Portland isn't so big and once you've anchored yourself in the food community it's hard to buy a loaf of bread without some sort of connection -- oh they're using thatlocal co-op's flour or that's the amazing bread that I used to always wait in line for at the farmers market... Well, the web of connections has been growing to Charlotte's Web proportions lately as I research and write my book which is why I feel ok lumping such a diverse group of people and businesses together in this post.
A couple weeks ago I met with Piper Davis one of the owners of Grand Central Baking. We talked about the history of her family's business, which began in Seattle, while sharing a buttery strawberry raspberry danish. After getting all the details of GC's timeline and current operations I took a tour of the Fremont bakery and snapped some photos...
Last week I got to meet one of Piper's back-in-the-day employees -- Julie Richardson, now owner of Hillsdale's Baker & Spice Bakery. Julie and Piper are close friends and in many ways they've mirrored each other the past couple years, mostly in terms of writerly pursuits. More on that later, but let's just say that there are a lot of buns in the oven in terms of Portland food books by Portland food folks soon to be published.
Julie told me about how she started her first bakery in Ketchum, Idaho at the wee age of 23. After moving to Portland in the late 90s she managed to build up a successful farmers market bakery business. She opened the brick and mortar Baker & Spice Bakery four years ago.
I also recently visited with David Briggs of Xocolatl de David. He's been crafting chocolates for more than three years in Portland and his current commercial kitchen is in the back of his friend's hopping Southeast Portland sandwich shop Meat Cheese Bread. When I visited with David there I got to try his caramelized cacao bean honey brittle, all of the base chocolates, one of his tasty fleur de sel chocolate caramels and a soon to hit the shelf chocolate bar. I met with David in the morning and with one of his friends -- Steve Jones of Steve's Cheese -- in the afternoon. David and Steve worked together at Park Kitchen for six months while David was sous chef and Steve was a server. Now David makes regular deliveries of his chocolates to Steve's shop.
That afternoon Steve and I sat in the back room of Steve's Cheese and tried some tasty Zingerman's poundcake samples while talking cheese. In addition to nearly 200 cheeses in the case at any given time Steve's Cheese also stocks cured meats and all sorts of non-perishable treats such as arbequina olive oil, harissa, sardines and pickled peppers. Oh and he'll let you borrow his Raclette machine as long as you buy at least a quarter wheel of the semi-firm, nicely meltable cheese.
Anyway the friendship of two premier Portland female bakers and a local cheese vendor and chocolatier has proved yet again that everything (in Portland) is connected, which makes my work all the more enjoyable.