Thanksgiving is such a special time of year, a time for family and friends to come together to celebrate food. Not surprisingly, the Thanksgiving holiday is the busiest time of year for us at Macrina. Demand for our offerings has grown every year. So many customers have told me how helpful it is to get items from us—our pumpkin pie, for instance—that allows them to spend more time with family and friends, offerings they know will shine.
And isn’t it really the sides and the pie that make the Thanksgiving holiday? I enjoy a slice or two of turkey, but what I go for is the stuffing, the vegetables, the cranberries, the rolls, and at my table anyway, various crostini with interesting spreads. To this end, we make a stuffing mix that has gotten very popular. We used to sell the stuffing mix only in the cafes, making it with leftover bread. Now we bake loaves just for the stuffing mix. You can find them at many places that carry Macrina’s breads. Our crostini and spreads have also taken off, as have our dinner rolls, our Winter Pear Crown and, of course, our pies.
We start our planning in early September when I sit down with our lead bakers, our savory department, and our retail managers. We talk about past favorites and new ideas. We test recipes. When we finally have our season’s list of offerings, we talk about logistics. This is no small challenge. Even with our fabulous space in Sodo, which once seemed so big, we are bursting at the seams. The spatial challenges and work-flow planning fall on the capable shoulders of Production Manager Jane Cho. The mixers run around the clock now, with three shifts managing dough production. On Thanksgiving eve last year they mixed nearly 20,000 pounds of dough. A seasonal crew is brought in to help with the production and packaging of the stuffing mix. Given the limited floor space, Jane maps out the production floor on charts that resemble architectural renderings.
I work with Head Baker Phong Bui on all the items, such as this year’s Porcini Roll Tray, or the Winter Pear Crown, a sweet bread spiked with black pepper. Mi Kim, our head pastry chef, stays busy prepping lots of pie shells, pies, and ingredients to be ready for the big Thanksgiving rush. She says, “Every day is a busy day for our bakers once the holiday season is here! Long days are logged from everyone when needed, and we have fun doing it!”
In our savory department, Savory General Manager Marilyn Mercer and her team, in addition to preparing items for the cafes, are busy making the spreads, including a new one, a smoked trout spread. Savory Assistant Manager Elizabeth Hall says, “It’s Scandinavian-inspired, with smoked white trout from Gerard & Dominique, a premium purveyor of smoked fish, located right here in Washington state. We blend the smoked trout with a hint of horseradish, cream cheese, scallions, parsley, chervil, and lemon.”
The cafes must also do lots of extra planning, upping their pars to ensure they have enough on the shelves for their customers. Crystal Kitchin, general manager of cafes, starts the month off with a two-night Thanksgiving tasting. Each member of the retail staff tastes the products and learns how different items pair so they can help guide customers. On Thanksgiving Eve the management team comes in early in the morning to put together the long list of special orders that have been placed throughout the month. Elizabeth Krhounek, general manager of the McGraw Cafe, says, “Being here at 2:30 in the morning in my pajamas to get all the orders ready is really fun, also putting on music we usually can’t listen to in the store. Last year my lead came in wearing his red onesie pajamas.”
While all the extra work provides new challenges, it’s exciting to see all the teamwork. “In production you see everyone moving fast, working their hardest, but we have fun,” Jane Cho says. “It’s exciting. And then after months of planning it’s just suddenly over and we get to enjoy the holiday with family and friends.” It really is a rush, in every sense. I love it all.
Our Thanksgiving menu is now available for the whole month of November. We will be taking advanced orders for the holiday through noon, November 23rd.