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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Brinsea Maxi II Advance Hatch

Brinsea Maxi Advance IIMy first incubator was the Brinsea Mini Advance. It is a great incubator and have used it for a few hatches but it only holds 7 eggs. I ended up borrowing a Hovabator last Fall for a hatch because they didn't all fit in the Brinsea. I was not a big fan of the Hovabator and decided I needed a model with more capacity. Brinsea recently came out with some new models and decided to get the Brinsea Maxi II Advance. It has all of the same features and settings as the Mini with a few additional bells and whistles.  It holds 14 eggs, has a small vent that can be opened and closed and a reservoir on the outside to allow you to add water without opening the incubator. It also has a much larger viewing area so hopefully will be able to get a better view of the hatching.

I have a small hygrometer in the incubator to keep track of the humidity. I like to keep the humidity around 35% until lock down then will increase it to around 50%. I know some will go with a higher humidity and some even go lower or do what's called a dry incubation where they don't add any water until lock down. I chose to go somewhere in the middle and it has worked well for me in the past.

RIP ShyloMy brother announced he was planning a visit with his girlfriend and daughter and thought it would be fun to do a hatch timed around their visit. I decided to set the eggs on Friday morning so they should start hatching around the time they arrive next month. I lost Shylo, one of my olive eggers to a predator last week and found an egg under her body and decided to put it in the incubator. If it's fertile, the daddy should be a svart hona so it will be interesting to see the result of that cross.

I also added some hatching eggs I got from a couple of local chicken owning friends: 2 olive eggers, 2 olive egger back cross, 3 isbars, 2 silver laced orpingtons and 3 ice cream bars (isbar x cream legbar) for a total of 13 eggs.
Hatching Eggs

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Tomato and Pepper Varieties 2017

For the past couple of years I have been blogging about the tomato and pepper varieties I'm growing for the year and every year I seem to grow a little more of them.  Last year it was 22 tomato varieties and 12 pepper varieties. This year I'm also doing 22 tomato varieties but will be growing 13 pepper varieties. I will be putting 3 determinates in the greenhouse, 2 determinates in containers and 1 will go into a hanging basket which is a first for me. The rest will fill up one of my raised garden beds. The Sungold and black cherry are the only two I've grown before. The rest are new for me this year and mostly came from seed swaps.

Here are a couple of pics from last year's varieties.
2016 Large Tomato Varieties 2016 Cherry Tomatoes


Black Cherry - Indeterminate - 65 days - saved seed
Brad's Atomic Grape - Indeterminate - unk days - Wild Boar Farms *new*
Glacier - Determinate - 55 days - seedswap with gratefulseedsaver
Isis Candy Cherry - Indeterminate - 70 days - seedswap with Lisa Russell
Minibel - Dwarf - 65 days - Baker Creek Seeds
Napa Rose - Indeterminate - unk days - Wild Boar Farms *new*
Purple Calabash Cherry - Indeterminate - unk days - seed swap with LL Mcbee
Wapsipinicon Peach - Indeterminate - 80 days - seed swap with Lisa Russell
Sungold (German dehybridized) - Indeterminate - 70 days - saved seed

Ace-55 - Determinate - 80 days - @urbanorganicgardener
Fertunia - Semi-determinate - unk days - Italian tomato seed swap with @themoderndaysettler
Goose Creek - Indeterminate - 75 days - saved seen from Heirloom Tomato Festival
Greek Pinks - Semi-det - unk days - Italian tomato seed swap with @themoderndaysettler
San Marzano - Indeterminate - 80 days - seed swap with @thegreenspatula
Striped Red Cavern - Indeterminate - 80 days - seed swap with LL Mcbee

Aunt Ruby's German Green - Indeterminate - 85 days - seed swap with homegrowngourmet
Azoychka - Indeterminate - 70 days - seed swap with @carmelbellafarm
Black Krim - Indeterminate - 80 days - seed swap with LL Mcbee
Chocolate Stripes - Indeterminate - 80 days - seed swap with LL Mcbee
Gold Medal - Indeterminate - 80 days - seed swap with gratefulseedsaver
Paul Robeson - Indeterminate - 85 days - therustedgarden
Sweet Tangerine - Determinate - 68 days - Hybrid variety seed swap with LL Mcbee

