Spring at Seabreeze Farm

I'm heading out to Orcas Island tomorrow...with a lovely case of strep throat. (Hopefully with a good night's rest...the antibiotics will kick in soon!)

Until I can share a report about Orcas, I found this post in my draft folder. I'd written it earlier this spring...and for some reason, never activated it. Here's a fun look at Seabreeze Farm over on Vashon Island....just a short 20 minute ferry ride from West Seattle.

Oh how I love a field trip....

Each month, Seattle Metropolitan Magazine features a series on the chef/farmer connection. Since Chef uses a ton of duck eggs, we trekked out to Seabreeze Farm for a visit. Joining us was a writer from the magazine and an amazing photographer, Amos Morgan.

For the most part, I made myself scarce...and ended up meeting the staff. I walked in on ateam of 2...skimming cream off raw milk...and had my first taste of unpasteurized milk. Wow. It's incredible! They made cheese with the rest of the milk, and creme fraiche with the cream.

I chatted it up with Charlie, who was making leather out of a calf hide (see photo). As he explained, one of their calves broke loose and got hit by a car. With sustainability in mind, he decided to strip the hide and thanks to the internet, taught himself how to make leather. Charlie described the process and when we met, he was in the middle of a multi-day project. The hide had been stripped and soaked and that day, he was removing the hair and epidermis. Charlie was especially proud of the tool he made--fashioned from hardware store supplies for mere pennies. On the weekends, you can catch up with Charlie at the local farmer's markets, selling Seabreeze eggs and cheese.

The farm itself is filled with free range chickens, ducks, and geese. Apparently this was the season where chickens were looking for any space to lay eggs. Farmer George mentioned he'd find chickens in his office, in the car...or in this case...nesting on a sack of coffee beans.

See that chicken photo? I plucked my first egg out from under her. I used my shoe as a decoy (so it would peck that instead of my hand), then I carefully reached under...and grabbed her leg! Duh. I finally found the egg and pulled it out. It was still warm and flecked with soft pillowy feathers from the nest...amazing.

Another interesting thing...I asked George if he had issues with eagles...which are somewhat frequent sightings out on the island. Apparently not. They have problems with crows and hawks. They'll attack a chicken and eat the grain stored in its throat, the gullet, and pluck through and eat the liver...and leave the rest of the bird to decay. The eagles at least eat the whole bird. The crows and hawks actually will kill many more birds because they eat less of them.

It was a wonderful early spring day out on the island...and a pleasure to meet George, Charlie and the rest of the crew. If you get a chance to head out to Vashon Island, look up Seabreeze Farm. At the edge of their property, they run a flourishing farmstand where you can select your own farm fresh eggs and cheeses. Next to the cooler is a small table. There, you can list your purchases and put cash in the jar. Payment here...is on the honor system.

The official Seabreeze Farm/Duck Egg article was featured in the April issue of Seattle Metropolitan Magazine.

Let's Call It...Progress

My schedule's been crazy busy lately...but the end is in sight, I hope! In the meantime, people are coming over tomorrow and I really should be cleaning my house, but I thought I'd write a post instead. (Productive stalling...don't 'cha know!)

Where to begin?

In the Press
Tavolàta is featured in this month's Bon Appétit! If you get a chance to see the June issue, check out the Seattle spotlight.

Over the past few months, the boys at Tavolàta have seen press regularly passing through. The restaurant was named Seattle's "Most Anticipated Restaurant of 2006" and the delayed opening (Jan. '07) only seems to have increased the momentum.

If you haven't had a chance to stop by, I snapped this picture--killing time during a recent photo shoot. (Notice the photographer by the window?) Before hours, the restaurant looks really peaceful, doesn't it? When they're open, it's not uncommon to wait over an hour.

Adieu, Chef
So now that the new restaurant is up and running and Union is back on track, I've decided to move on to other projects. Working with the Chef has been amazing...and I couldn't be more grateful. A big, heartfelt thank you goes out to Ethan Stowell. Who knew he could be so patient???? Thanks, Ethan. You'll always be one of my heroes.

A Nod from the James Beard Foundation
A big whopping congrats goes out to local food writer, Rebekah Denn. I noticed her name on the James Beard Award Nominee list...and sent her kudos. Turns out, I broke the news that she was even nominated (oops!). I love Rebekah's writing and she is destined for great things. The James Beard folks agree. Rebekah WON the award for "Newspaper or Magazine Restaurant Review or Critique." Kudos, woman! It's well deserved.

