All summer and fall, I have been a “CC” line on a group email delivered to kitchen staff members at the Hotel Murano’s Bite Restaurant.
The emails from Executive Chef Matt Stickle almost always have the same subject line “Farmers Market Special.”
For months, Stickle has spent Thursdays sourcing ingredients at the Tacoma Broadway Farmers Market, which will operate its final Thursday market of the season tomorrow, Oct. 28, from 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. at Ninth and Broadway.
When Stickle shopped, he wandered the stalls, talked to farmers and then returned to the Bite kitchen to craft really interesting specials that ranged from pheasant marinated in porter to ancho marinated skirt steak, cedar-wrapped duck breast and wild salmon with blackberry compound butter (with a paired blackberry martini). The highlight of my Thursday was clicking on Stickle’s emails to see what he was cooking. Now, you get a look, too. Click “more” to see a gallery of photos and descriptions of his farmers market specials from July to October. Also, read a Q&A with Stickle about incorporating seasonal, locally produced ingredients into the Bite’s menu.
The special: Black Butte Porter Marinated Pheasant
The market: Thursday, Oct. 22
The dish: Pheasant with apple mushroom sauce, roasted acorn squash and sautéed fingerling potatoes
The price: $23
The farm: Zestful Gardens, Puyallup
The special: Pistachio Crusted Pork Tenderloin
The market: Thursday, Oct. 7
The dish: Pistachio-crusted tenderloin with cranberry demi, honeycrisp apple and Asian pear fennel slaw and bacon wrapped squash
The price: $21
The farms: Apples from Collins Family Orchard, pears from Martin Family Orchard, squash from Batista Farms
The special: Cioppino
From the market: Thursday, Sept. 30
The description: A cioppino seafood stew made with halibut, Little Skookum manila clams, Penn Cove Mussels, wild salmon, scallops, red potatoes and onions, and tomatoes.
The price: $26
Local farms: Zestful Gardens (potatoes, Puyallup) and Westover Farms (tomatoes, Maple Valley)
The special: Ancho Marinated Skirt Steak
From the market: Thursday, Sept. 23
The description: Marinated skirt steak served with peppers and tomato salsa and purple potatoes
The price: $25
Local farms: Zestful Gardens (purple potatoes, Puyallup), Batista Farms (peppers, Yakima).
The special: Blackberries, Blackberries, Blackberries
From the market: Thursday, Sept. 9
The dishes: Blackberry compound butter on grilled wild salmon with fingerling potatoes, fresh corn and thyme. Also, a blackberry martini (virgin available also) and a warm blackberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream.
The price: $34
The farms: Blackberries from Sidhu Farms in Puyallup
The special: Farmers Market Stir Fry
From the market: Thursday, Sept. 2
The dish: A stir fry with shrimp, scallops and mixed vegetables.
The price: $18
The farms: Vegetables from Magana Farms in Yakima Valley.
The special: Northwest Seafood Pot
From the market: Thursday, Aug. 26
The dish: A combination pot of Dungeness crab, petite lobster tail, Manilla clams, Penn Cove mussels, organic corn, red potatoes and sea beans.
The price: $27
The special: Stuffed Dungeness Crab
From the market: Thursday, Aug. 19
The dish: Fresh Dungeness stuffed with plums, apricots and nectarines.
The price: $27
The farms: Stone fruit from the Collins Family Orchards in Selah.
The special: Duck Duck Goose
From the market: Thursday, July 8
The dish: Cedar wrapped duck breast, braised duck leg and thigh, Foie Gras with Stoney plains organic salad mix and Collins Family Orchards cherry vinaigrette.
The price: $21
The farms: Salad mix from Stoney Plains and cherries from Collins Family Orchards.
The special: Strawberry Honey Glazed Washington Draper Farms Chicken
From the market: Thursday, July 1
The dish: Stuffed with fresh herb goat cheese and dandelion greens, on a bed of baby bok choy, carrots, fingerling potatoes, Puyallup valley strawberries and bee pollen
The price: $24
The farms: Puyallup Valley strawberries and Draper Farms.
Q&A WITH EXECUTIVE CHEF MATT STICKLE (via email)
TNT Diner: How do you draw inspiration for what you cook from the market?
Stickle: I talk to the farmers every week and they are great cooks, as well, and they’ll tell me what they made the night before for themselves and how wonderful it was. I love when you buy from someone that has that much passion and care for what they grow. They’ll tell me what will be coming in the next week or two so I try to come up with something for that week. It’s also great to interact with other shoppers because they see us in our chef coats and want to know what we are making and what would be good with some of the vegetables that are new to them.
TNT Diner: Did you do the shopping yourself? If so, what would you look for at the market stalls? What drew your eye?
Stickle: I go down to the market every Thursday! I try to take a different cook down and have them choose items that they would like to cook. It gives them inspiration also. Most of the vendors have samples of the items they have and you’d be amazed how much better the food tastes when it’s picked that morning rather than sitting in the store and on a truck for up to a week before you even see it when you go to the grocery store. Most produce in the stores has a wax coating or is stored in warehouses, like apples, for months.
TNT Diner: What are your best tips for shopping at farmers markets? What should shoppers look for in farm fresh food?
Stickle: A lot of the vendors have similar items such as potatoes, squash, greens, fruit, so each week try a different stand and talk to each farmer. Most everything is organic so don’t be alarmed when you see holes in the greens and imperfections in the produce, that means they didn’t use pesticides which is good for everybody especially seniors and children! The farmers also will tell you how to grow your own vegetable garden at home and what soil is best or what should grow next to each other.
TNT Diner: Was there any particular flavor or mood you’re trying to achieve with your market specials?
Stickle: Something different every week. One week seafood, the next small game, the next something rare like rabbit, pheasant, boar, elk. This week we are doing pheasant that has been marinated in a Porter beer and last week we did rabbit with fresh chanterelles and lobster mushrooms.
TNT Diner: Do you feature any local farms on your regular menu?
Stickle: Yes, we get a lot of our berries from the Puyallup area throughout the summer from Sidhu farms. Greens from up north and other items from Eastern Washington. Charlie’s produce tries to get as much locally. We do a lot of banquets in the 500 people range also, so we order cases and cases everyday, so some is in bulk from Idaho or California.
Where: 1320 Broadway Plaza, Tacoma
Info: 253-238-8000 or www.hotelmuranotacoma.com