Herkimer Coffee: New World Microroaster, Old World Aesthetic

Not only am I fan of their coffee, I admire Herkimer’s employee-driven focus. It shows in the quality of their product and service. If you don’t already know them, drop by one of their three locations. You won’t be sorry. —Leslie.

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Third wave coffee refers to the direct trade, farmer-obsessed purists, many of whom feature lightly roasted single-origin coffees best brewed with a slow-motion pour over. Stumptown, Blue Bottle, and Intelligentsia Coffee are three of the big ones. All have recently taken on large investors and big expansion plans are underway. Their founders are living the dream.

But what of those who dream differently?

Herkimer Coffee, founded in 2003, roasts exquisite coffees but prefers to stay small. Mike Prins, the owner and founder of Herkimer coffee, named the business after the town in upstate New York where his father was born. For him, Herkimer Coffee is about roots and simple dreams. It’s about values that run deep. It’s a place where relationships are more important than profit and the only palpable marketing plan is to make an authentic, high-quality product.

Herkimer Coffee probably wouldn’t exist had Mike not gotten a do-over.

Back in the early 90’s, while working for a Seattle company that sold and repaired espresso machines, Mike visited B&W Specialty Coffee, a small roaster in Minneapolis. “I wanted to open a small café that roasted its own coffee, but it seemed unattainable. Then on this business trip, I met the folks at B&W who were young and making great coffee in a small-batch roaster. The main thing I remember is their passion and how much fun they seemed to be having. It was just a brief visit, but it sparked a dream.”

In 1994, Mike opened Caffe Vita on Queen Anne with a partner. Their little café took off, and in 1995 they began roasting. By 2002, the business had flourished. But it wasn’t that little roaster on the corner anymore. Mike sold his stake in the business.

“I thought I’d left coffee for good,” Mike says. “I was in limbo, no job, not sure what would come next. Some months later, walking home from the store in my Greenwood neighborhood I noticed a corner building with a For Lease sign in the window. That’s a good spot, I thought. I made a phone call and away it went.”

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This time though he wasn’t going to let the dream get away from him. Herkimer Coffee, whatever it would become, would remain small and sustainable, and it would focus on relationships with employees and customers. And most importantly it would be a place he enjoyed coming to each day.

“This place is really well thought out,” Candace Harter, the Greenwood café manager, says. “We focus on traditional coffee bar fare. Espresso drinks and drip coffee. We don’t try to do too much. We use Macrina products and Mighty-O donuts. It allows us to focus on what we do well, serving coffee to the community.”

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Mike started the café using coffee roasted by Caffe Vita. That changed in 2007 when he added a roaster in the space adjacent to the café. Mike then brought on Scott Richardson to buy green coffee, to roast, and to be the wholesale manager.

“Scott and I go back to 1996, Kara, too,” Mike says (Kara MacDonald was the first hire at Herkimer and now runs the Ravenna shop). “We all worked together back in the Vita days. Scott was roasting and overseeing wholesale while Kara was managing retail.”

Much has changed in elite specialty coffee since then. In the mid-nineties, Seattle was in the midst of the European-inspired, espresso-oriented second wave. (The first wave occurred in the early twentieth century with the establishment of national brands like Maxwell House and Folgers.)

“When I started sourcing coffee for Herkimer I wanted to take it to another level,” Scott says. “I wanted to know the producers. The old style was to buy the best coffee on the commodity market at the lowest price. But that’s not very fair to the grower, nor does it get you the finest coffees.”

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Scott now travels to source countries frequently and purchases much of Herkimer’s green coffee directly from the producer. “My interest is a long-term reciprocal relationship. Farmers come out better, we can both budget, and I can count on excellent coffee.”

Some of that coffee goes into single-origin roasts. But most of it is blended for espresso. “Seatle was born as an espresso-driven market. And it still is,” Scott says. “Old world aesthetic means I love a big, gooey espresso. One with high oil saturation, high carbohydrates, good acid balance, but not sour. Too many pull acidic espresso with light roasts. Those light roasts are great in a pour over, but as espresso they’ll curdle milk. I like where espresso comes from, its history, everything about it. I go out of my way to source coffee from very high elevations. The coffees I put in our espresso blend have what it takes to make them big and balanced, a coffee you won’t get sick of drinking every day.”

