Macrina Bakery will sell Brown Sugar Shortbread cookies decorated with the Ukrainian flag from March 21-27. All proceeds will help a bakery in Kyiv, Ukraine called Bakehouse to continue to give away free bread. In peacetime, 1500 people walked through the doors at Bakehouse to buy bread and pastries. The spacious, light-filled bakery employed 80 bakers. It’s one of Ukraine’s most renowned bakeries. Now, as Russian bombs fall on Kyiv, the Bakehouse’s large windows make it too dangerous to occupy. But Ukrainians who have been unable to flee must still be fed. So many of the Bakehouse bakers have decamped to a basement bakery where they continue to bake bread for hundreds of people every day. They’re giving it all away for free. Proof, a bakery in Mesa, Arizona, has organized a fundraiser for Bakehouse, partnering with bakers worldwide on a campaign called Bake for Ukraine. Macrina Bakery is honored to be able to help. For the week of March 21-March 27, we will donate all proceeds from our Brown Sugar Shortbread cookies decorated with the Ukrainian flag to the fundraiser for Bakehouse. In addition, Macrina will also match any employee donations. Anyone who wishes to donate directly can do so via the GoFundMe page.
One of the most exciting innovations at Macrina in recent years is our focus on the flour we use in our naturally leavened breads. The central resource in our search for the most flavorful and nutritious wheat is the nationally renowned Bread Lab, an extension of Washington State University. Located an hour north of Seattle in Skagit Valley, Bread Lab is run by Dr. Steven Jones. He is devoted to bringing grain agriculture back to our region. A hundred years ago, fields of grains filled the Skagit Valley, but as industrial wheat brought the commodity price down, farmers shifted to more valuable crops. Commodity flour—the inert, shelf-stable white flour we’re all familiar with—became commonplace throughout America early in the 20th century. The shift away from regional wheat and local stone-ground milling resulted from the roller mill, an industrial method that produced a more uniform shelf-stable flour at less cost. Growers bred wheat for the new mills. Yield, not flavor, was the key metric. As a result, our nation’s wheat crops were rapidly homogenized. Community flour mills that once processed locally-grown wheat—there had once been more than 2,000 throughout the country—mostly vanished. Wheat, once cultivated into various strains that thrived in the particular microclimate, was reduced to a handful of hard red winter wheat strains. In the name of efficiency, most farmers abandoned the flavorful and nutritious strains of wheat and grew what fetched the highest price. America got cheap flour and Wonder Bread. The rise of artisan bread in America that started in the 1980s challenged the dominance of the ubiquitous pre-packaged supermarket loaf. More recently, the popularity of home bread baking and sourdough starters is a turn back to the days when many homemade loaves were common. This pre-industrialized turn is reflected in a new generation of farmers and artisan millers interested in a tastier, healthier, and more sustainable approach to growing and milling wheat locally. Many of them, like us, turn to Dr. Jones. Macrina has partnered with the Bread Lab for years, uses locally-grown and milled wheat developed by the Bread Lab, and Leslie Mackie, Macrina’s founder, has been a member of their advisory board. Earlier this year, our leadership team visited to talk with Dr. Jones and his team of researchers. “Dr. Jones is working on developing organic grain to plant in the fertile Skagit Valley,” Leslie said. “The farmers produce huge amounts of potatoes, cabbage, and more and need a good rotation crop to break disease cycles and to restore vital elements to the soil. The Bread Lab breeds grain for flavor, ease of growing in our region without chemicals, great performance for bakers like us, and great yield so farmers get a fair value for their work. Dr. Jones also intends to make the grain accessible to everyone, not just high-end bakeries. That’s supporting our local economy on all levels.” Macrina pledged our continued support for Bread Lab through their Bread Collective program. Participating bakeries make a sliced loaf that uses at least sixty percent whole wheat flour, is made with only seven ingredients (no chemicals, only real food) and is sold for six dollars or less. Our Organic Whole Wheat Loaf, sold in our cafes and grocery stores, is our Bread Collective contribution. A portion of the sales of this loaf helps the Bread Lab in its mission to bring together a community of people across the wheat ecosystem, from bakers to brewers, to experiment with the flavor, nutrition, and functionality of wheat. After a delicious lunch prepared by the Bread Lab team of whole-grain pizza and a salad of local greens and pickled Skagit vegetables, we returned more inspired than ever to continue to innovate with the locally-grown hybrid heirloom strains of wheat developed by Dr. Jones. It’s an exciting time to be baking bread!
