September 16, 2014

The Hug Behind Brown Bear Baking

Over the weekend, a friend and I stumbled into Brown Bear Baking in Eastsound on Orcas Island in Washington. We were welcomed with a smile so warm and genuine, it practically felt like a hug. But that's not the hug, read on.

My silky smooth cup of Victrola coffee brought us back the next morning for breakfast. The breakfast will be bringing me back to the Island forever.

We both ordered the Brown Bear's Salmon Chèvre Spring Onion Quiche baked light like a cloud with a locally-sourced wheat in the flaky crust. This is food fit for angels. The balance of the tangy goat cheese with the salmon sold even me, a sworn no-fish-for-breakfast gal. The strictest of instructors at any culinary school would give this combo an A+.

Our view.

The coffee was from the mainland, Victrola Coffee Roasters in Seattle. It was second in silkiness only to the masterful quiche, but a destination goodie that will be tempting me to drive to Seattle next weekend for another cup.  It was that good.

But the story only begins with this delicious bakery. Inspired by a story of a woman in the 1800s who used to walk around Eastsound with a brown bear cub on a leash, David Ellertsen and Lee Hilands Horswill had already picked the name for their bakery venture. Post architect and creative director, respectively, in another state, their location and name for this bakery has a mystical bent.

While they were preparing to open their new bakery in Eastsound, one Sunday morning on their drive home, their vehicle left the road and landed upside down in the water. The police reported David's heroic efforts to expel water out of Lee's lungs as a "bear hug." Click here to read a local account of the story. And here for another account.

I believe that there are no coincidences. This establishment was meant to be and these two men were meant to share their extraordinary talents beyond their previous careers.

Folks move fast behind the counter. We met, David, above on the right. I look forward to meeting them both next time.

Took my breath away.

Who could choose?

Thank you, David and Lee for your mystical and delicious new life on Orcas. We'll be back. See you soon.

September 11, 2014

Teach kids to grow food . . .

Teach kids to grow food and they will be able to feed themselves their whole lives.

Check out this short video. Teach Kids to Grow Food Find one near you. Start one.

September 4, 2014

Edible Drinkable Whatcom County

In September of 2013, my good friend and excellent photographer, Peg Murray, and I ventured out to Bellewood Acres AppleOrchard and Distillery and took pictures. I interviewed the owner-farmers, John and Dorie Belisle and wrote a feature article that I had pitched to the editor of Edible Seattle magazine. It was published a year later in the October 2014 issue. Read it online here.

The Fruit of Distilling by Gina Saettone

My story and her photographs illustrate two farmers in Whatcom County who we both adore and wanted to share with the world.

The Story and John and Dorie by one of their copper stills.

Their award winning spirits made from apples from their orchard, also known affectionately as orchard-to-glass.  And recipes from Brandon Wicklund of The Real McCoy and the Belisles.

Peg and I are out of our mind delighted with the culmination of this year-long project.

Thank you John and Dorie for letting us share your story.

August 10, 2014

Food Evocative Food

Food evokes emotions of farm life, raising animals, planting seeds.  I've always have been a bit barn hearted. 

So instead, I go to the Farmers Market . . . 

. . . and ogle the produce . . .

. . . and dream of farm life . . . 

and then dream of cooking it . . .

which always brings me back to the beauty of growing things . . .

so today,  I planted some winter crops in my kitchen garden . . .

into gorgeous black compost . . 

Just add the soaker hose and sunshine.

I planted spinach, cabbage which is friendly with beets so they are next to each other, and kale which is nearby, and swiss chard which is agreeable too . . . 55 days till harvest.

July 24, 2014

from cage-free to pastured-raised

Eggs might be my favorite food for any meal. Heck, every meal.

Remember cage-free? Free-range? Ever wonder why that's not good enough anymore? This video on PBS explains it beautifully.

I ate this egg for breakfast one morning in Italy last summer. I could tell by looking at it that the chickens probably get to go outside and eat grass and bugs and run free in the sunshine. At least I hoped.

This summer I have been subscribed out of all the local pasture-raised eggs I normally buy and came really close to building a hen house in my back yard when I saw this at my regular grocery store, Haggen. Thank you Haggen and thank you Vital Farms for bringing pasture-raised eggs to my regular grocery store that doesn't need a farm subscription. Easy.

June 9, 2014

Strawberries Go on Salads in June

In the Pacific Northwest, June means local strawberries. So I want them on everything. Don't you? My cereal in the morning, yogurt, ice cream, salad, or straight from the farmer's cardboard basket.

It's a work night, so something simple. I had picked up lettuce greens, sunflower sprouts, a cucumber, carrots, celery and strawberries at the Farmer's Market on Saturday.  

Oh, and  the garlic scapes are in. Have you seen these yet? 

Garlic Scapes
My first experience with them was here in the agricultural county where I live. They are the shoots from garlic and they are cut before they flower. I chop them and add them to salads and salad dressing. They have a very mild garlic flavor, more like a hint.  And they are crunchy.

Because I knew I was going to use my strawberries on my salad tonight, I picked up goat cheese and grabbed a handfull of walnuts from my nut drawer. I have a whole drawer dedicated to nuts in my fridge. Is that nuts?

