I Ate the State – Mason County


In this latest installment of I Ate the State, I visit the lovely and scenic, Mason County. Situated in the northwestern part of the state, Mason County is a relatively accessible area to most of Western Washington. Olympic National Park /Olympic National Forest withstanding, there are several routes in and out of the area, all involving very breathtaking countryside. (Olympic National Park/Forest accounts for a large part of the northwestern corner of the county and has limited accessibility and thoroughfares.) Because Mason County contains a sizable portion of the Olympics, the county itself seems expansive, but the population is only around 63k. The Hood Canal and Lake Cushman areas can get crowded in the summer months, but my springtime travels presented me with miles and miles of wide open, uncrowded roads. Couple that with an unexpected sunny day and it was truly a beautiful outing.

For this particular journey, I chose to hop the Bremerton ferry from the Alaskan Way Pier in downtown Seattle. It was a little foggy that morning, but things were just starting to clear as I boarded. Once underway, I enjoyed my coffee and the glassy calm of the Puget Sound as the ferry glided through the water. The calm perfection of the morning added an extra bit of magic as I stared out from the deck, daydreaming about owning one of the swanky mansions dotting the shores. For the money and time, taking the ferry is always a great way to start any adventure and the 60-minute crossing to the Bremerton terminal allows for the additional fueling of caffeine and formulating of travel plans. A fine way to spend an hour, in my opinion.


Pulling out on the ferry from the Alaskan Way Pier. The start of a beautiful morning!

After disembarking from the ferry, I headed towards Belfair, gateway to the Hood Canal area. I’d initially thought of heading towards the county seat of Shelton and nearby costal inlets, but instead decided to go north and follow the coastline of Hood Canal, back around to the Kingston area. I’d heard great things about the route as well as the Lake Cushman and Staircase areas of Olympic National Park, so towards Belfair I did go.

While driving down Highway 3 outside of Bremerton, I was very excited to spot a drive-in movie theatre just off the road. It’s been ages since I’ve enjoyed a movie in the car – while wearing pajamas and eating popcorn. (That’s some old-skool glory, right there!) As it looks like they show first-run movies, I think I might need to make a pilgrimage back to the area and revisit those by-gone days of the mobile cinema experience. (Rodeo Drive-in, between Bremerton and Belfair)

Once past Belfair – a good place to fuel up, by the way – I turned off towards SR 106 and Union. Hood Canal begins at the tip of 106 and the road hugs the shore as you wind along the 2-lane highway. There are beautiful homes and cottages gracing the shoreline all along the drive and great views of the water to behold. This road was great from the driver’s seat of my trusty Sportage, but I think it’d be even better in a convertible or on a motorcycle.  I’m sure the road gets a little slow-going during the busy summer months, but as there’s such an abundance of great scenery, it can’t be all that bad.

Nearing Union, I came upon the Alderbrook Resort and Spa. Set along the shores of Hood Canal, this is definitely a destination-location sort of affair. Beautifully manicured grounds, spacious lodging, dining and recreational areas as well as a nice spa, adjoining golf course and good moorage on their docks. I could have easily spent the entire day there, wandering around the grounds, enjoying brunch and a mimosa in the restaurant and maybe renting a kayak (or a PARTY BARGE PONTOON BOAT) and tooling around the canal. (Or maybe just enjoying another mimosa on the deck… or on the PARTY BARGE PONTOON BOAT) I fully intend to return to the Alderbrook for a nice weekend getaway in the near future.  (With my friends, so we can rent the PARTY BARGE PONTOON BOAT.)

Just past the Alderbrook Resort, heading west on 106, keep your eye out on the left for the Dalby Waterwheel. It’s definitely worth pulling over to check out and you can do so just past the Alderbrook Resort. It’s a still-functioning water wheel brought over from Seattle in 1924 and creates quite a mesmerizing, idyllic scene. I could spent hours just hanging out beside the little cabin, listening to and watching the water fall over the wheel. It was a scene right out of Little House on the Prairie, ala the Northwest. Quite charming. (Although, maybe not as peaceful during the busy summer months as it is right off the road.)


Just around the bend from the Dalby Waterwheel, I happened upon the very cute, Cameo Boutique and Wine Shop. Stopping in for a quick browse, I found a few tasty treats to take home with me and some lovely soap. There is also a nice selection of gifts and resort wear to tide you over during your local stay, along with a great selection of wine. Before I left the parking lot, I walked around the side of the shop and back towards the small cove directly behind. There’s a camping area and a couple of cottages, but also an incredibly interesting, old paddlewheel boat beached on the shore.  I’d love to know more of the story behind the boat and learn what brought it to its lonely beach home.  On my next visit, I’ll have to check in with the locals and see if anyone has the scoop.

Perhaps they might know something across the way at the Robin Hood Village Resort. The restaurant and front cottages were built in 1934 by Hollywood set designer, Don Beckman, who also designed the set for the classic, Errol Flynn Robin Hood epic.  Over the years, cottages have been added and it is now a cheerful, village-style resort set back amongst the trees. I took a lovely walk by the creek which flows along the backside of the restaurant and it looked like they also host weddings and events in the area. It definitely seems like a fun and whimsical place for an outdoor summer soiree.

By this point in the morning, I was becoming pretty peckish. I thought about heading back to the Alderbrook Resort, but decided to keep heading further into Union, on what then becomes US Route 101. A few miles down the road, the Union City Market (at the Hood Canal Marina) popped up on my right and I pulled over to take a look.  I’m very glad I did as it was chock full of wonderful local foods, gifts and specialty items. They also have a great coffee bar and a freezer full of some very tasty, handmade popsicles. Granted, popsicles aren’t really the first thing I think of upon waking up, but the carrot, ginger and turmeric one I purchased seemed the perfect way to start the day. It was particularly enjoyable while sitting at a picnic table on the shore, watching a boat crew load oysters out of the canal directly to the back of the store. Fresh!

While chatting with the very amiable staff at the Union City Market, I learned of some tasty breakfast selections across the way at the Union Country Store. I’m glad I took their advice as the Crab Eggs Benedict I ordered was absolutely delicious. Set in a small grocery store, the diner-style setup offers home-style meals, great coffee and local ice cream. It’s a quirky, welcoming spot and I’m very happy I stopped in to fuel my adventures.

After finishing all of my breakfast and feeling ridiculously (and unrepentantly) full, I took off down the road for the Hoodsport area. I’d heard about the Hardware Distillery and wanted to check it out. Along the way, I also noticed the Hoodsport Winery and decided to give it a whirl. Admittedly, I almost didn’t stop as it looked a little questionable with the bars on the windows, but I’d heard good things about the wine, so I decided to go in. It was a good decision as the wine was lovely and I had a great conversation with the woman running the shop and tastings. After walking out with a couple of nice bottles, I continued my path into Hoodsport and the Hardware Distillery.

Set within a cute row of shops in the middle of Hoodsport (still on US 101), the Hardware Distillery was well worth the stop. Not only was the shop cozy and welcoming, the owner was completely knowledgeable and I had quite a great time discussing recipes and drink ideas with him. I also walked away with a very entertaining gift for my dad and a much-coveted dill aquavit. (I’d been looking for one! Now I just need a turmeric vodka and I’m on my way to hopefully recreating the delicious Hanoi Rocks from Capitol Hill’s, dreamy Foreign National.)


The most delicious drink ever made, The Hanoi Rocks from Foreign National on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. Granted, not from Mason County, but I’m going to use my newly acquired Dill Aquavit to give it a whirl.

I would’ve liked to have sampled more of the offerings at Hardware Distillery, but as I was driving, I needed to be responsible and move on to the next destination. (A drawback about doing solo adventures and stopping in for any type of tastings…) Additionally, as my next stop was Lake Cushman and the Staircase area of Olympic National Park, I needed my bearings and wits about me. And score one for responsibility as I did indeed end up needing my navigational skills further up the road…

From Hoodsport, I turned onto SR 119 and followed the signs towards Lake Cushman. I hadn’t visited the Park from this direction before, so I was excited to explore the scene. Suffice it to say, I was in no way disappointed with the area. Lake Cushman is a beautiful lake with deep blue water and expansive shorelines. Most of the campgrounds and lodging areas were still closed for the season on this visit, but I’ll definitely be back to explore in the summer months. That said, even just pulling over and taking in the vistas from the viewpoints along the way was worth the drive. Such stunning scenery we have in Washington State…


View from one of the roadside stops along Lake Cushman

A little further up, I pulled over at Big Creek Campground to take a look around. It was also still closed for the season, but you could park in the lot just off the road and head in to access the local hiking trails. Since it was a beautiful spring day and I really wanted to stretch my legs and check out the scenery, I happily donned my backpack and head off into the woods. Score another one for always taking the 10 Essentials as I did actually end up needing some extra resources that afternoon…

After walking around the campsite area a little, I noticed a trailhead and decided to investigate. It was a beautiful trail, flanked by moss-draped trees and mysterious thickets with an ambling creek off to the side. (Fun fact: It’s pronounced “crEEk”, not “crick” – Dad and Skoczen, I’m lookin’ at you…) About a quarter-mile in, I noticed a detour sign and thought I’d taken the correct fork, but apparently, I did not. It wasn’t until I’d gone another half-mile or so that I realized I’d taken a wrong turn (a couple by that point, in fact) and was completely turned around. AND I had no cell service, so the GPS on my phone was no longer an option – and no one was around in the closed-for-the-season campsite. Dun-dun-dunnnnnn – Time to take out the ol’ compass and map.

Granted, even if I didn’t have a compass and map, I could’ve likely just followed along the creek (not crick) and it would’ve eventually led to or close to a road. Luckily, however, I didn’t have to investigate that option and was able to get back on track. It did serve as a reminder on how quickly things can escalate in the woods and if you’re not prepared, how quickly things can go horribly wrong. It was also a reminder to always tell someone where you’re going when solo traveling – especially if you plan on traipsing off into closed areas with no cell reception…

As the Staircase area was closed for the season and there were road issues up into the area – and I’d wasted at least a good half hour being lost in the woods – I decided to head back down towards Hoodsport and off to my next destination: The Hama Hama Oyster Saloon.  Mmmmm…

Hama Hama, located in the Lilliwaup area, is a family-run shellfish farm, restaurant and store and has been serving the area for nearly 100 years. This experience is greatly showcased in the quality and presentation of the shellfish as well as through a devoted customer base, both in and out of Washington State. (They ship nationally to chefs and shellfish-craving consumers.)  It is truly one of the most enjoyable culinary experiences I’ve had in the Northwest and I don’t think I’d ever get tired of hanging out and taking in the scene. Even if you’re not a fan of oysters or clams, there’s something to enjoy. (Try the grilled cheese!) You won’t regret your visit to Hama Hama. (Also, please pick up a bag of oysters and a tub of the Chipotle Bourbon Butter for me. Thanks!)

