Ten Years of Skillet: Evolved Street Food for the Masses

Skillet’s food has a personality and flair that stands out. It’s been that way from the get go. When I think of Skillet, I think of assertive flavors, great recipes, classic culinary techniques applied to innovative spins on American favorites, and a focus on seasonal and local ingredients. Skillet is a beloved Seattle restaurant and I’m proud they’ve chosen Macrina rolls and breads for many of their classic dishes.

Leslie

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In restaurant years, ten makes you a veteran. For Skillet, the ride has been adventurous. Skillet’s wild years began in a renegade Airstream trailer, involved a few skirmishes with a health department unfamiliar with food trucks, and a couple of run-ins with aggressive tow-truck drivers. But ambition, talent, and a few unforgettable dishes have carried Skillet to a successful but never dull maturity.

In 2007, street-food trucks weren’t a phenomenon. You could actually find downtown street corners without one. Beyond taco trucks—fabulous, yes, but one dimensional—there wasn’t much. Then Skillet’s pioneering street-food truck came along. People stood in long lines to eat the Fried Chicken Sammy, the Bacon Jam Burger, Poutine (not at all ubiquitous then), and the Kale Caesar. When discussing local food trucks, it’s fair to divide the conversation into Before Skillet (the dark ages) and After Skillet (the enlightenment).

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Fast forward ten years, Skillet has grown into a Seattle institution. There are four brick and mortar restaurants—Capital Hill, Ballard, Denny Regrade, Seattle Center—and two food trucks. What hasn’t changed is the food. Skillet’s chef-driven take on American-inspired classics has become a brand unto itself. Their greatest hits—the chicken sandwich, the burger, the Caesar, the waffle with braised pork belly, the griddle cakes with compote—couldn’t be pulled from the menu without risking insurrection, maybe a little like a Pearl Jam concert in which the band refused to play “Evenflow.” It’s not that the new stuff isn’t worth trying—it is—it’s just that Seattle fell in love with Skillet’s classics first and won’t let go. And that’s just fine with Skillet. They continue to source great local food, fix it up, and serve their favorite dishes to customers, many of them long-time devotees.

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The diners are spacious, light and airy, with a menu that expands upon the original food truck menu. To celebrate their tenth anniversary, Skillet is featuring a throwback menu all year that features recipes culled from old newsletters. March features the Lemongrass Pork Sammy with pickled ginger slaw. April features the Porchetta Sammy with hazelnut gremolata.

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That catering plays a role in Skillet’s middle-aged evolution should come as no surprise. Skillet’s burgers, fries, and milkshakes were first introduced at founder Josh Henderson’s wedding. Now, with a team of over 100 talented people, Skillet can cater up to six simultaneous events. Hundreds of brides and grooms have chosen Skillet to cater their weddings.

Catering Manager, Jessica Paul Jones, says that in addition to weddings, private parties and corporate events make up the bulk of their catering. But they can handle just about anything in Pacific Northwest. They’ve even have a china box that can roast a whole pig. One memorable catering event was a party at the top of the Smith Tower. Jessica remembers carrying food and equipment up the stairs (“My legs hurt for days”). Then there was the one at a ‘huuuuge” house in Laurelhurst that sat above the lake with 103 slate steps winding down to the lakeside tables (“My legs hurt even worse”).

When major life events occur, some Skillet fans rely upon their favorite restaurant. One such customer is Brian Benjamin, a weekly food truck regular since 2009. His go-to item is the Fried Chicken Sammy. His parents met his fiancé’s parents for the first time at the Skillet restaurant in Ballard. And guess who’s catering their wedding?

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Brian Benjamin

In a world of coincidences, one that isn’t all that surprising is that Brian is also a Macrina fan. He explains, “My fiancé, Jilian, used to live right behind the Macrina Bakery on Queen Anne. I always loved waking up on a weekend morning to walk over to get a ham and cheese brioche or Morning Glory muffin. We still swing by from time to time to pick up a loaf of rosemary semolina bread. I’m often more excited to eat the bread than I am the rest of the meal.”

Maybe that isn’t such a coincidence after all since Macrina’s potato roll has long been an essential part of Skillet’s Fried Chicken Sammy. At Macrina, we’re proud to be a part of one of Seattle’s favorite sandwiches.

