Chefs find food mecca in new Seattle specialty store

Nov 29, 2012, 2:01 PM | Updated: Nov 30, 2012, 4:20 pm

Food lovers flock to Marx Foods new retail shop in Seattle to sample some of the hundreds of specia...

Food lovers flock to Marx Foods new retail shop in Seattle to sample some of the hundreds of specialty items, many not available anywhere else in town. (Ryan Clark/Marx Foods photo)

(Ryan Clark/Marx Foods photo)

What’s for dinner? If your menu includes antelope stew with fennel pollen, you’re out of luck at the local QFC. But have no fear. A specialty shop dedicated to all things culinary is shining like a beacon for foodies from its new outpost on Lower Queen Anne.

“We consider ourselves culinary concierges,” Justin Marx, gastronomic guide and CEO of Marx Foods, tells co-hosts Providence Cicero and Terry Jaymes in a visit to KIRO Radio’s Let’s Eat.

He’s way more than that. If someone can be be considered an expert, Justin’s the guy. Food and Wine Magazine called him a “Food Scout Extraordinaire” in a profile.

His new shop in the shadow of the old Seattle P-I globe is an offshoot of his family’s longtime online business that sells specialty foods to the some of the world’s finest chefs, along with those that aspire to lofty heights in the kitchen.

“I do a lot of travel. I’m the fifth generation in the family business so we’ve got a lot of really strong long term relationships and then the last bunch of years I’ve just been on the road looking for products,” Justin says about his constant quest for the finest foods and ingredients.

While he tries to source as much locally, he isn’t shy to bring in the best from wherever he can find it.

The shop features about 350 items culled from a more than 1300 sold online. Much of it can’t be found anywhere else in Seattle.

“I haven’t counted, but a third to a half of our products you can’t get anywhere else in Seattle,” he says.

That includes exotic meats like Yak and turtle, lovage soda syrup (Justin says it tastes like celery) or Szechuan buttons, a little yellow flower that Justin says tastes like “electricity.”

“It’s pretty wild and a lot of chefs and mixologists are using them to make a cocktail with an electric sensation. Imagine like a lemon sorbet that actually has a buzz of electricity…like pop rocks or licking a 9 volt battery.”

Justin is constantly on the hunt for the next big thing in food, frequenting farmers markets, roadside stands and anywhere else he can uncover a culinary gem from what he calls “food artisans.” That next big thing? Fermented foods.

“I think that you’re going to see a lot more fermented krauts and kimchi’s and just in general fermented foods because they’ve got tremendous health benefits and they’re delicious,” he says.

Not everything makes the grade. Most of the stuff Justin and his panel of co-workers and lucky friends, family and fellow foodies try gets rejected.

“So we start with products that are at farmer’s markets and have been raved about. We bring them in and then about 20 percent of those products pass our muster.”

It can all sound overwhelming to anyone but the hardcore cook. Justin and his crew want the shop to be welcoming for everyone, not just the Tom Douglas’ of the world. They’ve got a ton of recipes, guides and tutorials they’re eager to provide anyone willing to step outside their kitchen comfort zone.

Listen to more with Justin Marx from Marx Foods on KIRO Radio’s Let’s Eat Saturdays at 2 p.m., Sundays at noon. Available anytime ON DEMAND at MyNorthwest.com.


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Chefs find food mecca in new Seattle specialty store