After stuffing myself with oysters and delicious bread, it was time to consider meandering back towards Seattle. (After a quick stop into the Hama Hama store to pick up some smoked oysters and some of that delicious Chipotle Bourbon Butter… Sigh…) Since I’d already enjoyed the Bremerton ferry route, I decided to make a grand loop of things and return home via the Kingston Ferry. There was a bit of traffic in the ferry queue once I arrived near the terminal and I just missed the ferry crossing I wanted, but it wasn’t too bad a wait. I took a nice walk around the marina area and enjoyed some of my earlier-procured treats – not too shabby an end to my Mason County adventure…

I have to say, while I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of the counties I’ve visited so far, Mason County has definitely gone to the top of the list. Just this short daytrip was full of varied and excellent scenery, food, conversations, etc. I can’t wait to spend a little more time in the area and explore things more deeply. I’m sure I won’t be disappointed. And maybe rent one of those PARTY BARGE PONTOON BOATS!!

Until next time –



Checking out the marina while waiting for the Kingston ferry. Sigh…


Mason County Playlist

I was on a bit of a musical binge that weekend, so my playlist pretty much reflects only that… MUSICALS!

  • My Shot – Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
  • You’ll Be Back – Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
  • Wait For It – Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
  • Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down) – Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
  • What Comes Next – Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
  • Fame – Fame (The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)
  • Out Here On My Own – Fame (The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)
  • Never Alone – Fame (The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)
  • Dentist! – Little Shop of Horrors (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  • Feed Me (Git It) – Little Shop of Horrors (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  • Suddenly Seymour – Little Shop of Horrors (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  • Dammit Janet – The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Original Soundtrack)
  • Time Warp – The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Original Soundtrack)
  • Cabaret – Cabaret (Original Soundtrack)
  • I Dreamed A Dream – Les Miserables (Original London Cast Recording)
  • One Day More – Les Miserables (Original London Cast Recording)
  • Pure Imagination – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Original Soundtrack Recording – 1971)
  • Consider Yourself – Oliver! (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
  • God, That’s Good! – Sweeny Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Original Broadway Cast)
  • Think of Me – The Phantom of the Opera (Original London Cast)
  • Music of the Night – The Phantom of the Opera (Original London Cast)
  • Nessum Dorma – Turandot, ACT III (*Luciano Pavarotti, The Three Tenors in Concert – Rome 1990) *This particular recording slays me every time. And it’s embarrassing to be crying alone in the Sportage while in the ferry line, but whatever…

I Ate the State – Jefferson County


In my recent travels for I Ate the State, I took a visit to Jefferson County in NW Washington. Home to beautiful Pacific Ocean coastlines, towering mountain peaks and a UNESCO designated rain-forest, Jefferson County is not only one of the most stunning areas in the state, it is a defining jewel in the North American crown. (I’ll also add it is one of my favorite places in the world…) It is incredibly diverse in its offerings and well worth the exploration.

As I am currently based in North Seattle, I took the Edmonds/Kingston ferry and made my way up Highway 104, across the Hood Canal Bridge. (For more info on local ferry travel, check out my previous entry for Kitsap County.) I was ultimately headed towards the largest town in Jefferson County, Port Townsend, but planned on taking several detours along the way. Jefferson County boasts many tucked-away inlets, tiny hamlets and areas of rolling farmland and I wanted to explore as much as possible. That said, not too long after crossing the bridge, I headed up Highway 19 towards Port Ludlow and Marrowstone Island.

I’d never actually visited this area of the state before and I’m glad I finally did! Not only was it a beautiful, crisp sunny day, but it had recently snowed and there was still a bit on the ground – including the shorelines. Absolutely breathtaking! It is also a much lesser-traveled part of the state, so I felt very much at my leisure to casually peruse the surroundings as I drove through. My first detour from said perusal was to check out the Port Ludlow Resort and Marina area.  (Take a right off of Highway 19 onto Oak Bay Road.  OR – take the first right after crossing the Hood Canal Bridge onto Paradise Bay Road.)

Port Ludlow

Port Ludlow Resort

Port Ludlow Marina

Lovely Port Ludlow Marina

While driving down towards the resort area, I noticed many homes tucked away by the water and mused at how lovely it would be to have a home near the water. Sigh… Especially in such a nice little inlet like Port Ludlow. The 37-room inn/resort is perched on a small spit of land next to the marina and features a nice restaurant (The Fireside), spa services and adjoining golf course. It would be the perfect base for exploring the surrounding areas as well as a great place to spend a relaxing weekend.

A little further up the very scenic Oak Bay Road, I took a right onto Highway 19 to head further north towards Marrowstone Island and Fort Flagler State Park. Along the way, I noted a sign for wine tasting at the Marrowstone Vineyards and took a quick turn in that direction. Just a short way up a very quaint road, I came upon the vineyard proper. Adding to the beauty of the sunny winter settings, the main building sits aside a lovely vineyard, sprawling its way down towards the water. There’s a charming deck and outdoor fire pit as you head towards the winery entrance which I’m told plays host to many events in the summer, both public and private. (Weddings, concerts, etc.) Inside, you can view areas of the winemaking process as well as enjoy a tasting in their cozy tasting room. The staff is incredibly friendly and well-versed in their wines and gave me a very detailed and tasty walk through a few of their offerings. Additionally, unbeknownst to me, I happened to be there on the Olympic Peninsula Red Wine, Cider and Chocolate tour and was also treated to various chocolate pairings. Score! I would’ve loved to have walked away with a case that day, but was conservative and took home a bottle of their delicious Island Blend. No matter, I’ll be returning soon to further exploit their catalog.

Before I continued on my journey, I took a trip upstairs to visit their gallery. It’s a beautiful, wood-planked loft featuring local artists and craftspeople and had the most peaceful feeling about it. I would absolutely love to have an event in that room, drinking wine and chatting with guests as we look out over the water.  Something about that gallery was just magical. I will definitely be back soon and hope to check out some of their summer events.

Back on Highway 19, I continued further up the island towards Fort Flagler State Park. It was a very pretty trek and I even stopped along the way to allow a few deer to saunter across the road. (On a general note, there are a lot of deer in Jefferson County. Be aware as you’re driving along the winding roads as they often meander about.) The sun was beautiful as it streamed onto the tree-lined road and quite awe-inspiring as the road opened up onto the Fort Flagler grounds and the coastal tip of the county.

Similar to nearby Forts Worden and Casey, Flagler was constructed in the early 1900s to help protect the coastlines and was in use until the 1950s. Today it is a state park and the old barracks, officer’s quarters and surrounding buildings are open to the public. You can rent them as vacation homes or for event/retreat sites or pitch a tent or trailer in the campgrounds. There are also many beautiful trails and coastline areas to explore, complete with remaining defense bunkers and battlements. I love walking around the old bunkers and exploring inside, but it’s important to bring a good flashlight or headlamp. Some of them are quite dark inside and there are many narrow, twisting corridors. Spooky!

In a continuing vein, the next stop on my journey was Fort Worden, just past nearby Port Townsend. The Fort Worden area is quite large and is still largely in use today. (Albeit not militarily – the area was decommissioned in the 60s and opened in the 70s as a state park with lodging, museums and a large arts community.) Like Flagler, you can rent vacation homes, host events and participate in the ongoing events offered by local Worden residents such as the Centrum Foundation and Copper Canyon Press. Several years ago, I was lucky enough to win a scholarship to participate in the week-long Centrum Jazz Workshop and have been a huge fan of the area ever since. Bring a camper or tent and set up in the beach campground to explore the expansive coastline and 100 year old bunkers. (Bring flashlights!) Even better, be sure to head for the large trail network found atop the bluffs overlooking the beach. It’s completely amazing – and chilling – to be hiking through old growth forest and suddenly come upon a perfectly disguised defense bunker overlooking the water.

Since I fully intended on hiking through some of the bunkers and had again forgotten to purchase a new WA State Parks Discover Pass, I headed to the Coast Artillery Museum to buy a new one.  (Very convenient!) And since I love museums and hadn’t visited this one yet, I did a quick tour through the military history of the area. The museum name is slightly misleading as it features much more than artillery and shares quite a bit about life in the fort throughout its military history. Definitely worth checking out and well worth the $4 admission fee.

After I became versed in the history of the fort, it was time to head down to the beach and check out the bunkers and do a little beach hiking. It was starting to get cloudy and rain seemed imminent, so mucking around in the bunkers seemed like a good idea. As many times as I’ve visited Fort Worden and hiked around the area, I still seem to find a new perspective and discover new (to me) areas tucked away along the shore. This day was no exception and I stumbled upon a few bunker areas I hadn’t previously explored. And with the greyness rolling in, the relatively deserted beach and the still in the air, it reminded me of the look of the movie, The Road.  (Part of which was filmed in WA state near Mount St. Helens.) Eeesh. 

In need of a feel-good pick-me-up, I abandoned the bunker scene and headed back to the main grounds in search of Fort Worden restaurant, Taps at the Guardhouse. However, since this is a former military installation, I shouldn’t have been surprised to go from bunker to brig. Set inside the former guardhouse and jail, the restaurant hosts a nice bar and dining area where you can actually eat in jail! Granted, you can enjoy a nice ploughman’s plate and a glass of Domaine Vetriccie IGP Ile de Beauté White 2015 while you do it, but it certainly makes for an entertainingly foreboding dining experience. Since I successfully made bail/paid my tab, I’m looking forward to further exploring their food and drink offerings on my next visit.

For more information on artistic partnerships Fort Worden hosts, visit HERE. It truly is an amazing area and a great asset to the artistic communities of the Pacific NW.

