The History of Merino Sheep in New Zealand

Merino lamb meat has a unique, more elegant & subtle flavor than conventional lamb without the typical gameyness.  Here’s some information about the breed’s history.

The Original Spanish Merino – A National Treasure

The Merino sheep breed originated in Spain – appearing in records as far back as the 12th century.  The prevailing belief appears to be that it probably developed from sheep brought to Spain by the Moors.

Merino have been renowned for their superior wool for centuries.  The Spanish government considered them such a precious resource and economic advantage that for a long time exporting Merino sheep from the country was an offense punishable by death.


Merino Spread Across the World
At some point the Merino stopped being such a dominating economic force in Spain, and the rules were relaxed to allow export.  The breed spread throughout Europe and was bred for different characteristics in different areas.  There are now a wide variety of Merino types spread across the world.


Merino Sheep Arrive in the Colonies

In the 19th century the breed was exported to North America and Australia.  In the 1840s through the early 1860s Merino were brought across the Tasman Sea from Australia to New Zealand in large numbers to establish the NZ Merino industry.

Before the advent of refrigerated shipping containers, it wasn’t possible to export lamb meat from Australia and New Zealand to major markets in Europe and the US without it spoiling.  Wool doesn’t spoil, so the primary economic impetus for farmers to raise sheep was for the wool export market – making Merino the breed of choice.


The History of Merino in New Zealand

Because the Merino brought over from Australia were sometimes of questionable quality, New Zealand farmers looking to improve the quality of their herd genetics started importing small numbers of animals from Europe and the US.  As a result of these breeding programs by the 1880s New Zealand Merino could be considered a distinct variety from the sheep raised in Australia.

Unfortunately as time went on various economic factors encouraged New Zealand farmers to move away from the Merino breed.

Merino sheep were originally adapted to Spain’s more arid climate.  It turned out that in New Zealand’s more moist environment the breed was prone to an illness known as “footrot”, an infection of the tissue inside the hoof.  This made them less suited to being raised in the lowlands that make up the majority of New Zealand’s sheep country.

A wool production system known as machine worsting was also on the rise – where machines gin & comb long wool to remove abnormally short fibers and force the long ones to lie parallel.  The resulting wool is much more uniform than the kind typically used in sweaters.  Unfortunately, while Merino wool was still considered a superior product in general, its fibers were too delicate for the worsting machines of this era.

Finally, advancements in shipping eventually made meat export possible.  While British sheep breeds were developed for meat production, Merino sheep weren’t considered a meat breed.  Their wool was so superb that breeders had remained singularly focused on improving it for centuries.

As a result of meat export becoming possible and industry demand for wool that was stronger rather than softer, many New Zealand farmers started cross-breeding their Merino herds with British breeds to produce mixed breeds that were less lean, had meat qualities demanded by the primary markets, and coarser wool.

As of the early 2000’s, pure Merino sheep had become a minority breed in New Zealand, accounting for just 3 million of the 39 million sheep raised in the country.  These Merino are primarily raised in New Zealand’s cooler high country, where footrot isn’t a concern.


The Discovery of Merino Meat

Merino continued to be raised exclusively as a wool breed until the 1990s, when tougher farming conditions forced the farmers to diversify into the meat market.  Merino meat was simply sold into the commodity meat market as “lamb” without any special fanfare.

Merino lamb’s unique flavor and texture were well known to Merino famers, who dined on it themselves and served it to guests to their farms as a special delicacy.  At some point, all off their guests’ exclamations clicked, and the farmers realized Merino’s unique eating qualities were something that should be trumpeted to the world, not hidden behind a generic label.

In 2011 a special partnership was formed between the Merino farmers’ wool company & meat processors to start the world’s first breed specific program for lamb.  SILERE merino lamb is hand selected for the best eating qualities and showcases the best attributes of this very special breed.

Through the SILERE program, New Zealand chefs have discovered modern Merino’s cleaner, leaner, more elegant flavor and silky texture.  It is quickly becoming a fixture on fine dining menus there.  We are proud to introduce this new delicacy to the American market.



Hugh Stringleman and Robert Peden. ‘Sheep farming – The Merino – the earliest breed’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 13-Jul-12


Encyclopedia Britannica ‘Merino’, Encyclopedia Britannica, updated 04-Jul-08


What’s the Difference Between Merino & Conventional Lamb?

Conventional/commodity lamb is generally a crossbreed, whereas Merino is a specific breed of sheep cultivated for its premium wool and meat.  In this respect it’s analogous to premium beef breeds (like Black Angus) and heritage pork (Kurobuta, Iberico, etc).