Party Recap
Last week I catered a party for 50...and now I know why I don't do THAT very often! Whoa, I was so tired! The party went off without a hitch--proving I've obviously learned a thing or two about timing and preparation. (I'm definitely a candidate for "most improved!") From the kitchen, I could keep an eye on the buffet table and heard a few comments..."This is amazing!" or "These are the best carrots I've ever had." One woman approached me and said, "I make moussaka all the time, and it's never this good." Since I don't cook on a regular basis, I'm glad to hear I can still crank out something people enjoy.

Here's what the final menu looked like:

* Sevillian Marinated Carrots
* Black Olive Paste
* Assorted Olives, cheese, and fruit
* Orzo Salad with Cucumber, Basil, Tomato & Feta
* Chickpea & Green Bean Salad
* Meatballs with Bulgur in Onion & Tomato Sauce
* Moussaka
* Chocolate Stout Cake
* A Cote Brownies
* Strawberries with Ganache for Dipping

Note: If anyone wants recipes, leave a comment. I'll be happy to share.

Blogger Bonding
Monday night, Shauna (Gluten-Free Girl) hosted a dinner for Clotilde of Chocolate and Zucchini fame. Clotilde was in the US on her book tour and naturally, Shauna worked a little magic while she was in town. Our local paper was even in on the action...and if you want to read the article, check it out here. (It's staggering to see...Clotilde's blog gets 4.9 million hits a month!)

While I had other commitments that evening, I did drop by after hours. Shauna & her chef, Clotilde, and I hung out while the crew got the restaurant back to normal. Clotilde was smart, engaging and very interesting. I loved the insiders chat about issues both Shauna and Clotilde experience now that their blogs have become so large. I read an article somewhere... mentioning that bloggers are the new celebrities. Indeed.

On the Horizon....Orcas Island
Next week I'm heading up to Orcas Island for a little reconnaissance. I've booked a couple chefs for an event up there later in June. My plan is to check out the venue and get a feel for their cooking space. (It's so hard cooking in a kitchen you don't know...especially when 50 people pay to see you strut your stuff...) With any luck, I can smooth out any hurdles beforehand.

Incoming Dragon!
Crescent Dragonwagon is coming in town...and I couldn't be more excited. We met at a dinner last year, and quickly became soul sisters. She'll be in Seattle later this year (on tour for her latest book) but this trip, she's doing a cooking demonstration at the Orcas event. Crescent's accolades run a mile long but I find this particularly amusing: She ran a legendary B&B and restaurant back in the Ozarks. Apparently Bill and Hillary Clinton were regulars...and when he won the Presidential election, Crescent cooked one of the inagural dinners! How cool is that? Over this past year, Crescent has become a close friend and mentor who inspires me in so many ways. I can't wait!

Fellow Travelers Arrive
Okay, it's no secret that summer in Seattle is this side of paradise--which explains the wave of friends coming to visit. I just got word that this amazing couple I met in Thailand will be arriving soon. Since we first met, I get periodic e-mails from Spain, Morocco, China, etc. Yes, when I came home in September....they kept traveling! Maggie and Jean Pierre are the sweetest couple and keep me positively entranced with their globe-trotting stories....

Waffles, Anyone?
Last but not least...I just got word from the Waffle Man. If all goes according to plan, he's going to be spending the month of July here in Seattle.

Whew! Okay, there's what's happening in my world. I can't wait to carve out a chunk of time and share a bunch of stories with you. Stay tuned...


Okay, heads up folks. I just got wind of an amazing dinner on Sunday (5/27). My pal, Chef Becky Selengut will be preparing a tantalizing menu, simply titled ELIXER. One look at the menu and I can honestly say, THIS is the place you want to be! (Slow roasted black cod, pinot noir-green garlic sauce, morels, fennel candy...Oh MY!)

If you haven't had a chance to check out Seattle's Underground Dining scene (featured in the Seattle Times, Wall Street Journal, and Tony Bourdain's No Reservations), this IS the night. As you know, I've been playing with some mighty talented chefs and I swear, Becky Selengut has the best palate, bar none!

Do you dare?


Come dine...speakeasy style...and sample the Chef's sweet ELIXER.


Gypsy Dinner: ELIXER
May 27 2007

* Nettle and toasted rice tonic

* Fava bean pancakes, rashers, maple syrup, house pickled onions

* Sweet pea flan with shallot cracklins, cucumber shavings and icicle radish

* Slow roasted black cod, pinot noir-green garlic sauce, morels, fennel candy

* Perilla-verjus bracer

* Grilled 5 spice quail, bamboo shoot matchsticks, rhubarb jam

* Forager's basket salad

* Ginger mochi, umeboshi syrup, red shiso cream

* Bittersweet Chocolate Terrine Lik-m-Aid With 3 powders: Sumac, Citrus, Sesame

* Cocoa nib infusion

For this exquisite night of Food, Wine, and Song, suggested dinner donation: $90, wines extra.

