Fuel Coffee: Coffee Done Right

Fuel Coffee is a perfect example of the independent coffee shop, full of personality, passion, and community. I’m honored that Fuel Coffee has been carrying Macrina products for so many years.

Leslie

 

A Favorite Spot

In Seattle, where coffee flows like rain, coffee shops are almost cliché. Yet, despite their prevalence, just about everyone can name their favorite spot. Some are drawn to a particular vibe, others to velvety foam, some to their favorite single-origin pour over, and others to the neighborhood gathering spot. Fuel Coffee is one of those neighborhood gathering spots that has gained fans citywide by offering excellent coffee and food, unpretentious comfort, and an independent spirit. Also, a steady team of experienced baristas spoil the many regulars with velvety foam, perfectly drawn shots of espresso, and even pour overs.

Dani Cone started Fuel Coffee in 2005 after 13 years of slinging coffee at one place or another. Her first barista job was at a deli on Mercer Island while still in high school. A barista job helped her through college in Oregon, and when she returned to Seattle, she worked at Caffe Vita for several years. She loved the subculture of coffeehouses and the kinetic nature of the whole industry. She loved the way coffee houses fostered community and inspired companionship. So she applied for an SBA loan, got it, and opened the first Fuel Coffee on 19th Ave E on Capitol Hill.

“I love how coffee brings together people from all walks of life,” Dani says. “No matter what type of person you are, there’s a place for you.”

Coffee Done Right

Even back in 2005, Seattle had a surplus of coffeehouses, and many told her she was crazy to open another one. But Dani was determined. “I love that there are so many great coffeehouses in Seattle,” Dani says. “There are lots of people and everyone drinks coffee. I wasn’t worried about what everyone else was doing. We just wanted to focus on what we were doing and make sure we were doing it the best, each day, for each customer.”

Fuel Coffee drew a loyal following immediately. Not more than a year after the café opened her landlord offered her a space in Montlake. Dani says, “My original business plan was to open a coffee shop and live out my days as a barista, happy as a clam. That was it.” But the opportunity felt too good to pass up and the second Fuel Coffee was born. Then just six months later a space she’d looked at in Wallingford opened up and that landlord reached out to her. Crazy as it was, she opened her third café in as many years.

While Dani couldn’t possibly be in all three places at once, her personality fills all three locations—in the well-trained staff, the carefully chosen items for sale, and the decor, a mix of hand-picked thrift shop gems, like the old Mobil oilcans and iconoclastic selection of picture books and tchotchkes that line the floor-to-ceiling shelves at the café on 19th.

Fuel Coffee and Beyond

Building on the success of Fuel Coffee, Dani has also gone on to create High 5 Pie (which she has since sold) and Cone & Steiner, a neighborhood market with locations on Capitol Hill and downtown. Dani says, “I love creating places for people to come together over good food and drink. That’s the common denominator. I also just really love coffee and eating.”

Thirteen years later, in this rapidly growing city, Fuel Coffee has become part of the fabric of the city. It feels like the prototype of so many of the city’s neighborhood gems. “I wanted Fuel Coffee to be a welcoming place for all people,” Dani says. “I wanted it to be a place where people would gather over great coffee and food, slow down for a little bit, and enjoy the company of others.”

You can find Fuel Coffee at:

Capitol Hill: 610 19th Avenue East, 98112

Montlake: 2300 24th Avenue East, 98112

Wallingford: 1705 North 45th Street, 98103

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 assistant. 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.”

 

October Recipe of the Month

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Toasted Sesame Semifreddo with Mini Ginger Molasses Cookies

A semifreddo is an Italian, rich gelato-like dessert that is frozen overnight in a loaf pan, sliced and presented like the best ice cream cake you’ve ever had! This recipe is a fun fall dessert inspired by Gina DePalma’s cookbook, Dolce Italiano. The late fruit harvest of figs plays well with the toasted sesame flavors in the semifreddo. To top it off, enjoy with our new Mini Ginger Molasses Cookies. – Leslie Mackie

Ingredients:

Serves 6
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
4 eggs yolks
1/2 cup tahini
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons water
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 ripe figs, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely diced
1 tablespoon amaretto, port or brandy
1 package of Macrina’s Mini Ginger Molasses Cookies

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the sesame seeds on the prepared baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden brown, approximately 15 minutes. Let cool and set aside.