Herkimer’s quality is a function of relationships: relationships with employees, with customers at the coffee bar, with wholesale accounts, and with coffee producers.

“We have 24 employees, including myself,” Mike says. “Over a third have been here more than five years, and many more than ten. That’s pretty unique. I try to put everyone in a position where they can succeed at what they like to do.”

Choosing the right person for the job is like choosing the right coffee. The wrong one can sour the blend.

Two early employees, Nathan Reasoner and Reid Hickman, both worked at Zoka before coming to Herkimer soon after the roastery opened. They both roast and help with sales. In addition, Reed built and manages the company website. Nathan manages the wholesale accounts.

IMG_6324 “Now that the third wave, the premium farmer-focused coffee movement, is getting a lot bigger it puts us in an interesting position, trying to manage our own growth and retain what makes our coffee special,” Reid says. “We find these small lots that are beautiful. We have great people roasting. If we grow too fast we wouldn’t be able to source enough of the best coffees or find and train the right people to roast and prepare it.”

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“We’re lucky to be in an environment, around people we enjoy, doing something that we like,” Nathan says. “I wanted to find a career where I could have a good life and make something I’m proud of. In this day and age, in this city, that’s hard to find.”

Mike says, “People make strange decisions that aren’t always the best when they’re trying to grow too fast. For us, quality of life is the most important factor in our growth decisions. We want to continue to do for our customers and staff all that we say we are going to do. That’s very important to us.”

This focus on relationships is the beating heart of the extended Herkimer community, on both sides of the coffee bar, with the wholesale buyers, and with the coffee producers.“I like coming to work every day,” Mike says. “I like being around all the great people we have. I love coffee. Those are boring statements, but it’s what I enjoy.”

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Herkimer Coffee has locations in the Queen Anne, Phinney Ridge and Ravenna neighborhoods. Find out more at https://herkimercoffee.com/.

Ayako and Family Jam

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Ayako and Family Jam

During lunch at Sitka & Spruce some years ago, a gentle-spirited dog walked in. Taking a stroll around the restaurant, just checking things out, he seemed to be saying hello to everyone and then waltzed out the door. I asked our server whose dog it was and she responded, “Ayako. She works at Marigold & Mint next door and makes the best jam in the world. You should try some.”  I went straight over after lunch and got a bottle.  Apricot jam.  Golden in color, perfect consistency and not too sweet.  I had to agree.

A jar of Ayako Gordon’s mouthwatering jam has that special homemade quality because it is essentially that. It’s a simple thing, an age-old tradition, taking the abundant fruit at harvest and preserving it as jam. But so few take the time today, or do it with the skill that Ayako does. Done right, the result is transcendent, the flavor taking us back to memories of grandmother’s jam or that perfect juicy plum you had in Italy. If you don’t already have a reverence for plums, this jam will change that.

These days, Ayako uses a commercial kitchen and no longer has the time to create beautiful flower arrangements at Marigold & Mint. She is the sole jam maker, processes all the fruit by hand, and jars it herself. All her fruit—Damson plums, apricots, rhubarb, Coral Pink plums, Water Balloon plums, Mirabelle plums, quince, and more—comes from Mair Farm-Taki in the Yakima River Valley. Ayako considers her relationship to Mair Farm-Taki a collaboration, where her aim is to highlight the quality and the uniqueness of the organic fruit grown there and to honor both of their Japanese heritage.

ayakojam_126smallFor such a small, artisan producer news of her remarkable jam has spread from coast to coast through national press, including the New York Times. Web orders from across the country have filtered in and a few small business owners enchanted with the jam and Washington small-farm agriculture now retail the colorful hexagonal jars of jam.

The whole serendipitous endeavor began in 2010 when Ayako began helping at the Mair Farm-Taki stand at the University District Farmer’s Market. One day the owner, Katsumi Taki, suggested Ayako make jam with all the fruit that didn’t sell at the market. She played around with recipes until she found one for each fruit that brought forth its essential flavor. She began selling the jam at the Mair Farm-Taki stand, Marigold and Mint in Melrose Market, and through farm CSA’s. As word of mouth spread a few local retailers began to carry it.

