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Q&A: Pioneer Square Pantry

  • We caught up with Pioneer Square Pantry founders Eva Soroken and Kylen McCarthy. Eva, a cultural consultant for fashion and lifestyle brands entering the Japanese market, and Kylen, a seasoned chef in the Seattle restaurant scene, travel between the Pacific Northwest and Tokyo, crafting delicious pop-up dinners and innovative culinary events. The duo recently launched a line of pantry products, including granola, nuts, and mustard, which are now available  in our Home Shop. They spoke with us about their new venture, and shared a recipe for Cured Sockeye Salmon:


    How did you start Pioneer Square Pantry?
    We met at Sitka & Spruce while working on a story for the Japanese magazine, Hanako. On behalf of the magazine, food director Yuri Nomura of Eatrip Restaurant flew from Tokyo to Seattle and the three of us spent ten days researching the Puget Sound’s local food movement together. We continued to collaborate afterwards, and the concept of Pioneer Square Pantry was formed organically during travels and as we worked on curated pop-up events and fashion installations in Japan. Splitting time between Seattle and Tokyo, we incorporated preservation techniques to allow for mobility and accessibility of Pacific Northwest flavors. As interest in our project and lifestyle developed, we created a line of shelf-stable pantry wares that could reflect our philosophies in markets while still allowing us to travel back and forth.

    Kylen, you also work as a sous chef/facilitator at Sitka & Spruce. What’s your favorite thing on the menu these days?
    I began working with Matt Dillon facilitating dinner service and in lieu of more frequent travels to Japan, took a role developing the commissary kitchen, curing, pickling, fermenting, and preserving seasonal bounty to feed all the restaurants. My most recent dining experience at Sitka & Spruce was a Monday evening dinner, enjoying foods from the Malafacha produced by Alvaro Candela-Najera, inspired by his childhood in Mexico.


    Eva, what drew you to Japan?
    I’ve always had an affinity for Japan as my mother is of Japanese ancestry. Throughout my youth we visited Japan to spend time with family, but growing up in Massachusetts, I was raised predominantly in English. With the desire to communicate with my Japanese grandmother, I studied Japanese intensively for four years while attending university in DC, and also spent a semester abroad in Tokyo. After graduating, I moved to a small agricultural community in Gifu Prefecture, where I spent one year at the base of the Japanese Alps. From there I moved on to Nagoya, Osaka, and finally, Tokyo.

    You make all of your food from scratch and forage many of your ingredients locally. What’s most important to you when sourcing ingredients?
    Perhaps most important are the relationships we have with our environment/supporters and the story we’re able to create with them. For us it’s less about product sourcing and more about the interactions and connections that we make with the people and places we encounter on any given day. We’ve been fortunate to have strengthened communities in Seattle as well as in Tokyo and the countryside prefectures of western Japan. In Gifu Prefecture we work closely with farmers and local producers. Similarly, in the Northwest, we partner with an ever-growing community of like-minded individuals. These relationships, both domestically and internationally, have greatly helped us to reinforce our philosophies globally while still providing locality to our movements within Tokyo and Seattle.

    Can you walk us through your process, from source to jar?
    It begins with maple syrup cooked over wood fires in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. We combine the beauty of New England with locally-milled oats, almonds from a friend’s grove in California, Oregon hazelnuts, raw pumpkin seeds, Ballard Bee honey, and Spanish olive oil. Seasoned with coarse sea salt and mixed by hand, each batch is made in small quantities, baked in jars, and individually labeled.


    Tell us about your pop-up dinners in Japan. How did they come about, and how often do you travel there?
    Our endeavors in Japan are primarily focused within the fashion industry, ranging from store openings to sales campaigns and seasonal collection previews. We’ve had the pleasure of curating events for the likes of Jill Stuart Japan, Cutler and Gross, Garrett Leight Optical, and Marni eyewear. Our friends at Bedwin and The Heartbreakers support our project with clothing and accessories, from Japanese denim to tailored button down shirts. Seasonally, we curate private dinners and outdoor parties for friends at Scribe Winery (Sonoma, CA), and in collaboration with Chemex Coffeemaker we partner with Bear Pond Roasters to produce themed pop-ups in their cafe. Between our travels in Japan, we’ve also donated charity dinners to The American Heart Association and Fashion for Humanity here in the US.


