Monday, July 6, 2015

Family Meal - Guest post by Robert Mauri

The website dictionary.com defines family as follows: “any group of persons closely related by blood, as parents, children, uncles, aunts, and cousins.” It goes on to describe family as “a group of people who are generally not blood relations but who share common attitudes, interests, or goals and, frequently, live together.”

We have the family we are born with and the family that we choose, whether they be people that we have a common interest with, those we have a romantic connection to or those that we choose to spend our time with. For me, both sets of family are an important part of my daily life. Growing up in an Italian-Ukrainian household, a sense of family was important and most evident around the holidays. Food was an important aspect of my upbringing and holidays were the time both sets of family would unite for a big feast.

The thing that I remember most about these meals was that we rarely ate something that you would have at any other point during the year. Most of these meals were cooked by my immediate family and the dishes were elaborate, time consuming and delicious.  I would  count the days until dad was going to make his seafood salad (and looked forward to going to the fishmonger with him to pick everything up) or helping grandma make the pierogis and the smell in the kitchen when mom was browning the onions for hours for her French Onion soup. The memories are as much about the food as the time spent with those preparing it and those who we shared the meal with.

One of the things that differentiated Brimmer from most other restaurants right from their opening was the inclusion of Family Meal as a nightly special - you eat what the crew eats. It is offered daily at 5 pm until it runs out and is not printed on the menu. You never knew what it might be, well except for Sunday during the cooler months when ramen is offered and now during the summer months when it is cold soba noodles with tuna poke. The story behind Family Meal is one that is much more interesting than just the “special of the day.”

In preparation for writing this piece, I spent a week coming in the restaurant for Family Meal - some days it was enjoying the food as a customer with friends and family, others were the opportunity to see what family meal is from a crew perspective and one day it was getting it to go.

Sunday - Ramen by Mike: a big bowl of house noodles and broth with kimchi, soft egg yolk and pork belly

Monday - Pork Stir Fry with Rice by John: pork shoulder with onions over rice, similar to teriyaki but so much better

Wednesday - Smoked Pork Loin Salad by Dallas: grilled potatoes, pickled carrots, greens and mustard seeds

Thursday - Shepherd’s Pie by Chico: hearty without being too dense, topped with mashed potatoes and roasted cauliflower, giving it an extra layer of depth

Friday - Pork Sopes by Chico: orange braised pork, pinto and black beans, topped with a cabbage slaw and pickled mushrooms. I was skeptical about the mushrooms, but they added a nice acidic brightness and made me want to come back for more

Saturday - Biscuits and Gravy by Kai: a crispy but not overly dense biscuit with some of the best sausage gravy that I have ever had. I want this dish for breakfast every day.

Going into the restaurant to share Family Meal with the crew is a very different experience then going into the restaurant during service. Sure, there is last minute preparation going on but it is quieter, you don’t have the din of multiple tables of conversations taking place; but it really is the calm before the storm - there is always a lot to do and not a ton of time to do it before guests walk in the door.

The cooks take turns making family meal and are usually scheduled to each get one night a week. While the menu here tends to have an Asian tilt to it, the cooks are in no way constrained by that - they are allowed to put out whatever dish they want as long as they feel that the rest of the crew likes it and that, since it is going to be available to the public, it meets the same quality standards of anything else that leaves the kitchen. Because of the freedom that the cooks are given, you will see anything from lasagna to fried chicken or shrimp and grits. Family Meal truly provides three things –give the crew an opportunity to eat something filling to help them through a busy night; give both the front and back of the house a few minutes to relax and joke around right before service and give the culinary team an opportunity to showcase their talent.

The primary source of inspiration is the pantry at Brimmer, but they are in no way limited to that supply.  While the cooks have access to a wide range of ingredients, they all seem to have a goal to make their dish from whatever is on hand, sort of like opening up your fridge and deciding to make dinner from what you see there. Once they have taken stock of what they have, they take inspiration from various places. Dallas took his inspiration for the smoked pork salad from the warm weather – he wanted to do something that was wasn’t heavy but was filling at the same time. Chico made a shepherd’s pie because they had recently butchered a side of beef and he decided that he would take the trim and grind it, utilizing leftover potatoes and cauliflower as the topping. Kai made “breakfast for dinner” with her biscuits and gravy.

When I asked John about how he came up with his stir-fry, he told me “You start simple and make it interesting.” It seemed to be a common theme among the cooks. Chico took his simple sopes and elevated it with pickled mushrooms. The rest of the dishes I had that week were elevated versions of familiar and comfortable flavors. Dallas tells me, “You are only as good as your last dish and a lot of thought goes into the process, everyone takes the preparation of family meal seriously.” John echoed those sentiments, adding, “It is a great opportunity to showcase your own take on a dish and some days it is stressful coming up with the dish, other days it is easy.” One thing that the cooks all seem to be in agreement on is that they try not to repeat a dish for Family Meal regardless of how successful it is, staying true to the Brimmer philosophy of not repeating menu items – once they are off, they may come back, but in a different form.

