Restaurant News: Edmonds CC’s culinary roots run deep

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    Chef Maria Hines
    Chef Maria Hines

    Chef Maria Hines owns Tilth, the Golden Beetle Restaurant and Bar, and Agrodolce. Chef Hines is dedicated to organic, locally sourced food and ingredients, served in her kitchens. All three restaurants are certified organic through Oregon Tilth, one of the toughest and best certifiers in the country.

    Maria Hines’ list of accomplishments and awards is awesome and speaks to her commitment:

    2008- Became a board member of PCC Farmland Trust
    2009- Won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest and Founding member of Seattle Restaurant Week.
    2010- Competition in “Top Chef Masters” and on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” gave her celebrity status.
    2012- Attended the James Beard Chef’s Boot Camp for Policy and Change, and was inducted into the first American Chef Corps by the U.S. Department of State.
    2013- Semifinalist a James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef.

    ECC Foundation Auction
    Scenes from the Edmonds CC Foundation auction.

    On March 5, Maria Hines’ fame and accolades were put to use as Celebrity Chef at this year’s Edmonds Community College Foundation Gala event, Havana Nights.

    Chef Hines made time in her busy schedule to speak with me, on her passionate support of local, organic cuisine and her involvement in food sustainability.

    KP: What do you feel has the biggest impact on these issues?
    MH: Purchasing power! I own three restaurants and buy ingredients from local organic farmers. I don’t just speak the words, I practice the principles.

    KP: Chef Maria, your participation and guidance for culinary students at the Edmonds Community College Foundation Gala dinner is a great example of your involvement in local community. What was your main objective?
    MH: To help raise money for ECC’s culinary program.

    KP: Tell me your impression of the program and the culinary students at ECC.
    CH: As well-seasoned workers in the food service industry, students from culinary programs like the one at ECC, are seen as desirable hires. Right now I have an ECC culinary student working at one of my restaurants.

    KP: When and where did you start your love affair with food?
    MH: My Mom and I were always together, in the kitchen, cooking at home, just typical American food. At age 16, my first experience in restaurant work was in San Diego, California. At a little restaurant called Carlos Murphy’s. I was hooked, never wanted to do anything else.
    I’ve been at work, in culinary kitchens, ever since.

    KP: Over the last 24 years you’ve cooked in California, in France, a short stint in Seattle, then onto Washington D.C. and New York before returning back to the Northwest to open restaurants of your own. When you are off duty, what do you whip up in your own kitchen?
    MH: Not so much cooking at home. I tend to eat my meals with staff at the restaurant. At home I eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies.

    KP: On your Facebook page, I saw a recent post of “Family meal.” Tell me about favorite staff meals.
    MH: Comfort foods like pizza or chicken pot pie are favorites. We preview new menu items too.

    KP: Chef Maria, your restaurants are all closed on Christmas Day, the Fourth of July and New Year’s Day?
    MH: Yes, and the day after Labor Day; which is a staff party. They let down their hair and we celebrate the year’s labor in the kitchens of the restaurants.

    Chef Maria’s advice to our readers: “Eat consciously; know where your food comes from. Eating has more impact than just nourishing your body.”

    The cafe is located at Brier Hall.
    The cafe is located at Brier Hall. (All cafe photos by Karen Heines)

    What’s happening in our restaurant community?
    Pretend you’re on vacation, in Europe, and treat yourself to an exceptional meal, without leaving your ZIP code. Edmonds CC’s College Cafe is located in Brier Building, close to the bus circle. Parking is super congested on campus this quarter, so I highly recommend that you try out a continental mode of transportation, our Community Transit buses. Arrive relaxed and stress free. Stroll to the Cafe and enjoy a premium meal. Remember, you are on vacation.

    Chocolate Cream Brule-Tuille white chocolate almonds.
    Chocolate Cream Brule-Tuille white chocolate almonds.

    To paraphrase a quote from Ernestine Ulmer, Life is short- I’ll review the desserts first.

    Imagine the best chocolate pudding you’ve ever had in your life. Now imagine that silky cocoa custard trapped beneath a sheet of burnt caramel. A tap of your spoon releases the delicious dessert. Savor every spoonful. Chocolate Crème Brulee was one of two dessert items at the Edmonds Cafe on College.

    Sabayon cake with orange simple sauce-whipped cream-strawberries
    Sabayon cake with orange simple sauce-whipped cream-strawberries

    Dessert number two- Sabayon, orange-flavored simple syrup (called zabaglione in Italy) was served over white cake. Sliced strawberries looked like butterflies atop mounds of whipped cream that finished the luscious dessert.

    Real life happened. Challenges were presented to staff, on the first day the College Cafe was open this quarter. Maître de Patrick Chen greeted us with the news of a slight delay and apologized for any inconvenience it would cause diners who’d arrived for lunch.

