Pioneer Square Pantry: Seattle By Way of Japan
Seattle's hyperlocal food culture finds a new audience overseas thanks to this popup project.
What's Kylen McCarthy up to these days? Jetting to Japan for some culinary adventures—and ventures.
Over the past year McCarthy, a seasoned chef in these parts, and Eva Soroken have been building up Pioneer Square Pantry. It's not related to the renaissance happening in the historic Seattle neighborhood. Nor is there a pantry of any sort. Rather Pioneer Square Pantry finds McCarthy and Soroken putting on popups and putting out products, mostly across the Pacific.
The enterprise grew out of Soroken's work. As the founder of Masaki Ave she regularly travels to Japan to host optical showcases. In February of 2012 McCarthy started tagging along to cater them. Popups, like a streetside taco stand at Tokyo coffee mecca Bear Pond Espresso, would soon follow.
Bear Pond Espresso is the only place you'll find Pioneer Square Pantry's staple product: granola. It comes neatly packaged in a four-ounce mason jar but packs a bigger story. Inside are ingredients from a handful of regional purveyors, including Ballard Bee Company and San Juan Island Sea Salt. A friend of McCarthy's makes the olive oil. The recipe is purposeful—McCarthy and Soroken's way of exposing an international audience to our hyperlocal lifestyle. It's local on a global scale. When it comes to Seattle, Ichiro and coffee are some of the only points of reference among the Japanese, says Soroken. Now maybe they'll have new ones.More wares are on the way—McCarthy has preserves and fermented mustards up his sleeve—as are more kitchen gigs. Here in Seattle McCarthy has been rotating among several of Matt Dillon's restaurants; he's soon departing for a several-month stay in Japan. There McCarthy will cater some of Soroken's optical events. He'll partake in an enterprise called Nomadic Kitchen and join forces with Eatrip. He's curating a cherry blossom brunch in conjunction with Scribe Winery. There's another popup at Bear Pond.
The stacked lineup is all the more impressive considering Japanese society can be notably insular. But as a hefty photo spread in Hanako for Men magazine would indicate, McCarthy is making a mark. There are other challenges to cooking in a foreign country, of course: new ingredients, missing ingredients (tracking down tortillas for the taco popup proved particularly difficult), and funky electric ovens that talk to you. At the same time, such challenges will only benefit his culinary career, says McCarthy, whose first jaunt to Japan was his first time abroad.
McCarthy and Soroken don't have immediate plans to open anything formal here in Seattle. That's not to say you won't have opportunity to experience Pioneer Square Pantry in action. McCarthy and Soroken have put on popups locally in the past and this spring will cook two charity dinners in Portland. Follow Pioneer Square Pantry on Facebook to track future happenings.