Since Fort Worden is located just past Port Townsend, I headed back towards town to investigate the area. Port Townsend, founded in 1851, is the only incorporated city in Jefferson County as well as being its county seat. It is filled with a beautiful array of Victorian architecture and style and is a must visit for any fan of the era. (It is one of only three Victorian Seaports on the National Register of Historic Places.) The Arts community thrives in the area, there is a bevy of shops, antiquing opportunities, restaurants, galleries, wine, cider and beer tasting – the list goes on. It also has a ferry terminal which connects to Whidbey Island, making travel around the Sound more convenient. I always find something lovely in Port Townsend and this visit was no exception.  Here are a few of my top picks for the downtown area:

  • Waterfront Pizza
    • When I told my friend, Joe what town I was going to visit, he INSISTED I check out Waterfront Pizza. He also said, and I quote, “God rolls the dough and makes the sauce…” Well, with such heavenly reviews, I had no choice but to check it out. Turns out Joe was right! Their pizza is AMAZING! And as anyone who knows me will confirm, I’m not actually a big pizza fan. For the record, this place pretty much turned me around and put me back on the pizza-loving track. The sauce and dough were indeed god-like, the toppings tasty and plentiful and the place was packed the entire time I was there – in the middle of the day. NOTE: There is a very small walk-in section of the restaurant with an entrance off the street. Go there if you want slices or something to go. Head up the staircase to the right of that entrance if you want to sit down and order a whole pie and drink a glass of wine. I almost missed the experience as I didn’t initially notice the staircase to the upstairs section – and the street-entrance portion of the restaurant was continually standing room only.
  • Bubble n Squeak
    • This is one of new favorite stores! Quirky and eclectic selections of British antiques as well as current goods and sundries. There were sooooo many things I would’ve loved to have taken home, but I settled for some toffees and Turkish Delight. I’ll be back – possibly to purchase the amazing antique whisky dispenser they had. ($500! Eeek!) (But I want it…)
  • Mad Hatter & Co
    • Great hat store with ‘lots of options. Scarves, too! They even had some terribly (in a good way) British top hats and tweed golf caps which made me want to sprint to the nearest polo match or putting green. (And I play neither sport. Details.)
  • About Time
    • Super cool clothing and shoe store that happens to carry a brand of Israeli-made Jafa brand boots I absolutely covet. I will be back.
  • Wandering Angus
    • Quaint shop covering all things Irish, English and Scottish. Perfect shop to visit around St. Patrick’s Day.
  • What’s Cookin’
    • Local kitchen supply store, jam-packed with wonderful books, gadgets, cookware, tea and coffee making supplies, knives, bar supplies, etc. I only allowed myself a brief visit as I would’ve walked out with a giant box of goods otherwise. As it was, I made it out with only a respectably sized shopping bag. Respectable, I say!
  • Rose Theatre
    • An absolute gem of a classic movie house showing current-run films on their main screen with the addition of current-run and classic films in their upstairs 21+ Starlight Room. (Serving food and cocktails from the Silverwater Café)
  • Port Townsend Antique Mall
    • Antiques galore! They were just closing as I drove up for this visit, but I’ll hit them up next time. I could browse through that place for hours!
  • Vintage Hardware & Lighting
    • Ditto with this place! A very cool mix of items and if you happen to be looking for old lighting fixtures…
  • Port Townsend Vineyards
    • Lovely vineyard and winery just outside of Port Townsend. I much enjoy their Gewürztraminer and Cabernet Sauvignon.
    • Downtown Tasting Room
      • Just next door to the Rose Theatre. Small plates and a cozy setting make for a nice wine tasting outing.
    • Port Townsend Brewing Co
      • They have a great selection of ales and it’s a cool place to hang out and have a beer. They do close somewhat early, but they’re open ‘till 9pm on Fridays. (7pm all other days) I’m particularly happy they make an ale called Red Barchetta Red Ale. It’s made with a “power trio of hops!”  Insert major air-drum solo <HERE>
    • And scores of other great shops, bookstores, restaurants, etc.!

 Looking for a place to stay in Port Townsend?

Check out one of Port Townsend’s lovely Victorian era hotels located in the old town area:

And for lodging closer to the beach:


Camp near the beaches at Fort Worden


Commune with local wildlife while staying at Fort Worden

Festivals and Events to Check Out in Port Townsend: 

Throughout the year, Port Townsend features many cool festivals, concerts and art shows.  A few worthy of note:

  • Port Townsend Jazz Festival (July)
    • The whole town as well as Fort Worden takes a week to celebrate America’s original art form, Jazz. Local, national and international artists participate – it’s a great time to visit the area!
  • Strange Brewfest (January)
    • Enjoy beer? Enjoy weird beers and exotic beer concoctions? This is the event for you! Sample eclectic brews from around the NW while enjoying unique entertainment – You can’t go wrong! And while it’s a little chilly, it’s fun to get a bunch of people together to camp over at Fort Worden. All you need is a solid tent, a good coat and a toasty campfire. And more beer.
  • Steampunk Hootenanny (June)
    • I haven’t actually been to this one, but I’m intrigued! I definitely plan on checking this one out as they advertise the following very titillating features:
      • A “Den of Iniquity!” (Who doesn’t love some good ol’ fashion iniquity??)
      • An absinthe bar! (Yes, please.)

Next stop on my Jefferson County tour brought me to the Chimacum area. It’s not far from Port Townsend and features some of the most idyllic landscapes and farmland in the state. Over the course of my two days around the area, I was lucky enough to see it both blanketed in snow and alive with green hills and sunshine. There are so many stops to make throughout the area and it would be very easy to spend a quiet weekend just exploring this small area of the county.

In the summer, there are numerous farm stands to visit and a few great farmers markets. The Chimacum Corner Farmstand is a particularly cool one. As it operates officially between June and October, it wasn’t open, but it’s a great place to stop by during the summer and early harvest months. There is also a great fall Chimacum farm tour and even a cider tour you can take in and around the area.

On the topic of cider, I took a visit to one of the coolest places ever, Finnriver Farm & Cidery. This is one of my very favorite stops in the area! The cider is delicious, the staff is knowledgeable and friendly, they have great food onsite (local bratwurst, wood-fired pizza and crepes!), regular live music and great tasting events. It’s an impressive, fully-working farm, but has a great cozy, intimate feel throughout their tasting room, gift shop and public grounds. I’m also now a member of their cider club, so I’ll be going back a few times a year to pick up featured ciders and goods. What a burden!

I also had the pleasure of picking up a bag of peanut brittle from Sugar Hill Old Fashion Confections while browsing the Finnriver gift shop. This is a local favorite which has very recently opened a shop in the Chimacum area. Great family-run candy company using great local ingredients. (Including recently visited CB Nuts!) I will admit to being a bit of a peanut brittle snob as my grandmother made an AMAZING version. That said – and please don’t be mad at me, Grandma – the Sugar Hill recipe is simply outstanding and some of the best I’ve ever had.

Rounding out my Jefferson County adventure is one of the most stunning areas in the country, the Olympic National Park and the drive along the Pacific Ocean on Highway 101. For this visit, I came up Highway 104 and connected to Highway 101 around the Discovery Bay area. As there is no direct route through the park to get to the ocean, you’ll need to drive around the park boundaries and up through neighboring Clallam County before dropping back into Jefferson. (Or alternately, up through Olympia, and Aberdeen and up the coast from the South.) Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest are enormous areas and comprise not only a huge chunk of Jefferson County, but reach into surrounding counties, Grays Harbor and Mason as well.

One of my favorite areas to visit in the park is the Hoh Rainforest and the Hall of Mosses trail. To say it’s like walking into a fantasy-land is a complete understatement. It’s right out of a Tolkien adventure with lush moss dripping off towering trees, hidden ponds and streams, moss covered rocks and stumps and an easily managed rambling trail. The hiking and backpacking opportunities are near limitless in the park, but if you’re down a quick shot of majesty, this is a great pick. And don’t forget to pack your rain gear – it is one of the most rain-drenched areas in the United States. There are certainly beautiful, sunny days to be enjoyed during the summer, but the area receives between 100-170 inches of rain a year and is always somewhat damp. Be prepared for weather conditions to change on a dime and always pack extra supplies when hiking in any wilderness area. (The 10 Essentials)

Back out on Highway 101, heading south, I made a stop at the very beautiful Ruby Beach. A fairly easy hike down from the (sometimes crowded) parking area leads to long stretches of sandy beach, amazing driftwood displays and gorgeous haystack rock formations along the shoreline.  Bring a picnic, sit on the beach and just take some time to relax and watch the ocean – and some of the most exquisite sunsets you’ll ever see.

Just a little further south on Highway 101, you’ll come to another must-see stop in the area, Kalaloch Lodge and beach area. There are a few nice campgrounds in the area as well as a beautiful, classic lodge and surrounding cabins, but definitely plan in advance as everything books up quickly – especially in the summer months.  That said, I love to come to the area in the winter months when tourism is a little quieter. Granted, there are quite a few rainy, gusty days, but the storm-watching opportunities are amazing and there’s nothing like trying to walk against the winds down on Kalaloch beach. Good luck! It’s also especially cozy if you’re lucky enough to score one of the cabins perched on the bluff overlooking the beach. Put a few logs in the fireplace, fix yourself a hot toddy and stare out into the blustery seas. Another nice option is to head over from your campsite or cabin to the main lodge and grab a nice meal in the The Creekside dining room.  Adjacent to the lodge is the Kalaloch Mercantile, which is a great place to grab extra supplies, a good cup of coffee or some soft-serve ice cream.

After visiting Kalaloch, it was time to return home. Rather than going back towards the Kingston ferry, I headed south down Highway 101, up through Aberdeen, into Olympia and onto I-5 North. A lovely roundtrip tour and a few hours later, I arrived back in Seattle. My adventure was certainly action-packed, but I still only got to see a portion of what I’d planned. I fully plan on returning to Jefferson County again and again and I’m quite positive there will always be something new to check out and a gorgeous vista to behold.

I hope you enjoyed the ride and are inspired to check out all Jefferson County has to offer. It truly is one of my favorite parts of the state.

Until next time!

My Jefferson County Playlist 

I was going for an Americana sort of feel to accompany the rolling farmland and quiet, winding roads.

