Graham’s Restaurant: Kitchen collaborationAug 31st, 2012 | Category: Food
by Brent Cole
When Graham’s Restaurant in Glacier closed its doors in May of 2011, it appeared the eastern Whatcom foothills community had lost an important piece of the cultural fabric. However within weeks, the restaurant – with community support – was reopened by new owner Katie O’Connell, who revised the menu to include more diverse options and local sources. It doesn’t hurt either that she has one of the top chefs in the county helping her out – Spencer Santenello, former owner and head chef at the now closed Prospect Street Café.
While her menu continues to have bar food like burgers, baby back ribs and tacos, O’Connell has worked to incorporate different foods. Vegetarian options now include roasted beet salad with arugula, goat cheese and Spanish sherry vinaigrette, roasted corn on the cob with bacon butter, and creamy lemon polenta with grilled veggies. “I like to eat healthy so I’m trying to pass that along to my customers,” O’Connell said.
She’s also added poutine with a house made apple chicken gravy and cheese curds from Appel Farms and chanterelle mac and cheese as a special after she and fellow Glacier restaurant owner Tom Debari, of Milano’s, recently bought 20 pounds of mushrooms.
Incorporating local foods isn’t easy for O’Connell since her restaurant is located in eastern Whatcom County, about 45 minutes from Bellingham. She found that local farmers would not deliver that far out and a local distribution company didn’t have everything she needed. So, every Thursday, O’Connell drives around the county picking up fresh local food, including berries from Williams Berries, corn from Boxx Berry Farm, cheese curds from Appel Farms, honey from Guilmette’s and the list goes on. “I like going around to the farms, picking up stuff and talking to people,” she said.
Santenello began helping O’Connell with the menu shortly after his restaurant closed early May. He helps in the kitchen, along with fellow Prospect Street cook Casey Georgeson and longtime Graham’s cook Chad Johnson. The four collaborate on different menu ideas, inspiring a unique dining experience. “We’re having fun in the kitchen,” said O’Connell. They are “a bunch of great cooks and we’re just throwing things around. It’s a total collaboration.” This fall, during the slow season, they’ll be changing some items on the menu for the locals, then will have another round of new items to suit the busy winter months. Drink features have included a steady rotation of beers from Kulshans Brewing and Tieton ciders on draft.
Along with the push towards local food in the regular menu, Graham’s will be hosting a “Pop Up” dinner on Sept. 16, in which Santenello will cook a six-course meal using local ingredients. The cost is $35 per person. For more information, or to make a reservation, contact Santenello directly at email@example.com.
Graham’s Restaurant is located at 9989 Mount Baker Highway in Glacier and can be reached at (360) 599-2665. For more information, visit grahamsrestaurant.com.
Published in the September 2012 issue of Grow Northwest magazine.