I Ate the State – Clallam County Rides Again!

Annnnd we’re back!

Continuing on the winding path through the hills and dales of Clallam County…

After packing up my gear and taking one last sojourn on my deck to enjoy some coffee and waves (much to the chagrin of the ever lurking seagull), I headed out of La Push.  A note regarding the road out of La Push (and the greater Forks area in general) – watch your speed.  At least twice a day I drove by well-placed speed traps on these roads.  Unless, of course, you’re one of the odd few who have actually purposefully gotten a ticket in Forks – in which case, don’t worry about it.  I’ve heard through the local grapevine a few Twilight nuts have done just that… Charlie and his friendly copstache don’t actually live in the area.  Just sayin’.  ;-}

 

Forest above 3rd Beach

Beautiful coastal forest on the hike down to 3rd Beach in La Push. Gorgeous beach!

 

Since I’d neglected to fill up my water bottle before leaving the hotel, I needed to remedy the situation.  And what better place to stop for water and breakfast than The Three Rivers Resort.  We meet again… I was in the mood for a home-style breakfast with possibly a bit of biscuit and gravy action – And that’s exactly what I got!  Complete with Pyrex plate and no-frills presentation, I felt like I was sitting in my grandma’s kitchen or something.  (A compliment of the highest form)  I also had the eavesdropping privilege of catching up on the local gossip being exchanged between the staff.  Seems there are quite a few people “living off the grid” in the area… Interesting…

Biscuits & Gravy

Pyrex plated, stick-to-your-ribs goodness! The Biscuits & Gravy at The Three Rivers Resort.

 

Filled with enough biscuits and gravy to fuel the entire day, I continued on to the next destination.  Since I’d already driven up US-101 on my way into the area, I decided to get back on WA-113 and follow it along the coast and back into Port Angeles.  Along the way, I stopped at The Old Mill Trading Post, located in the 110 Business Park at the junction of WA-110 and US-101.  It’s a very unique market featuring antiques, Native American art and collectibles with a very nice staff.  I picked up some pretty groovy diner-style salt-n-pepper shakers and a cool restaurant mixing bowl.  Certainly not items I’d planned to obtain in Forks, but you just never know what you’re going to find – and where.

A query for the town of Forks:  Why is there no ‘Forks of July’ celebration?  You have a big parade and celebration for the Fourth of July every year – why not customize it a bit?

With my newly acquired salt-n-pepper shakers in tow, I continued on towards WA-113.  It was at this point in the morning it really began to snow.  In Forks.  I was feeling speculative of how things would look around the Burnt Mountain area, but decided to take the WA-113 turnoff regardless.  As I drove along the road, gaining elevation, it got snowier and snowier with not a soul around.  It was a beautiful scene, but since I was alone, my phone had no reception, one of my arms wasn’t in full form and NO ONE was on the road, I made the decision to turn around.  I really wanted to drive along the coast, but had no idea what the road would bring on the way back through the mountains to Port Angeles.  Perhaps I’ll revisit my back roads plan in the summer months…

Back on US-101, it continued to snow.  A lot.  There were people sliding out, people driving who really shouldn’t be driving in the snow and errant recreational vehicles backing up the single lane stretches of highway.  Gah!  I kept thinking it would let up as I got closer towards Port Angeles, but it in fact continued to snow almost all the way back to Kingston.  I do love the snow and am normally fairly cool with driving in it, but must admit to not being a big fan on this particular day.  Nor was my elbow.  But onward we trekked – me and KC Sporty Spice (AKA my 2011 KIA Sportage) on the snowy road to dooooooom.  The stretch of road along Lake Crescent was particularly beautiful in the snow.  Be sure to check out the Lake Crescent Lodge in the summer months.  A truly beautiful and historic lodge set in the amazing Olympic National Park.

