In This Edition
Simple Chocolate Emmer Cupcakes
Customer Profile: Chef Jess Dowdell of Ca’buni
Methow Valley Inn
Notes from a Farmer
And I thought April was an interesting month this year! It was nothing compared to this May, weather-wise. I’m not sure what the records say but it was certainly the wettest, coolest May this farmer can remember in the Methow; we received at least 5 inches of rain and had quite a few frosts. Never did I think it would be too WET to work fields and plant here in this semi-desert climate, but we’ve been scrambling here at the end to get ANY grain planted.
Thankfully the Memorial Day holiday weekend blessed us with a couple days of dry weather and as the month closes out, we’ve got two-thirds of our crop in; we feel lucky to have managed that. But if anything can survive the unsettled weather, it will be our hardy wild emmer!
Did I mention we had more equipment break-downs? Some big ones, too. There’s always something to tend to in the life of a farmer!
On the flip side of the coin, we haven’t really missed much growing weather and actually have had time for another round, or two, of cultivation. If we can get the rest of our crop in during the first week in June, we should be okay (assuming we have a dry fall…). So bring on summer! With any luck many of the surviving birds will get a chance to re-nest and June will bring that long, warm light we all are so longing for.
We remain healthy and we hope you all do too. Thank you for your continued, steady support.
Join Brooke in a conversation about FARMER JANE, a recently released book that profiles 30 women who have been passionate advocates and business leaders committed to sustainable food and farming. The discussion will be held this Sunday June 6th, at La Spiga Restaurant in Seattle.
Methow Valley Locavores
Tess Hoke of Local 98856 and Brooke just finished their 4th year of offering the Locavores program to Methow Valley Community School kids. The Locavores program helps children explore the local, sustainable food movement and to make healthy choices about the foods they eat. Many thanks to those who continually support programs such as this one; it has truly made an impact on our valley children.
Methow Valley Inn
Sam and Brooke just had a wonderful evening with the new owners of the Methow Valley Inn ; Raleigh Bowden & Peter Morgan. Raleigh and Peter hosted a “square table” dinner party & conversation to discuss the local food movement in our community. The Methow Valley Inn is now hosting regular cooking classes with local chef John Brown of Arrowleaf Bistro. For more information about their lovely B & B and their cooking classes check out their website
Glover Street Market
Congratulations to our friends Jeff and Molly Patterson, the new owners of the Methow Valley’s finest natural food store: Glover Street Market in Twisp, WA. Jeff and Molly purchased the store early this spring and since then have done a complete remodel. The store now offers a wine and beer cellar, a juice bar, and an expanded nutrition and supplements department, as well as a wide range of Bluebird products.
Montessori Students Tour Granary
Last week the kindergarten class from the Little Star Montessori School (where the youngest Lucy daughter, Mariah, is a student) toured the Bluebird granary and learned about grain production, storage, and milling. One of the highlights was the opportunity for each child to fill, weigh, and label a sample bag of Bluebird flour, hot cereal, or pancake mix.
by Tess Hoke of Local 98856
This chocolate cupcake recipe started out as an egg-free dessert alternative for a child who was allergic to eggs, but recipe developer Tess Hoke soon learned that this “alternative” was everyone’s first choice. The moist cupcake’s unique texture comes from the emmer flour, which also complements the rich chocolatey flavor. This recipe takes just minutes to prepare and the result is both unpretentious and satisfying. Dust the cakes with powdered sugar or frost as desired; either way, there won’t be a crumb left on the plate once you’ve served them.
Customer Profile: Chef Jess Dowdell of Ca’buni, the Café in the Woods at Mukilteo Coffee Roasters
Chef Jess Dowdell is no stranger to organic foods produced locally in a sustainable manner. Growing up on a farm near Gresham, Oregon, Jess was raised knowing precisely where her food came from. Jess’s early passion for local foods was nurtured by her mother and grandmother. “We always ate home-made meals,” says Jess. “I remember spending a lot of time in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother. I baked with my grandmother, who elevated baking to an art form.” It was these two women who taught Jess to express herself through cooking and to preserve the integrity of the food by using fresh, local ingredients.
