Posts Tagged ‘Sea Breeze Farm’

Photo Credit: Charity Lynne Burggraaf

Last Saturday night at La Boucherie had my favorite vibe; the room full of diners, lots of chatter and laughter and enthusiastic responses to the food we prepared and served, music and candle light just right.   The crowd was a lovely mix of new customers, regulars, neighbors, Vashon Island visitors, and friends.  At least two birthdays were being celebrated.  And we were particularly happy to be hosting the crew of Pacific Crest Farm, who had grown nearly all the produce on the menu that was literally being enjoyed all around them.  Jen and Bob Parker and their intern Emily were living it up with a celebratory dinner, marking the end of their busy harvest season.

Now over the past four years, we’ve had the pleasure of serving a fair number of celebrities; well-known actors, musicians, performers, chefs and restaurateurs, and for the most part they have enjoyed privacy and anonymity while eating at La Boucherie.  I like knowing that a world-famous individual, who normally has very little privacy in public, can be in our little room that seats only 26 patrons and perhaps enjoy what is a “normal” night out for the rest of us.

Similarly, I’m going out on a limb to say that I’m guessing there have been precious few times when fans or paparazzi interrupted a farmer’s public existence.  So it was a fun twist of the predictable when Chef Dustin turned down the music and asked for everyone’s attention, explaining we had some special guests in the room that night he wanted to acknowledge.  Our farm friends looked around and wondered about whom he might be referring.  Dustin proceeded by introducing the Pacific Crest Farm team, and identifying all the ingredients of that evening’s menu that had been planted, nurtured and harvested by these three individuals, which was heartily applauded by all.

It’s something pretty special to be that close to the source.  It’s also our restaurant’s raison d’être.  Thanks again, Pacific Crest; you guys are rock stars! At least at our place.

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La Boucherie, Vashon Island

Saturdays in the butcher shop are quite social. When the front door opens, the jangle of the bells hanging from the handle announces “We have company” and honestly, I’m thankful every time.

More often than not, a fun conversation ensues.  Our customers often share their cooking intentions, or describe how they prepared their last purchase. Tangential threads about meals and experiences abroad are also common. Regardless if the customer lives on Vashon or not, it’s rarely a story-less transaction, and I love it.

Through our doors walk our regulars; folks that have become happily hooked on the taste of real, raw milk; fans of fresh, pasture-raised pork, lamb and poultry; sausage lovers who pour over the selection of styles; organ meat connoisseurs who delight in taking home nutrient rich offal; bakers who love leaf lard; soup makers who appreciate our rich, gelatinous stock; nibblers of pate, rilletes, head cheese, and smoked sausage; and many, many fans of bacon.

Vashon “summer people”, weekenders and day-trippers also often incorporate a visit into their island sojourn, and it’s pleasing to know we have become part of their furlough.   More often than not, they are already familiar with our products and farm from the Seattle Farmers Markets.  While shopping at La Boucherie, they now see where the production for those markets takes place, and meet the butcher who prepares those offerings.

Occasionally we are visited by an Islander leading their out-of-town-guests, who announces as soon as they enter the shop that they are “…just showing friends what we have on Vashon.” Although I haven’t seen them in the shop or the restaurant before and they usually leave empty-handed, I’m heartened by these visits.  It tells me that even if they are not (yet) a customer, on some level they appreciate our endeavor enough to consider it a point of interest on their Vashon tour. Indeed, I am eternally optimistic; on their next visit, I tell myself, they’ll try something out of the case.

With the exception of the tour guides, each of these folks makes a choice.  Industrial meat and milk can be purchased in multiple locations on Vashon, and at a significantly lower price.  Even cheaper meat and milk can be purchased at Costco, Trader Joes, etc. just a ferry ride away. Our customers have placed a value on the products we provide that is in equilibrium with what it costs to bring these products to market, sans middleman.  They understand that food grown on Vashon, naturally and never frozen or pasteurized, is more nutritious; requires less fossil fuel; supports their local economy; and will taste better. Their presence in the butcher shop allows my presence.  We are mutually dependent, and I’m thankful every time.

