Metropolitan Market’s Ode to Peaches

Hurry to Peach-O-Rama to savor a Sweet Peach Brioche made by Macrina with Metropolitan Market’s sweet, just-picked peaches.  

Macrina Sweet Peach Brioche

Each Summer Metropolitan Market holds its annual Peach-O-Rama, and the aisles fill with lovers of sweet, juice-filled peaches. The many varieties of peaches have one thing in common: Each is picked at the peak of ripeness, packed carefully to prevent bruising, and trucked straight to the store.

Pence Orchards in the lower Yakima Valley is one of Metropolitan Market’s primary suppliers. A fourth-generation family farm run by Sharon and Bert Pence, Pence Orchards only picks the peaches when they have tree-ripened and have reached an ideal sweetness. The peaches don’t go into cold storage. Instead, they are carefully nested into single-layer packing. They arrive the next day in the produce section at Metropolitan Market just as succulent and perfect as they were when they dangled from the branch.

Peach-O-Rama started over 20 years ago and was inspired by the founder and chairman of Metropolitan Market, Terry Halverson. He says, “My family lived in Yakima when I was young, and we picked peaches for eating, jam, and canning. Mom made pies and we ate peaches for dessert often. They were as good as you could get. There was nothing like making a mess eating the fully loaded, juicy, aromatic peaches.”

That childhood love fueled the desire to find a way to get the best fresh-from-the-farm peaches into the store. The result is an ode to the peach, those juicy nectar laden gems. Of course, the celebration isn’t limited to the produce aisle. Wander over to the bakery and you’ll find Macrina’s ode to the peach: the Sweet Peach Brioche. Our collaboration with Metropolitan Market features slices of their juicy peaches with cinnamon sugar and sweetened fromage blanc in a lightly textured brioche bun, finished with a dusting of fine sugar. You’ll have a hard time stopping at one!

Becoming Certified: Four of Macrina Bakery’s Breads Are Officially Organic

PCC Whole Grain Baguette

For years we’ve been using more and more locally milled whole grain and whole wheat flours in our breads, all of which are organic. They just taste better. Until our recent collaboration with PCC Community Markets on our organic Whole Grain Baguette, we hadn’t considered going through the official certification process. Sharing PCC’s dedication to local organic farms, we decided it was time to make it official for our breads that already feature 100% organic ingredients: Whole Grain Baguette, Skagit Sourdough, Sour White, and Sour White Ficelle 

Organic Cairnspring Mills Flour

Becoming certified is no small feat. The USDA’s National Organic Program sets the standards. Foods that are certified organic are based on farming methods that don’t rely on toxic pesticides, and that maintain soil fertility and replenish it with only natural fertilizers. Independent third-party officials routinely inspect organic farms and processing facilities to ensure they are meeting all USDA organic standards. Not only is it good for the local ecosystem, but it often produces the best tasting food. 

Organic Cairnspring Mills Flour

We worked with Quality Assurance International (QAI) to obtain our certification. First, we had to ensure that every ingredient, from farm to supplier, is organic and handled in strict accordance with all USDA organic standards. We also had to be sure that all of our internal processes met the same USDA qualifications. There can be no risk of cross-contamination with non-organic ingredients, which meant designing an organic-only section of our bakery, a dedicated organic-only mixer, strict tracking procedures for all ingredients, and an exhaustive cleaning process for our ovens before baking our organic loaves.  

We received our official organic certification on December 26, 2018, it took about six months to make it official. Blake Gehringer, Macrina’s Food Safety General Manager, oversaw the intensive process. The application alone was 30 pages. Then a great deal of thought had to go into everything from color-coded storage containers to new baker’s couches and intensive training for all of our bakers. 

Skagit Sourdough

I’m proud of our decision to certify these breads as organic. Walking through the wheat fields at the Williams Hudson Bay Farm, one of the largest Certified Organic and Salmon-Safe farms in the region located near Walla Walla, it’s hard not to be humbled by their dedication to organic farming. It’s not the easiest way to do things, but it ensures a healthy and sustainably grown product and promotes soil and water conservation. We’re also fortunate that we have local mills, such as Cairnsprings Mill and Fairhaven Organic Flour Mill, that can produce small-batch organic flours for us. And most of all, I’m excited our customers and partners are interested in quality artisan organic products.  

Leslie 

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.”

Azeite Esplendido: Gold-Medal Winning Olive Oil from Portugal

“There are many good olive oils out there, but few that are exceptional, especially at a reasonable price. I tried Azeite Esplendido at the Fancy Food Show earlier this year and was blown away. Sheila Fitzgerald, the importer, impressed me with her passion and knowledge for all things olive oil, from its health benefits to the advantages of small-scale artisanal production. I love the balance this oil has. It’s assertive, with that great peppery spice, not bitter, and low in acidity. I am proud to add Azeite Esplendido to the small curated line of products we carry at Macrina.” 

