Solidarity with the Asian Community

The alarming rise of pandemic-related racism against Asian Americans has contributed to an increase in hate crimes, including the horrific shootings in Atlanta. At Macrina, we are proud of our diverse crew, which includes many people of Asian descent, Vietnam in particular. We stand together against hate, intolerance, and racism. Macrina employee, Michelle Galvin, a fourth-generation Japanese American, shares some of her troubling experiences and a plea for kindness in these difficult times.

Over the past year, Covid has changed all our lives dramatically. With changes to how we socialize, work and even buy our groceries, life has been different and difficult. For those of us, like myself, who are of Asian descent, an additional challenge has been contending with heightened bias and discrimination.

Living in Seattle for my adult life has been a blessing. I grew up right outside of Chicago. As a child, my schoolmates regularly taunted me. They called me “Ching Chong Chinaman,” and made fun of the rice balls I brought for lunch. Our next-door neighbors, a family with three boys, said I was the reason for WWII. They blamed me for their grandfather’s death. I was six.

Moving to Marysville, WA, in my teenage years was liberating. Though I was one of the only Asian kids in school, I never experienced racism like I had in Illinois. Years later, as an adult living in the Seattle area, I was relieved my four children would not experience the sort of racism I did. And it has been better, much better. Still, we talk about how irritating it is when people ask us where we are from and when we answer Seattle, they say, no, where are you really from. And once a parent of a kid in my daughter’s first-grade class asked me if I was Mia or Gracie’s mom—she could never tell us people apart, she said. (My daughter, Gracie, asked me at the time if it was because her glasses were broken.) Despite the occasional challenge, my children have always felt comfortable and proud of their Japanese heritage.

One of our family’s favorite places is the International District. We visit at least once weekly —grocery shopping at Uwajimaya, dumplings at Dough Zone or pastries at Fuji Bakery. When the International District was vandalized earlier this summer, it broke my heart. As if Covid and quarantine weren’t enough of a challenge to our beloved restaurants and shops in that neighborhood! Rising hate crimes against Asians have added to the struggle. It brought tears to my eyes to have to tell my teenage children that it was not a good idea for them to go to the International District by themselves to get Boba in the evening because it is not safe.

We have always prided ourselves on the welcoming work environment at Macrina. There is truly no place here for hate, discrimination, or racism. Our head baker, Phuong Hoang Bui, has been at Macrina nearly since we opened, and he embodies the spirit of the Macrina community as much as anyone. His daughter, Amy Bui, who ran around our Belltown café at the age of three is now our general manager of wholesale sales. A great many of our bakers are Vietnamese. They are who we are.

We want to be sure the Asian community knows that we stand with them. We condemn the hate crimes and casual racism that are happening in our community against our Asian friends, employees, customers and peers. Macrina is a long-time supporter of Helping Link and the Vietnamese community. Most importantly, we hope to spread a message of kindness during these difficult times.

-Michelle Galvin

Meet Marc Mitchell: Food Safety AM

At heart, Marc Mitchell is a baker. He studied at Le Cordon Bleu before coming to work at Macrina Bakery in 2013. Marc started on our bread team before moving to wholesale pastry, where he took on leadership roles. But when the position of Food Safety AM opened up late in 2020, Marc’s skills made him a natural fit for the job. He applied and got it.

Not only is he intimately familiar with the various departments, but also with the people, processes and the vital importance of food safety. Like any great pastry chef, Marc is very attentive to detail, which serves him well in his new role. Working closely with Blake Gehringer, Macrina’s Production Manager, Marc oversees every element of food safety at our bakery and cafés. He spends his days training, answering questions, observing, documenting, testing and continuously learning.

One of Marc’s challenges is teaching employees whose first language isn’t English. But Marc has transcended the challenge by learning some Vietnamese, getting translation help when needed, visual aids and frequently demonstrating the proper procedure. “I teach by showing,” he says.