Line a 9″x 5″ loaf pan with plastic wrap extending 5″ on each end to cover the top after it is filled.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment, whip the heavy cream to medium stiff peaks. Transfer to another bowl and refrigerate until needed.

Add the egg yolks, tahini and salt to the bowl of the stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, mix for 3-5 minutes.

Add 5 tablespoons of sugar, the honey and water to a shallow saucepan. Mix well and bring to a boil for 1 minute.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the hot sugar mixture, aiming to directly hit the egg mixture (as opposed to the whisk or sides of the bowl). When all the sugar is incorporated, increase speed to high and mix for 2 minutes to aerate and cool. Add the toasted sesame seeds and vanilla extract.

Remove from mixer and gently fold in the whipped cream. When well incorporated, spoon into the lined loaf pan. Cover top of container with the extended plastic wrap to seal the semifreddo. Freeze for 6-8 hours.

Place figs in a medium bowl and add 1 tablespoon sugar, the ginger and amaretto. Toss gently and let steep for at least 2 hours at room temperature.

Unwrap semifreddo and cut into 6 slices. Transfer each slice to a chilled plate, spoon on the spiced figs and serve with a Mini Ginger Molasses Cookie. Enjoy!

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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 Aloha Café Opens on Capitol Hill

On the corner of 19th and Aloha on Capitol Hill, Macrina Bakery’s fifth and newest café opened at 7 a.m. on Thursday, September 6. Leslie Mackie, Macrina’s founder, worked the counter with new crew members and employees pulled from other locations.

A Warm Welcome

It is a very bright and cheery space in the open, white-tiled kitchen. The sun filters through from the skylights above and mixes with the natural light coming from the wall of windows on the north side of the café.  Whether they knew one another or not, people filled the many communal tables, spending time together and taking in the new location.

“We had a line out the door for two hours that morning,” said Scott France, Macrina’s president. “So many people from the neighborhood have come up to tell me how eagerly they’ve been waiting for us to open. It feels great to be welcomed so warmly.”

Many who had been watching the extensive remodel these past couple of months commented on their favorite design features: the wall of rough wood that was uncovered in the demolition phase, so stunning that we had to clean it up and keep it; the long, white marble display counters filled with loaves of bread, cakes, pastries, pies and savory items; the exposed wood joists that form the ceiling. One welcoming neighbor even brought in a large vase cascading with flowers from her garden.

Macrina Bakery Day

Macrina received a welcomed surprise when Mayor Jenny Durkan proclaimed September 6, 2018, Macrina Bakery Day in honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary and our impact on the city. The full proclamation is worth reading as it honors so many of Macrina’s deeply held values:

Old Meets New

The new café is located in the same space once occupied by the Surrogate Hostess, a community bakery, and many customers mentioned it. Those who spoke of it remember it fondly as the bakery that once served as a gathering spot in the neighborhood. Macrina hopes to fill that role and to enrich the community with Leslie’s passion for artisanal baking.

“I couldn’t be happier with how the space turned out,” Leslie said. “And seeing so many smiling faces coming in for a pastry or lunch was fabulous. Opening our fifth café has been a wonderful capstone to our 25th-anniversary celebrations.”

Ariel Singh, General Manager, Aloha Café 

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. 

Ariel Singh’s experience and talent make her the perfect person to open our new café on Capitol Hill at 746 19th Ave E (on the corner of Aloha and 19th). She’s as wonderful a person as she is talented with customers and crew alike. Managing a café is a big job requiring superb customer service skills, extensive food knowledge, people management, logistics, administrative duties, and more. Ariel does it all with grace, charm and efficiency.

Leslie

Life at Macrina

Ariel started working at Macrina’s Belltown Café in 2012, in the midst of a remodel. She spent much of her first week working side by side with Leslie Mackie, cleaning and scrubbing, before moving into other roles in the cafés.

“Macrina has grown, but Leslie is still present in everything we do,” Ariel said. “The breads, the pastries, and the values are the same. In some ways, I’d say Macrina has just continued to grow into itself.”

