Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Posts Tagged ‘sustainable

Disclosure: I attended this event as a guest of Full Circle. This is not a sponsored post.

Sydney is a urban sprawl. Streets are at odd angles and arterial roads twist through suburbs. North, south, east and west, to drive from the geographical centre of the city to its boundaries would take at least an hour.

Seattle is more compact. Neighbourhoods cluster around the Puget Sound and Lake Washington, it is a short distance from houses and malls to fields and forests. The abrupt transition is bewildering and we ponder the scenery as we navigated to Carnation for Feast on the Farm.

In contrast to the soggy spring visit to Yarmuth Farm with The Calf & Kid where we cuddled kids and sampled goat cheese, we were at Full Circle Farm on a hot summer day.

Full Circle hosted the dinner with Stewardship Partners, Salmon-Safe, and Chef Ethan Stowell and his team cooking a family style meal.

Full Circle delivers ‘farm-fresh, locally-sourced organic and sustainably-grown’ produce to consumers. The mission of Stewardship Partners is to ‘restore and preserve the natural landscapes of Washington State’. Salmon-Safe certification ‘requires management practices that protect water quality and restore habitat’.

Groups sheltered under the umbrella and marquee for reprieve from the blazing sun. Hats, sunglasses and sturdy shoes were requisite attire.

We stepped and stumbled on a milk crate to board the tractor tour. We perched on hay bales covered by a blanket as we gently looped the acres.

Andrew Stout, founder of Full Circle, was our guide. The engine chugged along the dusty path as Andrew spoke about the growth of Full Circle and how the land is being rehabilitated.

Our shadows!

Lettuce and kale were neatly planted in rows.

A serene vista.

The many hues of clouds, mountains, trees and farm buildings.

Symmetrically ploughed fields.

We snacked on smoky discs of Via Tribunali wood fire pizzas.

On the left is David Burger, executive director of Stewardship Partners, and Andrew Stout is on the left. My favourite quote of the event was ‘we’re in the business of killing plants’. The crowd chortled and snorted.

A still reflection on the creek.

Sal, the leggy mascot of Salmon-Safe, greeted us.

A country kitchen.

Currant bushes marked the field where perpendicular tables were set.

Our view of the second table.

Mason jars decorated the length of the table, posies interspersed with leafy produce.

From one end to the other.

Effervescent and mild, Dry Soda quenched my thirst.

First was Salumi charcuterie. We nibbled politely on thin slices of cured meats and Castelvetrano olives as introductions were made. I had sprayed my limbs with insect repellent and apologised to our dining companions for reeking of citronella. We were seated with an interesting group of people, there was much laughter and engaging conversations on culture, food and literature.

A mound of shredded Tuscan kale was garnished with grated Parmigiano Reggiano and drizzled with anchovy dressing. This was one of three healthful salads served.

Chunks of roasted beets were topped with a dollop of house made ricotta. Pistachio kernels dotted the tender beets, it was an earthy combination of flavours.

Plump grains of farro were tossed with carrot and English peas. I had several spoonfuls of this toothsome salad.

Mediterranean mussels were roasted with guanciale, lemon and olive oil. The bivalves were aromatic and succulent.

In sunglasses, an apron and boat shoes, Chef Ethan Stowell generously donated two private dinners in Staple & Fancy‘s cellar room for auction to benefit Stewardship Partners.

Fennel and carrots were grilled, the former seasoned with bottarga and the latter with mint and orange.

This platter was double in size. The roasted king salmon were caught by Geoff Lebon of Halmia Fish. Portions of Salmon-Safe Draper Valley chicken were grilled with rosemary and garlic.

Dessert was a creamy panna cotta with mixed berries, slivered almonds and aged balsamic vinegar.

There was spirited bidding on auction items, and Mike McCready (guitar), Kim Virant (vocal) and Gary Westlake (bass) entertained us.

Each attendee was gifted a box of Full Circle produce which we happily carried home.