  • Last of My Kind Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit (Formerly of The Drive-by Truckers – Jason Isbell is one of my favorites)
  • If We Were Vampires Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit
  • Something to Love Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit
  • FlagshipJason Isbell (solo)
  • Look At Miss OhioGillian Welch (Also happened to be playing in the Finnriver tasting room!)
  • Wayside/Back in Time Gillian Welch
  • One Little Song Gillian Welch
  • Oh My Sweet Carolina – Ryan Adams (w/Emmylou Harris)
  • To Be Without You – Ryan Adams
  • All Your Favorite Bands – Dawes
  • To Be Completely Honest – Dawes
  • Beyond This Moment – Patrick O’Hearn (Lovely w/the snowy shorelines and pastures)
  • Northwest Passage – Patrick O’Hearn
  • My Shot – Hamilton: Original Broadway Cast Recording (I’d recently gotten to see Hamilton and was binging on the soundtrack. Come on – Thomas Jefferson was a big part of it. Seemed appropriate enough.)
  • You’ll Be Back – Hamilton: Original Broadway Cast Recording
  • Wait for It – Hamilton: Original Broadway Cast Recording
  • Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down) – Hamilton: Original Broadway Cast Recording

I Ate the State – Kitsap County


For this installment of I Ate the State, I’ll be featuring the coastal areas of Kitsap County and Kitsap Peninsula.  Home to beautiful shorelines, towering forestland and ridiculously quaint towns and attractions, Kitsap County is definitely worth the trip.

There are few ways to get to the Kitsap Peninsula and all involve some impressive views of the Puget Sound and inland waterways. While I’d love to have my own boat and cruise into the various harbors and marinas at my own leisure, it will probably be a few more years before that’s an option. (I am getting a boat. #Goals.) In the meantime, I’m content to either travel from the Tacoma area over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and WA-16/WA-3 or via the Edmonds/Kingston Ferry route. Another popular option is to take the Seattle/Bremerton Ferry from the Seattle Waterfront ferry terminal.

A note about the Washington State Ferry system:  It’s the largest ferry system in the country and third largest in the world! (I also mention this in an earlier I Ate the State – Clallum County post.  After traveling through Kitsap County’s neighbor, Jefferson County, Clallum County is next and is the westernmost county and point in the United States.) I love taking the ferry anytime I can. You can head to Vancouver Island, B.C. and Victoria, B.C., Bremerton and Bainbridge Island (also in Kitsap County), Whidbey Island, the San Juan Islands, etc. The routes are extensive and beautiful.  When I was a kid, my family would take mini-breaks over in the Seattle area and we’d always take a round-trip ferry trip to Bremerton and back – just to ride the boat. I have so many fond memories of riding the Washington State Ferries.

For this jaunt, I chose to take the Edmonds/Kingston ferry route both to and from Kitsap County.  As I’d formulated my travel plans very last minute, I didn’t really take into account the ferry schedule. Suffice it to say, I got ready very quickly that morning and made a mad dash out the door. I’m happy and impressed to report I was the second-to-last car to make it on the ferry both departing and returning. It prompted an earworm courtesy of The Beatles to play through my brain for a good portion of the day.

Woke up, fell out of bed,
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup,
And looking up I noticed I was late.

Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat…

Excerpt from A Day in the Life – by The Beatles

Regarding music, it is my opinion that a good road trip must always be accompanied by a good soundtrack. The music helps set the mood of the journey – and the journey can help set the mood of the music. I can’t imagine traveling anywhere without music playing a part. It helps me slip into the surroundings and add my own little stories to the scenery as it passes. It sparks my imagination and inspires me to push a little further to see what’s up around the next bend. There are so many songs indelibly etched in my memory, reminding me of specific road trips and amazing adventures through the years. I’ve always been grateful for the easy recall of those adventures at just the mention of a song or from hearing a few notes in passing.

That said, there’s also something to be said for a quiet journey down a lonely back road.  I do absolutely understand the allure. And sometimes, maybe you never want music while traveling. For instance, my grandfather was a musician and actually took the stereos out of his vehicles because he used driving as a break from the music. He heard and played music all day, every day – very understandable he might want to take a break. But I digress…

After just making it onto the ferry, I felt it necessary to finally get that cup of coffee I’d neglected to grab as I raced out the door.  A quick visit to the ferry galley did the trick and I spent the next 20 minutes staring blissfully out the window onto the grey waters and rainy morning shorelines. No whale sightings this time, but they’re definitely something to watch out for during ferry crossings in and around the Puget Sound.

Back on land in Kingston, I headed towards Port Gamble. (Head west on Hwy 104 NE) The town of Kingston is a nice little harbor town and there are definitely some good spots to stop and get a meal or snack (or beer) as you’re waiting to get back on the ferry. The lines can definitely get long – be sure to check the ferry schedule and plan accordingly. Or just wing it… It’s all good. Even though I was just passing through Kingston this trip, there are a couple of spots I’d like to check out in the future. The Grub Hut and Downpour Brewing are two places I was particularly intrigued by. Next time!

Port Gamble is a fairly short drive from Kingston, so it was only a few songs into my road trip soundtrack before I arrived in town. (Check out the album Red Bird, by Jeffrey Foucault, Kris Delmhorst and Peter Mulvey – 2005. ‘Lots of moody, seafaring Americana for a rainy-day, coastal jaunt.) As it was a relatively gloomy day in January and mostly out of the typical range of tourism, there were plenty of parking spots right in the main street area. (Okay, there’s really only one main street in Port Gamble, other than the highway; which does actually slow down to 25 mph through the town…) Rockstar parking all around! (It does get pretty crowded in the summer months, but there are a few parking lots in and around the general area to accommodate visitors.)


The Port Gamble General Store

Since I’d only had a cup of coffee for sustenance, I was indeed a little peckish. However, as I wasn’t quite yet to the hangry stage, I thought I should at least do a little sightseeing before I settled down for lunch. As I was parked just in front of the rather enchanting, Port Gamble General Store, I decided to start there. I’m glad I did. It provides an excellent peek into the past of Port Gamble and the vibrant milling community it supported as well as its modern day incarnation. (Founded in 1853 by William Talbot and Andrew Pope, the Puget Mill Company was the longest continually operating mill in the United States up until its closure in 1995. The town has been a national historic landmark since 1966.)

Inside, the General Store was chock full of interesting gift items, sundries, novelties, home goods, etc. and in the back was a very  quaint sandwich and coffee shop. They also have a fairly nice selection of beer, wine and sodas should you feel like packing up an impromptu picnic to enjoy while looking out over the water. (There are various picnic tables and nice vistas just past the General Store.) In the upstairs area, there was a very unexpected and excellent “Sea and Shore” museum. Not only were there a wide variety of seashells and sea creatures from the Pacific NW, there were examples of all sorts of sea life from around the world. It was definitely worth a small donation into the donation box atop the stairs as you walk in. It also provided a great view down onto the main floor of the shop. I love older buildings that have a walkway all around the upper floor which looks down onto the ground floor. You don’t see as much of that design in modern buildings and homes… What I loved even more was seeing the pictures of the same building earlier in the last century and how much of the store layout remained similar. And on that note…


Nice little sandwich and coffee shop at the back of the General Store

The Port Gamble Historic Museum is downstairs and around the back of the General Store. It is absolutely worth the four dollar admission fee. Even more so if the lovely Pat is working at the front desk. She gave me a very knowledgeable, personal breakdown of the area’s history and was completely charming and helpful. The displays were very well put together, informative and gave a great glimpse into life in the earlier days of Washington State, highlighting both settlers to the area and the local Native American tribes. There were full-size dioramas of shop, home and ship interiors along with a well-preserved array of period pieces and photographs; including a great photo of the General Store in the early 1900s.

As I am a bit of a museum nerd, I try to visit every museum, big or small, in all the towns I explore; especially towards the beginning of my visit. I love getting the back story and learning about the (possible) seedy underbelly of a town’s upbringing. And since I often do my adventuring solo, it serves to give me a sense of belonging and family to the area I’m exploring – as if maybe I’m not such an outsider after all. Visiting the Port Gamble Historic Museum indeed gave me a good understanding of the area and a nice sense of belonging. (Thanks, Pat!)

After immersing myself in the town’s history, I visited a few more shops on my way to find something tasty for lunch.  Along my path, I visited the intriguing Mrs. Muir’s Tea House where they have a great selection of British goods, including a room dedicated to Harry Potter novelties and a very nice tea menu. (Formerly known as Mrs. Muir’s House of Ghosts and Magic, purported to be haunted and host to séances and tarot readings. Spooky!) I picked up a bottle of one of favorite beverages, Irn-Bru and a nice packet of Licorice Allsorts for the ride home. And I may have snapped a picture of the dreamy Outlander, Jamie Fraser cutout they had in the main room. Don’t judge.

Next up, it was high time for lunch. Across the street/highway from the main part of town sits the old gas station and repair shop. These days they offer a different type of fuel, as provided by Butcher & Baker Provisions. Stepping inside, there’s an open-air feeling complete with long, communal style tables and tidy displays of local area specialty foods and beverages. The entire back area of the restaurant boasts a long counter and display cases where you can peruse the delicious house-cured meats and decadent dessert selections. The menu had many interesting offerings, including Bibimbap and a Roasted Cauliflower Agnolotti, but since they are a butcher shop which cures their own meats, I decided to give the charcuterie board a try. And a nice glass of wine to go with it… Several very tasty meat selections later along with perfectly grilled bread and a nice side of olives and pickled veggies, I felt any hangry feelings float merrily off into the distance. Since I was really quite full, I didn’t get a chance to sample any of the desserts. I’ll be back…


Old Port Gamble Automotive Repair – Now Butcher & Baker Provisions


All the meats!

In order to avoid slipping into a blissful food coma, I headed out towards my next destination. Where that was exactly, I hadn’t actually planned, but since there was a rare break in the clouds, I figured it was a good sign something cool was around the corner.  Sure enough, I literally turned the corner and there was a sign for the Hood Canal Brewery.  Why not?? I’d heard good things about it, so I followed the sign and drove off in that direction.  Did I make it? Did I enjoy some beerly delights? NO. I somehow got turned around and ended up in… Poulsbo! And that’s quite alright as I’d visited there recently and had planned on stopping by again soon. No better time like the present, I guess! (But I will be back over to visit that brewery soon! And will pay closer attention to the road signs…)

Velkommen til Poulsbo! (Sign greeting guests as they enter Poulsbo, AKA “Little Norway”) I guess I didn’t think of visiting Poulsbo from this direction as I’ve only approached from the Tacoma area, but there I was heading into downtown Poulsbo, driving past a giant Viking statue known as ‘The Norseman.’ Even though it had started to rain again, I couldn’t help but be cheerful about my surroundings. In any weather, Poulsbo is warm and welcoming with a wealth of shops and restaurants to enjoy. The old town area of Poulsbo has quite a Scandinavian flair and is great to visit any time of the year, but becomes especially festive during the winter holidays. (And during the yearly Viking Festival) During my recent visits, I’ve gotten the chance to visit several great spots.  A few of my favorites:

Valhöll Brewing – Very cool little brewery and tasting room on the hill overlooking Front Street. They have a good variety of brews, the staff is cool and it’s a great place to take a quick break from the bustle of Front Street. And beer is always a good idea.


