but also business planning, operations, and marketing. Matthew explains that the average age of an American small farmer is 60 years old. They hope to lower that through their program.

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Each of the twenty farmers tends a quarter-acre parcel, growing vegetables for Seattle Tilth’s CSA subscription program that provides subscribers with a weekly box full of fresh, delicious produce from June through October. The farm also supplies the fresh produce for their Good Food Bag program, which helps supply healthy organic vegetables to qualifying limited-resource families. We saw peas, radishes, onions, garlic, corn, squash, and pole-beans. In addition to the open fields they have 13 100-foot hoop houses, most of them planted with tomatoes. Due to the low snow pack this year and the possibility of a drought they mandated a water irrigation system. To supplement their water supply, they have a large cistern that collects rainwater. At the end of our tour, we stopped by the cleaning station where the farmers wash and trim their veggies, weighing their daily harvest and logging it onto the weekly production board.

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It feels good to be a part of a program that is training young farmers in the best practices for sustainable and environmentally sensitive farming. Moreover, their produce is simply delicious. Visit one of our Macrina cafe locations over the weekend and try something off of our rotating brunch menu to see for yourself.

Leslie Mackie

Giuseppe

Giuseppe and MattOur Giuseppe bread is an interpretation of the classic Italian loaf. Years ago, while Leslie was having dinner at a pizzeria in Rome, she noticed the bread being served at a nearby table. Intrigued, she asked to try some and was amazed at how good it was. In fact, it was the best bread that she had ever tasted. After learning the name of the baker, she and her traveling companion spent the next morning searching for Panficio Arnese. By the time they finally found the bakery, the owner and head baker, Giuseppe, had finished baking for the day, but welcomed them into his bakery. They spent a few hours talking about his bread, which he made with little equipment, no refrigeration and an oven that was fueled by hazelnut shells. After Giuseppe offered her some of his freshly baked bread, Leslie was literally speechless. He seemed to be surprised by her admiration, insisting that it was “only bread!”

When Macrina co-owner Matt Galvin met Leslie in 2006, one of the first things that she talked about was Giuseppe and his bread.  Matt decided that he had to taste the bread that had influenced Leslie so strongly. On a recent trip to Rome, he sought out Giuseppe’s bakery, which was not an easy feat. Between the winding streets and the rather interesting way that the buildings in Rome are numbered, (residential and business addresses are numbered differently), Matt had to guess where the bakery was. When he saw that the street in front of one of the storefronts was covered in flour, Matt knew that he had found the right place. More than 20 years after Leslie had visited the bakery, Giuseppe was still there making the breads and pizzas that have made him a local favorite. When Matt related the story of Leslie’s Giuseppe bread to him, he had quite a chuckle over it. After Matt enjoyed some of Giuseppe’s delicious bread, he understood why it had such a profound impact on Leslie.

The Giuseppe loaf is a staple at our cafes, and is usually available. Of course, you can always guarantee that there will be one waiting by calling ahead!

Inspiration through Unity: How a Bakery and Winery broke bread

Tim and Kelly Hightower

Tim and Kelly Hightower

One thing you will notice in all of our breads is the care and inspiration baked into each item. A favorite of these inspired bread stories is the Hightower Cellars Bread Starter, a sourdough bread starter made with skins from Sauvignon grapes and developed with our  dear friends Tim and Kelly Hightower.

In the mid 1990s, while keeping their day jobs, Tim and Kelly Hightower pursued their passion of winemaking. In Woodinville, WA, the couple’s research and determination proved successful with their inaugural release of 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon. Soon after, they moved to Benton City in Eastern Washington where they purchased acres of prime vineyard land.

Hightower's vineyards.

Hightower’s vineyards.

Macrina’s friendship with Hightower Cellars began years ago when Leslie visited their beautiful winery perched within the Red Mountain appellation hills near the Yakima Valley, three hours east of Seattle.

In 2010, these passionate, gifted winemakers proposed to Leslie a pretty quirky idea, offering cabernet sauvignon wine grapes to be used as a sour bread starter. Sourdough starters can be developed from the natural yeast found on grape skins, adding leavening and delicious flavor.

A few dashes here and there of this and that, and soon we pulled our Pane Francese from the oven. This is an Italian version of a crusty baguette: batonlike, with a light, porous crumb and a crisp, caramel-brown crust. Our Pane Francese is a beautiful, tasty creation with a story rooted in a genuine, heartfelt bond between artisan industries.

From a simple meeting sprang the creation of a bread that the Hightowers could use for tasting and Macrina could offer in our cafes. We think you, and your guests, would love the pairing of these two artisanal favorites this holiday season. Now that you know the story behind the bread, and the wine, we hope you will enjoy both at your table.

The Feast Of St. Macrina

Anyone who has ever visited a predominantly Catholic country has likely experienced store closures due to a feast day of the town’s patron saint.  Looking at the calendar of Catholic Feast days, one may quickly be impressed by the sheer number of them. February 1st alone has 67. When one considers that there are more saints than days of the year and that there is a ranking system to assign how Feast days are celebrated, it can get confusing. Many Feast days involve processions through the streets, feasts and festivals to remember the saint of honor. Depending on the importance of the saint, businesses in the whole town may close for the day. Lesser-known saints may simply have their name mentioned during Mass.

There are only a few days you’ll find our bakery and café closed for a feast, Saint Macrina’s Feast Day is one of them. Though technically her feast day is July 19th, we will be closing at noon on Tuesday, July 17th, for our own company feast to celebrate our great staff, their families and our community here at Macrina. We will resume our normal business hours on July 18th.  Learn a little more about how our company was named on our history page.