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Café to Café


F2T Hospitality

Alchemy, Vine & Spoon, By the Pound

Organization is a wonderful thing. Friends/industry co-workers got together, created a concept for a new hospitality company (F2T = farm to table, with a healthy, delicious bent), then began work on actual projects. Original owners were Chef Larkin Young; Chef Christopher Jensen, food and beverage director; Chef Bryan Ogden; and marketing/operations director Matt Mead. As they progressed, Ogden realized he had too many commitments and withdrew.

L-R: Chef Larkin Young, Matt Mead, Tony Larson

With three projects in the works, they're busy. The first, Alchemy, is now open and has been met with open arms by the West Seattle community. "There are lots of bars in West Seattle," says Matt, who spent 8 years at Microsoft, is a fitness and food lover, and has worked at Seattle nightclubs, restaurants, and lounges. "We're bringing upscale craft cocktails in a more lounge-y atmosphere that is really comfortable. We want it to be an experience for people, but one that's still their neighborhood bar. Come in a suit for happy hour after work, or show up in your flip flops. People should feel free to belly up to the bar and talk to Tony, our bar director, about what he's doing and what they like to drink. In the craft industry, there is sometimes some discomfort about not knowing enough about cocktails, the way some people feel about wine. We don't want this to be pretentious, we want people to have a good time and have an individual experience." Tony has created an in-house cocktail menu that includes drinks using activated charcoal, liquid nitrogen (to muddle with basil, preserving flavor and color), drinks that change color, and some that impart a smoky flavor. There are drinks in lanterns or under glass (absorbing the smoke flavor). "He's done an amazing job of cool presentations: fire, aroma, getting all the senses involved," Matt continues. "This really sets us apart and brings something different to the neighborhood."

Tony, a 12-year inhabitant of West Seattle, sees himself as a facilitator for F2T. "The owners come to me and say 'we're doing a bar that's about chemistry and magic; please build a cocktail program around that.' More generally, the company is about fresh, local ingredients. So we squeeze juices every day and make ingredients in-house. Bars are meant to promote conversation. We have communal spaces and encourage questions about what we offer." As Matt says, "If you want a vodka soda, Tony will make the best one you've ever had! Alchemy is really a bar with food, so our plates are shareable, artisanal bites, yet substantial enough."

Photo courtesy of F2T

Larkin created the Alchemy menu based on what's normal to him from his Minnesota childhood: hunting, fishing, picking berries, finding mushrooms, canning, freezing. "These were chores in my family," he laughs. "It was also a way to hang out with our parents because they worked a lot. He cooked his way through college (hydrology and water treatment). His sister was a chef. They worked with Chef Steven Brown at The Local in Minneapolis. "I self-educated, reading about food and history in those first 3-4 years. When I moved to Washington in 2000, I landed at Salish Lodge; it was great for me. I peddled around and saw all these mushrooms and plants. It was a hobby, a way to decompress. But then I started getting excited about the seasonality of what I was seeing. I like to offer familiar flavors in a different presentation; things people in this community will enjoy. Alchemy is about a drinking experience. My job is to provide delicious bites to get people to stay and enjoy a little longer."

Vine & Spoon is their next project, with a projected opening of late July-August. It's a restaurant with a bar, and just down the pedestrian walkway from Alchemy. "This is a place for full, sit-down meals, whether you're on a date or with the family," explains Larkin. "We'll focus on seafood, including an oyster bar; vegetables; and dessert. We also have connections with beef farmers and will focus on things we haven't seen in West Seattle. I have different things to add to what's already here. At Alchemy, I've honed down into a small-kitchen format and streamlined dishes. Vine & Spoon dishes will have all the accoutrements." Tony is calling the cocktail program 'garden to glass.' "Drinks will use citrus, herbs, vegetables in simple, fresh templates."

A third project, By the Pound, on Capitol Hill, has a projected opening of July. The front will be a deli with pre-made salads, soups, sandwiches. "This will cater to quick bites and to-go food," says Matt. "We're focusing on accessibility and price points. There's a ton of foot traffic, the new train station will be nearby, and the deli will be open late night." In the back, they are developing a surprise with an entertainment aspect. Matt will say no more (but may be open to bribes).

F2T is really a "passion project" according to Matt. "It's a chance to bring something that is uniquely us to the industry, a representation of what we think people will like, and something that will stand out from the crowd. Doing something ourselves gives us creative freedom and allows us to alter course quickly if something doesn't appeal to the neighborhood. We want to fit into the neighborhood, not change it." Managers and owners have been working the neighborhood, meeting local business people, leasing agents, neighbors, and doing cooking demos at farmers' markets. "When people come in, they already know us." They're working hard to create comfortable experiences people will enjoy.

A little something to nosh on, courtesy of F2T

Alchemy
4717 42nd Ave SW
Seattle, WA 98116
206-900-0400
www.alchemyseattle.com

Vine & Spoon
4706 California Ave SW
Seattle, WA 98116
www.vineandspoon.com

By the Pound
1801 E Olive Way
Seattle, WA 98102
www.bythepounddeli.com

Alchemy interior, courtesy of F2T

Connie Adams/June 2017


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