Working in my position, I have the opportunity to meet so many new people every day, and in a company with over 800 employees most of the new people I’m meeting are coworkers. When I introduce myself to my colleagues as Tom’s assistant, I usually get the question “So what do you do?” This has never been an easy question for me to answer because I do such a wide variety of things every day. A typical day for me is filled with scheduling, answering emails, working in Publisher, and handling the donation requests for the company. Every so often though, I get out of the office and onto my feet to experience a different aspect of the restaurant industry.
Most of you know me as Brittany, Tom’s assistant, or as Tom likes to call me, ‘Bash,’ from my days playing in the roller derby. But some of you also know me as a cashier at Home Remedy. Maybe you’ve seen me working the host stand at Lola or serving appetizers at the Ballroom. In my short time with the Tom Douglas team I’ve done everything from redlining contracts for new restaurants right down to getting my hands dirty in the dish pit, and it’s the most fun I’ve ever had.
This past Saturday I got up bright and early to head into work. I know for most of you the idea of waking up before 8am on Saturday to get yourself to work sounds like the exact opposite of your perfect weekend. Then again, most of you aren’t heading out to go work on a farm. That’s right, it was my first weekend at Prosser Farm. It was the opening for the new 14 Hands Winery and as soon as I heard Tom say the word “Farm-Selfies” I jumped at the opportunity to get over to Eastern Washington and help with the event.
After a long drive in the dry desert heat, I arrived in Prosser, eager to meet up with my team and get a tour of the farm. My anticipation grew as we drove up to the property. The farm is breathtaking. The views are spectacular, the weather is warm and the hospitality is even warmer.
I was immediately greeted by Jackie, Farmer Dev, and a cute cat named Skitters. I took a quick look around, rolled in the grass, and laid in the sun before I had to go work at the winery opening. The event was short, sweet and full of delicious food. As soon as we were done, the team and I headed back to the farm to have a big meal.
For dinner we had chicken tikka, curried potatoes and peas, jasmine rice, asparagus, and homemade naan. And lots of wine of course! It was a fantastic meal full of good conversation and the unanimous feeling of gratefulness for the wonderful food, good company, and the farmers that work hard every day to make sharing a meal with the people you care about possible.
Sunrise at the Farm
The following morning I got up early to watch the sunrise, and enjoy the early morning sounds of the farm and the quiet calmness of the nearby river. The weekend left me feeling rejuvenated, clear-minded and incredibly grateful to be able to have such a wonderful experience in the country. Every day I feel privileged to work with such an amazing group of people. My job description might include many different things like assistant, organizer, server, and dishwasher, but here at Tom Douglas Restaurants, I feel like friend, neighbor and family are on that list too.
Caption: roast chicken thigh, asparagus, lightly pickled cucumber and radish with mint
The elimination diet is a way of finding your “food triggers.” It could be doctor prescribed or do it yourself to find out what could be causing a variety of issues.
I have recently been having a whole slew of stomach issues. The doctors have claimed everything from gallbladder issues, an angry esophagus, possible gallstones… the list goes on and on. I finally landed a doctor who prescribed an elimination diet in hopes of finding a food trigger. If I can eliminate the trigger, that would in turn eliminate all my problems.
The premise: eliminate all possible food triggers for 4 weeks and then gradually add them back in to find the cause of your problems.
Caption: seared tuna with black beans and rice and a tomato and avocado salad
The dirty details: this means: NO soy, gluten, dairy, corn, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, condiments, chocolate, oranges, beef, pork, or peanuts. I was allowed to have eggs as well as honey, which has been a lifesaver, but some may want to avoid those as well.
This sounds hard, and it is. It honestly is much harder for a cook, so if I can do it, you definitely can. I am officially 14 days in, and it’s starting to get slightly enjoyable. Make sure you write down everything you eat everyday in a journal. This will help more when you start adding things back in. Also, the key to sticking with it is snacks and more snacks. Keep something you can eat with you for when you become ravenous, so you don’t reach for the “no-no” items.
I have accumulated a list of my “go-to” items that make it all a bit more bearable.
Caption: scrambled eggs with 2 kiwi
-Scrambled eggs with fruit
- Oatmeal, almond milk, spices, honey and fruit
-Smoothie- all fruit and ice and a splash of coconut milk
Caption: brown rice cake topped with homemade salsa and avocado
- Pistachios, cashews, almonds, macadamia nuts
- Brown rice cake with smashed avocado
- Apples or bananas- “travel ready fruit”
- Homemade hummus and carrot sticks
Caption: Ferran Adria roast chicken with potatoes and onions
-Black beans and rice
- Roast chicken
- Salmon or tuna- quickly seared
- All the veggies you can eat
Caption: brunch of scrambled eggs, strawberries, and a seasoned avocado with my beloved “fizzy water”
Serve others what you are having and you won’t feel so alone in the process (The Ferran Adria roast chicken, for example, was for a date night.) Season your food well. Try new spices. Try new fruits and veggies. A squeeze of lemon juice or a bit of lime zest can liven up any meal. Try to have fun with it!
At the end, you will hopefully feel a lot better, maybe lose a little weight, kick a diet coke addiction, or you simply will have accomplished something really difficult!
