Tag Archive | "Linda Brandt"

New Crêperie Set to Open on Madrone Lane

Paul Pluska took some time out from busily readying his new crêperie on Winslow’s Madrone Lane to tell me about his plans for his authentic French-style Bainbridge Island eatery.

Pluska, who opened the popular little crêperie at the Kingston ferry terminal in 2003, has had his eye on Bainbridge Island for a long time. He said that in fact when he returned to the Northwest from eight years living in Europe and decided to go into the crêpe business he originally planned to open a place on Bainbridge but the right spot didn’t present itself at the time.

After over 10 years of bringing excellent crêpes to Kitsap County and getting great feedback as a mobile crêpe vendor at many Bainbridge Island events, from Taste of Lynwood to the Harvest Fair, Pluska and his wife Heather Pluska finally found the stars aligning to open a full-time Bainbridge crêperie this spring.

Pluska told me he was inspired by the opportunity to locate his eatery in a prime spot at 143 Madrone Lane next to Mora Iced Creamery, with encouragement and help from owner Linda Brandt. He likes the pedestrian-friendly area and the fact that people can take their crêpes and espresso to sit outside in tables in front of his establishment or in the communal seating. For those preferring to sit inside, the Pluskas will have indoor seats for about 15.

paul pluska j'aime les crepes

Pluska holding a giant crêpe rake he made to hang in J’aime Les Crêpes at the suggestion of Linda Brandt.

J’aime Les Crêpes on Bainbridge, scheduled to open May 1, will offer more than the Kingston crêperie, which the Pluskas also will continue to run. Pluska explained that the Kingston location is driven by ferry traffic patterns. Likening it to the tides rolling in and out, he said that crêpe lovers rush in to get their rolled up meals to go, setting a frantic pace that lets up briefly between boats. On Bainbridge, Pluska looks forward to a steadier flow of business that will allow him to spread out his offerings on large plates and offer some 40 types of crêpes, from savory to sweet, using three types of batters: sweet, buckwheat (naturally very low in gluten), and gluten-free. Authentic Italian-style espresso and soft drinks also will be offered.

How did Pluska get into the crêpe business before it became the craze that it is today? As a professional drummer with the NATO band, he performed jazz around Europe at major political and international events. In France he found himself eating crêpes every day, stopping at little shops and street vendors and chatting with the owners and cooks. A dream to start his own crêperie was forming, and he began collecting advice, recipes, and authentic crêpe-making equipment, which he eventually hauled back to the States.

“When we started in Kingston there were only two other crêperies around. It exploded a few years after we opened, and people were calling me from all over asking for lessons and help,” said Pluska.

But Pluska had learned the real deal from the French, and his adherence to authentic Brittany/Normandy-region crêpe making, which uses the traditional, healthier buckwheat batter, has earned him KING5 Evening Magazine’s Best Crêpes Western Washington title for several years.

Although Pluska has been known to say all of his recipes are his favorites, he admitted that he loves the savory French classic with the crêpes complet filling of Swiss cheese, ham, mushroom, spinach, and scrambled egg. For sweet, he likes the dark chocolate crêpe with “a good cup of Italian expresso.”

paul pluska in j'aime les crepesI asked Pluska about the physical art of crêpe-making, and he laughed, pointing out the difficulty of training staff to spread the batter just right using flat “rakes.” He said his best crêpe makers are tennis players, who seem to have a natural wrist movement that suits the work. He is so committed to hiring great staff that he has trained a cadre of high school and college young women to cook, drawing from tennis teams when he can.

He pointed out that crêpe making is a performance, and that is why he has his round griddles in full view at the front counter with a glass window.

Pluska hopes to start an exchange program with crêperies in France whereby a few crêpe makers from his business go to France to cook and some from friends’ crêperies in France come here.

J’aime Les Crêpes will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., possibly extending to later hours this summer. Customers can expect to hear real jazz, as in John Coltrane and Miles Davis, when they come in.