Colors of Peppers
2016 Pepper Harvest


Super Hot ( > 600,000 scoville )
Carolina Reaper - 2.2 mill scoville - seedswap with Jay-rseyshoreGardener
Jay's Peach Ghost Scorpion - 750k scoville) - seedswap with Jay-rseyshoreGardener

Hot ( 10,000 - 600,000 scoville )
Aji Lemon (lemon drop) - 50k scoville - seedswap with Sander van Laarhoven
Chocolate Habanero - 400k scoville - seedswap with LL Mcbee
El Oro De Ecuador - 40k scoville - seed swap with Christopher Brandsdal
Sugar Rush Peach - 100k scoville - seedswap with Jay-rseyshoreGardener

Mild/Medium ( < 10,000 scoville )
Cajun Bell - 500 scoville - seedswap with Anita Browne-Kauzlarich
Italian Long Hot - 1k scoville - seedswap with Jay-rseyshoreGardener
Orange Jalapeno - 5k scoville - seedswap with Sander van Laarhoven

Bell ( 0 scoville )
Orange Bell - seed swap with Kathy Pinkas
Purple Beauty Bell - Baker Creek Seeds
Yellow Bell - Big Family Homestead

Check out my Youtube videos to see how I started my tomato and pepper seeds.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Hellebore Tea at Lake Wilderness Arboretum

A food blogger conference friend that I kept in touch with on social media posted on Facebook that she was looking for a few more people to join her table at Lake Wilderness Arboretum's annual Hellebore Tea in Maple Valley. I thought it sounded like a fun event so I put me and Mark down for the last two tickets. Not having been before, I wasn't sure what to expect. It turned out to be 95% women and 80% of them wearing a hat of some sort.

Sarah, the table host, mentioned that there was a theme for her table and it was woodland. It sounded like a good table theme. It was mentioned that most people dress up. I'm not a dressy uppy kind of person so I settled on some non-jean pants and a copper/brown shirt which turned out to match the table scape pretty well. I also put on some jewelry which I rarely wear. I have a pine cone necklace that I thought went perfectly with the theme. The table was decorated with copper tea mugs, squirrels, acorns and chopped wood for tea and kettle coasters.
Woodland Squirrel

There were a couple of contests at the event, one for the best decorated table and one for the best hat. I didn't realize there would be a hat contest even though it said there would be right on the ticket. Needless to say, I didn't wear a hat but enjoyed all the hats everyone else was wearing. One of the tables next to ours had a chicken theme and everyone at the table had hats with nests, eggs and chicks adorning them. The funniest hat I saw was a lady with tea bags dangling from her hat. She ended up winning one of the prizes as did Shauntá at our table who wore an elegant hat with feathers from her chickens in it.
tea hats

This event was actually a fundraiser to benefit the Lake Wilderness Arboretum. There was a silent auction and a plant sale. Unfortunately we didn't come home with any auction items or plants but we enjoyed the event and all the cookies, crackers, pastries and snacks that accompanied the tea.
. Plant Sale

Monday, January 16, 2017

Hard Wok Cafe

The Hard Wok Cafe opened a location in Bellevue last summer after many successful years in Seattle's International District. They serve Taiwanese cuisine, not a cuisine I'm very familiar with. I can only recall one other Taiwanese restaurant that I've been to, Facing East, which I also blogged about three years ago. It's hard to make a comparison between the two because it's been so long.

I may have been the only non-Asian in the restaurant which is always a good sign the food is good. I shared lunch with 4 other women from work. Most of them are Taiwanese and familiar with all the food on the menu and speak the language too. I did a little preparation before lunch, reading reviews to see what's good and what's not. This restaurant seemed to be most well known for their honey toast dessert. More about that in a bit. The dish I had in mind to order was the Ban-Uan, a pork dumpling that seemed to have good reviews. We all looked at the menu together and picked out 8 dishes to share. I will say it's good to go with people who speak/read the language and are familiar with the food because you don't always know what you're getting by just looking at the menu. For example, what's listed as rice cake with peanut powder also contains pig blood which some people may not be comfortable with. Luckily, I was warned in advance by someone at the table.

The food was ordered in, I'm guessing Mandarin, something I couldn't comprehend. Turns out the dish I was wanting ended up being not available so they switched it out for something else and I had no idea what until it arrived at the table.