    Cafe Host Patrick Chen
    Cafe Host Patrick Chen

    Patrick is proof that ECC Culinary program works. He is in his last quarter at ECC and already works as a chef at Cheesemonger’s Table, a local Edmonds eatery.

    The late delivery of provisions, a glitch in the computerized order system, didn’t impact the level of service or the quality of each plate presented at our table. ECC Culinary Instructor Traci Edlin welcomed us and thanked us for our patience on the Cafe’s first day of the quarter. She moved between tables, observed students’ interaction with patrons and made a few quiet suggestions to servers on placement of cutlery and plates at tables. The atmosphere is that of a “white tablecloth” establishment. Students learn, but in a quiet, calm setting that creates a pleasant experience for patrons.

    Instructor Traci Edlin.
    Instructor Traci Edlin.

    Questions from a food writer can be a bit more intense than questions from casual diners, but rather than finesse, our server would defer to kitchen staff for answers beyond her scope. She returned to the table with a complete answer to my query, the sign of a well-seasoned server.

    Duck Ragu with Taglaitelle.
    Duck Ragu with Taglaitelle

    Duck Ragu with house-made Taglaitelle pasta– The above- mentioned EdCC Gala had duck on the menu. The resourceful staff froze the extra duck and fortunate diners could opt for Duck Ragu on today’s menu. The secret to the perfect sauce is duck fat. Puréeing the sauce emulsifies the fat, which, along with the moist duck meat, is served over handmade Taglaitelle pasta. The oversized flat noodles were tender and a perfect partner to the rich entrée.

    Steak with mashed potatoes.
    Steak with mashed potatoes

    Grilled Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Braised Red Cabbage, Demiglace-The steak tender and full of flavor, I assumed it to be top cut of beef. A pleasant surprise to learn that Shoulder or Chuck topped the mound of Yukon Gold mashed potatoes. Red cabbage and apples were braised with red wine, and spiced with cinnamon. Sweet and tangy, reminiscent of my grandma’s sauerbraten, the colors of cabbage, gold potatoes and pink of the rare steak were accented by greens: a picture-perfect presentation.

    Seared sockeye
    Seared sockeye

    Seared Sockeye Salmon Herbed Rice Pilaf, Garlic Chili Kale, Lemon Beurre Blanc – Salmon was served with a round of rice into which fresh tarragon and parsley were blended. Each bite of braised kale contained little chili pepper flakes, a spicy complement to pan-seared salmon.

    Edmonds CC Cafe server with risotto.
    Edmonds CC Cafe server with risotto.

    Springtime in a bowl best describes the Risotto Primavera Mushrooms, Asparagus, Snow Peas, Carrots, Zucchini, Parmesan and Goat Cheese. Creamy rice risotto, asparagus and other vegetables were topped with the blossoms of arugula and borage, a very pretty picture to complete the lovely spring setting in my bowl.
    French Onion Soup with perfect broth, not too strong or salty, topped with a perfect portion of cheese on an oval slice of French baguette was one of two starters.
    Salad Dressed with Tahini Vinaigrette was a tasty starter that paired well with the salmon dish. Fresh greens, cucumber, garbanzo beans and a lovely little garnish of fine shredded carrots made it a pretty picture and delicious to eat.

    Ken Fogarty, one of the Chef Instructors at EdCC, checked with each table to review the diners’ experiences. I was amazed to hear that students had prepared several of the dishes for the very first time today. Want to enjoy the cuisine, but do not have the leisure to dine in the cafe? Ken mentioned that on most occasions, a “to-go” order would be possible. Future plans in the culinary program include the creation of a standard menu of items for take home.

    Never one to let an opportunity pass me by, I shopped at the bakery case on the way out. Exceptional values and additional items not on the dessert menu are prepared by EdCC Bakery students and displayed in glass case. Fig Newtons, ala EdCC Bakery, are shortbread cookies with a center stripe of fig, and a loaf of French bread went home as treats for family.

    Look at these scrumptious photos of food prepared by the ECC students. Hop on a Community Transit bus 112 or the 116, and get over to the cafe at Edmonds Community College for lunch. The cafe is open for business on the EdCC main campus in Brier Hall 105. Don’t postpone your visit because the end of the spring quarter is June 8 and the Café will close until fall quarter in late September

    Hours are 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Thursday (most weeks) Note -last seating is at 1 p.m. The full-service restaurant offers new entrees each week, prepared by Culinary Arts students. Keep up to date with the cafe on their Facebook page. Phone: 425-640-1405 for reservations.

    — By Kathy Passage

    Kathy Passage Hi ResA specialty gourmet food broker for over 30 years, Kathy Passage has in-depth knowledge on food and the special qualities of ingredients used in the exquisite products she helped bring to market. Kathy brings this unique perspective from the “other side of the plate” to writing about food and restaurants.

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