Are you ready to step up to the table? Flying under the radar and dining speakeasy style means...registration is required. For details...and one small step in your dining adventure, register here.

The Foods We Eat

Our local paper ran this article today. It's a fantastic read about Twinkies, deconstructed. After seeing the ingredient list from my childhood favorite, it's a wonder they passed through the Food & Drug Administration!

Grab your favorite treat & take a good look at the label.

What's in your food?

That's Vegas, Baby

By normal standards, four days in Vegas is way too long.

This trip, I went for work...and I was far too busy to worry about the city's other distractions. I saw some fabulous speakers, learned a ton and quite frankly...my head is still spinning.

Flying into town, Vegas appears like an oasis in the middle of the desert. After soaring over vast stretches of dry, barren land, slowly you begin to see signs of civilization. Tract housing with shimmering swimming pools glint in the sun. Development becomes more concentrated and then, as we circle in for a landing, a blinding light reflects off golden windows at the Mandalay Bay hotel.

The plane lands and we walk out on the tarmac alongside a slew of private planes. The airport landing strip is juxtaposed against the famed Las Vegas casino strip-- dangerously encroaching on eachother and battling for dominance over too little space.

The conference was held at Caesar's Palace. Picture opulence in marble with Roman and Greek artwork throughout every conceivable space. Resisting the decadent seduction, somehow, I managed to avoid the gaming tables and slots entirely. I parted with plenty of money on the day to day business of meals and occasional beverages. ($4 for a bottle of water!)

Overall, I've never been a big fan of Vegas.

My brother lived there in the early stages of the building frenzy. Instead of hanging out at the strip, I was happier lingering at his house. I mean, really, who wouldn't? For him, home sweet home meant 5,000 square feet of splendor with a pool and a waterfall Jacuzzi...alongside a golf course that cost $400 to play. By day, you had a fantastic view of the mountains, and at night, the city glittered in the distance. All the Vegas lux...and none of the crowds! Win-win.

This trip, I was too busy with the conference to worry about anything else. Okay, wait. That's not true. My room was....interesting. I had a lovely view of the Flamingo Hotel and giant promotion for Toni Braxton. My bathroom was floor to ceiling marble...blah, blah blah.

BUT, what threw me was...the column-encased mirror over my bed!


The Vegas highlight? At the conference, I stumbled on an opportunity to spend quality time with NBA basketball legend, "Magic" Johnson. (What's the saying...dumb luck favors the fools?)

Magic's portfolio includes 110 Starbucks, movie theaters, TGI Fridays, and other real estate development projects in the heart of urban America.

As we were discussing his projects, he leaned in and said, "You've got to know your customer. At my Starbucks, urban America doesn't want scones." With clear distain, he practically spat the word 'scones.'

Then, his voice favored a Southern drawl, "Honey, at my Starbucks, we're serving up peach cobbler and sweet potato pie!"

To further illustrate his point, he added, "At my TGI Fridays? We're the only ones in the country serving Dom Perignon and Crystal...because that's what my customer wants! Always, always do your research...and know your customer."

As surreal as Vegas is, they've mastered Magic's point. Clearly Vegas knows their customer.

I, on the other hand, am not the Vegas target market. I don't want mirrors over my bed and I fail to appreciate enormous replicas of Michelangelo’s David in...the middle of a shopping mall. I enjoyed my Ecuadorian cab driver far more than the wonders in my hotel. I am definitely NOT the Vegas target market.

Ah, lovely lush and green Seattle....it's good to be back!

Catching Up

I recieved a lovely e-mail the other day. Marce at Pip in the City noticed I haven't been posting as frequently and wrote to check in on me. What can I say? Things have been a little crazy lately. Although the end is in sight, over the next 6 weeks, I'll be blogging even less. Bear with me...I'm working my way through a number of commitments.

So what have I been up to?


Employment with Benefits

I started a new job about a month ago. I'm now working for a publishing company that produces two magazines and has a significant online presence. While it's not food-related, I am learning a lot about the inner workings of a successful magazine. I've had the pleasure of proof reading both magazines before they went to press (this takes hours, and luckily was broken up over two days). I now look at magazines in a whole new light. The amount of work that goes into a typical magazine is truly impressive. Since the magazines I'm working on are industry-specific, I've also been in a learning "bootcamp"--trying to grasp the lingo and get up to speed. I've been reading mountains of information for hours each day. Just when I get to the bottom of my list, someone clears their desk...and finds more for me to read. (I'm secretly loving it!)

