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Recipes, resources and food inspiration from people and places in Kitsap County. By Kitsap Sun Web Editor Angela Dice.
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Restaurant Q&A: Silver City Restaurant and Brewery

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Megan Moran pours two beers for a Tuesday night crowd at Silver City Restaurant and Brewery.

 

Brothers Scott and Steve Houmes, sons and grandsons of restaurateurs and former owners of Top Notch Burger restaurants in Bremerton and Silverdale, opened Silver City Restaurant and Brewery in 1996. Last year, Silver City opened its Bremerton brewery to expand its beer-production capacity and increase restaurant seating in the space formerly occupied by brewing operations.

As part of my work on Kitsap Sun’s upcoming restaurant guide (due out in October), I interviewed co-owner Scott Houmes. A portion of the Q&A will appear in the guide, but Food Life readers get the full, uncut version. Well, uncut except for the parts where I didn’t type nearly fast enough (or forgot to type as I listened) and consequently portions of the conversation were omitted.

How did you and your brother decide to start a brewery?
We decided it was a good fit for Kitsap County. It’s something that we had a passion for as far as the food industry and great craft beer. We thought at that time that Kitsap County was ready for it.

How did you meet brewmaster Don Spencer?
We went on a recruiting trip for a brewmaster. We knew that brewmasters were kind of a brotherhood, so we took a tour of Thomas Kemper [which formerly brewed in Poulsbo]. We wanted to meet a brewer and put the word out there. In 1996, they didn’t have Monster.com or any of those things, so we were doing it the old fashioned way. … We took a tour with Don Spencer and after the tour, we took him aside and said this is what we were doing and if you know anyone, spread the word. Luckily, Don didn’t tell anybody and we ended up hiring him shortly after that. Being a brewmaster is a pretty coveted position. He was able to come in and create his own recipes and styles and brew what he wanted to brew and brew what Kitsap County would like.

About 50 additional seats have been placed in the area formerly occupied by the brewing operation.

How’s business?
Good. We have a good following. We just finished an expansion that we’ve been working on for the past eight to 10 months. Our business grew and grew every year since we opened in ’96. In the past five years, we’d have a waiting a line at the door every week, and we knew we needed space for more guests and our beer was becoming more and more popular so we took the brewing operations from the site… We have a production brewing facility down in in Bremerton and we’re now distributing our beer throughout Western Washington. We were able to open 50 more seats for our guests and eliminate the wait for our tables.

After 15 years, you still have steady business and a social media following most local businesses could envy. What do you think has kept Silver City so popular?
I think being a brewpub or this style of restaurant and brewery lends itself to having more of a neighborhood feel, a place that the community can call their own. The beer is brewed in the area … a lot of people have learned about craft beer through Silver City. It’s not just part of another chain. It’s a locally owned place that they can feel good about, that’s the first thing. And No. 2, we have a great staff with a great level of service, second to none and we offer a great selection of food that you can come and eat in any attire … with flip-flops or a tie.

You moved brewing operations to Bremerton and expanded the restaurant in the vacated vat space, how have the changes gone?
It’s gone over great. It’s given the operation a lot more space for the guests. The wait time has been reduced and it’s expanded our brewing capacity. We’re able to produce more seasonal beers on a consistent basis, give more variety for our gusts and it gives a better flow for the restaurant. One of the main things our guests would always comment on was a long wait for a table and it was cramped quarters in there. …Having people hungry and standing in line for 45 minutes is not something anybody wants to do.

When are you going to open a tasting room at the brewery?
That’s a good question. With the growth of the distribution business, it’s kept me on my toes. We’ve darn near tripled our production from what we had four years ago, so we’ve been busy with that and busy with remodeling the restaurant… The type of business we can open up down here is limited because of lack of parking in our industrial area. You can’t open a 50- to 60-seat restaurant with 15 parking spaces, so it will be something more like a tap room with a lack of food. If we can’t get them someplace to park, they won’t come.

The biggest excuse is: it’s been a matter of time. We have had it open for keg sales and bottle sales out of the brewer since the first of January. We sell between 20 and 30 kegs a weekend.

People can go down there and pick it up?
They can call ahead and order and we make sure its ready nine times out of 10 for the weekend.

