From the east coast and Maine, we move across country to Washington state for our next round of interviews. we started with Chef Steven Ariel, Chef de Cuisine at TRACE at the W Hotel. Unlike restaurants in many other parts of the US, foraging is a source of produce here. Add a good number of local farms that work with the restaurant, and you have a menu that is filled with fresh in-season ingredients. We spoke with Chef Ariel to learn more about their menu.
TT: What local produce items are being used in your dishes currently?
CA: We try as much as possible to use local produce, even though in Seattle we have a shorter growing season. We try to capitalize on what’s available. Currently we are using different squashes, beans, peas, onions, garlic, lettuces, apricots, nectarines, cherries (which are wrapping up), lavender, and fresh wasabi (grown in Oregon). Also, we like to purchase produce from foragers; we’ll get seabeans, ramps, morels, foraged mushrooms. Foraging is pretty big in the northwest. There is an abundance of what grows in the wild.
TT: How often do you change your menu?
CA: Normally I try to change the menu every four to six weeks during growing season, starting in April or May, as things come into season. I create dishes for the menu based on produce, sometimes matched to proteins.
TT: Have you created any special menu items that highlight the local produce?
We just started doing a monthly special, based on a product. We have a three-course menu for lunch and another three-course menu for dinner; this month it is based on the tomato.
Nightly we do a tasting menu, which is very seasonally driven. Any ingredient that is available at the spur of the moment ends up on a tasting menu
TT: What is your favorite dish that includes local produce?
CA: The Seared Diver Scallops. It is a dish of homemade mushroom tortellinis, with scallops, English peas, and braised daikon.
TT: Do you work with any farms in particular?
CA: Yes, we do. For example, we work with some farms that are specific to growing tomatoes, such as Billy’s Organic Produce. We work with a bunch of local producers, including Alvarez Farms, Willie Green’s, and Frog Eyes Wasabi.
TT: What makes your menu/restaurant unique?
CA: Partially it is my experience. I have traveled to many places, lived in Hawaii, worked in Asia. We are a new place, just opened up. Our design is unique; there isn’t anything that looks quite like it in the Seattle area. We have modern features and wood, some Asian features, and interesting color schemes. The people that work alongside me bring their own uniqueness to the operation