If you’re a pasta fan — and who isn’t? — you’re always excited to see it on the menu at a range of restaurants ranging from diners to fine dining.
With Mike Schiesser now operating TwisPasta in the Sun Mountain Lodge pastry kitchen, fresh artisan pasta will be easy to find around the Methow Valley, from Sun Mountain’s dining room to the Methow Valley Farmers Market in Twisp.
“It was serendipitous,” Schiesser said. “Toward the end of 2021 I realized that the arrangement I had with the Twisp River Tap House kitchen just wasn’t going to work, so I made plans to leave. Then out of the blue I got a call from [Sun Mountain Lodge executive chef] Tyler Krost, who was asking if he could buy some sheets of pasta to make ravioli for the lodge dining room.”
Krost had heard of Schiesser through one of his banquet chefs, who had worked for Schiesser during Sun Mountain’s closure in fire season.
“I love Italian food,” Krost said, “and whenever I had time I would make fresh fettuccini and put it on the menu, but I didn’t always have time. Same with bread. With the employee shortage and the housing shortage, I had to pull my baker into helping me prep salads, so she didn’t have as much time to make bread. So we stopped making fresh bread and tried to source it from the local bakeries, but even that wasn’t always possible.”
Given Schiesser’s artistry with both fresh pasta and fresh focaccia, Krost was intrigued.
Schiesser told Krost that he couldn’t fill the sheet pasta order since he was moving out of the Tap House kitchen. But either luck or intuition nudged him to add, “Unless I could make the pasta in your kitchen?”
“I have a really big kitchen,” Krost said he thought to himself, and he invited Schiesser up to the lodge to talk.
Schiesser and Krost met the next day and by the end of the meeting had forged an agreement for Schiesser to make fresh artisan pasta out of Sun Mountain’s pastry kitchen and other food prep spaces. The pasta and focaccia he creates by hand, with the aid of a new Emiliomiti pasta machine, will be plated for consumption in the Sun Mountain dining room and sold at the Farmers Market as single-serving “heat-and-eat” lasagna slices or larger “take-and-bake” lasagnas, along with some of TwisPasta’s other offerings, such as mason jar salads, candied pecans, and slabs of fresh focaccia.
Eventually, Schiesser said, all of the pasta that is served in the Sun Mountain dining room, from the Mountain Mac and Cheese to the lamb ravioli to the corkscrew pasta on the kids’ menu, will be a product of TwisPasta, the business he started a year ago, after 30 years of experience as a pasta maker.
Krost, who spend many years cooking at Seattle’s popular Il Fornaio Italian restaurant, said “I’m really excited about this partnership. It seems like it benefits us all: We get fresh artisan pasta in the Sun Mountain Lodge dining room, we support a small local business, and together we contribute to an appealing food scene in the valley.”
Lifetime of pasta
Schiesser’s heritage is Swiss, but said that growing up on the East Coast made Italian food part of his life. “I’ve been making pizza and lasagna my entire life,” he said. “And I started making artisan noodles 10 years ago.”
Although pasta is comfort food, the process of creating it is a scientific one, requiring specific flour types, proper moisture ratios, eggs or no eggs, depending on whether it’s a dry pasta (no eggs) or a fresh pasta (eggs). And to some degree, how your pasta is cut or extruded is as important as what goes into your dough.
Still, pasta is very forgiving (“even the worst off-the-shelf pasta usually ends up tasting fairly good,” Schiesser said), as long as you can source your flour, which, until recently, Schiesser couldn’t, at least not in adequate quantities, due to supply chain issues.
“I’ve been doing a lot of testing with different flours,” he said, “laying the groundwork. Two weeks ago we finally got enough flour in. Pretty soon we’ll be cranking out all kinds of pasta.”
Some of that testing has been taking place on Schiesser’s new pasta machine. “There’s so much to learn in the world of pasta that you wouldn’t think about,” Schiesser said. “For example, pasta machines squeeze dough out of these tiny holes called dies. Industrial pasta is made with Teflon dies, but artisan pasta is made with bronze dies. Bronze makes the pasta come out rougher, which makes the sauce stick better. Bronze-cut pasta is a foodie thing now.”
As Schiesser continues to build TwisPasta’s brand, he plans to focus on the collaboration with Sun Mountain Lodge and his Farmers Market offerings, although he may find time for a few select catering gigs on the side. “But largely I’m a specialty food maker,” he said. “For now I’m mostly focused on the artistry and craft of making pasta.”
Visit https://twispasta.com/ for more information.