Posted in cows, farming, LA BOUCHERIE, Vashon Island, tagged dustin calery, George Page, grass based dairy, grass based farming, LA BOUCHERIE, Sea Breeze Farm on February 23, 2011 |
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Photo courtesy of Charity Lynne Burggraaf
At Sea Breeze Farm, lengthening of the days and the slightly warmer weather of February and March cause the grasses in our pastures to come out of dormancy, and allow our milk cows to eat less hay, and graze on pure, green grass. Not only is the flavor and quality of the milk improved immensely, the cow’s production goes way up, and affords us the opportunity to make more delicious dairy-based products. Getting to produce these things for a dinner celebration lets us know that spring is close at hand. This weekend, each item on our prix fixe menu will feature hand made dairy products that are produced with the utmost care and respect for beauty of the milk. Join us for:
prosciutto with fresh mozzarella and butter crackers
ricotta gnudi with wild mushroom and shallot butter
pork shoulder braised in buttermilk,
savoy cabbage and creme fraiche whipped potatoes
fresh bay leaf ice cream
shortbread tart with cream caramel
Friday and Saturday dinner service begins at 5:30pm.
Our a la carte menu will also be available.
To make your reservation:
call us at 206.567.4628
Join us in tasting and celebrating the coming of Spring!
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Our chosen life of inventing, trail blazing, and resurrecting small-scale food production methods may seem foreign to many. But within the Page family, such a path is entirely normal. This week, we spent an evening with George’s brother and family in Centralia, Washington, where Justin and Lucy Page have created Santa Lucia Coffee. Their business encompasses both a roasterie and cafe, and true to form, is entirely unique.
Justin began roasting coffee on a micro-scale, using an electric popcorn popper. For personal consumption, such equipment is perfectly adequate. But as his new hobby blossomed into a cottage industry, he began building custom roasters. Each roaster was slightly larger and more sophisticated than the last. justin’s newest machine roasts ten-pound batches; still very small on a commercial scale, but a quantum leap from where he began. It is a Willy Wonka looking contraption of black stove piping, but after the second crack, perfectly roasted beans pour out onto the cooling tray.
The brothers Page are notorious for this kind of thing. From carpentry to charcuterie, sculpture to software, forging to foraging, they are self-taught and proficient in nearly every craft that catches their interest. Perhaps growing up in Southeast Alaska, surrounded by back-to-the-land ambition and self sufficiency, cultivated such confidence.
The next time you you make the drive to Portland, stop in Centralia (aptly named as the midway point between Seattle and Portland), and visit Justin and Lucy’s Santa Lucia Cafe In historic downtown Centralia. Relax in the sunny courtyard, and savor the smooth, chocolaty brew that is distinctly Santa Lucia. If Justin is there, you can ask him about the last roaster he built. Or, the next roaster he intends to build. Because that is the cycle; constant observation, conclusion, innovation. Who says artisans aren’t scientists.
Justin and George roasting coffee
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I started writing about this a few days ago and found it too depressing to finish, so I put the idea aside. But the topic keeps creeping into my consciousness, and frankly anything else I could say this week would feel false without first exploring this subject.
Last week I read and posted on Facebook an article published by GRIST about the increase of raids on farms and private food clubs. Here is a link to the complete article. Essentially there are farms in several states experiencing severe crack-downs regarding the sale and distribution of raw food through informal, communal channels. Several friends and customers commented on the piece. They echoed most of my own feelings: shock, outrage, incredulous. However I don’t believe any of these lovely folks are farmers themselves, so I was perhaps alone in imagining my own doorstep graced with armed visitors, attempting to confiscate our computers, products, etc. Don’t even get me started on the description of the mother with young children being held at gunpoint for several hours. (KOMO, KIRO, KING; are you listening???)
In the last ten years, we have jumped through literally hundreds of hoops to avoid such a fate. We are a Washington State Department of Agriculture licenced facility for chicken slaughter. We are a Washington State Department of Agriculture licensed facility for egg washing. (Yes, there is a license for this.) We are a Washington State certified Raw Milk Dairy. We are licensed to sell our products at three Seattle farmers markets, for each of which the King County Department of Health requires a separate permit and fee. We are a licensed and certified winery (in accordance with the TTB/Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms), food establishment with beer & wine license (licensed and inspected by the King County Health Department) and butcher shop (inspected by the Washington State Department of Agriculture). We employ ten of the hardest working, most incredibly talented and persevering individuals in Washington State, for which we must tango with Washington Labor & Industries Department, not to mention the good old federal government.
All of the above is a lot of headache for a very small yet complex operation. And there isn’t a week that goes by when we don’t wonder if it’s really worth it. Do you know why we do it? It’s certainly not because we see legitimacy as a road to riches. Because we believe in it. We believe it is all possible. That raising healthy animals humanely, in a manner that is in true stewardship to the land, maintaining the integrity of what we produce, and delivering those products to customers that understand and value and appreciate the difference, is a viable business model. That what is good and right can be held up to the light of day. That this type of farming can be done legitimately, without being a Rockefeller. That there is an alternative to the corporate monster that has become our food chain. That our health and the Earth are more important than corporate interests. That our lives depend on it.
So we’ve jumped through the hoops. And we continue to do so. And we believe in the power of collaboration. We believe in the individuals we have come to know within the regulatory entities, whom through their own experiences of health and food and agriculture see a better future together. In fact, I wish we could discuss all of these challenges in our kitchen, over a delicious meal of farm raised chicken; pork loin braised in milk and herbs; heavenly smoked bacon. Let’s figure out a solution to the cut & wrap ban. But please; leave the police escorts behind.
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When someone asks me, “How did you get into farming?” I usually tell the Claire story.
In 1999, George and I lived in an Anhalt townhouse apartment on Queen Anne. After graduating from UW in Physics, George worked as a software engineer for Guidant, a medical device company in Redmond. Admittedly, he was much more passionate about the Madeleines he baked every afternoon in his cube’s toaster oven than he was about pacemaker programming. But things have a funny way of working out.
A coworker that lived in nearby Carnation kept a few chickens and brought in some fresh eggs; that was it. George became obsessed with the quality difference between store-bought eggs and farm eggs. The coworker could hardly keep up with his pleading, so Claire was gifted upon our urban homestead on Queen Anne.
The chicken arrangement was set up on our veranda. No cage; it was free range from day 1. And when the newcomer wasn’t pooping on the veranda, she was pooping on various windowsills and door stoops. Yet despite those first impressions, the neighbors took to her and named her. Claire.
And she became, Claire: The Urban Chicken Experiment.
Claire failed to lay one lousy egg. We waited for about 3 months. Nada. So George thought Claire should be put to other purposes. Our buddy Camron was called in to lend an assist, several books were purchased, and George’s first chicken slaughter, plucking, and evisceration began.
It took nearly four hours. Long. Complicated. Arduous. We still talk about it. The most memorable point came about half way through the process; the plucked bird lay on the counter, and Camron unabashedly exclaimed, “Hey! Now it’s starting to look like a chicken!”
Thankfully, Camron snapped a few pictures that evening. It was a place and time before aspirations of farming. Before Vashon. Before goats and pigs and cows and sheep and wine and farmers markets and butcher shop and restaurant. Just trying something new. Fancy that.
George in kitchen at Franco Villa Apt, Seattle 1999
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