Homegrown and Healthy

Grass-finished beef is both better for you and better for the environment. An all-grass diet means higher levels of healthful omega-3 fatty acids in the meat, and avoiding feed-lot grain-fattening cuts both air and water pollution. Some people, though, avoid grass-finished beef because they believe it's tough, stringy, and flavorless. Not necessarily, as a blind tasting of a dozen samples of grass-finished beef from eight American states last month proved. Hosted by healthy-beef guru Jo Robinson of Vashon Island, the tasting of steaks, all rib-eye cuts, rated the samples according to tenderness, flavor, juiciness, and texture. When the final results were in, one producer scored well above the second-place winner and far above the overall average: George and Eiko Vojkovich's Skagit River Ranch in Sedro-Woolley, Wash. This is great news for Western Washington beef eaters, because George and Eiko's products are available not only at the farm store (on Saturdays) and at Mount Vernon's Skagit Valley Food Co-op but direct from the producers in Seattle's Columbia City and West Seattle farmers markets. Skagit River Ranch is not just certified organic; its cows dine on a "certified organic pasture," a balanced diet of grasses, herbs, and legumes that probably accounts for the delicious flavor of the ranch's beef. To learn about the environmental and health benefits of grass-finished cattle—and why "grass-fed" is not at all the same thing—you can't do better than visit Robinson's Web site, www.eatwild.com. Learn more about Skagit River Ranch and its products (which include eggs, chicken, and pork as well as beef) on the ranch Web site, www.skagitriveranch.com. Veggies on Broadway Great news for Capitol Hillians: Jon Hegeman, who spearheaded creation of the wildly popular Fremont Sunday Market and Ballard Farmers Market, is opening a Capitol Hill Farmers Market. To run from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday evenings, the market opens on Sept. 21 and, if business warrants, will continue through the winter. Stop by 1620 Broadway Ave. (across from SCCC) and meet the producer. There's free parking! Enrobed and Skewered In the music-film-art-lit-theater typhoon that was Bumbershoot, did you happen to notice a preternatural number of chocolate-covered fruit skewers bobbing along in the hands of happy hipsters? You may be surprised to learn that the coated fruit kabobs are a homegrown development, cultivated by former Mariners batboy and clubhouse attendant Steve Towey and nudged into lasting popularity by ex–M's player Mike Campbell, who signed on this year to help Towey run Shishkaberry, his six-year-old business. First popularized, naturally enough, at Safeco Field, the fruit skewers remain a regional phenomenon for the moment (they appear mostly at neighborhood festivals around Seattle), but Campbell says the phrase "Let's go global!" is never far from his mind. His nickname for his visionary partner—who copped the idea of fruit on a stick from Taiwanese ballparks, then added chocolate—is "Wonka." Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, in fact, is one of Campbell's favorite films, and presumably a daily inspiration. Asked if he ever saw himself running a company that enrobes 80,000 fruit skewers in chocolate annually, Campbell laughed. "I would have said, 'You're crazy! No way!' But it has been a ton of fun." Food and/or beverage news? E-mail Hot Dish at food@seattleweekly.com.

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