SoCal Food Trip with Leslie Mackie

Leslie's SoCal Food Trip - Google Maps_Page_1-001Recently, Leslie Mackie migrated south. However, unlike many of the Northwest birds that head towards the equator in the winter, she stayed only for a few days. The trip, although short, was long on activities. Part bakery tour and part board meeting with the Bread Bakers Guild of America (BBGA), Leslie ventured to the San Diego area. “Pure heaven for us Pacific Northwesterners,” she commented as she described the 75-85 degree February weather.

Prior to the BBGA meeting, Leslie was joined by co-owners, Scott France and Matt Galvin for the first leg of her trip. Always looking to improve, the trio gleaned information and insights on how to work smarter and more efficiently using examples from fellow bakers. Then, she and fellow BBGA board members congregated in the charming, coastal town of Encinitas, just 20 minutes north of San Diego. Of course, they have to eat, so follow us on a food “road trip” with Leslie.

Stop 1: Bread & Cie. Bakery, San Diego. The bakery specializes in hand-crafted European breads for their café, catering, and wholesale business. Leslie was impressed by the “talented and passionate people who own and manage this bakery.”

Stop 2: Sadie Rose Baking Co., San Diego. The company provides artisan bread for restaurants and hotels with sales to the public at local farmer’s markets and in specialty markets throughout San Diego County. Leslie noted the wonderful malted brown bread and pretzel rolls, and praised the “gracious owners who provided insights on the challenges and successes” of running an artisan bakery.

Stop 3: El Callejon Restaurant, Encinitas. With a tagline of “Authentic Mexican Cuisine & Tequila Museum”, Leslie confirmed that they offer great food and margaritas!

Stop 4: Lofty Bean, Encinitas. This great coffee shop serves flavorful organic coffee from, per Leslie, “really nice people.”

Stop 5: Union Kitchen & Tap, Encinitas. Her recommendations at this lively restaurant are the “tasty flatbread pizzas and creamy grits with spicy shrimp and andouille.”

Stop 6: Darshan Bakery & Café , Encinitas. Jeff Yankellow, Darshan owner and BBGA president brought Viennese pastries and bread for breakfast each day. Leslie’s comment: “Great croissants!”

So, are you ready for a SoCal food trip? Take Leslie’s advice and eat your way around the area! When you are full, take time to relax and enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Ocean at the next stop.

Stop 7: Self-Realization Fellowship, Encinitas. According to Leslie, this belongs on your list of “don’t miss!” With its stunning coastal setting and beautiful gardens that are open to the public, it’s no wonder that Paramahansa Yogananda was inspired to write Autobiography of a Yogi.

Ommmm and yummmm.

Good Grains! It’s National Flour Month!

Macrina Bakery Flour ScoopEach year we celebrate the usual March holidays – National Pi Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Women’s History Month, but, most importantly, we honor National Flour Month. As a bakery, flour is one of our basic ingredients, whether it’s whole grain, whole wheat, or all-purpose.

Since the beginning of civilization, flour has been the staple of cuisines around the world. When our ancestors discovered they could crush grass seeds into a powder, they dined on flat, hard cakes cooked over a fire. It is the Egyptians in 3,000 BC that figured out how to harvest and use yeast, creating soft loaves by fermenting the dough with heat from the sun.

Luckily, we do not have to grind the grains ourselves. News of this innovation traveled, Romans created watermills, and with the Industrial Age came the technology to mill the flour in large quantity. We have a handful of wonderfully dedicated millers that we rely on for our flours. One of them is Fairhaven Organic Flour Mill in Burlington, about one hour north of Seattle. Fairhaven began in 1974 as a cooperative, and since 2007, has been family-owned by Kevin and Matsuko Christenson. Leslie had the opportunity to visit the mill a while back and was taken by the Christenson’s sincere pledge to buy only locally grown, organic grains that are milled weekly in small batches so they retain as much nutrients as possible.

Macrina Bakery Flour BowlAmidst the earthy aromas of the fresh, weighty whole grain flour, the Christensons shared their passion for the farmers with whom they have continued to support over the years. It is that commitment to their craft that is most appreciated by the Macrina family. We use Fairhaven’s Rye Flour for many of the artisan breads we produce, including Vollkorn, Pane Francese, and Greek Olive Bread. The recipes for these breads are included in our cookbooks, Macrina Bakery & Café Cookbook and More From Macrina. We hope you will pick up Fairhaven Organic Flour for your bread-making needs and test out some of our recipes in honor of National Flour Month. Happy baking!

