In this ongoing series, we hear from island restaurateurs, in their own words, about how their eateries have fared in the era of take-out only, and their plans and challenges in the coming weeks. This week, we hear from Lauren Garaventa, butcher and co-owner (with Jake Heil and Rustle Biehn) of The Ruby Brink, which opened in May 2019 and quickly garnered rave reviews and attention from food critics and customers alike. — Elizabeth Shepherd, Arts Editor
What’s on offer at The Ruby Brink now? Tell us more about your take-out menus, and the other options you offer in terms of your butcher shop and offering pantry items for people to make their own meals.
Lauren Garaventa: Since the Stay at Home order, we have been making changes to our program to better serve our island community. We have a limited takeaway menu from the kitchen. It is very similar to when we were open, but we have removed most of the bar snacks and are selling those in the butcher shop as “grab-and-go” items. Meat & Noodle is always available and we have added Cheeseburger Wednesdays to the mix. The butcher shop is taking special orders, cutting daily to fill the case with available cuts and we have expanded our grocery program to include milk, eggs, butter, flour and other staples. We are also working with island farms as an outpost for produce sales. The bar is making pre-mixed craft cocktails to take home and enjoy. In the coming days, we are adding take-and-bake meals, soups, charcuterie boards, grab-and-go sandwiches and more takeaway beverages. We are settling into the “takeaway” era and are offering a clean and safe shopping experience while buying locally sourced healthy food.
Can you tell us a little bit about your team?
Garaventa: We have a great team here at The Ruby Brink. There are 25 people on the team. Those that are willing and able to interact with the public are here in the shop to serve our community. We also send love (and food) to the team members that live with family who are at risk for COVID-19 and have opted to stay home. We have become closer as a team while making the change from busy late-night bar to bustling day time grocery store. We hope you can feel the dedication and love from all of us when you shop at The Ruby Brink.
Who are your customers? How’s business?
Garaventa: We are here for the people of Vashon and in turn, the people of Vashon have been here for us.
Where do you source your ingredients? Has this changed in the current era?
Garaventa: We are (and will always be) a farmer-direct food business. We work with around 40 different farms personally or through Northwest food hubs for dairy, meat, vegetables and grains. We are not impacted by the large supply chain breakdown at this time.
What are your own memories of a favorite take-out meal?
Garaventa: I love Chinese takeaway. It will always have a special place in my heart. Chow mein, fried rice, dan-dan noodles, congee, sweet & sour pork, dry-fried long beans, egg rolls, dumplings and scallion pancakes all packed in those white paper boxes.
What is your current favorite thing to cook for yourself?
Garaventa: Roasting a well-raised chicken and Yukon Gold potatoes in salty butter is my favorite meal to make for myself. Green salad on the side.
If you’d be willing to share one secret ingredient or simple cooking tip, what would it be?
Garaventa: Kewpie Mayo is a game-changer. It is a Japanese mayonnaise made with egg yolks, salt, sugar and MSG. It makes everything better. I always have it in my home fridge and we use it all of the time at The Ruby Brink. Put it on rice, sandwiches, eggs, hamburgers & everything! Don’t be scared.
What makes you happy when you are cooking?
Garaventa: I make food to make other people happy. That makes me happy.
What keeps you going in this era of take-out only?
Garaventa: Hope? Workaholism? Determination? Fear? A mix of all four? It is hard to say.
What are your hopes and dreams for Vashon, as the community navigates the time of coronavirus?
Garaventa: I hope that we can all survive the delicate balance of serving tourists and staying safe this summer.
For more information on The Ruby Brink or to place an order for pick up, visit therubybrink.com or call 206-408-7795.