All photos courtesy of @WSU_Bread_Lab Instagram.
On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, on First Avenue in Seattle’s Sodo neighborhood, Nancy LaVallee stuffs her car with more pies than might seem prudent. She manages to pack in about 50 and a friend piles the rest in her car. They caravan slowly back to Nancy’s Mercer Island home to prepare some hot apple cider and await their guests. Fortunately, there’s never been a fender bender on the way home, which could be messy.
Nancy is a Mercer Island-based real estate agent for Windermere who sells homes all over the city. She started the great Thanksgiving pie giveaway eight years ago. The pies are for her neighbors and clients.
“It’s a big day for me,” says Nancy. “Clients from all over the greater Seattle area come to my home for the pie pickup,” says Nancy. “It’s so fun to see everyone, and to be able to thank them for their support. Everyone loves the pies, and it means they don’t have to bake as much, which helps since everyone is busy over the holidays.”
Before settling on Macrina as her pie baker of choice, Nancy went to eight different bakeries and sampled pies. Some years, she’s gotten pumpkin from one bakery, apple from another. But eventually she settled on Macrina. “Eight years ago, I started out with a small order, but it’s grown,” Nancy says. “Macrina can handle a hundred pies. Not everyone can handle that volume two days before Thanksgiving.”
Nancy is especially fond of Macrina’s Maple Apple Pie. “I call it the high pie apple pie,” says Nancy. “It’s meaty. It’s got a lot of apples. And it lasts. I get my pies early. It tastes great two days later, maybe even better. It’s a great tasting pie.”
Nancy enjoys the ritual of picking up the big order at our Sodo location. “A baker comes out to say hello and they help me load up, which is charming,” says Nancy. “It’s nice to be able to say thank you.”
In 2020, Nancy put a little note in with the pies saying she was collecting non-perishable food items for Leschi Elementary School families in need. “We had over 45 bags of food to donate last year,” says Nancy. “It was quite overwhelming.”
This year she’s doing it again.
St. Macrina, our patron saint, was known for working to improve the quality of life for people in her community, and we strive to do the same. On our first Thanksgiving, back in 1993, Leslie brought some extra loaves to the Noel House, which was located in a nearby alley. “The ladies there were so appreciative of the fresh baked bread it brought me to tears,” says Leslie. Our mantra became that of St. Macrina.
We enrich our communities through the joy of artisan baking, but we also donate directly to non-profit organizations that do outstanding work supporting members of our community. Our employees frequently join us in donating, and we match each of their donations.
As part of our celebration of Juneteenth, we donated $2,500 (including matched donations from employees) to Community Passageways. In September, we are donating $2,000–$3,000 to three additional local community organizations including: Helping Link, Plymouth Housing, and St. James Cathedral Kitchen. Here’s a bit more about these incredible organizations:
This community-based, black-run, black-owned organization was founded in 2015 by Dominique (Dom) Davis. They work primarily with court-involved young people of color and help break the school-to-prison cycle with a school-to-life pathway by restoring lives, nurturing dreams, and developing life skills. In the last five years, Dom and his team have helped divert over 120 years of prison sentences.
Since its founding in 1993, Helping Link has supported our local Vietnamese community with free services and programs such as citizenship classes, a computer lab, English classes, and much more. They help foster cultural resilience and empower members to celebrate their histories and traditions.
Since 1980, Plymouth Housing has helped Seattle break the cycle of chronic homelessness by providing adults experiencing homelessness with opportunities to stabilize and improve their lives. Plymouth follows the “Housing First” philosophy, operating on the principle that people cannot improve their lives until they have a safe, stable place to live. Plymouth owns and operates 14 buildings, both renovated historic properties and new construction, from South Lake Union to the International District. In the coming years, Plymouth plans to build an additional 800 apartments.
The Cathedral Kitchen feeds a nourishing, hot meal to 150 guests on Seattle’s First Hill every weekday. They serve anyone in need, regardless of age, gender, or creed. Throughout the pandemic, out of concern for their guests, they switched to to-go dinners and a bagged lunch their guests could eat the next day while still providing a limited number of physically-distanced tables for those needing a moment of shelter.
