Wandering Whidbey Island, Washington

Share This:   Heritage Culinary Artifacts in Napa Valley, California   Late summer found me on a ferry to Whidbey Island, off the coast of Washington State.  I wanted to spend a couple of peaceful weeks off the beaten path in the great Northwest, combing for treasures for my Napa Valley shop, reading from my enormous pile of mags, and cooking seafood pulled from the nearby waters.  The rented cottage, set directly on Puget Sound, looked so much more charming online than its scruffy reality.  A larger-than-life, carved wooden monstrosity of a fisherman greeted us at the front door, making me roar with laughter each time we entered The Shack.

From an Adirondack chair on the porch, I watched eagles eye schools of tiny silver fish from their perch on the old wooden jetty. They would suddenly alight after their morning catch, snatching the wriggling fish in their craws and delivering the doomed creatures to waiting mouths high in the nearby pines. Half a joint smoldered in the clamshell ashtray and a deep, low rumble from passing ferries kept me company as days slowly passed.  I found an old clam rake and took advantage of its use at low tide, digging for clams on exposed sand flats, competing for the bigger scores with a Chocolate Labrador, who curiously buried them elsewhere on the beach.  A weird animal-to-bivalve catch and release program?  We were rewarded with bowls of rich chowder, dense with white Island corn, pancetta I dragged from home, and the few succulent clams I managed to basket.  It was perfect with our never-ending supply of hoppy, hearty Alaska Ale.

Before arriving onto Whidbey, we made the requisite pilgrimage to Seattle’s Pike Place Market, scoring jars of local honey for tea, bags of yellow and green beans, ripe tomatoes, different strains of spicy garlic, stinky goat cheeses from nearby farms, and an entire Copper River salmon, its bright orange flesh a color I had never before seen in nature.  The Shack’s kitchen was equipped well enough to allow me to knock out a Gravlax with the whole fish.  It rested for two days in a salty brine, made fragrant with freshly gathered dill and weighted under heavy rocks scrounged from the beach.

I picked up a weighty loaf of seeded rye bread from Macrina, a small Seattle bakery. I cut it thickly and slathered it with locally made crème fraiche, pungent red onion and piles of the thinly cut cured fish, sliced with these super-sharp, carbon-steel knives spied in a local gallery.
  I tracked down the blacksmith, Michael Hemmer, who resides in a remote Oregon town.  A multi-faceted, talented hippie, he once lived on a 300+ person commune in the late 1970’s; working alongside fellow farmers on one of California’s first organic farms.  Tired of communal life, he moved to Oregon in the mid-1980s to pursue his craft in peace.  His studio is in a dilapidated barn, housing an enormous forging hammer from the early 1800s shipped in from Boston. He only uses recycled carbon steel, which as every chef knows, holds the sharpest edge.  His handles are crafted with rose, ash and birch woods.  Each one is different; a unique piece of art, to be used every day.  I keep a large utility knife in the glove box for fruit, cheese and intruders.
Chopper  $165 Large Utility  $95 Small Pairing  $65    

  Weekend neighbors announced themselves loudly, their children and pit bull in tow.  We fled our porch heaving and gagging after they sparked up their grill by emptying an entire bottle of lighter fluid onto the briquettes.  Surely it went unnoticed by the family; the constant smog from the head honcho’s Marlboros having anesthetized the entire brood’s olfactory senses.  We decamped The Shack for more luxe accommodations at The Inn at Langley.  Situated on a quiet corner of Puget Sound in the charming town of Langley, it’s owned by the former mayor of Seattle, who makes the rounds at breakfast, introducing himself and offering up island lore. The small hotel’s exterior architecture is pure seaside clapboard, reminiscent of New England.  The rooms are contemporary, with fireplaces and enormous, deeply sunken tubs where one could fit an entire family – or perhaps a select group of friends you want to get to know better after cocktails at the local dive bar…
    Roaming little Langley, I found a shop run by a studious, highly informed woman who sold all kinds of wonderful, antique prints and botanicals. I bought several for the shop, including this fine original chromolithograph, circa 1902, of the American Lobster (Homarus Americanus), which shows the underside of the egg bearing female.  Created by master Sherman Foote Denton (1856-1937), a naturalist, artist and author in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. His chromolithographs of the fish of New York State were used to illustrate the New York State Fish and Game Commission annual reports from 1895 to 1907.  This piece was a color-printed lithograph in which a separate stone was used for the application of each color, thus requiring meticulous registration to recreate the subtle tones of blended color simulating the iridescence of fish.  This technique was pioneered by Denton.  As stated in the Annual Report of the State of New York Fisheries, Game and Forest Commission, “No colored figures of fishes in existence exceed them for their truthfulness or beauty of execution.”
This original print is in fine, unaltered condition, printed on heavy coated stock and measures 2’ by 1’ framed.  The carved wooden frame and its glass are suitably from the early 1900s.  $345

