Devastation....and The Kindness of Strangers

Black Sheep Creamery Farm - Chehalis, Washington
December 2007

Remember the horrible rains we had back in December?

Flooded streets and swollen riverbanks meant people were digging mud out of their homes for months. In fact, some...are still trying to recover.
Local artisan cheesemaker, Black Sheep Creamery, is one of the farmers affected by those December floods. Water cascaded into their cheese cave...bringing with it a torrent of mud and muck. The barn suddenly filled with water, trapping their prized sheep. Sadly, they lost the bulk of their herd.

Home Sweet Home

When the family returned from safety, they found a sea of mud...

On the Black Sheep Creamery website, there are more photos....and a poignant journal, began before the flood. It's a great read about farm life...and beginning in January it includes a personal account of trying to recover from the devastation.

I was particularly moved by a woman who was dubbed, "The Crockpot Queen." They never did learn her name, but in the days following the flood, the family would find hot meals delivered to their home:

"January 7, 2008 The Crock Pot lady saved my families stomach’s tonight. I was out and about doing all sorts of errands and getting things done . I had just spoken to Brad to fill him in on yet another mind-numbing detail of things to do. I had asked him what we should have for dinner....Woo Hoo when I got home there on the hood of the truck in the garage was a gift from the Crock Pot Queen. We do not know her name, all she says is that she is a former neighbor and she brought us a crock pot with soup. Then she brought a casserole, and now more crock pot meals and goodies on top of that....

Thank you your Highness of the Crock Pot. I love those things, they hold good food, ease of use and now, in my mind, they hold a whole lot of respect for someone who has taken the time and trouble to cook and deliver her fine meals. People are like that. People amaze me.

We have received anonymous donations from incredible people who are happy to give with no strings attached. Who are just amazing to me. I wonder if we have even met???? We have had incredible gifts from so many people far and wide hoping to help the business prosper, or to fund a replacement ewe. We plan to be back up and running as soon as we can. We will make it back only through the help we have received from so many people, churches, organizations and cooperatives. People are incredible.

It had been a difficult day today. I finally wept, not just shed a few tears but wept."

Look for Black Sheep Creamery cheese at DeLaurenti, Whole Foods, and Beecher's.

And if you're in the Seattle Area, On Friday, May 2nd, Beecher's will team with the Pike Place Market's The Tasting Room to host a Cheese 101 class with 100% of the proceeds going to Black Sheep Creamery and their efforts.

Cheese 101 : Introduction to Artisan Cheese
Friday May 2nd
6pm to 8:30pm
$50 (all proceeds benefit Black Sheep)

To Register:

Back in Action

Okay people, I'm back in action!

On occasion, I get these crazy ideas....I dig my heals in...and resist the advances of technology. It was years before I finally succumbed to the realization that cell phones are a wise choice. When my friend came back from Africa painting vivid pictures of village life with no running water or electricity, but his mother had a cell phone (battery-powered) was time for me to give in.

Technology resistance reared its head again when I had my laptop stolen back in December. I decided to try living without such easy access to technology. To get my tech fix, I'd stay late at work, trek off to the library (1 hr/day time limit), use a friend's computer, or if I was really desperate, I'd head off to the local Kinko's and pay their outrageous $18/hr. (If I was super speedy, that translated to 20 cents a minute.)

The good news? It finally broke my habit of checking e-mail morning, noon and night. ("Crackberry" sans Blackberry...)

The bad news? I had a mounting pile of neglected projects...and was turning myself into a wreck trekking all over town for computer access.

Finally, I caved.

Yesterday I unpacked my new laptop and within minutes, I was cooing, "Hello gorgeous! Where have you been all my life?"

And as I took in the various features, I couldn't help but catcall, "Check out that keyboard. Ooh baby....And would you look at that monitor?" (Insert sexy whistle here.)

Yes, I am back in action!

And thanks to this little experiment, I've got a whole new appreciation for what it's like to be without computer access...