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Photos by Julie Hall. 

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Ozone International

Bainbridge’s Ozone Named WA Manufacturer of the Year

Ozone International may be one of the most successful small businesses you’ve never heard of. Operating out of its Day Road facility, the 55-employee company manufactures and sells a patented environmentally friendly food-sanitation system that is used by food industry giants such as General Mills, Tyson, Nestle, Pepsi, and Pacific Seafood. But you may be hearing more from this small company now that it has just been named Washington Manufacturer of the Year by Seattle Business Magazine. 
CEO Jon Brandt told me that the Seattle Business Magazine board bases nominations for the award on a number of criteria that include being in “the rapid growth phase” and offering an innovation. Ozone certainly fits the bill. Started by Brandt and his father Jim ten years ago—Ozone just celebrated its 10-year anniversary on March 31—the company has grown steadily and is now entering the $7 to $10 million annual revenue range. Ozone more than meets the innovation criterion as well, providing the food industry with a nonchemical sanitizing and cleaning method that uses a stream of low-pressure ozone-infused cold water in conjunction with a stream of high-pressure water. The importance of innovation in the selection of this year’s honorees was articulated by Seattle Business Magazine writer Bill Virgin: “Accolades for what you’ve done in the past are fine, but the pressing question in business is ‘what have you done for us lately?’”
The Ozone website says that the Ozone WhiteWater Systems increase shelf life by over 60 percent, provide ongoing control of pathogens such as salmonella and listeria, increase production by tens of millions of pounds per year, and reduce sanitation time and labor. Most important, perhaps, they eliminate the need for nearly all sanitation chemicals and hot water.
Brandt is not used to the attention generated by the award: “Food safety and sanitation don’t get a lot of PR,” he said. He added that other than this the only recognition they’ve received is from his mother Linda, who is well-known around Bainbridge for her support of new, innovative businesses, like Marché and her current project Intentional Table. But Brandt likes it that way, “flying under the radar,” saying that small companies that grow quietly more successfully withstand acquisition and takeover challenges.
It also means, said Brandt, that the success is “truly a byproduct of the people sitting around the table.” The company’s employees can say, “We’ve really built this.” And they do build it, right here on Bainbridge, at their plant.
What they’ve built is a service-oriented product. More than 350 clients in 20 different countries lease the equipment and sign ongoing service agreements with Ozone, which maintains the equipment and provides upgrades as part of the contract. The reason for using this business model, said Brandt, is that the end users tend to break the equipment and not care for it. The service-oriented business model requires Ozone to provide service around the clock as they are working with companies all over the world in many different time zones and companies that are huge and expect people to jump when they merely whisper the letter j.
Ozone was honored at the Washington Manufacturing Awards event on April 25 at the Renaissance Seattle Hotel.
Photo by Julie Hall.
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What Is IT? The Secret’s Out on the Table at 124 Madrone Lane

12:49 p.m.

You may have been wondering what’s behind the brown paper-lined windows on the storefront next to Fork and Spoon along Madrone Lane. Ever since a gallery and a short-lived toy store vacated the premises, there’s been something afoot there. Tomorrow, Saturday, November 24, you get to see IT for yourself.

IT tree

IT tree

IT stands for Intentional Table, and it is the creation of business partners Zoe (pronounced Zo) Bartlett and Linda Brandt. IT is many things: a purveyor of items for the perfect table (including food items and cookbooks), a cooking classroom for adults and children, a food media theater, a cooking photography studio, a knife-sharpening locale, and the organizer of artisan tours and farm-to-table dinners and events. If it has to do with food, prepared well, you can be sure it will happen here. And by food I also mean wine—they refused to open until they had secured their provisional liquor license.

