December Recipe of the Month: Panettone French Toast

Panettone French Toast with Ricotta and Fresh Cranberry Compote

In Italy, the arrival of panettone in the stores means the holidays are near. This sweet, rich bread filled with raisins and candied orange originated in Milan and spread throughout Italy (and the world) in the 20th century. There are plenty of imported commercial panettone out there, but there’s nothing like a fresh artisanal version of the famous Italian bread. We offer ours exclusively in December, with our final bake on Christmas Eve. It is incredible on its own – especially when served with a glass of Prosecco or a dollop of mascarpone – but it also makes delicious French toast. For such an elegant holiday brunch item, this recipe is easy to prepare and won’t take you more than 30 minutes to pull together.

 

Ingredients

Serves 4

2 cups fresh cranberries, washed and destemmed
1 cup water
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
2 tablespoons orange zest, divided
1 cup whole milk ricotta
1 Macrina Panettone
5 eggs
1-1/2 cups whipping cream, divided
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
Unsalted butter

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300°F.

In a medium saucepan, add the cranberries, water, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon orange zest. Bring to a simmer and cook until cranberries release their juice and the sauce starts to thicken; about 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, 2 tablespoons of sugar and the remaining tablespoon of orange zest. Set aside.

Remove the paper mold from the panettone. Slicing top to bottom, cut four slices that are each about 1-1/2″ thick. Then cut each slice in half diagonally. Make a slit midway on the diagonally cut side of each piece and gently spoon a dollop of sweetened ricotta into each pouch. Set aside.

To make the custard, combine the eggs, 1/2 cup whipping cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla, brown sugar and orange juice in a medium bowl. Mix well and set aside.

In another medium bowl, combine the remaining cup of whipping cream, 1/4 cup of sugar and teaspoon of vanilla. Whip until the cream retains soft peaks. Refrigerate until needed.

Dip panettone slices in the custard to coat both sides. Place on a rimmed baking sheet to rest.

Place a medium sauté pan or pancake griddle over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon butter. Once the butter is sizzling, add as many half slices as will fit. Cook for 2-3 minutes then flip when underside is a deep golden brown. As the pieces finish, transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Add more butter to your pan as needed. When you’ve sautéed all the slices, place them in the oven for 3-5 minutes to ensure you’ve cooked them all the way through.

Place 2 halves of French toast on each plate and top with a generous spoonful of cranberry compote and sweetened whipped cream. With the sweetness of the bread, compote and cream, maple syrup isn’t necessary, but indulge if it is calling you!

November Recipe of the Month

Winter Pear Crown Bread Salad with Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Breast

This warm bread salad features our Winter Pear Crown loaf, a seasonal favorite made with Washington State pears. Its natural sweetness pairs nicely with savory squash, spinach, walnuts and currants. The hearty salad goes well with prosciutto-wrapped chicken breast—a method of preperation that was shared with me by our Savory Manager, Marilyn Mercer. Finding boneless breasts with the skin on can be a challenge, but it’s worth seeking them out as the chicken will be more flavorful. Central Market, PCC, or other stores with butcher shops will most likely have them. A full-bodied red wine makes this beautiful autumn dinner complete.

– Leslie Mackie

Ingredients:

Serves 4
4 boneless chicken breasts with skin on
4 slices prosciutto
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus additional for seasoning to taste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped, divided
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
Delicata squash, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, cored and cut into 1/2″ semi-circles
2 ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2″ wedges
1/2 Macrina Winter Pear Crown loaf
1/2 cup walnuts
3 tablespoons dried currants
4 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped, divided
1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped, divided
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Cracked black pepper, to taste
4 cups fresh baby spinach, packed
1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Season chicken breasts with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1-1/2 teaspoons of thyme. Wrap each in a slice of prosciutto. Set aside with seam side down.

Toss squash with 2 tablespoons of canola oil and spread across one half of the rimmed baking sheet. Season lightly with salt.