Tasty brews for all!

Sluys’ Bakery – There’s been a bakery in this building since the early 1900s. The Sluys’ took over in 1966 and it’s been in the family ever since. They are the original creators of the famous, ‘Poulsbo Bread.’ I love that bread, but even more I love their amazing Viking Cups. They were OUT of them on this particular visit (the horror!), but I was able to pick up a few other tasty treats in their place. This place gets insanely busy, so be prepared to wait. It’s worth it.


Insanely delicious Viking Cups from Sluys’ Bakery

Marina Market – One of the coolest, quirkiest little markets I’ve ever visited with a totally unassuming storefront. The first time I noticed it, I genuinely thought it was a marine market – as in it catered to boating needs. I’m very glad I investigated further as I was pretty impressed to see the sheer amount of international foods, beverages, gifts, etc. packed into such a small place. (With an obvious focus on Scandinavian items) And the freakish amount and variety of black licorice they carried was amazing! (Black licorice beats red licorice ANY day. True story.) They also have a great website, so if you can’t make it to the store, order online!


Has an amazing selection of licorice, but does *not* sell boating items.

Truelux Candles – I love candles, but I never thought I’d add a candle store to my list of destination locations. This place is great! They of course have a lovely selection of the Truelux lotion candles (dreamy!), but they also feature many unique home décor items and more. In addition, they have a baby grand piano in the front and regularly feature music and the first time I visited the shop, they had a champagne bucket on the front counter, chillin’ some tall boy PBRs. Hilarious! (And much appreciated) The shop owners and their very sweet dog are also very cool.

Slippery Pig Brewery – Tasty pub and brewery down by the marina. They regularly feature live music, have a decent arcade and game room and a very friendly staff. They’re also family friendly. All I know is I want to try their ‘Loaded Bloody Mary’ the next time I visit. And someone else needs to drive…

Tizley’s Euro Pub – Cool restaurant located upstairs and next door to Sluys’ Bakery. They have a pretty interesting Scandinavian and Bavarian menu and I can guarantee you they pound out their own schnitzel. How and why do I know this? On my last visit, I was sitting in the bar with my family, which was in good range of the kitchen. The food was good and the beer selection was on point, but the entire time we were there, the chef was in the kitchen pounding away on the day’s schnitzel offerings. Pounding, pounding, pounding! It was a bit distracting, but I suppose it’s good to know the schnitzel was definitely house-made. Maybe visit later in the day when the schnitzel prep is finished… (Bonus tip: If you go out the back entrance, take the little walkway out to the road behind the building. BAM! You’re at Valhöll Brewing and you don’t have to walk all the way around. You’re welcome.)


Tizley’s Euro Pub and Sluys’ Bakery

Boehm’s Chocolates – I usually visit the original Boehm’s Chocolates in Issaquah, but I was happy to find a shop in Poulsbo as well. My family has been visiting Boehm’s as long as I can remember and it was always a special treat to stop on the way home from one of our ‘Seattle weekends’ while growing up. Their sea-salt caramels are absolutely deeeee-licious.


MORA Ice Cream – Uhhh, if you are at all a fan of ice cream, VISIT MORA.  Amazing flavors with unique ingredients and delicious combinations. GO THERE NOW! (Oh wow. I just noticed on their website they’ll ship right to your doorstep. DANGER!)

Poulsbo Maritime and Poulsbo Heritage Museums – Two very nice museums featuring the local maritime and heritage histories of the area. Friendly staff, interesting displays and a good overview of the area in general. Definitely worth investigating.

While I could’ve spent much longer in Poulsbo, there were still some areas I wanted to check out before heading back to the ferry. So, with some delicious Sluys’ baked goods and Boehm’s chocolates in tow, I drove back towards Kingston. There was one more area I wanted to check out…

On the ferry ride over, I’d grabbed a few travel brochures from the local tourism cubbies. I always feel like a dork grabbing tourism brochures from my own state, but do I usually learn something new every time, so what the heck! Today was no exception as I learned of a cool lighthouse out on a little tip of the peninsula called, Point No Point Light House. It’s located in a little town called Hansville and was established in 1879. Hansville isn’t very far from Kingston and is a nice drive through farmlands, forest and finally out to the Puget Sound. I was thwarted from my path, however, by large areas of water over the light house access road and had to turn around. There was no one around and I didn’t think cruising the Sportage into waters unknown by myself was a great idea.  I guess I’ll have to visit the light house another day. Glass half full (and road), I did get to see a house made out of the front half of an old ferry along the road to the light house. Very cool!

Since my light house dreams had been crushed, I decided to head in the opposite direction down Twin Spits Road to see if I could maybe find a beach to watch the sunset. (Sidebar – I’m very curious how Twin Spits got its name…) After driving by many enchanting beach front homes and side roads leading off towards what I’m sure were equally enchanting beach cabins and cottages, I came to the end of the road. It was a private cul-de-sac, but there were a few public parking spots along the sides. (With a sign noting to be courteous of local homes and residents) I took the small path leading out onto a beach next to a private pier and got there just in time to see the beginnings of a pretty sunset. I walked around the beach for a few minutes taking it all in and enjoyed the fresh breeze off the water. Ahhh…


Lovely start to the sunset on a beach at the end of Twin Spits Road

As it was getting dark and I still had a few things to take care of at home, I decided to head back towards Kingston – And with any luck, make the 5:30pm ferry. After a quick visit to the delicious CB’s Nuts shop on the way back (Soooo good!), fast-forward to 5:29pm and I was the second-to-last car to make it on the ferry back to Seattle. Victory!  Back on the ferry, enjoying a piece of Boehm’s sea-salt caramel, I looked out towards the advancing lights of Seattle and thought about all the Kitsap County goodness I’d packed into a few hours. (Full disclosure: In the spirit of packing a lot into a little bit of time, maybe I had two caramels… or three…) I’m already looking forward to my next visit to the Kitsap County area.


The sign says it all…


Join me next time when I visit… Jefferson County. Hopefully I’ll get to see some good winter beach storms!


A quick Playlist from my Kitsap County journey:

  • A Day in the Life – The Beatles
  • Ships – Redbird
  • Buckets of Rain – Redbird
  • The Whole World Round – Redbird
  • Moonshiner – Redbird
  • Lullaby 101 – Redbird
  • Lighthouse Light – Redbird
  • Hold On – Redbird
  • A Day in the Life – The Beatles

Other great places to visit in Kitsap County:

Bainbridge Island

Blake Island and Tillicum Village

Port Orchard

I Ate the State 2.0: The Reboot

With the boon of a new year, a return to Seattle and a newly rejuvenated back, I want to return my focus to music, travel, food and writing. In tribute, I bring you, I Ate the State 2.0: The Reboot.

For a while now, my dream has been to bring together my love of music, travel, food and writing into one project. When I used to tour musically, I often wrote of my adventures along the way, but never really put them together in any organized fashion.  I thought about music quite a bit during my journeys and many of my escapades definitely inspired songs, but I never really combined those into any semblance of order either. I think it’s high time to finally remedy this oversight and put everything together in one, conveniently located place.

I Ate the State is a travelmusicfoodwriting project that will take me all around the great state of Washington – All 39 counties!  As I’m a native Washingtonian and have always enjoyed telling people all about my favorite local spots, I figure there is no better place for me to start. The plan is to visit each county in Washington State and have an adventure inspired by music and food. I’ll initially write of my adventures, but plan to write music to go along with these adventures as well. I’m going to create a road trip soundtrack out of my road trips!

I did embark upon this project a little while ago, but a few things got in the way. Since those items are no longer a factor, it’s time to get things moving again and put the band back together. Washington State, let’s go on an adventure!


To begin, I think I’ll start with counties that don’t require a large amount of winter travel.  I don’t really mind driving in snow if a ski hill is ultimately involved, but I generally prefer to avoid dodgy winter weather. That said, how ‘bout I start with… Kitsap County! Home to the lovely Poulsbo, Bainbridge Island and Port Gamble, it’s always a good time of the year to visit. And I always love a good ferry ride! Stay tuned and see how it all unfolds. I have a pretty good feeling about this project.  And if you happen to be local, I’m always looking for tips and suggestions – please hit me up!

Cheers – And happy travels!

Seattle 2018

Almost eight years ago, I left Seattle proper with little plan of return. It was time for a change and time to shake things up a bit. I’d been living in Seattle since college, working and playing music, and loved it, but needed to put a new perspective on things. Granted, I didn’t exactly leave the state; I barely even left King County. My path only took me as far as Tacoma for a couple of years and back up to Bothell for several more. (And most recently, a few more months in T-town.) I did, however, truly get a chance to experience more of the areas surrounding Seattle along with doing some great travel out of state and abroad.

Until recently, I’d been planning on buying a place in the Tacoma area and commuting to my job in Kirkland. However, after my most recent stay in Tacoma, I realized how much traffic has worsened in the last few years and that the daily commute just wasn’t mentally or physically sustainable. (So screamed my back. And my patience…)  I’d begun to formulate a plan on how to buy a place in the more expensive King County, including renting in the Bothell area in the meantime, when I received a very intriguing offer from two very dear friends. Long story short, I now find myself moving back to Seattle, back to the city I held dear for so many years, back to music and back to the many memories of good times – and bad.  And I am genuinely excited about it.