While the pictures are devastating, the death toll is shocking, and the restoration of Oso seems overwhelming, each of us can do a little something to help. We, as a company, have offered food, manpower, clothing, and hygiene products, but everyone comes back with the same answer…WE NEED CASH! Cash to run bulldozers, cash to pay emergency personnel, cash to house the displaced, and even cash to help bury the dead.
So… let’s do what we do best to raise some serious cash! Charles Smith and the team at K Cellars in Walla Walla have rounded up a stunning group of Washington wineries, and Ethan Stowell’s restaurants as well as our own are stepping up to the grill to host an “Oso Needs Cash” fundraiser at the Palace Ballroom on April 22nd. Yes, we know it is Earth Day, but that is the date that was available and tragically it seems somewhat appropriate.
All you have to do is go online here and buy a ticket… or two! If you want to contribute but can’t make it to the event, we will give your tickets to culinary students at the local community colleges. We have three hundred tickets to sell at one hundred bucks apiece… sounds like a nice friendly way to spend happy hour or a good team building event. Or maybe it will be a good time to reflect on how thankful we are, like our very own Bridget Charters, director of our new culinary school, who recognized the roof of her mother’s house in the muck on highway 530. Bridget is thankful that Mom is ok, but her world has been rocked to the core.
There isn’t much time to act on this for us to reach our goal of $35,000. 100% of the proceeds will be distributed to the United Way of Snohomish County. We will supply the wine, music, and food, but you all are the other half of the equation. It takes two to tango, so come with us and let’s dance! PURCHASE YOUR TICKETS HERE
Link to the newsletter here.
The Culinary Cowboy
A Pasture To Plate Experience with Grass Fed Beef
“If a food lover had written City Slickers, it would look something like this: beautiful, holistically managed Montana landscapes, impeccable grass-fed cattle that taste of the region, and a chef at the stove. It’s a delicious education in what makes J Bar L beef some of the best in the country”
Dan Barber, Executive Chef, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, New York
Editor’s Note: We at Tom Douglas Restaurants are thrilled that our Lola Chef, Liam Spence, is a featured chef at The Culinary Cowboy. If you are intrigued by the description and itinerary below and want to sign up for this amazing Montana experience, contact J Bar L Ranch by calling them directly. You’ll find the phone number here.
Liam and Audrey Spence – This Dynamic Duo knows how to cook up good times and exceptional fare. Liam is the Chef of Lola and Audrey is Chef at Urbane Restaurant, both highly acclaimed Seattle restaurants. They share a passion for exceptional, sustainable ingredients and both have been using the J Bar L’s holistically raised grassfed beef in their kitchens. Liam and Audrey are a fun-loving couple and are incredibly endearing, charismatic and have become excellent friends of the ranch.
About the Ranch -
At the J Bar L Ranch in Montana’s Centennial Valley, we raise world-class grassfed beef on 30,000+ acres of pristine pasture. The J Bar L’s holistic goal is to enhance lives, landscapes and our communities by engaging in sustainable ranching practices that yield exceptional products including, bio diverse ecosystems, healthy grass fed beef, legendary guest experiences, and cooperative relationships with our neighbors. We open our gates and welcome guests to learn about ranching and our way of life.
Rancher Bryan Ulring is an important part of why this is awesome, and he is a selling point as steward of the land and cowboy host!
Be a cowboy! Be a chef!
Enjoy a life enhancing week in the pastures, on the horses, in the kitchen, and at the table. Learn the secrets of cooking grass fed beef from renowned chefs and cook alongside them. Enhance your knowledge about practice of sustainable ranching from our cowboys, and explore the natural resources surrounding the ranch in the spectacular Centennial Valley.
Whether you are an avid home cook with a gourmet flare or simply a food and nature enthusiast, this is a unique opportunity to have a fun and educational summer camp experience.
You will have hands on cooking classes taught by the chefs, focusing on the ranch’s beautiful grassfed beef. We will prepare and eat phenomenal meals together, your days will be full of slicing and dicing, eating and drinking, learning and laughing. Join us for foraging hikes, birding expeditions, wildlife viewing and then back to the kitchen and ranch table for family style feasts that reflect and incorporate the natural assets of the land.
Along with the Yellowstone grassfed beef you learn and explore local produce, cheeses, some grassfed lamb cooking, cowboy cooking and friendly team challenges.
After a week with us, you will take home the inimitable feel and vibration of the Centennial Valley, your personal book of recipes created by the chefs, an arsenal of culinary skills learned, and a treasure of photos and memories to share with others.
We’ll supply the beef, the cowboys, the kitchen, the chefs, first class accommodations, and a truly natural learning environment. You bring your sense of adventure, respect for nature, and your appetite for cooking and eating. Together we will create a week immersed in a summer camp experience devoted to authentic and delicious food.
The program details:
Arrive Saturday, September 14th departing September 19th
Number of guests per week: 10 people maximum, double occupancy
Cost: $3000/person based on double occupancy, $1000 single supplement. This rate includes all meals, lodging and on ranch activities. It does not include: transportation, off-ranch activities or gratuity.
