Meet the Producer: Pampeana Empanadas
When Alexis Oltman, a Web developer from Tacoma, returned home from a four-month trip to Argentina in 2005, she not only brought back her very own Argentine chef boyfriend, Leandro Torres, she also managed to transport his drool-worthy baked empanada recipe to her West Coast kitchen. Inspired by enthusiastic feedback from family and friends (and an order for 500 by a Chilean wine importer in Kirkland), Alexis and her recently retired mother, Nancy Oltman, decided to start their own business, Pampeana Empanadas, in 2006, naming it after the vast plains region of Argentina. With Alexis running the marketing/Web side and Nancy doing most of the baking and selling, this dynamic duo has enjoyed the dramatic change of pace. “It’s a fun process working with just my mom and myself because we can make decisions on the fly,” says Alexis, 31, who still works full time at K2 Sports. (Her mother is retired from Weyerhaeuser Co.) The empanadas, in both sweet and savory varieties, are made fresh with local and organic ingredients whenever possible, and baked rather than fried. (“It’s healthier,” they say.) Flavors rotate seasonally (the fall/winter sweet potato is delish), but some favorites, such as spinach and cheese—made with spinach, Swiss cheese, mushrooms, a hard-boiled egg and garlic—are always available. Empanada lovers can order the little stuffed pastries frozen ($19.99–$26.99 per dozen) at pampeanaempanadas.com or 253.752.2586 for delivery in the Seattle/Tacoma area, or get them fresh on Wednesdays at Kitchen2Kitchen (4312 Sixth Ave., Tacoma; kitchen2kitchen.us) and at the Proctor Farmers’ Market in Tacoma (late March to late November), and frozen every Monday at the Wandering Cafe in Seattle (7533 Lake City Way; thewanderingcafe.com). If you order several varieties, the Pampeana website has a handy guide to identifying empanada fillings by the type of crimp used to seal the pastries.