Carefully packed, the top layer was fennel, kale and lettuce.

On the bottom were apricots, cabbage, carrots, cherries, cucumber, onions and rockmelon.

Sincere thanks to Shirley and Full Circle for the opportunity to experience Feast on the Farm!


Originating from Portland, Mio Sushi recently opened in the Rollin Street Flats building. At the nexus of the Westlake thoroughfare between Whole Foods and the Tom Douglas hub, the location has high foot traffic. There are a dozen Mio Sushi franchises in Oregon and Washington State. The chain is a family friendly restaurant with an extensive menu of traditional and fusion items, sourced locally and sustainably where possible.

On a clear day natural light cascaded in the floor to ceiling windows. A long dining room consisted of comfortable booths and a handful of tables. Fuchsia lamp shades accented the earthy tones.

The sushi menu is laminated and you mark it with a dry erase pen.

Ceramic tea cups are emblazoned with the Chinese and Japanese character for luck.

A cloudy dashi broth with wakame and cubed tofu, the distinct umami flavour of the miso soup was soothing.

Mr S ordered a bento. Clockwise from top left: mixed salad, assorted tempura, agedashi tofu, beef yakiniku and California roll. Served with a bowl of rice, each component of the bento was a generous portion and freshly made.

An appetiser size assorted tempura had crunchy battered vegetables and prawns.

On a sizzling hot plate, the teriyaki had strips of chicken dusted with sesame seeds with a side of steamed vegetables. The syrupy sauce was balanced and I happily emptied my bowl of rice.

As with most eateries in South Lake Union, Mio Sushi was quiet on a weekend but I’ve walked by during the week when it’s been full.

I attended a panel discussion on food security at FareStart a couple of weeks ago. Moderated by Matt Gurney, FareStart Director of Business Operations, it was a passionate and positive conversation on food security in Washington State.

Located on the border of Downtown and South Lake Union, the FareStart building is a restaurant, catering kitchen, office and classrooms. On the ground floor is the restaurant where lunch is served on weekdays and Guest Chef Night held on Thursdays. As you enter, the feature wall displays colourful plates with names of donors, and framed black and white photos of guest chefs.

The event was held in the banquet room on the mezzanine level. Complimentary lunch was a buffet of salad bowls, make-your-own sandwich platters and potato crisps. I chose a seat at a table at the front with my plate of pasta salad, and a prosciutto cotto and Swiss cheese sandwich.

The panellists were:
* Rachel Butler – Agency Relations Manager, Food Lifeline
* Richard Conlin – Seattle City Council President
* Tim Crosby – Director, Slow Money Northwest
* Sarita Schaffer – Director, Viva Farms; Coordinator, WSU Northwest Latino Program

Megan Karch, FareStart Executive Director, welcomed the attendees. The fourth in a deep dive education series, this is a gathering of leaders of the city to discuss the challenges and opportunities in local food systems. Each panellist introduced themselves and made a brief statement on the issue of food security.

Rachel Butler explained the mission of Food Lifeline, a member of Feeding America, is to ‘end hunger in Western Washington by engaging communities and mobilising resources’. In 2010 Food Lifeline distributed food to 745,000 individuals in Western Washington.

Richard Conlin referred to the Local Food Action Initiative and how they relate to the councils’ core principles of social justice, economic development, environmental stewardship and community. Mr Conlin also mentioned the ‘hunger-obesity nexus’.

Tim Crosby combines enterprise and philanthropy to connect investors with food and farming businesses utilising financial instruments.

Sarita Schaffer declared that ‘farmers are the foundation of the food supply chain’. The average age of farmers in Washington is 57 years old and this is a global trend. Her work is focused on training the next generation of sustainable farmers.

Questions discussed include:
* What is the definition of food security?
* What is food security in a national context?
* What are the trends in food security?
* What is the cost of food to an individual?
* What does food security mean in the Pacific Northwest?