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The National Chefs Collaborative Summit took place in Seattle this week, and I’ve enjoyed many thought provoking tidbits posted on Twitter by participants.  On Monday during Ruth Reichl’s keynote address, New York Times writer Kim Severson broadcast a statistic that certainly got my attention, and was re-tweeted by 25 others:

Kim Severson ‏‪@kimseverson

Stunning stat: ‪@ruthreichl says only 2% of Americans have been to a farm. ‪#natlsum12

I did some very quick and unscientific fact-checking which was inconclusive about how many Americans have in fact visited a farm.  The 2% number is frequently sited as the percentage of Americans who live on a farm. But I’m not going to get hung up on the validity of that number; that’s not what motivated me to write today.

My first (and online) reaction to this small percentage of American farm visitors was this: it’s definitely not for lack of interest.  We field farm tour requests on a daily basis.  And when our city customers come to the town of Vashon and visit our butcher shop and restaurant, they frequently remark –usually with a detectable note a disappointment– that they were expecting the enterprise to be located within our actual farm.

The fact is we offer tours on a very limited basis; about four times a year, and this schedule falls woefully short of the demand.  If we could fling open the gates to every request, we’d be doing so every weekend, to dozens of farm-curious folk.  And it’s this very non-existent openness that our customers expect.  Isn’t that what healthy, small-scale farming is supposed to be about: transparency?  But it’s more complicated than that.  As I explain to many, we have electric fencing.  We have a bull.  Neither should be experienced on a self-guided “tour” of the farm.   Which means farm visits require a docent of sorts, and therefore one of our already-stretched-thin employees must stop milking the cows, feeding the pigs, moving the chicken tractors, etc. to serve as farm guide.  We’re not there, yet.

For now, the limited and scheduled “farm events” must suffice.  In fact, we are holding such an event next week and 36 guests will join us for a full tour during the afternoon milking, plus barrel sampling and cheese tasting from the cellar, followed by a harvest feast at the restaurant.  The event sold out quickly, affirming what I already know.  People are hungry for more than the food.

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Image courtesy of Charity Lynne Burggraaf

My friend Gene shared this phrase with me, “mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful”, from E. E. Cummings’ poem about spring, [in-Just].  It’s hard to scowl while uttering these words.  So despite our very, very wet March, when it comes to my attitude about the recent weather patterns, I’m turning over a new tree.  After all, Spring Solstice is this weekend.

Technically, Spring Solstice occurs on March 20 or 21, when our sun crosses the celestial equator from south to north; day and night are balanced to nearly 12 hours each all over the world, and the earth’s axis of rotation is perpendicular to the line connecting the centers of the earth and sun.  But this date alone is not my only clue that our “mud luscious” spring is upon us.  The Pacific tree frogs are also singing; an annual rite that makes me smile in bed as I listen to their seasonal cacophony.  The wild daffodils have appeared; lining the northwest perimeter of our pasture; glimmers of hope on the horizon.   And best of all, the first batch of spring chicken is on the menu.

In honor of the Solstice, this weekend our tasting menu features roasted ‘poussin’, as the farm crew has initiated our 2011 poultry season with the first poulet rouge of the year.  In addition to our small plates and entrée menu, Friday and Saturday night we are delighted to serve the following:

First of Spring Salad Greens

Sunny side up farm egg and white wine vinaigrette


Farm Ricotta Gnudi with Yellowfoot Mushrooms

Sauteed with foraged stinging nettle puree


Grilled Veal Cutlet

With wild miner’s lettuce, lemon and thyme


Crème Fraiche Sherbet

Made with cultured farm cream, sprinkled with sea salt


Roasted Poussin

With spring chicken liver and potato puree and young rapini


Pink Lady Apple and Hazelnut Tart

Served with Moscato d’Asti sabayon

We will most likely be tip-toeing through the mud-lusciousness and puddle-wonderful for a few more weeks.   Nonetheless the flavors of Spring Equinox are upon us; a cause for celebration.

Join us;




Image courtesy of Charity Lynne Burggraaf

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Image courtesy of Charity Lynne Burggraaf

Passion.  It’s what drives us.  For some of us, it drives us nuts.  Others spend a lot of time looking for it.  But like most, I think I fall someplace in the middle.

Some time ago, before moving to Vashon Island and starting the farm, flamenco was my passion.  I took every flamenco dance class I could find in Seattle, then eventually packed up my life and moved to Madrid for six months.  Dance classes by day, performances by night; flamenco was everything.  But frankly, almost anything can be everything for six months.