What’s next for Skillet? Ani Pendergast, Skillet’s Director of Marketing, says, “Our focus is on maintaining the same kind of consistency we’ve always had. We’d love to open more neighborhood restaurants. But first we have to feel that we have the capacity to do it, then we need to find the right location. Our primary focus has always been on the food and the service. Whether you hit the restaurants, the trucks, or catering we want to be sure you get Skillet food and Skillet service. So we don’t spread ourselves too thin, we’ll only grow when we’re ready for it.”

Azeite Esplendido: Gold-Medal Winning Olive Oil from Portugal

“There are many good olive oils out there, but few that are exceptional, especially at a reasonable price. I tried Azeite Esplendido at the Fancy Food Show earlier this year and was blown away. Sheila Fitzgerald, the importer, impressed me with her passion and knowledge for all things olive oil, from its health benefits to the advantages of small-scale artisanal production. I love the balance this oil has. It’s assertive, with that great peppery spice, not bitter, and low in acidity. I am proud to add Azeite Esplendido to the small curated line of products we carry at Macrina.” 

Leslie

Azeite Esplendido: Gold-Medal Winning Olive Oil from Portugal

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A great extra virgin olive oil is as different from the typical pale yellow stuff sold in supermarkets as pure maple syrup is from Aunt Jemima’s. Good olive oil is alive and peppery, not bitter, and taken straight can make you cough. If you’re accustomed to bland commodity olive oil one spoonful of the real thing will transport you to another gustatory plane where flavor defies known parameters.

That’s sort of what happened when Seattle resident Sheila Fitzgerald was hiking through northern Portugal en route to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela in 2012. In the high hills above the Douro Valley, a soaring majestic patchwork of cultivated agriculture and natural, craggy slopes, she found herself in a grove of olive trees. Some had massive trunks, their limbs twisted and magnificent with age. She introduced herself to the property owner, Henrique Cardoso, a fourth-generation farmer, who then introduced her to his olive oil.

fullsizeoutput_3e9a “I knew good olive oil, but I’d never tasted anything like his,” Sheila says. “The golden-green oil had a peppery spiciness to it, no bitterness, and a complexity and balance that I’d never experienced.”

That revelatory moment kicked off Sheila’s four-year journey to become the sole US importer of Henrique’s olive oil. The first challenge was winning Henrique’s trust, persuading him that she would uphold his fierce commitment to quality. Next came an extended process of gaining FDA approval, an involved study of the existing US market, selecting bottles, and designing a label.

Since that first visit, Sheila has been back many times, including at harvest time, which starts in November and goes through January.

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“Henrique picks his olives early and makes Azeite Esplendido from the first harvest,” Sheila says. “That means the olive is picked when they’re very green. Most farmers wait until the olives get plumper. That way they get more oil out of it. But the olive loses flavor as it ripens. My oil has a peppery spiciness to it. That’s indicative of an early harvest. It can bring tears to your eyes, even make you cough. That’s a good thing.”

Harvest is a time of celebration. An autumnal chill in the air, the groves often laced with tendrils of fog, pickers go from tree to tree using long rakes to pull the olives into nets. An old tractor hauls them to the press, no longer one of the picturesque stone mills, but a state-of-the-art stainless steel centrifuge.

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“The olives are washed then ground into a mash before they’re dumped into the centrifuge,” Sheila says. “Henrique continually adjusts the revolutions per second, which changes the oil. He’s always testing it.”

Before the bottling, which is done within twelve hours of pressing, comes the blending. Azeite Esplendido is composed of first cold-pressed oil from four types of olives: Transmontona Verdeal, Cobrançosa, Cordovil, and Madural.

Sheila says, “Henrique guards the percentage of each olive in the blend. It’s the secret to his recipe. Along with picking at the right time, carefully monitoring of the oil extraction, and cultivating the best trees.”

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The Tras-os-Montes region, where the farm is located, is one of the six protected designation of origin (DOP) zones in Portugal. The microclimate and soil make it an ideal place for olive trees. On Henrique’s farm, the trees are widely spaced to allow each tree plenty of sun and wind and rain. Some of the trees are five to six hundred years old. These are called the mother trees. Around their base workers mound extra dirt. When new shoots come up they are transplanted, hence the name mother tree. The trees are not irrigated.

