I remember baking at L.A.’s “it” bakery in 2000 and being
sent on an errand to “forage” the very best berries I could
get my hands on. I took a wad of cash the chef gave me
and headed out on my mission. We needed high quality,
fresh berries for creating our seductive summer treats—fresh
fruit tarts, fresh fruit scones, fruit bowls, and cakes. I went
to the farmers market. It had everything—prepared foods
from around the world, regional produce, imported salts, and
sweets to die for. I spotted the berry stand amid the other
enticing selections, and the berries were huge, vibrant-looking,
and exactly what I was hoping for. I bought out that little
stand and made my way back to the bakery. I presented my
finds to the kitchen staff and we indulged in a taste test only
to find dehydrated, tasteless berries. How could something so
pretty taste so bad?
Fast-forward five years and I am now working in a kitchen
of my own in Bellingham, Washington (total dream come
true), when I discover this secret obsession called “berry
season” that Pacific Northwesterners enjoy. From mid-May
through September, one variety of berry after another pops
and Whatcom County residents track all of it. Every year, I
begin planning complete menus around these beauties, both
savory and sweet.
One day, I received a message from an acquaintance who
asked about my catering. She is with the National Raspberry
Council and they had a national berry tour coming to town.
The attendees included A-list famous bloggers, foodies,
marketers, activists, and journalists from the Food Network.
She thought my catering would be a good fit for their event.
Thrilled by the notion, my berry mania ensued.
The date is set, the planning begins, the story unfolds
Because I was revising my business model and returning to
catering (rather than retail and restaurant), I had no location
of my own to host this dinner. I rented the next best thing: a
historic abandoned building in downtown Bellingham. The
former brothel had some electricity and some drywalll, but
overall the space was raw—one wall had peeling wallpaper
in the perfect shades of pastel green and taupe, one wall had
exposed brick. We opted for a funky post-modern chandelier,
which we dropped in the center of the room above the
long, handmade farm table. The space was magnified by the
summer sun which was high and hot, the door open, smoke
from the dive bar next door blowing in. Touches of patina
vintage silver and brass, borrowed mismatched chairs, old
picture frames on a vintage dresser with brass lamps and
candles. Three servers and a chef, all dressed in lace, black,
and off-white, all wearing long French bistro aprons took
their places. We began.
The guests arrived hungry and intrigued with the decor.
They were the best type of client in my opinion—guests
who have suspended their disbelief at the door, and have
fully relinquished their expectations with the hope of having
a new experience. They were kind, and put us at ease. My
staff and I worked hard at creating a dining experience
that was elevated, fulfilling, and deeply satisfying for all.
It was a charming night filled with warmth, appreciation,
encouragement, and genuine laughter and regard for each
person in the room. With berries at center stage, we created
an evening none of us will soon forget.
Prosecco with raspberry Rosé
Raspberry- Rosemary lemonade
Infused Raspberry Mint Iced Water
Assortment of fresh, local grilled vegetables
Locally harvested field greens with edible flowers,
raspberry, shaved carrot, roasted beet in a berry
balsamic, forage blanc, roasted hazelnuts, and
Grilled King Salmon with rhubarb-raspberry chutney,
quinoa cakes, herbed risotto and grilled plums
lavender-raspberry chocolate mousse with a goat
Pour-over coffee bar ft. Vista Hermosa, Guatemala