When compared to common lamb, Merino produce softer, leaner, finer textured & clean flavored meat prized by chefs and finer wool (used in high end apparel).  They tend to be slaughtered at an older age than conventional lamb.


Shearing Practices:

Conventional lambs are usually sheared only once, at 4-6 months, producing a coarse wool used in carpets and other similar applications.

Merino are sheared at 9-12 months, when their fleece has grown to its full length (75mm or longer).  Depending on their wool growth, they may be sheared a second time before being processed for meat.

Each Merino produces approximately two kilograms (4.4lbs) or more of wool per shearing.

In between their full shearings, they may be brought in for a brief localized shear around the groin area (a practice referred to as “crutching”) to help them stay clean and healthy.


Habitat & Diet:

Conventional lamb is often raised in the lowlands, but Merino have thicker fleeces and prefer the cooler temperatures in high alpine ranges.

Merino lambs roam freely in massive pastures up in the mountains.  They dine on alpine herbs and native grasses.

Our Favorite Autumn Eats (and Drinks!)

Living in the Pacific Northwest, sometimes it feels like it takes a while for the seasons to fully transition. But once they do? It is on! We get especially excited for autumn to roll around each year so we can pull out some of our favorite cozy foods, drinks, recipes, and ingredients. What are our favorites? So glad you asked!
hungarian soup

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

Katy: Easy: butter and mushrooms. Or butter and onions. Or butter and onions and rosemary. Butter. Beef Burgundy… no… Beef Stroganoff… no … Stuffed Squash… no… Mushroom Soup … no… CAN’T DECIDE. I love fall.
Veronica: Lately I’ve been getting into making soups and consistently keeping a batch of fire cider ready to drink. For both, onions, ginger, apple cider vinegar, and vegetable stock are must haves. Oh, and sweet potatoes!
Justin: I’m all about Squash Soup and Wild Mushrooms
roasted squash

Roasted Squash Medley with Saffron Butter

Kim: I love all the squashes, right up until I get sick of all the squashes. I love sweet potatoes. I love persimmons so much. Is it a big cliché that these are all orange? I also love all things maple, so glazing sturdy rings of Delicata with a maple cardamom glaze and then roasting them is a fall favorite at my house.
Jake: My favorite ingredients to cook with in the fall are hearty squashes and root vegetables, just like everyone else!  Yet, I like to use them in different ways than roasted with sage and brown butter, as is customary.  Shaving pumpkin super thin, salting it to soften, and making a sweet and savory fish sauce caramel, candied pumpkin seeds, parsley and bitter greens is my favorite rendition.
pumpkin pie

Cardamom Pumpkin Pie

Annie: Pie!! Love making them from scratch! Also, any kind of squash! I love adding it in to a big batch of roasted vegetables (potatoes, onions, Brussels sprouts, carrots, peppers) and adding that to salads.
Becca: I pretty much want to make all of the apple and pumpkin baked goods. Apple pie! Pumpkin Pie! Pumpkin Bread! Apple Cake! Pumpkin Cake! Apple Pancakes! Oh, and gimme all the cinnamon while you’re at it.
old fashioned

Maple Syrup Old Fashioned

Ryan: I get really into cocktail ingredients; especially things that go with brown cocktails like bitters and grenadine.
Matthew: I go for the obvious ones – orange zest, spices (vanilla, cardamom, star anise, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, etc), lentils, porcinis & braising cuts.I also actually make one of my favorite fall recipes before fall even hits, because it takes time to age.  Gdansk Vodka from “Salt, Sugar & Spice” by Diana Henry is basically an aged cocktail flavored with citrus zest (lemon & orange) & autumn spices (star anise, mace, juniper berries, cloves, cardamom & cinnamon).

Though it takes a bit of time to zest 8 citrus fruit, the hardest parts are really finding whole blade mace (check any Indian markets in your area) and waiting the two and a half months necessary for it to age to the point where you can drink it.

Make it ahead though and you’ll be a superstar at holiday gatherings, it’s superb.

bacon wraped pheasant

Bacon-Wrapped Pheasant with Port Wine Sauce

Tracy: I get really into cooking different types of poultry this time of year. I think Thanksgiving is some of the inspiration behind that, but mostly it’s because game bird hunting season starts in Montana in early October. That is really the only type of hunting my parents have the energy for anymore. Therefore, I’m accustomed to having many types of wild bird during the fall. Such as blue grouse, sage grouse, pheasant, and Hungarian partridge. Also, SWEET POTATOES. A sweet potato baked with butter, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Simple, but one of my most favorite things ever.
What are your favorite things to eat when fall rolls around?
Becca Lee wrangles our social media accounts, blogger contests, and general marketing work as the Marketing Coordinator for Marx Foods. You can check out one of her many hair colors and read more about her (and her ridiculous sweet tooth) here.