IT shelves of food items

IT shelves of food items

The story began when Bartlett—a foodie blogger at her site International Table, a teacher (with Jennifer Lewis) of the Starting a Small Food Business course at Seattle Community College, and a former Microsoft employee—moved to Bainbridge. She had been toying with the concept of intentional table a long time before the move. She says that nine years ago she attended Outstanding in the Field, a farm-to-table “roving culinary experience” featuring the well-known regional chefs of each locale, before anyone even knew what the locavore movement was. It was so new that when she attended the Outstanding event in Mt. Vernon there were no restrooms and you had “to squat to pee.” It was after that that she began blogging about food. One day on Bainbridge, she was walking down Madrone Lane and she saw the empty former toy store location. Drawn to the space, she peered in the window and then went next door to Fork and Spoon to inquire about the space.

Books on display

Books on display

What she didn’t expect and wasn’t prepared for was the Fork and Spoon employee’s response, which was, “Oh, Linda’s the owner. She’s here. I’ll get her for you.” Sure enough, despite Bartlett’s protestations that she wasn’t ready to meet with anyone, Brandt appeared within a minute, asked Bartlett what she wanted the space for, and grabbed her elbow and dragged her to her office so they could talk. When Bartlett told her she was interested in doing something food related, Brandt’s “eyes lit up.” Brandt, a former TV producer, was also the driving force behind getting Greg Atkinson to open Marché in one of her buildings. Throughout their discussion, Brandt and Bartlett found they had “amazing touchpoints.”

IT branding

IT branding

But after the meeting, Bartlett thought more about it and decided not to go ahead with any project in the space. She was on her way to Hawaii with her family when she received a text from Brandt telling her that it was the deadline for the Downtown Association’s map and she was putting them down on the map and she needed to know which of the two addresses (the gallery or the toy store) they should pick. Bartlett picked 124, and the partnership was cemented.

IT table setting

IT table setting

The pair decided to combine the two storefronts and designed a space that is entirely configurable to accommodate the many needs they envisioned. The tables have customized legs of different lengths so they can be lowered for younger audiences. Everything, including the shelving, is on wheels. The media screens are mounted in the corners, out of the way. The only thing not configurable is the massive kitchen space with roomy stainless steel counters and appliances and a large work table.

IT crossword created by Brandt

IT crossword created by Brandt

In the process of remodeling, they discovered that a 32-foot solid fir beam ran across the ceiling from wall to wall and had been covered with drywall sometime after the building was constructed in the 1970. They uncovered it, and it is a beautiful uniting feature in the space. To cover an unsightly door, they took a wooden champagne wheel, for turning champagne, that Brandt happened to have sitting around and put it on a barn door slide and hung things like branded reusable bags from it. Toilsome Construction did all the remodeling.

Repurposed champagne wheels

Repurposed champagne wheels

No detail has been left unattended by theperfectionist pair, which unites Brandt’s dogged persistence and thoroughness and Bartlett’s expansive vision and food background. Tiny branding reminders, like a pair of lettered dice turned to the letters I and T, are dispersed throughout the space. Bartlett handed Brandt a metal tablet and some magnetic letters and asked her to arrange a couple of food-related words on it. Brandt handed back a complete food crossword. The duo squabble amiably like old friends, disagreeing happily about what to include in their inventory and where to put it.

IT credo

IT credo

All the food products they carry are made by Northwest Artisans, almost all by Washingtonians and Oregonians, and about 25 percent come from Bainbridge Island. Bartlett, who studied cooking and artisan cheese making in France, California, and Vermont, said they are being “really selective.” One of the items I was drawn to is a beverage bottle that keeps things cold for 24 hours and hot for 12. They also sell a wine aerator designed to allow the host to pour the wine back into the original bottle after aeration. The place is replete with stocking stuffers, including Edible Seattlemagazine rolled up and bound attractively with twine.

Stop by tomorrow for the store’s soft opening, which coincides with the Downtown Association’s Holiday Celebration. Classes and events will launch in January.

Photos by Sarah Lane. Table setting photo courtesy of IT.

