For years BelleWood Acres has had their farm store in the heart of their apple orchards. As the farm developed, the store began to feel cramped, and owners Dorie and John Belisle wanted to move their retail sales away from their wholesale operation, with its busy trucks, forklifts - you get the picture. Their dream is coming to fruition (pun intended) on Labor Day weekend with the grand opening of their new, spacious facility at 6140 Guide Meridian near Lynden.
I visited last week to see what they've been doing and was blown away. Once again John and Dorie have outdone themselves with creative and delightful ways to enjoy fine farm products and have a fun farm experience.
Space problems have gone away. The new storefront is huge - a large 12,000-square-foot steel building with ceilings high enough to accommodate the shiny new distillery equipment at one end. The rest of the building contains counters for baked goods, taste testing, and their new Bistro restaurant, where guests can enjoy soups, sandwiches, salads and other goodies freshly prepared on site. A big corner area is devoted to related products - apple cider vinegar, apple butter, jams and jellies, jars of sauces, country-style cards and gifts, and other seasonal treasures too numerous to list. You'll just have to take time to explore on your own. When the orchard apples are ripe, they'll be offered for sale in a center area right in the heart of it all.
At the entrance were life-size hand-carved wooden rocking horses - and rocking pig, chicken, and goat, too! These are sure to delight children of all ages.
Inside the place was bustling. To the right I found the taste-testing counter. There you can try free samples of BelleWood's different apple varieties, their custom made honey-roasted peanut butter (perfect for dipping apple slices), sparkling cider, syrup and vinegar, and other flavorful treats produced at the farm.
Across the way was the bakery counter, stocked with wonderful breads, cookies, scones, pies and more. Three women keep the new on-site bakery kitchen humming with activity as they create new recipes (such as honey-roasted peanut butter pie - "OMG," as my Internet friends would say!) and continue to produce old favorites, such as their classic apple pie.
Around the corner was the exciting new Bistro. Incredible fresh breads from the bakery and other farm fresh ingredients are the main attraction in the Bistro. Light breakfast, lunch and dinner menus include homemade soups, salads, sandwiches, seasonal entrees, fruit/cheese plates, along with espresso and ciders on tap. Diners have the option to eat inside, outside in a covered area, or out on the lawn in the sun when the weather is nice. I was delighted with the fresh food, the reasonable prices, and the enthusiastic and friendly service. I think you will be, too. It's a good place to bring the entire family.
The highlight of the facility is the new distillery. BelleWood purchased two stills, handmade by Vendome Copper and Brass Works in Kentucky. They'll be using wonderful local ingredients to distill, including fruit from their own orchards, berries from their farm neighbors, and grains from Eastern Washington.
Vodka was the first libation to go into production on August 10. The distilled product line will eventually include vodka, gin, eau de vie, liqueurs, brandy, whiskey, pommeau, and hard ciders.
The grand opening for the new BelleWood facilities will be a festive three-week long celebration, kicking off Friday, August 31, with a free concert by The Shadies from 6-9 p.m. The Shadies play rollicking old-time fiddle tunes, banjo breakdowns and string band country music - perfect for setting the tone for a fun-filled Labor Day weekend at the farm.
Other activities for the Sept. 1-3 weekend will include tours of the distillery at 1, 3, and 5 p.m. on Saturday, and 1 and 3 p.m. on Sunday and Monday. Tours will include sampling in the distillery's tasting room. Free apple donuts from the bakery will also be available all weekend, as well as rides on the Apple Bin Express for u-pick apples, pickling cucumbers, and pumpkins. Three varieties of apple should be ripe and ready to take home: Gravenstein, Zestar, and Sansa.
Special events planned during the following three weeks include:
? September 7: Farm Tunes concert with PennyStinkers from 6-9 p.m.
? September 8: Farm Tour. Visit BelleWood Acres as a part of the 5th annual Whatcom County Farm Tour, sponsored by Sustainable Connections. This self-guided tour is free.
? September 14: Farm Tunes concert with Gallus Brothers from 6-9 p.m.
? September 15: Whatcom Water Week celebration. Creek activities and stream science walk (1 p.m.), and kids activities: horse rides, Apple Bin Express train rides, face painting and a visit from "Wayne" the raindrop, the Whatcom Water Week mascot.
? September 22: U Pickle class. Sign up to learn and practice how to make pickles. Class happens in our Community Room from 2-4 p.m. Advanced registration required. See the events page on BelleWood's website for more details: www.bellewoodfarms.com or call 360-318-7720.
? September 23: Whatcom Harvest Dinner. BelleWood Acres is the host for this year's harvest dinner, which supports learning about our food, starting with where and how it was grown and prepared through enjoyment of a community meal featuring produce from school and community gardens, grown just for the occasion. For tickets visit: whatcomharvestdinner.com/tickets.
Hope to see you there! They've planned something for everyone!
BLACKBERRY REFRIGERATOR JAM
Blackberry season is just starting. Here's a quick way to enjoy the first small quantities.
2 cups fresh blackberries (wild, Lummi Island)
2 Tbsp buckwheat honey (Red Barn Lavender, Ferndale)
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp water
Put blackberries in a medium size sauce pan and heat them over medium high heat. Mash them with a potato masher to help release the juices.
Continue cooking, adding a little water, if necessary, until the juice begins to thicken a little.
In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water. Add honey and mix until smooth. Add to blackberries.
Cook until mixture sticks to a spoon without dripping.
Pour into clean jar, Keeps in the refrigerator for about a month.
Makes 1 half pint.
You'll find Whatcom County foods at these stores and farms. Many outlets have seasonal hours. We recommend you call or check websites for current hours.
Acme Farms + Kitchen
Appel Farms Cheese Shoppe, 6605 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4996; appel-farms.com
Artisan Wine Gallery, 2072 Granger Way, Lummi Island; 360-758-2959; artisanwineclub.com
Bellingham Farmers Market, Railroad at Chestnut; 360-647-2060; bellinghamfarmers.org
Boxx Berry Farm Store and u-pick, 6211 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-380-2699; boxxberryfarm.com
Cloud Mountain Farm Nursery, 6906 Goodwin Road, Everson; 360-966-5859; cloudmountainfarm.com
Community Food Cooperative, 1220 N. Forest St. and 315 Westerly Road, Bellingham; 360-734-8158; communityfood.coop
Everybody's Store, 5465 Potter Road, Deming; 360-592-2297; everybodys.com
Ferndale Public Market, Centennial Riverwalk, Ferndale; 360-410-7747; ferndalepublicmarket.org
Grace Harbor Farms, 2347 Birch Bay Lynden Road, Custer; 360-366-4151; graceharborfarms.com
Green Barn, 8858 Guide Meridian, Lynden; 360-354-1008
Hopewell Farm, 3072 Massey Road, Everson; 360-927-8433
Lynden Farmers Market, 514 Liberty St., Lynden, fiveloavesfarm.blogspot.com
Pleasant Valley Dairy, 6804 Kickerville Road, Ferndale; 360-366-5398; facebook.com/pages/Pleasant-Valley-Dairy/161872142667
Red Barn Lavender Farm (egg CSA), 3106 Thornton Road, Ferndale; 360-393-7057
Small's Gardens, 6451 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4637
The Islander, 2106 S. Nugent Road, Lummi Island; 360-758-2190; islandergrocery.com
The Markets LLC, 3125 Old Fairhaven Parkway and 1030 Lakeway, Bellingham; 8135 Birch Bay Square St., Blaine; 360-714-9797; themarketsllc.com
Terra Organica, 1530 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham; 360-715-8020; terra-organica.com