edible insects staff stories
Eating Edible Insects for the first time is something you just don’t forget. Whether we were excited, nervous, or downright queasy about trying these creepy crawly yet super sustainable ingredients, we all lived to tell the tale!
I’d been working here at Marx for two weeks before Justin and Ryan said, “Okay, we’re ready for some recipe development.”And so I said “Great, let’s get it rolling.”
And then they said, “For all the edible insects.”
And I thought, “Are you hazing me?”I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how tasty some of the insects are. Others, not so much. I can see why
I sheepishly tried one of the Chile Lime Crickets Kim made for that photoshoot. Once I actually put it in my mouth it wasn’t so bad, but definitely not my favorite. That said, I straight up devoured a bag of cookies made with cricket flour that didn’t quite make it through a tasting panel a few months later. Moral of the story? I’m way more pumped to eat insects when they don’t LOOK like insects. Cognitive dissonance, ya’ll!
termite salad
No comment.
I felt obligated to taste them to uphold my honor as a food writer (I try to never say no).  I did so multiple times, once on a tasting panel to approve for sale, again for flavor profiles to describe them on the store, and in various recipes.  But insects make me extremely uncomfortable & I’d rather not relive these experiences in order to describe them in depth.
This was actually well before my time at Marx Foods. My parents grew up eating edible insects so when they got their hands on crickets again in the states, they were ecstatic. They couldn’t wait for me to try them and in grade school, I was simply not a fan. Nowadays though, I’d definitely recommend the Chapul Cricket Bars and Beetle Larvae.
beetle larvae salad
My first experience was in the Marx Foods test kitchen! We tasted all of the “bugs” before they hit the website and retail store. It was also my very first tasting panel as an employee for Marx Foods. Needless to say, they weren’t scary enough to turn me away, but a very hilarious tasting panel nonetheless. Justin was the bravest one and ate a giant water beetle that nobody else would touch.
It wasn’t as bad as I would have thought. But I didn’t try to eat the rhino beetle. Because fuck that. 

Wondering about those giant rhino beetles and water beetles? Check out this video from that infamous tasting panel.

Have you tried edible insects before? Tell us all about your first time trying them in the comments!
Becca Lee wrangles our social media accounts, blogger contests, and general marketing work as the Marketing Coordinator for Marx Foods. You can check out one of her many hair colors and read more about her (and her ridiculous sweet tooth) here.

A Day Gone Very Wrong Right!

Behind the scenes of or Urban Picnic shoot, in which everything could have gone wrong, but nothing actually did. Phew!

You know those days when you wake up and just have a feeling that something is going to go wrong? Well, the day of our Urban Picnic photoshoot, I woke up feeling just like that.

It wasn’t just standard issue anxiety, either. There were REASONS. Katy, the star of our shoot, had been out the day prior, so I woke up knowing I might have to fill in for her last minute. Matthew had been out sick the day before, so I also might be on my own to direct the cooking scenes (would I have to direct myself?????). Ryan had been out on vacation, so he was relying on my prep work to make sure the shoot went smoothly. Oh, and did I mention we had rain in the forecast?

I tried to ignore my early morning nerves and went about my morning- took a shower, brushed my teeth, got dressed. Since there was a chance I’d be in the shoot I needed to select my outfit carefully- something summery that I could work in, but still look nice in for photos. No stripes that would look funny on video, and no crazy patterns that would conflict with the picnic blanket. I found the perfect dress.

Well, the dress WAS perfect, until I leaned over to grab my lunch out of the refrigerator and the zipper split wide open, right down the back of the dress. Sigh. I was already running late, so I changed as fast as humanly possible, skipped breakfast, and ran out the door, catching my bus by the skin of my teeth.

As luck would have it, my morning was the only part of the day that went awry. I made it to work right on time and found that Matthew and Katy were both in AND Matthew had already packed up the food Kim had prepped for the shoot! Once we packed up the car, Katy, Matthew, Matt, and I headed out to begin the shoot.

The day could not have gone more smoothly. The recipes Katy was finishing on camera came together in no time, so we ended up with nearly an hour to hang out and shoot the breeze before heading to our next location.

We arrived at Kerry Park to its gorgeous view of the Space Needle and downtown Seattle, as well as Seattle’s signature overcast sky. Not as summery as we had hoped, but there was no rain in sight, so we were happy!

As we settled into the shoot and began take photos and video of the picnic scene, a HUGE tour bus pulled up the park. I began to panic as the bus unloaded like it was a clown car and person, after person, after person set upon the tiny park where we were holding our shoot. It could have been a disaster, but as with the rest of our shoot, the day was going our way! With minimal intervention, the group steered clear of our picnic scene and we got plenty of great, tourist-free shots.