The food came out a few dishes at a time. The first two arrivals were veggies. The greens are a Taiwanese lettuce known as A-Choy which seemed to taste similar to bok choy. There was no sauce or spices in the sauté so was not all that impressed with the flavor. The other dish that came out was a more flavorful Vietnamese pickled cabbage. It didn't taste like normal pickled veggies so they must have used some kind of Taiwanese vinegar and spices. I enjoyed the cabbage much more than the greens.

A-choy Taiwanese Lettuce Pickled Cabbage

The next dish that came out was the surprise replacement for the Ban-Uan I had originally wanted. We ended up getting rice flour turnips (Uann-Quei) in its place. This ended up being my favorite dish (not including dessert) of the meal. I tried to google the dish to see if I could get more info on what is in it but I didn't have any luck. The Taiwanese name for it is 碗粿 which I also googled and it seems more results came up but of course I couldn't understand any of them. The other meat dish that arrived was a pork sausage wrapped in sticky rice sausage.  I can't say that I've ever had a sausage wrapped in another sausage before.  The pork sausage was quite tasty but I wasn't very impressed with the sticky rice sausage. The texture was kind of gummy and didn't have much flavor. It was also not that easy to split among 5 people.

Rice Flour Turnips Uann-Quei Pork sausage wrapped in sticky rice sausage

The next dish that came out was the scary porks blood dish. I don't think I've had anything with pork blood in it before. I'm told the blood has to be super fresh in order to make this dish. We cut it up into 8 pieces and I ate one. It didn't taste bloody or anything. I wouldn't have guessed it had that as an ingredient. It wasn't my favorite dish but it wasn't too bad either. The crispy roll was probably my second favorite dish (not including dessert). It was slightly sweet and reminded me of a fresh pretzel, without the salt. The crust was nice and crispy while the center was soft just like a pretzel. If you've never had a fresh baked pretzel you are missing out!

Rice Cake with Peanut Powder Crispy Golden Roll

The last two dishes had the largest portion size. I read about the fried pork chops on Yelp and remembered seeing mixed reviews. One person said that it didn't taste like pork at all. I'm not sure what they did to the pork but it was super tender and is probably why that person thought it didn't taste like pork. It was seasoned well and was my 3rd favorite (not including dessert).

This brings me to dessert, what the restaurant is most well known for. Be sure to order your dessert early because it takes 15-20 minutes to make the beautiful and elegant honey toast! There are a few different toppings to choose from and we went with the matcha (green tea) and red bean topping. This dessert is huge, you need a party of 5 to even attempt the dessert unless all you order is dessert. I think it would actually make a pretty good brunch meal. I came across a video showing how they make the dessert. Basically they take a loaf of bread, cut out the insides, cut the insides into squares, slather it all with butter and toast it in an oven. The toasted squares are put back into the box and the toppings are added: ice cream, frosting, fruit, chocolate, cocoa chips and other toppings depending on which one you order. In case you couldn't tell, dessert was my favorite. I want to go back and try them all!

fried pork chops honey toast

Bellevue: 667 156th Ave SE
Seattle: 1207 S Jackson St
Hard Wok Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, December 30, 2016

Best Fruit and Vegetable Varieties to Grow

I have been growing a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in the garden the past couple of years and have a few favorites I wanted to write about that I'll definitely grow again and think you should try too.


I prefer the hard neck varieties of garlic because I enjoy the garlic scapes in the Spring which the soft neck varieties don't produce.

German Red and Turkish Giant Garlic
Turkish Giant - This hard neck purple stripe variety has large cloves but is not an elephant garlic. It has great strong flavor and stores well.

German Red - This is also a hard neck variety but is a rocambole type. The cloves are on the large side and very easy to peel. It's hot and spicy. It grows better in colder climates so it's not recommended for those in the South. The skins are a beautiful red but it doesn't seem to store as long as the Turkish Giant


Tropeana Lunga and Ailsa Craig Onions Tropeana Lunga - These are an intermediate day type of onion. I've grown this one for the past 2 years and will be growing it again next year. It's an oblong pretty pink onion that tastes more like a shallot than an onion. Great sliced thinly and added to a salad. It doesn't store that well so it's best eaten within a couple months of harvesting.

