I would like to thank my husband, who has always supported me fiercely in everything I have done; my family and friends who always inspire and cheer me on; and of course my cafe family of staff and customers who have been loyal and loving over the past 3 years…. Ok so I didn’t win an IFA or a Grammy, but I have been interviewed and am now on Jeff Brody’s bloghere. I was pretty nervous before I read it but I think I sound caring and thoughtful, which is what I had intended. It’s a neat new blog and I have been enjoying reading it.

My main farmer, Paul Gregory’s, CSA is almost full and I am so excited for him! Our other farmers, Sara and Jared Hankins still have plenty of room in their heirloom variety CSA. I have belonged to a CSA or other similar program for several years now and I am thrilled to see it picking up here in Kitsap. It’s about time everyone else found out how great farm-fresh produce is and how wonderful it is to have a relationship with those who grow your food. We use as many local products as we can find in the cafe, and lucky for us the variety is growing! If you don’t belong to a CSA and you love to try produce, and you want it to taste FABULOUS, you should definitely look into joining one. You can still go to the farmer’s markets every week to fill in the gaps and have that great sense of community, the CSA just makes your food shopping more convenient and you get much more value out of your dollars! Who doesn’t want that??

On Monday Sara and I went to Seattle to the Chef’s Collaborative 4th annual Farmer-Chef connection conference. This is one of my favorite things about being a member of CC, this event is phenomenal, from the information offered, to the conference food, to the star gazing (I swear, I am like a school girl at the Oscar’s Red Carpet when it comes to famous chefs! I try to act as civilized as possible, but inside I am squealing and giddy!) It is the most fun a neophyte such as myself can have.

In the following order I saw: Seth Caswell, Tom Douglas, Sabrina Tinsley, Maria Hines, Thierry Rautureau, Armando Batali, Jerry Traunfeld and many other chefs, restaurateurs and farmers who are famous in the trade but I don’t want to bore you to tears just yet. I know it is silly of me. I mean of course they are all worthy of respect and worship, but I can’t help taking it to the giddy level. Maybe in my next life I will be polished and smooth but that is a long way off.

Usually when you go to a conference the last thing you look forward to is the food. How many baked chicken dishes with rice pilaf and salad can you eat! But not this one. The Chef’s Collaborative members follow the true spirit of the club. Producing members donate the ingredients to Chef members who create amazing dishes to feed us. There were at least 350 people at the sold out event, so this is alot of food. We were at Herban Feast (if you have an event in Seattle and need a site, this is IT!) and the service was wonderful.

There was a continental breakfast offered upon arrival (think fruit, pastries, jams and a variety of beverages, all from Washington producers and chefs who focus on sustainability), and then there was lunch. I want to list the menu and also give credit to each producer and chef, so you may want to sit down for this. Your mouth will water!

Carrot Soup with Chervil Oil and Beet & Kale Salad with River Valley Goat Feta– both dishes were supplied by Nash’s Produce, made by Herban Feast.

Preston Hill Bakery bread made with Bluebird Grains emmer flour and Shepherd’s Grain Whole Wheat, along with butter made by Golden Glen-this is the best butter I have ever tasted.

Coffee Crusted Braised Veal Shanks-prepared by Herbal Feast using Quilceda’s Clear Valley Farms pasture-raised veal, Caffe Vita Ethiopian Roast coffee, Nash’s dino kale and carrots, and Full Circle’s celery root and potatoes.

Polenta Royale with Lamb-made by GreenGo Food with Walking Water Ranch Lamb, Gingko Forest Winery 2006 Syrah, Full Circle Parsnips, Golden Glen butter and cream, River Valley Cheese Naughty Nellie (a cheese whose rind is washed in Naughty Nellie beer by Pike Brewing Co) and Theo cocoa nibs and chocolate.