Sheila says, “Henrique told me doesn’t want to babysit his trees. It’s survival of the fittest. If it can’t grow there, he doesn’t want it.”

While Italy’s olive trees suffered through a terrible year in 2016 that halved production, Henrique’s groves fared well.

“Olive oil is a live product. It changes over time,” Sheila says. “It’s dependent on fluctuations in the weather. The new harvest is so bright green. Henrique tasted the oil at bottling and said, ‘My olive oil is so good this year we’re gonna blow the dishes off the wall.’ It wasn’t a translation issue. That’s his expression. No one makes olive oil like he does.”

Last April, at the New York International Olive Oil Competition, 827 olive oil entries from 26 countries were judged. Azeite Espledido took home the top honor, a gold medal.

Macrina is proud to carry this fine olive oil. Buy a bottle and a loaf of your favorite crusty bread, puddle a bit of oil on a plate and dip. Will it blow the dishes off the wall? Probably not. But it just might blow you away.

Green Tables

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Green Tables

Les Dames D’Escoffier Seattle is an organization near and dear to my heart. Being a Dame for nearly 25 years has been an important part of my life and career success. Early in my career I benefitted greatly from key mentoring relationships and support. Les Dames gives me a chance to pay it forward, to help other young women find the same opportunities. Les Dames raises money and awareness to inspire and aid women in finding rewarding careers in the hospitality industry. We offer scholarships, funds for continuing education, and help create opportunities through our experience and network of established relationships.

A major focus of ours is Green Tables, a Les Dames chapter initiative which supports education on all aspects of growing, sourcing and preparing nutritious food. We hold a series of fundraisers throughout the year and we have one coming up. Tag and Table is this Sunday, September 18th, on Capitol Hill. It will be a great opportunity to find fantastic kitchen tools, have some fun doing it, enjoy food and wine while you shop, and know that your support of Green Tables is making a difference in women’s lives and the health of our city’s food supply.

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One recent recipient of a Les Dames’ grant is Seed to Table, an edible education program for youth located in Olympia. We awarded them a $3,500 grant to help fund staff support and materials for their Preschool Garden Time program, spring field trips, and summer camp. They offer free, weekly Preschool Garden Time in the spring, garden field trips for preschool and grade school groups, and a summer camp for children ages 6-12.  The goal of this programming is to connect children with their food, by teaching them how to grow and cook their own delicious and nutritious meals.

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Program Director Karen Ray says, “Between April and June, we served over 460 people, including over 260 children, at our weekly Preschool Garden Times and class field trips.  These programs were free to the community, and all funding support was provided by Les Dames. Children dissected bean seeds to see how they grow, and then planted beans in the garden. They strung twine on pea trellises and watched the peas grow from week to week. They discovered spittle bugs hiding in the herb garden, and ladybugs eating aphids on the rose bushes. Children also learned how flowers get pollinated and turn into fruits and seeds. And throughout the spring, children harvested and ate from the garden–peas, carrots, broccoli, radishes, cherries, and strawberries.”

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Another recent recipient is Southwest Early Learning Bilingual Preschool. Director Karina Rojas Rodriguez says, “We are a non-profit bilingual preschool in the heart of West Seattle serving a wide range of ethnic, cultural and linguistic children. Many of our children do not have the experience of growing their own garden or attending amazing field trips like the pumpkin patch. With the Green Tables grant we are able to maintain our very own garden here on Delridge, rent a school bus to transport 130 children to and from the pumpkin patch, and most importantly continue to serve organic and farm to table meals to our children. We appreciate everything they have done for us and continue to do for us.”

Green Tables has awarded over $64,000 since it’s first grant awards in 2011, helping bring healthy meals to schools and early education supporting the garden-to-table cycle, and supporting sustainable farming practices that provide organic and sustainable foods to our community. Drop in on Sunday to learn more about who we are, meet some of the women who have worked hard to make this organization a success, buy something for your kitchen, and help us make a difference.

Thank you for your support.

Leslie

The Buzz on (Really) Local Honey

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On my Vashon Island farm, I have plenty of space for my gardens and chickens. But the current trend in urban farming blurs the old line between city and country. Farming used to be something that took place outside of town. Nowadays, many Seattle homes have parking strip planter boxes overflowing with beans, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, corn, and much more. Composting boxes overflow. Chickens cluck proudly in backyards, supermarket eggs are no match to their prize offerings. So it’s no surprise that urban bees should follow. That urban produce needs to be cross-pollinated somehow.

