By CHRISTINA HARPER
Sondra McCutchan walked through the door of The Cabbage Patch on a cold November night in 1977 and felt the warmth of the burning glow from the fireplace. A quick look around the 1910 building and McCutchan knew that this was the ideal place for her.
"It was like God put it here for me," McCutchan said.
McCutchan, 49, had been in the restaurant business for years and had, until then, worked in Seattle. The search for a place to call her own led her to The Cabbage Patch in Snohomish, which at that time consisted of 13 tables and a soup kitchen, McCutchan said.
"We have a real kitchen now," McCutchan said. "We had four burners and an oven when we first opened."
New menu items and a change in hours meant McCutchan could introduce specials like fried chicken on a Thursday and turkey on Sundays, she said.
These days McCutchan can be found in the kitchen every day. She works 50 to 60 hours a week but thinks nothing of working such long spells. She has always enjoyed cooking, she said, and never thought of it as a task.
"This place is like my home," McCutchan said with a smile. "I can’t remember the last time I put my coffee pot on at home."
She likes to work with whatever requests customers have.
"I’ll make a hard basted egg if that’s what someone wants," McCutchan said.
A key ingredient to being a successful cook is the willingness to experiment with new ideas. McCutchan will listen to anybody who has a thought about a recipe, even ones that contain cool whip.
"They can be adapted and changed around," McCutchan said.
During her time off, McCutchan has traveled to Belize, Australia and South America, where she buys recipe books and enjoys visiting local markets, she said.
A home stay in New Zealand introduced McCutchan to people raising their own animals.
"One man raised deer, another angora sheep," she said.
The horse lover travels to Spokane to compete in competitions with her three horses, Striker, Colortime and Spicy. She graduated to horses since having a pony when she was 6.
McCutchan lives near her business and likes that her family is close by for get-togethers. When she moved to the Snohomish area she came across a piece of family history. A great-aunt had lived on a house boat on the Snohomish river during the early 1900s.
"It was like going back to my roots," McCutchan said.
Little did that great-aunt know all those years ago that McCutchan would own and operate a restaurant just up the hill from the river.
For 23 years people have come to The Cabbage Patch and commented on the restaurant and the atmosphere as well as the food, McCutchan said. With its comfortable old world feel diners can take their own trip back in time.
"It’s like dining in yesteryear," McCutchan said.
Sondra McCutchan’s recipe for success
Her restaurant: The Cabbage Patch, 111 Avenue A, Snohomish; 360-568-9091.
Favorite kitchen tool: Surgical forceps. "Not your normal kitchen tool, I would be lost without my forceps," McCutchan said. "They are great for de-boning fish filets."
Favorite chef: Julia Child
Favorite cookbook: "The Way to Cook" by Julia Child
Chef’s tip: For fluffier mashed potatoes: Place peeled, quartered potatoes (McCutchan likes Yukon Golds) in cold water, boil until tender. Drain in a metal colander, then place in a 300 degree oven for a few minutes. This removes the excess moisture and makes the starch granules lighter. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter and 6 ounces of milk, cream or stock for 1 to 11/2 pounds of potatoes. Put potatoes through a ricer or food mill, never a food processor, add butter, half of the milk, cream or stock then add salt, white pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Slowly add the remaining liquid and whip to desired consistency. Over-whipping will make potatoes pasty. For a change in flavor use buttermilk or extra virgin olive oil or add roasted garlic or grated parmesan cheese before whipping.
6-7ounces halibut filets
1cup sour cream
1cup heavy mayonnaise
2teaspoon lemon juice
1/2teaspoon chili powder
1cup grated mixed cheddar and mozzarella cheese
Grated parmesan cheese for garnish
Lemon wedges for garnish
Place filets in individual boats and cover with foil. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.
Mix together sour cream, mayonnaise, lemon juice and chili powder. Remove foil and top the fish with sour cream and mayonnaise mixture.
Top with mixed cheese and put back in oven without the foil. Bake for another 15 minutes.
Remove from oven and garnish with parmesan and lemon wedges.
Note: Baking time may have to be increased depending on the thickness of the filets.