Food Lover's Get Down

I still have one foot deep in the food world. So on top of the new job, I've done a little consulting for one of the local magazines...and brainstormed for an upcoming Food Lover's issue. I've been working with a couple writers...sharing ideas, contacts, and whatever else they need from me. (To give you an idea of magazine timelines...all this is for an issue due out in August.) With the direction they're going, that issue is going to be a great reference for the inside scoop on Seattle's Food Scene. More on that later.

Back at the restaurant

Bookings for the slew of summer season events have begun, so I've been working with the chef to figure out his appearance schedule.

What else?

May 14th - we'll be hosting a dinner with Marco Pierre White--the youngest chef to ever be awarded three Michelin stars. This London-based chef has stable full of fabulous restaurants...and a newly released book, "The Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness and the Making of a Great Chef ". This event is held in conjunction with the Seattle-based Kim Rickett's Book Events...and you can read more about it here. The dinner is nearly sold out, but if you want in on the action, contact Union for reservations.

May 17th - Noted cheese authority, Laura Werlin, will be in town for the Cheese Festival. For the kick off, Chef's preparing a meet & greet and a fabulous dinner with Laura. Stay tuned for more details.

Fundraiser on Orcas Island

I've been booking for an event in June. Picture a cooking class with noted chefs in the pristine San Juan Islands. This is my idea of heaven! All the chefs are in place...and we've got some superstars on the horizon: The Herbfarm's legendary Jerry Traunfeld, Pacific Northwest authority Greg Atkinson, James Beard Award-winning author Crescent Dragonwagon, and Seasonal Cornucopia's esteemed Becky Selengut. I'm so excited about this line up! Watch the calendar for more information & registration information.

Early June, I'm heading up to the islands for a site visit to meet with the official event organizers. The chefs will be arriving later in the month, but on this trip, I'll be checking out the venue on their behalf. (Working off-site presents a number of potential challenges and it's best if we can get most of the hurdles figured out ahead of time.) While I'll take any excuse to head out to the islands, gilding the lilly, I've managed to squeeze in dinner at the legendary Christina's Restaurant. (Work does have its perks!)

Bookings and Beyond

That previously mentioned James Beard award-winning author, Crescent, is a good friend of mine. I'm so excited she'll be here for the event out at Orcas Island. While she's in town, we've also managed to book her for several speaking engagements, workshops, and tastings. (Events open to the public will be listed on the 30 Boxes calendar on the right.) For her visit in June, she'll also doing a bit of reconnaissance. You see, Crescent's latest book is due out in August. This fall, she'll be heading out on a nationwide book tour....with a stop here in Seattle. While she's in my corner of the world, I'm working with the publishing company and the local notables to make sure she's at some amazing venues. Crescent is one of the most compelling, dynamic women I've ever met...and I can't wait to spend some quality time with her. With any luck, we'll manage to mix a healthy dose of work AND play!

My good friend Shauna over at Gluten-free Girl is also gearing up for her book tour. I promised to work a little magic for her on the national level. It's a work in progress...and I can't spill the beans just yet. But let's just say...wherever you are in the world, it's likely you'll be able to catch the interview on TV. I'll stop right there. That's all I can say...and it's killing me!

What else? Saturday I leave for a work trip. Vegas, baby, Vegas! While I don't expect to spend much time outside of the conference facilities, with any luck, I'll be able to stick my face in the sun...at least for a little while.

As if things weren't crazy enough, I just booked two catering gigs over the next couple weeks. I'm up to my eye balls in gluten-free menu planning for my friend Lisa. She will be competing in the National Master's Swimming Event and afterwards, Lisa's hosting a party for all the athletes...catered by yours truly! I haven't hit the panic button, yet.

A Little Something for Me

I signed up for a five week class at the Henry Museum called the Ancient Cities of Asia. The class is taught by a professor at the University of Washington and we're covering Madurai, Varanasi, Angkor Wat, Beijing and Kyoto. Here's the official blurb: Visually resplendent and architecturally captivating, sacred cities of Asia are rich in political, religious, and cultural history. Their spaces, iconography, and uses open windows into ways of thinking, believing, and feeling quite distinct from everyday Western life. This course will explore the architecture and cultures of five World Heritage sites from South to East Asia.

Okay, so there's the lowdown on what I've been up to lately....and what's on the horizon. Bear with me while I work my way past the slew of events. I'll look forward to catching up with you all soon!

P.S. For those of you following the saga of The Waffle Man...I just heard from him. He'll be here in June. :) (Yes, this warrants a smiley face!)