What beers do you have under development?
As in new? We have our year-round beers, our most popular being Ridgetop Red and the Fat Scotch Ale, our Indianola Pale Ale, the Panther Lake Porter and our Bavarian Hefeweizen and Whoop Pass IPA.

We also have beers that we like to have our seasonal beer rotation and right now, we have our Oktoberfest … We’re one of the few that brew a traditional Oktoberfest lager. Our next seasonal lager will be our winter bock, which we’re very excited about.

When will (the winter bock) be out?
That will be out the beginning of November.

Is this the first year for the winter bock?
We brewed it on an annual basis at the brewpub, but now as far as distribution, this will be our first year.

Our seasonal beer this summer was a Ziggy Zoggy and it was very successful. It’s a great summer, easy-drinking beer with some honey notes to it much like a summer pilsner but very sessionable. … I don’t know if you’ll find that in the dictionary. What we mean is that you can drink them in succession.

Tell me about menu changes over the years.
Basically the guests have helped determine our menu over the years. We re-order the fresh sheet on a rotating basis. We bring out new items on the fresh sheet, an appetizer, several entrees and a dessert. They coincide with the season. For the fall, we have bratwurst and schnitzel. In the wintertime, you’re going to have more of  hearty dish and such. With those items, depending on how well they’re received and how well they sell determines what goes on the menu in the future.

We can’t just keep adding to the menu, though, to keep the flow of the kitchen and the restaurant. … Some restaurants just have a huge menu, and order to do what we do, we keep the food fresh. We just can’t offer a million different items.  … Something like a schnitzel, where it would be very popular, it won’t go on the menu because its a fun thing to have every season. It’s nice to change to the menu, but it’s also hard because people get in the habit of having their favorite item. … You have to make those tough decisions.

How do you decide which new beers to introduce?
They’re all inspired by Don Spencer, our brewmaster. … Throughout the years, we’ve had up to 40 different styles. We have a small brewery here called our pilot brewery where we can brew two kegs of beer at a time, so it can start in that fashion, and we’ll put that beer on at the pub and see how it’s received. If the brew is successful, it would evolve into a pub series beer that’s mainly for the pub. We’ll brew 20 barrels, that’s 40 kegs, and that wil be on at the pub for four weeks or so. Based on the success of the beer, not only the sales but how it fits our lineup, will determine that.

Some beers will be seasonal, but like the restaurant menu, you can only have so many brews year-round. Our brewery is getting larger, but it’s not that large.

Do you home brew beer?
No, my brother and I are restaurateurs. Since we opened the new facility, I’m more of an overseer of the brewing operations and brewing distribution and he’s more of an overseer of the restaurant. We come from a family of restaurant owners. Both my grandfather and father were in the business. My grandfather started a chain called Kings Table and my father joined it in late ’60s, early ’70s. They were part of growing it all along the West Coast.

What’s your favorite beer and food pairing?
My favorite, let’s see here. I would have to say my favorite pairing is a Ridgetop Red with our firecracker wings because a red is nice and sweet with nice caramel notes, and not overpowering, and the firecracker wings have a spicy ginger and garlic to it. Most wings are just spicy, but with ginger and garlic to our wings, its very unique. The spiciness slows me down so i don’t eat too much.

Tell me about the best beer you’ve ever had and why it was so memorable.
That’s a tough question … I’ve come to appreciate every beer for its own style. I used to be a real hop-head and say nothing was good unless it was an IPA or Double IPA, but the longer I’m in this business, the more I appreciate the number of styles there are and the number of flavors there are. My next favorite beer is the beer I haven’t had yet, and I’m going to ponder over.

What’s next for Silver City?
A lot of people have encouraged us to grow over the years. They say, ‘Open a restaurant in my town’ up and down the Kitsap Peninsula down to Gig Harbor and up to Port Townsend and Sequim. Growing up in this business. … What it takes is time away from our family and time away from a lot of our restaurants and it turns into a big battle. This business is hard enough as it is with one restaurant and one brewery. … We’re more content with ensuring our business in Bremerton and Silverdale do what we say we’re going to do as far as having great operations, great food and great beer rather than grow it and expand operations. We’re planning on making Silver City as good as it’s ever been if not better.


More on Kitsap Food Co-op’s location announcement

Monday, June 27th, 2011
Map of the Youth Wellness Campus

Design plan for the the Youth Wellness Campus in East Bremerton. Click to see the wellness campus master plan.