Not moments after we finished shooting and began to dig into the leftovers, I heard Ryan say “I think I felt a rain drop.” I felt one, and then another, and another. Then, one drop later, the sky opened up and it began to pour like it hadn’t poured in months! We hurriedly packed up our food, props, and photo gear, and bee-lined it back to the office, pleased that Mother Nature had timed her day so perfectly around our shoot. Broken zipper aside, the day was a success!

Becca Lee wrangles our social media accounts, blogger contests, and general marketing work as the Marketing Coordinator for Marx Foods. You can check out one of her many hair colors and read more about her (and her ridiculous sweet tooth) here.

Thoughts on Foie Gras Humaneness & My Own Hypocrisy

When we launched seven years ago, we decided not to sell foie.  I never wanted to be big brother, but I also didn’t want to sell products that I didn’t believe in.  This is the story of how I came to challenge my convictions.

In short, I’ve seen the production of foie ducks, but have begun to wonder if foie production isn’t any worse than commodity chicken production.  After comparing the amount of foie each person (even big fans) consumes in a year vs chicken, I wonder if it isn’t hypocritical of people (including me) to consume one but eschew the other.  As a result I’ve decided to start carrying foie gras, while providing a candid description of what I observed at a foie farm, so people can make their own decision.

Interested in the long version?  Here we go:

Ever since deciding not to carry foie, I have had dozens of people try to change my mind and exactly zero people gave me props for deciding to decline.  We are definitely missing opportunities by not selling foie, but I thought I was doing the right thing.

When a very liberal, animal-loving, sustainability-minded chef friend told me to get over it, I really started to reconsider.  So, I told a foie company that I’d sell their product but first wanted to see for myself how the product was produced.  People in the industry swore up and down that foie production is humane.

If we start carrying foie, I want to be candid about how it’s produced.

The Un-Sugar Coated Truth – What it’s like on a French foie gras farm:

So, I finally went to check out a foie gras farm.  Though it was a supposedly pre-arranged visit by the meat company that buys from this particular farmer, the farmer did not know we were coming.  At first I thought they wouldn’t let us in, but we were able to get a tour after we luckily were able to get in touch with the meat company owner.

This was a perfect opportunity.  Because we surprised them, I got an unscripted, unvarnished window into how a farm operates.

The ducklings start in very clean and spacious barns with access to pasture when the weather is agreeable, then they are moved outside to expansive grassy pasture with access to a barn in inclement weather.  For the first 12 weeks they essentially live like free-range, grass fed animals…the ideal.

The last two weeks of their life looked a little rough to me.  This is the period of time in which they go through the gavage process that involves force feeding a cornmeal type product and causes their livers to get fatty and swell.  Here’s what I observed: The ducks are held in 5-bird wire cages suspended over the floor.  Their poop drops to the floor beneath and pools in a collection area on the floor.  That’s not the end of the poop story, because enough poop landed on the wire cage which is then laid in by the birds.  The birds were definitely slightly beige from poop.  I could see it gumming up their feathers.  The barn smelled mildly of feces.

They keep the barn dark 24 hours a day in order to keep the birds calm if that tells you anything at all.  The birds can and do move around a little.  There’s enough room in each cage that they could squeeze in another 3-5 birds, but not enough for the birds to spread their wings completely.  Twice a day, they get force-fed the moistened cornmeal, but only if they don’t still have cornmeal in their throat remaining from the last feeding.  They are handled gently so as not to damage their gullet.

Some of the birds are gasping, they look full.  They appear frustrated, but who am I to determine that.  They aren’t making noises.  I would ordinarily equate noises with discomfort.  When I mention that the ducklings in barns live in clean, spacious barns & appear very healthy, trying to be positive, the response is that you have to take good care of them otherwise you lose your investment.

I didn’t see the gavage, but I didn’t need to.  I didn’t like what I saw.  It’s clear that this production is not ideal even without the force feeding.

The birds do not run to get fed, as proponents claim.  They are in small cages.  They can’t run to the food and can’t run away.

Is foie gras really worse than commodity meats?

But this led me to be thinking about bigger questions about my own hypocrisy.  The unavoidable reality is that I eat chicken and eggs in restaurants … and they aren’t always labeled as free range (and free range merely means “allowed access to the outside”).  In mediocre restaurants I can always count on a salad with grilled chicken…or chicken dishes in ethnic restaurants.  Those chickens likely are raised in similar small cages their entire lives, not just in the last 2 weeks.

So, what do I eat a year of chicken?  30 lbs?  The average American consumes almost 90lbs of chicken a year.