Concurrently and far beyond, a guitarist named Ben Woods was also passionate about flamenco.  We met in the 90s, both relatively new to the art form and scene, and with four others, started a performing group, La Vida.  (Someone eventually tipped us off that in Spain, “La Vida” was essentially slang for “The World’s Oldest Profession”, which didn’t bother us tremendously.)  Three dancers, two guitarists and a percussionist, we performed in a handful of restaurants, cafes and bars around Seattle.  We experimented with choreography and musical arrangement, and it was a blast.  Ben’s first musical love was heavy metal, and even while still new to flamenco, he was breathtakingly talented.  Light-hearted and fun to be around, Ben was also dead serious about his future as a musician.  And his passion for flamenco ran rivers around my stream.

I went to Spain.  I came back.  By then I knew flamenco was not so all-encompassing for me.  I also understood that only the truly driven, those that are consumed –it is not a matter of choice—by their passion, are the real artists, the real geniuses of their craft.  Ben Woods is such an artist, and lives this depth of passion.  From a distance I have enjoyed watching the trajectory of his career; making CDs, performing with many other critically acclaimed flamenco artists all over the world.  It makes me smile to remember the La Vida days, and to see him live his passion.

This Saturday, Ben and his girlfriend Arlene Hurtado will perform their Gypsy Tears show at the Blue Heron on Vashon Island.  In support of their show, we will be serving a tapas menu at La Boucherie all weekend, in addition to our Prix Fixe menu.  Many of our friends and customers appreciate passion.   For a taste of the ‘real deal’, I cannot recommend Gypsy Tears enough.   Tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets.


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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



lemon/rosemary semifreddo



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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Here we are, on the cusp of La Boucherie’s second anniversary in the town on Vashon.  But additionally and maybe more significantly, next week is Sea Breeze Farm’s tenth anniversary.  It was Thanksgiving weekend in 2000, when George and I bought the land and small house on the north end; before the daughter, before the dog, before the goats and sheep and pigs and cows and ducks and geese and chickens.  Before fences and gates.  We didn’t even know we would eventually need and build a milking parlor.  Before inspections and certifications.  Before trucks.  Before market tents.  Before chicken slaughter classes.

That last one is something.  Ten years ago, George had one chicken slaughter under his belt.  I wrote about that experience a few months ago.  (“Claire, the Urban Chicken Experiment”)  Fast forward to yesterday; our Farm Manager Liz passed on our cumulative poultry processing knowledge to a group of fine folks attending our first class on the subject.  Time flies, but quite a bit of experience and knowledge is amassed in the process.  You just don’t always realize it while it’s happening.

So Sea Breeze is ten.  I’m trying to wrap my head around that.  What strikes me most profoundly, more than the distance traveled or the growth and expansion of the business or knowledge gained, is the human sum of this benchmark.   The word “farm” traditionally conjures an image of animals; red barn; weathervane; pasture.   For me, it is the collective hard work, creativity, passion, perseverance, humor, and intellect of so many amazing individuals –friends, employees, volunteers– that have contributed to building Sea Breeze Farm.  All have left their mark; helped launch us to the next phase; allowed the possibility of an impossible idea; put their own cleverness into the mix; waved the flag, and continue to do so, even beyond their time at Sea Breeze.  Sam, Marcia, Matt, Andrea, Carol, Charlie, Josh, Will, Telly, Brandon, Liz, Ed, Ellen, Jon, Jessie, Jemma, Chevon, Edys, Sabery, Leah, Peggie, Betsy, Margot, Ben, Max, Alex, Emily, Zeph, Teale, Meredith, Jennifer, Jared, Melanie, Thom, Marcia, Dustin.  I fear there are some I am forgetting.  But I am grateful to all, and hope to celebrate with as many as possible this evening.

La Boucherie Open House

Thursday, November 18, 2010

6:00 – 9:00 PM

Music starts at 7:30

For directions or more information, call

206. 567.GOAT


Photo courtesy of Tim Aguero



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This morning I couldn’t stop thinking about the sense of smell.  We watched a movie last night, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006) that was a mediocre adaptation of an incredible book originally published in 1985 by the German author Peter Suskind.   The book’s descriptions of scents –from 18th Century Paris no less—have stayed with me for over a decade, and despite the lackluster reviews, I just had to see how the story was depicted in the film.