Toss pears with 2 tablespoons of canola oil and spread on the other half of the baking sheet. Roast for 25-30 minutes until cooked through and squash is golden brown on the edges. Let cool.

Cut half of a Winter Pear Crown into 1″ slices. Tear the slices into smaller crouton-sized pieces. Place on the second baking sheet, along with the walnuts. Roast for 10-15 minutes to dry the bread and toast the nuts. Let cool.

For the dressing, combine the currants, 2 tablespoons of shallots, 1/2 teaspoon of garlic, sherry vinegar, Dijon mustard, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl. While whisking continuously, slowly add 1/4 cup canola oil and the extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste with cracked black pepper. Set aside.

Add 2 tablespoons of canola oil to a large oven-safe sauté pan over medium-high heat. Place the chicken breasts skin side down and sauté until deep golden brown. Turn to caramelize the other side. Place sauté pan in oven and roast for 15-20 minutes, until internal temperature registers 165°F on an instant-read meat thermometer.

While chicken is roasting, place the squash, pears, walnuts and toasted bread in a large bowl. In a sauté pan, warm the sherry dressing and add the spinach, tossing lightly to wilt. Add the spinach and warm dressing to the bowl. Gently toss all ingredients together. Season with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Plate chicken breasts. To the sauté pan, add 2 tablespoons shallots, 1/2 teaspoon garlic and the remaining thyme. Sauté for 1-2 minutes and deglaze with 1 cup white wine. Cook until wine is reduced by half. Turn off heat, add the butter, and whisk until dissolved.

Add a generous scoop of bread salad to each plate and spoon sauce over each chicken breast. I like to serve this autumn dinner with a bottle of full-bodied Tempranillo.

Enjoy!

Thanh Huyen Dang: Bread General Manager

Since I opened Macrina in 1993, so many amazing people have helped make the bakery what it is today. In honor of our 25th anniversary, we are spotlighting a few key employees. Each fills an essential role at Macrina. 

When I interviewed and hired Huyen Dang she was still a senior in high school. Our wholesale pastry manager, Tramy Le, recommended her. Right away Huyen made an impression with her hard work and attention to detail. Over the years she’s proved she can handle big responsibilities. Not only does she know how to do just about every job in production, she is frequently on the floor helping whichever group most needs the help. She plays a key role in our success.

Leslie

Huyen’s Role at Macrina

Thanh Huyen Dang, who goes by Huyen (pronounced “Wen”), is the general manager of Macrina’s bread production. She oversees the teams that prepare the dough, bake the bread, and do the packing. Overall, Huyen manages nearly 100 people. While she has plenty of office work to tackle, you’ll often find her on the production floor shaping loaves of bread. Huyen says, “Because we form every loaf of bread by hand, it is a lot of work.”

Huyen earned her general manager position through hard work and a talent for managing people. She was still in high school when she started working part-time at Macrina in 2002. After finishing high school, she moved to full time in the wholesale pastry department. Two years later, Phuong Bui, Head Baker, invited Huyen to join him in the bread department as his general. She was promoted to Bread General Manager in 2012. 

While many at Macrina know how hard Huyen works, few know it better than Jane Cho, Macrina’s Production Manager. “Huyen’s work ethic is incomparable,” Jane says. “She has the most positive can-do attitude and is always willing to help with whatever is needed.” 

December is always a hectic month at Macrina with holiday production in full swing. Jane remembers her first holiday rush in her new job as Production Manager vividly. “Huyen and I had already been working for 16 hours and still had a lot to do,” Jane says. “I insisted she go home, but she saw that delivery drivers were already starting to arrive and so much packing still had to be done. We formed a tag-team pack station on the fly. We were delirious from exhaustion and just when we thought we were done, someone rolled up a few more racks of bread. We just looked at each other and started to laugh hysterically.” Jane smiles at the memory of Huyen being right there supporting her through the challenge, then adds, “But here’s the thing about Huyen, she does that for everyone—co-managers and employees in all departments. I am so grateful for her support and guidance.”