Corky Luster started Ballard Bee Company out of his Ballard garage. He’s the Steve Jobs of local honey, the godfather of the urban hive. Turns out it takes more than just plonking a couple of hives in your yard. You need to know how to manage the colony.

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(Photo: Seattle Tilth)

Corky’s love for beekeeping began in college when a German roommate started a couple of hives in their backyard. While working as a designer and contractor building homes in Seattle, he started raising bees in Ballard. City ordinance only allows up to four hives on lots less than 10,000 feet. So Corky began recruiting others to host hives. He manages them; the homeowner gets a dividend of honey and the knowledge that they’re helping our local ecosystem. The hive takes up little space, but its impact is large. Corky combats disease-and-mites by using integrated pest management principles and avoids harsh pesticides, such as acaricides, in his efforts to keep the hives healthy and happy. The city, surprisingly, turns out to be a great place to produce honey since urban trees and gardens tend to be free of industrial agricultural pesticides. With a surplus of fantastic honey, Corky bottled it and began to sell it through a few local stores in 2010.

Renee Erickson, chef of Ballard’s The Walrus and The Carpenter and Fremont’s The Whale Wins, has Corky manage hives for her restaurants. Corky’s cult status in the beekeeping world has also allowed him to partner with Seattle Tilth to teach classes on building and maintaining healthy hives.

At Macrina, I’ve always tried to carry a few locally produced items that complement our breads—it’s hard to find anything more local than Ballard Bee Company’s honey. The flavor is delicate and floral, with just a hint of lemon in the aftertaste. With Seattle’s explosion of urban farming, there are plenty of flowering trees, flowers, and gardens. Plus all those wild blackberries. So the bees do their important work, Corky’s careful attention keeps their hives healthy and we get to offer this beautiful honey. Everybody wins!

Leslie

Summer Larder Series (Part 2) / Bucatini Pasta with Roasted Tomato Sauce

Bucatini Pasta with Roasted Tomato Sauce and Stecca Garlic Bread Recipe

In the introduction to my last video, I talked about the value of a larder stocked with the jams and sauces made with the surplus of fruits and vegetables from the summer harvest. The small investment of time spent cooking and preserving the best of summer allows you to enjoy its riches all year. And when you’re entertaining, a well-stocked larder makes it that much easier to kick out something spectacular or a quick and easy dinner during the work week.

Spring plant sales are a vice of mine. I imagine my garden overflowing with zucchini, snap peas, green beans, peppers, lettuce, and much more. Especially tomatoes. Given the unreliability and streakiness of hot summer weather in the Pacific Northwest, I plant lots of tomato varieties, never knowing which will thrive best. I plant sweet cherry tomatoes for fresh eating, Brandywine, Juliette, and Tiger Stripe for bruschetta and fresh sauces. Inevitably I wind up with baskets of lovely, ripe tomatoes far in excess of what my tomato-loving family can eat. What to do? Roasted tomato sauce. My baskets of surplus tomatoes go into the oven with olive oil and garlic to roast. I puree them with fresh basil before sealing them in jars and storing them in my larder.

In the seasons that follow, invariably those jars of summer goodness become the heart of flavorful pastas on busy nights. To me, a good roasted tomato sauce calls for garlic bread. Our new Stecca bread is ideal for this. Stecca, a soft “sweet” (meaning not sour) baguette, is made with our yeast-risen ciabatta dough. It has a light, golden crust and a well-aerated irregular crumb structure. In this video, I transform it into an excellent garlic and cheese-topped dipping bread, a great accompaniment to bucatini pasta with roasted tomato sauce. Together they make a simple, soul-satisfying meal that you can throw together in less than half an hour.

Italian Bread Traditions

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In Italy, there is a saying Senza il pane tutto diventa orfano, without bread everyone is an orphan. Such is the role of bread in Italian daily life. It has a presence at every meal. Its importance, not just to Italian cuisine but to Italian culture, can hardly be overstated.

