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Heartwood Provisions

A cocktail and food-pairing haven

In 2016, E3 Restaurant Group (formerly Consolidated Restaurants) created their new concept Heartwood Provisions; a fully-paired cocktail and food menu. Certainly there would be wine and beer, but the focus would be on low-proof cocktails that highlight the food, each and every dish.

Deciding on a chef was not a problem. Varin Keokitvon had worked for E3 three years before spending four years at FareStart. He was a cultural fit along with being talented and creative. To work with him on pairing cocktails, they found Amanda Reed through media, cocktail competitions, and her work at Tavern Law. Both were hired a year before opening, giving them time to do R&D and taste tests for management and owners.

When Varin was head chef at FareStart, he hired Kim Cosway as a chef instructor. "I was so excited to work with him and learn from him," recalls Kim. "Three weeks after I was hired, I found out he was leaving! I stayed at FareStart close to two years; the last year, I ran the catering department as the sous chef." In February 2016, Varin hired Kim as his opening sous chef for the new Heartwood. After more than three years together, Varin moved on to teaching full-time in the culinary field, and Kim became the executive chef in March 2019.

Today, the concept is still unique. "Many restaurants have strong cocktail programs, or great bars with good food, but not the whole program like ours, pairing cocktails with the entire menu. I had been a bartender for years and know that cocktails can overwhelm food. My idea was to lower the proof and offer smaller portions for multiple courses. Fortunately, people responded well," says Amanda. "We're well-rounded," says Kim. "People can sit at the Chef's Counter and enjoy the prix fixe meal with cocktails, sit at the bar and watch the bartenders do their thing, or sit in the more traditional dining room. It's a dynamic space."

"We think that when the whole team is involved, the better we do. Kim is great at doing that in the kitchen, and the same is true in the bar. Everyone contributes," says Amanda. Kim adds, "I believe that once people have the responsibility and opportunity, they buy in. People are very capable."

"Younger clientele pay attention to trends, and the internet is such a resource. People are more educated and that keeps us pushing boundaries. We have a lot of creative energy in this place," laughs Amanda. "We like to get people out of their comfort zone, giving tastes so they can try something new."

"I like to tell people that if they've had things here they like and they trust us, they should give something new a try. Our entire staff is trained on everything, and we all like to educate," says Kim. "We have at least 1-2 dishes changing every two weeks on the core menu as well as the chef's tasting menu. Dishes from the chef's tasting menu may end up on the core menu." Every new dish is paired with a new cocktail. Kim and Amanda meet weekly for an R&D day. "It's a very collaborative process, and we include everyone's opinions," says Amanda. "From the beginning, we had a vision of no barriers between the front and back of the house. It's one team. Hospitality is #1 here. I hate hiring 'startenders.' I want creative, knowledgeable people who are personable. This is company-wide: you can teach people skills, but you can't teach them how to be friendly and make people want to return."

Wagyu beef tartare

Both women are inveterate travelers and bring their experiences back to the restaurant. "One of the things I learned from Varin is that food should have a story," says Kim. "I love to share what my inspiration was for a dish so customers can have a memory of it, too. As much as possible we use locally- and seasonally-sourced ingredients."

When Amanda travels, she likes to see what locals are pairing, and what the classic pairings are. She is always looking for new interesting products to use, and for ideas on how to put a twist on classic cocktail combinations. "Sometimes I'll think about what wine would pair with a dish. Then I'll deconstruct the wine to figure out what the structural elements are that make it work. Then I can replicate that in a cocktail."

The team has a strong sustainable ethos. If they have leftovers, they find ways to use them. They made kimchi for a dish, then made celery root kimchi, then used it with octopus. XO sauce, an Asian condiment, is made with dried fish and pork. They make their own using the dehydrated muscle attaching scallops to their shells, and scraps from the jamon leg. Bits of jamon go into sherry cocktails. They make peach shrubs, and peaches and cream dessert in summer.

Recap: delicious, interesting food paired with amazing cocktails; a no-drama team of professionals, a sustainable mentality, a different experience on each visit. What are you waiting for?

Heartwood Provisions
1103 1st St at Spring
Seattle, WA 98101

Connie Adams/October 2019

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