Local Love

Acme Farms & Kitchen

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Former regulars who used to play a few rounds of pool or occasionally listen to live music in the back room of Bellingham’s Rogue Hero bar likely wouldn’t recognize it these days.

Instead of rowdy revelers or drunken hookups, the long room is now home to Acme Farms & Kitchen, which bills itself as “Whatcom and Skagit County’s simple solution to eating locally produced food.”

On a recent Friday morning, cofounders Cara Piscitello, 36, and Joy Rubey, 39, were on hand to greet me at the State Street stalwart, which they moved into after outgrowing their original base of operations in Acme.

And although the space no longer resembles the dark cavern that was the Rogue—the low ceilings have been taken out, and that portion of the building now has a much-needed infusion of light—it was nearly as busy as a bar at happy hour.

That’s because I had arrived during the weekly rush to get the boxes of gustatory goods to the members who had previously placed their food orders online, and the employees were busily transferring the mix of locally and regionally sourced vegetables, meat, dairy items and more—which come in wooden boxes resembling those that might carry explosive compounds such as TNT—to vehicles for delivery.

While members are free to order item-by-item from the online store, Piscitello and Rubey also offer “Locavore” boxes, which include a rotating, seasonal variety of meal plans and recipes. The large Locavore box, for example, is full of everything needed to cook five sustainably produced meals. Each order includes a meal plan with recipes, seasonal produce, two proteins and a varying assortment of bread, cheese, fresh pasta, eggs, dairy and pantry items.

The week I visited, the large box included: beef stew meat from Skagit Angus Beef in Concrete, wild shrimp from Barleans in Ferndale, Breadfarm multigrain rolls, pappardelle from the Bellingham Pasta Company, a trio of offerings from Samish Bay Cheese, pie crust produced at the ACME kitchen, eggs from Burlington’s Prairie Road Farm, shitakes from Cascadia Mushrooms, kale from Highwater Farm, Hopewell Farm carrots, cubed squash sourced from Whidbey Island, yukon gold potatoes, garlic and delicata squash from Acme’s Moondance Farm, and fingerling potatoes and onions courtesy of La Conner’s Hedlin Farm. (Recipes included beef and mushroom stroganoff over pappardelle as well as shrimp stir fry with kale and carrots.)

Some might look at the $79 price tag for a Locavore box as high, but both Piscitello and Rubey are adamant that the time and money saved by not having to grocery shop on a regular basis is worth it (they also cite not losing money due to “impulse” buys).

“You can do almost all your shopping with us, and go to the store every two weeks instead of every day,” Piscitello says. “We’re doing this to give people easier access to local food, and by creating demand for local food, we’re able to ensure the farmers have a guaranteed outlet for their products.”

With around 40 different suppliers, Acme also sees to it that those who are purchasing edibles from them also have a whole lot to choose from.

When they first started the business in 2011, Piscitello and Rubey—who are both trained architects and have kids around the same age—did so because they wanted to figure out how to feed their own families menu items that were both sustainable and delicious.

As Acme Farms & Kitchen has grown from around 60 members to more than 800, the ideas have expanded, as well. In addition to the Locavore boxes, members can also pick and choose from a variety of meal kits, prepped and ready-to-eat menu items, baked goods, gift sets and more.

Don’t expect Piscitello and Rubey to let up on fulfilling their mission of feeding the masses anytime soon. Rubey says she’s cooking more than she ever has, and feels good that in addition to helping sustain the farmers and other purveyors, she’s also creating menus for her own family that she can feel proud about.

“When we bring our own box home, the kids always tear into it,” she says. “Basically, it’s family food your kids will eat.”

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