I have always had a reverence for bread. Many years ago, dining with friends, I discovered just how reverent Italian traditions are when one in our party inadvertently set a wedge of bread on the table crust side down. My Italian friend immediately turned the bread over, right side up, and crossed himself. Apparently this could bring about bad luck, not just for my friend but for the whole table. The superstition seems to be based on the religious fact that bread is considered a symbol of life. Turning it over is considered disrespectful. Bread is a staple of life. One must not risk cursing the supply.

pane-forno-legna-7-620x400Carol Field, the author of The Italian Baker  writes, “Bread is merely flour, water, yeast, and salt as the world is merely earth, water, fire, and air. These four elemental ingredients—grain from the fields, water from rivers and mountain streams, leavening from the wild yeasts of the air, and salt from the sea—have been combined since Roman days to make the breads of Italy.”

The history of the people on the sunny Italian peninsula has been a combative one, with small city states battling one another. Pride in local traditions is fierce. Only in the last 150 years did Italy become a unified country. Even today, regional differences are surprisingly large. Towns situated just kilometers apart have unique dialects, customs, and, yes, even breads. But bread they have. All of them.
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Bread consumption in Italy is higher than any other European country. Most loaves are made by artisan bakers, working on a small scale and heavily influenced by family and regional traditions. Secrets and techniques have been handed down from baker to baker over the years. Even in a metropolitan city like Rome, one finds many varieties of bread. Years ago, while dining there, I discovered a remarkable bread. It’s crust ranged from caramel to almost black; the crumb had a beautifully irregular texture, and the flavor was highly developed. I had to know who had made the bread. With the address in hand for Panficio Arnesse Giuseppe, I wandered the winding streets of the Trastevere neighborhood until I finally tracked down the baker of this bread. Giuseppe was seated in front of his warm oven, reading a newspaper. Amiable and chatty, he was happy to share. He showed me his wood-burning oven, fueled by hazelnut shells. His dough was made simply, without any refrigeration. Starters were developed in his mixers and held there for the next day. We talked for hours. His bread is the inspiration for my Giuseppe loaf.

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Matt Galvin, one of my partners at Macrina, visiting Giuseppe at Panficio Arnesse

I visited a great many bakeries, tasting more than 100 loaves. In Florence and throughout Tuscany the large, thick-crusted oval loaves are made without salt. Some say it’s because a heavy tax was levied on salt in the Middle Ages, and Tuscan bakers decided to go without. Others say the strong flavors of the local cuisine find a better balance in bread without salt. The bread takes some getting used to, but with a slice of salty typical Tuscan salami, like soppressata, I found it excellent.

Down south, on the heel of the Italian boot, Puglia is one of my favorite regions for bread. Their loaves bear influences of the Turks who long ago occupied the region. My favorite has a crunchy crust, irregular crumb, and a flavorful, chewy interior that tastes of the fragrant wheat they use. Local lore is that anyone who wastes any crumbs of this loaf will be doomed to purgatory for as many years as crumbs spilled.

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Wheat field in Puglia

Throughout much of recorded history on the peninsula, bread has been so fundamental to well-being that prices have been regulated by the locality. A fair price for bread—the staff of life—provided sustenance for all. When bread could not be obtained at a fair price, revolution or famine usually followed. Given the central role bread holds in Italian cuisine, and has since Roman times, the almost sacramental reverence it receives is no surprise. Not only has it provided daily sustenance, but its social role—breaking bread with others—is central to Italian life.

In hill towns, small protected valleys, walled cities, and dense neighborhoods, artisan bakers have nourished their communities with the work of their hands, feeding cherished natural starters, kneading and letting their dough rise, stoking the fires in their ovens, and baking traditional loaves, day in and day out. I am honored to have had the opportunity to learn from and to follow their rich tradition.

Leslie

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Ricotta Stuffed French Toast With Plum Paste From Leslie’s Larder

Ricotta Stuffed French Toast and Plum Paste Recipes

Larder is a little-used term these days, but most houses built in pre-refrigeration days had one. Usually built on the north side of the house, close to the ground with a mesh window to allow air to circulate, larders were food storehouses. Because they weren’t cold like a refrigerator, much of the summer harvest was cooked and stored in sealed jars, along with root vegetables and grains.

With freezers and refrigerators, it sometimes seems that food changed from something we make to something we buy. We lost something essential in the transition. Growing up in Portland, I helped my mother preserve buckets of berries and boxes of vegetables she’d buy from local farmers. With the larder full of our favorite jams and condiments we didn’t suffer the winter scarcity of flavorful fruits and vegetables.