The real challenge for the cooks comes when they serve Family Meal to the rest of the crew. While the few minutes that they share together sitting down and eating involves much joke-cracking and humor, there is also a serious component to it – it is time for the front of the house to become acquainted with the dish and it is an opportunity for the cook who prepared it to get feedback. John tells me “It is a chance to fail, but in a good way.” His stir-fry dish was a good example of the collaboration involved. While the meal was delicious and well-received, John felt that something was missing from the dish. Being able to serve it to the rest of the team lead to a short but constructive conversation about what could be added to round out the plate. For the servers, it lets them know that Brimmer family cares about them and values their input. Miles, one of the bartenders, tells me that the variety offered as Family Meal is important because “you can get sick of eating the same food over and over at other places. It is nice to have a variety of dishes when you are working.” Meredith, one of the servers, echoed the sentiment, adding “You are more likely to push the dish when you really like it.” It is also an opportunity to impress their peers. When I asked the crew on one visit what their favorite family meal was, they almost unanimously told me it was Kai’s Scotch egg. 

Family Meal is in most cases a dish that fits in well with the restaurants shareable plate concept and is a nice compliment to order as part of a meal. Sometimes it is a nice starter sized dish – like the smoked pork loin salad. Other times, it is a full blown entrée, like the ramen or the shepherd’s pie and is usually priced accordingly – $7 to $12.

Brimmer fits in with my personal philosophy of trying to support the Ballard community. It is a place that my wife and I frequent for a fun evening out sharing multiple plates of food and a couple local craft beers or some interesting cocktails from the bar. Because of the frequency that we visit Brimmer, we do run into the habit of ordering the same things, even when we try to mix up our choice. Family meal gives us an opportunity to add variety to what we are eating and a chance to try a new take on familiar things.

Family meal has also become part of my Thursday ritual - a night to hang out with friends and enjoy some tasty beverages at the multitude of breweries in Ballard. My friend David and I started going to Brimmer at the end of the night after hitting a few breweries because it gave us the opportunity to have some great food later in the evening. This ritual led to the appreciation of just how talented and creative the cooks at Brimmer can be. Sharing a great meal with good friends is something that I have always enjoyed and felt was an important part of my life. Being able to do it at Brimmer made the place feel less like a restaurant and more like sitting around a kitchen table and having someone’s mother make you food. 

Eating Family Meal for a week was an interesting experience – it exposed me to what each member of the kitchen crew is capable of and give me great insight into the story behind what goes into this daily special. The next time that you come in, do yourself a favor and if it’s available, try it regardless of what it is. The cooks work very hard at what they do and really put themselves into what they are making, so take a leap and support them in their endeavor. You can give yourself the opportunity to find out more about the people who are cooking your food and you never know, you may find your new favorite dish and can then beg and plead with the crew to make it again at some point (Please bring back the biscuits and gravy, and the shrimp and grits, and the fried chicken, and the burger….you get the idea).


*Robert and his wife Cheryl are lovely neighbors who take pride in supporting local businesses. You can often find them at the farmers market, volunteering at the Woodland Park Zoo, testing new libations at a local brewery or winery, and cooking with friends.

The entire Brimmer & Heeltap crew would like to thank them for their sincere interest in our team and creations. We hope that you will cross paths with them on your own culinary adventures. You won’t regret it!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Garden Expansion

When I was initially contacted about the property for sale where Le Gourmand had long called its home, I wasn't interested. It seemed smaller than I'd hoped and too compartmentalized for an open floor plan. Other industry comrades had also walked away from making offers. The broker however, keenly suggested that I come down in person to turn her down.

Standing inside the vacant walls, I felt an instant connection. I could see the potential unfolding before my eyes. The bones of the building called out to me as if they were my ancestors.

Lucky for us the outcome was a positive one. We have now lived in the space for a little over a year to witness the seasons, trends, our guests, and their needs. Some of you may have already seen the commotion happening to the rear of the property as construction is underway for us to expand the garden area.

A 400 square foot studio sits to the rear of the garden and at one point sat under the Ballard Bridge. Le Gourmand used it to store their impressive wine collection, dry storage, and office. Until recently, it was our pantry and is now being refurbished to welcome special events, private parties, and seasonal overflow. The new space will have its own bar with interior and covered exterior seating.
















We will keep you posted on our progress and look forward to welcoming you to the new digs in early summer.