In addition, Macrina donates thousands of pounds of bread and pastries to local organizations that help feed those in need, including The Salvation Army, Alma Mater in Tacoma, El Centro de la Raza. Over the next few weeks, we’re also donating over 300 meals to Helping Link and St. James for fundraising events.
“Donating to these organizations is just one way Macrina supports our communities and works to better achieve our mission,” says Scott France, Macrina’s President.
The alarming rise of pandemic-related racism against Asian Americans has contributed to an increase in hate crimes, including the horrific shootings in Atlanta. At Macrina, we are proud of our diverse crew, which includes many people of Asian descent, Vietnam in particular. We stand together against hate, intolerance, and racism. Macrina employee, Michelle Galvin, a fourth-generation Japanese American, shares some of her troubling experiences and a plea for kindness in these difficult times.
Over the past year, Covid has changed all our lives dramatically. With changes to how we socialize, work and even buy our groceries, life has been different and difficult. For those of us, like myself, who are of Asian descent, an additional challenge has been contending with heightened bias and discrimination.
Living in Seattle for my adult life has been a blessing. I grew up right outside of Chicago. As a child, my schoolmates regularly taunted me. They called me “Ching Chong Chinaman,” and made fun of the rice balls I brought for lunch. Our next-door neighbors, a family with three boys, said I was the reason for WWII. They blamed me for their grandfather’s death. I was six.
Moving to Marysville, WA, in my teenage years was liberating. Though I was one of the only Asian kids in school, I never experienced racism like I had in Illinois. Years later, as an adult living in the Seattle area, I was relieved my four children would not experience the sort of racism I did. And it has been better, much better. Still, we talk about how irritating it is when people ask us where we are from and when we answer Seattle, they say, no, where are you really from. And once a parent of a kid in my daughter’s first-grade class asked me if I was Mia or Gracie’s mom—she could never tell us people apart, she said. (My daughter, Gracie, asked me at the time if it was because her glasses were broken.) Despite the occasional challenge, my children have always felt comfortable and proud of their Japanese heritage.
One of our family’s favorite places is the International District. We visit at least once weekly —grocery shopping at Uwajimaya, dumplings at Dough Zone or pastries at Fuji Bakery. When the International District was vandalized earlier this summer, it broke my heart. As if Covid and quarantine weren’t enough of a challenge to our beloved restaurants and shops in that neighborhood! Rising hate crimes against Asians have added to the struggle. It brought tears to my eyes to have to tell my teenage children that it was not a good idea for them to go to the International District by themselves to get Boba in the evening because it is not safe.
We have always prided ourselves on the welcoming work environment at Macrina. There is truly no place here for hate, discrimination, or racism. Our head baker, Phuong Hoang Bui, has been at Macrina nearly since we opened, and he embodies the spirit of the Macrina community as much as anyone. His daughter, Amy Bui, who ran around our Belltown café at the age of three is now our general manager of wholesale sales. A great many of our bakers are Vietnamese. They are who we are.
We want to be sure the Asian community knows that we stand with them. We condemn the hate crimes and casual racism that are happening in our community against our Asian friends, employees, customers and peers. Macrina is a long-time supporter of Helping Link and the Vietnamese community. Most importantly, we hope to spread a message of kindness during these difficult times.
At heart, Marc Mitchell is a baker. He studied at Le Cordon Bleu before coming to work at Macrina Bakery in 2013. Marc started on our bread team before moving to wholesale pastry, where he took on leadership roles. But when the position of Food Safety AM opened up late in 2020, Marc’s skills made him a natural fit for the job. He applied and got it.
Not only is he intimately familiar with the various departments, but also with the people, processes and the vital importance of food safety. Like any great pastry chef, Marc is very attentive to detail, which serves him well in his new role. Working closely with Blake Gehringer, Macrina’s Production Manager, Marc oversees every element of food safety at our bakery and cafés. He spends his days training, answering questions, observing, documenting, testing and continuously learning.
One of Marc’s challenges is teaching employees whose first language isn’t English. But Marc has transcended the challenge by learning some Vietnamese, getting translation help when needed, visual aids and frequently demonstrating the proper procedure. “I teach by showing,” he says.