I know many things have changed since I’ve been gone – I’ve changed a bit myself. Places and people I took for granted as Seattle institutions have been replaced by the new and the shiny. But I know there are many things that remain the same and will always be quintessentially, Seattle. In the spirit of these holdouts, here’s a list of places I’m looking forward to having readily accessible in the very near future:



While I was away – RIP Seattle of my youth:

  • People’s Pub (Goodbye delicious fried pickles and spätzle…)
  • Spaghetti Factory (Why, Seattle – WHY??? Since I was a child…)
  • The Hurricane (And The Doghouse before it…)
  • B&O Espresso (Partially responsible for my caffeine addiction. And the reason my Birks are still sticky from a caramel mocha milkshake debacle…)
  • 13 Coins on Boren (Ohhhh, the debaucherous late nights…)
  • El Puerco Llrone (NOOOOoooooOOOoooooo!!! Farewell amazing carnitas…)
  • The Waterfront (As it used to be…)
  • Sunset Bowl (Happened while I was still in Seattle, but I still haven’t gotten over it…)
  • And I’m sure there are many more… 😦

Sigh… Sunset Bowl, I miss you…


But hey, glass half full – I’m looking forward to checking out all the new things Seattle has to offer.

Greetings, Seattle!  I’m BACK!!!  >;-)

2018: A Year in Review

2018: A Year in Review

I’m not one for making resolutions. I do have lists of ongoing goals and plans, but I wouldn’t consider them to be resolutions. My general idea is to keep moving forward, knocking out to-do lists as I go. It doesn’t seem realistic to put together a big list at the beginning of the year and expect it to remain valid for 365 days. Sure, my approach can at times go sideways and maybe I won’t end up getting much of anything accomplished, but it’s what works best for me. The bottom line is things change, the unexpected happens and some items just don’t end up as important as they might’ve seemed on January 1. I’d rather keep updating my plans and move realistically through evolving objectives than front-load a bunch of goals which could end up obsolete or unimportant.

All that blathering aside, I’m going to assign some proactive thinking, planning and scheming to the coming year and just go ahead and call out the awesomeness that will be 2018.

In no particular order, here’s 2018 in review:

  • After many years of plotting, planning and trying to save, I finally moved into my very own, sweet little home.
    • Where I can rehearse with actual amplifiers and not worry about freaking out my upstairs/downstairs neighbors.
    • Where I no longer have to listen to, smell, etc. my upstairs/downstairs neighbors.
  • It was wonderful how the nation came together, on a bipartisan level, to root out the lies, pandering, narcissism, sexism, bullying and posturing which had become so pervasive in the political scene.
    • I can’t believe how many people got out and voted. There were record turnouts across the nation!
  • I competed in both the Spartan and Ragnar races and didn’t destroy myself.
    • No, I didn’t come in first, but I finished! Baby steps…
  • It was inspiring to see the increased level of volunteerism, community service and general concern given to those in need.
    • You get my back and I’ll get yours. The unexpected can and will happen – often when you’re least prepared. You never know when you’re going to need to ask for help – or have the opportunity to help someone out. Give – and live – generously.
  • I moved forward with my artistic goals and closed out 2018 with a great sense of personal accomplishment and pride. The mantle of The Uninspired has officially been shaken off!
  • Life-sustaining water sources were discovered on Mars!
    • Shuttles are being booked for departure in the coming year.
  • My drink recipes were inducted in the Bartending Hall of Recipe Fame.
    • It was a long road, fraught with toil and heartburn, but we all pulled through. Thank you to everyone who helped me along the path to spirit-filled glory.

Peace to you all – And a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!


Found on Ruby Beach in the Olympic National Forest on the Washington coast. Beautiful area!

Glamping, Birthdays & Back Pain


Another trip around the sun, another birthday camping trip with my family and friends… AKA, another year I sucker everyone into pitching tents and making me birthday food in the woods! (It’s been working since I was a kid! If it ain’t broke, I ain’t gonna fix it. Moowhwhahahaahahahahahh!) And while one might not equate fine dining with a camp stove and fire pit, my brothers never cease to amaze me with what they’re able to whip up. This year was no different.


My brother Ryan and his campground delivery service.

The exception, however, to the overall Smith family camping awesomeness, was the addition of my unexpected and unwelcome return to searing back pain. YES!! And lemme tell ya – it’s definitely not what you want when facing your next couple of nights on the forest floor. (Or in the back of a KIA Sportage – I mean, come on – there was a pack of WOLVES in the area! True story.) Yep – rather than hiking around one of my favorite places in the world, the campground of my youth, I spent the entire trip reclined in my little brother’s swanky zero-gravity lounge chair, which I ruthlessly occupied he generously let me commandeer the entire time.

Long story, short – seems the back surgery I had a few years ago didn’t quite take care of business. I visited the doctor after returning from camping and it appears I have a bone-rubbing-bone situation in the same area as my old surgery – Who needs cartilage?! I’ve always found it overrated… ANYway – I anticipate more surgery in the near future… But who wants to talk about that? NOT ME. I’ll just proactively ignore it while taking pain pills and burning through my DVR queue… And finishing my family camping story.


Since we’ve all been having a fairly busy summer, there wasn’t as much planning and prep that went into the trip. My brothers usually bust out some ridiculously elaborate campsite feasts – ones I wouldn’t attempt even in my own kitchen. As mentioned, this year wasn’t any different, but we did simplify things a tiny bit. For instance, we did make more than a few meals on sticks – Team Food on Sticks ™ for the win!! Nothing like meat cooked on a stick over an open fire… Granted, open fires were banned due to an incredibly dry forest, but my brother’s gas fire pit did just as good a job. (Legally, thank you.) It didn’t put out quite the same heat as a campfire, but it certainly did justice to those wily hotdogs… Mmmmm… Food on sticks!

In addition to meat prepared on sticks, my brothers also produced quite an excellent fish fry-up. My brother Ryan and sister-in-law, Beth hauled up the iron kettle deep-fryer that Beth’s dad handcrafted. (Beth’s mom and dad also made it up camping – first time camping with the Smiths. Heh. I hope we didn’t scare them off!) They hand-cut and breaded fresh cod and fried it up with freshly cut potato chips. (Beth and I lovingly cut EACH chip ourselves. With questionable knives. On a wobbly camp table. #RoughingIt) Beth’s mom also made her delicious coleslaw and my Stepmom, Marilyn brought up some incredibly tasty macaroni salad. There haven’t been many times I’ve had deep-fried cod and potato chips in the mountains – no other times, actually. However, when cooking in the woods with my brothers, you never know what’s gonna happen. I think they should do a cooking show from the campsite, in fact… (Food Network – are you listening??) I think it should be called, “Cooking with The Glampers.” ™


Delicious hand-breaded fried cod and chips



On the topic of glamping, I come from a long line of glampers. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some backpacking and can bathe in the creek with the best of them, (with eco-friendly soap substitutes, of course) but I do love my family’s tradition of bringing ALL the comforts of home into the campsite. Before the days of the more conveniently sized generators and such, my family brought big screen TVs (before they were flat screen), all manner of cooking devices and whatever else which could possibly make sitting around the campfire more ‘comfortable.’ I’m pretty sure someone in my family has attempted to bring a hot tub up to the campsite at some point… Because, what’s better after a long, hot day of motorcycling than a nice soak in the hot tub? While roasting some food on sticks…

And to top off the birthday affair, my awesome family and friends helped further distract me from back pain by showering me with lovely gifts and a GINORMOUS birthday cake! Seriously, we’re all still eating that cake – and there were 15 of us up there to tackle it! It was honestly one of the largest cakes I’ve seen in a while… Thanks, Dad! I think there was pretty much enough room in there for someone to jump out. Seriously – can we get on that for next time? Cute guy jumping out of cake. Check.

Well, I guess that’s all I’ve got for this installment. I shall now retire with my pain pills and ice packs back to the couch. And continue blowing through my DVR queue. And some of that cake…

Thanks to Dad, Marilyn, Ryan, Beth, Eli, Josh, Ann, Belle, Emily, Layla, Beth, CJ, Marvin and Ruth for making my birthday awesome!

Until next time – Cheers!

p.s. The aftermath of Ryan’s campsite delivery service


I think my brother’s can-smashing expertise and CJ’s jaunty scarf really make the shot.

30 Days of AWESOME


As an artist, it is important to have inspiration and be motivated to create. Whatever the impetus might be – muse, inspiring situation, location, etc. – it is vital to the process. That said, when working as a professional artist, it can be equally important to develop the skill/ability/tricks to perform creatively when the feeling of creativity is at a minimum. It’s like any other job in that regard – you’ll find some days tougher than others to muster up the enthusiasm.

I’m lucky to work in a creative industry, but this can sometimes backfire when attempting to carve out time for my own artistic endeavors. One can gain a certain complacency in creativity when the job which largely pays your bills demands a high level of creative input and output. It can also be deceptively satisfying when you are indeed contributing artistically, but the artistic vision to which you’re contributing is not your own. This is definitely where I draw on the skills/abilities/tricks I’ve developed over the years to perform effectively as a creative person.

But sometimes a girl just needs a good dose of actual, real-deal artistic inspiration…

It’s been a few years since I’ve experienced that absolute, uninterruptable drive to create something – to actually feel like an artist capable of original expression. It hasn’t been for lack of looking or trying, but the inspiration just hasn’t presented itself. I’ve always loved trekking off to worlds unknown and my wanderlust has certainly led me to great inspiration, but with the trappings of being a somewhat responsible adult, come the trappings of staying in one place for longer periods of time. And having a “real” job. And paying bills. (On time) And actually going to bed at a respectable hour… Bah. So how do I bring my old globe-trotting, creative self into the responsibility of my present day? Hmmm…. There must be a way!

And with that, I present to you the last 30 days of my life. Bottom line, I think I’ve more than succeeded in jumpstarting my creative soul. Because honestly, if I can’t find inspiration in the total awesomeness of the past month of my life, I should probably just hang it up as an artist. Heh. I’ll elaborate more on certain aspects of the month – and I even plan on getting back to my original writing and music projects – but initially I’m simply going to write down a list. (Okay, a list with small descriptions – I just can’t help myself!) To quickly share my adventures, yes, but maybe also for a selfish need to bask in the awesomeness just a little longer …

30 Days of AWESOME

Prelude – I decided to finally use some of my vacation time and take a real vacation this year. Something longer than a 4-day weekend which didn’t involve answering email while on said ‘vacation.’ Hey – why not go to… CHINA! The dojo I belong to was planning a trip to China, so I signed up. YEAH!

