Thursday, August 27, 2009


Meat and potato guy Brent Olsen of Olsen Farms was kind enough to be my inaugural interview. He is so charming it's hard to picture him living in a ghost town, but he does. (It's called Aladdin, and it's nestled in a valley not far from the Canadian border and Idaho. And it really is a ghost town.) He's been growing potatoes for about 15 years, and in recent years has branched out into meat - he grazes cattle and sheep on his pasture land. His work is never done (and that's not even remotely a cliche in his case). If he isn't planting, caring for, or digging more than 20 varieties of potatoes, he's feeding cattle, caring for the row crops he grows for the market in Spokane, loading trucks, driving to Spokane or Seattle, selling at markets, or delivering to restaurants.

But watching Brent at the market, you'd think he had nothing better to do. He knows so many of his customers, and they all know him. He remembers what they've bought before and asks after their families, all with a great big smile, teeth and eyes sparkling from behind his enormous beard. He looks like a grunge rock star in overalls.

Brent was a particularly great first interview because he is an incredibly generous guy who, when asked what benefits of buying directly from small farms at the market he'd most like consumers to know about, he explained, without hesitation, that the money he earns in Seattle and Spokane goes right back with him to Stevens County, one of the poorest in the state. There he employs locals on his farm and spends money on food and supplies. In fact, he tries to do as much of his purchasing at home as he can.

There are so many reasons to buy local that sometimes it seems like no two people do it for the same reason. As consumers, the easy reasons are that we can get super-fresh product, and when we get it direct it feels like it comes with a personal guarantee. When there are unselfish benefits bundled in there, too, it feels even more like a win-win situation.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


So I thought I'd whet your appetite tonight with a quick run-down of some of the chefs who have agreed to contribute recipes so far. I can't wait to use this cookbook, never mind write it! Take gorgeous product, as fresh as you can get it, from practically around the corner, and let true artists show you what to do with it. Hungry yet? Here goes:
John Sundstrom of Lark
Maria Hines of Tilth
Brittany Bardeleben of Betty
Charlie Durham
John Howie of Seastar
Tom Douglas of Dahlia Lounge, Palace Kitchen, Lola, Etta's
Ethan Stowell of Union, Tavolata, How to Cook a Wolf, Anchovies & Olives
Lisa Dupar of Lisa Dupar Catering, Pomegranate Bistro
Ron Zimmerman of The Herbfarm
Leslie Mackie of Macrina
Walter Pisano of Tulio
Brian Cartenuto of Cantinetta
Angie Roberts of BOKA

More coming soon!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Drool-worthy photographs

I may be speechless, but fortunately the talented Clare Barboza is not. And since it is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, I want to share Clare's blog with you. She is working on a couple of other cookbooks for Sasquatch Books in addition to mine, and has posted some truly stunning photos of fruit. Here is a link to her blog: She'll be posting photos as she goes, and I hope you'll check them out from time to time. I will!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Baby Steps

Things are moving along so nicely and I am overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of everyone I've approached about this project. As excited as I was when I first thought about doing this, it's nothing compared with the way I feel now. The looks on people's faces when I tell them about it and the speed with which total strangers reply to my "cold call" emails amazes me and leaves me so grateful and very humbled. I am shy, and the conversations I've been having and the requests I've been making do not come easily to me. But I'm quickly learning that the community I'm writing about is even warmer, more enthusiastic, and healthier than I ever dreamed possible.

So what's the project, exactly?

I'm so glad you asked! I'm writing a cookbook about Washington (state, that is) food artisans. Each chapter will highlight an ingredient or type of ingredient, and then I'll tell the story of one or two producers or farmers or artisans. The stories will be followed by recipes contributed by local chefs.

As I make contact with the producers and the contributing chefs, I'll try to post progress reports. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 7, 2009

How lucky am I?

Big news on the book front: Clare Barboza has agreed to do the photographs for my book! Her work is stunning, and so exactly what I pictured for this book, it's scary. Check out some of her work: