sights + sounds
After over 20 year careers in design, marketing and architecture, Lee Horswill and David Ellertsen decided to join their talents for great food and pursue another passion — craft baking. Both received their training under the tutelage of Michel Suas, known for bringing French craft baking and artisan bread baking to the United States, at the San Francisco Baking Institute in Pastry Arts and Artisan Bread. Both Lee & David are members of The Bread Baker’s Guild of America.
Searching for the perfect place for personal and professional quality of life change brought this pair to the San Juan Islands – home of foggy inlets, rolling emerald forested hills, the deep blue ocean, and Orcas Island. David and Lee first opened the doors of this wonderful small baking kitchen, Brown Bear Baking, in July of 2013.
Since then, Brown Bear Baking has become a staple on Orcas Island serving up a handcrafted menu, baked in small batches throughout the day, of flaky croissants, fresh-brewed Victrola Coffee, savory lunch sandwiches on hearth-baked bread and french pastries. At Brown Bear Baking community is everything. This becomes obvious when you walk through the cottage garden to the front door; the open kitchen shares the aroma of the day’s freshly baked goods, the sound of milk steaming for that perfectly poured Victrola Coffee latte and the lively chatter of happy guests and staff. It’s obvious everyone has a good time here. A slice of home and heavenly baked goods in a casual welcoming setting. Using heirloom wheat grown in Skagit Valley and Eastern Washington, and farm-fresh dairy & seasonal fruit from neighboring small family farms, each bite of their delicious baked goods show the care and concern, Lee & David use when celebrating their baking craft. These environmentally conscience suppliers help Brown Bear Baking keep their carbon footprint small, something important to not just David and Lee, but the community that they serve. It’s all about the community.
There’s a story around just about everything you see here at Brown Bear Baking. Once you get past the big hello from David, you’ll find blue pine lumber adorning the walls, a nod to Lee’s brother who is a logger, and wrought iron supports for the shelving, a memory of a grandmother’s cooking from New Orleans and even a giant orange Hobart mixer affectionally named ‘Betty’ after their great aunt. Their shop is a labor of love and family with small thoughtful touches throughout. “I enjoy when people come in and just feel at ease," says David.
Brown Bear Baking has become a great place to gather, whether you know exactly what your day is going to bring, it’s your first time on Orcas, or you’re still trying to figure which trail to explore, and site to see, Locals and visitors alike flock to Brown Bear Baking. Some often drive up from Seattle taking the ninety-minute ferry ride from Anacortes, just to return here for one of their famous croissants.
In the early morning, as the village comes alive, you might find these two sharing a warm cup of coffee staring out at the idyllic waters of the Salish Sea. And with a simple smile, says Lee, “Can you believe we’ve made this little slice of heaven and get to enjoy it every day”.