The Pacific Northwest is known for its bounty of edible offerings. Salmon, shellfish, elk, wild mushrooms, berries and a variety of fruits and veggies are all amply available in the area. With so much great food produced locally, it’s no wonder many restaurants in the region choose to source their ingredients from nearby farms, serving menu items that reflect what’s in season and market fresh.
In recent years however, our craving for fresh and local has grown. Education about the importance of eating organic and supporting local has resulted in an upswing in attendance at local farmers markets across the region. Words like “locavore” (“a person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food”) have become part of our vocabulary. And, more than ever — thanks to the likes of Pinterest, food blogs and DIY everything — people are creating artisan eats and sumptuous sips from the comfort of their very own kitchens.
With this increased interest, local chefs, farmers and other artisans have come together to provide learning opportunities for their creative-minded communities. From regionally inspired main courses to sweet-tooth-sating desserts, local experts are appealing to the masses, offering their prowess to those eager to learn.
Regional Cooking With a View
Whether you want to become a soup-making expert or learn how to create hard cheeses by hand, Bayview School of Cooking in Olympia offers culinary classes for beginners and experienced chefs alike. With more than 125 classes throughout the year, there is always something new to learn. And because all of Bayview’s cooking classes are held inside Bayview Thriftway, Bayview School of Cooking has access to an entire stock of locally sourced produce, meats, cheeses and more. Bayview School of Cooking Director Leanne Willard says Bayview’s setting also adds to the local experience. Located on the southernmost tip of the Puget Sound, Bayview reminds its students of the region with each whisk, baste and flambé.
Providing a unique experience for spirit lovers, Heritage Distilling Company in Gig Harbor offers adults ages 21 and older the opportunity to be a distiller for a day. The MyBatch program offers participants the opportunity to distill bourbon and single-malt liquor using regionally sourced ingredients and a micro-version of Heritage Distilling’s larger copper still. The $99 course takes participants through the entire distilling process, includes a spirits and food pairing, and closes with bottling and labeling of the product. For an additional fee, participants can join the CaskClub and age spirits in a private 10-litre oak cask. The CaskClub provides an opportunity to learn what happens during the aging process, and members are able to create personalized spirits.
Let Them Eat Pie
If you Google “pie fail,” you may find images reminiscent of your own flaky flops. Luckily, award-winning pie pundit Kate Lebo is here to help. Whether you’re in search of the perfect filling or just want to level up on your lattice, Kate Lebo’s Pie School offers pie-minded pupils everything they need to create a toothsome tart. Pie School classes are offered once a month at Pike Place Market in Seattle, or schedule a private, home lesson by emailing Lebo. email@example.com.
Good to the Last Drop
A good cup of coffee is a special thing, and luckily for people living in the Northwest, a world-class cup of the caffeinated stuff isn’t hard to find. But, what if you could brew the best in your own kitchen? Seattle-based Caffe Vita, a local coffee roaster and pioneer of the Farm Direct movement, wants you to get the most out of your mug, which is why it provides free coffee education courses at Vita Loft in Capitol Hill once a month. Students of Caffe Vita’s Public Brewing School are taught how to create exceptional coffee using auto-drip alternative brewing methods like French press, pour over and more, and are also led through a regional coffee tasting. Learn more.
Farm Fresh, Straight to Your Door
By now, visions of organic kale and carrots are probably dancing in your head and you’ve already plotted out your garden for the next five years. That is unless you are one of the many city slickers without a place to grow. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and farm shares were made for the yardless, green thumb-deficient locavores of the world, like you. Farm shares and CSAs like Tacoma-based Terra Organics bring boxes full of what’s fresh and in season straight to your door. Terra Organics offers the community a variety of seasonal, organic produce grown at its Orting farm, Tahoma Farms, as well as a variety of other produce, meat and dairy options sourced from Washington farm partners like Ralph’s Greenhouse, Alvarez Organic Farms and Willie Green’s Organic Farm. You can choose a small or large box and fill out your order form based on what’s fresh-picked from the farm. Because the selection changes with the seasons, your fridge always will be filled with something fresh and new to add to your regional cooking creations. Prices vary based on box size.
When you Want Someone Else to Cook
On the days when you don’t feel like firing up the gas range, there are several South Sound-area restaurants committed to serving regionally inspired, melt-in-your-mouth masterpieces. Tacoma’s Marrow Kitchen and Bar boasts two menus, one for carnivores and one for vegetarians, both offering locally inspired flavor escapes. In Olympia, Iron Rabbit is another eatery dishing up a variety of farm-fresh, feast-worthy foods, sourcing items like Kobe top sirloin from nearby Snake River Farms in Idaho. You’ll even find a wide assortment of locally brewed beers, spirits and wines from across the region.
Regional Food Master
The Herbfarm in Woodinville is one to add to the top of your list. Each nine-course dinner offered in this eclectic and charming restaurant is created using the flavors of the Pacific Northwest — and the menu changes with the seasons, too. Throughout much of the year, many of the ingredients used to create the culinary masterpieces featured on the Herbfarm’s menu are handpicked straight from the restaurant’s garden, with other items like wild mushrooms, heritage fruits and handmade cheeses sourced from nearby farms.
Cook Like a Pro
Want to raise your kitchen game to all-star chef level? Book a reservation for a cooking class at Toscanos Italian Grill in Puyallup. Chef Tom Pantley holds fun and informative cooking classes every other month. Pantley’s classes include a four-course dinner, wine sample, recipes and instruction for $60 per person. Across the bridge in Gig Harbor, check out Bella Kitchen Essentials, a specialty home store that holds frequent cooking classes where you can try your hand at everything from Thai cooking to French cuisine.
Take A Quick Trip
Head to the San Juans and stop by Orcas Island, where agritourism and farming are a rich and longstanding part of the Island’s history. Plan to tour local farms, or even book a stay at Pebble Cove Farm, which plays host to charming accommodations and offers garden tours to its guests.
Photos courtesy “Northwest Seafood Pasta” ©2009 closari, used under a creative commons attribution license; Chona Kasinger; Jeff Hobson