Wow what a weather week we had! Yes it’s back to colder (though warmer than it was) and rainy, but I cannot help but be so very grateful for the gorgeous week we had last week.

The Seattle Times article came out on Thursday and we noticed increased traffic and more ‘foreigners’ both Thursday and Friday. People mentioned they were coming from Seattle and Tacoma due to the article and we thought that was pretty cool! Then Saturday came. It was SO beautiful, the nicest day so far this year. The morning started out quietly, as Saturdays can do, and then around 10 am it started. They came from Mercer Island, Graham, Muckilteo and more! It was very exciting and best of all, we had lots of new folks find out about us who live right here in Kitsap! While of course we love the visitors, the locals who can become our regulars are the ones we especially want to find out about us. That is why we rely so heavily on loyalty rewards and we do not offer one-time coupons to bring in new customers. Word of mouth is our BEST form of advertising, and we recognize that loyal, returning customers are the backbone of our cafe.

It was the busiest Saturday of our history. There was a different vibe that came with it, and while everyone was in a generally good mood, some of the visitors were noticeably more business-like than our usual Saturday crowd. Saturdays are different for us at the cafe, no matter how busy we are the atmosphere is generally more relaxed and casual, which I know sounds odd for me to say since we are a relaxed and casual place! During the week folks are busier and working and have a list of Things That Must Get Done. On Saturdays I think they have to-do lists, and errands have more personal meaning. Saturdays are more fun and people are out to have a good time, which shows in their attitudes. The air was perhaps mildly brusque at times, and I think that we were still able to live up to our usual warmth and service in spite of those uncomfortable few… Maybe it was just because it was so constantly busy, or maybe because some people find it unsettling to try a new place out, I don’t know what it was, and I hope that we did not reflect it back. I don’t think that we did, and sometimes it can be difficult to tell when you are in the midst of the (controlled) chaos.

It was indeed so busy that while we close at 4 pm, none of us could get to the door to shut it! It was so fantastic to see all these new people excited about a new place and we just kept on going until about 4:30. A few folks finished up their meals until a little past that and when they all went away we were left standing there grinning at each other. We were all exhausted and euphoric off of the busy day and sunshine! Thank goodness I have a strong crew, those gals worked their butts off!

This week it is back to a slow down and hopefully it won’t be as dreary as they are predicting. I always love the sight of a group of ‘Easy-Up’ canopies. It makes me giddy with delight and hope because it usually means there is a farmers market, and I love those! Silverdale’s first day was Tuesday, it was sunny and clear and chilly. Newcomer Amy’s Decadent Chocolates is there this year and several old friends as well. Mark will be there nearly every Tuesday (except July 5th)and he will have bread and cookies to make everyone’s day a little brighter, no matter what the sun is doing.

My favorite meal in the past few weeks happened on Sunday the 17th atBay Street Bistro. when Charles and Rose Ann Finkel visited from the famed Pike Brewing Company in Seattle. The Bistro’s chef and owner, John, used to work for the Finkels and he knows their brews well, so each pairing was really perfect. He was nice enough to seat us with the Finkels, whom we have gotten to know a little bit over the past few years, and rarely get a chance to sit down and talk with them for any amount of time, so that was fabulous. Charlie introduced each beer as the staff poured our tasters and served the matching course, and it was truly fantastic all around! The menu:

John’s house cured King Salmon “Gravlax” with Pike Dry Wit Belgian style Ale

Roasted Asparagus with Salumi Coppa and Shaved Parmagiano-Reggiano with Naughty Nellie Golden Ale

Bitter Greens with Red-Curried Gulf Prawns (I am stealing that idea) with Pike India Pale Ale

Roasted Garlic-Hazelnut Tortellini with Pike Tadem Double Ale

House Smoked, ale-brined Pork Loin, with Double-ale Cream with Pike British-style Pale Ale

Chocolate Stout Truffle Cake from Carter’s Chocolates with Pike XXXXX Stout

We. Were. Stuffed. Matt from Carter’s Chocolates also worked for the Finkels and he knew how great that last pairing would be. It may sound odd, though it sure did not taste odd! I do not usually go for dessert, and I ate it up. I then walked on the hilliest part of the Cushman Trail all week so I think I made up for it!