Raised in Washington state to a Filipino mother and American father, Marc learned to love Filipino food. When he’s not working, he and his wife (also Filipino) love to cook chicken adobo and other classic Filipino dishes.

As a kid, Marc learned to work on cars with his father, who sadly is no longer with us. The passion continues, and in his free time, Marc can often be found tinkering under the hood. Pressed on his dream car, Marc thinks a moment, then says, “Ferrari 458 Italia. It’s very nice, but not too bad on the pocket—as Ferraris go.”

To Make Great Banh Mi, Start with the Right Bread 

The Vietnamese Lunar New Year, or Tet, falls on February 12 this year. The day is a significant holiday at Macrina. Our head bakers, Phuong Hoang Bui and Thanh Huyen Dang, are Vietnamese, as are many of our bakers. Artisanal French and Italian traditions influence most of our bread, and the food in our cafes hews Mediterranean with a few American favorites thrown in, but an exception is our Bui Bun, made for banh mi, which was developed by Phuong with help from the bread team.

Banh Mi, the classic street-vendor Vietnamese sandwich, is one of the best comfort foods around. In Seattle, options abound, from traditional to hybrid. The one constant, in our favorites at least, is the right bread—fresh and airy, with the right mix of crackle, spring, and chew.

The baguette was introduced to Vietnam during French colonial rule in the early twentieth century. The earliest “banh mi” were straightforward, sometimes just a smear of butter and some ham or pâté, in the traditional Parisian fashion. But over time, both the bread and toppings evolved to become the unique, zesty Vietnamese sandwich that has claimed a spot in the global hall of culinary fame. Stacked with variations on satisfying fillings like cured and cooked pork, sliced ham, chicken liver pâté, green herbs, pickled vegetables, chili peppers, and spiced-up mayonnaise, the banh mi toppings are held together by a Vietnamese-style baguette or roll. The complex flavor of banh mi is a swirl of history, complementary and contrasting flavors, and a riot of textures—crunchy and tender—that make many other sandwiches seem boring in comparison.

For years, we served a bahn mi sandwich in the Macrina cafés on our Giuseppe Panini Baguette. We filled them with tofu, roast pork, chicken or flank steak, and classic banh mi toppings. It was good, but not quite right—we needed the right bread.

We turned to Phuong, who has been our head baker for over 20 years. Phuong started at Macrina as a dishwasher in early 1994, just after Macrina opened, and quickly proved himself to be a quick learner and skilled with bread in all its phases—dough, proofing, shaping, and baking.

“Phuong took the lead on developing an authentic banh mi bun, a product we’d later name after him,” says Leslie Mackie, Macrina’s founder. “He involved many of his fellow Vietnamese bakers at Macrina, bringing the whole bread production team together, including seeking out recipes from various cousins and parents, here and back in Vietnam. After months of testing, getting special pans, and testing it with our staff, customers, we launched our Bui Buns named after Phuong.”

The Bui Bun has a crisp crust and tender, airy crumb, just right for the perfect banh mi sandwich. Moreover, the bun, its creators, and the team-oriented approach symbolize one of our core values at Macrina: celebrating diversity.

To Phuong, Huyen, our fantastic crew, and everyone who celebrates the Lunar New Year, we wish you a year full of blessings and good fortune. Thank you for everything.

 

Helping FareStart Feed Hungry Families

Even before the coronavirus hit, too many people in the Seattle area struggled with hunger. Now with record levels of unemployment and disrupted free school lunches for many children, food insecurity is rising. We currently donate food to Marys Place and others, but we wanted to do more. 

When Marcia Sisley-Berger of Callebaut Chocolate, one of our suppliers, reached out to us about collaborating on a food donation to FareStart, we were all in. 

FareStart and Catalyst Kitchen, an initiative established by FareStart, have been producing approximately 350,000 meals a week to help alleviate hunger and food insecurity in our communities. More than 100 sites get meals from them daily, including Downtown Emergency Services Center, Plymouth Housing, the YMCA of Greater Seattle, Boys & Girls Clubs of King County, Seattle Public Schools and King Countys COVID-19 isolation and recovery sites. 