Huyen and Family

What makes Huyen’s demanding job even more impressive is that she also has three children, ages fifteen, six, and five, to care for. Fortunately, Huyen comes from a close family, and her parents are available to help with the kids. 

Huyen and her family moved to Seattle from Vietnam when she was ten. She attended Whitman Middle School and Ingraham High School. “At first, learning English made school hard,” she says. “My parents don’t speak English. ESL classes at school helped.” 

Fluent in both English and Vietnamese, Huyen helps many of Macrina’s Vietnamese employees when they need help with a translation. “While I speak Vietnamese at home, there are many words related to baking that I didn’t know. My Vietnamese has gotten better in the time I’ve worked here.”

 

Trieu Ly, Packing Department

Since I opened Macrina in 1993, so many amazing people have helped make the bakery what it is today. In honor of our 25th anniversary, we are spotlighting a few key employees. Each fills an essential role at Macrina. 

Trieu Ly is an amazingly disciplined and meticulous person. I admire the pride he takes in his job and the entire performance of the packing department. His gentle personality and touch, both with baked goods and co-workers, make him a treasured member of our team. He’s consistently accurate and kind. He’s one of our best.

Leslie

 

Between all the kneading, proofing, hand-shaping, baking, and delivery of our various products lies one essential step: packing. While easy to overlook as a major step in the process, it’s every bit as important. About 20 people work in our packing department. Our baked goods and pastries are delicate and must be handled with care, and our customers count on us for precision. Their businesses depend on what they order arriving on time and in excellent condition. Trieu Ly fills a critical role in this process.

Trieu in the Packing Department

We hired Trieu to as a packer ten years ago. By personality, he’s neat and organized. Through a translator, he says, “If you’re messy you waste lots of time looking for things. Efficiency is important. I think of the most efficient way to move through the bakery so I gather what I need to pack without wasting steps. At home, I’m the same. Just ask my wife.”

Trieu’s supervisor, Cong Son, backs this up. “Trieu is very organized, neat and careful at his work station,” says Cong. “In ten years, he’s made very few packing mistakes. He also helps me train new employees.”

Trieu and the packing team come in the evening and work late into the night, so that our products are fresh and ready to go in the morning. This schedule works well for Trieu because his wife works at a hotel during the day. When their two boys were younger—the youngest is now 19—this allowed them to have a parent around at all times to help with the many challenges and needs that come with raising children.

At Macrina, Trieu stuffs bread into bags and readies them for drivers. Pastries are packed by order. One of Trieu’s challenges and small joys at work is to look at an order, visualize how he will pack it, and choose a box that will fit without wasted space. “It’s like a puzzle,” he says. “You need to get all the delicate pastries into a box so that they don’t slide all over in delivery. And you don’t want to have to resort to a second box.”

Trieu’s Journey

When Trieu came to America from Vietnam, he had very little. “I had only two shirts and two pairs of pants,” he says. “Macrina helped my family and me a lot. They helped with living expenses, utilities, rent, and more.” 

The story of Trieu meeting his wife is more adventurous than most. The Vietnam War displaced a significant number of Vietnamese citizens. About a million and a half refugees wound up in camps in Thailand, including Trieu’s wife. In 1989, Trieu got a ride into Cambodia, then traveled by foot into Thailand, a month-long journey in all. He and his wife met, fell in love, and married. For a time they stayed happily in Thailand, but eventually, the Thai government forced them to return to Vietnam. Life for returning war refugees in Vietnam was not good. Trieu’s brother, also a refugee, had come to Seattle in 1986. He sponsored Trieu and his family’s resettlement in the U.S. 

“I’m very grateful to America for giving my wife and me an opportunity to work and to get a good education for our kids,” Trieu says.