On Saturday I made Easter Dinner for some customers and it was a nice meal of boneless Lamb Roast, and I made an English Mint Sauce to go with it, from Farmer Paul’s fresh mint leaves. I used Possum Run Farm’s fresh horseradish root to make a Whipped Horseradish Cream to go with it as well; roasted asparagus that was picked that morning in Yakima and I made them a bechemel sauce to go with it. We tasted it all and for ourselves added roasted Port Townsend potatoes that I had bought at the Poulsbo Farmer’s Market a week ago, and they were starting to soften up, so I brought them to work and roasted them. I must say it was all quite delicious and I hope they enjoyed their meal!

This week is sort of the beginning of the lead up to our 5 year anniversary. Five years ago tomorrow was Mark’s last day at the Chevron. It does not seem that long ago that I boxed up several dozen cookies and drove to Bellevue to surprise him and say goodbye to the Old Bellevue Chevron. Gilbert’s Deli is across the street and the owner took me by the hand and led me through his restaurant, teaching me as much as he could in 10 minutes. Our house recipe Iced Tea is based on his own delicious tea blend, and I think of him fondly every time I taste it! That was a Friday and Mark started learning the morning bake the following Monday. He only did it every day for 3 weeks with the previous owner before it was just the two of us! I will reminisce more in a later post, but that is a sweet memory. He quit his job of 16 years to help me with a dream which I had no idea what the true impact would be. That’s love!

Now we are embarking on our 4th year of Dining Out For Life. We were the only place the first year and 4 years later there are several, withKitsap County HIV AIDS involved and benefiting directly from the event. So exciting!

For the recipe this week I have decided that you should know how to make bread. Wait, don’t go! It is SO easy with this recipe that is actually Mark Bittman’s. It is in his fantastic cook book ‘How to Cook Everything’ and I am going to add in my own twist for you. Don’t worry! Going to the grocery store is more strenuous than this recipe is! If you do not have a stand mixer, use a food processor to make this, it works just fine.

Fast French Bread

Makes: 3-4 baguettes, 1 larger loaf, or 12-16 rolls
Time: About 2 hours, largely unattended

3 1/2 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

Meanwhile if it is going to be needed warm the oven proofer up. (warm the oven to the lowest setting)
Put the flour, yeast & salt in mixer; whisk together. Then, with the machine running, pour in about a cup of water.

Process until the dough forms a ball, adding a tablespoon more water at a time until it becomes smooth; You’re looking for a moist, slightly shaggy but well-defined ball. The whole process should take about a minute at most. If it is too wet and sticky, just add a tsp of flour at a time until it is fixed, don’t sweat it at all.

Remove the dough to a bowl sprayed with nonstick (like Pam) and put in the oven, but turn the oven off. Or, if it’s warmer weather, cover with saran wrap and let sit at room temp. Either way let rise at least an hour, 2 is even better.

Dust a little flour on your work surface. Dump the dough out and shape it as you like, sprinkling with flour as necessary but keeping the flour to a minimum. Pre-heat the oven to 400°F with your baking sheet inside. You will want to spray it with nonstick unless you use parchment. If you have a pizza stone or bricks, place that inside as it preheats instead of a baking sheet. Also place a pan filled with water on the bottom. Let the dough rest on the stove, at least 20 minutes while the oven pre heats.

When you are ready to bake, slash the top of each loaf or roll once or twice with a sharp knife and slide the bread directly onto the hot (oiled or parchment lined) pan or pizza stone. Turn the heat down to 375°F.(Every time you open the oven splash the water so it steams it up.)

Bake until the crust is golden brown and the internal temperature of the bread is at least 210°F or the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. The time will vary depending on bread size, for the larger loaves it will be close to 30 minutes. Turn the loaves 180 degrees half way through, then rotate front to back as well if you are turning the loaves themselves and not the pan.

Remove the loaves, spray with a bit of water if you would like a shinier crust, and cool on a wire rack.

Trust me. You can do this and you will thank me!
NOTE: I don’t use instant yeast, and if you happen to have regular yeast only here is what you do:
add 25% (about a 1/3 tsp) more and bloom it in a 1/3 cup of warm (100 degees) water with a pinch of sugar or honey. Let it bloom for 10-15 minutes, and it will be frothy. Turn on the machine and dump that in, reducing the amount of other water that you put in… all the water should be luke warm.