I’d been planning on taking a late lunch break in Port Angeles, but due to the continued snow and a desire to not get stuck in snowstorm traffic, I kept going.  I’ve traveled through Port Angeles many times and find it a charming area, as well as a great place to use as a base of operations for close-by mountain adventures and gateway to Canada.  (Ferries depart daily from the International ferry terminal – Check out Victoria BC!  Drive up to the beautiful Hurricane Ridge area.  The area features limited skiing in the winter and you’ll feel like you’re in THE SOUND OF MUSIC if you visit in the summer.) The downtown area of Port Angeles is very quaint and hosts several good dining options.  (Local eateries to try:  Cornerbox Restaurant & Cocktails,  SoHo Asian Bistro, Jasmine Bistro, Chestnut Cottage Restaurant, Michael’s Divine, La Belle Creperie, New Day Café)

 

Hurricane Ridge

Doe, a deer… Scenic Hurricane Ridge as seen in the summer months.

 

Heading back towards Kingston, I passed through the scenic area of Sequim – home to sunshine and expansive lavender fields.  (It’s the lavender capitol of North America, in fact!)  Considering how close Sequim is to the ocean and the rainier climes of Forks and the Olympic National rain forest, the area is surprisingly sunny.  It’s an absolutely beautiful area to drive through and there are many scenic back roads to check out.  For dining in the Sequim area, try the Alder Wood Bistro, The Dockside Grill at the Marina or Nourish.  And if you feel the need to stop and play a few slots or a bit of poker, check out the 7 Cedars Casino just outside of Sequim on the way towards Kingston.  The complex also hosts a very nicely stocked deli/grocery store/gas station (The Longhouse Market) with great additions to a local hiking adventure or beyond.

Just before getting back to Kingston and onto the welcoming decks of the Kingston/ Edmonds ferry, I drove through the ridiculously adorable town of Port Gamble.  This tiny hamlet, nestled on the shores of Hood Canal, is simply lovely.  White picket fences, beautifully preserved clapboard houses, charming antique stores and coffee shops all make it well worth a stop.  There is also a very nice outdoor market during the summer weekends.  However, as it was early spring and it was still snowing, I sadly did not get to enjoy Port Gamble’s charms on this particular day. 

That said, just as I rounded the bend out of Port Gamble, the snow finally began to subside.  And as I rolled into the ferry line – after learning I’d just missed the ferry to Edmonds – the familiar spring rain began to fall.  Welcome home!

And with that, I shall bid you adieu.  Hopefully with lovely visions of Clallam County dancing in your head…

I’m thinking perhaps a little Whatcom County action might be in order…

Cheers!

I Ate the State – Clallam County Edition

Greetings!

As previously mentioned, I recently made tracks to the Clallam County area of Washington State.  Accompanied by a recovering broken elbow and freakish spring weather, I trekked through the wilds of one of Washington’s more remote – and beautiful – counties.  It is truly one of my very favorite areas of the state.  Join me for a few of the highlights. 

3rd Beach - La Push

The clouds part at 3rd Beach in La Push.

 

I almost didn’t even head out on this particular adventure.  My elbow was still feeling dicey and I’d completely drug my feet in securing a hotel – just couldn’t decide whether to go for one or two nights.  I was planning on hitting up the Quileute Oceanside Resort in La Push, but was dismayed to find no availability on their website.  However, since human contact sometimes beats tech in the Rochambeau of hotel procurement, I decided to call directly and double-check.  Score one for human contact!  Granted, they had a minimum two-night stay which explained the online denial, but as I really had nothing else planned but sitting around the house and kvetching about my elbow, I decided to go for it.

Which meant that in order to actually get any benefit from a two-night stay, I needed to pack like the wind. (To be free again – ‘cause I’ve got such a long way to go… name that tune!)  And even though I whipped together my gear in near record time AND blazed through my trip to the grocery store, I still just missed the Edmonds/Kingston ferry.  Gah!  Although, as the grocery store trip ended up providing an invaluable source of supplies during my journey, I suppose it all worked out for the best.  Plus, it allowed me to experience a very unique ‘tree-worship’ performance while parked in the ferry line.  I don’t really know exactly what was going on there, but that guy really loved that tree… (In a relatively non-intimate way.  Come on.)  At any rate, he seemed pretty happy about life, so more power to him.

