Kristin Thompson Page and her husband, George, are living their dream on Vashon Island. Their backyard is Sea Breeze Farm, 10 acres of green pastureland. Seattle’s Columbia Tower looms in the distance; the downtown skyline seems so close they could touch it despite being surrounded by a herd of cows, hundreds of fowl and dozens of pigs. Normally you’d have to drive a few hours from the urban core to find a place like this. But Kristin and George weren’t interested in being so far removed from the city. On Vashon, they’ve found the perfect middle ground to grow their future.
Their “Little House on the Prairie” life hasn’t come easy. Hard work and plenty of trial and error over the course of more than 12 years of farming has turned an empty field cut for hay into a fully functioning farm. Now, the couple runs a successful restaurant and butcher shop, La Boucherie, in downtown Vashon, and regularly sells out of meat products at Seattle-area farmers markets. They’re living off the land.
But how? The answer is grass. No pun intended, but it’s at the root of everything they do. “For the type of vegetation we have here, and the type of climate we have we can grow grass really well year round … Cows take this simple grass field that is inedible by humans and turn it into milk and butter and cheese,” George said.
“And then the whey that’s leftover from the cheese making feeds pigs. The chickens thrive off the cow pies left in the pasture which is great nutrition for them. Everything gets utilized. When I see green, I see food.”
All this originally came from the couple’s desire to do more to be self-sustaining. They wanted real estate they could turn into high-quality food.
“At the time I thought I just wanted a couple chickens and goats for our own purposes. I was a home chef and wanted better ingredients … I really wanted to make cheese,” George said.
Sea Breeze Farm is now a certified raw milk dairy, and its milk and cheese products are just one of its many sought-after offerings.
It produces about 125 pounds of cheese a week. The cheese shares a home in the cellar with about 90 barrels of wine under their own label, Sweetbread Cellars. Fresh eggs are harvested daily. Eleven milking cows graze in the pasture, with a few male calves destined for slaughter. Happy pigs come running in hopes of a treat as the couple passes their pens. They also raise chickens (poulet rouge, a slower growing breed that has great depth of flavor), duck and guinea fowl.
They hope to branch into more poultry next year with quail and pheasant. Poultry is easier to raise in their space, and they’re able to maximize their resources better, which is why they don’t do much with beef or lamb.
The couple has put themselves in a unique position by owning both the farm and restaurant. They’re able to get the best possible product to La Boucherie. The menu at the restaurant is completely based on what they grow and raise.
“The chef that joined us almost two years ago, Dustin Calery, has had a huge part in that … he talks about how important it is to use the product that comes from the farm effectively, and not let things go to waste.
“The idea of something going bad and going to waste is abhorrent to most chefs, but particularly so to him because he know the hands that made it,” Kristin said.
The menu at La Boucherie changes weekly. Items from a recent summer menu included a premium pork chop on crispy spaetzle and snap peas with savory strawberry-thyme compote or a young chicken cooked two ways (roasted breast and confit hindquarter with ricotta gnocchi, morel and baby carrot sauté finished with English pea purée and mint cream).
One of the most fascinating aspects of the restaurant is that if you eat a dish at one point in the year, say September, and order a similar dish in the spring, you will likely be able to recognize a difference in taste because the animals are eating differently. “It’s most noticeable in the spring, when milk production skyrockets and grass is freshest,” Kristin explained.
A true farm-to-table restaurant isn’t just a clever catch phrase or branding mechanism for this special gem on Vashon. It’s a reality, a family’s livelihood and a true experience. And you can be a part of the circle at La Boucherie.