Raised in Washington state to a Filipino mother and American father, Marc learned to love Filipino food. When he’s not working, he and his wife (also Filipino) love to cook chicken adobo and other classic Filipino dishes.
As a kid, Marc learned to work on cars with his father, who sadly is no longer with us. The passion continues, and in his free time, Marc can often be found tinkering under the hood. Pressed on his dream car, Marc thinks a moment, then says, “Ferrari 458 Italia. It’s very nice, but not too bad on the pocket—as Ferraris go.”
The Vietnamese Lunar New Year, or Tet, falls on February 12 this year. The day is a significant holiday at Macrina. Our head bakers, Phuong Hoang Bui and Thanh Huyen Dang, are Vietnamese, as are many of our bakers. Artisanal French and Italian traditions influence most of our bread, and the food in our cafes hews Mediterranean with a few American favorites thrown in, but an exception is our Bui Bun, made for banh mi, which was developed by Phuong with help from the bread team.
Banh Mi, the classic street-vendor Vietnamese sandwich, is one of the best comfort foods around. In Seattle, options abound, from traditional to hybrid. The one constant, in our favorites at least, is the right bread—fresh and airy, with the right mix of crackle, spring, and chew.
The baguette was introduced to Vietnam during French colonial rule in the early twentieth century. The earliest “banh mi” were straightforward, sometimes just a smear of butter and some ham or pâté, in the traditional Parisian fashion. But over time, both the bread and toppings evolved to become the unique, zesty Vietnamese sandwich that has claimed a spot in the global hall of culinary fame. Stacked with variations on satisfying fillings like cured and cooked pork, sliced ham, chicken liver pâté, green herbs, pickled vegetables, chili peppers, and spiced-up mayonnaise, the banh mi toppings are held together by a Vietnamese-style baguette or roll. The complex flavor of banh mi is a swirl of history, complementary and contrasting flavors, and a riot of textures—crunchy and tender—that make many other sandwiches seem boring in comparison.
For years, we served a bahn mi sandwich in the Macrina cafés on our Giuseppe Panini Baguette. We filled them with tofu, roast pork, chicken or flank steak, and classic banh mi toppings. It was good, but not quite right—we needed the right bread.
We turned to Phuong, who has been our head baker for over 20 years. Phuong started at Macrina as a dishwasher in early 1994, just after Macrina opened, and quickly proved himself to be a quick learner and skilled with bread in all its phases—dough, proofing, shaping, and baking.
“Phuong took the lead on developing an authentic banh mi bun, a product we’d later name after him,” says Leslie Mackie, Macrina’s founder. “He involved many of his fellow Vietnamese bakers at Macrina, bringing the whole bread production team together, including seeking out recipes from various cousins and parents, here and back in Vietnam. After months of testing, getting special pans, and testing it with our staff, customers, we launched our Bui Buns named after Phuong.”
The Bui Bun has a crisp crust and tender, airy crumb, just right for the perfect banh mi sandwich. Moreover, the bun, its creators, and the team-oriented approach symbolize one of our core values at Macrina: celebrating diversity.
To Phuong, Huyen, our fantastic crew, and everyone who celebrates the Lunar New Year, we wish you a year full of blessings and good fortune. Thank you for everything.
Even before the coronavirus hit, too many people in the Seattle area struggled with hunger. Now with record levels of unemployment and disrupted free school lunches for many children, food insecurity is rising. We currently donate food to Mary’s Place and others, but we wanted to do more.
FareStart and Catalyst Kitchen, an initiative established by FareStart, have been producing approximately 350,000 meals a week to help alleviate hunger and food insecurity in our communities. More than 100 sites get meals from them daily, including Downtown Emergency Services Center, Plymouth Housing, the YMCA of Greater Seattle, Boys & Girls Clubs of King County, Seattle Public Schools and King County’s COVID-19 isolation and recovery sites.
Callebaut offered to donate all the chocolate we’d need to make sweet treats for FareStart lunches. With 300 pounds of dark chocolate chips, 90 pounds of chocolate batons, and 52 pounds of Milk Chocolate Couverture in hand, Leslie reached out to two more of our suppliers for help. Both Medosweet Farms and Merlino Foods were both eager to support our community and didn’t hesitate to get involved. Medosweet provided us with 150 pounds of butter and all the eggs we need. Merlino’s donated 250 pounds of sugar and other supplies.