Leslie

Azeite Esplendido: Gold-Medal Winning Olive Oil from Portugal

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A great extra virgin olive oil is as different from the typical pale yellow stuff sold in supermarkets as pure maple syrup is from Aunt Jemima’s. Good olive oil is alive and peppery, not bitter, and taken straight can make you cough. If you’re accustomed to bland commodity olive oil one spoonful of the real thing will transport you to another gustatory plane where flavor defies known parameters.

That’s sort of what happened when Seattle resident Sheila Fitzgerald was hiking through northern Portugal en route to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela in 2012. In the high hills above the Douro Valley, a soaring majestic patchwork of cultivated agriculture and natural, craggy slopes, she found herself in a grove of olive trees. Some had massive trunks, their limbs twisted and magnificent with age. She introduced herself to the property owner, Henrique Cardoso, a fourth-generation farmer, who then introduced her to his olive oil.

fullsizeoutput_3e9a “I knew good olive oil, but I’d never tasted anything like his,” Sheila says. “The golden-green oil had a peppery spiciness to it, no bitterness, and a complexity and balance that I’d never experienced.”

That revelatory moment kicked off Sheila’s four-year journey to become the sole US importer of Henrique’s olive oil. The first challenge was winning Henrique’s trust, persuading him that she would uphold his fierce commitment to quality. Next came an extended process of gaining FDA approval, an involved study of the existing US market, selecting bottles, and designing a label.

Since that first visit, Sheila has been back many times, including at harvest time, which starts in November and goes through January.

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“Henrique picks his olives early and makes Azeite Esplendido from the first harvest,” Sheila says. “That means the olive is picked when they’re very green. Most farmers wait until the olives get plumper. That way they get more oil out of it. But the olive loses flavor as it ripens. My oil has a peppery spiciness to it. That’s indicative of an early harvest. It can bring tears to your eyes, even make you cough. That’s a good thing.”

Harvest is a time of celebration. An autumnal chill in the air, the groves often laced with tendrils of fog, pickers go from tree to tree using long rakes to pull the olives into nets. An old tractor hauls them to the press, no longer one of the picturesque stone mills, but a state-of-the-art stainless steel centrifuge.

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“The olives are washed then ground into a mash before they’re dumped into the centrifuge,” Sheila says. “Henrique continually adjusts the revolutions per second, which changes the oil. He’s always testing it.”

Before the bottling, which is done within twelve hours of pressing, comes the blending. Azeite Esplendido is composed of first cold-pressed oil from four types of olives: Transmontona Verdeal, Cobrançosa, Cordovil, and Madural.

Sheila says, “Henrique guards the percentage of each olive in the blend. It’s the secret to his recipe. Along with picking at the right time, carefully monitoring of the oil extraction, and cultivating the best trees.”

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The Tras-os-Montes region, where the farm is located, is one of the six protected designation of origin (DOP) zones in Portugal. The microclimate and soil make it an ideal place for olive trees. On Henrique’s farm, the trees are widely spaced to allow each tree plenty of sun and wind and rain. Some of the trees are five to six hundred years old. These are called the mother trees. Around their base workers mound extra dirt. When new shoots come up they are transplanted, hence the name mother tree. The trees are not irrigated.

Sheila says, “Henrique told me doesn’t want to babysit his trees. It’s survival of the fittest. If it can’t grow there, he doesn’t want it.”

While Italy’s olive trees suffered through a terrible year in 2016 that halved production, Henrique’s groves fared well.

“Olive oil is a live product. It changes over time,” Sheila says. “It’s dependent on fluctuations in the weather. The new harvest is so bright green. Henrique tasted the oil at bottling and said, ‘My olive oil is so good this year we’re gonna blow the dishes off the wall.’ It wasn’t a translation issue. That’s his expression. No one makes olive oil like he does.”

Last April, at the New York International Olive Oil Competition, 827 olive oil entries from 26 countries were judged. Azeite Espledido took home the top honor, a gold medal.

Macrina is proud to carry this fine olive oil. Buy a bottle and a loaf of your favorite crusty bread, puddle a bit of oil on a plate and dip. Will it blow the dishes off the wall? Probably not. But it just might blow you away.

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 Buzz on (Really) Local Honey

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On my Vashon Island farm, I have plenty of space for my gardens and chickens. But the current trend in urban farming blurs the old line between city and country. Farming used to be something that took place outside of town. Nowadays, many Seattle homes have parking strip planter boxes overflowing with beans, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, corn, and much more. Composting boxes overflow. Chickens cluck proudly in backyards, supermarket eggs are no match to their prize offerings. So it’s no surprise that urban bees should follow. That urban produce needs to be cross-pollinated somehow.

