Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah’s: Slow Food’s visit to Kurtwood Farms

GROWING FC final.inddIn July, Slow Food Seattle visited Kurtwood Farms on Vashon Island. Here’s board member Eileen Lambert’s report back from the day!

On a gorgeous Sunday morning, 20 Seattleites rose early to make their way aboard the Fauntleroy ferry to Vashon, where the cool oasis of Kurtwood Farms awaited. Resisting the World Cup final fever the rest of Seattle had seemingly fallen victim to, they anticipated a taste of the farm life Kurt Timmermeister had depicted in his two celebrated books: Growing a Farmer, and his most recent release: Growing a Feast.

Once the caravan of 20 convened at the farm and the dust settled in the adjacent lot, Kurt stepped out for a quick greeting and then led us through the hedged walkway into a long, airy, stonewalled farmhouse kitchen, the scene for many of his feasts and more recent culinary adventures. (More on that later).

The Cookhouse

The Cookhouse

Kurt opened with a brief introduction on his background as both chef and owner of the former Septieme; an acclaimed Capitol Hill restaurant he ran for 18 years before shuttering in the early 90’s, as the pace of island began to beckon him to Vashon. He shared how he came to find the farmstead which he, along with several extra hands, lovingly restored and built to become Kurtwood Farms. A true story of love at first sight, Kurt didn’t even get out of the car before he announced to his realtor “This is it.”

That certainty is undoubtedly what drove Kurt to devote countless hours of hard work over the ensuing years, and inspired him to endeavor on some initially lucrative, yet ultimately unsustainable pursuits, such as beekeeping, a CSA and a raw milk franchise, all of which he detailed to us as cautionary tale on the pitfalls of going into farming with idealistic notions.

KURTKurt spoke to our Slow Food Seattle group for about an hour, giving us an intimate look at his life leading up to his days as a dairy owner, farmer, chef, and author, while also giving us a glimpse of what we would be encountering on our tour.

He then took us through the back of the kitchen, and walked us around the farm. We started with the milking parlor, a wall-less wooden structure that the farm’s seven Jersey cows are led into twice a day (usually 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.) to be milked. These seven cows each produce roughly 5 gallons a day, resulting in 35 gallons of pure, creamy milk.

IMG_4775Next door from the milking parlor, we ventured into the small cheesemaking facility, but due to contamination concerns (after all, cheesemaking is a sensitive process!) we just peeked our heads into the window of the room where the actual cheesemaking takes place. To maintain a safe environment, the cheesemaker herself dons a separate set of clothes, apron, and shoes before entering the cheesemaking room.

One of the most anticipated tour stops came next: the bovine stars themselves! Many of the group went up to meet and snap photos of some of the herd, half of whom were resting, while the other half was grazing and drinking from the trough near the fence.

We next walked up the gravel road towards the cheese cave, which resembled a Hobbit home and was constructed in a grassy hillside, with a charming handcrafted door in the front and an air vent in the rear. Kurt mentioned that on warm days he liked to enter and walk the cave’s earthen floors just to savor its subterranean coolness beneath his feet. I bet some of us wished we could do the same –the day was a scorcher.

BABY COWSOn the way back towards the farmhouse, we walked through another dairy barn, one housing a couple of 2-month old calves who shyly stayed back from the viewing area, but whose doe-eyed sweetness captured the attention of all who cooed back at them.

Once back at the kitchen, we finally got down to the business of sampling the end product of this operation: Kurt’s famous cheeses! Kurt had earlier set out a wheel of his staple, Dinah’s Cheese, (named after one of his first cows, Dinah) which he shared, “pays the mortgage, pays the electricity bill.” He sliced the oozy Camembert style cheese and passed the plate around for our first sample of the day. All agreed it was rich, creamy, and delicious.

TOMMENext up was the LogHouse, a semi-hard tomme-style cheese that is aged for four months. We enjoyed each sample plain and unadorned to better taste the nuanced flavors of each cheese.