I wrote an article for Kitsap Sun Sunday on Kitsap Food Co-op’s announcement of it’s future location at the old East High School campus in Bremerton, and here I wanted to offer a few more details about the project and the post-announcement conversation I had with board president Laura Moynihan.

One of the most frequent questions board members have heard in the past couple years is where the co-op would be, a question that has been difficult to answer.

From my understanding of the co-op’s situation, it’s been a sort of chicken and egg dilemma for the co-op: they need enough members and capital (which comes, in part from membership fees) to secure a location, but some people are hesitant to put a $200 fee on the line before they knew where it would go and how viable this project would be.

Conceivably, the announcement of a location gives the group an additional selling point for membership.

“Were really lucky to name a location that doesn’t require an infusion of capital,” Moynihan said.

In addition, the group has drawn some influential backers, namely Mayor Patty Lent, local architect Steve Rice, who has helped the Co-op look at potential sites, and members of the Boys & Girls club (the club’s director of special projects Stacy Dore’ was at Sunday’s meeting).

The East Bremerton campus has been conceptualized as a center for youth wellness issues. The youth wellness center, which would offer classes on nutrition and cooking and exercise, was the brainchild of former Mayor Cary Bozeman (though originally slated for Bay Vista, formerly known as Westpark). A design created by world-renowned and Bremerton-raised architect Steven Holl has three wings, one for health-monitoring (which may now include a dental center), one for cooking and gardening, and one for  play.

There will be a lot of money to raise both for the Co-op and other players on the East Bremerton campus. The Co-op is expected to cost $3 million to open. The Boys and Girls Club estimates the cost of it’s facility at $4.3 million, and the wellness center is estimated at $14 million.

“This campus makes everybody more visible,” Rice said at the meeting.

“We’re all stronger as one thing together,” he added.

Though so much is tentative, Moynihan envisions partnering with the schools and/or Boys & Girls Club on a demonstration garden, which was part of the campus’ original concepts.

The plan also included a year-round farmers market (which still is in dream-phase in Kitsap), which Moynihan said could enhance the visibility of the Co-op, and could possibly mean another partnership with the Co-op, which other area co-ops have done, Moynihan said.

One other thing of note is that this would put the co-op nearly next door to an Albertson’s. That could be an awful lot of grocer competition in one place, but Moynihan said it also could be an asset, allowing people to hop over for items they can’t find at the co-op.

On the subject of partnerships, Moynihan also said that the Co-op, when opened, wants to talk with the school district or area restaurants about procuring food for them.

The Co-op store itself has originally been planned as a 10,000 square-foot facility, with a 1920s grange-style look. Included inside may be a cafe.

The guidelines for what products will be sold still has to be determined by members. The overall philosophy, though, will put priority on purchasing foods grown and made in Kitsap then working out from there.

As Co-op vice president Kristina Kruzan said at Sunday’s meeting, “First we have to have a co-op before we know what we’re going to have in it.”

As part of Sunday’s presentation, a prepared video with words of encouragement from Lent and Bremerton School District Superintendent Flip Herndon also included some snapshots of the building and early conceptual sketches for the store:


Food news roundup: Taste of Tacoma, Co-op announcement, recipes

Friday, June 24th, 2011

 

Events

The Taste of Tacoma runs Saturday and Sunday at Point Defiance Park. Admission is free, but the food is not. The TNT Diner blog has info on what restaurants are dishing up for the festival. More information on other entertainment is at tasteoftacoma.com

In the news of future events, Bremerton Summer Brewfest announced its lineup.

Kitsap Food News

The Kitsap Food Co-op, which has been gathering members and searching for a home has a “big announcement” coming on Sunday.

Poulsbo Farmers market announced that it would extend its season through Dec. 17. I’ll try to get more on that soon.

Kitsap Sun’s food critic Bernard Jacobson this week offered his review of Bay Street Bistro in Port Orchard. He gave it a 9/10 for both food and service.

Random

The Accidental Hedonist blog this week chimed in with some thoughts on locavorism, and why so much focus has been put on food. Also this week, the Kitsap Cuisine blogger also has a post on local food, imploring people to get more serious about food in Kitsap.

Recipes

On the Small Potatoes blog, Anne cooked up some savory veggie fritters/pancakes for what looks to be a simple weeknight meal.