Once finally aboard the ferry, I headed to the upper decks to enjoy the ride.  (Albeit short – only about a 30 minute ride to Kingston.  If you haven’t yet enjoyed the WA State Ferry system, I highly recommend it.  It’s the largest ferry system in the country – and third largest in the world!)  As I’d been racing around like a maniac (ala Flashdance) trying to make the ferry, I’d neglected to grab any breakfast.  Or, based on the amount of time I’d spent waiting in the ferry line, any lunch… Due to this fact and the accompanying sudden urge to eat my shoe, I decided to head over to the ferry galley to check out the food options.  Since I was embarking on a foodie adventure, I was a bit reluctant to begin the trip with snack bar options.  However, since my shoe was (bad pun alert) gaining traction as a possible food source, I caved and grabbed a corn dog and cup of chowder instead.  And I’m not gonna lie – I enjoyed that meal as much as the tree-lovin’ guy enjoyed his tree.  (In a relatively non-intimate way.  Come on.)

After appreciating my “meal” and the view of the lovely Puget Sound, I returned to my car to prepare for the offload in Kingston.  (A very cute port town – and good to check out during long ferry waits.)  While driving off the ferry and continuing on towards my destination, I noticed the GPS was displaying my car as if it were actually a boat – and continued to do so for at least the next 10 minutes.  Who knew the KIA Sportage was so versatile!  Also incorrectly displayed on my GPS was the time display – I think it had me driving/sailing through the East China Sea or something.  :-}  However, after a bit of fiddling and my car eventually deciding on its own we were no longer navigating the seas, the time righted itself and I noticed just how far behind schedule I actually was.  The hotel check-in deadline was 8pm and as it was already after 4pm and I still needed to make it through rush-hour and all the way up to the peninsula, I needed to move it!

I’ll just fast-forward through what was generally a very windy, rainy, poorly visible race against time and announce my arrival to the hotel check-in as being 8:02pm. BAM!  (They were just closing and humored my tardiness…) And it would’ve been a few minutes before 8pm had it not been for the haphazardly loaded, slow-mo pickup truck I got stuck behind around Lake Crescent.  Yeah.  (Take US 101 North towards Forks and turn off onto WA-110 – La Push Road.  Follow signs into La Push.)

To say La Push is a small community is an understatement; but this is a huge part of the area’s allure. I’ve been coming to this area for years to escape the city and get lost on the beach.  (Which I might add, are lovely and full of sand – contrary to the popular image of rocky Washington beaches.)  It’s also incredibly windblown, remote and lacking in cell service.  (La Push is located directly on the Pacific Ocean, at the mouth of the Quileute River and is home to the Quileute tribe.)  But again, that’s much of its charm. (“What?  You called me two days ago??  Well, good golly – SO sorry I missed you!  I didn’t have any cell service…”) That said, being a small, remote community isn’t terribly conducive to late night dining options.  However, I’d learned the local store/deli/gas station was open until 9pm, so I quickly threw my stuff into my room and raced over to hopefully grab some dinner.  Following below is the majesty that was my dinner:

 

Dinner!

A taste sensation! But pretty good for 9pm in La Push. (especially after traveling all day)

 

After enjoying my Michelin Star-worthy fare, I poured another glass of wine and headed out onto the deck….

Deep sigh… Beautiful!!!  Such a sublime, clear night… I grabbed a deck chair, propped my feet up on the railing and enjoyed a bit of wine.  It had been windy and rainy on the way up, but all of a sudden the clouds had parted and the sky was a pristine, star-filled wonder.  Even though I’ve experienced many a rainy day in the Forks/La Push area, I’ve been equally privy to its gorgeous, blue-sky filled days – And clear-skied nights like this one.  And with no interfering light from the city and the stretching expanse of ocean providing a backdrop, it’s a truly breathtaking thing to behold.  I really don’t know how long I sat out there enjoying the scene… Well, okay – maybe I do.  I think it had something to do with when my glass of wine ran out. (But I did grab another. Whew! And promptly resumed my deck watch. Crisis averted.)

