In This Edition
Customer Profile: Arrowleaf Bistro
Seattle Farmers Markets
New Bluebird Staff
Notes from a Farmer
More new bird sounds as the bluebells and buttercups and spring beauties dot the just greening hillsides here in the Methow. And yes, our first bluebirds, both western and mountain, have begun to return! Which means the skiing is over down here in the valley and the farming begins.
Some of the best news is that my cousin Frank from Ketchum, Idaho has also returned again this spring to help run field machinery. We started discing up the ground that needs plowing this last week in March. We’ll begin the actual plowing likely by mid-April and be done by the end of the month. We have a few amendments and soil conditioners to get down as well. Then we’ll run the field cultivators through last year’s grain fields once the soil warms enough to sprout a flush of what weeds might pop. While this field work is going on, we’ll begin cleaning, selecting and bunking our seed for planting. Plenty to do in April!
Though field work has begun a week or so early, our target planting date won’t change too much which generally is the second and third week of May. We will be planting some of our cover crop perhaps a little earlier in the “fallow” fields that have been cropped two years in a row.
On our Moccasin Lake Ranch lease, the ranch is putting 25 more acres of ground under pivot, which is exciting for us as this minimizes irrigation labor as well as maximizes water use. Timing is a big part of every aspect of the farming game, including irrigation. The pivot systems enable us to time water application much more accurately which we saw the benefit of in last year’s crops. So far the soil profile looks good from all the late fall and this winter’s moisture. We will be taking soil samples very soon to compare to last fall’s, taken just prior to our enzyme and microbial applications.
Here’s to a healthy spring for one and all! Hope you all get out for some good fresh air and get a chance to smell the popping hillsides and listen to nature waking up from her winters’ nap. We feel very blessed to watch spring, day by day, here at Bluebird as we try and ignore the… did I say, WIND!
Elvis paid a visit to Bluebird! He said there was nothing like Bluebird’s emmer farro in Tupelo.
Seattle Farmers Markets
On April 24 & 25th we will be starting Ballard and U-District farmers markets. I will be there with our new Market Manager Michelle Pearson. We look forward to seeing you there- give us a call if you have any bulk order requests!
Writer Braiden Rex-Johnson reminded me of our amazing evening at Tavolata with Chef Ethan Stowell- "Iron chef of farro"—in her recent article titled: Ancient emmer farro has a new crop of fans.
Sam attended the Seattle Chefs Collaborative event on March 22nd at Emmer & Rye- he learned a lot about shelling beans and was impressed with Seth Caswell’s new digs. He also mentioned some out-of-this-world emmer cakes that Chef Seth makes with cracked emmer, aleppo pepper flakes, Oregon pink shrimp and crispy pork belly, which are currently on the menu as a garnish for seared scallops.
Recipe of the Month
In ancient times, a small piece of dough was set aside when Jewish women baked, to be given to the temple priest. This offering was called the challah (pronounced “hah-lah”). Over time, challah came to be used to refer to the whole loaf of bread, not just the removed piece. Traditionally served on the Sabbath and on holidays, challah is typically a braided, sweet, egg bread, but modern variations are numerous. We use a blend of several Bluebird flours to create a sweet bread with a rich flavor and hearty crumb. A simple but impressive—and delicious—complement to an Easter brunch. Serve the leftovers the next morning toasted with butter and honey—yum! Read the recipe
Customer Profile: Jon Brown of Winthrop’s Arrowleaf Bistro
Every small town needs a friendly neighborhood bistro and Jon Brown and Joanne Uehara moved to Winthrop in 2007 with the aim of filling this niche. Three years later the Arrowleaf Bistro runs a brisk business and the restaurant is what one reviewer calls “a gem in Winthrop.”
Chef and co-owner Jon Brown grew up preparing food, both at home and at two of his first jobs—at the old Winthrop pub and the old Twisp pub. Jon’s father was a butcher and his mother was a baker, so he was raised learning to cook. Eventually he became the sous chef at the Sun Mountain Lodge, before moving away from the valley for a while to pursue other interests.