Corky Luster started Ballard Bee Company out of his Ballard garage. He’s the Steve Jobs of local honey, the godfather of the urban hive. Turns out it takes more than just plonking a couple of hives in your yard. You need to know how to manage the colony.

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(Photo: Seattle Tilth)

Corky’s love for beekeeping began in college when a German roommate started a couple of hives in their backyard. While working as a designer and contractor building homes in Seattle, he started raising bees in Ballard. City ordinance only allows up to four hives on lots less than 10,000 feet. So Corky began recruiting others to host hives. He manages them; the homeowner gets a dividend of honey and the knowledge that they’re helping our local ecosystem. The hive takes up little space, but its impact is large. Corky combats disease-and-mites by using integrated pest management principles and avoids harsh pesticides, such as acaricides, in his efforts to keep the hives healthy and happy. The city, surprisingly, turns out to be a great place to produce honey since urban trees and gardens tend to be free of industrial agricultural pesticides. With a surplus of fantastic honey, Corky bottled it and began to sell it through a few local stores in 2010.

Renee Erickson, chef of Ballard’s The Walrus and The Carpenter and Fremont’s The Whale Wins, has Corky manage hives for her restaurants. Corky’s cult status in the beekeeping world has also allowed him to partner with Seattle Tilth to teach classes on building and maintaining healthy hives.

At Macrina, I’ve always tried to carry a few locally produced items that complement our breads—it’s hard to find anything more local than Ballard Bee Company’s honey. The flavor is delicate and floral, with just a hint of lemon in the aftertaste. With Seattle’s explosion of urban farming, there are plenty of flowering trees, flowers, and gardens. Plus all those wild blackberries. So the bees do their important work, Corky’s careful attention keeps their hives healthy and we get to offer this beautiful honey. Everybody wins!

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.

Wheat

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

Farm to Brunch: Touring Seattle Tilth

logoEarly this June I visited Seattle Tilth’s farm incubator in Auburn with Marilyn Mercer, Elizabeth Hall, Mandela Turner, and Crystal Kitchin, Macrina’s brunch team. We were especially excited to visit the farm – Macrina is one of the lucky few establishments that buys freshly grown vegetables from Seattle Tilth for our weekly rotating brunch menus.

Seattle Tilth started in 1978 with its Urban Agriculture Center in Wallingford. The Tilth Association began as an alternative agriculture movement with the aim of supporting and promoting biologically sound and socially equitable agriculture in the Pacific Northwest. While the parent association disbanded in 1984, Seattle Tilth has continued to grow and thrive with a stated mission today to inspire and educate people to safeguard our natural resources while building an equitable and sustainable local food system. They teach people to grow food organically while taking care of the environment through a wide variety of classes, programs, and community events. There are classes for both kids and adults, many of them located in Seattle’s most diverse and densely populated urban neighborhoods. They’re an amazing resource for organic gardening education in the region.

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One of their newer programs is the farm incubator.  Matthew McDermott, the director of Seattle Tilth Farm Works, and Chris Iberle, the Food Hub Manager, led us on our tour of their forty-acre site in Auburn. They call it “The Red Barn Farm.”  While we walked through the fields of young starts, Matthew filled us in on the history of the land. Originally owned by former Seattle Supersonics Greg Ballard, who bought the land for a kid’s basketball camp, it was later donated to Seattle Parks and Recreation. They make it available to Seattle Tilth Farm Works as part of their Parks Urban Food Systems program.

The program provides farm business training and support to immigrants, refugees and people with limited resources in South King County. Each year they add ten new farmers to their training program that runs from February to June, reserving ten spots for returning farmers. Their aim is to help new farmers get into small farming, teaching them not just the elements of organic farming through hands-on experience, but also business planning, operations, and marketing. Matthew explains that the average age of an American small farmer is 60 years old. They hope to lower that through their program.

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Each of the twenty farmers tends a quarter-acre parcel, growing vegetables for Seattle Tilth’s CSA subscription program that provides subscribers with a weekly box full of fresh, delicious produce from June through October. The farm also supplies the fresh produce for their Good Food Bag program, which helps supply healthy organic vegetables to qualifying limited-resource families. We saw peas, radishes, onions, garlic, corn, squash, and pole-beans. In addition to the open fields they have 13 100-foot hoop houses, most of them planted with tomatoes. Due to the low snow pack this year and the possibility of a drought they mandated a water irrigation system. To supplement their water supply, they have a large cistern that collects rainwater. At the end of our tour, we stopped by the cleaning station where the farmers wash and trim their veggies, weighing their daily harvest and logging it onto the weekly production board.