Callebaut offered to donate all the chocolate wed need to make sweet treats for FareStart lunches. With 300 pounds of dark chocolate chips, 90 pounds of chocolate batons, and 52 pounds of Milk Chocolate Couverture in hand, Leslie reached out to two more of our suppliers for help. Both Medosweet Farms and Merlino Foods were both eager to support our community and didnt hesitate to get involved. Medosweet provided us with 150 pounds of butter and all the eggs we need. Merlinos donated 250 pounds of sugar and other supplies. 

Throughout June, we will be baking over 4,300 of Olivias Chocolate Chip Cookies, 1,800 Chocolate Cornetti, and 1,600 Milk Chocolate Brioches for FareStart to include in the lunches they distribute. 

Our mission is to enrich our communities through the joy of artisan baking. Being a part of this collaborative effort to support FareStart in their crucial mission brings us joy, and we hope, helps brighten the days of those most in need. 

Caring for Those Who Care for Us

Not all heroes wear capes, but many wear masks. And scrubs. And theyve been working insanely long hours during this crisis, giving their all to serve those in need. To express our appreciation and admiration, Macrina Bakery is donating 220 care packages each week in April to area hospitals. Each care package contains a Sliced Oatmeal Buttermilk Loaf, Rye Crostini, Sardinian Flatbread, Olivias Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Granola Bar Cookies.

Chris at Overlake said, “Everything was great! My staff greatly appreciated the generosity and gratitude.” Julie at Swedish Edmonds wrote, “I cant tell you how much the staff appreciated the care packages. They were SO excited! Thank you so much; we very much appreciate this thoughtful gesture!”

If youd like to help us support them, you can donate a care package, and well deliver it on your behalf. The care packages are $25 and we are currently visiting Overlake, Harborview, Swedish Edmonds, UW Northwest and Seattle Childrens.

In addition to the frontline healthcare workers, we know that many others are giving themselves to serve others. Our care packages are available for anyone you know who could use a little extra support right now. A huge thank you to all of you who have already ordered them.

To order care packages, please call 206-448-4089 or visit one of our cafés.

Meet James Stanton: Cartoonist

This Sunday, art and football intersect in the Seahawks Gameday Poster created by our Sodo café’s very own James Stanton.

The Seattle Seahawks partnered with the legendary local graphic designers Ames Bros to curate a series of posters with unique artwork to commemorate this season’s home games. Barry Ament and Coby Schwartz, the creative force behind Ames Bros, invited James Stanton to be one of the eight accomplished Seattle artists to produce a poster.

James, who has worked part-time at Macrina’s Sodo café for nearly five years, is a cartoonist and illustrator who has been publishing his small-press comic Gnartoons since 2005. He’s also done comics and illustrations for Thrasher, The Atlantic, The Stranger, The Nib, Adventure Time and other publications.

“It’s such an honor to work with the Ames Bros on a Seahawks poster,” James says. “Coby and Barry know my stuff. They pointed out what in my portfolio they thought would work well, which mostly wound up being comic book covers. I ended up thinking about the poster as a comic book cover more than I did as a print.”

Assigned the November 3 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, James created a serpentine-like hawk rising from the sea and swamping a pirate ship with shredded sails. Majestic Doug firs tower in the background. The 18” x 24” posters are screen printed and can be ordered online and picked up at CenturyLink Field on game day or at the CenturyLink Field Pro Shop during designated hours. The Seahawks are also producing 12 “platinum” posters on special paper with enhanced printing techniques. Those will be sold on the Seahawks’ Auction Website the day after each game and shipped to winners.

Buying a poster will not only serve as a unique art piece on your wall, but it helps fund arts education for kids. The Seahawks are donating all proceeds from sales of the posters to The Creative Advantage, an arts education equity program for Seattle Public Schools.