With its charming exterior and intimate dining room atmosphere, the Arrowleaf Bistro is inviting, offering an upscale dining experience at an affordable price. “We want to be the place where people think of going first,” says Jon. “Less of a special-occasion place, and more of a neighborhood drop-in bistro: casual and affordable, but still offering unique menus and really good food.”
Owning a restaurant anywhere isn’t easy, but it’s particularly difficult in the Methow Valley, Jon admits. In addition to a seasonal fluctuation in population, which creates several bustling months and several sluggish ones, Methow residents like to cook and eat at home. While there is surely an appreciation for eating out, the community culture is one of eating in; people cook for themselves, throw dinner parties for friends, and host big family meals. “That’s a good thing,” Jon allows “because it tells us that people around here care deeply about food and what they eat. But from a restaurant perspective, it’s not such a good thing.”
“There’s an ebb and flow here,” says Jon. “In a larger city you have customers to draw from year-round, but in the Methow there are some times of the year when there are simply not enough customers to keep a restaurant open.” Jon quickly learned that it was impossible to swim against the flow and now operates minimal hours during the slow season and ramps up to be open as much as possible during busy times.
He has also tried several innovative approaches to cultivating a more consistent clientele, such as offering a Sunday Brunch, as well as the popular Wine Bar Wednesday series, which offers a moderately priced way to experience the bistro and sample from its wine selection.
Methow Valley diners, says Jon, are adventuresome eaters with diverse palates and an openness to trying new food. “Local” and “seasonal” are becoming buzzwords in the restaurant industry these days, but Jon notes that Methow residents and visitors are looking for high-quality local foods. “Their expectations are higher,” says Jon, “and they’ve been exposed to enough locally produced foods that they demand only the best ones.”
To satisfy his customers Jon lets availability drive his menus. “I let the ingredients available inspire my menus, to reflect the region we’re in,” says Jon. “We’re not Pacific Northwest cuisine—we’re in eastern Washington. We have excellent meats, grains, and produce available locally. I also like to use wild ingredients like chokecherries or elderberries to add authenticity.”
Jon has always been interested in local, seasonal products, so when he encountered Bluebird’s grains and flours it was a natural fit for his menu. He likes using the whole grain farro and particularly loves the emmer flour, which he uses to make fresh pasta. “It’s an ideal pasta flour,” says Jon. “In addition to being nutrient rich and providing a nice color, it has an excellent flavor. People really love that wheaty, nutty flavor.”
Jon also appreciates the customer service he gets from Bluebird. “They’re premium local producers with a strong sense of business and customer service,” he says. “They really put in the extra effort to run the business with an eye to service. They’re reliable and consistent and their products are consistently high quality.”
When Jon and Joanne aren’t in the restaurant (they live above the Arrowleaf, so getting away can be a challenge!) they like to mountain bike, hike, and walk their dog. They’re both heavily involved in their community, with Jon volunteering on the Twisp Public Development Authority board and both Jon and Joanne serving on the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. And every once in a while they treat themselves to an urban vacation in Seattle, where they—what else?—eat out, sampling other chefs’ creations.
For operating hours and menus visit Arrowleaf Bistro.
March 20th: Vernal Equinox marked the first day of spring. My girls & three of their friends celebrated by planting flower seeds, singing spring rounds, and parading in dress up on our snow free lawn. When the parade was in full swing I ran into the house get my camera. Seconds later I returned to find the wagon tipped on top of my littlest one (crying), two others squabbling, one leaving the situation and the smallest still singing. Gee things change fast around here. I decided not to take the picture.
Best of the web
Congratulations to private chef Becky Selengut, who developed Bluebird’s Cinnamon Orange Swirl Bread Recipe featuring Bluebird Whole Grain Hard White Flour. SAVEUR announced this recipe as “Best of the WEB.” Warning: if you haven’t made this bread yet, beware! It’s easy to eat a whole loaf…
March 23: Happy Birthday Sam!