The Cottage on the Importance of Meeting the Producer

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by Stacy Lynn Gilbert

There has been a recent trend amongst the culinary world known as eating farm to table. It’s a term that gets thrown around a lot within the Pacific Northwest food conscious culture, but there is some confusion about what it actually means. Some would say it means knowing where our food comes from, or buying our food straight from a local producer. Claire Fankhauser, the general manager of The Cottage, in Bothell, talks about the realities of being a bistro that commits to being farm to table and what that means for their menu. 

For Fankhauser, it all starts with the connection that is fostered between the producer and buyer. She tells the story of where The Cottage sources their coffee, and how this set the foundation for the quality of everything they bring to their kitchen.

The owners of The Cottage are Matthew and Valerie Quest, and it all began when their au pair, Juliana Magrinelli, received coffee from her family-run farm in South Central Brazil. They instantly fell in love with the coffee and wanted to export it to the U.S. Fankhauser explains, “Juliana said that Brazil makes it really hard to export their coffee because of the heavy regulations on the industry. 

“Valerie and Matt don’t take no for an answer, so they hired an international trade lawyer and had the Brazilian import and export laws translated. It was a nine-month process, but now single-origin, heirloom green coffee beans come straight from the Magrinelli’s farm to Bothell. “It’s all full circle, and because of that we are able to pay the Magrinelli’s more than commodity market pricing on the front end, and we also profit share with them and their employees on the back end. Our coffee is a little more expensive, but there really is a good heart behind it,” she says.

The way in which The Cottage works with the Magrinelli’s farm set a personal standard for how they work with other vendors and producers. “For us, it’s about community and collaboration, and finding the people that are doing really cool things with food within our community, and being able to highlight them in our little venue,” describes Fankhauser. 

Being farm to table is challenging seasonally, because not all produce is locally available year-round, but they take it in stride. “In the summer, easy, fall, easy, but in winter and spring, we tend to collaborate with the community to create our recipes. My parents have an organic garden in Edmonds, and they had a giant explosion of zucchini two weeks ago, so now zucchini is all the rage on our menu,” Fankhauser laughs. 

It’s a balancing act between keeping things fresh and seasonal, but also having a few stable favorites on the menu year-round. “My mom’s favorite is the pesto chicken sandwich. She will be furious if it ever goes away. Luckily. the ingredients that go on there don’t really need to be seasonal. We try to freeze enough pesto to use for later when basil is in short supply,” she says. 

To encourage people to eat farm to table, Fankhauser suggests these tips, “Utilize your local farmers market, and don’t be afraid to cook. If you are at a restaurant and you love something, ask them for the recipe, because nine times out of 10, they are going to be more than happy to write it down and talk you through it. Even if you don’t have a ton of money or resources to put into the way you eat, there are small things that you can do to make it special. Use fresh herbs. Buy a good olive oil. Show love to the ingredients, and they will show love back to your body. Be thoughtful about what you are buying and think of the people behind the product.” 

For more information, visit TheCottageBothell.com and QuestCoffeeCompany.com.

 

Recipes from The Cottage 

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Gluten-Free Espresso Chocolate Torte

Yield: 1

12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

6 oz unsalted butter

6 eggs

½ cup sugar

Kosher salt

2 Tbsp coffee grounds (turkish grind)

Powdered sugar (optional)

Whipped cream (optional)

Set up a bain-marie, and add the chocolate chips and cubed unsalted butter. Once melted and incorporated, add the coffee grounds and salt (to taste).

In a mixer, beat eggs and sugar for about 10 minutes until thick and airy. Fold in chocolate espresso mixture until batter is a brown and uniform color. Pour into buttered or sprayed cake pan (removable bottom preferred). Cook at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.

Let set in fridge for at least 2 hours before enjoying. Garnish with powdered sugar and/or whipped cream prior to serving.

 

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Bruschetta

Yield: 4 cups

4 cups finely diced tomato

½ cup finely diced red onion

1 Tbsp minced garlic

¼ cup chiffonade basil

½ cup capers

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup white balsamic vinegar

2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

Add all ingredients into a bowl, mix and let marinate in refrigerator for a couple of hours. Remove and strain out liquid.

Serve with choice of crunchy starch (cracker, crostini, toast) and just a smear of goat cheese.

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Vegan Chili

Yield: 4 servings

Note: Use choice of beans and vegetables to personal preference.

2 diced carrots

2 diced celery stalks

1 diced medium yellow onion

4 cloves garlic

1 diced zucchini

1 ear of corn (roasted and off the cob)

1 diced red pepper

1 diced tomato

1 diced yellow squash

1 can black beans (or other bean)

1 can chickpeas

1 Tbsp cumin

Vegetable stock

Hot sauce

Lime juice

Cilantro

Avocado

Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté diced carrots, diced celery and diced onion in oil until translucent. Add zucchini, corn, red pepper, tomato and yellow squash and let cook for approximately10 minutes.

Add black beans, chickpeas, and vegetable stock until vegetables are covered. Let cook for 1 hour.

Add cumin, then hot sauce, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with avocado and cilantro serve.