In addition to some cash, posters, and the prestige, James gets tickets to the game and a field pass. It’ll be his first live Seahawks game. “The Seahawks are a much bigger stage than I’m used to working on,” James says. “This was fun because they gave me a lot of freedom to draw whatever I wanted to, within certain parameters, of course.”

James moved to Seattle specifically because it’s a hotspot for independent comics and to help publish a free comics newspaper called The Intruder. He immediately found a room to rent in a Beacon Hill house already occupied by a few other comics artists. More than seven years later, that’s still the case. “When someone moves out, we find another cartoonist to take their place,” says James.

This coming spring, a hardbound collection of James’ collected work, titled Gnartoons, will be released by the Bay Area publisher Silver Sprocket Bicycle Club. And on Saturday, November 9, you will find James at Short Run, the one-day annual comics and arts festival that takes place at the Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center, with his newest comic, Swamp Mythos,—and copies of the Seahawks poster.

See more of James’ work on his website  or on Instagram and other social media apps at  @gnartoons.

 

Meet Diana Yelton: GM at the Aloha Café

Ultimately, it was Macrina’s Greek Olive Loaf that led Diana to our café. A recent transplant to Seattle in 2016, Diana was looking for a job when her boyfriend showed up with a loaf of his new favorite bread—the Greek Olive Loaf. He casually mentioned that he’d noticed a sign saying Macrina was hiring. 

Diana and her boyfriend had moved to Seattle from New York City where Diana had worked in independent film production. Out of college, she had considered a career as a teacher, but student teaching had talked her out of that. Her job requirements were only that she didn’t want to be cooped up in an office. “I’m an extrovert,” Diana says. “Being around people gives me energy. I loved Macrina’s bread and it seemed like a fun place to work so I interviewed.”  

Customers and coworkers alike were quickly impressed with her hard work, kindness and spirited personality. When the Aloha café opened in September 2018, Diana was an instrumental part the opening crew. When the tightly knit community of North Capitol Hill filtered in to check us out, Diana’s product knowledge and bright, lively personality helped introduce Macrina to everyone.  Everyone who has ever opened a new retail business knows just how challenging it is. There’s hardly been a quiet moment since we opened the doors, so strong customer service skills and a good work ethic have been bench tested. “We have so many regulars already,” Diana says. “You know their favorite pastry before you know their name. Seeing familiar faces in line is definitely a great part of the job.” 

When the General Manager position opened up in June 2019 it was clear Diana had earned the nod. “I was honored to be offered the job,” Diana says. “I worked my way up and feel like they saw something in me. Scott and Leslie are at the Aloha café frequently and both are very open and supportive. When I’m hiring it helps to be able to say very honestly that the company culture is really good, and there are many opportunities for growth.” 

 

 

 

Cafe Flora & Floret: Always Fresh and Exciting

Like flowers in spring, new restaurants are blossoming in Seattle. We have nearly 3,000 restaurants now, up more than 25 percent from a decade ago. Not many of them were around 28 years ago. And of those that were, few still feel as contemporary as Cafe Flora, the beloved Madison Valley ode to fresh Northwest produce. Cafe Flora was farm-to-table before that phrase became ubiquitous. 

Cafe-Flora

A couple of years ago, Cafe Flora’s owner, Nat Stratton-Clarke, became interested in opening a second location. He looked at Capitol Hill and Ballard. But then an intriguing and unusual opportunity arose: Sea-Tac Airport. In February of 2018, Nat opened Floret by Cafe Flora. The 2,000-square-foot restaurant is located by the Delta lounge between terminals A and B. There is a full-service restaurant that seats 80 and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. For those on the run, it offers coffee, pastries and healthy grab-and-go options, including hot meals. Floret has been busy since day one. 

 

Floret Shop

Floret: New Challenges Arise

Even though it’s in the airport, Floret is in a beautiful, light-filled atrium, making it reminiscent of the conservatory feeling one gets at Flora. “I wanted it to feel like Flora—and natural light is a big part of that,” says Nat“When the space became available, I really felt like it was the right one for us to bid on.” 