While Ayako still makes all the jam by hand, her children have jumped in to help her with the business, handling web design, sales, and other administrative tasks. Damson Plum and Apricot are her two signature flavors and are usually in stock. Other offerings rotate through the year, with over a dozen different plum varieties available mid to late summer as the harvest comes in. Rhubarb is one of the earliest harvest flavors to come in. A look through the website shows how many flavors are sold out. Not being able to find your favorite flavor only makes you want it more. And really, it couldn’t be any other way. Such is the cost of local, seasonal produce, hand-selected, and carefully prepared in small batches. It’s what makes it so memorable.ayakoandfamily_02

I’m delighted to carry Ayako and Family Jam at Macrina. It is the kind of local, artisanal
product that I love. Grab a jar next time you’re in one of the cafes and try some on a toasted slice of your favorite loaf. You’ll see what I’m talking about.

Leslie

The Joy of Holiday Giving

The Joy of Holiday Giving

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When the days grow short and cold, my thoughts turn to baking. A warm blast from a hot oven on a chilly winter night, even better if it carries the aroma of baking cookies, is enough to make even Scrooge smile. And nothing fills a wintry home with more cheer than the clatter of a busy kitchen. Did I mention the smells that waft throughout the home? Maybe this is part of why I bake so much when it’s cold and dark. Another part is the lovely tradition I grew up with of bringing Christmas baskets with homemade foods to friends, neighbors, and relatives.

My mother was the driving force. From an early age she’d been creative, starting at Roosevelt High School in Portland, Oregon, where she joined a social club called MyPhidias. The group remained friends until my mother was well into her 70s. They were the most artistic group of gals I knew. They did toile painting, made theatrical backdrops, choreographed entertainment, and created all kinds of handmade cards, tags, and preserves that they sold at holiday bazaars.

This creative streak made its way into our Christmas baskets. Starting with jam, which we made all summer. We bought freshly picked strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries from local farm stands and made freezer jam, the favorite in our house because of its brighter color and fresh-fruit flavor. We certainly ate our supplies down throughout the year, but always saved plenty to give away.

Just after Thanksgiving we started baking holiday cookies—lefse, fried rosette cookies, and many other family favorites, all in preparation for our holiday baskets. We had boxes lined with paper towels for the rosette cookies and tins–o-plenty for all the other cookies. When it came time to assemble everything my mother lined the baskets with colorful tissue paper, arranged the cookies and jars of jam and wrapped the basket in clear cellophane with a wire edged ribbon. They were beautiful.

I have carried on this tradition of making jams from local berries, plum bbq sauce, plum & quince paste (see our blog and video for plum paste), roasted tomato sauce, and holiday cookies (see our blog and video for holiday cookies)—both old family favorites and many new recipes I’ve discovered. This year I even made bitters. When the time comes, I buy a bunch of baskets and fill them with my handmade treasures, much as my mother did. The baskets are synonymous in my heart with festivity, giving, and joy. They are also the perfect antidote to the gloomy weather we get this time of year, both in the making and the giving. Delivering them to friends and seeing the smiles on their faces brings me such happiness. To me, this “giving from your heart” is the true spirit of Christmas.

If your life has just been too crazy to make any of your traditional specialties, Macrina does have a selection of artisanal handmade delicacies, both savory and sweet. We make many of them, but we’ve also curated a few of our favorite local artisanal products, such as Ayako and Family Jam. Drop by one of our cafés and we can help you put together a gift basket.

Leslie

Macrina Pumpkin Pie: From Seed to Table

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Little is more satisfying than cooking from my garden’s bounty. It represents months of work and patience. Every vegetable started as a seed I planted, nurtured and harvested. And while the process is on a much larger scale at Macrina, it is still just as fulfilling. Yesterday, the first crates of butternut squash (more on this secret later) were delivered for our Thanksgiving pies. I didn’t grow them myself, but I worked with local grower extraordinaire Oxbow Farm in selecting the seeds and establishing the quantities we’d need.