Afterward, as a special treat, Kurt shared his latest project: ice cream! With the caveat that some of the samples would contain chunks of butter, due to some processing challenges he was working through, Kurt brought out three flavors – helado de queso, chocolate mint, and tomato jam – all made with ingredients grown on his farm. He scooped up samples of all three into cones, which were passed around and savored, drips lapped up quickly by the eager farmhouse dog.

IMG_4770Following our final day’s tasting, Kurt opened his “store” for cheese and book sales, and many of the attendees queued up with coolers at the ready to take home a Dinah’s, LogHouse or both –fresh from the farm -as well as have their books autographed or purchase a new one for their collection.

Slow Food Seattle’s visit to a working island dairy farm on a gorgeous summer day was made even better by being some of the first to sample Kurtwood Farm’s new frozen offerings.

We look forward to revisiting this culinary experience closer to home while picking up some of his wares (cheeses, books, and other products) at the new micro-sized Chophouse Row retail space near 11th and Pike on Capitol Hill opening in Fall 2014.

Thank you, Kurt and friends, for the wonderful visit and glimpse into a day on the farm, and, with your incredible artisan cheeses, for bringing that experience from your table to ours.






Slideshow: Urban Edible Plant Walk with Melany Vorass

Check out the slideshow of our May 24th Urban Edible Plant Walk with Melany Vorass! Click on the image to see the description.

Vote for the “July 5th” in the Slow Food Speakeasy Contest

ImageSlow Food USA is running a “Slow Food Speakeasy” contest, which asked entrants to create a cocktail focusing on Ark of Taste products and local ingredients.

And some of our Slow Food neighbors here in Seattle – Christa and Shaun over at Booze Nerds – have made it to the finals! They are one of twelve contests in the final running to win a trip to the Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto world meeting in Turin, Italy.

Please check out their recipe and vote for their “July 5th” cocktail that features Sound Spirits Ebb & Flow Gin, Dr. Pickett’s shrub, and more. Click here and scroll down to the bottom left to vote.

Check out their site for more details on the creation of this cocktail and for their other posts with other delicious-sounding drink ideas.

We asked them to tell us a little more about themselves and this drink and learned more about our fellow Slow Food enthusiasts. Check that out below and don’t forget to vote!

Good luck to the Booze Nerds! Voting is open until June 19.

1. How did you hear about the contest?

We saw a mention of it in the 4/3 Slow Food USA newsletter.

2. What has been your relationship to Slow Food, both the actual organization and the concept itself?

We have a membership and occasionally go to local Slow Food events. We’re very supportive of the ideals and goals of the organization, in terms of preserving local/heritage species, emphasizing fair practices for people involved in all stages of food production, and really enjoying time spent with friends and family preparing and eating good food.

3. Were you familiar with the Ark of Taste prior to the contest, or did the contest introduce you to that program?

Shaun was. Christa wasn’t, so it was a great introduction. We’ll have to make sure to mention it to the vendors at the U District farmers market that we usually go to, many of them raise great heritage fruits/vegetables/livestock that might be eligible.

4. Did this contest introduce you to any new-to-you ingredients you are curious about trying?

We were familiar with the spirits/liqueurs we used and had tried other Dr. Pickett’s shrubs, but we hadn’t tried the watermelon-violet one we ended up using.

5. Were there any of the Pacific Northwest region-specific Ark of Taste products that you played around with in the creation process?

No. We did play with rye, but that’s nation-wide. We had thought about trying the birch syrup but hadn’t gotten around to picking any up. We would have loved to use Black Republican cherries, which we’ve had before and are very fond of, but unfortunately they aren’t in season yet.

6. Are there other general Pacific Northwest products (Ark or non-Ark) that you might not have included in this particular cocktail but that you love and would recommend to Slow Food folks?