Floret

Like Cafe Flora, Floret serves vegetarian and vegan food, much of it made from produce freshly delivered from local farms. Nat says, “So many people are excited about good food. Most of our guests aren’t vegetarian. They’re just excited about something delicious to eat that happens to be vegetarian.” 

Floret Food

Because it’s the airport, all employees and vendors must go through security. “We had to get our farmers badged,” Nat says. “Fresh deliveries are so much a part of what we do at Flora, and we weren’t going to change just because there are a few more hurdles.”  

Floret Pinwheel

There have been logistical challenges, besides security. The airport is open 365 days a year—rain, sleet or snow. During the snows this past February, many employees stayed at an airport hotel so they could be there to prepare for the 4:30 a.m. opening. “Macrina was right there with us delivering bread and getting everything out there no matter how much snow was coming down,” Nat says. “Folks who were delayed stayed for breakfast, lunch and dinner—which was amazing. We had to close at Cafe Flora. There’s no option to close at the airport. That was new to us and we rallied together to find solutions.” 

Nat Stratton-Clarke

Nat is an avid Farmers Market shopper and market produce always finds its way onto the menu. “I love it in Seattle this time of year, when the city embraces nettles and fiddlehead ferns,” Nat says. “Other cities might hold out for asparagus and strawberries, but we get excited early. Ready for that fresh green. As much as we all love a root vegetable, by March we’re ready to say farewell to butternut squash for a couple of months. We love that bright green flavor you get from nettles. We were just talking in the kitchen about nettle pesto to go with gnocchi. Things like that are one of the really cool things about spring in the Northwest.” 

Floret Sandwich

Whether you’re on your way somewhere or looking for a great meal in the city, Cafe Flora and Floret are great dining options. You’ll enjoy exquisitely prepared meals made with produce delivered fresh daily from farms such as Local Roots in CarnationTonnemakers in Woodinville, Whistling Train Farm in Kent, and Hayton Farms in Skagit Valley. It’s no mystery why Cafe Flora is still going strong after 28 years and Floret has found such a following at Sea-Tac. 

Visiting the Heart of Washington State’s Wheat Country

The Williams Hudson Bay Farm is located near Walla Walla in some of the best wheat-growing land in the world. It’s also where Tom and Ray Williams grow the wheat for the new Whole Grain Baguette that Macrina Bakery has created in collaboration with PCC. This past summer I visited the Williams Hudson Bay Farm to meet Tom and Ray. Walking through their fields and learning of their holistic approach to the integrity of the grain gave me a new appreciation for what it takes to create a healthy and delicious product. 

Third-Generation Farmers

Williams Hudson Bay Farm

Tom and Ray took over the farm from their father. Their grandfather had moved West from Kansas and farmed the same land they use today, though the farm has now grown to 3,000 acres. They grow a diverse range of crops. It was mind-boggling learning how they manage the complexity of a modern organic farm.

As we toured the farm in the summer heat, Tom and Ray explained three essentials to organic farming: cover crops, effective pest management and crop rotation. Portions of the farm are designated for animals, which provides meat, but also manure for fertilizer. They also have Beehives everywhere to help with pollination.  

Wheat

While we examined the wheat, they explained how they determine the proper time to harvest. Having an understanding of the whole operation and feeling the nearly mature grains in my hands gave me a new reverence for their flour. The Edison and the Expresso wheats they grow, the heritage wheats we use in the whole wheat baguette, have so much more flavor than commodity flour.  

Macrina Team

Part of the Williams farm is on PCC Farmland Trust land, which supports farmland preservation, organic production and sustainable practices. Tom and Ray hold the same core values that PCC and Macrina share. This is what makes this partnership so unique. We are all working together to bring the most nutritious and delicious baguette to the epicurean and environmentally-conscious customer that PCC attracts. 