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Photo credit Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Oxbow Farm gets their seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Johnny’s has been around since 1972, is 100% employee owned and does not use genetically engineered plants or seeds. Our squash began with a hybrid seed called Metro PMR. It has superior flavor, resists powdery mildew and matures relatively quickly. Butternut is a moschata species of squash, which can be hard to ripen in our region’s limited growing season.

Butternut squash plants are tender, and their seedlings are especially susceptible to frost damage. Before planting growers have to wait until the soil is warm and the danger of a cold snap has passed. In the Pacific Northwest this means no earlier than May. The growers at Oxbow sow the seeds in a large protected hothouse to give them a head start. Because the seeds sprout quickly and are susceptible to becoming root bound, this can’t be done too early. Once they reach transplant size in the nursery there is quite a scramble to get so many tender plants out to the fields with enough time remaining for them to mature before the first fall frost.

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Like zucchini, the butternut squash plant sends off several vines as it grows, some as long as 15 feet. Lots of work is required to keep the plants weed and bug-free. After flowering, two or three young squash will grow off each vine. Green at first, tan vertical stripes emerge as the squash ripens. Eventually the green fades and is replaced by the matte tawny color of the mature fruit.

Depending on the weather during the growing season, the squash are harvested anywhere from mid-September through mid-October. This year, at Oxbow, the butternut were ready later than the other varieties of winter squash. The crew at Oxbow harvested them all in mid-October.

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Photo credit Johnny’s Selected Seeds

More than six months after choosing the seeds it was a joy to hold the ripe squash. Each is unblemished and heavy in the hand. Cutting one open, I found the orange flesh inside creamy and sweet. Perfect for pie.

Butternut squash are the not-so-secret ingredient in our pumpkin pies. Simply put, the pies made with roast butternut squash won our taste test. They had more flavor than those made with only pie pumpkins. While our pumpkin pies are predominantly made with butternut squash, we do add a bit of pumpkin.

To make our pie, we cut the squash in half, remove the seeds, and roast them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Once the roasted squash cools, the skin peels off easily. Roasting them concentrates the natural sugars, and they puree beautifully. With the butternut squash we found we needed both less sugar and less cream in our recipe to create the perfect texture and taste for our pie.

Roasting butternut pumpkin, for a warming soup. Top view on oven tray.

Roasting butternut pumpkin, for a warming soup. Top view on oven tray.

The week of Thanksgiving is when our bakery floor gets truly insane. We start by roasting the squash and the pie shells. Then the filled pies shuffle in and out of our ovens. At the cafés, managers and crew pull together the long list of pre-orders that customers have placed throughout the month. Thanksgiving Eve managers and crew are usually at the cafés by 3 a.m. to be sure every order is ready to go, as well as plenty of extra stock on the shelves to accommodate last minute shoppers.

And when it’s all done we do the same thing you do. We gather with our families and friends for a feast. It’s one of my favorite days of the year. I love every part of it: decorating the house, setting the table beautifully, organizing the beverages, and—the best part—cooking the Thanksgiving dinner. Because there are so many dishes to prepare and only so much time, I always rely on Macrina Stuffing Mix, a selection of bread and rolls, crostini and a few of the appetizer spreads, and, of course, our pies. The pumpkin pie is my all-time favorite. The sweetness of Oxbow’s roasted squash with brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, allspice and ginger is perfect with slightly sweetened whipped cream.

Our Thanksgiving menu is now available for the whole month of November. We will be taking advanced orders for the holiday through noon, November 21st.

Leslie

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Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center cultivates 30 acres of vegetables, tree fruit, and berries on the banks of an oxbow lake in the lower Snoqualmie Valley. We have been growing food for our customers for 16 years. Our produce is available throughout the greater Seattle area at independent grocery stores, restaurants, and most importantly, through our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

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

 

The Bread Lab: A Washington State Treasure

BreadLabFieldsThe flour most of us are familiar with—the inert, white powdery stuff from the supermarket with a long shelf life—is a very modern development in our long relationship with wheat, the most important food in history. Before industrial agriculture became dominant, milling was done at regional mills with diverse strains of wheat. The effort to create uniform flours that won’t spoil has taken much of the flavor and nutrition from our flour and the products made with it.