Rachel Butler
* Food insecurity is about individuals and families ‘not knowing where their next meal will come from’. There is enough food being produced.
* The challenge for food banks is the capacity and cost to distribute.
* In 2010 seventy per cent of food distributed by Food Lifeline was classified as nutritious which equates to thirty five million pounds of fresh produce.

Richard Conlin
* The Farm Bill is the reverse of the food pyramid. The pattern of subsidies has to change.
* We need to take into consideration emergency preparedness for the inevitable earthquake.
* In the 2010 census the number of farms increased over a decade for the first time in 120 years.
* Of the 14,000 acres designated as farm land in King County, only 3,000 are in agricultural production. There aren’t enough farmers but farmers markets have tripled in the last decade.

Tim Crosby
* People are going to food banks because of the economy. The cost of input is increasing. ‘We’re exporting food while struggling to feed ourselves.’
* It’s about optimising resources available, not maximising output. Changes to decentralise supply systems has to be gradual and not a sharp turn.
* Diabetes costs the country $194 billion in 2010. It is projected to more than double to $500 billion by 2020.
* The price gap between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food has remained the same. This should to be inverted.

Sarita Schaffer
* The centralisation of distribution and consolidation of ownership is affecting the supply of food with the cost and energy to transport magnified. 1.2 million people are producing the food for the entire country.
* The true cost of food has to be paid for. It’s better to pay for the food and not environmental degradation or poor labour conditions.
* Washington has the best soil to grow food in prime agricultural land. A collaborative distribution network with shared transport and storage will support farmers.
* Consumers are empowered, stores will response to demands. It is a ‘new spirit of food consumption’.

A query on food stamps (SNAP) was posed during the Q&A. The panel detailed how a privately funded program, Double Up Food Bucks, match the value of food stamps if spent at farmers markets.

Sincere thanks to FareStart for hosting an informative event on food security.

I’ve lived in cities all my life. While I spent my childhood in high rise apartment buildings, Mr S was roaming freely on a farm. I cannot garden except to water and I’ve drowned cactus and succulent plants!

The previous owners of our home in Sydney had a flourishing garden bed of garish tropical plants which Mr S dug up and dispose of over several weekends. The roots were deep and stubborn, and we hurriedly replaced them with Japanese maple trees and lilly pilly shrubs.

We returned from my first foray to a nursery with ceramic pots and herb seedlings. We had an abundance of basil but our chilli, cherry tomato and strawberry plants yielded only handful in total. The single chilli was mild, the two strawberries were fragrant and very sweet, and the three cherry tomatoes were juicy and flavoursome. I consider this a failure but at least the plants didn’t wither and die.

On a radiant Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago, Myra gathered the Seattle food community to meet Margo True, Food Editor of Sunset magazine and author of The One-Block Feast.

I had intended on waking early and baking scones but my plan was foiled by a long dinner and a late movie the night before. Instead, I bought some coconut macaroons and berry biscuits from Dahlia Bakery. With a chewy crust and a moist centre, the coconut macaroon was perfect with a cup of tea.

Although expensive, I have indulged in several bowls of Rainier cherries this summer. The golden orbs have a delicate and refreshing sweetness that contrasts with the richness of the crimson variety.

Shirley arrived with several boxes from Fuji Bakery. The plain white boxes protected an array of freshly baked goods. There was a selection of flaky croissants, including pain au chocolat, almond croissant and croissant café mocha.

On the left is brioche Suisse. Buttery and golden, the brioche dough is studded with chocolate and orange peel, and filled with Grand Marnier chocolate custard.

My favourites were the fruit pastries. Glossy and blowtorched, the fruits were thinly sliced, fanned out symmetrically and baked until soft and translucent.

In her soft and soothing voice, Margo traced the conception of the One-Block Diet to the cookbook. The Sunset magazine office is on five acres of land and the One-Block Diet evolved from exploring how to report on local eating. The challenge was to grow every ingredient on the menu to embody the narrative.

