Solstice Wood Fire Café
story + photo By Charity Thompson
Leave it to Aaron Baumhackl to make a sausage-cherry pizza a best-seller.
As chef and co-owner of Solstice Wood Fire Café in Bingen, Aaron specializes in wood-fired pizzas with unique local toppings, such as the cafe favorite with cherries, chorizo sausage, goat cheese and rosemary.
Aaron got his start in restaurants at age 15 in California, first at a Spanish tapas restaurant and later riding the first wave of the California-style pizza trend.
“It drew me in because I like to eat and I like to create,” he said of the industry. “I like to see results fast.”
Along with that background, Solstice’s creative pizzas come from a playful approach among kitchen staff.
Solstice Wood Fire Cafe
415 W. Steuben St. (Highway 14), Bingen
“In the kitchen, everybody has a voice,” he said. “We’ll come up with a dish, plate it and see what other color combinations can go in there to make it (reflect) the season.”
Aaron’s menus change with the seasons. This fall’s menu includes a pizza with local butternut squash, leeks, bacon and blue cheese. He’ll also dish up Siragusa pear salad and pizza, huckleberry crisp and huckleberry pizza with prosciutto, mascarpone and arugula.
He keeps an eye on the local farm scene with his wife and co-owner, Suzanne Wright Baumhackl.
“Literally, we’re surrounded by farms,” Aaron said. “We see a tractor go by with eggplant and say, ‘Eggplant’s in season – what should we do?’”
Solstice has two plots at Bingen’s community garden – one for its kitchen and one for the local food bank.
Its menu also includes foods less common in rural areas, such as sautéed kale and quinoa chowder.
“We’re trying to keep it simple,” he said, “and let the food speak for itself in flavor and nutrients.”