Throughout June, we will be baking over 4,300 of Olivia’s Chocolate Chip Cookies, 1,800 Chocolate Cornetti, and 1,600 Milk Chocolate Brioches for FareStart to include in the lunches they distribute.
Our mission is to enrich our communities through the joy of artisan baking. Being a part of this collaborative effort to support FareStart in their crucial mission brings us joy, and we hope, helps brighten the days of those most in need.
Not all heroes wear capes, but many wear masks. And scrubs. And they’ve been working insanely long hours during this crisis, giving their all to serve those in need. To express our appreciation and admiration, Macrina Bakery is donating 220 care packages each week in April to area hospitals. Each care package contains a Sliced Oatmeal Buttermilk Loaf, Rye Crostini, Sardinian Flatbread, Olivia’s Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Granola Bar Cookies.
Chris at Overlake said, “Everything was great! My staff greatly appreciated the generosity and gratitude.” Julie at Swedish Edmonds wrote, “I can’t tell you how much the staff appreciated the care packages. They were SO excited! Thank you so much; we very much appreciate this thoughtful gesture!”
If you’d like to help us support them, you can donate a care package, and we’ll deliver it on your behalf. The care packages are $25 and we are currently visiting Overlake, Harborview, Swedish Edmonds, UW Northwest and Seattle Children’s.
In addition to the frontline healthcare workers, we know that many others are giving themselves to serve others. Our care packages are available for anyone you know who could use a little extra support right now. A huge thank you to all of you who have already ordered them.
To order care packages, please call 206-448-4089 or visit one of our cafés.
This Sunday, art and football intersect in the Seahawks Gameday Poster created by our Sodo café’s very own James Stanton.
The Seattle Seahawks partnered with the legendary local graphic designers Ames Bros to curate a series of posters with unique artwork to commemorate this season’s home games. Barry Ament and Coby Schwartz, the creative force behind Ames Bros, invited James Stanton to be one of the eight accomplished Seattle artists to produce a poster.
James, who has worked part-time at Macrina’s Sodo café for nearly five years, is a cartoonist and illustrator who has been publishing his small-press comic Gnartoons since 2005. He’s also done comics and illustrations for Thrasher, The Atlantic, The Stranger, The Nib, Adventure Time and other publications.
“It’s such an honor to work with the Ames Bros on a Seahawks poster,” James says. “Coby and Barry know my stuff. They pointed out what in my portfolio they thought would work well, which mostly wound up being comic book covers. I ended up thinking about the poster as a comic book cover more than I did as a print.”
Assigned the November 3 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, James created a serpentine-like hawk rising from the sea and swamping a pirate ship with shredded sails. Majestic Doug firs tower in the background. The 18” x 24” posters are screen printed and can be ordered online and picked up at CenturyLink Field on game day or at the CenturyLink Field Pro Shop during designated hours. The Seahawks are also producing 12 “platinum” posters on special paper with enhanced printing techniques. Those will be sold on the Seahawks’ Auction Website the day after each game and shipped to winners.
Buying a poster will not only serve as a unique art piece on your wall, but it helps fund arts education for kids. The Seahawks are donating all proceeds from sales of the posters to The Creative Advantage, an arts education equity program for Seattle Public Schools.
In addition to some cash, posters, and the prestige, James gets tickets to the game and a field pass. It’ll be his first live Seahawks game. “The Seahawks are a much bigger stage than I’m used to working on,” James says. “This was fun because they gave me a lot of freedom to draw whatever I wanted to, within certain parameters, of course.”
James moved to Seattle specifically because it’s a hotspot for independent comics and to help publish a free comics newspaper called The Intruder. He immediately found a room to rent in a Beacon Hill house already occupied by a few other comics artists. More than seven years later, that’s still the case. “When someone moves out, we find another cartoonist to take their place,” says James.
This coming spring, a hardbound collection of James’ collected work, titled Gnartoons, will be released by the Bay Area publisher Silver Sprocket Bicycle Club. And on Saturday, November 9, you will find James at Short Run, the one-day annual comics and arts festival that takes place at the Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center, with his newest comic, Swamp Mythos,—and copies of the Seahawks poster.