BY SUSAN WENZEL
Whidbey Life Magazine contributor
May 8, 2013
Space is at a premium inside “Your local source for all things delicious,” but Beth Kuchynka has managed to fill every nook and cranny of both the Coupeville and Oak Harbor locations of bayleaf, with a plethora of epicurean delights.
Every shopper who passes through the door is warmly greeted by Kuchynka’s knowledgeable staff and is encouraged to browse the wall-to-wall seasonings, snacks, cheeses, olive oils, beverages, and other specialty recipe ingredients. Few leave empty-handed, because each item stocked by bayleaf is meticulously selected by Kuchynka and imported from culinary destinations as far away as Europe or as close as Mile Post 19 right here on Whidbey Island.
Wedged in next to the Ritrovo Italian pastas and sauces (some especially bottled for bayleaf) are locally made goods including Turner & Bea’s Rosemary Crackers baked in Freeland by Scott and Steph Pendell of The Midnight Kitchen, loaves of Stacey Habeck’s fresh Screaming Banshee bread (Greenbank), Island Trollers canned albacore caught by Whidbey Island’s own Captain Larry Mason, as well as the aforementioned Mile Post 19 red raspberry jam, produced by Jerry and Kimberly Jaderholm.
Considering the vast wealth of delicious items made on Whidbey Island, how does one choose which to sell?
“I look for a company with brand sustainability and passion for its product. I like to be able to form a relationship with the producer. I have a small amount of space, so I only stock items that meet those standards,” said Kuchynka, whose last name, interestingly enough, means “little kitchen” in Czechoslovakian.
The product line grew in 2006 when bayleaf moved from its even smaller location nestled underneath the Oyster Catcher restaurant (owned and operated by Joe and Jamie Scott). However, the addition of the Coupeville store’s attached “party room” is what finally permitted Kuchynka to do what she considers the most rewarding part of the job.
“I love bringing people together,” she said.
One way she does this is with wine. Lots of wine. “Too many kinds to count, and they are always changing,” laughed Kuchynka. “I offer different wine tasting events throughout the year, both here and in Oak Harbor, all with food and each featuring select wineries or distributors,” she added.
During regular store hours, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. most days, one can relax at a table in this cozy room or grab a window seat overlooking Penn Cove and a glass of wine, a beer, or a light snack. Bayleaf’s party room (available for private affairs) is also home to champagne tastings, olive oil education and, hopefully soon, cheese tastings. The next scheduled event is one Kuchynka is particularly excited about.
“Chris Sparkman of Sparkman Cellars will be here next week with a selection of his new spring releases — both whites and reds. We booked him over six months ago!”
To register for the Sparkman event on Friday, May 10, call 678-6603. The cost is $20 per person ($15 for wine club members). Stay tuned to the bayleaf Facebook page for announcements regarding future events and specials at both bayleaf locations or visit the website for additional product and wine club information.
(Pictured at top, preparations are made for a “Brown Bag Wine-tasting” at bayleaf./Susan Wenzel photo)
Susan Wenzel, food writer, believes in the power of locally produced food to fortify the health and wellbeing of both the individual and the community as a whole.