Lopez Island Seed-to-Table
Historic farms and inventive chefs set the table for great island food
A few days on Lopez is a dreamy escape, and every time I go there, I feel transformed.
It seems natural, with historic barns at every turn, and a quiet landscape of sheep pastures and farmland. So much so, that the community got together and created a website and book about Lopez's cherished farmers and food purveyors called "Lopez Bounty." The project featuring the family farmers of Lopez, from Andre Entermann and Elizabeth Metcalf of Sunnyfield Farm, the island's only goat dairy, to Nick and Sara Jones (and their brood) of Jones Family Farm and Sweetwater Shellfish Company, and others. Their stories are full of the hard work, challenges and joys of providing food for their community and beyond.
I thought I'd share a few favorite places to visit, and must-tastes on any farm-to-table tour of Lopez.
A stay on Lopez can be a great combination of eating at great little restaurants, and creating your own picnics, barbecues or oyster feasts. Start by stocking up at the Lopez Island Farmers Market on Saturday mornings in the the late spring through fall. Greens that were picked just an hour ago, wild-leavened, wood-oven-baked breads, and fresh oysters are my favorite Lopez specialties, and there's always something new to try.
Brent Charnley has been growing organic wine on Lopez Island for more than 30 years. His wines pair with the food and climate of Lopez. His Madeline Angevine is a refreshing, dry white that goes great with oysters, and the Siegerrebe has the slightest hint of peachy sweetness, perfect for grilled salmon. To visit, give the winery a call ahead and set up an appointment. The crew may be onsite pruning, picking or packing bottles, but they are always willing to offer a wine tasting and tour of the lovely gardens.
Longtime Lopez Islander Susan Bill's Arbordoun Farm is alive with color. The fields are full of bright tulips, lilies, peonies and other flowers that she offers at her farmstand, with a special place in the garden for the calendula she grows for her luscious Abundantly Herbal Calendula Cream, a soothing lotion she mixes up in small batches in an old barn on the property.
When I visited, apple blossoms were in bloom, red-winged blackbirds were skimming the pond, and a big black-and-white cat was lounging on the stone steps. In other words, just another a regular work day on Lopez. Visit the farm stand to buy flowers, and find her products in local shops such as Blossom Grocery.
Brian and Jeannette Kvistad bought the tiny Blossom Grocery, in the early 1990s, which opened in 1977 as the first natural food store in San Juan County. Since then they have brought the best in natural foods, natural health and beauty aids to Lopez Islands. Last year, they renovated an old hardware store at the entrance to Lopez Village and moved the store. It's fun to wander the aisles perusing the numerous Lopez-made products, pick up picnic fixin's and a kombucha on tap, and chat with the friendly staff.
For dinner, Lopez has limited, but delicious, options. The newest offering is Usa Minor. Chef Nick Coffey (formerly of Seattle restaurants Cafe Barjot and Sitka and Spruce) fell in love with the Lopez way of life, and now he's deep in it. He opened Ursa Minor in the spring of 2017, offering creative plates of all-island grown ingredients, from pasture-raised lamb, pork and beef, to Salish Sea wild salmon, pink singing scallops and spot prawns. Produce is grown on Lopez farms, and Coffey forages wild edibles from the forests and beaches of his tranquil new home.
My favorite place to land is my friend Faith Van de Putte and her partner David Bill's Midnight's Farm. Midnight was their sweet old black lab who is no longer with us. But the farm is always teeming with life, from pigs, ducks, chickens, dogs and cats, to the human sort, all busy making the farm buzz.
Resident bakers, Sage Dilts and Nathan Hodges, bake their Barn Owl Bakery wild-leavened breads and other goodies in the coolest bakehouse you'll ever see, built by friends in the community, of course. Their farm stay, the Field House, is a pretty little 2-bedroom house with full kitchen and bath that lies just across the field from the Down Dog Yoga Studio, beautiful pond and rustic sauna.
I never want to leave, so I get up early, drink coffee and wander the property for as long as I can before exploring more of the magic of Lopez.
by Shannon Borg
Staff writer Shannon Borg is the author of Chefs on the Farm, and The Green Vine. She lives in Friday Harbor. Find her at www.shannonborg.com.
Lopez Island Bounty
Join in the Lopez Island Farm Tour this fall during Savor the San Juans, a Celebration of Food, Farms & Film!