Greg Atkinson was buying and promoting local foods long before it became the routine thing to do for top chefs. The former chef of Seattle’s Canlis then took time off from cooking in restaurants to teach culinary arts and write about food. Now Atkinson is back at the stove in his newly opened Marché on Bainbridge Island in Winslow, Wash., where he’s again preparing the most indigenous ingredients he can get his hands on.
What are you serving at your new Marché restaurant?
New and traditional dishes based on our local shellfish, Island produce and pastured meats. We have applewood-fired steaks and seafood and slow-braised dishes.
Does the menu change seasonally?
My menu, while ostensibly "fixed," has built-in windows for daily change, and it will undergo a seasonal menu change every 10 or 12 weeks. The daily changes are subtle, but important too. Our "Market Salad" reflects both my capricious nature — I change it daily or weekly depending on how much I love the salad and how well it sells—as well as how long the seasonal ingredients hold out.
In late August, for example, we started with house-smoked salmon, which is a great way to use salmon pieces that don’t make perfect portions, on a bed of local arugula with wild huckleberries gathered by a local forager. I dressed the salad with a yogurt vinaigrette made with half homemade mayonnaise and half yogurt. Once the salmon sold out, we served the same arugula with roasted beets, candied walnuts and local goat cheese.
How will the larger seasonal changes work?
Bigger, seasonal menu changes affect a few main dishes, but mostly the accompanying side dishes on the plate. For example, when the menu changed from spring to summer, the duck plate lost its green peppercorn sauce and gained a Bing cherry sauce. When cherry season ends, I'll garnish the duck with roasted pears.
The "Market Vegetable Plate" lost its green pea flan with morel mushroom sauce, and gained a savory carrot flan with browned butter and hazelnuts. In fall, we changed to a kabocha squash flan with toasted pumpkin seeds.
On the summer solstice, we switched from spring to summer. At the fall equinox, we moved to the fall menu. On Thanksgiving weekend, I'll switch to a "holiday menu" with special items available only through New Year's Eve, including a locally sourced foie gras, from Pleasant View Farms of Puyallup, Wash., and Montana paddlefish caviar. That ever-changing flan will be made with chestnuts. After the first of the year, we'll launch our winter menu, and in March we'll go back to our spring menu.
Do you encourage sharing of dishes to introduce new seasonal items and do you charge guests to split main courses?
We do not charge to split and we offer share plates for dishes that lend themselves to sharing. Our shellfish platter, for example, has crab, prawns and oysters; it's served with finger bowls and dishes to collect the shells.