From Field to Table, Our New Whole Grain Baguette

Macrina’s Whole Grain Baguette

Our newest loaf is the result of an inspiring partnership with PCC Community Markets. Using organic wheat grown on PCC Farmland Trust land, we collaborated with PCC to develop a field-to-table baguette that takes advantage of the fantastic food resources that Washington State offers.

Scott Owen, the Grocery Merchandiser for PCC Community Markets, was the creative force behind the partnership. “I’m trying to knit together all of these great local partners, but really put the farmer at the center,” says Scott.

The result is an airy, crusty whole grain baguette with a tender, moist interior and open crumb. The natural sweetness and the rich, complex flavor of whole grain flour shine through, complemented by just a hint of sour from the natural leaven. Not only is it one of our best-tasting breads, but it’s nutritious and supports sustainable local farming.

The Farm

We think of bread as coming from the bakery, but it would be just as natural to talk about the field from which it comes. The Williams Hudson Bay Farm, located near Walla Walla in what may be the best wheat-growing land in the world, is one of the largest Certified Organic and Salmon-Safe farms in the region. It is also a beneficiary of the PCC Farmland Trust, which supports farmland preservation, organic production, and sustainable practices.

Tom and Ray Williams, the third generation to work their family farm, grow the two types of wheat—Edison and Expresso—we blend for our whole wheat baguette. “We’re fortunate that the Walla Walla Valley is an excellent place to grow food,” Tom says. “We have great soil, water, all of the resources that it takes to grow organic crops.”

The Wheat

Organic Edison wheat is a dark northern spring flour developed by a professor in Bellingham and improved by the internationally renowned Bread Lab, located in Mount Vernon. Edison wheat is sweet and buttery with a lovely golden color, and it gives our baguette a robust whole wheat flavor.

Organic Expresso wheat is a hard red type 85 that gives the chewy crust of our baguette its dark, caramel color, lends suppleness to our dough and adds loft and tenderness to the interior of the baked loaf. The slow ferment of our dough helps bring out the rich, earthy flavor of the mildly sweet grain.

“Freshly milled whole grain flours provide the best flavor,” Leslie says. “When I started Macrina in 1993, flours like these weren’t commercially available. What is happening now in the heritage grain movement is one of the most exciting developments in baking in a long time.”

The Grain Mill

A hundred years ago there were thousands of wheat farms across America supplying thousands of local mills. Now, most of those mills have closed. Milling is centralized and flour has become an international commodity. Fortunately, in Washington State we have Cairnspring Mills. Located in the scenic Skagit Valley, the mill is a technologically modern flour mill with the throwback philosophy that the local flour mill is an essential part of a vibrant food economy. They work with local farmers committed to sustainable farming. Every batch of grain is milled separately to preserve the integrity of the grain and the unique flavor of each field.

“Cairnspring works directly with the baker to customize the milling process to their needs,” Leslie says. “Unlike most millers who process whole grain, Cairnspring removes some of the bran, while still keeping the integrity of the flour. They provide a steady supply of the high-grade flours we need and the consistency is remarkable.”

The Dough

Freshly-milled whole grain flours work best with a slow fermentation, which helps develop subtle, bright flavors and hydrates the bran. We use our Casera starter, which is the original Macrina starter Leslie created from Champagne grapes planted in her backyard. A slow rise is a critical part of developing the grain-forward flavor and airy crumb of the loaf. Then, as with all our breads, we hand form each baguette and bake it until the crust is dark and caramelized.

The Bread

“I am as excited to be baking today as I was when I opened Macrina 25 years ago,” Leslie says. “Developing our Whole Wheat Baguette was a fun challenge. I visited the Williams Hudson Bay Farm to meet Tom and Ray. Standing in the wheat field gives you a whole new appreciation for what it takes to create a delicious product. We are privileged to be able to use some of the incredible wheat grown there and to have Cairnspring Mills to mill it freshly for us. Through PCC Community Markets, our Whole Grain Baguette will be widely available and bread lovers will taste just how good freshly-milled whole grain flour tastes.”