Posts Tagged ‘Vashon Island’

Visit La Boucherie on Vashon Island, and chances are the first thing you will see is a wide-eyed lamb’s head in the meat case.   Nearly everyone comments on this, and the reaction ranges predictably from fascination to revulsion.  Children are particularly curious, and usually a species guessing game ensues, followed by a parent’s reminder that beloved bacon and hot dogs are derived from animals that have heads.  It feels silly to even write that, and probably even more so for the parents to say it, but frankly most of the adults that freak out need the same reminder.

“Who would buy that?!” is the next most common inquiry, once we have identified the animal in question.   The honest answer is that the lamb heads are often purchased for pets.  Occasionally, we are visited by the rare cook who is excited to get that head into their own kitchen, and we’ve also sold a few to prop makers and curios vendors, but primarily Man’s Best Friend is the recipient.  But is it that simple?  Are we in the butcher shop business to sell high-end dog treats?

For me, the head of the butchered animal is a symbol of authenticity.  One, it demonstrates our commitment to the freshness of the meat.  It also signifies our commitment to whole animal butchery.  And frankly it is a reminder for all of us that have also purchased meat wrapped in plastic on Styrofoam trays that indeed this flesh did come from an animal with a head.  Let’s have our own eyes open about that fact.  I know there are countless essays and books debating this subject of eating animals, a debate I do not wish to join here.  Rather, I am assuming that if you are standing in front of my meat counter contemplating a purchase, you are decidedly a meat eater.  And at the very least, we should be willing to look at the head of that animal.  In fact, I’ll even open the case so that you can get a really good close-up picture with your Smart Phone.

La Boucherie’s Butcher Shop on Vashon Island is open Tuesday – Saturday, 9:00AM – 6:00PM.

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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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I guess if you live in a small town, chances are, you think it’s special.   “It’s different here; we look out for each other.”  It’s been sensed and expressed forever.  So you would think that residents of such a place would eventually grow accustomed to random acts of kindness.  But we don’t.

This morning I embarked the 7:10 AM passenger-ferry, joining my brethren of fellow commuters heading to downtown Seattle.  The ridership has swelled this winter, and we are all nervously aware of the catamaran’s 150-passenger limit.  A good friend who commutes with her daycare-bound toddler was at the end of the line.  Those of us already on board were going about our morning rituals; chatting with friends, reading the news, dashing off a few emails, when one of the deckhands came on board and made an announcement:  my friend was the 150th passenger, and her toddler-in-stroller would be the 151st.  Therefore was anyone willing to relinquish their seat to make room for the child, and take the next ferry?

Instantly a hand flew up; “I’ll get off!” a woman called and she quickly picked up her bag and headed toward the gangway to disembark, making room for my friend and her daughter.  Most of us remained quiet, taking in what had just happened, taking stock of our own willingness, or ability –or lack of either—to give up our seat and wait an hour for the next boat.  Anyone that hauls themselves onto public transportation that runs hourly recognizes this act as no small sacrifice.  “I feel like I should donate a kidney or something…” my bench mate whispered to me.   Just then my cell phone beeped with a newly received text message:  “I would have done the same for you J” from my dear friend Matt on the other side of the boat.   Yep.  It’s different here; we look out for each other.

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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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