Sharing What We Love at St. James Cathedral Kitchen

Macrina Bakery at St. James Kitchen “I need one vegetarian, please.” “Do we have undressed salad?” These were some of the shouts heard coming from the kitchen as our staff prepared and served dinner last Wednesday night. This wasn’t the Macrina kitchen. It was the Cathedral Kitchen, an outreach program of St. James Cathedral in Seattle that serves a nournishing, hot meal five nights a week to people who are homeless and those in need.

Seven Macrina employees shared what they love most: food. “It was such a pleasure to be able to take what we do every day – cooking and baking to provide the best product to our customers – and prepare a meal with these same intentions for people who typically don’t have the opportunity to eat in our cafes,” stated Leslie Mackie, Macrina Bakery’s founder. Leslie gathered a corps of dedicated staff, including Elizabeth Hall, Scott France, Crystal Kitchin, Fanny Alvarado, Rebecca Early, and Jane Cho, who were inspired to help.

The staff, busy ordering food in the days prior, were blessed by the generosity of vendors like Merlino’s, who donated everything that we ordered for the meal. Arriving at 11:00 AM to accept deliveries and prepare food, Leslie didn’t think of it as a long day. “Everyone was so pleased to be there, so it seemed like fun,” she commented.

A project dear to her heart, Leslie planned a menu of comfort food. The staff and St. James volunteers helped cook the meal of meatballs (or mushrooms) with a red sauce on pasta; salad with cranberries, walnuts, feta, and balsamic dressing; our Guiseppe Loaf topped with garlic, butter, salt, fresh herbs, and parmesan cheese; and our Mom’s Chocolate Cake with vanilla ice cream.

At 4:30 PM, guests were lined up on the sidewalk awaiting their warm meal. The volunteers at the Cathedral Kitchen take pride in their welcoming dining experience complete with tablecloths. “Our theory is, if we wouldn’t eat it ourselves, we don’t serve it,” stated Jill McAuliffe, Director of the Cathedral Kitchen. She added that having a business come in to cook and serve a meal is a rarity; however, she’s got quite a few fans at Macrina. The staff will be back in August as part of our 20th anniversary celebration.

It’s easy to see why volunteers and diners come back on a regular basis. Music in the background wafted from the rear of the dining area, where guest, Billy Jones performed hits from Gershwin to Mozart. He eats and plays almost every night at the kitchen. Wesley Beshears, whose been dining at St. James for a year, decided two months ago to volunteer before and after each meal.

Praises from diners and volunteers were noted: “I’m stuffed!” “I can tell it was a great meal. There’s not much garbage.” Scott added, “I was touched by how appreciative the folks were. Everyone in line said please and thank you. It was obvious how much the meal meant to them.”

Tasting Ireland: Irish Soda Bread

St. Patrick's Day
Around since the mid-19th century, traditional Irish soda bread contained just four ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. According to Rory O’Connell, co-founder of Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, Ireland, the bread has taken on many adaptations since coming to the U.S.

Many folks are offended by this “corruption” of tradition, like the U.S.-based group Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread. They provide a history of Irish Soda Bread and Ireland, dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when Ireland was grappling with the effects of the great potato famine. The bread gained in popularity when poorer families could not afford to buy bread and resorted to making their own. With no ovens in most homes, folks used their cast iron pot with a lid to cook the bread. Baking soda when mixed with sour milk was used as the rising agent.

In the early 20th century, as immigrants from Ireland kept pouring into the U.S., they brought the simple recipe along with them. As the recipe was handed down, each generation created versions of the original, adding embellishments along way including caraway seeds, dried fruit, sugar, eggs, and even yeast!

Our version of the traditional bread from the Land of Éire incorporates thick rolled oats, Fairhaven Mill’s whole-grain wheat flour, buttermilk and a hint of honey. Macrina Bakery Founder Leslie Mackie prefers to eat it toasted with a little bit of butter and jam.

We also make – what our Gaelic friends refer to as the “Spotted Dog” or “Railway Cake” – a version of the Irish soda bread with raisins. Come in for a loaf or two, and enjoy it through March 22.