Thank you for your continued support,

Jen

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The 5,000 Mile Point-of-View

Travel has always been a way for me to shake the proverbial Etch-A-Sketch and clear the mental clutter. The clarity gained from a change of scenery, new acquaintances, sites, and smells is among my favorite vantage points.  At a time when I think back over 2014 and ponder the year ahead, I am eternally grateful for the gift of travel.

A few months back I was lucky enough to embark on a journey to France and observe a beautiful way of life mostly throughout the south, spotlighting new wines to accompany our bold flavors back at B&H.


My journey began briefly in Paris where I traveled by foot, taking in familiar and new sites for a day. Getting lost in such an incredible city is hardly a waste of time as Paris is among one of my all-time favorite international destinations. While I was sad to depart so early, my eyes were set further south to learn about epicurious things outside the metro area. 

Paris - Odéon 

Paris - Jardin des Plantes




Paris - Square de l’Arsenal


A quick train ride deposited me outside the ancient walled town center of Avignon.  It is a quaint city that sits on the left bank of the Rhône River, a popular residence for popes and one of the few French cities to have preserved its ramparts.  Avignon provided me a wonderful transition to the south and a gateway to my rental car and the Cotes du Rhône valley.   

Avignon – post serenade 

History and natural beauty make the Southern Rhône one of the richest regions of France for interests of every kind.   Next stop Gigondas, at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail, is a village with fewer than 1,000 people residing is a must see-do for your wine loving travels.  They have dedicated all of their agricultural efforts to winemaking and it shows. With just under 8 miles of dedicated vines they produce roughly 5 million cases of wine a year.  





A few notable producers included:



The history dates back to Pierre de Beaucastel in the mid 1500’s with the purchase of a barn and some land. A hundred years or so later one of Pierre’s descendants converted to Catholicism and was appointed as “Capitaine de la ville de Courthezon” by Louis XIV.  Fast forward to the start of the 20th century when the land was acquired by Pierre Tramier who then turned over production to his son-in-law Pierre Perrin. (If you haven’t noticed, Pierre is a popular French form of the name Peter and means “rock” or “stone”.)  Today the Perrin family is continuing the legacy and is following in the rich traditions set before them.  Their wines are highly regarded and are a worthy addition to your wine cellar.
 


Domaine des Bosquets is owned by the Brechet family, who also owns Chateau de Vaudieu.  The winery was bought in 1962 by the legendary Gabriel Meffre. It's his grandchildren, the brothers Laurent and Julien Brechet, who run the two domains today.  Julien is a strong advocate for the next generation in the area and deeply involved in the young winemakers’ association while brimming with a youthful energy.  He appreciates the friendly competition with his brother as they share quite the wine heritage. 




Domaine Chamfort is located at the foot of the Sablet Montmirail. It stretches over twenty one hectares and is spread over three towns. In March 2010, Vasco Perdigao (pictured above) and his wine Sonia took over the vineyard and decided to enroll it in sustainable viticulture by minimizing the use of non-natural products in the vineyard and to better control the future transition to organic agriculture.




One glimpse of Serge Ferigoule's moustache might be enough to fall in love with him and the wines, although they do a fine job themselves.  In the mid-70's he left winemaking school and went to work for Monsieur Ricard's family. Without anyone in his family to succeed him, Richard decided to partner with Serge in 1982.  After Monsieur Ricard's retirement in 1990, Serge launched Le Sang des Cailloux.  Vacqueryas had just been awarded an A.O.C that same year helping his wines to become as celebrated as they deserve.  




The Bruniers' story dates back to the late 1800's with Hippolyte Brunier, a modest farmer who lived off the land.  His small vineyard was at one of the highest points in between Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Bedarrides, a stony plateau called "La Crau."  The elevation of this terrain had prompted the construction of a communication tower in the late 18th century to transmit telegraph messages between Marseilles and Paris.


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One of the most memorable dinners on this portion of the trip was thanks to L’Oustalet.  A multi-course meal dedicated to the bounty of the Mediterranean. 

While at dinner I was seated in between a French couple to my right and a small group of Americans to my left.  Dining alone in France is quite common and despite the intimate setting, it was delightful to relish in the solitude.  It is a different sort of dining experience when you eat alone.  I focused my attention to savoring each morsel and taking my time.  It was a great lesson in being present and not needing my phone or other gadget to fill the void.