At the Fat of the Land blog, Langdon Cook offers up a suggestion for preparing the influx of salmon at local markets as well as a use for morels in a recipe titled Salmon with Pinot Noir Sauce and Morels.

For a dish for larger gatherings, Orangette has a recipe for Deviled Eggs with Basil Ailoli and Capers.


The allure of Trader Joe’s aka what’s the big freakin’ deal?

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

 

Trader Joe's in University Place

When Hawaiian shirt-clad Trader Joe’s employees open the new Silverdale store’s doors for the first time at 8 a.m., you can bet a bottle of “Three Buck Chuck” that a line of people will be waiting.

Kitsap residents eagerly awaited its opening, filling Facebook groups with love notes, chiding newspapers for not writing more about it and gratifying Kitsap Sun reporters and bloggers who did with thousands of page views.

Elsewhere, the chain has inspired fan blogs, cookbooks and discussion groups about “TJs”.

When faced with such rampant adult enthusiasm, it awakens a journalistic tendency to question nearly everything, a tendency that, if left unchecked, can turn to mockery.

So I asked, what’s the big deal?

I hit Google and a Trader Joe’s store to attempt an honest answer.

As one Facebook fan posted on the Bring Trader Joe’s to Silverdale WA page, “I think TJs is a love it or don’t get it place.”

Place

On entering the Trader Joe’s in University Place, you’re greeted by hand-drawn signs advertising specials and new deals under thatch umbrellas consistent with its South Pacific theme.

It’s more like Cost Plus World Market than Safeway.

Employees, called “crew members” are generally friendly. On the job applications, part-time crew members are instructed to “become smitten with your customers. … Make sure customers know they are welcome and cared for.”

All the stores are like that, intended to feel laid-back, neighborhood-like, much like the company’s first store, which opened in Pasedena, Calif. in 1967. This despite having been bought out by the Albrecht family of grocers in Germany, the opening of 365 stores nationwide with profits estimated at $8.5 billion, according to industry analysts Supermarket News.

Products

But walking down the aisles, I can see that the products themselves are what set it apart from other grocery stores.

The first aisle on the left filled with organic nuts and dried fruits, including (catch my breath) green mangoes. Where else do you see that at a store outside of Hawaii?

Oh, dark chocolate almonds tossed with salt? In the basket.

A $3 six-pack of lager … can it really be worse than PBR? In the basket.

Sunflower butter and f rozen, deep fried Mac and cheese? Hold on a minute, I’ve got a budget.

It’s the kind of thing the company touts on its website as “the thrill of discovery.”

The company has cultivated a product line that includes plenty of organics, exotic ingredients and pre-made sauces and frozen products.

As one Pepperdine University marketing analyst sums it up the difference is that, “(Trader Joe’s) culture, because it involves the customers in an ongoing sense of discovery and adventure, is both unique and difficult to copy. And because it is aligned to their specific target market rather than broad differentiation built around quality and service, it is more difficult to replicate by those companies that are serving a more expansive competitive space.”

And somewhere between products and culture is the sense that shopping at Trader Joe’s is more responsible. Branded products claim to be free of artificial colors and preservatives, MSG or added trans fats. The company highlights a fair trade culture and has been responsive to customers’ requests for non-GMO foods, and a move to phase out by the end of next year seafood that doesn’t come from sustainable sources.

But, as a private company likely trying to maintain control of its relationships, it’s tight-lipped about where its products come from, making it difficult for an outside organization to track just how sustainable its buying practices are, according to Sustainable Industries magazine.

Those who lean toward knowing the exactly where the food came from would be better off sticking to local farmers markets.

Prices

But often unlike organic, fair trade products elsewhere, Trader Joe’s offers them cheaply.

The company generally purchases items directly from manufacturers, buying in bulk and doing its own repackaging mostly — by one estimate, 80 percent —under the Trader Joe’s label.

Items that in style (if not always in exact makeup) are familiar and cheaper than the original products at regular grocery stores.

Take, for example, an 8 oz. bottle of Annie’s Naturals Goddess dressing, which runs $4 to $5 at local grocery stores.  The Trader Joe’s version cost $1.99, lists nearly all of the same ingredients in the same order with slight variations in wording, such as “sea salt” vs. “salt” and “parsley, chives” vs. “spices” on the Annie’s and Trader Joe’s versions respectively.

