Food/Restaurant News


Truly, it’s spring. Want proof? We have the opening dates for the area’s farmers markets. Mark your calendars and dream (and remember, the Ballard, Fremont, University District, and West Seattle markets are year-round.)



The Columbia City market is first out of the gate, opening April 29.

Broadway opens May 10.

Madrona opens May 15.

Wallingford opens May 20.

Queen Anne opens June 20, though it will be overseen by QA organizers rather than the Seattle Farmers Market Association, following conflicts over the site plans. Here’s an article from the Queen Anne News when it looked as though there might be no market in 2009; here’s market association president Jon Hegeman’s longer take on the association’s position. The Queen Anne Farmers Market Association posted its version here.

Magnolia opens May 23.

Phinney opens May 29.

Lake City opens June 4.

The Seattle association (Ballard, Fremont, Madrona, Wallingford) will launch blogs for its markets this year, and has a rough guide for what seasonal goods to expect. The Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance posts a weekly “Ripe and Ready” report of what you’ll see at the markets.

Already, it’s talking about fiddlehead ferns.

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I feel compelled to chronicle the successes of Mount Townsend Creamery for two reasons: One, the Port Townsend-based business makes great cheese. Two, I once proclaimed that its cheeses are among the best in the country, and I’m always glad to have formal backup for my judgments. This time it’s in the form of the 2009 United States Cheese Championship, which the Associated Press calls “the cheese makers Super Bowl,” where Mount Townsend took first place for its Trailhead Tomme in the category of semi-soft cheeses.

The championship website doesn’t have an overview of the winners, you need to click on each of the 65 categories to see who won. After some excruciating search time, it occurred to me that Oregon-based cheese author Tami Parr had probably already pulled out exactly the information I wanted. And indeed she had, listing all the Northwest winners on her Pacific Northwest Cheese Project site. Tami wrote that “this year’s buzz is all about Tumalo Farms of Bend, Oregon, which took runner up to Best in Show (that’s 2nd place out of 1,300+ cheeses) for its Gouda style Goat’s milk Classico - quite a feat.”

There are various cheese competitions around the world, with different emphases on large producers and small. (I didn’t see Beecher’s, for instance, a big gun in various cheese awards, with any entries at this event.) Parr has this take on it: “While this contest tends to be dominated by cheesemakers from industrial sized cheese plants, artisan cheesemakers often enter the prestigious competition for the chance to be judged by the best experts in the industry.”

When looking at Mount Townsend’s web site just now, I noticed something new — Will O’Donnell, one of the creamery’s three founders, is no longer listed as an owner. Looks like he’s now director of the Port Townsend Farmers Market.

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Kurt Timmermeister, who has sold raw milk from his Vashon Island dairy farm for the past four years, is done. In the next few weeks, he wrote, he will give up his license to sell fluid milk and will concentrate instead on making cheese. He’s ordered a cheese vat-pasteurizer from the Netherlands, and a holding/chilling tank from Canada, and will only sell milk until the new equipment is here and hooked up. First on his cheese list is a Camembert, well-suited to the “rich, creamy milk” from his Jersey cows.

Timmermeister has written eloquently about the licensing and health department hassles surrounding raw milk, and its potential benefits and dangers have long spurred debates and lawsuits — but he didn’t invoke the controversies when describing the changeover.

He wrote:

“At the end of last year, I had a bit of an epiphany. I was done selling milk. 

My attention span is limited. I can only find something exciting for a period of time. Then I want to try a new challenge. I had learned the milk trade. The barn was built, the dairy too and the pastures were coming in nicely. A new challenge was needed.”





Read more, and keep up with his cheesemaking journey, here.

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Per my previous post, Gabriel Claycamp is now confirming on his Facebook page that Culinary Communion has closed.

He wrote: “Gabriel Lee Claycamp is coming to grips with the fact that this rollercoaster has ended. CC is done. We have given our whole lives to this dream and met amazing people. Love you.”

Supporters reported receiving a letter of explanation (below) a few hours later.

The short summary: The final straw for the closure, he wrote, was the city’s requirement that a second exit be built from the building’s basement. He will hold a going out of business sale at CC March 21 to raise money toward paying the staff and refunding tuition. ” It is not our intention to slip away quietly, leaving a pile of debt and bad feelings behind us.” He still plans to operate The Swinery and Lunch Counter (though, if the city does lock the building’s doors, as he references below, I’m not sure how that works.) If you want to help, he wrote, attend the sale, be vocal about good experiences you had with CC — “and, cook. Dig out your recipes and have a dinner party; invite friends or strangers, and come together around the table. Keep the food community alive. ”

Here’s the full letter:


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Readers on my old Seattle P-I blog have been asking about rumors that Culinary Communion, a lightning rod for commentary in recent weeks, has shut down.

Here’s what I know:

1. Chef Tom Black, who had taught classes at the cooking school for the past seven months, said yesterday that CC owner Gabriel Claycamp told him March 10 that the business was closed. Black is now looking for a new job. That doesn’t seem to leave much room for debate.

2. I had called Claycamp March 13, though, before hearing such first-hand information, and asked him if there was anything to the rumors. He said no. I asked him to tell me more. He made a reference to the last time we spoke, when he had asked for a favor he did not receive, and said he would therefore not talk to me. Then he repeated that it was not true that CC had shut down. Then he hung up. (Claycamp had, politely, asked for P-I staff to remove or shut down comments on the heated thread on his Swinery business. The P-I declined, though the New Media staff did remove posts that violated the paper’s terms of service.)

3. A lawsuit was filed in King County Superior Court March 9 against Culinary Communion/The Swinery, suing the business for breach of contract. In the complaint, Complete Restaurant Repair, a Kent-based business, claimed that its final invoice for improvements to The Swinery space was unpaid, and asked the court to foreclose on the property to pay its $3,588.66 bill.

4. Culinary Communion’s web site is still up, and is still advertising “Chef Tom Black’s Restaurant School.” The calendar still lists a full roster of classes, including some naming Black as the instructor. If you try to sign up, though, every individual class on the March and April calendars is listed as full, with no available seats. CC’s new restaurant venture, Lunch Counter, is still listed as opening April 1. (The lunch-time restaurant already had a “soft opening,” for a few days a week, earlier this month.)

Now you know what I know. I’ll update if there’s more.

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