Today, there is a renewed interest in maintaining a closer connection to the land. The popularity of farmers markets perhaps indicates an interest in cooking from scratch. The small investment of time spent cooking and preserving the best of summer will allow you to enjoy its riches all year. And when you’re entertaining, a well-stocked larder makes it that much easier to kick out something spectacular.

Each spring I lay out my garden, thinking both of what I love to eat fresh and the things I want to preserve in my larder. I turn a good portion of the summer’s bounty of fruits, vegetables, and herbs into jams, roasted pasta sauces, and fruit spreads. These get stored in sealed mason jars in my larder.

On my farm I have one very productive plum tree. I have made barbecue sauces, plum chutneys, brandied plums, and a series of plum pastes. But my favorite is the plum paste with rosemary. Opening a jar of this any time of year brings summer right back. The Ricotta Stuffed French Toast I make in this video is stuffed with sweetened ricotta and topped with this lovely paste.

The joy of pulling something from my larder and dressing up dishes with wonderful condiments made from my garden connects me to a special part of my childhood in Portland: The simple enjoyment of the sweet flavors of summer and treasured memories of making jams and pies with my mother.

Leslie

Walnut Street Coffee

Walnut Street Coffee is a perfect destination, whether you’re a local or looking for a little weekend adventure. Downtown Edmonds is a charming spot. The baristas are friendly and efficient and they make beautiful coffee. ~ Leslie

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A headline in the recent issue of the Edmonds Beacon declares “Edmonds is no longer ‘Deadmonds.” With a growing population and an invigorated downtown, Edmonds is on the rise. Pam Stuller, the founder and owner of local favorite Walnut Street Coffee, is just the kind of entrepreneur that has helped make downtown Edmonds the vibrant place it is today.

When she found the space for her cafe in 2006, Walnut Street was pretty quiet. She and her husband, who live in nearby Richmond Beach, were riding their bikes around town and encountered a funky cinderblock building that had originally been built as a boat engine repair shop. Its defining feature was a roll-up garage door. A dream location; downtown, but enough off the beaten track to be the place locals would seek out away from the ferry and tourist crowd. One problem: a flower shop occupied the space. So she sent the letter to the landlord and six months later he called.

“People thought I was a crazy to take the space,” Pam said.

IMG_4350Out of college Pam didn’t imagine herself running a busy coffee shop. For ten years she worked in human resources. In 2002, a friend, Michael Prins was opening the first Herkimer Coffee on Phinney Ridge. She was working for Nature Conservancy, an organization she loved. But she was restless.

“If you can’t love your job and you’re working at an amazing organization what do you do? I felt like I’d already done everything I could to love what I do and it wasn’t working.”

So she left her job to help Michael get Herkimer Coffee up and running, focusing on the things she had experience doing, such as hiring a staff. A year and a half later she found herself still working there as a barista.

“It was the most fun, most rewarding, most enriching work experience I’d ever had. I loved it. I’d always loved cafes and cafe culture but I’d always been intimidated by the art of coffee. That was where I got to learn the craft and the trade. I knew then this was what I wanted to do. In coffee, you get to know people in such a different way. Most people are pretty routine about their coffee. You have this two-minute touch. Over time you pick up all the little intimate details—a kid is sick, news of a vacation, job changes—and you build a meaningful personal relationship. It’s pretty amazing.”

That led her to Edmonds and Walnut Street Coffee. She and her husband did most of the buildout themselves.

“My goal was to do one thing and to do it really well and to keep focused on what brings me joy. I figured that if I was happy to come here every day, the customers would follow.”

They did, but it took a lot of work. For the first two years, Pam worked seven days a week.

“The business almost ate me alive. Around year three I began adding enough staff that I could have a couple of days off a week.”

Keeping things simple has been key to her success.

“My passion and my love is espresso. But I don’t have experience making pastries. I’ve worked in restaurants and I know how much goes into food service. I wanted to keep things as simple and focused as possible.”

Initially, bakery options were few, but as Edmonds has grown so have options.

IMG_4338“I’m so thrilled to have Macrina. Edmonds is enough off the beaten track that delivery
options are few. You’re not on your way to anywhere when you come to Edmonds. When Macrina started delivering here, I was thrilled. The caliber and consistency of the baked goods are first-rate. Our customers love them.”