Other than the stunning location and close proximity to the many beautiful hikes and beachcombing opportunities of the area, I can’t honestly say I’d stay in the hotel portion of the resort again.  They also have cabins and I’m interested in further investigating, but regardless of the hotel being clean, sporting a decent kitchen and an amazing view of the ocean, it was insanely NOISY.  (Especially considering the no phone, no Internet, no TV appeal) I could pretty much hear every footstep from every surrounding room – including the room below mine.  Every flush of the toilet, every coughing fit from the dude next door and every scream of the inconsolable child a couple doors down…  There was also a kid who felt the need – with the unfortunate blessing of his parents – to run up and down the stairs and back and forth on the walkway in front of the room doors.  Wow.  Louder than Stompy McStomperson who lives upstairs from me in my apartment building – and that’s saying something.  (Stompy McStomperson!!   /raises fist)

The next morning, the clouds had returned, but this didn’t hamper the surfer scene.  Anyone who doesn’t think there are surf opportunities on the rugged Washington coastline clearly hasn’t been to La Push.  Granted, full-body wetsuits are much less a suggestion than requirement for the water temperatures of the area, but that doesn’t seem to hamper the enthusiasm for catching waves.  And there are some pretty nice ones depending on time of day and weather conditions.  I did have to brave the incredibly bold seagull who’d camped out on my deck railing – and wouldn’t leave – but it was a nice start to the day to drink my coffee (thankfully one of my staples purchased beforehand) and check out the surf.

After determining that the one restaurant in La Push was apparently closed down, I got my gear together for the day and drove back towards Forks.  I’d been thinking about heading up towards the Neah Bay area and seeking out the northwesternmost tip of the contiguous United States, Cape Flattery. (Also the oldest, permanently named feature in Washington State, circa 1778 – named by British explorer, James Cook.)  Knowing that I was heading into a very under-populated area, not to mention it being the tourist off-season, I decided to stop and grab a local area map and extra water/supplies in case my GPS was plotting a return to the East China Sea.

On that note, I ended up at the Three Rivers Resort for said supplies – and a delicious, old-skool burger lunch to boot.  WITH TOTS!  (And fry sauce!) I’ve stopped at the Three Rivers Resort several times during my area visits and they’ve never disappointed.  They serve good, classic burgers and sandwiches with great shakes, pie and other assorted diner treats.  The staff is always friendly and it’s a great jumping off point for many area hikes, beach adventures, fishing and drives.

 

Delicious burger!

Lunch at the Three Rivers Resort near La Push

 

With a belly full of tots, I continued back towards Forks and US 101 North.  After gassing up and ensuring I did indeed have all the supplies I might need if stuck out in the middle of nowhere, I drove east on 101 towards the Neah Bay turnoff.  (WA-113 – Burnt Mountain Road) At this point in the day, it started to full-on SNOW.  In Forks.  Home of rain-by-the-bucket.  K  Luckily, my car does quite well in the snow and onward I went.  (However, my wonky elbow really wasn’t excited about the prospect of needing to be fully present during the drive.  It would’ve been much happier lounging listlessly at my side.)

The drive along WA-113 is beautiful.  It’s winding, incredibly scenic and very, very quiet.  Sooooo very alone out there… And sure enough, between the overhanging trees and general remoteness of the road, my GPS was a bit challenged.  It should also be mentioned that cell service is very much out of the question.  Grab a map, take supplies and maybe bring someone along who might know a thing or two about cars.  You just never know… And regardless of time of year, make sure your vehicle can handle snow, heavy rain, freakishly strong gusts of wind, etc.  Also keep a lookout for the most awesomely named highway in the state… Pysht Highway – Also known as Pysht River Road.  It leads, of course, to the awesomely named, tiny community of Pysht.  Even though the area is quite lovely, I can’t help but drive down that road feeling smug and generally disgruntled – it’s in the name!  Throw in a few slow head shakes for full, disgruntled effect…

On my way to Neah Bay, I passed through a couple of small coastal communities along the way. (WA-113 will hook up with WA-112)  While although I was rolling through during the off-season, there were still a couple places here and there that were open.  There’s a small strip-mallish area as you drive into Clallam Bay and there was a cute little restaurant open in Sekiu. (Check out By the Bay Café – nice diner with good diner fare.)  There is definitely a lot more activity going on in the summer / early fall months, but there are places to visit during the offseason as well.

