Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

CityClub Gala Luncheon – The Westin Seattle Grand Ballroom

Posted on: Friday 24 June 2011

I was lucky to attend the Seattle CityClub 2011 Gala Luncheon held last Friday at The Westin Seattle Grand Ballroom. The theme for this year was ‘Nourishing Community: The Business and Pleasure of Food in Washington‘.

The grand ballroom is enormous – rectangular tables are angled towards the stage, a motorised platform was used to change a light bulb in a chandelier and there were at least a dozen staff setting the table. I joined a group of volunteers to layout the table arrangements and place programmes on the chairs.

Sponsors had displays in the lobby area. The Neighbourhood Farmers Market Alliance had a shelf of flowering pot plants and sample produce.

Trays of fragrant strawberries lined the Hayton Farms table, enticing guests to admire the blushing beauties.

Full Circle is an organic produce delivery service. The baskets of radishes, parsnips and leafy green vegetables were seasonal and fresh.

I was seated late and one of the last to be served lunch so it was unfortunately cold. Despite the temperature, the herb-roasted free range chicken was moist and tender. I prefer the thigh part of chicken but the breast meat was not dry or chalky.

Accompanying the protein was a salad with Snohomish corn and cucumber, and an oil-cured panzanella with Kalamata olives, heirloom tomatoes and Pinot noir vinaigrette. The highlight was the heirloom tomatoes – delightfully sweet and fleshy. In contrast, the panzanella was soggy and bland.

There were many knowing glances and appreciative nods when dessert was announced. Tom Douglas remained on stage and told the story of the triple coconut cream pie from the lectern. The dessert was created for his first restaurant, Dahlia Lounge, to ‘convey a homespun-ness’ and ‘doesn’t taste like suntan lotion’.

The platters of Tom Douglas coconut pie bites were delivered with a flourish. We all looked left, then right, too polite to be the first to take one! I’ve already waxed lyrical about the signature triple coconut cream pie and I was lucky to take a couple of the leftovers home for Mr S.

While cutlery clinked on crockery and the bread and butter were passed around, the panel assembled on stage for the conversation part of the programme.

Moderated by Megan Karch, CEO of FareStart, it was an engaging discussion with:
* Chris Curtis, founder of Seattle’s first neighbourhood farmers market and the Neighbourhood Farmers Market Alliance;
* Tom Douglas, restaurateur, caterer and author;
* Michael Hebb, founder of One Pot; and
* Robin Pollard, executive director of Washington State Wine Commission.

Below are some comments that resonated with me.

Chris Curtis – director of Neighbourhood Farmers Market Alliance
* Farmers markets need space locally
* Passionate about how to activate and make the community thrive, and to recognise seasonality of food

Tom Douglas – restaurateur, caterer and author
* Pike Place Market is the heart and soul of the city
* The economics of the restaurant business is tough

Michael Hebb – founder of One Pot
* Challenged the audience to host a locally source dinner party, ‘fire, pot and table’
* Emphasised the importance of the dining table and what it symbolises

Megan Karch – CEO of FareStart
* Focus on educating youth so they can be informed consumers
* Encourage youth to pursue careers in the industry

Robin Pollard – executive director of Washington State Wine Commission
* Only 35% of Washingtonians drink local wines
* Need to invest in infrastructure in the region to make it world class

In her closing remarks, the president of the CityClub board of governors Olivia Lippens described CityClub as a bipartisan collective that nurture the community spirit and a convener of ideas that encourage diverse voices. And that encapsulated what ‘Nourishing Community: The Business and Pleasure of Food in Washington’ was all about!


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