After Belltown, Ariel moved to the McGraw Café where she worked as Assistant Manager. She was promoted to General Manager of our Sodo Café in 2016. This was when Macrina’s wholesale production still worked in the space behind the café. About a year later, having outgrown that space, wholesale moved to our bakery in Kent, though you can still watch the pastry team working behind the windows at the Sodo café.

“Before wholesale moved, it was so fun to walk back there and see and experience everything being made from scratch, the potatoes boiling for the potato bread, all the dough being kneaded, and teams of bakers hand-forming and scoring every loaf. I miss it and encourage my crew to get out to Kent to see all the work that goes into our products.”

There has been one advantage since Wholesale moved out of Sodo. “Without the huge rack ovens running 24 hours a day, the café stays cooler.” Plus, speaking of cool, Gelatiamo, Seattle’s extraordinary gelato maker, now occupies part of the space. Owner Maria Coassin quickly hit it off with Ariel, so much so that she has been helping Ariel plan her upcoming honeymoon!

Opening a New Café

Ariel worked down in Sodo until this past August. When offered the opportunity to open Macrina’s newest café, there was no hesitation.  “I’m really looking forward to the challenge,” she says.

The location of the café was once home to the Surrogate Hostess. People are still talking about the Surrogate Hostess today, which is a testimony of the impact the bakery made on the tight-knit community. This would be a tough act for anyone to follow, but Ariel is a perfect fit. She is good with her crew, but she truly makes a point to create connections with her customers. “I’ve loved each of the cafés for different reasons,” Ariel says. “Each has a nostalgic feeling for me that I relate to different parts of my life. The best compliment I can get is when a customer from another café comes in and remembers me and say they miss me.” Now she’s ready to make new memories at Aloha and excited to get to know new customers in a new neighborhood.

“Ariel is incredibly hard working,” says Crystal Kitchin, the General Manager overseeing all of the cafés. “She strives for perfection. Working in food service, you can only control so much yourself. The rest comes from training your crew well. Ariel has risen to the occasion and become a great leader.”

But Ariel is just as appreciative of Crystal. “I’m lucky to work for a boss who I really like,” Ariel says. “Crystal is a guiding light. If I’m having a tough time dealing with something, she has an answer. Even to the most complicated interpersonal issues that come up with a big staff. I’ve also learned so much from working with Leslie. She’s the epitome of Macrina and what it embodies, in all the best ways.”

The Married Life

Ariel was married to her husband Narayan Singh about a year ago, almost to the day, on Labor Day 2017. The Corson Building, a gem tucked under the freeway in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood, provided the perfect setting for a food-crazy couple. If a flaw could be found, it was only that the day was a little warm for Ariel, about 85 degrees. “I was a little hot in my dress,” Ariel says, “but Narayan was happy. The wedding was perfect.” 

They met in Seattle after both moving from warmer places, Ariel from L.A., Narayan from Las Vegas. Taylor Murphy, a mutual friend, introduced them. She used to work with Ariel. Because of their friendship, and Taylor being the point of intersection, Ariel and Narayan asked her to officiate their wedding. “At work, Taylor was frequently a little late, and I’m a stickler for punctuality. But she was definitely on time for the wedding,” Ariel laughs.

Narayan is a Clinical Psychology Doctoral Student at Seattle Pacific University. This keeps him very busy, which was part of the reason why they delayed their honeymoon until this summer. 

Celebrating 25 Years: The 7 days of Macrina

Celebrating 25 Years: The 7 Days of Macrina

What began as a neighborhood bakery has grown tremendously over the last 25 years. This is the week leading up to our 25th anniversary on August 27th and we want to celebrate each day with a product give away! These products represent some of the first products ever sold at Macrina, and they have stayed around and become customer favorites. Stop by our cafés and grab your free gift, while supplies last!

The Schedule:

August 21 – Mini Macrina Casera

This was Macrina’s first bread. The Casera loaf was inspired by a bread from Poilâne, the famous Paris bakery. In 1994, our Macrina Casera placed second in a Sunset Magazine sourdough competition. This 10 oz. size is great for dinner for two or hollowed out and used as a bowl for soup or dip.

Aug. 22: Lemon Bars

Our Lemon Bars are a variation of our signature Lemon Tart, a favorite we’ve been making at the café since day one. The lemon custard is thickened with semolina. It’s rich in flavor and the tartness of fresh lemon juice nicely balances the sweetness of sugar.