HELPFUL TIP:  If you’re fond of using real deal, fully functional restroom facilities, I’d like to heartily suggest you do your business in Forks before heading out.  Just trust me.  Sure, there’s plenty of forest along the road to Neah Bay, but it’s a less than desirable scenario on a snowy day, for instance.  Ladies in particular, please take heed.  There is, however, a public restroom (daylight hours only) in Clallam Bay.  Please also note there’s an actual state correctional facility in the area – so don’t get any ideas of a late night potty break-in…

There is also no shortage of wildlife along these back roads, year-round.  I saw a very large herd of Elk along with two, GIANT eagles.  (Actually, I spotted many more than two, but I saw this particular duo sitting side by side on an outcropping of rocks, just taking in the sea.  AMAZING!)  Drive carefully on these roads. There is much wildlife, many errant branches blown about, rocks, potential washouts and crazy turns in the road.  You never know when you mind round the corner and come up against a 7-point elk…

 

The Eagles (not the band)

Eagle buddies checking out the sea. (they look small in the pic, but they were huge!)

 

After navigating the windy coastal drive to Neah Bay, (located in the Makah Reservation) I took a little time to investigate the town.  Again, as it was the offseason, there wasn’t a lot of action, but Neah Bay is definitely the largest settlement in the area.  There are a few dining options, a grocery/hardware/outdoor supply store, a gas station and a nice museum run by the Makah tribe.  Check out Linda’s Wood Fired Kitchen or the Warm House for good local fare.

Just out of Neah Bay, you’ll find the road leading to Cape Flattery – follow the signs to ‘Cape Flattery and Beaches.’  (Stop at Washburn’s General Store in Neah Bay to grab the necessary recreation pass for the Cape Flattery area.)  If you happen to be in the area during or just after a storm, be prepared for the GAUNTLET OF DOWNED TREES (Oh nooooooos!) you’ll need to navigate on the way to the Cape Flattery trailhead.  It’s a nicely paved and maintained road, but there were some serious fallen trees and strewn branches accompanying me on my drive.  Yowsa! 

Cape Flattery

Beautiful part of the trail to Cape Flattery

 

The hike to Cape Flattery is fairly accessible and well maintained, but does get slippery/muddy during the wet months.  And if, for instance, you happen to be nursing a broken elbow and decide to make the trek ANYway, be extra careful through the muddy sections right before you reach the point.  (I was doing so well!  Until about 100 yards before my destination… Bah!)  There are so many amazing vistas and lookouts as you get closer to the point.  Be sure to check out the amazing coves, rock formation and PIRATE CAVES on either side of the trail.  (Maybe there weren’t ever pirates in those caves, but there should’ve been.  Or maybe I’ve just seen Goonies too many times…) The view from the actual point of Cape Flattery is amazing and while although you can’t actually step out to the true northwesternmost tip of the United States, it’s still pretty fun to check out.  The lighthouse-hosting island just off the point of Cape Flattery is Tatoosh Island.  (NOTE: Binoculars are a great addition to the Cape Flattery experience.)

Cape Flattery

Check it out – The northwesternmost tip of the contiguous United States!

Cape Flattery

So many beautiful coves and caves in the Cape Flattery area.

After a somewhat successful afternoon of hiking (my elbow disagrees), I made the windy return trek back towards Forks, where I decided to stop for dinner before returning to La Push.  I’ve tried several of the dining options in Forks over the years, but I decided to go with something new that night.  And why not Chinese?  I will admit to not expecting much, but was pleasantly surprised by the food and service and now stand corrected.  I stopped by the Golden Gate and had a very nice meal, complete with steamed dumplings, orange chicken and steamed rice.  And considering the dinner I’d had the night before, it was DELICIOUS!  I’d certainly return the next time I’m in the area.  Forks isn’t exactly a culinary hotbed, but there are a few classic options to enjoy.  Other Forks restaurants to check out:  Sully’s Drive-in,  Forks Coffee Shop,  The Hard Rain CaféForks Outfitters (Grocery/Hardware/Outdoor supplies)

With that, I bring this portion of my Clallam County adventure to a close.  I still have more areas and more cuisine to cover, but as this entry is getting fairly long, I’ll save it for my next entry.