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Greg Atkinson’s Marché Now Open

At last Sunday evening’s intimate and enjoyable preview of Marché, which officially opened March 17, celebrated chef, writer, and radio personality Greg Atkinson and his wife Betsy offered a glimpse of the kind of attention to personal detail they will give to everything from food and wine to decor and atmosphere in this new, highly anticipated, charming Bainbridge Island restaurant.

Botanical prints on the walls

Botanical prints on the walls

Betsy and building owner Linda Brandt were hanging the restaurant’s artwork as the dozen or so invitees arrived for the event. The artwork consists of turn-of-the-century botanical drawings of vegetables taken from an oversized seed catalog the Atkinsons had in their collection. Betsy said she had no idea why they had it until now.

Co-hosting the event was chef Crescent Dragonwagon, a good friend and former writing teacher of Atkinson. Dragonwagon is in town from Vermont to promote her new cookbook Bean by Bean. Atkinson said that they had been chatting in his kitchen about how he needed to organize a preview of the restaurant, and they came up with the idea of doing “a low-key nonevent event” together.

Crescent Dragonwagon and Greg Atkinson

Crescent Dragonwagon and Greg Atkinson

Those of us fortunate enough to have been invited were treated to a front row seat at the counter overlooking the open kitchen where Atkinson and Dragonwagon bantered, improvised, and carefully arranged on each chunky, white plate the food they were whipping up for us. Dragonwagon made a sugar snap pea, orange, and spinach salad dressed in a mint-orange vinaigrette. The recipe came straight out of her new cookbook, and she was careful to follow it to the teaspoon. She said she doesn’t want people to taste it one way and then be disappointed when it doesn’t turn out exactly the same in their own home kitchens.

The evening's fare

The evening's fare

Dragonwagon, a gregarious and entertaining host, said that it was “gutsy” of Atkinson to offer “a recipe from someone else when you’re opening a restaurant and your tools are across the street,” referring to the fact that Atkinson is still in the process of moving in his cooking utensils from his nearby office.

Atkinson of course contributed to the meal as well. He made a leek and nettle soup from volunteer leeks growing in his yard and nettles that are popping up there right now as well and garnished it with fresh plum blossoms. Atkinson said, “I raised children instead of vegetables for the last 18 years,” explaining why the leeks he used were planted by a former owner of his home. He added, “I’m very good at growing trees.”

Greg Atkinson

Greg Atkinson

The two also served a buckwheat bliny with beluga lentils and truffle oils. Dragonwagon offered the guests a bite of rosewater cake after they ate.

When Atkinson was complimented on his choice of simple dishware, Dragonwagon quipped, “The food is comfortable, the plates are comfortable. Food doesn’t have to wear high heels and be drycleaned.”

The beverage for the evening was wine drawn right out of the tap. That’s right: Atkinson has chosen to carry sustainable wines produced in Walla Walla, wines so sustainable they don’t even come in bottles. Atkinson explained that Marché is a Northwest-meets-French restaurant, with “no California and no Italy,” so no Californian or Italian wines. But, he explained, Washington wines are expensive. Wines on tap are advantageous in that the customer doesn’t need to buy a $75 bottle but can enjoy an $8 or $10 glass of wine instead.

Dragonwagon makes her salad

Dragonwagon makes her salad

While pouring wine behind the small but cozy bar, Atkinson chatted comfortably with his guests. He said that the restaurant was a family affair. Betsy, a realtor with extensive restaurant experience as well, will be the house manager. Their teenage son will be sharing the dishwashing position with a good friend, giving both of them the opportunity to maintain a social life despite the work. Atkinson joked that his other son found himself a teaching job in China after being offered the dishwashing gig.

Earlier in the evening, as Betsy and Brandt measured the height of the artwork, I had examined the canning jars and cookbooks arranged on the half-wall shelf that separates the dining area from the entrance. Betsy told me that some are filled with a pineapple quince marmalade which will be used for the cheese plate. The darker-colored ones contain Danson plum jam.