And sometimes, that includes the brand name, too. A block of Dubliner cheese which has been cut and repackaged in plastic wrap sells for $6.49 per pound. A brand-packaged block of the same cheese retails for $12.55 per pound at Safeway.

That’s not to say everything is cheaper at Trader Joe’s. A look at six-packs of Northwest microbrews or, for example a tube of Tom’s of Maine mint toothpaste or box of Puffins cereal, are no better or slightly more than at my local grocery store.

And it’s not a place a person is likely to find an entire grocery list’s worth of goods.

According to a Fortune magazine article, “With the greater turnover on a smaller number of items, Trader Joe’s can buy large quantities and secure deep discounts” and simplify stocking.

The products regularly change, as the company puts it, “If an item doesn’t pull its weight in our stores, it goes away to gangway for something else.” But that doesn’t work against them, says Fortune, because “customers accept that Trader Joe’s has only two kinds of pudding or one kind of polenta because they trust that those few items will be very good.”

The big deal, in short, is that the stores have a consistent store brand and an ever-changing product line targeted to a middle- to upper middle-income shoppers who are socially, health- and cost-conscious.

And because of that, shoppers will be waiting Friday, ready to do their darndest to clear the shelves and stock up on cheap wine and the hundreds of other goodies that they’ll have just realized they can’t live without.


Food news roundup: festivals, $5 farmers market lunch, chocolate science, end of the world

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Events

  • THE SUN IS OUT! With such a murky May, that’s something to shout about. And to celebrate. I’ve already got iced barley tea in the making in anticipation of warmer weather yet.
  • Both Poulsbo and Port Townsend farmers markets are canceled on Saturday, but in their stead will be the festivals that pack West Sound communities during Memorial Day Weekend. You may not be able to get the same fresh veggies, but there will be parades and pancake breakfasts. And if you’re a really industrious Kitsapper (and festival nut), you may be able to squeeze in a foot ferry ride to Port Orchard after Bremerton’s Armed Forces Day Parade (10 a.m.) before you head over to Viking Fest’s (2 p.m.).  How you can also fit in Port Townsend Rhody Fest’s (1 p.m.) is beyond me.
  • Seattle Green Fest runs Saturday and Sunday at Qwest Field Event Center. While it’s focused mostly on green businesses and the like, booths will have organic vegetarian dishes, organic beer and wine and a chocolate and sustainable coffee pairing talk at noon on Sunday.
  • Seattle Beer Week kicked off this week. The Washington Beer Blog has a list of favorite events to mark the occasion.

Local Food for Baby

The Small Potatoes blog has posts again after taking a little (like bouncing baby little) hiatus. She returns with this post on feeding the new little locavore with tips on equipment and food.

$5 Market Lunch

Over at the Kitsap Cuisine blog, Brandy had a chance to check out the new market lunch offered on Saturdays at Bay Street Bistro in Port Orchard. Here’s part of what she says of it in her post: “The idea is, you can come in on your own and have a low-cost plate of something wonderful, or better yet, come in with friends and order several plates to share in the Mediterranean style. … I thought this was a great way to get a feel for chef’s style.” Looks like I have something to try out on Saturday.

End of the World

At 6 p.m. Saturday, the world as we know it is slated to end, according to Harold Camping, head of the Christian network Family Radio. What does this have to do with food? Well, one clever LA Times blogger has decided (and blogged) that such an event calls for musing on last meals. Hers includes margaritas, tempura-battered fried chicken and red velvet cake. My last day of meals would likely include duck breast in cherry sauce from La Fermata, popcorn with lots of Ajinomoto (essentially pure MSG because who cares at that point?) my grandma’s yakisoba, iced and sweetened matcha and one last, full pint of chocolate peanut butter ice cream. How about yours?

Fish Hype

The year’s first shipment of Copper River salmon made its way to Seattle Tuesday to much (though brief) ado from the local TV stations. don’t get me wrong, the fish is good. But I think some of the breathless hype and a fair amount of the cost has just a little to do with marketing. King fillets are, however, a little cheaper at about $30 to $50 a pound at Pike Place market this year because of a better run.