Issues surrounding the technology divide took on a whole new awareness when it became personal: with only 1 hour of access to public computers, how do people find jobs? Or write papers for school? Heck, with only 1 hour a day, how do you even get comfortable with technology? Computers may be vital to our society, but without access, how do you develop the necessary skills?

These are serious issues in developing nations, but I was shocked to discover how difficult it was here in the United States. It's a shame--especially when you consider our proximity to Microsoft and Google.

For me, living without a computer was a choice...and I could simply opt out, but for others? It's just not that easy.

What's the solution?

Here's a step in the right direction. Mohini over at Mango Power Girl has taken up the cause with an organization called One Laptop per Child.

As Mohini tells it, after their wedding, she and her husband pooled the cash...and donated funds to purchase laptops. "We decided to save the money spent on the cost of a big wedding, and to start our marriage off right by instead giving that much money away to the world's neediest."

Noble deed?


But then I's by sheer luck of the gene pool that I was born in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. For me, giving back...goes hand in hand with that privilege.

On that note, I'll bring this post to a close.

While I've had limited computer access over the past few months, I've been collecting tons of stories--including some super juicy news (YAY!) and an update on my Round the World trip. I can't wait to share the news with you!

Stay tuned.....

Postcards from Malta

The Waffle Man is attending a conference in Malta this week. In sharp contrast to the odd late spring snow and hail we've had here in Seattle, as you can see...Malta is sunny and beautiful.

A bit of trivia: Malta is a small country in the central Mediterranean sea. Comprised of 7 islands, 3 of which are inhabited, this strategically located nation has been a member of the European Union since 2004.

According to Wikipedia, Malta is also home to the oldest freestanding structure in the world--dating back before 3500 BC.

Now, on with the photos...

Looking out on old town

Naturally, my German would find the one boat sponsored by a beer manufacturer!
Notice the Lowenbrau logo?

Typical narrow streets. See the crane taking up both lanes of traffic?

One Hell of a Year for Ethan Stowell

Ethan Stowell at Union, with film crew from Japan

Hey ya'll. Just in case you aren't glued to every food-related PR announcement like I am....I'm happy to report that my old client, Ethan Stowell, was just named one of Food & Wine's Top 10 New Chefs in America!

The issue will be out on news stands in July...or you can pop over to Food & Wine and preview the list here.

And to bring a banner year home...Ethan's also been nominated by the James Beard Foundation for Best Chef in America: Pacific Northwest. (The winner will be announced in June.)

But wait! There's more...

In the last 15 months, Ethan's opened not one...but TWO new restaurants...Tavolàta and How to Cook a Wolf (otherwise known as 'Wolf'.)

While I was working with Ethan, we were laying this foundation....and I'm so glad to see his vision finally come together. It's been one hell of a ride.

Cheers, my friend.

PS. If you want to read more about the concept and opening of Tavolàta...take a dip into the archives.

Bourdain, Back in Seattle


You all remember Tony, right?

I just got word that The Man will be back in town on June 7th.  He'll be appearing at The Moore Theater....and for a lucky few, cocktails will be served right on stage after the show.  Mix and mingle with Tony on stage.  How's THAT for theater?

Here's the deal: Tickets are not released to the public, yet.  If you want in on the action, you must know the secret password.


Log on here:

Click on: Find Tickets

Password: FOODIE

Good luck.  Tickets will go fast!

Official Press blurb:
Anthony Bourdain is not your typical celebrity chef.  This is not your typical night at the theater.  Also available, VIP tickets to party onstage after the show with Tony (drinks and snacks by Heineken and Culinary Communion) and seats to a private pre-show dinner with Anthony Bourdain prepared by Matthew Dillon of Sitka and Spruce in his new venture, The Corson Building.

Signs of Spring

Signaling the first signs of spring....the University of Washington's campus is a riot of Japanese Yoshino cherry trees in full bloom. I spotted this group out on a chilly morning field trip.