Mon 6 Apr 2009 12:51 am
We took the ferry to Vashon Island to visit friends, but as long as we were there, we didn’t want to miss the Vashon farmers market and a stop at La Boucherie, the restaurant run by Sea Breeze Farm. I’m accustomed to buying raw materials such as meat and milk from Sea Breeze at Seattle venues; I liked the idea of sampling how they would cook and serve their own products, in their own island environment.
This early in the season, we were glad just to wander without fleece or raincoats; we knew we’d be lucky to find even salad greens to contribute to our friends’ kitchen. By the time we arrived around 1 p.m., though, even the greens were gone — but, unlike the Seattle markets, where eggs sell out post-haste, we still could have scored a basket of pastel beauties practically custom-laid for Easter.
Some markets stick purely to harvest goods, but I’ve always liked a mix of vendors. I was glad to see, especially in this spare season, some crafts, a Vashon winery, a chocolatier, and homemade caramels, among other tables.
Vashon is the sort of place where almost everyone in the small downtown seemed to know each other, yet they were also friendly and social with strangers, as if we all might be future neighbors. I didn’t sense any hints of the covert message delivered in most slices of paradise, that tourism is welcome, but don’t get any ideas about permanently settling in.
We walked the few blocks to La Boucherie. The sign gives it a rural air, even though the building neighbors a sizable supermarket and parking lot. We admired the cozy inside and the cuts of meat for sale in the retail cases, but settled ourselves on the sunny, open deck instead, appreciating the markers and toys available for kids.
The Boucherie menu would be a brave foot forward even for a cityside restaurant. I’ll be curious to see if there’s a big enough audience on the island to handle all the animal parts that don’t win modern American popularity contests. Boucherie cooks up tripe stew ($6) and sauteed kidneys in cognac cream ($8.50), blood sausage ($13) and grilled mixed skewers that included, if my memory serves me right, lamb hearts, kidneys, and testicles ($8).
My mother-in-law, who was visiting, was delighted to see the old-becomes-new-again listings. Our server overheard her talking about the organ meats she used to fry up as a young teacher on a budget, and the company veal roast her mother used to make with kidneys as a treat at the center. Seeing her disappointment that the house-made head cheese wasn’t on the official menu, he brought her a complimentary plate.
It was such a kind gesture. Ultimately, though, I don’t think we’d hop a ferry purely for a Boucherie lunch. This was partly because of the long wait for food on even a quiet day, which would have been a lazy luxury if we had been brunching alone, but stretched out too far for comfort with hungry young children and no bread basket in sight. The salad we ordered to start with never came, nor did the coffee, but we did eventually devour a small plate of pappardelle ($14, which the kitchen kindly switched on request to a vegetarian version), a thin-crusted pizza ($13), the tripe stew, and a roast pork sandwich ($12). We scored some Sea Breeze milk from the retail case for our friends, then walked over to the supermarket and picked up a bag of bananas and apples — they weren’t local, but they got us through until dinner.
We left that night still feeling hungry for something. And of all the food we sampled on the island, the flavor that stayed with me the most, I now realize, wasn’t the tripe or pizza or caramels or chocolate. It was a spoonful of vanilla-rhubarb jam from our friends’ refrigerator, a bite from a homemade gift they had received from Marisa McClellan of Food In Jars.
That sample left me determined to look up her recipe, harvest the patch of rhubarb in our own front yard, and do some jamming and canning myself. I guess, in the end, we left with the truest taste of rural life of all.