Entries tagged with “Food News”.

One of the first and best resources for eating local in the Northwest was Seasonal Cornucopia, chef Becky Selengut’s well-researched compendium of when local foods are in season. Most of us know when to expect fresh asparagus — and the site does include growing seasons for all the common fruits and vegetables — but for lingonberries, watercress, matsutakes, even sea cucumbers and sanddabs, it was the only place most of us had to turn.

I don’t mean to speak in the past tense, because Seasonal Cornucopia is actually entering a new era. Selengut just passed it on to John and Patricia Eddy of Cook Local, whose recipes and locavore resources were a logical match for her comprehensive database of fruits, vegetables, foraged goods, seafood, and more. They’ll be linking seasonal search results with Cook Local recipes, so that when visitors ask, say, when to expect apriums at the farmers market, they’ll also get some idea what to do with them. They’re excited about maintaining and even enhancing the site, “both regionally and technologically,” Patricia told me in an e-mail. (Cook Local already has a Bay Area branch site, which seems to me a logical spot for expansion.)

“It has always been our ultimate goal to connect our readers with the food that they eat and the farmers who grow that food,” Patricia wrote. “We had dreams of creating our own database, not necessarily to tell people when things were in season (since obviously SC did that very well), but to tell people where they could find everything. I wanted to have a database that told people that quinces were available from Mair-Taki at the U-District and Columbia City Farmers Markets in mid-October, or that if you wanted to make your own beef stock, you needed to talk to Eiko of Skagit River Ranch or Brent and Ang from Olsen Farms.”

Becky told me in an e-mail that she thought of Cook Local as “the perfect sister site to SC, in that it provided all the things that SC didn’t, up to date farmer’s market info, CSA stuff, and recipes. I respect their commitment to our local food and providers.” She thinks they’ll be able to bring the site to a more useful level, with photos, recipes, maybe even an iPhone application — all things she wanted, but couldn’t afford the time to do.  Selengut “sold” the site for $10 (and, if it were to make money, a percentage of revenue), but she’ll stay involved to advise and help the Eddys if they want or need it. And she says she’s thrilled to see it going strong.

 ”It was my baby and now it’s growin’ up and off to bigger and better things with my 100% support.”

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SweeTango apple

Seattle is one of three test markets in the U.S. for the SweeTango apple, a new cross between a Honeycrisp and a Zestar, hailed as the next big thing in the apple world. Like its parents, the SweeTango was developed at the University of Minnesota. Locally, it’s being grown by Wenatchee-based Stemilt, who also recently bought the rights to grow Pinata apples in the U.S

Stemilt offered to send me some apples to sample before they were available here, and I found them crisp and clean, attractive and crunchy and sweet. The skin was a bit thick, but I loved the texture, though Stemilt says in press materials that it expects an even better texture next season. As the Associated Press reported, the apple’s being seen as a successor to the Honeycrisp. But the way it’s being marketed is quite different: The university licensed the apple to a co-op of growers who control “who can grow SweeTango and where, and how the apple is marketed and shipped.” It’s the same sort of “managed variety” as Pink Lady and Jazz apples, more common overseas than in the U.S., the AP notes. SweeTangos are now on the shelves at QFC (the only place they’re available locally), and, at my neighborhood store, they priced out at $2.99/lb. It’s a dollar more than most other varieties there, though in line with what I usually see at the top end of apple prices.

Minnesota Public Radio noted that some growers find it unfair to restrict who can grow the apple, as the previous varieties developed by the university had been available to any grower who paid a one-time fee. The story continued: (more…)

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Autumn Martin, beloved for her Hot Cakes and her work at Theo Chocolate, has resigned as Theo’s head chocolatier. Her last Theo hurrah was last night at the Incredible Feast (”what a great event!”), she wrote, and her next culinary career move is “to live the life of a farmer in Spain for three months.”

She’ll be farming in the town of Sella, near Alicante, from mid-September until just before Christmas. The bulk of Hot Cakes will be on hold when she’s gone, but she’s stocking the freezer at Picnic so there will be some available there. She’s working on a Hot Cakes website, and plans to grow that business when she returns. (And she does plan to return, so this shouldn’t be another lose-’em-to-Europe goodbye like when the Bruschettina lady boarded a plane.)

Martin won fame and fans at Theo, with David Lebovitz (who literally wrote the book
on chocolate) writing that she was “crafting some of the finest chocolate confections I’ve ever tasted in my life.”