Approaching her ten-year anniversary, Pam is lucky to have two baristas who have been with her for over eight years. That’s exceptional in a high-turnover industry where the average barista stays at a job for one year. With her background in human resources maybe it should come as no surprise.

“I have a pretty amazing benefits package, especially for this kind of business. I have a retirement plan, profit sharing, health care, paid time off, holiday pay.”

She attributes much of the success of her business to her employees.

“I never underestimate the value of my people. They’re instrumental in maintaining and in continuing to build our business. Our business has grown every year since we opened, which includes the downturn.”

Occasionally she thinks about expanding, but worries she’d wind up doing more of the stuff she doesn’t love doing, like bookkeeping and back of the house work.

“I love the connection I have with my staff and my customers, and I worry that would get diluted. I live simply, and I’m happy the way things are. I hike, bike, cross-country ski, garden, walk my dog, I’m an avid reader, and I love to spend time with my family, friends, and my parents. I don’t want to lose any of that.”

Her love of the city recently led her to get involved in a business group called the Edmonds Downtown Alliance. She served a stint as president last year.

“That was rewarding, developing deeper relationships with the other merchants and finding ways to take what is so great about this town and amplify that so everybody does better.”

IMG_4345If you don’t already spend time in the seaside town of Edmonds, it’s time to make a trip. There are a couple of breweries, a distillery, a movie theater, lots of shopping, a bookstore, tasty restaurants. Most shops are small and owner-operated.

“You wouldn’t have to leave Edmonds if you didn’t want to. We kind of have it all in this little pocket, and it’s so scenic. It’s very Mayberryish in a way, but it also has an authenticity to it that I really enjoy.”

Start with a caffe latte and a treat from Walnut Street Coffee and take a stroll down 5th Avenue towards Main Street and you’ll discover that “Deadmonds” no longer exists.

Meet Linda Derschang

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For over 20 years Linda Derschang has been a dynamic figure in Seattle’s dining and nightlife scene, particularly on Capitol Hill.

It all started in 1994 on Pine Street, in the heart of the now thriving Pike/Pine corridor, with the beloved and quirky Linda’s Tavern. The tavern drew inspiration from the mountain bars around Crested Butte near where Linda grew up in Colorado. Located on a formerly gritty stretch of Pine Street, the neon sign in the window reads “TOOLS RADIO TACKLE.” When you step through the door you are transported somewhere else. The rustic wooden booths, neon signs, the rough-hewn planks that hold the liquor bottles, and the glowering bison head behind the bar are not the stuff of any ordinary scruffy bar. Add to that one of the best patios in the city, a crowd of talented creatives, and you’ve got a hit.

Twenty years on, it’s still hard to find an open table. The bar looks much as it did when it opened though the neighborhood surrounding it has changed immensely. And Linda, both the person and her namesake bar, have helped shape the aesthetic that makes Capitol Hill such a draw.

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A stream of very different and equally memorable places followed Linda’s: The Capital Club, The Baltic Room, Chop Suey, (she has sold her interest in these three), King’s Hardware, Smith, Oddfellows Cafe and Bar, Little Oddfellows in the Elliot Bay Book Company, Bait Shop, and Tallulah’s.

With the exception of Ballard’s King’s Hardware, all of them are a short bike ride away from each other. Each attracts an eclectic and devoted neighborhood crowd. What unites them is Linda’s unerring sense of design—whether it’s applied to the airy, elegant Oddfellow’s Cafe or the eccentric dive-bar feel of Bait Shop.

Linda has been a long-time wholesale customer of Macrina, a relationship we’re very proud of. Recently we had an opportunity to ask her a few questions.

Tallulah's_wall

Each of your places feels like someone had fun creating them—that sense of  “Wouldn’t it be cool if….” And they feel authentic. There seems to be a real enjoyment of design down to the smallest details, such as the owl salt/pepper shakers at Tallulah’s. Would you talk a bit about your design process?

Tallulah's brunch

The design process is different for each project. I approached Little Oddfellows very differently because it was a remodel of a business than from Tallulah’s, which was in new construction, or Oddfellows which is in a very old building. Sometimes I make up a story about the place I am designing. For Little Oddfellows I imagined a coffee shop in Amsterdam or Copenhagen perhaps. Sometimes I think of a few key terms like turn of the century mercantile.