One of the national leaders in the effort to restore flavor and nutrition to available wheat is located just north of Seattle in the Skagit Valley. Dr. Steven Jones runs The Bread Lab, an extension of Washington State University. He is devoted to bringing grain agriculture back to our region. A hundred years ago, fields of grains filled the Skagit Valley, but as industrial wheat brought the price of the commodity down farmers shifted to more valuable crops. Recently though, farmers, using wheat as a rotation crop to break disease cycles and to restore vital elements to the soil have discovered, or rediscovered, that many varietals grow wonderfully there. This is where The Bread Lab comes in. Jones is a wheat breeder dedicated to making regional grain farming viable again. His lab develops vigorous wheat hybrids full in flavor and nutritional value that grow optimally in particular climates.

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Over six years ago, I was invited to be part of The Bread Lab’s advisory board. Back then I had no idea how impactful it would be. At the time, I was happy with our flour and didn’t imagine I would be looking elsewhere. A few bakers I knew in Seattle were experimenting with milling their own flours. I was eager to learn more. The Bread Lab proved to be an excellent resource. It gave me the opportunity to test wheat from smaller growers. Jones and his team check it for strength and provide us with its falling number, which indicates the speed of fermentation. As you can imagine, our baking schedule is pretty tight. A dough moving unexpectedly slowly or quickly can really throw things off.

Using ingredients with the highest integrity has always been central to my mission at Macrina. In flours, flavor and high nutritional value are the two most important things I look for, along with consistency and a reliable supply. My earliest fascination was with whole grain milling. Most commercially produced flour is made only with the starchy endosperm of the grain. Both the nutrient-rich bran and flavorful wheat germ are discarded because the oils they contain will turn rancid in a few weeks. But the durability that commercial flour gains by discarding them comes at an enormous cost—the loss of flavor and nutrition.

This is why, years ago, I started using freshly milled whole grain flours from Fairhaven Mills. I admire the nutty and natural caramel flavor that comes from the milled whole grain flours. When I first started experimenting with this whole grained milled flour, I was hydrating a portion of the flour to soften the bran. This worked to some degree, but I was still not getting the rise I wanted, resulting in a dense texture. The Bread Lab provided me with many strategies. With their help and plenty of experimenting, I got the results I desired. On another occasion, we had a difficulty with a flour we were getting from Fairhaven Mills. They’d had to substitute a wheat from Montana rather the Walla Walla wheat we’d been using. I sent a sample to The Bread Lab. They tested it and determined that the wheat had a smaller falling number, which means the dough develops quickly. We reduced the mixing time and with lots of tweaking got consistent results. When you’re mixing hundreds of pounds of dough destined for someone’s table in a few hours and the dough isn’t behaving you can imagine the frenetic scene that results.

SkagitWheatEvery year The Bread Lab hosts an annual conference called Grain Gathering. Professional bakers, bread enthusiasts, brewers, farmers, and chefs from around the country descend on the Skagit Valley. Workshops, panel discussions, and demonstrations cover a range of wheat-centered topics (I’ve learned lots from these over the years). At the 2015 event, they held a bread tasting for a group of experienced bakers. We tasted seven breads, each made with a different locally grown wheat. For each loaf the recipe was essentially the same, with small adaptations made to create the best loaf with each flour. The varying tastes, textures, and the overall natural sweetness was a revelation. The flour made all the difference. The experience inspired my commitment to bringing more locally grown flours to the breads we make at Macrina.

One of the challenges The Bread Lab faces is that making local wheats prevalent takes more than introducing them to local bakers. Local grain economies that existed before the mass produced flours drove them out of business must be rebuilt. That includes persuading farmers to grow the grains, mills to grind them, stores to sell them and buyers to purchase them. Contributing to a healthy and sustainable local food economy is not just a good thing for Macrina to do, it’s a great thing for our bread. You just can’t beat the taste that freshly milled whole grain flours provide.

