Circle Rock Ranch | Brandon D’Imperio

PHOTOS: Amado Stachenfeld

LOCATION: Vashon, Washington

It didn’t take long to arrive at Circle Rock Ranch, also the home of Jody and Brandon. Two dogs lapped around our legs as we clambered out of the car, the only light around was coming through the house.

It was already dark by the time we got on the ferry. We looked out the window onto a monochromatic world of grey over murky waters. I didn’t notice when it departed Seattle, nor when it arrived at Vashon Island. We walked in the eerie stillness, following the gasy trails of the cars, and off the ferry into a world in sepia from the bronze street lights. A car slowed down next to us with the front window rolled down, and shadow in the front seat called out, “Are you looking for a ride?”

Before we could answer or make sense of this, a lean man with his hair tied in a neat bun swung open the car. He introduced himself as Brandon. Suddenly the ominous shadow became a warm, enthusiastic man loading our luggage in the boot. The stories I had heard about him, his food, his farm, somehow did not match this man. But a few minutes was all it took to knit the threads together, and it made sense that the memories and little details I had heard led to Brandon.

It was under serendipitous circumstances that we ended up coming to Vashon. Amado had become friends with Brandon in Los Angeles, so we first heard about Circle Rock Ranch through him. The Los Angeles transplants originally started Circle Rock Ranch in Topanga, then moved to Vashon one year ago. In the summer, two friends somehow ended up on the farm in Vashon on a trip to Seattle. Since then, every now and again something would come up that would give us the urge to visit, so this trip was long awaited. It just felt right.

It didn’t take long to arrive at Circle Rock Ranch, also the home of Jody and Brandon. Two dogs lapped around our legs as we clambered out of the car, the only light around was coming through the house. Jody greeted us by the door, her blonde curls and permanent smile were a little slice of Southern California in this chilly land of clouds and green pastures. So far, everything was reminding me of somewhere else, but could not give me a sense of where I was: driving out of Seattle Airport reminded me of Narita Airport in Japan, the damp air and icy winds reminded me of England, and the smell of sheep and raindrops clinging onto the leaves reminded me of trips to Northern Ireland.

We entered straight into the kitchen with a white wooden table in the center. Immediately, I felt comfortable in smells of the heated oven and the goat that had been cooking all day long. Brandon put a few mounds of dough into the oven, then gave us a quick tour of the home. Friends popped out from every corner to greet us. We sat around the fireplace sipping wine from ornate little glasses, which they had procured from the thrift shop, chatting in slight surprise that we were meeting for the first time. They opened their home, their thoughts, to us as if it were second nature.

About five others came in and out of our conversations. Brandon took one of the legs of curing prosciutto off the wall of his kitchen, sliced it up and arranged it with melon. At the arrival of the final guests, we gathered around the candles, three loaves of warm bread, cheese, slices of prosciutto, melon and tagliatelle with a sauce of tomato, and slow cooked goat. “Itadakimasu” was heard around the table, as we delved in with our fingers and forks as Brandon shared the history of the food. The raw cow milk cheese was made the day before. The freshly baked bread was made with a sourdough starter from the 19th century, the same one they use at Tartine. The goat was raised and slaughtered in the backyard. This was all washed down with an elegant stout, made in the little microbrewery on site. And this was just our first meal.