You’re right about the loving of the details, that can be the most enjoyable part. I think when opening a business it can be easy to think that you’ll get to the little details later but I believe it’s really important to open with them to give a really finished feel to a place.

Found objects play a role in a number of the establishments. Are you always on the hunt?

Smith Portrait Wall

I am always keeping an eye out and over the years, I’ve ended up with lots of interesting, quirky objects that often I will keep at my home for a while before I find the perfect spot for them. Take the portrait wall at Smith – I started collecting old portraits because I kept running across them at all sorts of places, years ago they were very inexpensive and I felt that in a sense they were all orphans. I really loved using many of them at Smith. I feel that they add to the charm and look.

Where do you find so many cool signs, great used furniture, the drink mixer at Bait Shop, etc.?

I find things all over the place, including antique malls, thrift stores, and Craigslist. Cashmere, the huge cat painting in Tallulah’s, came from Kirk Albert in Georgetown as did the old Firebird hood mounted to the wall at Bait Shop. I love the stories these pieces can add to a space. 

Oddfellows_bread

How has your design taste evolved over time? 

My taste and style has always been a mix of old and new and high and low. Having a mix of styles has always been very natural for me. I think traveling has definitely added to my taste, I get so much inspiration and so many ideas from other places. I went to Denmark a few months before I opened Little Oddfellows and the Scandinavian cafes I visited while I was there were so inspiring and influenced my approach to designing the space.

Do you come to a space with a concept in mind or does the space drive the concept?

I always think about the neighborhood the space will be part of. I try to create businesses that are meaningful to their neighborhoods and communities. Each one of my businesses is different from each other, but they are all neighborhood spots. That’s a common thread they share.

http://www.thederschanggroup.com/who-we-are/ for more information on Linda.

 

Panettone

panettone smallThere is hardly a more Italian way of celebrating the holidays than a slice of panettone and a flute of prosecco, a December ritual in homes, cafes, and restaurants throughout Italy. This sweet toque-shaped yeast bread stuffed with raisins and candied orange and lemon peel originated in Milan. It’s often served with a sauce of zabaglione, a custardy sauce made with egg yolks, sugar, and Marsala wine, or crema di mascarpone, and accompanied with a glass of sweet wine such as Moscato d’Asti. The name panettone comes from the Italian word “panetto,” a small loaf cake. The addition of the suffix “-one” makes it a large cake.

The origins of the cake date back to a type of leavened cake sweetened with honey and enjoyed by nobility during the Roman Empire. The cake makes cameo appearances in Italian paintings in the 16th century and is associated with Christmas in the 18th-century writings of Pietro Verri, who wrote an epic history of Milan.

But Panettone didn’t become a household item until 1925 when Angelo Motta, a Milanese baker, began commercial production of the bread. He’s credited with modifying the shape from a low, dense loaf to the tall, airy bread we know today. He introduced a natural leavening process, more like that used in sourdough, and allowed the bread to rise three times over 18 hours before baking. This produces the bread’s lightness and soft texture.

Motta’s bread was an enormous success and soon a competitor arose. Giacchino Alemagna created a similar bread, pricing his higher. The competition proved good for both brands, with Motta seen as the panettone of the middle-class, while Alemagna targeted those willing and able to pay premium prices. Today, the brands Motta and Alemagna dominate the market. Over 100 million panettone are produced by Italian bakeries each holiday season. Italy only has 60 million people! Even with about 10% of production bound for export that is a lot of panettone per person.

While commercial production of panettone dominates in Italy and abroad, many small bakeries (or le pasticcerie in Italy) make their traditional versions of the famous bread. Macrina’s version was inspired by a recipe in Carol Field’s wonderful book The Italian Baker. Our loaf is studded with candied citrus and dried fruits and enriched with eggs and butter. Nowadays it’s easy to find decorative paper baking molds, but I prefer to bake these loaves in clay flowerpots, which look beautiful and make great holiday gifts. The dough takes time and cannot be rushed, but it’s more than worth the wait. If you’re looking for an alternative to the version shipped over from Italy you can pick one up at any of our cafes this month, or find my recipe in the Macrina Bakery and Cafe Cookbook. Then grab a bottle of prosecco and invite some friends over for a very Italian holiday celebration.

Happy Holidays, Leslie