Chocolate Scientist

Theo chocolate factory in Fremont apparently has a chocolate scientist, according to The Stranger’s Charles Mudede. Andy McShea apparently has been working to make pure chocolate into more than candy bars. He’s been making beverages and pudding with nothing else added. He tells The Stranger, “By looking at the material, and understanding its properties, we can do fun things with it.”

That’s all for this week. I’d have read more food news, but frankly, I’m too busy closing my eyes and setting my face toward the sun! Have a great weekend!


Washington cottage food bill passes Legislature

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Legislators Friday passed a cottage food bill originally co-sponsored by Sen. Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge Island. The law is similar to those in 17 other states that ease restrictions on small-scale food makers.

It applies to people who make less than $15,000 (more in later years, based on inflation) selling “cottage foods” such as baked goods, jams, jellies and other preserves, and certain types of fruit butters.  The food can’t contain meat and cannot require refrigeration.

Those who stand to benefit are farmers and other aspiring food makers who want to test goodies for sale at farmers markets, for example, without having to spend the resources to rent time in a commercial kitchen (or find a certified community kitchen). The sales must be directly to a consumer, and other rules require a label that lists ingredients, lists the address where the food is made and carries the disclaimer, “Made in a home kitchen that has not been subject to standard inspection criteria.”

Producers must pay a $75 inspection fee (their kitchen gets an initial then at least annual inspection), get food handlers’ and other permits.

When the bill was first introduced, Bill Marler of Bainbridge Island, an attorney who specializes in foodborne illnesses listed short pros and cons in a blog post, the con, of course, being that people could get sick from food made in a home kitchen.

The final bill passed with only one vote of dissent in the Senate and has been sent to the Governor’s Office.


Who has the best grilled cheese sandwich in Kitsap?

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011
This is a $10 Grilled Cheese Sandwich #Grahamwich

Flickr photo by BrentDPayne

Today, April 12, is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day. Yes, there’s a day to celebrate practically any kind of food, but today’s — actually a book with 50 grilled cheese recipes and a food truck in Portland dedicated to it. Beacher’s in Pike Place Market hosted the author of aforementioned book Monday afternoon

On Thursday, Poulsbo’s Central Market will host a cooking demonstration titled, “Grilled Cheese á la Pain du George (bread)”

Need I make any further case for waxing on about grilled cheese?

Admittedly, one of the additional reasons this food holiday piqued my interest enough to write about it is my recent pining for some downtown Bremerton grilled cheese offerings. Two Blocks Up on Pacific Avenue in Bremerton has an “ultimate grilled cheese” sandwich, with cream cheese, cheddar, well-buttered bread and more is a regular Monday special, and tomato soup always is on the menu then. The Coffee Club Diner on Park Avenue also serves up a “Grown-up” version with three cheeses and onions. They haven’t stopped serving it, I’ve just stopped working downtown, and making it from my home office just isn’t the same.

This all brings me, though, to the questions (this is the interactive part of the blog, folks):

What are your criteria for a good grilled cheese sandwich? Should it purely be cheese or contain extras? And where is your favorite place to have one and what makes it so good?

I’ll try to kick off a discussion by answering the first two: It has to have a lot of cheese all gooey and melting out the sides between two thick slices of white bread buttered and crisped to a light brown, not too hard toast. I’m a big fan of ones containing cream cheese and cheddar, but once you put anything non-cheese on it, it ceases to be a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s just a grilled sandwich; the world must have rules. Except if it has bacon, because everything is better with bacon.

As for the last, my grilled cheese ordering experience has been pretty limited to Bremerton. I’ve heard tale of offerings elsewhere, such as a grilled cheese and panini sandwich with Fontina at MorMor in Poulsbo.


Poulsbo farmers market’s opening day packed

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Weather predictions through the week seemed to bode ill for the opening of Kitsap markets (Poulsbo and Bainbridge) on Saturday. But on the actual opening day itself, gray steeled the sky, but luck held the rain at bay.

Caleb Heinig of Colinwood Farm of Port Townsend sells greens to a customer during openign day at Poulsbo Farmers Market.

And out in Poulsbo, 39 vendors were had tents out and ready for the dozens who still were coming through the market when I arrived around noon. I hadn’t expected to see much so early, especially considering our soggy start to spring, but some spring greens and many vegetable starts and grow-your-own salad bowls were out. At least one farm offered some of the last of its potato stores.