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Pies By Jenny always flew under the radar, so it’s fitting that my first news of them came through word of mouth. An acquaintance had seen Hsiao-Ching Chou buying a stunning looking huckleberry pie at the University District Farmers Market, made with two pounds of wild berries from Foraged and Found. If someone with Hsiao-Ching’s taste and savvy was investing $35 on a king-size pie, my friend said, she figured it might actually be worth it. 

When I checked it out myself, I was too late for huckleberries, but found the most amazing deep-dish apple pie, made with 21 layers of heirloom Pirus apples from Wade at Rockridge Orchards, under an impeccably flaky crust. Jenny Christensen made smaller and less pricey pies as well, savory as well as sweet, buying up ingredients from her fellow market vendors to make poetry on a plate. 

You probably know where this is going. (more…)

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The number of farmers markets in the U.S. is growing fast, but sales aren’t keeping pace with that growth, according to a new study from the U.S.D.A.

Nearly 30 percent of all seasonal markets in the U.S. are less than five years old, and “most still appear to be establishing themselves economically,” with fewer vendors, fewer customers, and monthly sales that total only half the national average. The disparity raises questions “as to whether current levels of industry growth can be sustained over time,” the study said.

The study is based on data collected in 2006, focusing on the 2005 season. In farmers market years, that already feels like a long way back — I’d be curious to see more up-to-date data. Certainly, in our area, the number of markets has risen sharply even since 2005.

Coincidentally, I had been talking with Chris Curtis of the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance for an unrelated story I’m doing on the city’s new 2009 farmers markets (watch for that next week), and she suggested that the saturation point, at some level, is here.

“Some markets cannibalize each other.  They need to be sited so that they serve a specific population, which isn’t easy.  I’d love to see Seattle do what Portland has done – which is a city funded study of farmers markets; how many can the city support, where should they be sited; what food dollars can realistically go through a farmers market, how many farmers need to be involved, etc.,” she wrote.


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ballard1  Hot Cakes, home of the hopelessly craveable molten-chocolate cake-in-a-jar, has left the Ballard Farmers Market.  Chocolatier Autumn Martin of Theo Chocolate wrote on her blog that “as rewarding as the market days were,” Sundays marked her seventh straight day of work for the week, and it was too much.

Wait. No need to panic yet.

Martin’s chocolate “Ari-Cole” cakes are now available at two sites in Seattle week-round, at Theo Chocolate in Fremont and at Picnic on Phinney Ridge (as if you needed another reason to visit). I have a call in to Martin to see if other outlets are in the works. If you’re looking for a special order for events, e-mail Martin through her site. And now, if she’ll only consider bringing back the financiers…

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Finalists for the 2009 James Beard awards, the Oscars of the industry, were announced today. Finalists for Best Chef: Northwest are a noteworthy and familiar group: Seattle dominated the field, with Maria Hines of Tilth, Joseba Jiminez de Jiminez of Harvest Vine and Txori, Ethan Stowell of Union, Tavolata, How To Cook A Wolf, and Anchovies & Olives, and Jason Wilson of Crush. Cathy Whims of Nostrana in Portland also made the list here.

For national awards, Tom Douglas is on the list for outstanding restaurateur.

And, to my honest shock and delight, I seem to be on the list for Newspaper Feature Writing With Recipes.

Here is a link to the PI article that was nominated (edited to add link on March 24): 
Super-succulent imports are everything U.S. pork isn’t

I’ll update once I pick my jaw up off the floor. Congratulations to everyone. The winners will be announced May 4 at Lincoln Center in New York. The full list of nominees, including cookbook picks, is here as well.

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Just a couple hours until the finalists for the 2009 James Beard Awards are announced. I’ll post them here when we get the news.

In the meantime, whet your appetite by checking out Nancy Leson’s roundup of this year’s semifinalists, who were announced in February.

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Cakespy art courtesy of www.jessieoleson.etsy.com

Cakespy art courtesy of www.jessieoleson.etsy.com


Gourmet.com has listed nearly 100 of its favorite food blogs online, not long after the Times of London made a splash with its top 50. A bunch of my favorites are on the Gourmet page, including a bunch of locals — I’m especially glad to see Cakespy, a long-time favorite, get such a prominent national nod. For locals, the alphabetical list also includes The Accidental Hedonist, Cook and Eat, Gluten-Free Girl, A Mighty Appetite, and Orangette.

Of course, you’re asking, how could they forget Hogwash? Where’s Tea and Cookies?” (Fill in your own favorites in the comments.) But even as I write that, I know I’m leaving out some of my own other must-reads too.

Here’s the full list from Gourmet.

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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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