December 2005 — Although Chef Roy Breiman was trained at a prestigious culinary school in California and honed his skills at well-known American restaurants, it wasn’t until he got to Europe that he began to understand the relationship between the kitchen and the farm. “My exposure in Europe opened my eyes to the importance of purveyors and the intricacies of how much farmers play a part in the product on the table,” he says. “Then I began to understand that the quality of the food was the quality of the procurement of the products.”
For the last year, the 43-year-old Breiman has been executive chef at Salish Lodge & Spa, a small resort and high-end restaurant overlooking Snoqualmie Falls, about 30 miles from Seattle.
Wenatchee pears, Snoqualmie River Valley greens and Cascade mountain-picked wild huckleberries are among the bounty of items grown nearby
The Salish Lodge is a romantic getaway destination, and draws about 60 percent of its guests from the surrounding communities. Many of the Microsoft-made new millionaires have built new homes out on the nearby Sammamish Plateau and Snoqualmie Ridge, and are enthusiastic regulars at the restaurant. But Snoqualmie Falls is one of the most visited tourist sites in Washington State , and many international visitors combine a stay at the Salish Lodge with a visit to the falls.
Before Breiman came to Salish Lodge, he was executive chef for five years at Winnetu Inn and Resort on Martha’s Vineyard, and before that, he was executive chef at Portland’s Avalon Restaurant and the Napa Valley ’s Meadowood resort, which is the scene of the annual Napa Valley Wine Auction. He was trained at the now-defunct Le Cordon Rouge culinary school in Sausalito, California, and in Europe, worked at several famed French restaurants, among which were several properties with coveted Michelin star designations, Le Chateau Eza, in Eze Village, and Chantecler at Nice’s Hotel Negresco.
In France he found a “historical quality about food, traditions passed down, respect for the food and relationships with purveyors.” And now that he’s one of the big toques among American chefs, he’s working hard to help develop a comparable tradition in this country. “We’re young at it, but I think we are diligent and have a good core of people who understand this relationship,” he says.
Breiman’s absolutely committed to using local purveyors, and his menu has many distinctive Pacific Northwest foods, including a plate of artisan cheeses accompanied by Washington-grown cranberries, and Cascade mountain-picked wild huckleberries. On the breakfast menu, he offers a frittata made with wild mushrooms foraged in the forests near the lodge. He features Wenatchee pears, a blackberry braised Canadian goose with locally-grown candied turnips, wild mushrooms and a fruit compote made from Washington fruits that he dries in the kitchen. He shares a recipe for braised ribs with fruit compote with SeasonalChef readers (see below).
He uses organic produce as much as he can. Currently, about half of the produce on the menu comes from organic farms. Some of his favorite suppliers are in the Tolt, Skykomish and Snohomish River valleys, just downstream from the Salish Lodge. He gets many of his berries from Blue Dog Farms in nearby Carnation. Many salad ingredients come from Willie Green’s organic Farm in Monroe. And one of his major produce purveyors is Full Circle Farm, a 140-acre certified organic farm along the same Snoqualmie River that flows from Snoqualmie Falls.
Breiman uses a lot of Washington State shellfish, especially the rare and tiny Olympia oysters, and the larger Kumamoto variety. They’re supplied by Taylor Shellfish Farms in Shelton , Wash. , which has been raising oysters, mussels, and clams for more than 100 years. He imports many cheese from France , but he also buys from Estrella Family Creamery in Montesano, Wash. He particularly likes Estrella’s Valentino cheese, made from the milk of just one cow who happens to be named Valentino.
He also has a troop of what he calls “mushroom mercenaries” who forage the Cascade mountains, which run the length of the state, and bring him chanterelles, porcinis and hen of the woods mushrooms. They also bring in foraged crabapples and wild berries of all kinds.
The wine list at Salish Lodge includes all the great names of France and Italy , but more than 50 Washington State wineries are listed, as are a significant number of Oregon wineries.