Until next time… Cheers!

 

I Ate the State – Mount Rainier Edition

Greetings!

I hope this finds you happily ensconced in the (slowly) unfolding spring.  Hmmm… The word ensconced makes me think of scones… Scones are delicious!  Especially with fresh, clotted cream and strawberry preserves… Great.  Now I want a scone.

ANYhoozen – On to other food-related topics…

With this entry, I’d planned on featuring Clallam County, located in the uppermost western tip of Washington State.  I’d also planned on posting it much sooner, but due to a surly and unexpected encounter with a gas pump hose, I ended up with a broken elbow and a couple months recovery.  Granted, I lucked out and needed only a sling, but it was a bit awkward at the keyboard for many weeks.  I will indeed carry on with the Clallam County plan, but want to add in my notes from a recent sojourn to the area.

In the meantime, I bring you tales from another favorite part of the state… Mount Rainier National Park – and its surrounding areas.  (Located in Pierce County and Lewis County – double whammy!)

Image

Mount Rainier as seen from the Paradise side.

My love affair with Mt. Rainier National Park has been going strong for quite some time.  Since first viewing it atop Raven’s Roost lookout on childhood camping trips and seeing it standing guard over the city while visiting Seattle on family vacations, I’ve been in love with ‘The Mountain.’ (As it’s affectionately referred to in the greater Seattle area)  So enamored, in fact, I spent many a summer working at both the Sunrise and Paradise lodges along with occasionally volunteering with the National Park Service working on trails, fire look-out, etc.  Some of my very fondest memories have taken place in the shadow of The Mountain…

If you’re on the hunt for food within the park, I can offer no better suggestion than to pack a picnic and hike off into the never-ending beauty of the area.  (Tolmie Peak, Spray Park, Grand Park, Glacier Basin, Camp Muir, Van Trump Trail and Narada Falls are just a few lovely options.  (*Always pack the “10 Essentials”, check road status before you go, let someone know your destination, stay on the trail and make sure you have the proper permits if you’ll be camping or climbing. Safety first!)  However, if you’re on a road trip and would like to enjoy the area’s culinary offerings via wheels, allow me to suggest the following destinations:

SUNRISE area (SR 410, SR 123, SR 165 for Carbon River/Mowich)

If you’re heading from the eastern part of the state, you’ll be coming up SR 410 from Yakima.  A great stop coming or going is one I’ve highlighted previously, Whistlin’ Jack Lodge.  It’s located directly alongside 410 – you can’t miss it!  Check out my feature on this locale – it’s one of my very favorite places!

If you happen to be venturing from the west, you’ll inevitably hook up to SR 410 in Enumclaw.  (‘The Claw’)  Always a great place to fuel up and grab snacks, check out Enumclaw’s growing restaurant scene as well.  (The Mint, The Pie Goddess andRendezvous Wine & Brew are a few great options.)  Located in Buckley, just before you get to Enumclaw is the turnoff for State Route 165 which will take you to the park’s Carbon River entrance.  (Mowich Lake and Spray Park are beautiful!  No services are offered in this area, but it’s a lesser visited part of the park and completely worth a visit.  BRING BUG SPRAY!)

After you pass through The Claw, you’ll eventually find yourself driving through the very small community of Greenwater.  Don’t blink, you’ll miss it!  (NOTE: This is the last point to get gas on 410.  There is NO fuel available within the park and the next spot to gas up on 410 is over Chinook Pass at… Whistlin’ Jack Lodge! Where apparently all paths lead to in this entry.)  While although small, Greenwater is definitely worth a stop – if only to make sure you don’t run out of gas further down the road!  The Naches Tavern is a decent place to pop in for a cold drink and burger – especially after a long day of hiking or skiing.  Wapiti Woolies is a great place to stop for a beautiful, hand-knit ski hat or a nice cup of coffee. (Seriously – they have great hats!)