Aug 23: Half Demi Sandwich

When we opened we had one alternating panini sandwich daily. We used a combination of fresh roasted vegetables, local cheese and select roasted meats. But one simple sandwich required a permanent place on our menu: the Demi Sandwich. It features Giuseppe panini bread with Dijon mustard, sliced ham, fontina cheese and organic greens.

Aug. 24: Rick’s Cookies

This cookie is named after Rick Katz, an acclaimed pastry chef in Boston. Leslie worked with Rick and fell in love with this cookie. He granted her permission to use his recipe when she opened Macrina. The diced apricots, semisweet chocolate and fresh ground espresso play off each other and make for an extraordinary taste combination. A longtime customer favorite.

Aug. 25: Rustic Potato Loaf

This bread was inspired by a recipe from the late Carol Field, in her wonderful cookbook The Italian Baker. Its soft crust and velvety texture make it one of our most popular loaves.

Aug. 26: Mini Budapest Coffee Cake

Macrina’s take on the classic sour cream coffee cake— made with low-fat yogurt instead of sour cream. We also add a swirl of cinnamon sugar, raisins, toasted walnuts and cocoa powder.

Aug. 27: Skagit Sourdough Loaf in Macrina’s Anniversary Tote &
25% off all items in the cafés.

Leslie is as creative in the kitchen as ever, and this new loaf proves it. Months in the making, the Skagit Sourdough celebrates the bounty of the Pacific Northwest. Organic and made with all local ingredients. The day-long ferment, with a light dose of our Sour White starter, gives the loaf a light sour flavor that is balanced out by the sweetness of the natural grain and the nuttiness of the bran. The result is one of our most grain-forward and flavorful loaves.
Thank you for helping make our 25th anniversary the best that it can be! We can’t believe so much time has gone by so fast. Looking forward to the next 25 years together!

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

25th Anniversary Loaf: The Gathering Process

Macrina turns 25 on August 27th, and I can hardly believe it. I never imagined baking as many loaves as we do now, not to mention the pastries, cakes, and so much more. Our values have always been tied to supporting the community, so creating products made with local ingredients has always been a priority. We know where we get our food matters, so for years and years, the origin of our vegetables and meats has been a focus. In bread, however, we weren’t asking the important question: who grew the wheat? We’ve been working hard to close this gap and making the effort to learn about the farmers who grow the wheat we use. In turn, they can tell us which wheat varieties they’re growing. This makes all the difference when making artisanal, hand-formed bread. To celebrate our milestone, I’ve been creating a Macrina Anniversary Loaf, made only with grains grown and milled locally.

Local Grains

Since Macrina started in 1993, our local grain ecosystem has also come leaps and bounds. Washington is one of the largest producers of wheat in the country, and the current number of grain varietals grown in Washington State is staggering. This abundance has paved the way for specialized local mills to spring up, meeting the growing demand for freshly-milled, whole-grain flours.

At the heart of this change, just north of Seattle in the Skagit Valley, is the Bread Lab. Chief wheat breeder, Dr. Stephen Jones, runs the lab, which is an extension of Washington State University. Jones approaches the subject of locally grown wheat from every angle: with a farmer’s knowledge of the fields, a scientist’s discipline and a chef’s passion for food.

Over seven years ago, the Bread Lab invited me to be on their advisory board. Back then I had no idea how impactful it would be. For many of us on the front lines of baking, Jones has been a leading advocate for the benefits of local wheat.  It has been remarkable having a front row seat to observe what they do.


Bread Lab’s Grain Gathering

Every year, the Bread Lab hosts an annual conference called Grain Gathering. Professional bakers, bread enthusiasts, brewers, farmers, and chefs from around the country gather in the Skagit Valley to talk all things bread. A few years back, Dr. Jones had a group of six of us taste a bunch of loaves mixed up by resident baker, John Bethony. Until then, I hadn’t tried a bread made entirely from whole grain milled wheat. Whole grain milled flour is usually blended with conventional flour to enhance baking, otherwise the bread tends to bake inconsistently. That wasn’t the case for the Bread Lab, where they had come up with wonderfully flavorful and beautiful loaves. It was an introduction into a whole new world.

