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Happy Anniversary

I awoke to the smell of sweet peas. Last night I put a lovely bunch, which I got from Pheasant Fields Farm at the Bremerton Farmers Market, into a small vase high atop the baker’s rack in our kitchen so the cats will not tear them apart. When I woke up this morning I could smell them and it made me smile.

I LOVE the smell of sweet peas and the season is so short that I cannot help but be thrilled by it each year. As I lay there enjoying the smell I remembered what today is. The official 5th anniversary of us owning the cafe. Five years ago today we were up early and in there getting ready for a couple dozen of our closest friends and family to come help us clean and organize everything. We painted inside and decorated the upstairs. Pulled every single thing out of the kitchen and cleaned it-passers by thought we were having a sale! The deck was power washed and every inch of the inside was scrubbed. The bathroom was painted and decorated, and at the end of a VERY long day we all sat together eating pizza and enjoying the tired company of so many who love us. What a miracle this journey has been. From the first idea of it, to the day of cleaning with our friends, and every day to today, and beyond.

Tomorrow is the big party where we will share food, wine, music and laughter with everyone who comes by. I know that family and friends will be dropping by to wish us well and customers both new and old will be bearing congratulations. I know that, much like at our wedding reception, we will not get nearly enough time with each person who comes in. We will miss those few who cannot be with us tomorrow to celebrate, though we know (or at least we hope) that they are with us in spirit. I am really excited and I will be cooking all day so that we have lots of food to share. Mark and I have reflected back more than usual over the past month. Like on Monday when there was confusion as to who was supposed to get in for the early bake and the new girl (poor Elizabeth!) arrived for her first solo open and was truly alone! When she called to tell me no one was there I though ‘oh crap’ and then rallied. I got Mark heading in and called Ivy to ask her to come in early and help if she could. She was so good to us, she beat Mark in! When I spoke to both of them before they headed out I told them this is ok, this is no big deal, they would be fine and not to panic. I knew there was no need to start their day out with a rush and chaos, and it really was fine. They worked together beautifully and the food got made. I don’t know if anyone was disappointed by the lateness of any particular item or not, though I would hope that they could forgive us our misstep if they were.

Later Mark joked with me that 5 years ago we would have been so stressed by that event! We both laugh at the memory of when, on our third day of business, the hot water tank broke upstairs and what must have looked like an episode of the Three Stooges ensued. It was NOT funny then! It is SO funny now! Last week we put out 800 boxed lunches in one day for the senior expo at the fairgrounds! When I say ‘we’ I mean every single one of our team helped with this huge project, and it was a great success! We are exploring new ideas and we feel like we have really made our mark on this place. It is truly ours and we love every bit of it, every customer, every team member, every day that this is our life. FIVE YEARS! When I was 35 (only 8 years ago!) I had no idea what life would look like in 5 years. Heck, I didn’t know it 6 years ago! I quit my last career on July 11, 2005 and never looked back. This restaurant, this dream, has given me vision that I did not know I had. And Mark is a miracle! He not only supported and joined me, he made this dream his own and has carved out his own vision for it as well!

Are there bad moments? Of course! Every time we disappoint a team member or a customer, I hate it. Every time a customer cannot forgive us for a mistake, or does not tell us about one, I hate it. Every time I miss an opportunity to show my love to someone who needs to see it, I hate it. We are growing every day and the good moments, the great moments, far exceed the bad ones. And the bad ones serve us well, as we seem to learn from them whenever we can. I have been so scared at times from financial stress, staff stress, fear of not knowing anything, fear of thinking I know anything, and so much more! Today I feel great! Today I am celebrating, and tomorrow as well. I really hope you can stop by and say hello. I would love to thank you in person, even if I only get a minute to do so. Every single person I love, and every person who loves me has played a role in this adventure. Lots of people who don’t love me played a role, too, and I thank them as well! Every customer we have ever had deserves a thank you, and every person who has worked for us. All of you. Thank you.

And can you believe the weather! How perfect is this! I will love it if we can bring the party out onto the deck tomorrow, that will be fantastic. I am so proud of all of us and I can’t wait for the party!

I have been seeing lovely radishes at the farmers markets and I have discovered a great way to cook them! I want to love radishes so much, I remember my parents ate them raw and loved them, and radishes are just so beautiful. I like them pickeled, though raw they are just a bit too, I don’t know, radishy for me. I don’t hate them, I just don’t love them, and I really want to! So the other day I bought some, as I am wont to do every Spring when I see the beautiful radishes out on the farm stands. I also got some baby Bok Choy, which I love to eat cooked or raw. (It’s the new celery, don’t you know! Try it in a slaw… I digress…) so I looked at a bunch of recipes and came up with this really neat trick of cookery. The cooking mellowed the radishes to a thing that I really loved, and the Bok Choy was stunning in this preparation. I basically braised them all together and when I took the lid off to let the liquids reduce, Mark grilled up a steak for him, some lamb for me and some potatoes as well. Pasta would go nicely with this as well, since it could pick up some of the sauce and by so yummy! So if you want to love radishes, or already do, and usually eat them raw as I think most people do, try this. Try cooking them and tell me what you think!

Butter Braised Radishes and Baby Bok Choy

1 TBS butter
1 TBS olive oil
pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 onion, sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 bunch (about a 1/2 lb) fresh Radishes, stems trimmed, big ones quartered, medium ones halved, little ones whole (use the leaves for stock)
3 heads Baby Bok Choy, rinsed and dried, cut in half lengthwise. Use a wet cloth to get the dirt out of the inside if there is any.
Salt and Pepper
1-ish cup Sake, off dry white wine, broth or just water (see below for more sake notes)

In a deep sided pan (I use a 12 inch deep saute pan with lid) melt the butter and oil together. Toss in the red pepper flakes, onion and garlic and saute on medium heat. Once the onions are sweating and translucent, place in the Bok Choy, cut side down, and toss in the radishes. Stir it up so that everything is coated with the butter and oil, season with salt and pepper.

Pour in the sake, bring to a boil and reduce to simmer, cover and let go on low. Once the bok choy is cooked through, about 10 minutes, take the lid off and let it reduce. It went another 10+ minutes until the sauce was very thick and coated everything. There was still some crunch to the bok choy, the radishes were tender and sweet, and everything was lighly pink from them.

As for the sake: this is the good stuff, not the hot crap that you get at every Chinese restaurant around here! They sell it at Fred Meyer so probably at other stores as well. I get the Momokawa, Diamond (I enjoy the Pearl as well) which is a Junmai Ginjo sake. It is lightly sweet and pairs beautifully with spicy foods, sushi, and is nice on its own as well. I began learning that there was a real art to good sake several years ago, and last July when Mark and I toured the Artisan Sake Brewery in Vancouver, BC, we really got to experience what great sake is. Good sake is always served cold, heating it muddles and hides the flavors so is done only for lesser quality sakes, much like serving a regular wine cold. Like a grape wine, sake can last a couple of days in the fridge, especially if you pump the air out. Unlike grape wine, sake is made more like a beer, and there are several styles that you can enjoy, including sparkling! If you go to Granville Island, you must do a tasting at the craft sake store, and see if you love it like I do! I still have the bottle of the Junami Nama that I so enjoyed from there (it’s empty now) and you can bring me another back if you want to! I love the unfiltered and the sparkling as well!

Ciao for now!