  • July 1: After a 12+ hour flight, complete with five in-flight movies and several glasses of wine, arrive in Shanghai, China. OMG IT’S HOT IT CHINA!!! Wall. Of. Heat.
  • July 2: Shanghai city tour – Visit The Bund, Jade Buddha Temple, Yu Yuan Garden – Beautiful! And I’m pretty sure I’d already sweated away 5lbs by this point.
  • July 3: More touring of the ENORMOUS city of Shanghai. Biggest city in the world – the urban sprawl (side by side with the ancient urban sprawl) never seemed to end. Visited the Shanghai Museum and saw real Ming vases! (And made a very cool addition to my ongoing global museum quest.) Went on a very cool Shanghai River boat cruise that night with dinner. Crazy Sci-Fi skyline on one side of the river, beautiful, stately British colonial architecture on the other side. It was like Blade Runner meets Empire of the Sun…
  • July 4: After a very long bus ride, a 2-hr flight and another long bus ride up a CRAZY, winding mountain road, arrive at Wudang Temple. A magical, mystical place – completely awe-inspiring. I’ve always marveled at this scenery in the movies and there I was, right in the middle of it. Worked out that night with dojo-mates in the ancient courtyard under the stars. Amazing.
  • July 5: Enjoyed a package of red, white and blue Skittles to celebrate the 4th. (As it was technically still the 4th back in the US) Bus ride back down crazy road to the Purple Cloud Temple for cultural exchange with the Taoist Monks and Abbot. Turned out we were the largest group to ever visit – in the history of the monastery! It ended up being a major event and was apparently covered by Chinese national TV and newspaper! We then trained for 2 hours in the ancient temple courtyard with the monks. 2 hours learning Tai Chi forms from the masters was INTENSE. Oh, and OMG IT’S HOT IN CHINA!!! We then went back up the mountain to Wudang Temple where we proceeded to trek further up the mountains (and a LOT of steps – A LOT!) to visit the Golden Temple. I can’t begin to describe the beauty… Ancient and breath-taking… And if that weren’t enough hard-core physical activity for the day, we hiked back down the mountain to go get ready for a 2+ hour belt test with the masters in the temple courtyard. (I was going for my purple belt – ACHIEVED!) After a day spent doing martial arts in the cradle of martial arts, we all enjoyed a lovely dinner in the communal dining hall and then consumed several rounds of questionable Chinese liquor. One of the best days of my life…
  • July 6: Very long bus ride through the countryside to Dengfeng City, home of Shaolin Kung Fu. Arrive (finally) at hotel and the entire area is dedicated to the martial arts. KICK ASS. Literally. Students out in courtyards everywhere practicing, “malls” dedicated to selling martial arts goods and weapons – wow! Before we all passed out that night, we attended an excellent exhibition show performed by the Shaolin monks. My mind still cannot comprehend how they are able to perform some of those moves.
  • July 7: We visited the Shaolin Temple and TRAINED WITH THE SHAOLIN KUNG FU MONKS. Still can’t quite process learning forms from the actual monks… Also took a little “hike” up to Dharma Cave – part of the birthplace of Chan Buddhism in China. (Thousands of crazy stone steps! OMG.) Tiny cave on the top of a mountain with a very ancient alter inside – and a monk! I’m not Buddhist, but I kneeled down with the monk and gave offerings anyway. When in Rome.
  • July 8: Travel on bullet train to Beijing. 250 mph – NICE! Tooling about Beijing – total different vibe than Shanghai, but mesmerizing in its own way. Definitely know you’re in the heart of the People’s Republic of China. (It also added to the feeling being our hotel was 3 blocks up from Tiananmen Square. Our guide warned us to not talk about topics such as the Tiananmen Massacre while walking through the square as she didn’t want any of us to ‘get disappeared.’ She was serious.) Attended an insane Chinese acrobatic show – AMAZING!
  • July 9: Visited the insanely beautiful and epic, Summer Palace. Such opulence… With sprawling grounds and a huge man-made lake! But not to be outdone – and one of the reasons I came on the trip in the first place – was our visit to The Forbidden City. I’ve been fascinated by this place since the first time I saw The Last Emperor. To actually walk the grounds on my own and take in the history will forever be one of the highlights of my life. Later that night, my dojo mate, Allen and I took a stroll towards Tiananmen Square and ended up in the 600 yr. old marketplace, Qianmen Street. This particular adventure deserves an entry all its own, but in a nutshell, I thought we were gonna have to throw down in Beijing. True story. Luckily, we eventually made it back to our hotel. Throw down in Beijing evaded.
  • July 10: Last full day in China. OMG IT’S HOT IN CHINA!!! Visited the Badaling portion of the Great Wall of China. Walked along the route that Chairman Mao took to give his big speech from ‘Hero Rock.’ One of my favorite pics from the trip is from this area:(I will be posting more pics in the near future, but this one just keeps cracking me up. You think there’d be better language translations at a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But I’m glad there aren’t!) To walk along the Great Wall of China was pretty epic, to say the least. Again, still processing… Topped off the night with a lovely Beijing duck dinner. Delicious! (On a related note, the food overall was excellent! There indeed some mystery items, but I love a good mystery – More on the food scene later!)HeroStoner
  • July 11: 12+ hour flight back to Seattle. Watched five in-flight movies and enjoyed several glasses of wine. Because that’s what I do on long-ass flights.
  • July 12: Jet-lag like I’ve never experienced! Yowsa. Everything is floaty and surreal… La la la la laaaa…
  • July 13: Return to work. Insert sad trombone: HERE Still in floaty jet-lag land…
  • July 16: Competed in Warrior Dash race! Jet-lag still present, but starting to fade… Fully covered, head to toe in MUD. Jumped through fire, crawled on belly thru mud pit under barbed wire, etc. But there was beer at the end! I’ve been wanting to compete in obstacle course races for quite some time and I finally did it. (And several of my excellent co-workers joined me!) Next up is the Tough Mudder race in September and the SPARTAN race in October. (I’m kinda scared for that one!)
  • July 17: Attended a screening of The Lord of the Rings at Benaroya Hall – with live a live performance of the entire score (including choral!) by the Seattle Symphony. The entire movie! It was amazing – and I was sitting in 10th row!! Phase I of my return to musical inspiration – COMPLETE.
  • July 21: Saw Peter Gabriel and Sting perform as part of their Paper, Rock, Scissors tour at Key Arena. My friends Beth, CJ and I were in the very top row, but the sound was still awesome! Eddie Vedder even joined them for a couple of tunes! (Driven to Tears and Red Rain – badass!) For the tour, they’ve both got their full bands and take turns performing their own tunes along with each other’s! Like a good-natured battle of the bands sort of affair. AWESOME! Part II of return to musical inspiration – ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED.
  • July 23: Went on a crazy road trip with my pal, Patti and caught an AMAZING performance at the Gorge. Dead & Company pulled off two mind-boggling sets of music. Truly one of the best shows I’ve ever seen! I was speculative of the mix of original Dead members along with new additions like John Mayer, but it turned out to be the perfect recipe. And the bassist, Oteil Burbridge blew my mind! I also experienced a similar recipe regarding friends at the show. While Patti and I haven’t known each other for that long, we’ve become fast friends. Add in a very serendipitous reunion with three great guys I hadn’t seen since HIGH SCHOOL and WOW! Good times with new friends and old – amazing! Scott, Corey and Danny – So many great memories with these guys and it was beyond excellent to catch up. I just hope we don’t go that long without hanging out again. :-} Part III of return to musical inspiration – and just my inspiration in general – 100% COMPLETION ACHIEVED!
  • July 24: Trip back to Seattle area. Stopped at two of my favorite places in the world on the way back home – The Thorp Fruit Market and the awesome town of Roslyn. Picked up WAY too many items at the Thorpe Antique market and followed it up with a great lunch at the new Basecamp Books café and bookstore in Roslyn. We also stopped on Snoqualmie Pass on the way back. It’s rare I ever stop there in the summer and it was a particularly beautiful day – brilliant green mountainsides, blue sky and fresh air. Ahhhhhh.
  • July 24: Actually muster the strength to return to my regular dojo training – and it was great! Needed to take a few days to process all of the intense training in China… But glad to be back!
  • July 31: In the midst of a week of crazy overtime, got to meet up for brunch with my dear friend, Emily. At which point I pretty much recanted everything I just wrote out above. And she was kind enough to humor me and listen to the whoooooooooole story. (sucka!) (jk) (sorta.)

30 Days of AWESOME, indeed!!

If you’ve made it this far, thank YOU for humoring the sharing of my saga. And a special thanks to the actual saga for pulling me far, far out of the artistic funk in which I was languishing. Like I said earlier, if I can’t get inspired from the past month, I think I’ll just hang up my artistic license…But I’m not really worried of that happening.  🙂

I really didn’t intend on elaborating quite as much as I did, but I honestly feel like I was super condensing things. I shall expand further on some of the highlights in the coming month – with more pictures! Will this month be awesome as well? Let’s just see, shall we. Please join me!


I ATE THE STATE – Café Juanita, Kirkland WA


I’d like to take a quick break from my planned Whatcom County itinerary and tell you about an AMAZING dinner recently enjoyed at Café Juanita in Kirkland, WA.



Café Juanita is nestled appropriately in the charming Juanita Beach area of Kirkland.  A creation of award-winning chef, Holly Smith (James Beard award, Best Chef Northwest 2008), Café Juanita has graced the NW palate since 2000.  Winner of many prestigious awards and nominations both locally and nationally, it has become a coveted destination for lovers of fine Northern Italian food and wine.  I’ve been wanting to visit Café Juanita for quite some time and am more than pleased to finally add it to my list of culinary experiences.  (Due in generous part to an awesome gift certificate!)

While although certainly an upscale dining establishment, Café Juanita manages to nicely balance elegance and classic presentation with the casual vibe of the Northwest.  Smart casual is the recommended attire, so don’t feel obligated to don the formal wear.  However, I think black-tie and little-black-dress would be equally at home with the casual set at Café Juanita.

My companions for the evening were my brother, Ryan and sister-in-law, Beth.  They are both ardent foodies and were quite looking forward to an evening of deliciousness.  They’d also been given a passionate recommendation to try the rabbit and were excited to comply.  I’d also received several glowing endorsements for various menu items and was quite ready to give as many a try as possible.   Suffice it to say we were in for quite an amazing culinary adventure.