What does a heavy foie user eat?  1/2 lb?  1 lb?  Foie is an easy lightning rod because of the force feeding, but is it overblown?  No one eats perfect.  So, should the question be “what is the best we can do?”  Or “how should we avoid the worst?”  Am I a hypocrite for eating chicken while avoiding foie?

The Decision:

Some people want foie gras.  Some people want to avoid it.  I’ve decided to be as honest as possible about my personal experiences with the foie farm, in the hopes that people can make informed decisions, then let them decide rather than holding the door shut.

My own thoughts on the subject, as you can see above, are still very much in flux.  I’d love to hear your own thoughts on the subject, whether they be pro or anti foie.  Please leave me a comment below with what you think.

Behind the Scenes of our Summer Sailing Shoot


“Guys – the hatches are all closed, right?”

On a sailboat, there are plenty of good times to ask this question: say, right as you’re pushing off from the dock, leaving the marina, or even (if you like to live dangerously) as you’re sailing along on smooth seas. Really, if you think about it, there are only a couple of clearly wrong times to ask this question. The exact moment that some unexpected wake crashes across the bow of your boat? Yep, that’s one of them.

For those uninitiated, “hatch” is the nautical term for an opening in the deck of a ship – an opening which can of course be closed to keep people in and water out. On this particular afternoon, we would apparently forget this function.


Let’s back up to set the stage a bit. Four members of the Marx Foods crew – Matt, Ryan, Justin, and me – as well as a friend of the company, Saskia, had all come out to Shilshole Marina for a video shoot highlighting Silver Fern Farms Venison. From the marina, we hopped on a beautiful 36 foot sailboat, cruised down into Elliott Bay, and got some video footage with the Seattle skyline as our backdrop.


For the video crew, video shoot days mean tons and tons of work. The same goes for our actors, Justin and Saskia, though the work is a bit more relaxed and tends to include eating something delicious. As for me, well, a day like this is pretty much an excuse to hang out on a sailboat for a day and call it “working.”


I don’t have much experience with sailboats, so naturally I was designated the backup captain (probably just because I didn’t seem to be helping with anything else).  When the time came for Justin to concentrate on grilling, I took over as captain. My primary duty was to make sure we didn’t crash into something or, as Matt so eloquently put it, “Just try not to kill everyone on the boat.” I thought about responding with a quote from Captain Philips – “I am the captain now!” – but I decided against it since my poor passengers were probably in almost as much danger as Tom Hanks was at the time.


From there, I led us haphazardly around Elliott Bay for a couple hours, somehow managing to avoid the other boats in the bay.  We soaked up the sun, enjoyed some incredible venison, and savored the experience of “working” on a sailboat for a day. The time eventually came to call it a day, so Justin (back at the helm again, to the relief of our white-knuckled passengers) got us pointed back in the direction of the marina.

No more than five or ten minutes later, a boat sped across our path diagonally. At the time no one seemed to think anything of it – I can’t even recall what color it was – but in no time we found ourselves cruising headlong into the largest wake we had seen all day.


“Guys – the hatches are all closed, right?”

The answer to this question was, of course, no. So when the wake started slopping over the bow of the boat, gallons of it crashed straight through the open hatch and directly into the bedroom. Now, this was an overhead hatch we’re talking about (picture a 2’ by 2’ square skylight directly above the bed) so the water wasted no time pouring right in and getting comfortable on the bed.

When we had crested the last swell and the water had finished cascading through the hatch, Justin went down to survey the damage. The contents of the bedroom were completely soaked and the boat was doomed to smell like low tide for a week, but otherwise we came away relatively unscathed. Most importantly though, the accidental bedroom waterfall meant that my sloppy shift as captain wouldn’t be remembered!  In fact, I think it makes me a better captain than Justin, though this is up for some debate.


Looking back on this day, the fact that these had been our only challenges really puts things in perspective – we’re pretty lucky to get to have this kind of work day. Ok, if you add in the top notch venison and the super tasty recipes, expertly crafted by Kim Brauer and Becky Selengut, then it becomes clear that we’re just completely and totally spoiled. It’d take a lot more than my blundering shift as captain and some misplaced ocean water to mess a day like this up.

Reed Buchanan is the Marx Foods buyer and also helps coordinate the Service team. You can read more about him and his aversion to bok choy here.

Behind the Scenes of our Summer Camping Photoshoot

Recently our team headed out to the nearby Tolt-MacDonald Campground just outside of Seattle to set the scene for some fun camping photos and video content. We had a beautiful sunny day and some delicious food to grill up, including our grass-fed burgers as well as some sausages and hot dogs. I was extra excited and also a bit nervous because it was my first photography assignment for Marx Foods. Luckily the good company and gorgeous food gave me a lot of inspiration to work with and I could just enjoy taking photos.