Margo pointed out that the flaw was to plan the menu first and consider the growing second. The intention of the One-Block Diet was to replicate a suburban backyard, to demonstrate to readers that they too can grow food as part of their lifestyle.

The commitment to growing and sourcing every ingredient from their one block garden necessitated research into seasonality and production methods. Pantry staples such as cooking fat, sweetener and seasoning had to be made. The initial idea was to grow corn for oil but the team soon realised the corn to oil ratio was beyond their five hundred square feet, and peanuts grow in a colder climate than California. Olive groves were planted on the Sunset grounds in the ’50s and the team cultivated the single tree that was within the border of the block.

Bees were kept for a sweetener and to pollinate the garden. Chilli and herbs were grown for seasoning. For salt, the team ‘imported’ sea water from ten miles away, and they were gifted a vinegar ‘mother’ to brew their own. The one-block diet philosophy was if it cannot be grown, they will transform locally sourced ingredients by hand. Margo listed salt, vinegar and cheese as easy to make.

Wheat, barley and hops were planted for beer and the team hand-picked six hundred pounds of Syrah at a local winery and crushed the grapes by feet. Wine making was intense physical work for two, three weeks and then the wine was aged for one year.

The staff was divided into teams (Team Chicken, Team Bee, Team Vinegar et cetera) and the menu was the road map. Unfortunately the olive trees were infested with fruit maggots and Team Olive had to ‘import’ olives for grinding and pressing.

It was a delight to hear Margo describe how ingredients were grown and produced. ‘Ground olives look like chopped liver’, ‘pressed olive oil is a bright vibrant green colour’, ‘if vinegar smells like furniture polish, throw it out’ and ‘home made vinegar is strong and slightly fizzy, has to be diluted’.

Margo was animated when talking about the Sunset chickens, bees and cow. The entire team took turns to encourage the chickens to lay eggs with chants of ‘lay, lay!’. The free range farm fresh eggs were ‘velvety and voluptuous’, and every egg was different in shape and taste. Margo commented that it takes effort to standardise food for consumers.

The team visited a beekeeper who promised to ‘shift their paradigm’. ‘Humming, vibrating, electrifying’, bees are highly intelligent insects that are loyal, organised and industrious. The team also have a share in a neighbourhood cow, Holly the Jersey, who lives on a farm.

Margo spoke with eloquence and generously shared her passion. She explained how working closely together as a team to produce food has evoked an emotional response, a deep understanding for the ancient and natural rhythm of growing, nurturing, harvesting and eating.

Margo’s eyes sparkled as she declared it ‘profoundly satisfying to know how much of food is alive … it is our place in nature to create a habitat for other living organisms’. There is collective sadness when a chicken dies or a plant shrivels.

Margo has developed an appreciation for artisanal food and is more willing to pay for it now. As an example, the vinaigrette was made with four ingredients and it took one and half years’ of work to make.

Margo and the Sunset team are an inspiration. They were beginners and have documented their projects for readers to cook, grow, or both. Margo wrote with a quiet enthusiasm, a genuine love for her vocation. She happily detailed successes and disasters were narrated with humour. ‘Nature always leads, and a smart cook learns how to dance’ – this is the essence of Margo and the One-Block Feast.

I purchased the book and was gifted a small jar of honey from the Sunset bees. Hand-harvested, each batch has a distinctive smell and taste depending on where the bees have flown for blossoms!

Sincere thanks to Myra for hosting and to Margo for making the time for us at such short notice.

Summer may be late but spring definitely sprung in Seattle. On a pleasant warm day a few weekends ago, we moseyed down to Local 360 to try their spring menu.

A pretty posy greeted us at our table and I love the rustic feel of the décor. In the short time it’s been open Local 360 has become popular in the neighbourhood. Its local, organic and sustainable philosophy would be futile without wholesome, delicious food, and they deliver on both.