As the four Americans were wrapping up, the opportunity presented itself to engage slightly before they slipped out.  We exchanged small talk of "how was your meal, where are you from", etc. When I replied that I was visiting from Seattle, Washington, one of the women said, "Well it just so happens that next week I am meeting my friend Jeffery Bergman from Seattle." I had a split second thought... what are the chances that we both know a Jeffery Bergman from Seattle and could it be the same person?  I kindly replied, with a bit of hesitation in my voice... "It's not the same Jeffery Bergman married to Katherine and works with gourmet food is it?"  She looked at me stunned and voices hit a pitch of of excitement that made most of the other patrons look our way.  "Of course it is." I looked on in disbelief and kindly requested her name.  Little did I know that I was meeting such culinary royalty and the likes of Patricia Wells. She has several other ties to the Pacific Northwest and we marveled at the shared contacts between us.  What if I had brought my kindle to read during my solo dinner and didn't engage?  I felt so lucky to feel the world shrink around me.

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My final days were spent in a small beach town called Sanary-sur-Mer outside of Bandol on the Mediterranean coast.  Rumor has it that it's one of the sunniest places in France, with an average of only 61 days of rain a year.





Winery highlights included:




This tranquil estate has been in the hands of the Bunan family for three generations and is surrounded by incredible olive and cypress trees with grapes growing on steep terraces facing the Mediterranean.  Quite a site! They have farmed organically since 2008 and have focused their attention on the impressive Mourvèdre grape while incorporating Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah into the mix as well.  This region in particular is known for producing hugely powerful reds and sultry rosé wines.


“Read as much as you like about the microclimate of a wine region; it is only when you feel it that you truly comprehend. The panoramic view of the entire Bandol amphitheater with its dramatic limestone outcrops is complemented by a cloudless sky, yet proprietor Eric de St. Victor informs me that beyond the protective Sainte-Baume mountains, it has been raining all week. No wonder Bandol enjoys 300 days of sunshine each year, no wonder it exists as a separate AOC from Provence, and no wonder its wines are hailed as the apogee of Mourvèdre.”—The Wine Advocate

Comte Henri de Saint-Victor and family have been producing wines perched atop La Colline du Télégraphe in the northernmost part of the appellation, the château commands sweeping vistas of the amphitheater of vines known as the Théatre d’Epidaure, and beyond, the Mediterranean Sea.

The restanques, or terraces were carved into the hill by the Saint-Victor clan in an effort to minimize erosion and maximize water absorption, which is of the utmost importance in a hot, dry terroir such as this one. 


Domaines Ott was founded in 1912 by Marcel Ott, an agricultural engineer from Alsace who dreamed of establishing a great wine estate near the Mediterranean. Today, the wineries are owned and managed by Champagne Louis Roederer. These wines are made at three distinctively different estates in the Bandol and Côtes de Provence appellations: Château Romassan, Clos Mireille and Château de Selle.  

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The south of France has a natural intoxication about it. From the stunning landscape to the beautiful people that inhabit it. From the coastal influences on food to their world class wines and beyond, it is an area I would go back again tomorrow to dig deeper and learn more.  If it isn't already on your travel to-do list, you won't be disappointed.  

I would like to share a passage I found just before departing for this trip by Rick Steves. This could easily be expanded beyond your passport and into our daily lives.  

"Connecting with people carbonates an experience.  Extroverts have more fun. If your trip is low on magic moments, kick yourself and make things happen.  If you don't enjoy a place, maybe you don't know enough about it.  Seek the truth. Give a culture the benefit of your open mind. See things as different, but not better or worse.  Any culture has plenty to share.  Of course, travel, like the world, is a series of hills and valleys.  Be fanatically positive and militantly optimistic.  If something's not to your liking, change your liking. Travel can make you a happier American, as well a citizen of the world.  Our Earth is home to seven billion equally precious people...

Thoughtful travel engages us with the world.  In tough economic times, it reminds us what is truly important.  By broadening perspectives, travel teaches new ways to measure quality of life.  Globetrotting destroys ethnocentricity, helping us understand and appreciate other cultures.  Rather than fear the diversity on this planet, celebrate it. Among your most prized souvenirs will be the strands of different cultures you choose to knit into your own character."

May 2015 have adventures near and far!

Yours truly,

Jen


Monday, November 10, 2014

Upon Reflection



Going into business for ourselves and helping to create community through food and beverage is the best decision we ever made.

There is a blind faith necessary to leap off that proverbial cliff and as a friend once said, “jump and trust that the net will appear.”

Despite amazing coaches, colleagues, and mentors, no one can prepare you for the pressure, sacrifice, fear, nerves, responsibility, or knowledge required navigating these waters.

Conversely, it is heartwarming to see a successful first date evolve into a budding romance before our eyes.  Not to mention the handful of regulars that transition from acquaintance to friend with us and each other.  We witness bonds created with our crew, vendors, and neighbors. 

With the holidays and our anniversary on our heels, we are reminded that it is a time defined by a heap of gratitude and a pinch of humility.

On behalf of the relationships that have already been fostered, we hope that you will continue to bring in the people you are grateful for, curious about, excited for, thinking of doing business with, or just time by yourself as you juggle the busy outside world. 

