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BIMA BISTRO: Winslow’s best kept culinary secret?
Several new works of art have been causing a stir at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art as of late.
Items such as “cinnamon toast,” “salmon tartine” and “croque monsieur” are fast becoming popular museum draws all on their own.
It would seem that more than just great artwork is now available for guests to enjoy at BIMA through its new culinary operation, the BIMA Bistro.
The Bistro first opened its doors in October of last year, and has been quietly building up a sort of underground cult following among the more culinary-savvy of downtown Winslow.
“Lunch time is definitely the hot time around here,” said museum spokeswoman Katie Walters. She said the Bistro has become so popular that on Tuesday afternoon, there had been a line formed nearly to the museum’s front door of people waiting to grab a bite.
The Bistro’s menu, which is geared toward the celebration of ingredients and flavors from around the region, includes curated local beverages and contemporary small plates with new daily specials in addition to fixed menu offerings.
“Our goal of the Bistro is to mirror the mission of the museum by showcasing the food artisans of our region and time,” said BIMA board member Kate Ruffing.
“We are proud to have partnered with some of the best local vendors to bring this vision to life in our seasonal menu,” she said. “It is a wonderful extension of the museum experience, and a great place to gather on Bainbridge Island.”
Local vendors contributing to the fare at the Bistro include local coffee roasters Grounds for Change as well as Heyday Farms, Hitchcock Deli, Macrina Bakery and several regional craft breweries and wineries.
The menu is primarily the work of BIMA Bistro’s head chef Melinda Lucas.
Lucas, a trained pastry chef who is herself a Bainbridge Island culinary staple best known for her work as original co-owner and operator of Cafe Nola, said that she hopes that Bistro customers come away with a complete experience that compliments their visit to the museum.
“It’s simple, seasonal and fresh,” Lucas said of the Bistro’s cuisine. “I try to do things that are in season. I try to work with local farmers, we get our eggs from Heyday Farms and our salmon from Cape Clear.”
The Bistro’s head chef began her culinary relationship with BIMA as a volunteer on the Bistro menu planning group, with the intention of acting as a local liaison between the museum’s chef and the local farmers and suppliers that she knows so well. Having been between projects for some time, Lucas eventually decided to cut out the middle man position and get back in the kitchen.
“I thought, ‘I’m kind of looking to go back to work,’” she laughed. “I was a little bit nervous at first because I thought, ‘How big a job will it be?’ But it’s a great job. I love it. They give me a lot of freedom, and I’m really able to create.”
What she managed to create is an exciting and ever-changing menu that is resonating with guests and the museum staff as well.
“I love it,” said Scott Farwell, the museum facilities operations manager, of the Bistro fare. “Whatever she comes up with, I’ll eat it.”
Recent visitor and poet laureate Billy Collins was especially impressed with the cinnamon toast and wrote in the museum’s guest book that it was, “the best cinnamon toast in the world.”
Daily surprises on the menu include not only a soup, salad and sandwich of the day, but also a rotating assortment of fresh juices are available in addition to the museum’s exclusive coffee, know as the BIMA Blend, courtesy of Grounds for Change.
Also available in individual press pots, the BIMA blend is a bold and flavorful brew that is not for coffee amateurs.
Lucas said that the biggest challenge for her in the Bistro is to cook quality food without interfering with the touring experience at the museum by making too much noise or any distracting odors.
“We have to be careful with smells,” she explained. “They [the museum] understandably don’t want any pungent odors. So we’re not caramelizing any onions.”
The chef said that the daily specials and menu additions are often inspired in the morning during her routine trip to the market.
“I do a lot of shopping at T&C in the morning,” Lucas said. “So, sometimes I just kind of walk around and see what inspires me.”
The Bistro has already begun to expand into the catering market, having supplied the food for several local gatherings including the recent Bainbridge Island Police Department awards ceremony. Lucas said that it is also her goal to improve their brunch offerings and become a more accommodating brunch option for island diners.
BIMA is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m and is located at 550 Winslow Way East.
There is no admission fee.
To view the complete BIMA Bistro menu and to learn more about current and upcoming art exhibitions, visit www.biartmuseum.org or call 206-842-4451.
At the Bistro
What: BIMA Bistro offers locally-sourced food and drink to accompany regional artworks on display.
When: Daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, 550 Winslow Way East