Posted on 07 May 2013.
Posted on 23 November 2012.
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 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted on 14 March 2012.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted on 16 October 2011.
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.
Photo by Julie Hall; chart by Polldaddy.
Posted on 08 June 2011.
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).
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.
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 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.
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.