  Born and raised on Cape Cod, I am immediately attracted to all things pulled from the sea; lobster in particular.  In a small shop further up-island, I scored this wonderful lobster platter from a fellow collector of fine mid-century pottery. The talented American potter Brad Keeler created this piece in his Los Angeles studios in the early 1940s.  It’s in ideal condition; the colors bright and expressive.  ($265)     Three, large white enamelware lamps were rescued from an ice-cream factory outside of Seattle.  Dating to the 1930’s, they have great character and would be sensational hanging over a kitchen island or large farmhouse table.  They measure 2’ wide in circumference and, with the pole attachments, 5.5’ tall and are fully functional.  ($825 each)

With its long history of hunting, fishing and gathering, the great Northwest is a magical place to find all kinds of special hunting and fishing accoutrements.  This hunting knife is a solid, finely made piece, clearly marked ‘Ebro’ on the blade.  It has an antler handle boasting a wonderful patina and a sterling silver cap on the end.  Made in England by Sheffield in the early 1900s, it is an exquisite piece ($145).

One of my favorite finds is this incredible Templeton Cheese Cutter with its original red paint.  The knife is heavy, sharp and in great condition.  All of the mechanisms are in place and in working order.  This beauty was built by Templeton in Ohio in 1902 ($985).

This intricately carved cutting board sports serpents, flourishes, and a heavily lidded man who oversees all that is sliced here.  Measuring 10” tall by 13” long, it’s a unique piece of American art.  $165
    Always on the look-out for Ironstone pottery in flawless condition, I was ecstatic to find this coffee service with the cream and sugar.  Marked Wm Adams and Sons, England, each piece has the raised wheat pattern. The set is a wonderful addition for any collector or admirer ($265).
    My last find of the trip made me laugh out loud.  Made from cast iron and dating to the mid-1900s, I know dozens of people who would truly appreciate, or even deserve, this horse’s ass bottle opener. ($62)
 I am always on the look-out for grape scissors and this sterling silver pair is particularly wonderful.  The motif on the handle shows a fox poised to eat the grapes ($185).  
    The heavy, gorgeous dinner knives are in the Grand Colonial Pattern and hail from Wallace Silversmiths, Boston, Massachusetts.  They were produced in 1942 and are in wonderful condition (set $135).
Always on the hunt for a great breakfast joint, an islander mentioned Mukilteo Coffee Roasters. Unmarked by signage and tucked into the woods, it is truly a local’s joint.  The blueberry pancakes were studded with ripe, foraged berries, the strong coffee sensational, and the staff young and hip.  I found a tiny space in the car, now brimming with my booty, into which I tucked pounds of their freshly roasted coffee beans and house-made granola, fueling the ride home to Napa Valley.
  Each piece offered is unique, and one-of kind.  Thus, I only have one of them – so when they’re gone, they’re gone.  If there is something that moves you, send me an email (lisa@heritageartifacts.com) and I will do my best to fulfill your desire.
lisa@heritageartifacts.com www.heritageartifacts.com Lisa Minucci | Heritage Culinary Artifacts

Oxbow Public Market | 610 First Street, Stall 14

Napa, CA 94559 |