Ailsa Craig - This is a long day type of onion so best grown in Northern part of the US. These can get very large which is why I like them so much. I thought they were a long storing onion but after some research found they aren't. I never grow enough onions to verify that. It seems I never grow enough onions and plant more every year.


Brunswick Cabbage Brunswick - This was my first year growing this variety and was impressed. I usually only plant 2 or 3 cabbages because they take up so much room. I grew two of these and they both were very large and didn't split. The larger one was over 11 lbs after removing the outer leaves. This variety makes great kraut. I will likely grow it again next year.


Beans Pellegrini (Monachine) - This is an Italian pole bean that has been grown in the PNW for many years and is adapted to the climate here so I'm not sure how well it will grow in other climates. It's a very tender, stringless green bean. The amazing thing about this bean is that even when the bean gets too big that you'd think it wouldn't be tender, it still is! This is also a great dried bean as well.

Fortex - This is a long pole bean, not as long as a yard long bean but they grow to about a foot in length. They are round and very crispy and sweet, also stringless. They would make a great casserole bean or canning bean.

Ying Yang (Calypso, Orca) - These are bush beans that can be eaten as fresh green beans but they are best known for harvesting when dried. They are great in soups and salads. They are easy to grow and very productive. They have a beautiful black and white pattern which disappears after its cooked. Bob's Red Mill also sells this variety which is available in some stores or on Amazon.


cucamelons and lemon cukes
Lemon - A yellow baseball sized cucumber that looks more like a melon. It is great in salads and also pickled or eaten like an apple. It doesn't taste like lemons but it has a sweet flavor. The vines are very productive. They are bested harvested young, before they start turning dark yellow/orange.

Mexican Sour Gherkin (cucamelon) - A very product vine that produces tiny watermelon looking cucumbers that are slightly sour. They are great to just snack on while walking around in the garden. They're also good in salads or pickled.


I've not grown that many varieties of peppers but every year I try more and more so I'm sure my list of favorites will grow every year but these are my favs from the garden this year.

Favorite Peppers

Lunchbox - These are like tiny red bell peppers. They are crunchy, sweet and juicy. I loved stuffing them with a mixture of goat cheese and cream cheese. They work great for anything you would use a red bell pepper for. The plant produces a ton of peppers, much more than I would get from a regular bell pepper.

Orange Scotch Bonnet - These look similar to the lunchbox but pack a punch. They are very juicy and crunchy and have a fruity taste. The walls of the pepper aren't spicy at all but once you get to the core and the seeds, they are quite spicy. The plant is also very productive and was the only pepper that lasted in my greenhouse all the way to December.

Padron - These are typically harvested green but they do turn red if you let them. I learned about these peppers from a local pizza restaurant that has a seasonal padron pizza. Many of the peppers are pretty spicy but some are more mild. They are great for using in salsas, fried potatoes, burgers, just about anything.

Giant Jalapeno - This is the only pepper plant I didn't start from seed. I got the plant from a local gardener and he insisted I grow it. I was not disappointed. This plant produced some huge jalapeno peppers that weren't overly spicy. I also enjoyed these stuffed with goat cheese and cream cheese and toasted on the grill. They are also great for salsas too.


I've been growing about 20 varieties of tomatoes for the past couple years and these are some of my favorites that I'll grow every year or at least grow again in the near future.

Top 5 Tomatoes

Black Beauty - A large gorgeous black tomato that is super sweet too. The first fruits are usually the largest and the sizes get smaller as the plant grows. It does seem to take longer than most tomatoes to ripen.

Japanese Black Trifele - a very productive and tasty tomato. Seemed to be the most blight resistant of the heirloom tomatoes I grew this year. It has a beautiful dark red color and all of the fruits were about the same size.

Sungold - The sweetest cherry tomato I've grown and will continue to grow it in the garden every year. The variety I have has been dehybridized which means seeds can be saved from the fruit and grown again and will be true to type. 

Black Cherry - Another super sweet tomato that is a deep purple and another favorite that I enjoy in the garden every year. Chocolate cherry is similar but the black cherry seems just a little sweeter.