Heading further east on 410, you’ll see the turnoff to Crystal Mountain Ski Resort on your left, just before you officially enter Mount Rainier National Park.  Crystal Mountain is one of my favorite places to ski and they offer great hiking, mountain biking and sightseeing in the summer as well.  They have several dining options during the winter and a pretty kickass taco truck which I believe now sits near the base lodge on a regular basis during the ski season.  Even if you don’t ski, take the gondola up to theSummit House for a breathtaking view of Mt. Rainier and surrounding areas.  They also host great ‘Sunset Dinners’ at the Summit House in the summer months.  (Book ahead!)

After entering the park, travel along 410 for a few miles until you come to the Mather Memorial Parkway marker.  At this point you can continue east on 410 towards WHISTLIN’ JACK LODGE or towards the west side of Mount Rainier via Cayuse Pass (SR 123) OR – take a right onto the Sunrise access road and head up to Sunrise Lodge.  (Highest drivable point in the park at 6400’ – many car commercials have been filmed on this road over the years – it’s a spectacular, 17-mile twister!)

Sunrise Lodge is a day lodge and offers basic sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs and snack bar fare.  As I mentioned, I spent many a summer working in the park, much of that time at Sunrise Lodge.  (Actually living upstairs in the lodge – great fun!)  We always used to joke that with the rise of elevation came the rise of prices. Seriously – how can a 6 oz. can of juice cost $20?? Okay, I may be slightly exaggerating the $20 price tag, but I won’t lie – you’ll pay a lot more in the park restaurants and gift shops for basic items.  Regardless, I love Sunrise Lodge.  I could write a book based solely on my excellent and ridiculous adventures experienced during my tenure – it occupies a very important and indelible place of importance in my heart.  It was built nearly 100 years ago and remains a bastion of rustic elegance in an otherwise undeveloped part of the park and state.  And even though chilled beer wasn’t around on the mountain 100 years ago and one from the snack bar will likely set you back your kid’s college fund, it’s well worth it after a couple hours exploring the area trails.

There are many amazing hikes that take off from the Sunrise area, some shorter and perfect for family outings and some perfect for a few days away from civilization.  Check out the Northern Loop for a glorious, 3-day backpacking getaway.  If there happens to be a full moon, head up to Second Burroughs at dusk, locate the stone “couch” and sit back and watch the “movie.”  (There’s no actual movie, but the view from the stone couch puts you smack in front of the massive amazingness of Mount Rainier – it’s your own, personal IMAX experience.)  Just settle in and watch the magic as the night unfolds over the snowy majesty… The full moon only adds to the magic. (A thermos filled with Baileys and coffee is also a nice addition.)  Sunrise is also an amazing place to check out the yearly Perseids meteor shower.

Image

Wildflowers in the Paradise meadows.

LONGMIRE/PARADISE area (SR 123, US 12, WA 167, WA 161, SR 706)

If you’re interested in visiting the side of the park opposite Sunrise, there are several available routes.  Take US 12 past Yakima if you’re coming from the east, SR 123 in the summer if you’re coming over from Sunrise or any number of routes from the Seattle/Tacoma area that will connect you to SR 706. (Always check ahead for seasonal road restrictions and updates.)