We are eternally grateful for the opportunity to be in business on this little corner of Ballard and we hope that the coming year brings deeper connections and moderate growth.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Virtues of Smoking

Ben Barlow is a part of our amazing culinary team and one of the four guys at B&H that actually grew up in Ballard.  He really enjoys cooking French and Latin cuisines and considers himself a big baseball enthusiast, lover of the outdoors and fan of horror movies.

He started cooking professionally somewhat by accident. After finishing his degree in Chemistry at WSU, he was a little lost on next steps. Working outdoors was a big pull and tried his hand (without much luck) getting into environmental field work. The next best thing was finding work with access to outdoor recreation, which led him to apply for work at wilderness resorts.

Ben always liked to cook, but had never actually worked in a restaurant. With little understanding of how the industry worked or what line cooks did, he began applying for these positions at a number of resorts.  He received a call back from exactly one chef, Jim Roberts of the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch in the Sawtooth Mountains. He told him more or less, "you're not a line cook, but if you want to work in a kitchen, I'll find a place for you." Jim did a lot to foster Ben's knowledge and get him going in the industry and a big reason he's still at it three years later.

Each month B&H hosts an all team meeting where someone from our service and culinary crew shares a little knowledge nugget to help boost our understanding on various topics.

Last month Ben blew us away with his presentation on the virtues of smoke, as a flavorant and preservative. Clearly his background in organic synthesis has complemented his career in food.  We thought you too might enjoy this explanation along with a recipe of smoked trout.

Enjoy!

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Wood smoke contains a great deal of flavor compounds, as well as organic acids and antioxidants that slow rancidification of meat. While the benefits of smoking are clear, the process is sometimes misunderstood. The following are some points on how smoking works.

How do we smoke?

Because smoking alone is not a great preservative, smoked foods are often cured in salt beforehand.

Smoking is virtually always done with hardwoods (fruitwoods), as softwoods (conifers) contain resins which create unpleasant tar-like flavors when burnt.

Low temperature is critical, even for hot smoking, so the smoke can work before the meat is overcooked. Hot smokers rarely go above 180F.

The key to smoking is to use smoldering wood, which is wood burning around 600F.  Wood is kept around this temperature by using a low oxygen environment like tightly packed chips or soaked chips.

How does smoking work?

Keeping the wood burning at a low temperature is critical.  Complete combustion of wood would produce only carbon dioxide and water vapor, which would be flavorless.  By keeping the temperature and oxygen levels low, we create incomplete reactions.  Because plant molecules are so big, they break down in lots of intermediary steps.  It’s these intermediary steps that produce the flavor compounds in smoke.

Understanding wood is critical to understanding smoke. Wood is primarily composed of two components, cellulose and lignin.  Cellulose makes up the bulk of all plants and the same is true with wood.  What makes wood special is its high lignin content, which makes it hard.  Cellulose is a carbohydrate, just a gigantic string of simple sugars.  Lignin is a phenolic polymer, a big string of aromatic alcohols.

As cellulose smolders, it produces ketones and organic acids responsible for the sweet and fruit flavors in smoked foods.  The organic acids like acetic acid and formic acid lower the pH and help preserve the meat.

As lignin smolders, it produces phenols.  Phenols are hugely important flavor chemicals that flavor wine, coffee, and just about everything tasty.  It is the phenols from lignin that preserve the meat (as antioxidants) and produce the complexity and that signature smoky aroma (guaiacol and syringol).  Smoked meat often tastes like other things because the same compounds are present in the meat.

Wood also contains some nitrogen, which produces nitrogen dioxide as it burns.  This nitrogen dioxide affixes to the myoglobin in the meat, which preserves color just like a nitrate salt.  However this can only be accomplished before the meat reaches 140, when the myoglobin is destroyed.

Smoked trout - this is the most basis approach and Ben suggests improvising with your own herbs and spices to make this your own.  You can use this in a salad, put on top of zucchini cakes, make a spread, top your toast, or anyway your taste buds guide you...

2 trout fillets
2 cups salt
1 cup sugar
4 cups hardwood chips, such as apple or oak

1) Pack the fillets in salt/sugar mixture overnight
2) Remove fillets, rinse clean and pat dry
3) Use what you can to smoke. If you have a smoker, just put the chips in and go. If not, soak the chips
for an hour and spread them over the coals of your barbeque. The key is to keep the temperature low (less than 120 F).
4) Smoke the trout for four hours, or until the flesh is firm and the outside is tacky.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Then & Now

It has been a little over a year since we took ownership of 425 NW Market Street and in the anniversary of being new tenants it seemed only fitting we share a little more about this historic address.