He dreams of exploring more of America. His list includes skiing at Snoqualmie Pass and a California vacation. “In America, if you follow the rules of the road the police won’t pull you over,” he says. “In Vietnam, I used to get pulled over for a bribe no matter what I did.”

Trieu stays close to family, spending time with the kids when he can and visiting with his brother frequently. In his free time he spends hours tending his garden, and you guessed it, cleaning and organizing the house.

Macrina’s 25th Anniversary Loaf: Skagit Sourdough

Macrina’s Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Loaf: Skagit Sourdough

After twenty-five years of baking numerous types of bread with Macrina, you might think I’d be tired of it. On the contrary! I am as excited to be baking now more than ever. This new loaf is the product of all I have learned, and I am excited to be making something that’s so close to home. With the growing market of organic wheat varieties harvested and processed right here in the Northwest, I feel very fortunate to live where I do.  I wanted the name to reflect where the loaf came from, so Skagit Sourdough was chosen in honor of the many grains grown in Skagit Valley.

I love how the Skagit Sourdough turned out! Creating this loaf has taken months of tinkering. It’s important to get to know how the ingredients work together when creating a new loaf. I do this by making it over and over again with slight alterations. I experiment with ratios and combinations of flour, proofing time and varying types of fermentation, until finally, it’s just right! Being aware of how each step of the process changes the loaf makes all the difference.

The Final Product

There is so much flavor in this loaf. This comes from the grain, the long fermentation, and the original starter I made when Macrina first began. But it’s the germ and the bran that really carry the flavors of the field into the bread. The crust is delightfully crisp, made even more so by flakes of spelt. Spelt is an heirloom grain, one of the oldest in food history. It is naturally high in protein, with a broad range of nutrients that add to the Skagit Sourdough’s nutritional value.

When you cut into the loaf, the interior is tender, moist and incredibly flavorful. This is partially to do with the long fermentation process. I found that a day-long ferment, with a light dose of starter, brought about the great texture and sour flavor I was looking for. There is a balancing sweetness from the natural grain that develops during the fermentation, which is complemented by the nuttiness of the bran. The result is one of our most grain-forward loaves Macrina has ever made. It has so much substance and nutritional value while celebrating the bounty of Northwest in all its natural beauty. You can’t help but feel good while eating it.

On our anniversary, August 27, we will be giving away loaves of the Skagit Sourdough at our cafés in specially designed Macrina totes. Please stop in, grab a loaf and celebrate with us.

Leslie

Home-made Favorites: The One-Day Artisan Loaf

One-Day Artisan Loaf

I made this video a few years ago to demonstrate how you make one of my favorite home-made loaves, the One-Day Artisan Loaf. It amazes me how much interest the video still generates. The recipe is simple. It produces a beautiful loaf—domed, with a crisp caramelized crust, irregular crumb and complex flavors.

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I created the One-Day Artisan Loaf for my second cookbook, More From Macrina. The premise of the cookbook adapts Macrina recipes for the home cook. I made all of the recipes with typical home equipment. The inspiration for this loaf came from an article in the New York Times back in November 2006, featuring Jim Lahey, the owner of Manhattan’s Sullivan Street Bakery. The article describes a revolutionary method of creating full-flavored, artisan-style bread mixed entirely by hand, without any kneading. Time and a heavy dutch oven do most of the work that kneading and expensive steam-injected ovens do for professionals. I began fiddling around with the technique to create a version of my own.

one-day artisan loaf

Baking

My recipe includes milk and olive oil. These add a slightly fermented flavor. Rye flour provides another dimension to the flavor. I shorten the preparation time but incorporate a few extra steps for manipulating the dough, including a series of folds that resemble a brief kneading, and a couple of baker’s turns between rises. The results make it worth the extra bit of work.

The video also demonstrates how to make a whole grain version with a garnish of sunflower and pumpkin seeds and diced dried apricots. The whole grains give the loaf the delightful flavor of roasted nuts, notes of apple cider, and an earthy flavor that I love.