Linda Brandt and Betsy Atkinson at the "kitchen counter" with the Chef

Linda Brandt and Betsy Atkinson at the "kitchen counter" with the Chef

The jars and books give the restaurant a homey feeling; even though the decor is upscale and, well, “French bistro,” it is comfortable. The dark-wood casework, all done by Islander Steve Trick, orangey-red patterned fabric banquettes, white table linens, and forsythia and plum blossoms in vases create intimacy and warmth in this renovated mid-century cinderblock building.

Brandt said of Atkinson, comparing him to the building, “He’s a sensible and sensitive cook and a mid-century guy.” She said she has been “stalking” Atkinson for some time and, although she was engaged in a flurry of busy-ness that evening, I could tell from her hint of a smile and fast wink that she is ultrapleased everything is falling into place and that her building now houses a restaurant run by a world-class chef.

Betsy and Greg Atkinson

Betsy and Greg Atkinson

Guest and artist Martha Makosky perfectly captured the synergy among the various elements at work in the restaurant Sunday. She said about the art on the walls that “Botanical illustration requires a high attention to detail. That’s true for this restaurant as well.” She added, “And the prints of vegetables contain the flavor of the artist, just like cooking.”

Although Marché officially opens Saturday, all the tables that night are already reserved. For those of us who didn’t plan ahead, it will be open Tuesdays through Saturdays starting at 11:30 a.m. for lunch and running through dinner. When the kitchen closes for a break between lunch and dinner, the restaurant doors will be open for beverage service and light, pre-prepared food. The restaurant is located at 150 Madrone Lane, on the alley behind Blackbird Café. See our Chef Interview with Atkinson and Greg Atkinson Making Pumpkin Soup and Slab Apple Pie Photo Gallery.

 

Photos by Sarah Lane and Martha Makosky.

 

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Madrone Lane

Poll Results: Would You Like Madrone Lane Permanently Closed to Traffic?

Well, you just kept on voting, so we left this poll up a fine long time. You likely would have continued casting votes, but leaving this poll up just started to feel, well, boring.

The consensus is clear. Over 75 percent of voters decidedly want Madrone Lane kept closed to traffic, presumably enjoying the European outdoor table lifestyle.

We’ll see how people feel about hanging out there as the November winds roll in. As a community we are hardy about rain and wind, though, so there seems to be a good chance that those tables will still see action, especially from people with their hands wrapped around warm drinks.

Some of you—almost 16 percent—are against this closure, maybe preferring this alleyway route to drive through town or perhaps to make drive-through yarn purchases from Churchmouse. It is nice to have options when braving Winslow traffic, especially with construction closures and ferry traffic clogs.

Nine percent of you just really don’t care. Are you sincerely on the fence, torn between driving options and downtown outdoor socializing? Are you among the chronically ambivalent? Or do you simply feel no investment whatsoever in this little corner of Winslow, preferring to leave the decision-making to others? You cared enough to vote, however, which means you wanted to be part of the conversation.

The fate of Madrone Lane remains to be seen. When I spoke with Linda Brandt, owner of this private lane, she said she was most likely going to leave it closed for a while to see if people continue using the tables in winter. Time will tell all too soon.

Madrone Lane poll results chart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Julie Hall; chart by Polldaddy.

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Greg Atkinson

Greg Atkinson and Marché

Greg Atkinson is going back to his roots. The author of six critically acclaimed cookbooks (the latest released this fall), a regular contributor to the Seattle Times’ Pacific Northwest Magazine and to Food Arts, a regular guest on KUOW and KCTS, a recent teacher at the Seattle Culinary Academy, and a restaurant consultant for ten years, the former executive chef of Canlis is re-donning his toque and opening his own restaurant in his hometown Bainbridge Island. Marché is scheduled to debut in February of 2012 at 150 Madrone Lane (located in the alley across from Mora Ice Creamery).