One of our amazing neighbors, Sue Pierce, gifted us a great narrative on our little corner property.  Her inquisitive nature leads to all sorts of discoveries on our West Woodland neighbors and is documenting stories and photos wherever possible.  


Our property dates back to the 1920’s and the original two story structure is the first account of our lineage.  The Brower family owned our land and a significant amount of property in the area. In the photo above, you can almost see Lowell Brower in the wagon and his son is standing near the back of the horse.  His son attended West Woodland grade school and would deliver groceries with his father after class. Rumor has it that the Brower family was willing to gift the land West Woodland sat on to the city if they named it after them.  I guess that wasn’t a deal the city was willing to shake on.

A little fun fact: We have a studio that sits to the rear of the property and was originally housed under the Ballard Bridge.  Evidently it was going to be demolished or given away to the Brower family if they moved it. So, it found a new home a few blocks east of its original location. 

The brick structure we currently call home was probably rebuilt back in the 30's or 40’s and spent much of its life as an IGA Grocery Store.  This alone is an interesting fact because the Independent Grocers Alliance was started in the mid 20’s when a group of 100 independent retailers in Poughkeepsie, New York, and Sharon, Connecticut organized themselves into a single marketing system.  The group experienced rapid expansion and within a year there were more than 150 retailers nationwide.


Other interesting facts as our building was erected include:

·        Don Ibsen, a senior at Roosevelt High School, screws a pair of tennis shoes onto a cedar board and becomes one of the co-inventors of water-skiing
·        Bertha Landes is elected mayor, the first woman mayor in any major US city
·        Fisher's Blend Station Corporation is formed, and KOMO-AM radio station goes on the air
·        Seattle’s population was roughly 365,000


Stand-alone grocery stores were typical of the 20’s when the city was expanding.  Our building remained a grocery store well into the 60’s.  Most of these neighborhood stores were built along a trolley line, including this building.  The trolley had been serving the West Woodland Neighborhood for 14 years by 1926, and came to us through the Fremont and Halibut Flats Neighborhood.  The trolley travelled along 6th AVE until reaching West 55th (now Market Street) where it went east and then immediately north again onto 5th AVE NW.  I sure wish they were still part of the local landscape. 


Leonard’s Barbershop was located on the south-west side of the main building and eventually relocated across the street to where Slate Coffee is combining hair cutting and gun sales. I can only imagine the social interaction and public discourse that would happen within these walls.  In some instances throughout history, the barbershop was the location for open debates, voicing public concern, and engaging locals in discussions about contemporary issues.  Not to mention had an influential role in helping shape the male identity.  Can you believe that in much earlier times, barbers (aka barber surgeons) performed surgery and dentistry?


The building has seen only a few businesses in its tenure. After the grocery stores and barber shop, The Handy Saw and Ribbons Pasta Company held down the fort at 6th & Market Street until the early 80’s when Bruce Naftaly had a vision for creating a “destination dining experience”.  Having come from the Bay Area where diners wouldn’t blink an eye to travel from San Francisco to Napa for lunch, Bruce knew the 10 minute commute from Seattle to Ballard would catch on.  


An amazing discovery was learning that Bruce came to Seattle in the late 70’s in hopes of becoming an opera singer after graduating from Berkeley.  He came to study under Carlisle Kelly, a well known coach in the area with ties to the Rossellini family.  This family introduction got him a job as dishwasher at one of their restaurants and perhaps opened the proverbial door to his inspired path in food.  Bruce helped shape the culinary landscape in Seattle and those that worked within his walls have gone on to do remarkable things.



Nearly 100 years later, our corner remains an outpost for community connection and inspiration.  Brimmer & Heeltap hopes to continue building relationships and serving as a vessel for community engagement for years to come.  We are incredibly honored to follow in the footsteps of such predecessors. 


Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Whole Cow

My inspiration for whole animals began while I was working at Revel and learned to butcher them for "The Shack" during summer months. It opened a new world of ideas for utilizing the whole animal and seeing the array of benefits to a small business and our clientele. This inspiration spread through the culinary crew, our guests, and it immediately fostered a desire to continue this tradition into my own practice someday so that I could share it with those around me.

It seems obvious, but whenever possible local is best, and our beef is no exception.  We are working with Jerry Foster, a third generation family farm that is running a 600 head operation in Curtis, Washington.  His grass fed and finished beef are pastured on the fertile ground of the Chehalis River drainage.  The grass has an extended growing season, as well as the ability to grow haylage* to be fed in the winter months.

*Haylage is a grass crop which is cut, harvested, and stored for feeding animals. It is made from the same crops as normal hay, but with higher moisture content.  With proper equipment and storage techniques, this method increases food value and decreases losses for the crop.