Olive Oil from Puglia in Italy and Mango Balsamic Vinegar from Drizzle in Fairhaven

And you know where I'm going with this - it has to wear a balsamic dress. This weekend I treated myself to a special bottle of the extra stringent Italian olive oil, one grown in the region of my DNA. It's the kind of olive oil that tickles the back of your throat and makes you cough. An acquired taste that I only learned to appreciate last summer in Tuscany - this is the olive oil with the healthy properties. So if you can learn to enjoy the taste, it's actually good for you.  

The mango balsamic was a gift from my friend, Marion. Thank you Marion - I love love love this vinegar. It has just enough sweetness to want to pour it over strawberries. But I think you knew that.

Strawberries on Salad Dressed in Balsamic and Olive Oil
Four spoons olive oil
One spoon balsamic vinegar
Enough for two salads, or tomorrow's lunch
season to taste, or use alone if it's yummy enough
Greens (I included several dandelion leaves from Terra Verde in Everson, Washington)
Sunflower sprouts
Garlic scapes
Goat Cheese
Chop to your desired size and texture. Toss. Serve. Enjoy

January 30, 2014

More Culture Less Food

I took a break from food and have been focusing more on culture lately.  Thank you to everyone who voted on my food photos.  That project is huge and I'm not ready to hang my show.  I will keep you posted.

To my great delight, I have been distracted by our local county reading challenge.  It's a community-wide reading and discussion program that is held in many places around the U.S.  I live in Whatcom County so ours is called Whatcom READS! which started over five years ago with Sherman Alexie.

The 2014 Whatcom READS! selection is Cheryl Strayed's Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.

The video clip below is Cheryl, herself, talking about her journey.

To entice readers to write about our own journeys, last summer Whatcom WRITES! posted a writing challenge; 800 words about your own journey.  

Have you ever taken a journey where you didn’t know where you were going?
Or where you ended up somewhere you weren’t planning on?
Or perhaps your journey was an interior one – how did it transform you?
Who helped you along the way? What did you learn about yourself or the world?

I answered the challenge and entered.  On December 31, I learned that my piece had been accepted, will be published in a book and I could read it at Village Books, our independent bookstore, on Sunday February 9 at 4:00 P.M.  I'll be there, please come and smile back at me because my 800 words, "Traveling with my Father" are tough to get through without crying.  I would love your support.  Apparently the authors are only reading their 800 words, nothing else, so it should move along at a good clip.

In addition to a writing challenge, there was a quilt challenge. Quilters were asked to read
Strayed’s book and create a quilt that reflects the issues, themes, and locations it presents and then explain in our Artist's Statement how we approached the quilt.  Surface design and embellishments were encouraged.  A challenge fabric was handed out and required to be included on the front.  It's the part with the pine cones that I cut into strips and wove with leather boot laces at the weft, tree ring buttons and a spirit line.

I took the challenge and created this, "Weaving Trail". . .

with this accompanying explanation:

Artist’s Statement 
Gina Saettone 
Wild Quilts 2014 Whatcom READS! Inspired Challenge

Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, moved me deeply in that she went to great lengths to change her life. She risked life and limb, faced wild animals and wild mountain men and found something that she was looking for even if, at first, she didn’t know what that something was going to be.

To find that something, I shook up my life by dropping out of a successful career, moving away from a place that I loved, breaking off a marriage engagement risking security and stability to force a change in my life. Then, when I landed, I learned to weave. As Cheryl’s catalyst for change was her hike on the Trail, my catalyst was becoming a weaver. Weaving changed me. Or at least the slow pace of weaving allowed me the time to contemplate. Somewhere along the line, I found something. I’m still learning to articulate what that something is, but I think it has to do with the courage to create and willingness to share my expression – my voice.

My quilt is made of a few of my weaving scraps and samples. A few symbols I have incorporated are: tying the knot, love of the sea, swimming with dolphins, a turtle named Refrigerator, hospice volunteers and workers (angels), significant love relationships, cross sections of trees that link the trees I live under to the trees that Cheryl walked among, and a spirit line to release any negative energy. I hand-quilted most of this piece which was a particular obstacle for me because I had never done it and this piece is very heavy and thick. I chose rough stitches not only because of the nature of the weavings, but also because I can be rather earthy and relaxed especially now in my woman-of-a- certain-age years. I stitched in a meandering pattern to illustrate and experience, much like walking a labyrinth, my approach to life. I tend to take a step, take a look, and if everything feels right I take that path. I can’t wait to hear Cheryl talk and hopefully meet her. I admire what lengths she took to change her life. Her story inspired me to reflect on my own. This quilt represents my journey. # # #

All of the 36 quilts entered are hanging at various libraries.  Mine is at the North Fork Library on the other side of the history of the Pacific Crest Trail inspired by a Bellingham woman, Catherine Montgomery.

The other quilter's piece has stitched into the sky, "I'm with you always" which is what Cheryl's mother said to her.  Gorgeous.  Notice the challenge fabric, the green with pine cones, used in both of our quilts.  I can't wait to see the other 51.  Actually, I have already seen one, my friend Barb created a beautiful pictorial of the trail and many obstacles.

Cheryl Strayed will speak at the Mount Baker Theatre Monday, February 24 at 7:30 P.M.  It's free and all of the quilts will be hung there.

She speaks the next morning at the Ferry Terminal, also free.

If you have not read the book, do.  And then, let's talk about it.  I would love to hear what you think of the story.

See you at Village Books and Mount Baker Theatre.