A cluster of people at Fremont's Sunday Market brandished their phones, as if they were recording a celebrity in the wild, or a really good drunken fistfight. But the object of their attention this recent afternoon was bubbling cheese.
Specifically a wheel of French cheese, held beneath heat until the surface was molten and liquefied, so an enormous knife could easily scrape it over a bed of steamed baby potatoes. "Shut up," breathed a spectator behind me as I collected my plate, complete with $3 prosciutto-and-arugula upgrade.
A stand called Fire and Scrape began serving raclette at the market in October. It returns this Sunday for Mobile Food Rodeo after the market's holiday hiatus. Owner Beth Ringland and her partner Dave Pyle had careers in transport and tech before they decided to spread the gospel of this specialty of the Swiss alps. The term "raclette" can refer to both the scraped dish and the cheese it's made with. Fire and Scrape offers a few versions from Europe, a stronger-flavored cheese from Vermont, and have worked with Issaquah's River Valley Cheese to create a Northwest version, the first that Ringland and Pyle know of in the Pacific Northwest.
The very few raclette offerings in Seattle usually involve cheese that's been melted in a cast-iron vessel, like the beloved version at Le Pichet (RIP Culture Club, which had a proper raclette machine). Fire and Scrape serves theirs right off the wheel, which Pyle describes as "food theater in the purest sense." It's no accident the staff makes sure you're standing at the pickup window before scraping nearly a quarter-pound of cheese onto your plate—just about every customer films this process; so do random passersby.
Fire and Scrape keeps those plates very traditional; choose from one of four cheeses to be dispensed over a bed of new potatoes, apple, or cauliflower from Washington farms. Recently Ringland and Pyle added baguette, an inspiration from outdoor markets in Paris, for a sort of raclette-sandwich hybrid.
The couple decided to launch their business at the Fremont market because it reminds them of outdoor markets in Europe (a visit to London's Borough Market is what inspired their raclette love in the first place). But Pyle and Ringland are eager for other venues, where warm plates can keep cheese meltier longer, and customers can linger over shared raclette with some beer and wine pairings. There's a popup afoot, most likely January 24 at The Whit's End on Phinney Ridge; the Fire and Scrape Facebook page should have details. Otherwise, the stand appears every Sunday at the market.