With the success The Bread Lab has experienced they’ve outgrown their small space and this summer will relocate to a 12,000-square-foot building. King Arthur Flour is partnering with them to add a full-scale mill and educational center. The state-of-the-art facility, and the passion and knowledge of Jones and his team, is a unique treasure. We are lucky to be so close to the innovation taking place in Skagit Valley, innovation with benefits that extend through the state and beyond.

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.

Heyday – Not Your Average Burger Joint

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In the kind of cosmic connection that makes us all smile, Gary Snyder, co-owner of Geraldine’s Counter and now co-owner of Heyday, shares a random point of intersection with that other Gary Snyder, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Zen Buddhist, and protagonist of Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums. The publisher of Gary Snyder, the poet, is also named Heyday. Gary Snyder, the restauranteur, had no idea. He and his business partner, Dang Nguyen, chose the playful name because the space is located on Day Street in Seattle’s quiet Mount Baker neighborhood. “Names are really hard to come by,” Snyder said. “My partner came up with Heyday and it just stuck. It works.”

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Heyday is no ordinary burger joint. Starting with the interior. The space was designed by Graham Baba, the architect behind many treasured eating spots such as Melrose Market, Chophouse Row, and La Spiga. Floor-to-ceiling windows, sleek lighting, concrete floors, slotted wood on the walls and ceiling, and the use of lots of blue in the tile work that surrounds the bar and an inspired geometric mural that adorns a back wall give the space a warm, modern look.

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And the burgers aren’t the usual assortment. The menu was created by Melissa Nyffeler, the former chef/owner of the beloved Capitol Hill restaurant Dinette, which closed in 2013. The Saigon patty has equal portions beef, pork, and shrimp and is topped with Napa cabbage, fresh mint, cilantro, pickled daikon, carrots, and Sriracha aioli. Other offerings are made with lamb, bison, falafel, jerk chicken, and cod. All are served on Macrina Bakery’s potato buns and served with a side of the house-made pickles. Creative starters such as blackened cauliflower are excellent, and so are the hand-cut french fries that are deep-fried twice for the perfect crunch. The thick, crispy onion rings shouldn’t be overlooked. Another standout is the house-made pickled vegetables served with every burger and available as an appetizer.

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Snyder and crew went through a lengthy process to choose the right bun for their burgers, looking for one that would hold all the ingredients without getting soggy or being so firm that the filling squeezes out. “Originally I thought we should have a different bun that works for each burger,” Snyder said. “We sampled multiple buns from different bakeries. Macrina’s potato bun just worked, and it worked on every burger. Such a good bun. It toasts really well. We decided we didn’t need different varieties.”

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Heyday is family-friendly, with the space split about evenly between seating in the adults-only bar and the all-ages restaurant side. “We get a lot of families. I almost wish I had more room than I do. That’s the part that fills the quickest,” Snyder said.

While the neighborhood is quiet, Heyday is open late. Regular hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m, with the kitchen serving until 10 p.m. At some point next year weekend brunch may become a reality. Keep your ears open. Geraldine’s brunch is so highly-regarded that the to-be-determined offerings will surely be worth investigating.

 

 

Stecca

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I love the breads made by Jim Lahey at Sullivan Street Breads in New York City. He’s one of America’s great artisan bakers. He bakes most of his crusty European-style breads until they’re quite dark. They come out of the oven burnished, with an amazing crackle when you bite into them. But he also makes a few loaves with thin, light brown crusts. My partner, Matt Galvin, sampled an airy bread of his on a trip to New York – not quite baguette, not quite breadstick and not quite focaccia.  Matt suggested something like this would make a nice addition to our line of breads. I set out to create something similar but uniquely Macrina.

Stecca, a soft “sweet” (meaning not sour) baguette, is made with our yeast-risen ciabatta dough. The loaves are baked closely together, “kissing” we call it, which results in soft sides. This makes it an ideal bread for sandwiches of all kinds. It has a light, golden crust and a well-aerated irregular crumb structure. Stecca is now available in all of our cafes.

Beginning in 2016, we will begin offering a Green-Olive Stecca exclusively in our cafes. Studded with green olives, brushed with extra-virgin olive oil, and garnished with fresh herbs this bread is hard to resist.

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/