Black Republican and Northstar cherries. Egremont russett apples (I think they are originally a British varietal, but the ones raised around here are phenomenal). On the non-cocktail front, pork and guinea hens from Seabreeze Farm and bacon from Skagit Valley Ranch. Anything from Blue Valley meats. Cherries, apples & stone fruits from Grouse Mountain farm.

7. What is the thing you would most look forward to if you won the trip to Terra Madre?

Introducing people to some great Pacific Northwest cocktail ingredients would be great. We think the Presidia and international marketplace would both be incredible chances to learn about and try artisanal foods from other regions. Also, being in Turin in October, hopefully we’d find our way to some Barolo and white truffles :)

8. Anything else you’d like to include?

If you like a good cocktail, we highly recommend that you check out the craft cocktail and distilling scene in the PNW. We have a lot of great products here that we just love.

Thanks, Christa and Shaun!

SFS July Book Club: “Growing a Feast” by Kurt Timmermeister

Kurt BookPlease join us for our July SFS Book Club! We are reading Growing a Feast by Kurt Timmermeister in anticipation of our farm visit to Kurtwood Farms.

We’ll be meeting at 6:30pm on Thursday, July 10th, at the home of board member Leslie Seaton in the Bryant neighborhood. We’ll enjoy the (fingers crossed) sunshine in the large backyard.

Our book club is free to attend, open to members and non-members, and low commitment! We’re a welcoming, fun group and there will be some tasty food (and Kurtwood Farm cheese!) to enjoy.

To sign up, please RSVP on Facebook and send an email to for address specifics. (No Facebook account? Feel free to just send an email.)

And please consider also joining us at our farm tour the following Sunday. Details here!

Kurtwood Farm Tour Tickets on Sale – Bonus Tuna Drawing for Early Birds

Our tickets for our July 13 visit to Kurt Timmermeister’s Kurtwood Farms are open to the general public today! Details below.

And early bird ticket buyers (buy before 11:59pm Pacific time Thursday June 26) will be entered in a drawing for a half flat of tuna. Two prizes will be given away.

Tickets here!

Join Slow Food Seattle for a casual afternoon tour of Kurtwood Farms on Vashon Island and see firsthand where all of Kurt Timmermeister’s farmstead cheese is created along with an inside look at what it takes to run a small-farm. At the end of the tour, we’ll gather together for a guided cheese-tasting from Kurt with some simple accompaniments.

This is a very special opportunity: the Farm is not open for public events, and Kurt is making this available just to Slow Food Seattle. We are very excited to be able to offer this unique event.

Cheese will be available for purchase to take home with you too. Feel free to pack a lunch and stay for a picnic on the property! Kurt will also have copies of his new bookGrowing a Feast available for purchase (or bring your own copy, he’ll be happy to sign).


  • Slow Food members: $20/person (Members: discount codes were sent out via email. If you have not received, please email
  • Non-members: $40/person (Not yet a member and want to join Slow Food? One of the benefits is discounts and pre-sale or exclusive access to events like this. Learn more at Slow Food USA and indicate SFS Seattle as your primary chapter.)

Plan to make a day on Vashon and take in the gorgeous views. We suggest you dress casual and wear boots or suitable shoes for walking around the farm. Much of the day, if not all, will be outside – layers, rain gear, sunscreen, are a good bet. As mentioned, you may also want to bring along a picnic and picnic blanket. The event will go on rain or shine.

See the ticket page for details on the ferry to take, etc.

Slow Food Members: check your email for pre-sale & discount for Kurtwood Farm tour

kurtSlow Food Seattle members: check your email for a message with pre-sale and ticket discount info for a July Slow Food farm tour and cheese tasting at Kurt Timmermeister’s Kurtwood Farms. This is a special event just for Slow Food!

Don’t see the email or want to check your membership status? Please email us at

(Members and non-members – everyone is welcome at the FREE! Slow Food Book Club on July 10, where we’ll be discussing his new book “Growing a Feast.”)