The campground was one I hadn’t visited before and definitely one I want to go back to some weekend soon. They have yurts and traditional campsites as well as cabins, one of which is what we reserved as the backdrop for our shoot. I hear they also have lots of great trails around the campground which I’m looking forward to exploring at some point. We had to walk across a 500-foot long suspension bridge with all of our gear to get to our campsite, which initially sounded pretty daunting but turned out to be fun, plus full of great photo ops!

Pretend camping is almost as good as the real thing, and it was definitely a treat to get to spend the workday outside grilling delicious food. The food is the best part of camping anyway, if you ask me! It was also great to be a part of capturing the day in photos and working alongside Ryan and Matt.

We got the fire crackling and along with all of the meat we were cooking went some colorful baby bell peppers. There was also a quinoa salad with orange-parsley dressing and a refreshing carrot and fennel slaw, followed up with some simple grilled peaches for dessert. Needless to say we were all happily full at the end of that meal.

Thanks for checking out the details of on what went into this photoshoot!  We love creating visual content to go along with our delicious products and I hope we’ve inspired you to get outside and cook while our beautiful summer lasts here in the Pacific Northwest.

Annie Lalish calls and corresponds with our customers, helps keep the office running smoothly, and occasionally takes beautiful photographs for Marx Foods. You can read more about her here.

Behind the Scenes of our Summer Entertaining Photoshoot

A glimpse into what went on behind the scenes at our Summer Entertaining photoshoot… aka, that day we got to cook and eat a ton of delicious food at the beach.

It’s not every day that you get to call a charming beach-front house your office for the day. Especially when you live in Seattle. Fortunately for us, we got to do just that.

We set out from our office around noon, thrilled that the weather had decided to cooperate. It was sunny, 75 degrees, and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. Those of you from the Pacific Northwest know how much of a blessing that was- June around here is usually called “Junuary” as summer doesn’t usually show itself until the day after the Fourth of July.

When we arrived we couldn’t believe how gorgeous it was! Cozy & bright, it was full of nautical touches, which made all the more sense upon strolling down a long, winding flight of stairs that brought you directly to a lovely little beach on the Puget Sound.

After a little exploring, we set to work. While I arranged some farm fresh flowers into an assortment of tiny bouquets, Reid headed down to the beach to take some product shots, and Kim got set up in the kitchen, where she would proceed to cook an incredible meal under the careful watch of our camera crew.

You see, we weren’t just cooking that day- we were documenting the whole process! Even yours truly got in on the action and shot a short video talking about how to turn your favorite cocktail into a pitcher cocktail!

We were especially excited for Kim to get grilling. We just started carrying an incredible line of 100% grass-fed beef from New Zealand called Reserve. Not only is this amazing grass-fed beef- it’s the best of the best. The producers have scientifically quantified the best eating characteristics for grass-fed beef and ensured that every cut lives up to those standards. We couldn’t wait to try it, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint!

Throughout the day, we captured recipes step-by-step; shot how-to videos about grilling and entertaining; photographed delectable summer dishes; captured the special moments at the party; and yes, ate delicious food and sat on the beach when time allowed!

By the end of the day our feet were tired and our legs were sore, but our bellies were full of delicious food, and we were happy to have gathered a ton of great content in a gorgeous setting- all while showing our models a good time.

Lucky for us, the fun isn’t over! This was only the first of our photoshoot adventures for this Summer of Food! Next up? Camping!

Becca Lee wrangles our social media accounts, blogger contests, and general marketing work as the Marketing Coordinator for Marx Foods. You can check out one of her many hair colors and read more about her (and her ridiculous sweet tooth) here.

Seattle Specialty Foods Shopping Guide

We have no small amount of pride in our hometown of Seattle. There is no shortage of high quality food growers, purveyors, and artisans in this city, but the below is our short list of the places we rely on again and again.

Marx Foods Lower Queen Anne
This might be like voting yourself Prom Queen, but whatever, we’re doing it anyway. Marx Foods is one of the few food retailers that actually taste tests all the products on the shelves. We also stock things that are hard to find, even in Seattle’s abundant specialty food scene – game meats, a huge range of exotic chilies, molecular gastronomy ingredients…plus items you’ve probably never seen before (pinecone bud syrup or buzz buttons, anyone?). Our staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and endearingly nerdy about food.

A huge Asian grocery store with especially impressive fresh departments. The produce section is great–a wide range of exotic and tropical items in addition to the usual suspects. They do their meat-cutting in-house, so you can find all sorts of tidbits that you would have to special order at other stores: feet, skin, bones and raw or rendered fat of various animals. The seafood department has live items like tilapia, dungeness crab, geoduck, and oysters.