One of the keys to baking a beautiful one-day artisan loaf is having a humid atmosphere when the bread first hits the oven. This is where the dutch oven comes in. The hydration level of this dough is high, so when baking in a covered dutch oven, the air inside will remain moist for the first few minutes. The bread achieves a soft outer surface to rise before it forms a hard crust. By using this technique, you’ll end up with a crusty bread that has a rich caramelized color and a lovely depth of flavor, much like one you’d get at Macrina or another artisan bakery.

The Name

When naming this loaf, I thought of the word artisan because of the loaf’s characteristics: a crackly, caramelized crust, a wide, irregular crumb, and a complexity of flavor. A few comments have come in saying the bread isn’t truly artisanal. Most artisan loaves are naturally leavened and use very little if any, commercial yeast. They are also usually slow-fermented overnight and hand-formed. Maybe artisan-like would be a better name. Whatever you want to call it, if you are a fan of a rustic European-style domed loaf, with many of the great qualities of artisanal loaves —that doesn’t keep you in the kitchen all day—this loaf is for you! Start in the morning and you’ll impress your dinner guests with wonderful, freshly baked bread, without breaking a sweat!

Leslie

Wheatstalk 2018

Wheatstalk 2018

IMG_9847I joined the Bread Bakers Guild of America in 1993, the same year I opened Macrina. It was an insanely busy time in my life, but I knew I needed a community of artisan bakers for support and guidance. The Guild provided that and more. The Guild was much smaller 25 years ago. Not surprisingly, its growth has mirrored the rise of artisan baking in America.

IMG_9156Now, I’m on the Guild’s Board of Directors. For the last 16 months, I’ve been busy working with the other eight directors to plan Wheatstalk, the Guild’s most significant event, which starts February 27. The three-day celebration of baking is filled with lectures, hands-on classes, demonstrations, and maybe most importantly, a chance to visit with fellow bakers.

IMG_9860We’re holding this year’s gathering at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. Of the Guild’s 2200 members, 525 members entered a lottery for the 125 available spots. All told, with the lottery winners, the teachers and volunteers like myself, about 200 artisan bakers will descend on the city. We’ll leave flour dust in our wake!

The Guild isn’t only comprised of professional bakers, but also super-talented home bakers and tiny CSA’s that bake once a week. At previous Wheatstalk events, I’ve picked up valuable tips from passionate home bakers who bake in backyard wood-fired hearths, as well as people that produce at a scale larger than Macrina’s.IMG_4182

Wheatstalk takes place in six classrooms, an amphitheater and a lecture hall. Featured speakers include two celebrity bakers from France, Hubert Chiron and Patrice Tireau. Stephen Jones of the internationally renowned Bread Lab, located in Mount Vernon, will be talking about the Wheat Movement in America. Also, some of the country’s best artisan bakers, bakery owners, and pastry and savory instructors will be teaching—including Jane Cho, Macrina’s Production Manager and pastry chef extraordinaire, and Scott France, Macrina’s CEO.

IMG_9025Scott is teaching a class called Growing Your Bakery with Amy Scherber of Amy’s Bread, a New York bakery that is a little bigger than Macrina and opened just a year earlier. Our bakeries are similar, both with cafés and wholesale operations. Scott and Amy will cover essential questions like, Do you really want to stop baking? Because when you grow, you spend a lot less time kneading dough. Out of necessity you get into the business of managing employees, training, retaining employees, pricing, food safety, and charitable donations. Scott says, “Amy and I should complement each other well. She is the baker who started her business, and I’m not. That difference should be useful.”

IMG_9202Once all the organizing is done, my job at Wheatstalk is very hands-on—preparing three days of breakfast and lunch for 200 people! It’s a big job, but I’ll have plenty of help. I’m serving a very Macrina-centric menu of tasty comfort food. There’ll be Macrina’s Macaroni and Cheese with Spicy Broccoli one day, lentil soup another, savory salads, and all the beautiful loaves of bread made fresh each day in the morning classes.