We contrasted each loaf for taste, texture and appearance. The natural flavor of the grain blew me away. The range of flavors matched the range of wheats and each distinctive loaf tasted of the type and terroir of the wheat used. From that point forward I’ve incorporated more native wheats and whole grain flours into Macrina’s breads. It was that tasting that lit the fire for the soon to come anniversary loaf.

Anniversary Loaf: Leslie’s Gathering Process

I always have several bags of different flours open in the kitchen. They have names like T-85, Yecora Rojo, Expresso Hard Red Spring Wheat, and Skagit Magic. This is how my gathering process works. My notebooks are full of new techniques I’ve been learning. I also have bags of various locally-produced malts, oats and barley.

Baking is a mix of science, rigorous precision, intuition and feel. I’ve experimented with many variables: adding diastolic malt powder (produced locally, of course), oats and emmer, blending native wheats in varying ratios, baking earlier with longer ferments. Of course I’m using the Macrina Casera starter, the starter I created 25 years ago from champagne grapes planted in my backyard. Many of the loaves I’ve tested have had a wonderful crumb and great flavor, but they’re flatter and denser than I want. My goal is to make a voluptuous whole grain bread, one with a stunning presence as well as a stunning flavor profile.
For me, so much of baking is tactile, so it takes time. I need to feel the dough in my hands when I mix it for the first time, or after a long rise. I’m inching closer and closer, and will keep working until it is just right.

Stay tuned…

Quy Nguyen, Savory 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. 

A year after I opened the bakery, I took over an adjoining space and opened the Belltown café. Customers could sit down for a slice of quiche, weekend brunch or a sandwich made with Macrina’s fresh bread. Back then, the savory items we made didn’t require a whole department. Brunch was an all-hands-on-deck affair, but as Macrina has grown and our lunch and brunch crowds have expanded, we had to do something to keep up with demand. Because of this, we now have a Savory Department. They prepare all the sandwiches, quiche, soups, spreads, salad dressings, and meze for our cafés. Quy is one of the stars, a talented cook who is efficient and graceful, two desirable qualities in a bustling kitchen. 

Leslie

Quy Nguyen, Savory Chef

On weekends, our Sodo Café bustles with brunch customers. In front of the stove, Quy Nguyen keeps her focus on the pans of eggs, sizzling applewood smoked bacon, herb-roasted potatoes, and heaping plates of French toast. Her hands quickly dart between the knife and pan. New orders come in and servers deliver hot dishes to tables. The kitchen heats up, but Quy stays cool. She churns out one pan of perfectly-cooked over-easy eggs after another and beautifully garnishes the plates. 

The rest of her workweek is just as important, but less intense. 

As a critical member of our Savory team, Quy preps and makes savory items for all of the cafés at our Kent bakery. After ten years, she knows all of the recipes and techniques. She works with the same precision and focus she employs on the brunch line, but she has time to share stories and chat with the other staff. “I like to joke around with them,” she says, through a translator. “They are like a second family.”

Still, nothing tops those busy mornings at the Sodo Café. “The favorite part of my job is working brunch. I find it very rewarding,” she says.

More about Quy

Quy moved to Seattle from Dalat, Vietnam, in 2003 with her husband and teenage daughter. The climate in Seattle is very similar to that of Dalat, whose temperate climate stands in contrast to Vietnam’s otherwise tropical climate. The region’s valleys are cloaked in mist much of the year, leading to its name “City of Eternal Spring.” For the first five years living here, she stayed at home while her daughter went to school. When it came time for her daughter to graduate from high school, she thought about working again. A friend recommended Macrina, so she interviewed and was hired and she’s been an essential part of the team ever since.

Quy does enjoy cooking at home. She primarily cooks Vietnamese food for her family, but has developed quite a taste for the diversity of cuisines in America, especially those of the French and Italian influence. Macrina’s Mac & Cheese is her current favorite dish to eat. 

She returns to Vietnam every two to three years to visit her mother, along with her sister and brother. She likes sharing with them recipes that she’s learned, and has begun teaching them how to make soups and salad dressings similar to Macrina’s. 

Marilyn Mercer manages the Savory Department. She says, “Quy amazes me. She’s willing to do any task needed to support our success. She’s quick and efficient, sometimes under hectic and stressful situations during brunch. Her food is always on point. Everyone at Savory and the Sodo Café appreciates her skillful teamwork. I truly enjoy working with her.”