Joy and I took another foodie field trip on Sunday – this time to beautiful Vashon Island for some wine, cheese, and charcuterie.
Vashon is just a quick 15 minute ferry ride from where we live in West Seattle, but it feels like a world away. The island is the size of Manhattan, but with less than 15,000 residents, it’s a quiet, rural oasis only accesible by ferry or private boat. It’s really beautiful – with rolling hills, bucolic farms, quiet beaches, and a wonderful, laid-back, artsy, hippy vibe I just love.
Our first stop – breakfast at The Hardware Store. This popular island restaurant is located in Vashon’s oldest commercial building – the Vashon Hardware Store, which originally opened in 1890. Now on the National Historic Registry, the building has been converted into a warm and cozy restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.
We started out with a couple of Bloody Marys which were nice and spicy with lots of pickled goodies. Cheers! Next, we split an entree: a Joe’s Special with crispy breakfast potatoes and a big, fluffy biscuit. Yummy.
Just as we finished our meal, our server offered us a house-made donut… an eggy, airy creation covered with a sticky sweet glaze. I actually think it was a deep fried profiterole. Nothing wrong with that! It was just what we needed before heading off to meet Kurt Timmermiester at Kurtwood Farms.
Over the course of several years, former Seattle retaurant owner, Kurt Timmermiester, has transformed a historic Vashon Island homestead into a real working farm and transformed himself into a farmer and artisan cheese maker. He’s even written a book about it. Growing a Farmer: How I Learned to Live Off the Land was published by Norton last year. (Congratulations, Kurt!)
The property is complete with fruit trees, beehives, vegetables, berries, a dog named Daisy, a few hogs and, most importantly, beautiful Jersey cows.
But first, a little bit more about the house. Kurt’s home was built in 1883 and is believed to be the last remaining log-style building from Vashon’s pioneer period. It has been designated a King County Historic Landmark and it really gives the farm a special feeling.
Daisy led us into the kitchen.
As Joy and I were admiring the log house, Kurt’s dog, Daisy, came up to say hello, and led us over to the adjacent kitchen building where Kurt was busy making cheese.
Kurt hand-crafts two cheeses from his Jersey cows’ milk – Dinah’s Cheese which is a bloomy rind cheese made in the Camembert-style, and Flora’s Cheese, a curdy, salty cheese similar to feta.
In the Seattle area, you can find Kurtwood Farms Cheese at Metropolitan Market, Whole Foods, PCC, Picnic, Calf & Kid, Delaurentis, The Cheese Cellar, and a few other specialty stores. Kurt also ships to select retailers in New York, Portland, and San Francisco.
(Kurt does not sell cheese at the farm and visits are by appointment only, but you can learn more about Kurt, the farm, the book and the cheese on his website.)
Next, it was time to meet the Jersey cows. Eight mama cows live on the farm. There are two new babies and, according to Kurt, a few more calves on the way.
These two girls were so adorable! Joy and I could have stayed in the barn with them all day. We finally managed to say goodbye to the cutest calves ever and headed out back to see the big girls.
From what we could tell, it’s a pretty good life at Kurtwood Farms. And everybody knows that happy cows make the best cheese.
Okay, just a few more pictures from the farm… these critters were all so cute!
The next stop was Sea Breeze Farm’s La Boucherie – a farm-to-table restaurant where the motto is: We farm it, raise it, harvest it, clean it, process it, cook it and serve it.
All of the meat, eggs, and dairy products used at La Boucherie come from Sea Breeze Farm. Produce is sourced on the island, and if something is not available, the owners hop over to the Ballard Farmers Market to get what they need. Sea Breeze Farm makes their own wine and the bread they serve comes from Vashon’s own Bill Freeze (a.k.a Bill the Baker).
Just about everything in our meal, except perhaps the salt and pepper, was locally sourced. Amazing. And wonderful! We felt like we were eating lunch at a small cafe in rural France.
Our lunch: Spiced Winter Squash (pink banana squash) Soup followed by the Charcuterie Plate. Delicious food made from scratch, with love. It just tastes better.
Our final stop on the island was Palouse Winery – conveniently located less than 1/2 mile from the ferry dock. At Palouse Winery, grapes are sourced from Washington’s premiere wine grape growing regions, but the entire wine making process is done on site, from the crush to the bottling and sale.
We each paid the $10 tasting fee and enjoyed 7 selections poured for us by the winery’s owner, Linda. Our favorite was the “Aah Syrah” and yes, we came home with a bottle.
Then it was time to head back to the ferry.
On the way home we were surrounded by cars topped with fresh-cut Christmas trees from Vashon’s u-cut tree farms. If you live in Seattle and have never done it, taking the ferry to Vashon in search of the perfect Christmas tree is a fun way to spend the afternoon. There are so many more things to do on Vashon… we’ll need to make another trip over to the island soon. 🙂