I tend to short-change scent, as a sense, so this morning I tried to rectify that.  While walking up Western Avenue in downtown Seattle, I endeavored to mimic the main character of Perfume and quite literally ‘follow my nose.’  I forced myself to linger on each scent, good and bad, and as if meditating, gently return my consciousness to the project at hand, when I found my thoughts –and other senses—taking over.

The creosote planks of the pier; the fuel-laced, hot Earthy air discharged by a leaf blower; the awakening inhabitants of the Victor Steinbrueck Park in Pike Place Market.  I tried, in the olfactory sense, to acknowledge each; some obviously more pleasant than others.  Which led me to mentally ruminate –and temporarily forget about smelling—on what we think smells “good” and what scents are conversely labeled “bad.”  I definitely have some experience in this regard.

After all, there are many strong smells on the farm.  I suspect most visitors notice them immediately when they arrive.  I confess I have probably become immune to all but the strongest.  But cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks, geese, dogs and humans all omit distinct smells, as does the grass, grain, and food scraps they consume, to say nothing of the waste they create.  But there are wonderful smells, too.  Bacon smoking.  Dew-drenched fresh pasture.  Skins and stems of stomped grapes, to say nothing of oak barrels, and fermenting juice.

These smells are absent in the city.  The degree to which this is so thorough surprised me.  This morning during my experiment, I saw a Charlie’s Produce delivery sitting curbside in front of Cutter’s Restaurant.  Approaching the dozens of vegetables crates, I expected the scents of their contents to reach my nose.  The boxes were hardly impermeable; I could see the produce.  I drew in; nothing.  I slowed as I walked past, focusing on what I thought I should smell, my imagination trying to help my nose along.  Didn’t happen.  Nada.  My nose moved on to the Mid-Westerners asking directions to the fish market.

The farm smells of life.  Of beginning, of nurturing, of thriving, of dying, of decomposing.  Plants, animals, people.   And life is not always tidy.

Granted, I know people who are terribly burdened by keenly sensitive noses.  In Perfume, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, born without a scent of his own, certainly met –and led others to—a very ugly demise as a result.  But I suspect for the rest of us, we underutilize and fail to recognize this aspect of interaction.  Of life.

What do you smell, right this minute?

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It’s Vin de Noix week.  Not drinking Vin de Noix, but making it.  Well, that’s not true.  I’m sipping Vin de Noix as I type; from 2005.  Truth is, there’s a narrow window of opportunity that must be seized for making Vin de Noix.  I’m feeling a little smug, knowing we got our Vin de Noix made on time.  Kind of like getting all your firewood chopped and stacked by August.  But, credit given where credit is due; it was our strangely cool and late summer I have to thank.

Vin de Noix is a liqueur made from green walnuts, and traditionally the immature nuts must be picked between the 24th of June (St Jean’s Day) and Bastille Day, the 14th of July.  My brother Douglas and his sweet friend Jenny harvested my parent’s walnut tree on the South end of Vashon Island just last week, late August.  But the green walnuts were perfect, and perfectly late, as likely no one would have gotten around to it in the panic of hectic early July.

Vin de Noix is easy.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  If you have a walnut tree, or know someone who does, you should try it.  Long before we started farming, George picked up a book called, Aperitif: Recipes for Simple Pleasure in the French Style.  Used copies are available on Amazon for less than six dollars.  (I’m hardly able to resist a tangent here and scream, BUY THIS BOOK!   This gem has given us a lot of pleasure over the years.  For six lousy bucks; just do it.)  Anyway, it was the Vin de Noix recipe in this book that got us hooked.  And as long as we get our act together with the walnuts, we make it every year.

Besides the green walnuts, the ingredients are so simple: red wine, sugar, brandy, a vanilla bean.  Green walnuts, however, are not something you will casually find at the grocery store, or even most farmers markets.  You need a tree.  Or a friend or family member with a walnut tree.  Ask around.  Someday there will be an app that gives you the exact location of the nearest walnut tree, but until then, you have to network for your aperitif the old-fashioned way.

And with the same satisfaction that you feel after canning peaches, making blackberry jam, or putting up any seasonal goodness, Vin de Noix will titillate you.  It peacefully steeps for two months, without requiring so much as a stir.   Leave it be for a spell.  Then in the fall, on a rainy afternoon, you can bottle your summer’s handiwork, and literally enjoy the fruits of your labor all winter.

I promise.  It’s worth it.

Vin de Noix

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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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