Posts Tagged ‘Vashon’

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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We are aflutter. This Sunday is the 6th annual ‘An Incredible Feast’ event, organized by the Seattle Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance. The concept pairs local family farms with “Seattle’s Best Chefs”, to prepare and present unique dishes made from farm fresh ingredients. All proceeds from the event support the Good Farmer Fund, an emergency relief for local farmers in need, and the NFMA’s educational programming.

Held outside in a farmers market setting, guests can sample 30 dishes, enjoy local wines and beers, and meet the chefs and farmers behind the food. We have participated as a farm in the past, and the event is a lot of fun.

But this year, we are participating as both farm and restaurant. Our own incredibly talented chef at La Boucherie, Meredith Molli, will be preparing the Sea Breeze Farm ingredients for the feast. And I am fairly certain we are the first and only participating business to wear both hats at this event.

TICKETS are available now at brownpapertickets.com. The Feast goes from 5 to 8 pm and is located at the site of the University District Farmers Market. Join us, and 30 other farms and chefs, for an amazing evening!

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Last week, I read a blog post about basil. The writer confessed her obsession with inhaling the heavenly aroma of fresh basil, to the verge of near hyperventilation, and I knew exactly what she meant. I think I am equally enamored, and this is the glorious time of year when one may indulge in basil’s heavenly perfume –to say nothing of the flavor– every day of the week.

My sister’s basil plants are thriving bushy shrubs, lining her beachfront patio, just a handful of steps from her kitchen. I too like to keep my basil close; pots on the porch, available for every meal. And yet I still buy bunches at the farmers market; the ‘never-too-much’ perspective. Never.

In fact, my strongest and most opulent basil memory is from an event I did not actually experience, yet its telling creeps into my consciousness with every glorious sniff of ocimum basilicum. A few years ago, I met a woman who was the Argentinean Ambassador to Morocco. We were traveling through the Greek Cyclades, and on the island of Sifnos, she told me the indelible basil story.

Sifnos is an island she knew well; she kept a vacation flat there, which makes her a genius in my book. After 24 hours, I too adored Sifnos, from the picturesque, welcoming marina, to her ancient yet chic hilltop town of Appolonia (as Sifnos is the isle of Apollo). And all around the island, the shoreline is dotted with the small, whitewashed, Orthodox churches so evocative and quintessential of the Greek Isles. My fellow traveler told me of a wedding she attended in one such church; the bride was the daughter of a prominent Athenian family, though the wedding was to be held in a small, simple church on Sifnos. And for this wedding, the church was not adorned with lilies or roses, but instead, with dozens and dozens of lavish bouquets of basil. She described how incredible the church was scented –completely enveloped– with the heady aroma of basil, an experience she would never forget. An experience so impressionable, apparently, I can’t forget it either.

In fact, I am completely inspired by it. Hence, this coming weekend at La Boucherie, we will pay homage to basil’s scent. I aim to recreate that same olfactory magic that was described to me years ago. And perhaps, someone will come to dinner, and later wax poetic to a fellow traveler about the experience, who will carry that memory with them back to their homeland, where the celebration of basil’s fragrance will find fertile ground for yet another celebration…

From one island to another. And so on.

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One of the great things about having a farm is meeting other people who desire the same.  We are often graced with visitors that have the gleam in their eye, who almost always ask first, “So, did you grow up on a farm, doing all this?” (The short answer is no.  For the answer to the follow-up question, see Claire: The Urban Chicken Experiment.)

It wasn’t that long ago when George and I were making the Saturday day trips to Vashon Island ourselves, delighting in going from farm to farm, marveling at the honor system of making your own change in the self-serve farm stands, drunk on the heavenly produce and bucolic scenery.  Some farms even invited the visitor to help themselves in the garden and harvest their own.  I was hooked.  On visiting farms, at least.

One Saturday, the Vashon Island Growers Association sponsored a Farm Tour weekend.  Even though we had been conducting our own weekly farm tours, this trip we would actually meet some of the folks that were so conspicuously absent from their Point of Sale.

I giggle remembering the visit to Island Meadow Farm.  At that time, the farm was owned and operated by Bob Gregson, and it was a vision in both beauty and organization.  The kiwi arbors, the curving beds of salad greens; everything looked whipped into shape and under control (something our farm never seems to be!).

“So you think you might want to do this? Become farmers?” Bob asked.  I looked behind me to see who he was addressing, expecting someone wide-eyed with enthusiasm.  Nobody was behind me.  But George was next to me, with exactly that expression.

Do we want to become farmers?  Honestly, that had never really occurred to me.  I loved Vashon Island, I loved visiting other people’s farms.  But could I create this?  Could I live this?  The feeling was reminiscent of when you settle into a roller coaster seat, just moments before the ride begins and the safety bar clicks into place, locking you in for the duration.  Wait!  We’re really doing this?!