Dried Fruits Enliven Winter Menu
Although western Washington is in the relatively mild USDA Zone 8, winter days are short, and the abundant rain cuts down severely on Breiman’s produce options from December through March. He simply adjusts his menu to what’s available and refuses to import out-of season produce from South America. He will bring in northern California produce, but that’s as far afield as he’s willing to go.
In the wintertime, “we go into a different style of cooking, using a lot more braises,” he says. Many dried fruits he’s done in the Salish kitchen go into various dishes, including cranberries, apricots, Bing and Rainier cherries, and figs. His recipe for braised short ribs with autumn fruit compote makes use of four different fruits from the Pacific Northwest.
In winter, Breiman also brings in hazelnuts from Oregon , and makes abundant use of root vegetables such as parsnips. Washington State apples and pears take him through the winter. And he gets local greenhouse-grown salad greens and vegetables such as chard.
His menu shifts about three times a year, depending on availability of local ingredients. “Fall is very abundant, and as we go into winter, the choices get narrower and narrower. Then spring comes in with a flourish. And then we change to summer.”
The first big change in the springtime comes around April when he stats to get English peas, and then fava beans. In summertime, he has the fullest range of options with fresh berries, tomatoes and peppers.
Although Salish Inn has a spa, Breiman does not offer the traditionally meager spa cuisine. “We’re not going to claim we are nutritionists here. We are people who subscribe to good quality food,” he says. “We operate a new style of spa food based on the quality in the food.”
He’s a dedicated proponent of the Slow Food movement, and spends a lot of time training Salish’s service staff about what he calls “product knowledge.” He teaches his staff about the farms, the farmers, the produce and other products they provide so that information can be passed on to restaurant guests. “It required a very engaged service staff to pull this off,” says Breiman.
Don’t look for Caspian Sea caviar, sturgeon, Chilean sea bass or farm-raised salmon on Roy Breiman’s menu. Breiman subscribes to the Seafood Watch program of the Monterey Aquarium and won’t use species that are overfished, or farmed to the detriment of the environment. And he won’t use foie gras because of the conditions under which it is produced.
Breiman is frequently seen at farmers market cooking demonstrations and at Slow Food events. They’re part of his strategy to spread the gospel of sustainable agriculture and quality regional ingredients prepared and served in season. All in all, he says that he wants part of his legacy as a chef to be “a contribution to maintaining the integrity of the food resources.”
Oregon Country Beef Short Ribs with Autumn Fruit Compote [top]
5 pounds beef short ribs
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 liter chicken stock
1 liter veal stock
½ liter Burgundy wine
1 onion (peeled and coarsely chopped)
1 carrot (peeled and coarsely chopped)
2 stalks of celery (coarsely chopped)
1 tomato (cored and coarsely chopped)
1 head of garlic (sliced in half)
3 bay leaves
½ bunch thyme
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup dried cherries
¼ cup dried apricots (diced)
¼ cup dried figs (diced)
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups water
3 tablespoons butter
To make short ribs:
1. Season with salt and pepper. Heat braising pan with olive oil and sear all sides of short ribs.
2. Remove from pan discard grease and add carrots, celery, onions, tomato, bay leaf, and thyme. Cook until lightly caramelized.
3. Deglaze with Burgundy wine add veal stock and chicken stock bring to a boil. Add short ribs and bring the liquid up to a slow rolling boil.
4. Cover pan with aluminum foil and place in a 425 degree oven for approximately 3-4 hours or until very tender.
5. Remove short rib and strain liquid. Reduce liquid to sauce consistency. Place short rib back into liquid and set aside keeping warm until final presentation.
To make fruit compote:
1. Boil water, butter, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla together in a medium sized pot. Add dried fruit and continue simmering until fruit is tender. Set aside for final presentation.
Cut short ribs into desired portions. In the center of a large 12-inch serving plate, place a slice of braised short ribs, place fruit compote on top of short ribs and finish by smothering the ribs with the remaining braising liquid. Serve Immediately.