Perennial Vintners had offerings of their newly bottled Frambelle dessert wine, made from Suyematsu Farms raspberries as well as its regular selection of wines. They also had something new to me called verjus, which is non-alcoholic and made from pressing unripe grapes. Cooks use it as a sour component in cooking, particularly when they don’t want the flavor to compete with he wine being served with the meal, as a lemon or vinegar can. Ah the things you learn by talking to people at the market!

I look forward to hearing the stories of the new farmers and vendors at local markets. I’ve also been talked into soon trying the morning offerings of Swedish pancakes, made with an authentic — and secret — family recipe.

The season, it seems, is off to a good start.

Now lets all hope for sunny days ahead and good harvests.


Bainbridge foraging class a reminder of ‘bounty of the land’

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

On a recent sunny weekday afternoon, noted Northwest forager and “Fat of the Land” author (and blogger) Langdon Cook stood in a clearing in the Gazzam Lake preserve shaking a clipping from a stinging nettle.

“I remember the first time I got stung by nettles as a kid .. and then years later I have a distinct and fresh memory of eating them, having my revenge,” he said.

And with that, he and 16 people from Bainbridge Island, Seattle, Tacoma and trekked through the woodlands, snipping at a seemingly endless supply of the weed. They filled baskets and paper sacks and in a Strawberry Hill Park kitchen, sauteed onions, potatoes, garlic, added stock and whirled in freshly washed (using tongs) nettles into a a nettle soup.

From the taste, this revenge was a dish best served … with a scrape of nutmeg. The nettles added a bright note to the soup, which was akin to a potato leek style. No blistered tongues were found (boiling or drying destroys many of the stinging compounds in the nettle hairs), though I did feel a slight and very likely psychosomatic tingle on my tongue.

In the search for new tastes and exotic foods, it can be easy to forget that a walk through the woods can offer an edible bounty. It’s a lesson I’ve often forgotten, and one I was gratefully reminded of this week as I shot video for Tristan Baurick’s story on nettles.

As a kid, my grandma used to come home from a friend’s Hood Canal beachfront house with strands of seaweed, occasional bunches of horsetail shoots or bags of woodsy mushrooms. Or she’d put a garden shovel in my hand and tell me to dig fast for those butter clams.

A renewed appreciation for the food around us — and a way to entice foodies outdoors — is one Bainbridge Metro Park and Recreation District’s Jeff Ozimek hopes to spark with a series of spring and summer classes called “Bounty of the Land.”

“One of my biggest passions is going to hike in the woods and being able to figure out what to eat,” he said.

The classes, which opened for registration this week, will be led by Cook and others and range from digging and cooking shellfish on the beach to picking berries for pies. Classes cost $30 to $75 for island residents, though for $5 extra, non-residents can take them too. They encourage you to sign up early; some classes fill fast while others may be cancelled if there aren’t enough people who sign up.

Here are a few of the classes coming up. Download the “Bounty of the Land pdf” to see them all and register at biparks.org.

Oyster gardening, April 11: Take a tour of the Taylor Shellfish Hatchery, learn aout the gear you need, when to harvest and sample a variety of oysters on the half shell. Cost: $29.

Shellfish Foraging and Cooking, May 1 (repeated May 18): Visit Taylor Shellfish Farms with Langdon Cook to learn about several species of Puget Sound shellfish, learn how to shcuk them and cook a batch with a champagne vinegar and white wine sauce. Cost: $49.

Geoduck Dig, June 15: Hunt for the difficult-to-get geoduck with Langdon Cook and learn how to cook the briny delicacy. Cost: $75.

I hope to take a couple more of BI Parks’ classes this year, and would love to hear from any of you who do the same.


Talk on world beers and food pairings in Port Orchard

Monday, March 21st, 2011

For the beer (and food with beer) lovers out there, Bay Street Bistro chef and owner John Strasinger, who also worked for years at Pike Place Brewing, will talk about brewing styles from around the world as well as beer and food pairings from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. March 22 at the Port Orchard Library.

Afterward, Puget Sound Wine cellar John Ready will host a beer tasting and snacks until 9 p.m.


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About This Blog

The Food Life covers people, place and events involved in the food community on the Kitsap Peninsula and surrounding areas.
Written by Angela Dice. You can contact me at angela [at] angeladice.com.

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