IMG_4280After months of planning, I can hardly believe it’s about to happen. I look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones, to learning new techniques and recipes. Everyone walks away inspired and with a handful of new friends and an even deeper connection to this awesome industry than they thought possible!

Leslie

Mean Sandwich

Mean Sandwich draws a great cross-section of people throughout the day. The generously-sized sandwiches are all served on Macrina’s Seeded Buns, and everything else is made in-house. The bun absorbs the juiciness of the fillings and keeps the generous pile of inners together. Kevin and Alex are usually there, and you’ll occasionally find their adorable three-year-old daughter holding court with the customers. If you love a delicious sandwich get on over there!

Leslie

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Mean Sandwich

John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, is said to have invented the sandwich so he didn’t have to leave the gambling table to eat. Three hundred years after his birth, the now ubiquitous finger food ranges from humble to haute. At Mean Sandwich, located in Ballard, everyday street food and elevated cuisine find a happy meeting place. You can grab something to nosh on when you’re in a hurry, or treat your snobbiest foodie friend to lunch. They won’t be disappointed.

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Mean Sandwich is the brainchild of Kevin and Alex Pemoulie, formerly chef/owners of Thirty Acres, a critically-acclaimed restaurant that landed on Bon Appétit’s 2012 list of 50 best new restaurants in the country. Before that, they both worked at David Chang’s legendary New York restaurant Momofuku. After the birth of their daughter, they wanted to refocus. They shuttered their ode to fine dining and moved to Seattle, Alex’s hometown, to focus on casual, accessible food.

“We’re challenging ourselves in a different way entirely,” Kevin says. “Before we opened, I worked for a long time on the menu for Mean Sandwich. Obviously, everything here is going between two pieces of bread, but we make everything in-house, from the corned beef of our namesake sandwich to our sausage.”

Already high expectations for Mean Sandwich were elevated last fall when Eater put it on their list of 23 most anticipated openings around the country. Now, open nearly a year, the Pemoulie’s have backed up the hype, so much so that they made Bon Appetit’s 2017 list of 50 best new restaurants in the country.

The menu is simple: six signature sandwiches, a side salad, and Skins and Ins, an awesome combination of fried potato chunks and their skins. All sandwiches are griddled and served hot on a Macrina Seeded Bun.

The eponymous sandwich features tender thick-cut corned beef, pickled red cabbage, yellow mustard, mint, and a subtle dash of maple syrup. It’s based on a Thirty Acres dish and it’s worth a driving across town for—even at rush hour. None of the sandwiches feel too precious, but each has a special twist, that something you couldn’t do at home. You get the sense that the same care and effort they once put into each creative small plate at Thirty Acres goes into each sandwich. In addition to the standing menu, a special sandwich is offered every day, such as the Glazed Pork Belly with pine nuts, radicchio, and roasted tomato mayo. With the onset of the cooler weather, a fresh daily soup is also available.

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Behind the small storefront, the interior space is simple with a couple of booths and seating lining the windows, 18 seats in total. In warmer weather, the large backyard is an oasis of fun. Diners pack the eight picnic tables and many wait for a turn at the ping-pong table. Patrons of Peddler Brewing can order sandwiches through a pickup window located in the brewery’s beer garden.

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With a successful first year nearly behind them, Kevin and Alex are interested in opening a second location. “If the right opportunity came along we’d definitely entertain the idea,” Kevin says. “It seems that if you divide the city by a harsh north-south line, a lot of people wind up sticking to their neighborhoods during the weekdays, especially during the cold months. It’d be helpful to be in another part of the city.”