Sourcing local beef is more financially sustainable for all parties.  The farmer receives a fair market value without a middleman and in doing so, the restaurant receives a better price, and ultimately we pass along those savings to our guests.  Not to mention shorter travel for delivery, keeping money in the area we live, and training our chefs so they can continue this tradition.

In addition, we have teamed up with Heritage Meats, an amazing local butchering company, that is supplying us a quarter of the cow at a time and dry aging the remainder in between deliveries.  This allows me to cut the meat exactly how I want it and sometimes that can be unconventional.  You can expect to see cuts that you wouldn't likely find in the average butcher shop.

Benefits to dry aging are remarkable and change the beef in two main ways.  First, moisture is evaporated from the muscle and creates a greater concentration of beef flavor and taste.  Secondly, the beef's natural enzymes break down the connective tissue in the muscle, which leads to more tender beef.

Having this flexibility allows the cuts and preparation to be highlighted and is an important part of why I am using the whole cow.

USDA Cuts
The first thing we usually receive is the drop loin, sirloin, and flank, which comes in one piece. This part of the cow has some of the most tender and succulent pieces of meat. The main ones that I use are the tenderloin, strip loin, tri-tip, culotte, bavette (inside flap), flank, top sirloin, hanger (only one per cow), and the skirt. The newest I am using is the spider steaks, located in the hip socket of the sirloin with only two per cow.  Most of the cuts from these parts are best served rare to medium-rare because the fat that is located in this part of the cow melts at low temperatures, which if over cooked, tend to dry out more easily.

A new technique we have been using is taking the kidney fat (aka suet) and grinding it down before rendering.  Once it is melted, we keep a portion of it warm during service to rest the steaks in helping seal in juices and add flavor.  Only some steaks benefit from this as the ones with a wet cure or slow cooking don't benefit from this practice.

From the whole chuck and brisket we get a lot of different muscle structures which means we have to tenderize, brine, dry rub, slow cook, BBQ, or different combinations of these. We also have this part of the cow dry aged for at least 21 days before we receive it, which also helps with the tenderizing process we use. There is a lot of trim and extra fat, which is ground for "Family Meal" burgers on Sunday night.

From the rib and rib plate we get a few different types of meat.  We get more of the skirt steak from the interior which we marinate in a wet cure that has Asian pears, garlic, ginger, onion, mirin, sake, salty water, and kasu (the residual paste from the making of sake).  We also get the short rib which we can do a couple of different ways.  We can either use a wet cure with a boneless version and serve it medium rare or we can cross cut it bone on with a dry rub and slow cook or BBQ it.  My wish list has a band saw on it for more efficient cutting practices.  Then there is the rib roast which I like to dry rub, smoke, and serve as rare to medium-rare slices.

The last part of the cow we receive is the round and hind shanks.  By the time we receive this part of the cow, it has been dry aged for at least 28-32 days. This part of the cow is the most load-bearing and as a result is among some of the toughest cuts so we tenderize and brine it to ensure amazing flavor and texture.  Another benefit are the marrow bones and in this portion are among the largest allowing us to make some amazing butter and serve it with the round.  I really hope that everyone gets as excited as I do when the round is available because of all the added flavor.

We are just at the beginning of our new beef program at B&H and it's already taking shape. I am thrilled to see where we can take it and look forward to having you come down to try this amazing product.

Thank you for your continued support!

Chef Mike

Sunday, June 15, 2014

In Remembrance of Sharlene Pulst


Goodbyes have never been my strong suit.  Sharlene was someone that was not only my childhood friend but also a vital member of the B&H family.  To my crew, she was our caring bookkeeper and we are mourning the loss of someone so special.

I have known her as long as my memory will allow me to recall. Her family lived around the corner only a few houses away allowing us free reign to share dolls, stickers, homework, bus rides, stories of first kisses, gossip of every kind, and Christmas wish lists to name a few. We went trick-or-treating, rode bikes to Dairy Queen, built forts, played hide-n-seek, camped in the backyard, and replayed the same song until we knew every word.  The rule between the houses was that if the street lights came on or if we heard our dads whistle, it was time to come home. We each had our stalling techniques to prolong the inevitable. As we entered our teens the scheming became more elaborate. The life stories we shared proved that adulthood was upon us and our friendship grew stronger.  Neither of us could have predicted that one day we’d work together.

I feel more lucky than sad at this moment knowing that I had a friend so special that makes saying goodbye so incredibly hard. 

There’s a saying that we die twice.  The first is when we stop breathing and a second time, when somebody says your name for the last time.  Thankfully, Sharlene has touched the lives of so many people that the stories we get to share will allow us to celebrate her spirit and good character for as long as we live. 

You will be sorely missed my dear friend.