Interested in the origins of the eggs in your omelette? Curious about where the cream you just stirred into your coffee come from? The favourite vendors chalkboard looms large over the dining room, and the wait staff will either know the answer or go find out!

Mr S ordered the corned beef Rueben and there was a artistic swirl through the rye bread. On the outside, it seemed a basic sandwich.

The inside revealed layers of corned beef and sauerkraut with melted cheese. It was a juicy Rueben but I found the combination a little salty and in need of a side salad.

I opted for the lamb burger on the specials menu. The waiter mentioned they were butchering a whole lamb and the patty was minced in house. The burger was flavoursome but Mr S thought the cheese and aioli overshadowed the lamb.

I returned on the day Local 360 Mercantile opened. The Mercantile has its own entrance and frontage on Bell Street. The retail store is a much needed addition to the area for weeknight dinner groceries and forgotten ingredients.

Similar to the restaurant, the Mercantile had a featured chalkboard highlighting local producers.

A small vegetables section was at the front of the store but there were no fruits. Shelves lined the wall and were laden with carefully displayed packets, bottles and jars. At the back were beer and wine, and the in-house butcher.

Many of the vegetables were priced by count and not weight. The fridge stocked perishables such as milk, and loaves of bread and baguettes were available.

The Local 360 products were interspersed among branded ones. A good selection of muesli, pulses, herbs and spices, salad dressings, sauces, marinades, condiments and olive oils were neatly arranged.

Fresh pasta, house made preserves, eggs and cheeses were stacked in the deli part. A panini press was on top, with an enticing ‘available soon’ sign taped on.

The butcher had a variety of cuts and sausages. I enquired if they will expand into cured meats and the woman said hopefully in the coming weeks.

I bought some potatoes and beets and left a happy customer!

There is a homeliness to buffet style dining, an openness and a warm welcome to eating together. The toppings bar at Portage Bay Café has a similar feel. A popular spot for weekend brunch, it was nearly as busy for weekday breakfast. Vintage rowing boats are suspended upside down from the ceiling in the large dining room and the staff wears black t-shirts emblazoned with their philosophy, ‘eat like you give a damn’.

Omelettes, scrambles, Benedicts, hashes, combos, French toasts, pancakes and grains – it is a comprehensive menu! Service was brisk but friendly and we quickly ordered. Portage Bay Café is a lively place – the wait staff pace back and forth, weaving between the tables and benches of a diverse crowd.

The toppings bar is a hive of activity on weekends with parents navigating children between the fruits and nuts. I was alone on this weekday, leisurely selecting berries. The centrepiece among the red, yellow and purple hues was an overflowing mount of whipped cream – I wonder how many spoons have been lost in those fluffy clouds.

Ginger is an essential aromatic in my parents’ cooking. I grew up with it julienned on whole steam fish, grated in dipping sauces and sliced in soups, and yet I’ve developed an aversion to it as an adult.

I ordered the oven baked French toast with trepidation. The house made bread is soaked overnight in ginger and blackberry custard, then baked, sliced and griddled. Three thick soldier slices were drizzled with crème anglaise and I added raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries from the toppings bar.

I would have enjoyed the French toast without the ginger. Browned on the outside and moist and spongy on the inside, it paired well with crème anglaise instead of maple syrup. Unfortunately I found the ginger too overpowering and had to swap with Mr S.

Mr S had the chorizo scramble and it was a large serving of house made chorizo, organic bell peppers and tomatoes scrambled and topped with queso fresco, sour cream, salsa and green onions. On the side was a warmed flour tortilla and roasted red potatoes. It was a fun meal to eat by hand, using the tortilla to scoop up the sausage and eggs but the cheese and salsa required fork assistance.

Absent of the hovering weekend crowds, Portage Bay Café is relaxed and comfortable during the week for a before work breakfast, mid morning snack and coffee or business meeting.