You’ll arrive and depart from Idaho Falls, ID.
The day-to-day itinerary is generally as follows:
Saturday the 14th:
Plan air or car travel to arrive in the afternoon. The ranch is located 2 hours from the Idaho Falls airport, about 15 miles east of Monida, MT on I-15. You will be greeted at the ranch headquarters, and guided to your deluxe homestead cabins.
We will gather at the main hall around 6 pm and discuss our plans for the week. Chefs Liam and Audrey will prepare a dinner where we will be joined by Ranch Manager Bryan We will get to know each other and discuss an overview of the fun we have in store.
Sunday the 15th:
A healthy Montana breakfast will be provided at the Stibal Barn around 8 am.
Today guests will break up into two groups: one group being devoted a horseback riding orientation. The other being a class on different cuts of beef and what dishes they are best used for. Leading into hands on steak butchering and preparation.
Those who choose not to ride during the week can rest or wander about the ranch taking advantage of all the wonderful photo opportunities, seeking a sunny spot to read or have a leisurely stroll along the banks of the Red Rock River and experience the wildlife.
Everyone gather for lunch around 1pm and in the afternoon, the two groups will switch activities.
At 6 pm Bryan Ulring will give a presentation about raising grass fed beef and successful Triple Bottom Line (People, Profit, Environment) holistic ranch management. We will serve the steak on crostini at this time.
Dinner will be prepared by the chefs and accompanied by lively conversation and story trading from the day.
Monday the 16th:
Another healthy Montana breakfast at the Stibal Barn dining room at 8 am
Then, after breakfast, there will be two optional adventures:
• Horseback riding instruction, and work with the cowboys doing
ranch chores (e.g. moving cattle)
• A birding exposition with a professional birding guide.
Lunch at noon
2 pm – Demos and Tastes
The afternoon will be dedicated to more time in the kitchen. The Chefs will demonstrate the preparation of some lesser used (off) cuts of beef. They will guide you through the techniques used to create beef tartar, braised oxtail, tongue, and a favorite of the chefs; pot roast. Accompanied by tastes of these items and good conversation about choosing wines to pair with food. (Finishing up around 5 pm)
At 6 pm at The BrundageSocial hour, Sundowners, and dinner at the dining hall.
Dinner will be followed by a screening of the film “American Meat”
Tuesday the 17th:
After another healthy Montana breakfast at the Stibal Barn there will be two activities to choose from:
· Horseback riding
· A forging-focused hike with a guide from the Montana Native Plant Society
Lunch at 1 pm
Afternoon activities include a talk with the chefs surrounding the philosophy of eating locally grown ingredients and how foraging ties into this way of thinking. Accompanied by some cooking demonstrations.
Guests will be offered the option of making a foraged berry cobbler or a hands on lesson on cooking and eating wild greens. (Wrapping up around 4 pm)
Dinner at 7 pm
Wednesday the 18th:
This is our earliest morning, offering a guided Wildlife Tour through the Centennial Valley when wildlife are at their most active. Maybe we will hear elk bugling, see Trumpeter Swans and/or Sage Grouse and possibly even large carnivores (other than ourselves).
Afterwards we return to the ranch for a healthy late morning breakfast at the Stibal Barn and a siesta.
The afternoon will be focused on learning some butchering techniques and some of the finer points of Greek Cuisine. Liam and Audrey will demonstrate how to de-bone a leg of lamb and break down a whole chicken. We will also talk about stock making and how to make a jus. Dinner will be a feast of roast lamb leg and Greek accompaniments.
Thursday the 18th:
After a good morning breakfast together, guests will choose a morning of
· Horseback riding
· A hike along the Continental Divide
Everyone will meet for a picnic lunch at the east end of the Valley and enjoy a visit with the Manager of Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge manager.
The afternoon will be spent with all participants involved in preparing the Feast for the dinner that climaxes your week. We will learn about smoking beef ribs, barbeque, making biscuits and other cowboy favorites. We will eat together and have a ‘Home Theater Nightnbringing together your photos and stories. Ranch staff and maybe a couple neighbors will join the good times for a bon fire and maybe some music, too.
Friday the 19th:
After a hearty breakfast, we’ll all say our goodbyes and depart for home. You can comfortably be back to the Idaho Falls airport by 11:00 AM. Alternatively, if you are going to stay in the area for a few more days Bozeman is about 3 hours away and Jackson Hole is about 3 ½hours. The routes to both destinations are spectacular. We would be happy to help plan fly fishing or other excursions while you are at the ranch or for before/after the Culinary Cowboy Week.
Note regarding alcohol: The ranch does NOT have a permit to sell or serve beer, wine or hard alcohol. If you wish to bring your own, you are more than welcome to do so. We will provide you with a list of wines that our Wine Steward recommends for the best beef and meal pairings. Alternatively, if you let us know you want we would be glad to pick it up ahead of time for you.
J Bar L is an altitude of 6,600 feet. At this elevation, alcohol has an accelerated effect on our bodies. A little goes a long way!
(Photo credits: Top photo is from the Yellowstone Grassfed Beef website. The rest of the photos are from Liam and Audrey’s personal collection.)