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It feels good to be a part of a program that is training young farmers in the best practices for sustainable and environmentally sensitive farming. Moreover, their produce is simply delicious. Visit one of our Macrina cafe locations over the weekend and try something off of our rotating brunch menu to see for yourself.

Leslie Mackie

Flour and Heart: A Celebration of America’s Best Bakers

Bob's Red Mill Cake

I received an invitation from Bob’s Red Mill to join seven other celebrated bakers and pastry chefs from around the country for an event in New York City on May 12th. We were each given a type of flour and asked to create a new recipe for the event. A large bag of Bob’s Red Mill Organic Unbleached All-Purpose Flour arrived, and I set to work. With rhubarb in season and my raspberry bushes just beginning to fruit I started playing around with a few ideas. Some organic flours I have used have been inconsistent. I found Bob’s to be very predictable, both in pastry and bread. It bakes nicely, is not too heavy, and has good texture. The recipe I settled on for the event was a Rhubarb and Raspberry Upside Down Cake, a sweet and buttery favorite that pairs the tang of raspberries with the tartness of rhubarb.

I flew to New York with Jane Cho, Macrina’s head pastry chef, and together we prepared 250 tiny cakes, topping them with whipped cream. Astor Center, where the event was held, was beautifully decked out. Many food magazines, such as Food & Wine, Saveur, and Martha Stewart Living stopped by for a nibble, as well as a great number of food bloggers and tastemakers. And Bob Moore, the real Bob we know from the label, wearing his signature red vest and golf hat, made the rounds. He repeatedly thanked all of us “for making Bob’s Red Mill what it is.” Well into his eighties, Bob is a charming and very gracious man, and it is easy to see how he has built such a strong community around his product. The values of his now employee-owned company are first-rate, as you’d expect from a company dedicated to sourcing the finest grains and flours and milling them with old-world techniques.

The next day we toured some of New York’s finest bakeries: Sullivan Street Bakery, Tom Cat Bakery, Balthazar Bakery, and Amy’s Bread. We returned to Seattle exhausted, exhilarated, and honored to have been a part of Bob’s Red Mill’s celebration. To have shared the stage with so many other talented pastry chefs and bakers was special. Look for my Raspberry Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake at one of our cafes this summer.

 – Leslie Mackie

PCC Natural Markets: Bringing Bread Full Circle

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The PCC Natural Markets staff on a tour of our Sodo production facility.

Nestled between the folds of the rolling Palouse Hills and Blue Mountains sits the Walla Walla Valley. Ripe with meandering creeks that feed the Walla Walla River, this fertile land is home for much of Washington’s agriculture, including Williams Hudson Bay Farm. Owned and operated by brothers Tom and Ray Williams, this farm is part of the PCC Farmland Trust. Founded by PCC Natural Markets in 1999, the Farmland Trust is a way to help keep Northwest organic farms in the hands of farmers.

As Leslie Mackie searched for new ways to feature nutritious, locally sourced ingredients in our products, she learned about the Williams brothers’ whole-grain wheat processed by Fairhaven Mills. We began testing the organic whole wheat flour in some of our breads and found it added a wholesome nutty, sweet flavor perfect for our Whole Wheat Cider bread. Now, whenever you bite into a sandwich or burger made with our Whole Wheat Cider loaf, buns, or dinner rolls, you’re enjoying the Williams brothers’ harvest.

“I have always been a fan of PCC Natural Markets,” says Leslie Mackie. “But, with such a nice tie to the PCC Farmland Trust, it seemed like a natural progression to sell these delicious buns in PCC locations.”

More and more, consumers are interested in knowing where their food comes from, but Seattle has long been ahead of that curve. Leading the charge for sourcing better food from sustainable, trustworthy producers was PCC Natural Markets. What started as a food-buying club with just 15 families back in 1953 is now the largest consumer-owned natural food retail co-operative in the country with 10 locations spanning from Issaquah to Edmonds and plans to open its 11th location in Columbia City this summer.

As of 2014, you can find PCC shelves stocked with everything from our seasonal items like Colomba Pasquale to breadbasket staples like Rustic Potato Rolls and, of course, our Whole Wheat Cider Buns.

“Customers are loving this partnership,” says PCC’s Grocery Merchandiser Scott Owen. “We began selling Macrina breads in King County locations and they sold so wonderfully well we expanded the products to all of our stores.”

Upon a recent field trip to our production facility in Sodo, we were able to show PCC staff exactly how that flour, processed at Fairhaven Mills, and produced on a PCC Farmland Trust farm, is turned into a loaf of bread sold in their stores.

Sharing food made with the very best ingredients, sourced as close to home as possible is something we take great pride in and solidifies our bond with PCC.

“It is such a joy with work with PCC,” adds Leslie. “The staff is appreciative of our products and genuinely excited to sell our breads.”