I’m entranced by Ann Gentry‘s accent. There is something soothing about the dulcet tones of a Southern drawl. Hosted by Myra Kohn, Ann was in Seattle to promote her second cookbook, Vegan Family Meals.

I have some friends who are vegetarians but I don’t know much about vegan food. Ann spoke eloquently about how her diet evolved to be a vegan one and the story of opening her first restaurant in Los Angeles, Real Food Daily. Ann recalled being asked for advice on opening a vegetarian or vegan restaurant and her response was ‘find a location near a yoga studio’!

She grew up in Memphis and became interested in macrobiotics in New York. It was her light bulb moment to find balance in her diet and motivated her to cook. She endearingly described her initial cooking effort as a burnt, overcooked, sloppy mess. A determined woman, she persisted. Ann considers herself to be a ‘good home cook’ and not a chef.

Acting aspirations brought her across the country to Los Angeles, a city she thought would be the Mecca of natural foods. She became the personal chef of Danny DeVito, affectionately remembering the experience as ‘me, Danny and a Winnebago’. It was at this time that she got serious about cooking with a meal delivery service operated out of her home kitchen. At its peak, she was cooking meals for thirty-five people daily!

Ann wrote a business plan and took the risk to open Real Food Daily in 1993. In its eighteenth year, she is proud that Real Food Daily is beyond a restaurant, it is a community. She relied on ‘family, friends and fools’ for the capital to open the second restaurant. She is passionate about changing the expectations of vegan restaurants from ‘gruel, beige and chewy’ to wholesome, delicious food. She wants her customers to feel virtuous about eating local, sustainable and animal-free food.

Ann explained that Vegan Family Meals developed from the ritual of the dining table, how food brings families together. She commented on the culture of ‘supersized, value driven meals’ and the need to trust ‘it’s okay to eat one or two things’.

Ann shared two recipes from her cookbook with us – BLT tartines and almond jam thumbprint cookies. The ‘bacon’ in these open-faced sandwiches was made from tempeh, fermented whole soybeans. I have no qualms about soy and the crispy maple tempeh bacon were flavoursome and a good source of protein. Apart from a stovetop smoker that is required to make the maple tempeh bacon, it is a simple recipe that highlights the quality of the fresh produce.

These cute button shaped cookies were a crowd favourite! Made with almond meal, oat flour and whole wheat flour, the cookies were moistened by maple syrup and apple juice. I call them jam drops, possibly just an Australian or British term, and they were slightly crunchy on the outside and with a chewy texture on the inside. The cookies were perfumed with almond and cinnamon, and the thimble of jam held just enough sweetness.

Andrews McMeel Publishing generously gifted each attendee a copy of Vegan Family Meals. Ann writes passionately about her profound belief in a plant-based diet, and a clean, green and sustainable lifestyle. And yet she is not didactic, she encourages us to include and increase vegetarian and vegan meals in our diets as a powerful statement to healthier living.

Flipping through the pages, the cookbook is colourful and beautifully photographed. There is commentary on techniques, nutrition and pantry items within each section, the layouts are clear and the recipes are concise. Most of the ingredients used are available in mainstream supermarkets. Seitan is an example of an ingredient that is obscure to a meat-eater like me and there are detailed notes on what it is and where to find it.

Ann’s cookbook is a practical introduction to vegan cooking. Bangers and mash and many other classic dishes are adjusted with a vegan twist. From the back cover blurb, ‘Vegan Family Meals gathers everyone – meat lovers, vegetarians and vegans – around the table to share in accessible and appealing vegan recipes that will inspire readers concerned with the ethics and health of their food choices.’

I’m not a vegetarian or a vegan. I will not forgo peeling a bucket of prawns on Christmas Day or a hot pot dinner with my family. But, I will strive to make small changes and be conscious of my choices as a consumer. And bake those jam drops!

A sincerely thank you to Myra for inviting me, and to Ann for her advocacy and sharing her love of real food.

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