150 Madrone Lane

150 Madrone Lane

Atkinson describes Marché as a 21st-century Bistro. The restaurant will offer patrons lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch and will feature indoor seating for 48, a patio accommodating 24 more, a small lounge for intimate evening gathering, and a display kitchen so that diners can watch their food being prepared. His menu will blend Pacific Northwest and West Coast cooking with French cuisine. Atkinson also hopes to incorporate French Creole cooking from his days growing up on the Gulf Coast and some Spanish and Italian dishes. As a chef at Cafe Bissett on geographically isolated San Juan Island, he learned to rely on food grown locally. A preliminary sample menu shows that he will continue that tradition with Marché: Two of its offerings are smoked Niman Ranch pork shoulder with organic sweet potato puree and garlicky green beans and King salmon grilled with raspberry butter sauce, fingerling potatoes, and Persephone Farm peas. He plans to work with local farmers to obtain Bainbridge-grown chicken and eggs and Bainbridge-made goat cheese, in addition to locally grown vegetables.

Karreman's rendering of Marché

Karreman's rendering of Marché

Atkinson gets animated when talking about the restaurant’s site, a mid-century building owned by Jim and Linda Brandt, and its modern look: “You can put anything against it.” What he wants to put against it is a meld of European sensibility to reflect his European roots and Northwest flavor to reflect its setting. Architect Frank Karreman is working with Atkinson to upgrade the site, which was until recently an antique store. The roof will be raised on the front portion of the building to fit clerestory windows that will let in more light. High-back, upholstered banquettes will be topped with a wall of mirrors to expand the feel of the space and to evoke a French bistro.

Atkinson's Dungeness photo

Atkinson's Dungeness photo

Atkinson and his wife Betsy were walking Dungeness Spit recently when Atkinson spied a rock and seaweed and snapped a photo. The deep red and blackish green of the photo and its background of gray mud and blue sky became the color palette for the restaurant. To that end, the interior design will incorporate a reddish-orange fabric, dark green trim and doors, blue-glass lighting, and stripped-down concrete.

I asked him about his return to restaurant cooking. Atkinson explained that he had been considering a tenure-track offer from the Seattle Culinary Academy when the Brandts approached him, for the second time in six years. The couple was going to develop the 150 Madrone Lane property as a restaurant (Karreman was already working on it), and they wondered if Atkinson wanted to take on the space. Atkinson says, reflecting on his decision to start a restaurant at this point in his life, “Metabolically, you have more energy at thirty, but I’m wiser now. Being an instructor helped me develop additional leadership skills.” The winner of the James Beard Foundation’s 2001 M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award for the best food story of the year, Atkinson will continue writing and plans to sell his cookbooks at Marché. He will also continue to contribute to Pacific Northwest Magazine and to Food Arts. In fact, he’s writing a diary of his experience opening a restaurant as a three-part series for Food Arts.

Atkinson's Book Northwest Essentials

Atkinson's latest book, Northwest Essentials

So how will he manage the hectic lifestyle of a restaurant owner with that of a celebrity writer? His family will certainly play a part. Betsy, experienced in restaurant work and wine sales and distribution, is working with Greg to develop the restaurant and will be managing the front of house. Their son Henry has just graduated from college and, in a stroke of good timing, is looking for work, and son Erich is old enough to put in hours at the restaurant as well when he’s not in school.

Despite Atkinson’s extensive cooking experience, which includes developing the food and beverage programs at Islandwood and  launching the dining program at Friday Harbor House on San Juan Island, he has never owned his own restaurant. But no worries: As Atkinson writes at the beginning of Northwest Essentials, “Start with the best ingredients and you can’t go wrong.”

See our Chef Interview: Greg Atkinson, Restaurant Marche with his Pumpkin Soup and Slab Apple Pie Recipes.

Images by Sarah Lane and Greg Atkinson. Architectural rendering by Frank Karreman.

 

 

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