Umeboshi Pizzettas: East Meets West

Umeboshi It’s cherry blossom season! Our city is graced with those treasured pops of pink every spring, but do you know the history behind Seattle’s blossom-filled trees? As a token of the friendship between Japan and Washington, Japan’s former Prime Minister Takeo Miki gave Seattle 1,000 cherry blossom trees on May 8, 1976.

Every year since, we have celebrated this bond during the Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival. From April 24 through April 26, our diverse community will gather at Seattle Center to learn about Japanese culture through music, fellowship, and (our favorite) food.

We’re excited to contribute our own special homage to this year’s festivities, an Umeboshi Pizzetta. Inspired by Tazue Sasaki, Cherry Blossom Festival committee chair and a regular guest of our café, this pizza is the perfect blend of Japanese and Italian culture. Tazue and her husband Yutaka loved ordering our pizzettas when they were on our menu and thought the flavors of the cheese and dough would nicely contrast the tartness of umeboshi, Japan’s ubiquitous pickled plum.

Leslie Mackie and Jane Cho put their heads together and came up with a delightful combination of umeboshi, Parmesan and Swiss cheese, sesame seeds, and olive oil on a freshly baked crust. You can taste our Umeboshi Pizzetta at the Cherry Blossom festival this weekend.

If you would like to try your hand at making umeboshi pizzas at home, click here for a wonderful pizza dough recipe straight from our More from Macrina Cookbook. But, use the umeboshi sparingly. While delicious, a little bit goes a long way.

PCC Natural Markets: Bringing Bread Full Circle

PCC Natural Markets

The PCC Natural Markets staff on a tour of our Sodo production facility.

Nestled between the folds of the rolling Palouse Hills and Blue Mountains sits the Walla Walla Valley. Ripe with meandering creeks that feed the Walla Walla River, this fertile land is home for much of Washington’s agriculture, including Williams Hudson Bay Farm. Owned and operated by brothers Tom and Ray Williams, this farm is part of the PCC Farmland Trust. Founded by PCC Natural Markets in 1999, the Farmland Trust is a way to help keep Northwest organic farms in the hands of farmers.

As Leslie Mackie searched for new ways to feature nutritious, locally sourced ingredients in our products, she learned about the Williams brothers’ whole-grain wheat processed by Fairhaven Mills. We began testing the organic whole wheat flour in some of our breads and found it added a wholesome nutty, sweet flavor perfect for our Whole Wheat Cider bread. Now, whenever you bite into a sandwich or burger made with our Whole Wheat Cider loaf, buns, or dinner rolls, you’re enjoying the Williams brothers’ harvest.

“I have always been a fan of PCC Natural Markets,” says Leslie Mackie. “But, with such a nice tie to the PCC Farmland Trust, it seemed like a natural progression to sell these delicious buns in PCC locations.”

More and more, consumers are interested in knowing where their food comes from, but Seattle has long been ahead of that curve. Leading the charge for sourcing better food from sustainable, trustworthy producers was PCC Natural Markets. What started as a food-buying club with just 15 families back in 1953 is now the largest consumer-owned natural food retail co-operative in the country with 10 locations spanning from Issaquah to Edmonds and plans to open its 11th location in Columbia City this summer.

As of 2014, you can find PCC shelves stocked with everything from our seasonal items like Colomba Pasquale to breadbasket staples like Rustic Potato Rolls and, of course, our Whole Wheat Cider Buns.

“Customers are loving this partnership,” says PCC’s Grocery Merchandiser Scott Owen. “We began selling Macrina breads in King County locations and they sold so wonderfully well we expanded the products to all of our stores.”

Upon a recent field trip to our production facility in Sodo, we were able to show PCC staff exactly how that flour, processed at Fairhaven Mills, and produced on a PCC Farmland Trust farm, is turned into a loaf of bread sold in their stores.

Sharing food made with the very best ingredients, sourced as close to home as possible is something we take great pride in and solidifies our bond with PCC.

“It is such a joy with work with PCC,” adds Leslie. “The staff is appreciative of our products and genuinely excited to sell our breads.”

Meet Our Family: Blake Gehringer

Food Safety Department

Born and raised in the Deep South, Blake Gehringer proved his knack for culinary arts was no fluke when he landed a pastry chef apprenticeship despite the stiff competition. He settled into a coveted position as head pastry chef at an upscale restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina. But, fate had different plans for Blake. During a visit to Seattle, Blake fell in love.

“When I returned to North Carolina, Annie sent me a Seattle ‘recruiting’ package. In this package was an application for Macrina Bakery,” Blake recalls. He couldn’t resist the strong pull West and three months later he was back in Seattle, only this time, it was for good. After a brief stint in construction, a term with AmeriCorps, and some time in the donations department at the Habitat for Humanity Store, Annie (now Blake’s fiancée) persuaded him to return to his passion for pastry, gently prodding him with that same job application.

“At this time Macrina required a pastry and baking education, which I didn’t have,” says Blake, who earned his degree in construction management. “I must have made a decent impression on [Production Manager] Jane Cho, though. She gave me a chance.”

For three years, Blake played a pivotal role in Macrina’s Retail Pastry Department at Sodo. But, just over a year ago, we decided to enhance our high food safety standards by forming a dedicated Food Safety Department. With his dedication, upbeat attitude and penchant for leadership, we knew right away that Blake was the person to head up this new team.

Trading a rolling pin for a clip board, Blake now oversees new protocols for impeccable standards in all areas of the company while guiding staff on proper procedures.

“It forces me to wear different hats at any given moment,” Blake says, running through a list of things he documents each day, ranging from allergen control to equipment maintenance. Working with people who are passionate about Macrina and being part of a supportive team makes it all so much easier, he adds.

Since the inception of our new Food Safety Department, Blake has been at the forefront of our Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point program and helped us excel with top-notch food safety audit scores.

“The best part of my job is being able to interact with all departments on a daily basis. It’s a fantastic community to be a part of. Also, the bread, my gosh the bread!”