Meanwhile, to expand their reach, Mean Sandwich plans to make their sandwiches available through every delivery service in Seattle. “We just want to serve people great sandwiches,” Kevin says.“Right now we’re operating exclusively with Caviar, but we’re looking to use UberEats, Postmates, Doordash, Amazon Restaurants. We literally just want to use every single one.”

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Kevin and Alex have embraced Seattle and its food scene. They frequently take their daughter along as they try new restaurants or return to favorites. “The city is great,” Kevin says. “We live half a mile from Mean Sandwich, see Alex’s parents a great deal, and love our walkable neighborhood.”

Their gamble to leave fine-dining behind and take their talents West has given Seattle a chef-driven take on the old standby. They’ve kept the everyday convenience of the Earl of Sandwich’s pedestrian invention and made it tasty enough for the most discerning diner.

Mean Sandwich opens at 11 a.m. seven days a week. Check their website (meansandwich.com) for evening closing hours and much more. 

Bee Local

At Macrina, we support artisanal and local products and Bee Local is a great example of why. First, the taste of their honey is exceptional. The honey is raw, single-origin, and sustainably produced, making the variety of flavors wonderful. In addition, the bees provide innumerable benefits to the neighborhoods in which they forage. ~ Leslie

The Sweet Rewards of Good Bee-havior

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Bee Local, a boutique producer of exceptional honey, currently manages less than 60 hives in total. They cover an area from Seattle to Walla Walla, then down onto Portland, Bend, and the Willamette Valley. Few commercial producers would consider anything less than 60 hives in one place an apiary, but this wildly inefficient process evolved from one key fact: location means everything to honey.

Ryan Lebrun is the busy beekeeper managing the hives. He loves introducing people to the incredible variety of honey produced by different landscapes, almost as much as he enjoys introducing a live hive to people unfamiliar with them.

HoneyFrame

Honey is a lot like wine. Terroir, the combination of soil, climate, flora, and sunlight in a specific place, lends the honey it’s unique flavor. Foraging bees come up with the incredible flavors by transporting nectar and pollen from whatever is blooming in the area. Single-origin honey captures a specific time and place in one jar, a sweet and nuanced treasure of nature.

Some honey, such as Bee Local’s Buckwheat Honey, is as dark as oil and has a grassy, earthy taste. Others, like their Acacia Honey, resemble chardonnay and are buttery with hints of vanilla.

A lot of commercial honey is blended. Producers buy large quantities from all over, heat it up, mix it, strain it with microfilters, and package it. Basically, it’s like jug wine. Because the US consumes more honey than it produces, much is imported, sometimes from dubious overseas sources.

“It was discovered that some foreign manufacturers were mixing honey with other sweeteners, like high fructose corn syrup, or molasses, or sugars made from rice,” Ryan says. “On top of that, they’ve found really bad chemicals in the honey. Some of the storage barrels contained exposed lead that would get into the honey. Lots of insecticides and pesticides sprayed on the crops also got into the honey. Not only was the product adulterated, it was actually bad for you.”

As a result, the US has set a high tariff on honey coming from China. Many European nations have banned the import of Chinese honey. An article in the Journal of Food Science coauthored by John Spink, director of Michigan State University’s Food Fraud Initiative, cited honey as the third most faked food in the world. To work around prohibitive tariffs, some exporters ship their product to a country like Vietnam that has no such restrictions and the honey makes its way to the US market. This scandal has been dubbed honey laundering.

But there are plenty of domestic producers of quality honey. Most of it is clover honey. “Clover is a really good honey producer,” Ryan says. “Lots of beekeepers, especially in the Midwest, make lots of clover honey. There’s nothing wrong with it. To me, it tastes like a graham cracker. But that’s the only flavor most people know.”

Honey Water

That is, perhaps, the best reason to try Bee Local honey: to discover the world of flavors that bees produce. At Macrina, we carry Bee Local’s Walla Walla honey and their Honey Water. The Walla Walla honey comes from an area rich in wildflowers. It has an herbal aroma, not overwhelmingly sweet, allowing nuanced flavors of mineral and barley to emerge. Honey Water is a simple syrup made with Bee Local’s honey and is the best way to sweeten drinks.