Ardwyna - This is a huge paste tomato, much bigger than any roma I've ever seen. It doesn't take many of these tomatoes for a batch of salsa. The taste is also great for a paste tomato.  They are best used in salsas and sauces.

Winter Squash

Porcelain Doll Pink Pumpkin Porcelain Doll Pink Pumpkin - This was my first year growing pumpkins and was impressed by the productivity of just one plant. It grew all the way around my raised bed and produced 6 good sized pumpkins. They are yellow when immature and turn a light pink when mature. This is a hybrid so saved seeds may not produce what you would expect. It has a sweet flesh, great for making pumpkin pies. This variety is said to be resistant to powdery mildew. It is a hybrid seed I got from a seed swap so I don't think saving seeds from it will produce the same thing but I might try it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

PNW Wild Edibles

I knew there were a lot of wild edibles in the area but never knew just how many, too many to count. This is a long overdue post about a plant walk we went on in April, 2015 with Greg Hovander and a dozen or so other people from the area. Greg is a Pharmacist at the Sultan Pharmacy and an expert mycologist. He's also very knowledgeable about wild edibles and medicinal plants. He plans these walks about twice a year but it's hard to find any information about them because they aren't really advertised. I only heard about it through a local Facebook group. To sign up, you just need to call the Sultan Pharmacy and ask about any planned plant walks. He has a blog, Hovander Mycology and Edibles,  but it doesn't appear to be updated very regularly.

I tried to keep track of all the different plants we discovered by writing them down and taking photos of what we harvested but there were so many it was hard to keep track. I managed to write down over 30 of them along the journey and in between photographs.

Our first stop was the Sultan High School and not some place I would have expected there to be an abundance of plants.  Little did I know, they have a nature trail on the property with all sorts of wild edibles and wild life. We actually saw a few deer roaming around. At the high school alone, we harvested agarikon mushrooms, turkey tail mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, reindeer lichen, sheep sorrel, plantain, miner's lettuce, salmon berry blossoms (too early for fruit but the blossoms are also edible), sword fern, bracken fern, fiddle head ferns, chickweed, ox-eye daisy, mustard greens and flowers, chamomile, St John's Wort and stinging nettle.

Sheep Sorrel Narrow Leaf Plantain
Oyster Mushrooms Shroom Magnify


We headed East on Hwy 2 and on our way to the next stop we pulled over and dug out some cattail stems from a swamp. Luckily someone in the group had some waders in his truck and harvested some for everyone.
cats tail stalks

We continued East and stopped somewhere near Baring for our next adventure and found a bunch more things to add to our collection bags and learned of some plants to avoid. Here, we collected vanilla leaf, lady slipper, Star-flowered Solomon's Seal, violets (avoid the false violets which have shinier leaves), hooker's fairy bell, licorice fern, trillium, lily of the valley, avens, ginger flowers, vinca, cat's ear (dandelion like) and creeping charlie.
Cat's Ear Solomon's Seal
We then headed back towards Sultan and found a park in Index to enjoy a late lunch that included all the stuff we harvested. We even discovered some wild edibles to add to our collection at the park: more sheep sorrel, cat's ear, russian kale and mustard greens/flowers. Everyone emptied their harvest bags onto the table and we separated everything out. Some of it Greg cooked up into a tasty rice dish and others we combined in a bowl for a nice mixed wild greens salad. Unfortunately we had to get back home before the hot meal was ready but we took some salad home with us. It was a lot of fun and we hope to do another one again, maybe in the Fall.
Wild Greens Chef Greg Wild Salad

Monday, October 31, 2016

Fermented Green Ghost Hot Sauce Recipe

Ghost PeppersI had an abundance of peppers in the garden this year, including some super hots. I've made salsa the past few years and dehydrated some last year. This year, but the peppers kept going after the tomatoes were done. @deanacat3, a friend on facebook, is always posting about her fermenting adventures in the kitchen and has posted several times about making fermented hot sauce. I've fermented a lot of things but never tried peppers. I made two batches of sauce, one with a variety of every color of pepper in the garden and the second with only yellow and green varieties. I received some yellow ghost peppers from a neighbor and decided to put them into a sauce along with the last of my yellow and green variety peppers from the garden which resulted in the Green Ghost Hot Sauce.