Yet anyone that is married can attest that binding your life to another’s means that you will go on rides and down paths you never imagined or even intended.  And not every path is a beautiful garden trail complete with trellises and aromatic herbs.  Nor is it always a death-defying “amusement” ride.  Starting a farm on Vashon Island –fueled by George’s passion and vision, bolstered by optimism and a good measure of guts– has been an experience more rich, at times terrifying yet more life affirming, thrilling and satisfying than any course I would have charted for myself.  And now, when I see that gleam in the eyes of others, visitors or employees envisioning a farm business for themselves, I take stock.  Of what we have created, how far we have come from that day at Island Meadow.  Will this person before me do the same?  Why not?  What do you have to lose?

Lucca at Sea Breeze Farm

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A few of you may have seen a nice little piece in The Seattle Times last week about Vashon Island.  Tan Vinh mapped out a food and wine focused itinerary of farm visits, wine tastings, and food & beverage establishments, including the suggestion of dinner at La Boucherie.  (Thank you, Tan!!!)  He included several places I frequent myself; Hogsback, Island Meadow, GreenMan, & Plum Forest farm stands are all regular stops, not to mention the weekly farmers market on Saturdays.

But there is another “foodie” gem on Vashon that Tan did not include, and if you are going to make a trip across the Salish Sea to explore the culinary goings-on of this island, you shouldn’t miss it.

Bill’s Bread.

For the uninitiated, long-time island resident Bill Freese is a true artisan baker.  After building a French style brick oven in his backyard, Bill baked for friends and family for years until he eventually converted the sheltering structure into a commercial bakery.  Three years ago, Bill’s Bread became commercially available to the (Vashon Island) masses four days a week.  What’s the big deal about this bread, you may ask?  Not after trying a slice.  It is often still warm on the shelves, understandably since Bill lives less than two miles away from the store and delivers his loaves Fresh.  His European style, slow-fermented loaves are every bit as heavenly as that bread that brought you to your knees in France.  It’s true.

So, if I may make one suggested amendment to Mr. Vinh’s Vashon outline, I would suggest a swing by Vashon Thriftway, either before or after lunch at The Monkey Tree, to pick up a loaf of Bill’s Bread.  It will go great with Kurt’s Cheese, and the wine you pick up at Palouse or Vashon Winery.  We also serve Bill’s Bread at La Boucherie.

You’ll thank me later.

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Photo by Alex Earle

We have a baby to name.

A new calf, spry and healthy; a female that will eventually have a calf of her own and give countless gallons of milk in the years to come.  Born to first-time mama Pearl, who was also born on our farm a few years back, making her baby a third-generation addition to the bovine Sea Breeze Family.

The naming of a new cow is an honor, and it is the farm crew who ultimately enjoy the naming rights.  As they should; often they are the midwives of these new babes, witnessing and assisting with their arrivals, at times just hours before heading to the farmers’ market.  (Yes, our crew that serves you at the market booth are the same folks that work and run the farm.  Ask them about it.)  The names are also crucial for general livestock management; we do not pierce our cows’ ears with number tags, so their names are every bit as important and necessary as any human’s that is associated with the farm.

Lucy was our first cow –she was named by her previous owner– and remains the matriarch of the herd, always insisting on being milked first; a solo Holstein in a sea of Jerseys and Milking Shorthorns.  Then came Guadalupe (“Lupita”), then Teeny (our biggest cow), then Chocolate Soup.  Our daughter was three at the time, and Chocolate Soup was an accurately descriptive name of her rich coloring.  Chocolate Snow soon followed, also accurately descriptive of the cow’s mottled appearance, though considerably less appetizing.

Photo by Alex Earle

Names were given to subsequent calves in conjunction with the events of their births.  Magdalena (“Maggie”) was born Easter Sunday.  Cypress was named after the century-old tree that was taken down on her birth day.  Luna was born under a dramatic eclipse.  Strawberry born the weekend of her namesake’s festival.  Hussein came into this world the day The President was inaugurated.

At some point we turned to Country Western singers for naming inspiration.  Into our life marched Hank, Emmy Lou, & Dusty.  And now Pearl’s baby will most likely be dubbed Lucinda, Loretta or June.  George liked Dolly–we’re hoping for a big udder– but as a friend aptly pointed out, the calf is clearly a brunette.

Yet in all honesty, sometimes a carefully crafted given name simply gives way to a sticky nickname, as it is with humans from time to time.  Lucinda/Loretta/June might just be “Noodle” for the rest of her natural-born life on Sea Breeze Farm.  And so it goes.

Photo by Alex Earle

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