Pike Place Market
You’re not really a Seattle gourmand until you’ve plumbed the labyrinthine depths of the Pike Place Market. Here’s a short list of our favorite market vendors:

DeLaurenti for their extensive collection of high quality charcuterie, cheese, wine, and pantry goods.

World Spice Merchants is obsessive about keeping their wide array of spices are as fresh as possible. You can buy everything in just the amount you need, instead of the large bottles found at grocery stores.

City Fish may not throw fish at tourists, but it does have excellent, fresh local seafood and fair prices. During uni season they sell whole urchin on the half shell for about a third of the price of a sushi restaurant.

Frank’s Produce has the nicest produce in the market. If they don’t have what you’re looking for, just ask–they can special order your item with a day or two’s notice.

Paris Grocery is a small but well-curated French cheese and wine shop by the same folks who own a (also excellent) local Spanish grocery, The Spanish Table. Their selection of wines and spirits is excellent, including hard-to-find Underberg bitters.

Farmers’ Markets
Seattle has eleven farmers’ markets and they are all great.

Most of the markets are seasonal, but the U-District, Ballard, West Seattle, and Broadway markets are all open year-round. At each one you can expect a full selection of very high quality produce, meat, dairy, baked goods, and prepared foods.

Melrose Market
Counting Melrose Market as one retailer is a bit of a cheat because it consists of several independent vendors under one roof.

There’s Rain Shadow Meats (a full-service butcher specializing in local and sustainably-raised meats), The Calf & Kid (cheese shop that always seems to have the obscure cheese you can’t find elsewhere), Marigold & Mint (organic produce and plants grown on their own farm), and Taylor Shellfish Farms (live shellfish and the best oyster happy hour in Seattle). It combines the convenience of one-stop shopping with the expertise and service of specialty shops. There are also restaurants, a craft cocktail bar, and a home goods shop.

Neighborhood Notables

Pioneer Square
The London Plane

An all-purpose cafe-deli-bakery-pantry-flower-housewares shop by Seattle notable chef Matt Dillon (also the mastermind behind Melrose Market).

Sake Nomi

The impressive selection of Japanese sakes at this specialty store is carefully curated by the owner, who lived in Japan for several years. You can sit at the bar and talk shop while you sip a sake flight, or simply stop in and let them know what you’re looking for and get a great recommendation.

Capitol Hill
Central Co-op

A great full service grocery focusing on wholesome, sustainable, and local foods. Every time you walk in you’re likely to find a new locally produced product on the shelves. The staff is friendly and delightfully grungy. You don’t have to be a member to shop, but membership has its benefits: special sales, discounts, free workshops and events. Pickle-making workshop? Yes, please!

Cone & Steiner

A nice step-up from the ubiquitous corner store, this small market has all the basics–fresh fruits & vegetables, frozen meats, cheese, pantry staples, wine & beer–plus a tidy selection of prepared foods, locally made specialties, and hardware items. They also have a growler station stocked with 6 local beer taps.


One part apothecary, one part pantry store, Sugarpill is a sweet little shop stocked with items to cure what ails you, whether it’s seasonal allergies or boring cocktails.

A Few Staffing Insights

Confirmation of three huge lessons all at once.

A new employee quit unexpectedly recently.  Just didn’t show up one morning.  Turns out that he was a fragile soul and couldn’t handle the pressure of tricky customer service situations.  I understand now in retrospect, but I sure wish that he would have come talk to me.  He was a good fit for our company and I could have made adjustments to keep him satisfied in his job.

The position is somewhat critical because part of it is to process all orders that came in overnight and need to ship out immediately via FedEx.  Because it is time sensitive and it starts at 7AM, it is important to have the job filled and filled with someone dependable.  So, to have an unexpected vacancy and no courtesy of two weeks notice definitely hurts.

In fact, I was really down about it when I got his email later that evening saying that he quit effective immediately.  It was stressful, not least because I had just finished hiring for three positions and hoped that I didn’t have to deal with interviewing for a few months.   I thought and thought about how to handle it until a light bulb went off.  The person who previously did his job had moved and was now in a new city unemployed and with an Internet connection.  A ha!  I called her up and asked if she wanted to work from home until we can figure out a permanent solution.  She was thrilled.  So was I, because not only was the work covered but she already knew exactly what to do.  No training required.

When I look back, there are three important business  lessons that have been confirmed over and over in my young career:

1. It Never Ends.  Running a business involves a persistent parade of new problems.  It takes years to develop a “just deal with it” attitude rather than get flustered.  It never ends.  And it never will.  The bigger the business gets, the bigger and more frequent the problems become.  The ability to overcome ever-growing obstacles is a key to success.

