Emmer and Rye

The Seasonal Hostess

"Do you have any apples?" my ten-year-old houseguest asked.

"No," I said. "What do you want apples for?"

He didn't answer and went away, but not half an hour later he was back. "Do you have any apples?" Like I might have grown some in the meantime.

"No. You asked that a few minutes ago. Why do you want apples?"

"I like apples."

"Oh. Well, they're not in season. We have cherries. And a few peaches." Nevertheless, feeling hostess guilt, I checked the Safeway produce display next time I was at the store. Sure enough, apples: crisp, glorious, and all the way from...New Zealand!!! I couldn't do it. This is the season of tasty fruit abundance in the Northwest, as long as you don't insist on fall fruits like apples and pears. Hoping absence would make his heart grow fonder for apples, I compromised and got organic grapes from California. 1000-mile diet.

Not that I don't understand the difficulty of waiting for the seasons. I've been hitting up our various produce vendors weekly: when will they have melons? vine-ripened tomatoes? enough corn that we marketgoers don't have to arm-wrestle each other for it? Like I didn't spend the spring asking when we could expect strawberries. And the answer is soon, soon, soon.

Call it human nature. The second the strawberries are in our mouths we start craving blueberries. Hardly are the blueberries swallowed than we want watermelons. And the watermelon rinds haven't even been carted out to the yard waste before we're wondering why the farmers don't have any butternut squash.

Whidbey Island's Five Acre Farms, of the lovely hand-painted signs, reports that green beans and drying beans will be in next week. The garlic is drying and should show up in a couple weeks, along with acorn squash. And, thanks to their top-secret growing techniques, Damon and Joe think the first vine-ripened tomatoes are on the horizon. Vine-ripened tomatoes grown on Whidbey--available in a couple weeks? My husband would love to be in on the secret, since all we have on our vines are a few little green marbles.

If you relish food preparations that are exactly in tune with our micro-seasons, be sure to catch Seth Caswell's chef demo this Thursday at 4:00 p.m. Caswell is the chef/owner of Queen Anne's emmer&rye restaurant and check out my Six Minutes with a Chef interview of him on Bellevue.com. See you Thursday!

Emmer & Rye Opens!

If you've been a fan of chef demonstrations at the Bellevue Farmers Market, you may have caught Chef Seth Caswell at one time or another. Chef Seth believes in "seasonally inspired, locally derived cuisine," and he puts this ethos to work at the new Emmer & Rye restaurant on Queen Anne. I would advise that you NOT look at the menu if you happen to be hungry because you'll be drooling all over your keyboard. Consider just the "shucked oysters, bacon, smoked porter mignonette" as a starter, or the "gathered mushroom tart, goat cheese, leeks, spinach, pears" for an entree...Emmer & Rye is open Monday through Friday 5pm-10pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am-11pm, with weekend brunch Saturday and Sunday 9am-2pm. For reservations call 206.282.0680.

 In other news foodie news around the planet, the NY Times reports that the USDA is tightening organic dairy requirements so that large operations like Aurora Organic Dairy must be required to pasture their herds for the entire length of the grazing season and ensure that 30% of the cow's food is pasture during that time. Prior to this, the larger operations might only allow cows access when they weren't giving milk or would feed the animals exclusively on grain. Since this was the very reason I avoided Aurora and other store organic brands, this is great news. I'm still sticking with Organic Valley's Northwest Pastures, but nice to know I can grab the other in a pinch.

Speaking of large livestock operations, according to the Financial Times, the UN is considering a tax on livestock flatulence. If it ever passed, so to speak, not only might it reduce greenhouse emissions, but it would also provide unlimited fodder for late-night comedy monologues.

And, finally, to end this post on a sweet note, a Times Online article finds that processed food has been getting more sugary over the last thirty years, especially that go-to favorite, the breakfast cereal. Kellogg's Cornflakes--the nutritional equivalent of a black hole to begin with--went from 7.4g sugar per 100g in 1978 to 8g. That wouldn't be such a big deal, were not the rest of your daily menu sweetening up as well, from your can of tomato soup to your grilled cheese on wheat bread to the fresh fruits and vegetables on offer at the store! Yikes. Take comfort, though--manufacturers claim most of the sugar increases were to cover loss of flavor from reducing salt.