King County Flavor
There is a concept founded in wine making called terroir which says the grapes pull flavor from the land on which they’re grown and impart that flavor into the wine. This gives the wine its own unique signature; a fingerprint. This is said to be true for everything that we eat. Fruits and vegetables, to cheeses and meats. Though nuanced, it is these flavors that mingle and mesh to create our favorite dishes. But terroir goes beyond taste. It’s an exploration of the deep connection between the land, climate, and culture that shape the essence of what we consume. It is the tie between the farmer and the chef.
Local sourcing is as much about building community as it is about ingredients. Restaurants collaborating with nearby farmers, artisans, and food producers, foster a sense of unity and strengthen their local economies.
When asked why she and her husband Luke Woodward source local for The Grange restaurant in Duvall, Sarah Cassidy says, “living in a small town like Duvall really drives home the immediacy of local transactions, how they make our little world go round. Buy produce at Costco? See the farmers market dry up. Buy eggs from your valley farmer? See them thrive and grow their biz. Luke and I like to really consider who we give our money to. Sure, it is payment. But we also see our money as a gift to be given to those we respect and love.”
Sarah and Luke began as farmers. They still run one, Hearth Farm, that supplies a lot of their seasonal produce and pork. Hearth Farm was started in 2006, 12 years before they took over the Grange Café and reopened it as The Grange. The business was reimagined with the help of Chef Nate Allen and is now what Sarah calls “serious farm to table.” The plates on their menu are testaments to their hard work; each one paying homage to the season.
“I like to think of Hearth Farm as the Queen Bee, and its farmers and the Grange staff are its worker bees who keep it, and in turn our guests, well fed.” She says.
In addition to Hearth, The Grange sources from SnoValley Mushroom, Cherry Valley Dairy, the Puget Sound Food Hub, and Okanogan Producers Marketing Association (OPMA) for most of their fruit. Farming and supplying restaurants themselves for nearly 20 years before becoming restauranteurs, Luke and Sarah enjoy experiencing the other side of things. Having a foot in each world allows them to mitigate their waste, tailor their menus, and has also made their business more sustainable. But local sourcing isn’t the easiest endeavor.
Wes Yoo of WeRo, a comfort-forward Seattle-based modern Korean restaurant, says incorporating local ingredients has been challenging but worthwhile.
“The cost makes the business model less sustainable. But it also helps us improve the product we serve and makes our menu more exciting for guests.”
Local ingredients tend to cost more. For budding businesses especially, the added expense can be tough to shoulder. It also takes time. As Wes put it, “It takes more effort to look through fresh sheets from everyone weekly and make decisions on what to buy, what to make, creating recipes on the spot, run specials, etc. For me, that’s exactly why I enjoy it. But I can see how other places want to streamline and focus on efficiency and repetition.”
WeRo opened in 2022 Ballard. Their beautifully plated dishes have sizable portions and boast seasonal ingredients, the latter a transition that has taken place just this year.
When asked why he made the change: community and variety. “It feels good to support local businesses! Smaller farms are also more experimental, they grow things that are hard to find at grocery stores and those ingredients are fun for us to cook with.”
Their menu rotates to accommodate new offerings from the farms they buy from, which includes Alvarez Farms, Kamayan Farm, Bumbleebee Farm, Griffin Creek Farm, Sound Sustainable Farms, Tualco Valley Farm, and more.
“I work a lot with Farmstand Local Foods and through them, we’ve been able to support dozens. Recently, the Ballard Sunday Market has also been piloting a program for wholesale purchases from the market and that’s something I’m participating in as well.”
Through the challenges of higher costs, sourcing specific ingredients, and establishing wholesale relationships, Wes hopes to see more restaurants make the change; that establishing those relationships builds resilience and peace. The terroir, the flavor, comes from the ties. Sarah agrees.
“The more local food you invest in, the more goodness you taste in it. Things taste better when you know who had a hand in growing it, tending it, getting it to you. Every time we buy local we help reweave the ripped fabric of our communities. It is a big leap, but there is magic in it.”
To explore King County restaurants, cafes, and eateries, click here. For more information on Eat Local Month King County, resources, recipes, and to enter to win over $1,000 in delicious prizes from local farms, farmers markets and food businesses, visit the Eat Local Month King County website.