Full Circle Farms celery root, potato & parsnip puree with Argan Oil- prepared by Rover’s

Chicken Ballotine with Rye and Shiitake Farce (a fancy way of saying chicken that is stuffed, rolled up, tied off and cooked)- prepared by Culinary Communion with Stokesberry organic chicken, Nash’s annual rye and red kale, Cascadia mushrooms, Baird Orchards garlic & Dog Mountain duck eggs.

Spicy oven roasted Nash’s Brussels Sprouts with Rockridge Ice Cider Glaze-prepared by Persimmon Cafe…and before you wrinkle your nose and say ‘eeeuuuwwww!’ I have to tell you that I have never before enjoyed Brussels sprouts until that dish. They were sweet and tender and exactly the opposite of the boiled-to-death stinky cabbages of my youth (sorry mom). Plus I met the chef, Sara Moot, and she is really sweet; I cannot wait to go to Fremont and check out her tiny cafe because it sounds absolutely fabulous! Want to take me there??

The Ultimate Beef Stew-prepared by Andaluca Restaurant with Crown S Ranch beef, Kalamar Winery 2003 Syrah, Nash’s golden turnips, carrots, Detroit beets, Baird Orchards French Fingerling potatoes and garlic, and Shepherd’s Grain AP Flour.

Ingrained in My Thoughts-La Bonne Terre Restaurant used Bluebird Grains emmer, Larkhaven sheep feta, Baird Orchards Aztec Fuji apples and Pipitone garlic.

Curried Toboton Creek Goat-made by Pan African Market with Baird Orchards German butterball potatoes and garlic and Nash’s carrots. This was a spicy dish and it was my favorite, which surprised the heck out of me! I wish I had some now…guess I have to go to Pan African Market and try them out! They were already on my wish list, and now they have moved up.

Can you believe all that??? We washed it all down with Dry Sodas and yes, I had a little bite of everything. It was a great chance to try things I would not normally order, and every single thing tasted so amazing it is difficult to describe. When you take premium quality ingredients that were lovingly grown and harvested, and give them to a chef who respects the food and the process as much as these folks do, you end up with heaven on your tongue. There is just no way not to love every bite! And I didn’t even mention the desserts because I didn’t really have any.
(We did try a bite of the cheesecakes, but literally had one bite each. They were made by Chuckanut Bay Foods with dairy from Wilcox Farms, Edaleen Dairy and Meadowsweet.)

Ok so you would think that would be it. NOPE! A few hours later, after lots of networking and an afternoon panel to listen to, the conference ended and the Chef’s Collaborative tasting reception began. We could (and usually did) sample items from places such as Bainbridge Island Vineyard & Winery, Pike Brewing Company, Essential Baking Company, Beecher’s Cheese, Blue Rose Dairy, Mt Townsend Creamery, River Valley Cheese, Discovery Bay Shellfish (geoduck ceviche!! Have you ever?? It was NOT chewy and rubber like you may think, it was tender and even more flavorful than a clam. YUM!), Taylor Shellfish Oysters (on the half shell! Hello! Fresh and shucked as we waited in line more than once cuz they were AWESOME!) Marilyn’s Nut Butters, Sound Bites spreads & sauces (the most unique hummus ever), Small Planet Organic Tofu (get the spicy!) and several others as well! Whew!

I know I normally link to everything but there was just too many to do that with today. I linked the first few and the rest you will have to search online but you will have fun doing it, I promise! And whatever of those items you find, you will love!

We went home with our brains buzzing and our tummies (very) full and a contended feeling. I get a feeling of community at those events that I don’t get very often. Most people think I am weird or overly dramatic about food (admit it, you can’t believe how I run on!) but when I am at a CC event, as Sara Moot put it, I am with my tribe. I don’t know any of them very well and I only know a very few of them at all, but we all have our shared passions for good, local food, sustainability and all the things that go with those, so we chat and enjoy each other’s company for a day and then go back to work. My head is so full of ideas! I hope you like them when they come to life.

What are you passionate about? Where do you go to commune with others like you? I really want to know!