Green Ghost Hot Sauce

Recipe inspired by Deannacat3's hot sauce recipe

  • 3/4-1 lb green and yellow peppers (include yellow ghost peppers)
  • 2 tbsp chopped onions
  • 1 tbsp lime juice handful of cilantro
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup brine (1/2 tbsp salt + 1 cup water)
  1. Roughly chop the peppers, removing seeds and veins for a less hot sauce if preferred.
  2. Blend all ingredients (except the 1 cup brine) in blender and then pour into glass jars leaving about 1.5-2" space at the top. 
  3. Top with a fermentation lid and let sit for 2 days to allow solids to separate.
  4.  Slowly add some brine to 1" above pepper mixture. 
  5. Let ferment or 2-4 weeks. If peppers float to the top, press them down every few days to avoid mold from forming or use something to hold them down like a fermentation weight.
  6. Press the chili sauce through a sieve and store the sauce in hot sauce bottles or any glass container for several months in the refrigerator.
green ghost sauce ingredients green ghost sauce Green Ghost Sauce Bottled

Friday, September 16, 2016

Homegrown x Oxbow Farm

Homegrown PicklesMy favorite lunch spot in Redmond, Homegrown, and Oxbow Farm are collaborating to produce some awesome pickled goods, starting with organic dill pickles made by Seattle Pickle Co. We got to open some up and try them out and even took a jar home. They are crunchy and delicious, not too vinegary like a lot of pickles are. These will be available in stores next week. Something else to look forward to are some pickled bite sized beets. In the process of thinning their beets, Oxbow will be saving the small bite sized beet roots for pickling. I thought it sounded like a great idea and can't wait to try them.


I was invited to a lunch at Oxbow Farm that had a delicious cucumber themed spread of food prepared by Homegrown, who also does catering in case you didn't know. My favorite part of the meal was the kimchi cucumbers. I've been wanting to learn how to make kimchi for quite a while now and these cucumbers reminded me that I need to get on that.
Homegrown Refreshment Ben Friedman Homegrown Co-Founderjpg
Cucumber Theme Dishes
Music on the Farm

Farm Tour

Dill WeedAfter lunch, Adam, the Farm Manager, gave us a quick tour of a few of their fields. Like any farm or garden, they have weeds and their biggest weed problems appeared to be amaranth and lambs quarter, both of which are actually edible. They however did not seem to be interested in harvesting any of their weeds. I admit I have some of these weeds in my yard too and don't eat them either but my chickens love amaranth. I should see if they will eat the lambs quarters too. On our trek through the fields, we passed some overgrown area that he said they let flower and go to seed to encourage the beneficial insects and pollinators because they love the flowers from brassicas and dill weed.

They had a lot of carrots growing in the first field we crossed but I think there were more weeds than carrots. The carrots didn't seem to mind the weeds though. We got to harvest a few while as we crossed the field. I always wait too long to harvest my carrots and they end up not being as good. I'm going to try growing some carrots this winter for the first time and hopefully not wait too long to harvest them. They can handle the colder weather if planted early enough. I just got them in the ground earlier today, hope I got them planted in time.

Oxbow Farm Carrots Oxbow Farm Beets

Damaged Cukes
Every farm has it's failures and we got to see one of their biggest failures this year.  They had a huge cucumber beetle infestation that spread mosaic disease that pretty much wiped out their Marketmore cucumbers. Luckily, they had another variety that didn't get hit as hard and were able to harvest more of the cucumbers from that variety for their pickles. They won't have as much as they would have liked but it's something. I grew marketmore cucumbers in the greenhouse this year and they were not very productive but I think it was more due to not enough water. Oxbow, as do I, practice crop rotation to help with disease and pest management. Planting the same crops in the same place every year depletes the soil of the nutrients needed to grow that crop as well as increases your risk of getting diseases and pests but sometimes there's nothing you can do but try again next year. Oxbow is an organic farm so they do not use any chemicals on their land, nor do I.


If you've never been to Homegrown for their great salads and sandwiches, check them out. They now have locations all over the greater Seattle area, including Redmond, Bellevue, Capitol Hill, Downtown Seattle, Fremont, Kirkland, Mercer Island, Queen Anne, Sammamish Plateau and South Lake Union. They also have a gluten free bread option which comes from Nuflours on Capitol Hill.