2. There is Always a Way Out.  Most often when a problem crops up there is a solution that leads to a better outcome.  This happens over and over.  No matter how bad the problem seems at first, almost invariably the solution puts you in a better position than you were before the problem started.

3. You Never Know When You Need Someone.  So Be Nice.  When the previous employee left, it would have been much easier for the employee and/or me to end on a bad note.  It is hard work sometimes to keep relationships respectful and friendly when they are ending and the presumption is you’ll never see each other again.  It is hard to finish strong.  I tried hard to keep it positive when the employee left.  So did she.  If we had been hostile to each other after she gave notice, I would never have been able to go to her for help.  We both treated each other respectfully and fairly.  And the result was an outcome that helped both of us.  She has some income.  I have a critical job covered.

Now I need to go wade through a hundred resumes.  Ahhh, it never ends.

Meet a Producer – Midori Farm

Marko & Hanako produce truly superb organic sauerkrauts & kimchi at Midori Farm in Quilcene, WA and a nearby commercial kitchen – shepherding the whole process from seed to jar.  Because their krauts are unpasteurized and don’t ship well, we only sell them in our Seattle retail store and Amazon Fresh.  You should come by and check them out!

We had a chance to interview them on why they do what they do and how they do it.  Here’s what Marko had to say:

Why did you decide to start making & selling sauerkraut?
I started making kraut and kimchi after living in South Korea while teaching English.  Everyone in Korea eats Kimchi every day at almost every meal.  So when I came back to the states I was working on a vegetable farm and started making kimchi and kraut with the excess produce.

I knew it had health benefits similar to yogurt, and at the time I was a vegan so it was a good way to get probiotics into my diet.

After a few years of making it and perfecting some recipes, my friends started clamoring for more, so I started selling it around town.  About that same time I moved to Port Townsend which had a vibrant farming community and a great market, so I started producing kraut in a commercial kitchen and selling it.

Can you talk us through your kraut & kimchi production?
The main idea is that we chop or shred vegetables (usually cabbage is the main ingredient), then mix in a small amount of sea salt.  That salt draws the juices out of the vegetables in about 20 minutes are so creating a brine.

Then we pack that mixture into our fermenting vessels.   We place a weighted plate on top of that to squeeze out any air in there.   This creates an anaerobic (oxygen free) environment for the fermentation bacteria to start their work.

It is a succession of bacteria that do the fermenting and create the flavors associated with non-pasteurized kraut and kimchi.  Each strain can live within a certain range of acidity as they work on the process of breaking down the vegetables they create acids changing the PH level of the solution and thus inviting in the next strain of bacteria that can live and thrive in an increasingly acidic environment.

We usually stop the fermentation process after a few weeks so the kraut is still a bit crunchy, but has had enough time to develop complex flavors.

What’s your favorite part of the farming/production process?
I love that we are producing a “processed” product from start to finish.  We sow the seeds, cultivate the soil, water the growing seedlings, protect the plants from insect and disease damage, harvest the mature vegetables, shred them, ferment them for weeks and then put them into jars and sell them to folks all over our region.

It is an amazing opportunity to observe the entire process of bringing a food product from seed to shelf.  Plus it’s an amazing opportunity for creative thought and art in action. It is all so very long term oriented, it is fun to be a part of producing something that takes such a long time to create.

For example the onions and leeks we use:  They begin with spreading compost and planting cover crops each fall to nourish next year’s crop.  Then seeds are planted in the greenhouse beginning each January.  These onion seeds grow into onions that will be in the kraut folks are eating the following year.  A full year and a half after we began preparing the soil in which they would be planted.  I like the opportunity to take the long view.

Why did you decide to farm organically?
For us there is no other way to farm for long term health of the soil, the water, the animals and ourselves.

What are your favorite ways to enjoy your dill & caraway kraut and horseradish leek kraut?
On good bread with a good goat cheese.   Packed with potatoes and good sausages and a bay leaf then cooked in a covered dish in the oven.  On burgers, on pizza, with eggs, with anything grilled and salads of course.  Horseradish leek kraut on lamb is especially good.

Any quick & easy recipe ideas beyond simply using them as a condiment?
Blending them with any fat is perfect.  We make kim-cheese by processing kimchi with chevre or cream cheese.  And blended kimchi butter or kraut butter which can then be added to about anything.

Braising meats with lots of kraut or kimchi is divine…We like to brine meats in kimchi and kimchi juice.  Or slow cook pork or beef or tempeh or tofu with a jar of kimchi then roll up that mixture in lettuce leaves.  Our standby quick soup is a big spoonful of kimchi in a hot cup of water with some miso and a boiled egg or noodles.