If the best reason to try Bee Local is the taste, not far behind are the ecological impacts that come from well-tended urban hives. Not all of them are immediately obvious. Ryan explains: “A side effect I wasn’t anticipating was how a hive could transform a neighborhood. Whether it’s a rooftop or a backyard, we put in a beehive, come back a year later, and you see that the whole neighborhood is into it. People want to help, and the best way to do that is to plant pollinator-friendly flowers. Then their neighbors join in planting flowers. The neighborhood gets in tune with the seasons, what they’re growing, not using pesticides—people suddenly have that in mind—they want to focus on what chemicals they’re using, what they’re city might be using, and they build a chorus of voices against that.”

Come see what all the buzz is about. Drop into one of our cafes and grab a jar. You may discover a whole new world of flavor.

The New Queen City Grill

When I opened Macrina in 1993, Peter Lamb and Robert Eickhof were running Queen City Grill. They put Belltown on the map as a dining destination. Scott Carsberg, chef of Lampreia, followed them in 1992. Peter was good friends with Scott and when I opened Peter would drop by and chat with Scott before picking up bread for the Queen. I used to love going there for great food and that lovely atmosphere. It always was a lively place! I’m so glad Trevor, Brian, and the others were able to keep it alive and are doing so much to make it a vital Seattle destination again. 

Leslie

Long Live the Queen

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When Trevor Greenwood learned that the iconic Queen City Grill was slated to close late last year, he sprang into action. Working feverishly, he pulled together a team who shared his love of the restaurant and inked a deal to save the Queen two days before Christmas and just a week before the doors would have closed forever.

For Greenwood it was personal—he’d started there as a busser and worked his way into management and captaining the wine program. Years later, he founded Cantinetta, the beloved Tuscan-inspired restaurant with locations in Wallingford, Bellevue, and Madison Valley.

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The rejuvenated Queen City Grill reopened in early 2017 after a remodel that updated the interior—touched up varnish, new lighting, paint, and plenty of improved firepower in the kitchen.

“Every restaurant that’s been around a while has to fight to stay relevant,” says Executive Chef Brian Cartenuto. “Queen City Grill opened in 1987. Belltown was very different then. And look at Seattle now. There are 77 cranes up. Lots of newcomers. Enough restaurant openings to make you dizzy. People are intrigued with what’s new.”

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The task of renewal at the Queen is in the able hands of Cartenuto, the original executive chef at Cantinetta. Restaurant critic Providence Cicero, writing of his dishes at Cantinetta, said they “combine a wonderful balance of flavors with an element of surprise.”

At the Queen, Cartenuto honors the refined simplicity and whimsy that made the original Queen City Grill such a sensation. His menu has a Northwest sensibility and features seasonal produce and local purveyors.

“There’s still a burger on the menu,” Cartenuto says. “It’s important to me that the food stays fun and approachable. Through technique, quality of ingredients we try to make the food exciting, food that tells the story of the seasons and that honors our past. For example, we’re putting Miso Salmon on the menu to pay homage to the past. That was probably novel in 1990. But there’s a reason it’s a classic now. And they can be reinvented, made relevant again.”

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Come to think of it, that’s an excellent metaphor for the Queen City Grill—a classic, reinvented and made relevant again.

Brunch is another new feature. Offered on weekends from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the menu ranges through a few classics like a super custardy French toast with star anise sugar and berry compote, then veers middle-Eastern with Shakshuka, a lovely egg dish with a spiced tomato sauce and grilled flatbread.

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Come visit (or revisit) Queen City Grill, one of the oldest bars standing in Seattle, now tastefully refurbished to preserve all of the romance of the original space and with an exciting new menu that has something for everyone.