Although the logical career path might have taken Jess to culinary school, instead, following the advice of several chefs who mentored her, Jess set off for business school. “I knew that I could continue to get on-the-job training in cooking by working with chefs who inspired me. But the way for me to get the business sense to enable me to cook for a living in different capacities was to learn the fundamentals of running a business.”
After finishing school Jess spent time traveling around the country, working in different places and learning the cuisine of each region. “It was a great way to see the country,” says Jess. “I could get cooking jobs as I moved from place to place, so I had a steady income to pay for my travels. I learned from and was inspired by many chefs—I got so many good ideas.”
One of these ideas built on a food passion she developed as a child. Jess’s drank goat’s milk before she ever tasted cow’s milk, spurring what has become a lifelong passion for goat milk and goat cheese. While living in Virginia Jess bought a goat dairy and began making goat cheese, which she sold at local farmer’s markets. When she started selling quiches made from her goat cheese and her chickens’ eggs, customers started asking her to cater events. A catering business bloomed and flourished and Jess was on the verge of opening a café, too, when she decided to return to her roots and her family in the Pacific Northwest.
Lucky for us, because now she can be easily found at Ca’buni (pronounced “ka-boo-nee”)—the Mukilteo Coffee Roasters’ café in the woods. (“Easily” does not aptly describe the trip down the long bumpy dirt road to the café on Whidbey Island; but for those who know what culinary treats await them, the journey is inconsequential.) When Jess joined Gary and Beth Smith at Mukilteo Coffee Roasters, she developed the menu and set up the kitchen for the café. Because the island doesn’t currently have a certified goat dairy, Jess’s goat milk menu options are limited. But she’s currently working with a goat dairy on the island to go through the certification process, so she can serve fresh goat cheese and milk at the café.
What is it about goat milk that appeals to Jess so much? “Goat milk is truly a healthier milk,” says Jess. “It’s easier for our bodies to digest than cow milk.” From a sustainability standpoint, goat milk production trumps cow milk production because goats are easier on the land than cows. And although goat milk still seems somewhat uncommon and exotic to most Americans, Jess notes that “it’s the number one milk drunk throughout the world.”
Jess learned about Bluebird Grain Farms through Gary and Beth, who have a cabin near the Lucy’s home and granary in the Methow Valley. “I loved their products right away,” says Jess, “especially the emmer. It’s such a healthy grain, with that high protein content. I love being able to serve such an ancient grain. And some of my customers with gluten allergies are able to eat emmer flour, so I like to use the emmer in my baking.” Jess also notes that she appreciates being able to buy organic grains produced in Washington State. “Washington is the country’s third largest grain producer, but 85% of the products are shipped out of the state. I like that the Lucy farm is a family-run farm, committed to organic, sustainable agriculture and local distribution. Their grains are all produced, packaged, and sold within in this region; they’re very fresh.”
Jess notes “I’m a healthy person. If you research your food a bit you’ll find that the closer to home it’s produced, the more natural and healthy it is for your body. And it just tastes better—that’s what it all comes down to. Bluebird’s grains let me feed my customers things that taste great and make them feel good.”
“I make Bluebird’s emmer pancakes on Saturdays,” Jess adds. “They’re very popular. People come in here on other days asking for the pancakes and I have to tell them to come back on Saturday.”
And come they do. Jess may be tucked away in a café in the woods in a rural island town, but those in the know are regularly beating down a path to the door of Ca’buni, as evidenced in an article in the South Whidbey Recorder. Still, the café retains its homey, intimate atmosphere and Jess cooks for each person individually. “I look at my customers and I try to make them the meal that will most appeal to them that day,” says Jess. “My customers trust me. They trust me and, most importantly, they trust the food we serve here.”
Click these links for more information about Ca’buni’s hours, Jess’s catering service, and Mukilteo Coffee Roasters.