Just got back from a couple days in Bellingham, via Chuckanut Drive, and have a little news to report for fans of the expanding Bow-Edison foodie wonderland at the south end of Chuckanut:
If you’re used to stopping in for a bowl of posole stew or some lime-soaked polenta cake at the Farm to Market Bakery in little old downtown Edison (all 500 feet of it), don’t be dismayed when you see the bakery empty and closed this month. Just turn the Prius around and cruise a mile or so back to the corner of Bow Hill Road and Chuckanut Drive and the little old Rhododendron Cafe, the new home to Jim and Lisa Kowalski, who ran the Farm to Market in recent years.
Longtime owners (since 1984, which is about a century in restaurateur years) Don and Carol Shank retired in October and hung up their aprons at the Rhododendron, a popular food stop on the scenic route to the City of Subdued Excitement (Bellingham). With fewer than a dozen tables, the cafe isn’t big — but if you’d ever squeezed into the Kowalskis’ old bakery and literally rubbed elbows with neighbors at the other table as you ate lunch (asking permission to raise your arm so you could get soup to your mouth), the Rhody feels positively barnlike.
And it’s nice to know that one old favorite spot is now in the caring hands of proprietors from another old favorite spot.
Chef Jim, who comes from a fine-dining background (formerly of Nimbus in Bellingham), looks forward to seriously scratching that itch in the new cafe. Part of the attraction, he says, was the opportunity to buy the acre of Skagit County that comes with the place.
“We’ll be taking advantage of the ability to grow much of our own food, with two greenhouses on the site, a dozen fruit trees, and herb and vegetable gardens,” he says. It doesn’t get more local. Saturday, I happily chowed on an oyster po’ boy with Samish Bay shellfish from just up the road ($12.95).
And if you’re still brokenhearted over the empty bakery on the west end of the Edison commercial hiccup (it’s too small to be a district), take heart over two plans for the future:
1. Kowalski will reopen the Farm to Market Bakery in the Rhododendron Cafe’s former gift shop, next door. It will have the posole and the polenta cake once again, sometime early in 2014. (Meanwhile, get your posole fix at the cafe.)
2. Plans are afoot for the old bakery location to reincarnate early next year as Mariposa, a takeout adjunct to Tweets, another Edison eatery, proprietor Charles Atkinson told me Saturday.