"Local food,local flavorOwner emphasizes home-grown foodto help preserve Bainbridge farmland."
June 9, 2008 · Updated 6:49 PM
"When it comes to food, you can't beat home-grown.So says Jeannie Alexis Wood, owner-chef at La Belle Saison restaurant. Since she opened the Winslow Mall restaurant in 1999, Wood has made a point of featuring Bainbridge products. It's equal parts philosophy and quality, she said. The product is always so fresh and wonderful. And if you eat locally you can save the beautiful farms.The restaurant uses eggs, berries, milk, vegetables, potatoes, onions and garlic from island farms. While you can buy a California chardonnay or an Oregon Pinot Noir, most of the wines come from the Bainbridge Island Winery.We make our own sausage, our own croissants, which take two days, and our own catsup, Wood said. We don't buy convenience-packaged ingredients.Wood's affinity for the island's farms and farmers comes from childhood. Although she grew up in Whittier, California, she spent summers on her grandparents' chicken farm near Eugene, Oregon.When I look back, I have such strong memories of that time, she said. I hoped to buy that farm, but couldn't make it happen and I've always felt the loss.She spent 15 years as a pastry chef in Southern California restaurants, then moved to Bainbridge with husband Rick and two young children in 1992.I crossed the bridge and fell in love with Bainbridge, she said.That included the weather - I really need some seasons, she said.Wood immediately became active in farm support and activism. She joined the Grange, and encouraged area farmers to get more involved in the farmers' market, which she ran in 1992.At the same time, she began making pastries and cakes for friends, then offered samples to local restaurants. And in 1993, she began selling her pastries at the Farmers Market.A restaurant was always in the back of her mind. And when the for lease sign went up in the fall of 1999 at the former Percy's restaurant, she signed up right away.The name - the beautiful season in French - reflected Wood's penchant for local, and therefor seasonal, ingredients.Supporting local agriculture hasn't been a cost-free proposition.I pay more for the ingredients - sometimes much more - than you would pay at Costco, Wood said. But we have to support the farmers, and I pay what they ask.At the same time, she tries to keep her own prices reasonable.We probably have a smaller profit margin than some of the other restaurants, she said.The restaurant's newest offering is dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings. The menu features eight entrees, plus salads, soup, appetizers and beer and wine. The most expensive entree is $16.50.With all the downtown workers we get, there is a time element to lunch, said Wood. You can take a little more time at dinner, and all this outside seating is perfect for summer dining. "