Where do high end restaurants get their more unique ingredients? Probably a farm in Malaysia, a boutique in Cairo, or a supplier in Manhattan - right? Wrong. It's actually from a warehouse in SeaTac.
Mikuni Wild Harvest has a warehouse in SeaTac where they process and ship out weird and unique ingredients to restaurants and gourmet retail outlets across North America.
"We're a wild foraged foods company," said President and Co-Founder Tyler Gray. "But we've kind of become the go-to for weird stuff in the restaurant industry. We've shipped ocean water to Moto in Chicago, and moss and bark to restaurants in New York."
Gray and every member of the Mikuni team (six total), started out as professional foragers. From a struggling basement office to a now national sales team with distribution offices in Okanagan, Vancouver, New York, Las Vegas, and SeaTac - Mikuni (Japanese for beautiful forest), is now the go-to resource for the top 2% of restaurants in North America.
"They come to us for French Paramour truffles from Australia, basil-fed snails, golden chanterelles, or sea asparagus," said Gray. "Things of that nature."
Those are just some of the products you can find in their distributions centers. Others include:
Cup 4 Cup Gluten-free flour ($20 per 3lb bag)
Chef Thomas Keller's flour used in all the TKRG kitchens including The French Laundry and Per Se.
Applewood Smoked Ikura Caviar ($80 per four ounces)
Made the same day the fish are caught from a small network of fisherman on the Olympic Peninsula.
Basil Fed Snails ($40 per pound)
Mentioned earlier, these come from "the snail lady" who collects snails in the Sierra Nevada mountains, then feeds them a strict diet of basil before blanching and packing them in basil water for shipping.
Dominica Fiore Reserva Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil ($35 a bottle)
The olives are harvested by hand, and then pressed for oil no more than four hours later, and nitrogen sealed to preserve freshness.
Black Trumpet Mushrooms ($30 per pound)
Sustainably foraged in the Pacific Northwest of Canada and the U.S.
Fresh Black Winter Australian truffle ($60 per ounce)
From mainland Australia's first truffiere.
Mushrooms ($21 - $45 per pound)
Easily makes up the bulk of Mikuni's shop, they have Blue Foot Mushrooms, Chanterelles, Hedge Hog Mushrooms, Wild Lobster Mushrooms, Wild Matsutake Mushrooms, and Wild Morel Mushrooms.
Mountain Rose apples ($29 per 3 pounds)
These rare and limited apples are a variety of the Heirloom Apple, and grow in the Mt. Hood River Valley of Oregon (known for being bright red all the way through the fruit).
"The most popular products around here are definitely the chanterelles and huckleberries," said Gray. "The fiddleheads, porcini mushrooms, licorice ginger root - fat of the land stuff."
Mikuni pairs with distribution partners all over the country, and has dozens of pickers and buyers throughout their network.
"60% of what we sell is foraged," said Gray. "The other 40% is the gluten-free flour, French line of vinegars and oils, that kind of stuff."
Gray's "pet project" on the side is Noble Handcrafted, a line of bourbon bale-aged maple syrups and vinegars bottled, waxed and labeled by hand in SeaTac.
"We age 600 gallons at a time for about six months on average," said Gray. "Local restaurants like Canlis, Altura and Lloyd Martin buy them up."
The syrups go faster than anything else (ever had pancakes at Caesar's Palace in Vegas? That's Noble syrup on 'em), and recently made the finalist list for Martha Stewart's American Made awards.
"It started because I love maple syrup, but would walk down the grocery store isles and feel so uninspired." said Gray.
The line has Noble #1 (maple syrup aged in bourbon barrels), Noble #2 (matured maple syrup with Egyptian chamomile blossom and Tahitian vanilla bean), Noble #3 (a cooking vinegar), Noble #4 (a premium white wine vinegar with heirloom lemon from the Middle East), and Noble #5 (a refined finishing vinegar - basically an extended aging of Noble #3).
While most of the foraged foods are for sold in bulk to restaurants, you can get Noble syrups and vinegars online or at Watson Kennedy, Dean & Deluca, Whole Foods and Sugar Pill. They're also hoping to branch their foraged foods out to the local farmer's markets - after all, some of this stuff is too good to just have in restaurant kitchens!