3 Restaurant Businesses Paving Seattle’s Locavore Movement

Tuna Nicoise 2.jpg

Living la vida locavore in Seattle is proving lucrative. Far from a fringe trend, more and more mainstream consumers, producers and restaurants desire local edibles produced within a 100-200 mile radius.

According to a 2015 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) report, 7.8 percent of U.S. farms market locally.

Studies from both the USDA and the Food Marketing Institute’s (FMI) U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2015 analysis show a number of factors driving consumer locavore interest, including a desire for healthier foods grown with less pesticides and more nutrients, products made with fewer additives and no GMOs, as well as a growing concern for animal welfare.

ERS studies also show that locally farmed foods cost less over time. Shoppers purchase fewer processed, preservatives-bloated provisions, opting instead for regional, seasonal fare as needed, when available. Meal planning contributes to cutting down on costs, too.

Here, three top industry leaders in the Seattle area reveal the benefits of a locavore business:

Foraging fare | Credit: The Willows Inn on Lummi Island

Foraging fare | Credit: The Willows Inn on Lummi Island

The Willows Inn on Lummi Island | Lummi Island, WA

Award-winning chef, kitchen wunderkind and extreme locavore Blaine Wetzel likes to play with his food. 

Much press swirls around the odyssey of this local-boy-made-good who strutted his stuff upon the international culinary stage before returning to revive The Willows Inn on Lummi Island. Here, this food artist tells stories through his $175-a-plate, 18-course tasting menus with cruel yet sublime precision. 

Lauded as James Beard Foundation’s 2014 “Best Rising Star Chef of the Year,” 2015 “Best Chef Northwest,” and former chef-de-partie for legendary René Redzepi at Noma. Chef Blaine and his culinary acolytes orchestrate one of the most exclusive, elusive, elaborate dining experiences around, with one recurring motif: “Only here, only now.” 

Foraging from the sea and land around the island, each prix-fixe seasonal menu offers a different narrative told with quiet elegance and graceful execution. Fruits of the sea from the island’s beaches, shoals, and fishing fleet yield seaweed, salmon, oysters, even geoduck. The Inn’s organic garden groans with a cornucopia of growables. Cliffs, fields and forests reveal mushrooms, berries, succulents, fiddle head ferns, herbs, lichen and edible florals. Each has a voice in The Willows Inn tale of terrain.

The limited seating dinners may last up to three hours. Due to the length of the meal, the restaurant suggests — and offers — child care arrangements for children under 12 years of age. Dinner guests must also coordinate with the island’s limited ferry schedule. Such quirks only add to the allure of The Willows Inn on Lummi Island as a destination site; New York Times voted it one of ‘10 Restaurants Worth a Plane Ride’ in 2011.

The restaurant closes down in January and February, allowing Chef Blaine and other team members the opportunity to work with fellow chefs worldwide, honing skills, broadening palates, and sparking the imagination. 

Small Locavore Box | Credit: ACME Farm & Kitchen

Small Locavore Box | Credit: ACME Farm & Kitchen

ACME Farm & Kitchen | Bellingham & Seattle

Former architects and current finalists in the “Martha Stewart American Made” contest, Joy Rubey and Cara Piscitello have one mission at ACME Farm & Kitchen: make it simple to shop, cook and eat local. 

ACME Farm & Kitchen (AFK) provides meal planning, ingredient sourcing from outstanding small producers, and home delivery in Whatcom County and the Seattle area. Each carefully curated Locavore Box contains an array of fresh, local, seasonal food paired with recipes, and a meal plan for creating easy-to-assemble family dinners. 

Customers may opt for one-time, weekly, or bi-weekly deliveries; no membership fees apply. Locavore Box selections include: Paleo, Beyond Basics, Basics, Double Protein, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Dairy & Gluten Free, Ready Made, plus add-ons like Salad, Fruit Share, Happy Hour, and Dessert Kits. Each large box is designed to feed a family of three to four members; single consumers may opt to order the small box. 

A weekly newsletter alerts the AFK community of the upcoming week’s proteins, the AFK blog highlights farmer and vendor profiles, and Instagram provides a healthy hostof colorful feeds. ACME Farm & Kitchen also proudly partners on fundraising with local schools and PTA groups.

Both owners explain the sweet success of ACME Farm & Kitchen succinctly, “You'll cut out trips to the store, save money on your grocery bill, answer the question of ‘What's for dinner?’ and most importantly, support dozens of farmers, fishers, ranchers and artisan producers throughout our region.” 

Trellis Restaurant | Kirkland, WA

Voted one of the “Top 10 Farm-to-Table Restaurants” by Epicurious in 2013, Trellis Restaurant owes its top billing to executive chef Brian Scheehser.

Chef Brian sources his produce from an 18-acre sustainable farm he hand-tends in Woodinville, explaining, "I got into sustainable farming because I wanted better control over the ingredients I use in cooking. I wanted to be able to handpick my produce to assure I was getting the best vegetables and fruits for my dishes. I've gotten very comfortable out there, and I love getting my hands into the soil. It's exciting to try new techniques and plant different types of seeds. It also works out better in the cost department."

Trellis Restaurant’s ever-changing menus reflect a kaleidoscope of seasonal flavors, subject to availability, paired with local artisan fish, fowl and meat purveyors and wines.

In the end though, the locavore movement may be less about food and cutting costs, and more about community.

Josh Slotnick, co-founder of Missoula, Montana's Garden City Harvest and the PEAS Farm, contends that the 100-mile diet empowers local producers, workers, consumers and the communities they share. 

Slotnick argues in the September 3, 2015 issue of Monterey County Weekly, “Food is a medium for creating culture. It’s a medium for people falling in love with their places. And when people love where they live, all kinds of great behavior follows, little of which is economically rational. It’s a red herring to say, ‘Because the industrial food system is so efficient and its carbon footprint is so small, it’s a good thing.’ Agribusiness isn’t about making food and places better. It will make us better consumers, not better people or better citizens.”