Jen 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Oregon Wine Adventure

My professional career began in wine and I often recollect an abundance of memories spent with the growers, producers, and story tellers.

A few weeks ago I was fortunate to join an Oregon wine tasting adventure taking in a couple of days of the Willamette Valley.  It had been years since stepping foot on the soil of Dundee, Carlton, McMinnville, and Newberg.

Nostalgia is a powerful and sentimental feeling that the Greeks refer to as a homecoming.  Taking in some of the familiar views, tasty vintages, hearing the passionate stories they told was heartwarming and the new memories just as sweet. 

Our time was spent in a well concentrated area between Carlton and Newberg. 

View from Belle Pente Vineyard & Winery


Belle Pente (pronounced bell pont) Winery literally means beautiful slope.  The winery sits on 70 acres just east of Carlton.  Our host shared an impressive line-up of wines that are inspired from the producers of Burgundy and Alsace France.  My favorites were the 2010 Pinot Gris, 2011 Bell Oiseau (Edelzwicker blend varieties of Alsace: Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Muscat), and the 2011 Belle Pente Vineyard Pinot Noir.

Soter Vineyards was next on the list and did not disappoint!  Their picturesque winery sat high on the hills of Mineral Spring Ranch in a beautifully refurbished barn.  We were surrounded by vineyards mostly planted to Pinot Noir and a touch of chardonnay all sustainably farmed. The stand outs included their 2013 North Valley Rosé, 2011 Mineral Springs Ranch Pinot Noir, and 2006 Beacon Hill Pinot Noir.

I bet they would have let us sample from here if we asked nicely.

View from Domaine Drouhin


Domaine Drouhin with a stunning backdrop and catchy tag line (French soul, Oregon soil) introduced us to old world practices with the bounty of New World fruit.  They were among one of the more established wineries we visited dating back to the late 1980’s, however their family winemaking practices in Burgundy, France go all the way back to the late 1800’s. My favorites were the 2013 Edition Rosé, 2012 Édition Limitée Chardonnay, and the 2012 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir.

Crowley Wines was nestled on the outskirts of Newberg.  Our handsome host Tyson (owner/winemaker/chief barrel washer), shared with us his migration from upstate New York to the west coast.  Erath welcomed him with open arms as a cellar hand and thanks to that introduction, the Willamette Valley is now where he and his delicious wines call home.  Founded back in 2005, his wines showcased finesse, structure, and balance.  Top picks included: 2011 Four Winds Chardonnay, 2011 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, and 2011 Laurel Hood Pinot Noir.

Last on our itinerary was Big Table Farm.  A husband/wife power duo that was beyond impressive and hospitable.  Brian Marcy is the winemaker with a notable CV including Turley Wine Cellars, Neyers Vineyards, Blankiet Estate, and many more.  Clare Carver manages the 70 acres, designs wine labels and is an amazing artist! I loved everything they made!  2013 Laughing Pig Rosé, 2013 Wirtz Garden Edelzwicker, 2012 Chardonnay, 2012 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 2012 Pelos Sandberg Pinot Noir, and the 2011 White Hawk Syrah. 

In the coming months, we’ll be adding some of these wines on the list for you to try too. We look forward to hearing about your summer adventures.

Cheers,


Jen

Monday, April 21, 2014

What’s on the other side of a review?

At least a decade before B&H was established, ideas and dreams swirled of what my own restaurant/bar could be. Mock business plans and photo collages were hung on my walls. The time between the fantasy and reality fostered assumptions of hope and possibility.

As the launch became more tangible, questions circled like ‘What if people didn't get what we are trying to accomplish? What if guests didn't care for the food? What if we weren't successful?’  A new set of emotions were tugging at my sleeve.  I had been taught that fear can either motivate or hinder and I certainly was going to do my best at not letting the latter apply to us.

Owning a business is far more than what is mapped out on paper.  It is a living, breathing organism that requires constant accountability and care.  For the first time in my life, I am now responsible for the well being of others.  I am a part of something much bigger than I ever could have imagined. Our relations span from our crew to our guests, to the farmers, various suppliers, and beyond.

We are appreciative of the reviews and impressions by various publications like The Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly and a handful of consumer posts on sites like Yelp, Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor, etc. They have been weighing heavily on my mind given the responsibility to my team, family, and community.

Do they matter? Yes and I hope they always will as congruence is an important factor in our business. My head is well aware that we will make mistakes and some guests won't get us no matter what we do.  Negative reviews act as a barometer for trends and we can adjust as situations necessitate.  My heart tries not to take anything too personal.  I take comfort in our dedicated work in creating community through Mike’s innovative food, our quality beverage selections, and genuine service from an enthusiastic team.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve.  It is an honor.

Yours truly,


Jen