Starter – We began the evening with a lovely bottle of 2011 Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, Evening Land.  Joining our wine was an enticing presentation of fresh bread and house-made artisan crackers.  I can honestly say the cheese crackers and olive crackers were by far the best crackers I’ve ever had – Flakey, buttery masterpieces.  Even my brother who is typically opposed to olives loved the olive crackers.  It’s often suggested that one ‘not fill up on bread’ and while although I do love bread, I often (begrudgingly) obey.  However, one should never heed such advice when dining at Café Juanita.  You’d be missing out on something truly wonderful.

First course – While enjoying our wine selection, our appetizer course arrived. We were a bit torn over what to order as we basically wanted everything on the list, but we agreed to at least share samples with one another.  (I won’t lie – it was insanely difficult to part with a single morsel of my smoked sablefish.)  My brother opted for the Grilled Octopus with Fennel, Smoked Bone Marrow, Green Sauce and Chickpea Purée, Beth went for the Grilled Asparagus with Local Organic Hen’s Egg and Parmigiano Reggiano and I lorded over the Smoked sablefish with English Pea Crema, Guanciale and Smoked Wild Steelhead Roe. 

The three of us are all big seafood fans and have tried octopus several different ways and in several different dishes.  We all agreed this preparation beat anything we’d ever had in a landslide victory – SO tender and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.  And I’m still feeling a bit dreamy about the bone marrow… Positively fantastic.  Beth’s asparagus was grilled perfectly and was tender and garden-fresh and not only was my smoked sablefish ridiculously good, I’m not embarrassed to say I would’ve licked every bit of the English pea crema off of my plate. However, I’m sure my tablemates were happy I refrained.  Next time.

Second course – Well into our second glass of wine and only slightly regretting my bread indulgence, our second course made its way to the table.  My brother went classic with the Hearts of Romaine with Garlic Anchovy Vinaigrette and Toasted Bread Crumbs.  It was as expected, delicious.  I opted for the Roasted Beets and Burrata with Poppy and Sunflower Seeds, Citrus Blossom Honey and Thyme and it was, ummm, wonderful!  The beets were tender and delicious, but what absolutely made the dish amazing was the burrata cheese.  It was blended to creamy perfection with a very high quality olive oil and if I had my way, I’d eat it every day on everything.  EVERYTHING.  Beth embarked upon the pasta special of the evening, a Cuttlefish Ink Risotto.  It was rich, creamy, buttery and perfectly cooked with a delicate taste that didn’t remotely match its presentation.  Don’t get me wrong, the presentation was lovely and the dish looked incredible, but it resembled what might’ve been a hearty black bean dish.  I was so enamored of my sample I ordered it as part of my next course.

With our bottle of wine no more, we hit up our very knowledgeable and patient server, Karinfor suggestions.  After additional input from the resident sommelier, I embarked upon enjoying a glass of the 2010 Movia, Ribolla Gialla and Beth went with the 2012 Villa Remotti, Barbera d’Asti.  Just in time for the next course…

Main course – As I mentioned, it was recommended we try the rabbit.  My brother took up the gauntlet and went with the Rabbit Braised in Arneis with Chickpea Gnocchi, English Peas, Porcini and House Made Pancetta.  We had all tried rabbit in various preparations, but the Café Juanita presentation was on an elevated level all its own.  Tender, delicate, pulled back from the bone and filled with porcini mushrooms, it was truly exceptional. I entertained several “No way!  Look over there!” scenarios to take my brother’s eyes off of his plate so I could steal more samples, but I chose to be an adult.  NEXT TIME… Ryan also ordered the Roasted Spicy Cauliflower with Cumin, Lime and Pinenuts as an accompaniment to the rabbit.  The char of the roasted cauliflower mixed with the cumin and lime was fabulous.  It gave the cauliflower a slight crisp on the outside with the lime and cumin brought in a very nice and unexpected depth of flavor.

As an accompaniment to my Cuttlefish Ink Risotto, I opted to make the course a pasta combination and added the house-made Maltagliati with Lamb Ragu.  The Maltagliati pasta was delicious and the lamb ragu was rich without being overwhelming.  It was a great contrast to the risotto and the wine made for a delicious bridge between the two.

Beth was intrigued by the featured seafood course and ordered the Trevally.  It was grilled lightly in olive oil and served simply and elegantly.  As she was already somewhat full from the previous courses, it was a perfect and light addition to the meal.

Dessert course – Not to mince words, the Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Cardoon Blossom Honey and Vanilla Saltwas one of the most amazing things I’ve ever eaten.  Period.  Hands down.  It was light, silky, creamy, perfectly sweet and just plain extraordinary.  I would happily eat it every day for the rest of my life.  Arteries be damned.  We were also insanely full at this point, but I have no regrets regarding ordering dessert.  None.

Aperitif – While I enjoyed another glass of the Ribolla Gialla, Beth tried an Italian Amari (bitters) – I think it was Amaro Averna. (Recommended by our server)  A wonderful herby and somewhat soothing way to end the meal.

As we had taken full advantage of the menu and enjoyed our fair share of wine, it was time to go. I also couldn’t possibly have fit in another bite.  Well, unless it was the panna cotta… (My new philosophy: There’s always room for panna cotta.) To say my evening at Café Juanita was delicious would be an understatement.  In fact, I’m still searching for words to justly describe some of the dishes we sampled.  What I can say is my evening at Café Juanita was truly one of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had the privilege of enjoying.  I can’t wait to return.  Oh, and try the rabbit…


I ATE THE STATE – Camping Edition!

Greetings – And happy Memorial Day!

There’s something magical about a campfire.  Something that draws you in…That pulls you into its dance… OR, maybe that was just the beer and the fact I had my fair share while sitting around the campfire with friends and family over the holiday weekend.  Enh.  Tomato / tomatoe… Campfires and camping are awesome!  And so is beer…


Nothing like the smell of a campfire. That you still can’t get out of your clothes several days later…

In keeping with a very enduring family tradition, I joined friends and family in the wilds of Central Washington for a weekend of campfires, food-on-sticks, motorcycles, bugs and various beverage concoctions.  Throw in some very creative – and questionably comfortable – sleeping configurations, a bit of makeshift DJing and me again breaking off a front brake lever on the Honda Trail 90 and it was a pretty well-rounded affair.  (And I wasn’t even riding the Honda 90 this time… I’m clearly a motorcycle menace.)

We had planned on hitting up the awesome Icewater Creek Campground, located not too far past the Cle Elum area in Wenatchee National Forest.  It sits next to Taneum Creek and connects easily to the many motorcycle trails in the area.  It’s also very well-maintained, has decent outhouses and easily accommodates tents to trailers.  That said, it also fills up INCREDIBLY FAST on holiday weekends.  Eeesh!  We thought we’d have no trouble finding a place as we left on Friday, but that was simply not the case.  Campground fail!

After being shut down at Icewater Creek and in the nearby surrounding campground areas, we went for broke and drove further up the road.  As it was getting dark, we had no idea what we’d find – or not find – and since we were a bit of a ragtag caravan, it was getting dicey.  We continued up the rain-gutted, gravel road, only gaining in elevation, hoping desperately for a campsite to magically appear just around the corner… And it finally did!  It seriously couldn’t have come at a better time.  My nephew, Eli and I had maxed out on rehearsing our amazing duet of ‘Love Is an Open Door’ from the FROZEN soundtrack and we were both getting tired, hangry and antsy.  In a twisted coup of road trip madness, Eli even got me to sing some opera for him… We very obviously needed to get OUT of the car.

We really were very lucky to have found the spot we did.  Not only was it one of the last in the area, but it was now fully dark, the entrance to the campsite was very easy to miss on the tree-lined, unlit road and our camping posse wouldn’t easily fit into just any spot.  (Although, by this time we’d seriously begun contemplating pulling over and setting up camp on the side of the road.)  The fact we all fit, there was a fire pit already established and a source of water was close by went far beyond what we thought we’d find at that point in the evening.  SCORE!


We’re lucky there weren’t more of us on this trip – we wouldn’t have fit!

After my brother situated his monster camper rig in the site, we all filed in after and situated ourselves for the grand setup.  Our friend, Gabe was setting up his tent and I typically also set up a tent, but I’d decided to try and trick out the Sportage for this particular adventure.  The backseat folds down and makes for a fairly large area – why couldn’t it work as a bed?  Suffice it to say there are still a few details to work out, but my plan was overall a success.  Granted, something slightly cushier than my Thermarest might be in order, but it really was fairly comfortable.  (Considering how comfortable one can actually be on any camping/backpacking expedition…)

However, before any full-on campsite trick-out could truly get underway, drinks were in order.  And some tunes… And the promise of upcoming food-on-sticks.  (Go Team Food-on-Sticks!)  It was also at this point when my 11-year nephew, Eli further illustrated the breadth of his musical interests.  We’d already been rockin’ the FROZEN soundtrack and various operatic arias on the way up and he had additionally professed his deep love of Dubstep, but it wasn’t until I put on BACK IN BLACK and he yelled out, “Now, this is what I came for!”  that I understood how diverse his musical appreciation actually was.  Throw in a conversation about the intricacies of horn lines in Earth Wind & Fire arrangements and various shout-outs to Rush songs and that kid just owns my musical heart… However, he wasn’t too pleased with my foray into salsa music – we’ll have to work on that one…

Snacks and Music

Snacks and music – Two very important items for any camping trip.

With our campsite set up, music playing, drinks in our hands – of both the adult and kid-friendly variety – and food roasting on sticks, we finally relaxed into the prospect of a few, fun-filled days in the mountains.  A few marshmallows might’ve been dropped, a brake lever might’ve seen better days and my back could’ve used a more enduring sleeping pad, but a great time was indeed had by all.  Chalk up another success in the records of Smith family camping adventures.

Some of the glorious highlights:


Nothing like meat in the woods. As long as it doesn’t involve an animal chasing you for it.


We had a few more of these lying around – I’m pretty sure at least one of them had actual food in it… Beer and ice take up A LOT of room.


BACON. Need I say more?

Honda 90

Ryan on wood gathering detail. BEFORE I knocked off the brake lever.


My brother, Ryan and nephew, Eli back from the trail.

Until next time – Happy trails!