    What are some of your favorite neighborhood spots?
    In Pioneer Square, we often find ourselves frequenting Rainshadow Meats for cured meats and artisan sandwiches. For smaller plates and crafted libations, Bar Sajor offers a romantic, wood-fired neighborhood destination. Stumptown on 12th Avenue is a must in the morning for an espresso or roaasted beans for the road. The speak-easy in back at E. Smith Mercantile is a great hideout for happy hour.

    Describe your ideal weekend in Seattle.
    Seattle’s proximity to some of the most beautiful natural landscape in the US affords an experience unlike anywhere else. On any given weekend we’d start with coffee at Stumptown, then head to University Farmer’s Market, stopping to see our friends Kurt from Tonnemaker Farms for tomatoes, peppers, and tree fruit, and Taki-San of Mair Farm-Taki for cucumbers, cabbages, and Japanese plums. We’d take an afternoon lunch at Rainshadow Meats, and then go up to Capitol Hill for a couple of quiet hours at Elliot Bay Books. Afterwards, we would take a walk down to Bar Ferd’nand for a cocktail and a bottle recommendation from Mark Papineau to compliment our dinner made from the morning’s bounty collected at the market.

    Can you share a favorite winter recipe with us?
    When we aren’t traveling abroad, we tend to eat a lot of simple meals at home, usually inclusive of some type of soup or a tartine on my naturally-leavened sourdough.  One of our recurring favorites is a tartine of cured salmon with our granary mustard and a seasonal fermented vegetable.


    I start by baking my bread a day in advance because it tends to be more suitable for slicing and toasting on the second day.  If you don’t bake your own bread, find a suitable alternative from a local bakery, preferably something with whole grain flours to give it some desired texture and flavor.   For the cured salmon, it’s best to purchase whole fish, but you can easily go to a local fishmonger/market and purchase a scaled and pin-boned fillet.

    For curing a 2 lb fillet:
    120 g salt
    80 g dark brown sugar
    12 black peppercorns
    1 tbsp coriander
    1 tsp cumin
    1 tsp yellow mustard seed
    zest of 1 lemon
    1 dried chili (crushed)
    1/4 cup dill sprigs (roughly chopped)
    1/4 c vodka

    Rinse salmon fillets, pat dry with paper towel, and set aside.  Lightly toast peppercorns, cumin, coriander, mustard seed, and chili until oils are released and aromatics become noticeable.  Crack spices in a mortar and pestle and set aside.  In a medium bowl, combine salt and sugar, and using a micro plane, zest 1 lemon into the salt mixture.  Add all toasted spices and rough-chopped dill.  Mix thoroughly by hand, distributing all spices, herbs, and zest throughout salt mixture.

    Line a baking tray with plastic wrap and layer half of the curing mix on the plastic (same width and length as fillet).  Place salmon skin-side down on top of salt mix and cover with the remainder of the curing mix, making sure all areas of the fillet have been covered.  Using a tablespoon, evenly distribute the vodka on the top of the fillet, allowing it to soak down into the salt mix.  Using a second baking tray, weight the salmon down and leave to cure for 18 hrs.  Afterwards, remove from salt mix, rinse and let air dry in the refrigerator for another 24 hrs, forming a pellicle on the outer part of the salmon which keeps moisture inside the fillet.

    For the tartine:
    Slice a 1″ thick piece of bread and warm in an oven.  While bread is warming, thinly slice cured salmon, starting from the tail and working towards the top of the fillet.  Reserve salmon and set aside.  Once bread is warmed, remove from oven and apply a generous amount of Granary Mustard.  Top with the sliced salmon, pickled beets and dill sprigs.  I like to finish this tartine with some freshly grated horseradish and a little salmon roe.

    Many thanks to Eva and Kylen!

    - Photos courtesy of Pioneer Square Pantry

    This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 at 11:03 am and is filed under Food, In Stock, New Arrivals. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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