There are many great places to eat along the way, but since it’s such a large area to cover, I’ll focus on the places closer to the park entrance on the Paradise side.  (Nisqually entrance)

As you come up SR 706, you’ll pass through a couple areas with good food options.  One of the first ‘towns’ you’ll encounter will be, Elbe.  Home to the ridiculously quaint,Elbe Historic Church and the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad, it is also host to my local favorite,Scaleburgers.  During the busy summer season, you might have a little wait as it’s a small (really small!) place with a small kitchen. (Really, really small!)  However, the classic burgers, onion rings and shakes are worth it.  YUM!  (Check out previous posts to gain more perspective on my love of the old-skool burger joint…)

A few miles past Elbe, you’ll find the slightly larger community of Ashford.  Check out historic Whittaker’s Bunkhouse for one of many services.  It’s a motel, café, guide service and shop – and then some!  It’s also owned and operated by mountaineering legend,Lou Whittaker.  Improve your Mount Rainier pedigree by stopping in for a visit.  It’s incredibly charming, well-run and a part of local culture and history.  Also in the area is the Highlander, if you’re looking for good bar food and a bit of local color. Alexander’s Country Inn is also a lovely place to stop for the night and they serve a wonderful, fresh-caught trout dinner.  It is definitely one of the more elegant destinations in the area.  (NOTE:  Ashford is the last place to gas up before entering the park.)

Just before you enter the park, don’t miss the Copper Creek Inn on the left of SR 706.  Everything I’ve tried there has been very tasty, but I can’t say enough about the homemade bread and blackberry pie.  It has a very cozy, relaxing vibe and is a great destination in and of itself.  (They also have many well-appointed cabins nearby – well worth investigating.)

Once you’ve passed through the Nisqually entrance into the park, your dining options become reduced.  However, somewhat inflated pricing aside, it can still be an enjoyable affair.  The National Park Inn restaurant, located in theLongmire area is the first dining option you’ll encounter within the park.  Featuring rustic architecture and a respite-worthy front porch, it also hosts lodging, a gift shop and nearby is a museum featuring park history.  (Housed in the original park headquarters)  It’s also a great jump-off point for winter show shoeing and cross-country ski adventures.

The next and final destination on the beautiful and windy mountain road will be Paradise Inn.  Built in 1916, it is truly a gem in the crown of ‘National Park Service Rustic’ design and architecture.  The main, Paradise Inn Dining Room features breakfast, lunch and dinner and highlights great NW fare such as salmon, crab cakes and all things blackberry.  Check out the Sunday brunch for more classic NW dishes.  The lodge is open seasonally from mid-May through early October.  Reservations are recommended for the dining room and lodging options fill quickly every year.  There are also snack bar and café offerings in the Paradise area housed in both the Paradise Inn and the Jackson Visitors Center.  The café and snack bars also offer trail lunches to accompany you while viewing the amazing vistas, wildflowers, wildlife and towering slopes of the mountain.  Beautiful!

And with that, I bring to an end my foray into the travel and culinary offerings of the Mount Rainier National Park area.  I hate to admit it, but I’ve really only touched on a small portion of what the park and surrounding areas have to offer.  I’ve been exploring the area since childhood and still don’t feel like I’ve scratched the surface – but will certainly keep trying.  And on the note of scratching – Seriously – BRING BUG SPRAY!  (In the summer months, at least 😉

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My travel buddy, Eli – First visit to Mount Rainier/Paradise.

Until next time… Cheers!

I Ate the State – Kirkland, WA

Greetings and salivations!

Hitting much closer to home, this entry will highlight the Deru Market in Kirkland, Washington.  Tucked back into a cozy neighborhood off of NE 85th Street in Kirkland, you might start to question if you’ve taken a wrong turn as you drive further into the residential area.  Ignore your instincts to turn around and keep going towards the end of the street – and there it is! 

Upon receiving a glowing review and recommendation from a coworker, I was excited to make a visit. Not only do they have in-house café dining (just added this fall!), they also offer full-service catering and cooking classes.  As I regularly plan events as part of my day job, I’m always looking for quality local restaurants to support.  I can honestly say I was hooked after my first visit and now that I’ve gone back a few times and have also used their catering services, I’m looking forward to a long and delicious partnership.

On my first visit, they hadn’t yet added their indoor dining area so I made my order to go.  Right away I was drawn in by the delicious smells coming from the kitchen.  Then as now, the kitchen area is viewable to the public and I was happy to play foodie voyeur as I waited for my order.  I surmised that some of the amazing smells must be coming from the large, brick pizza oven perched just inside the kitchen.  I’m sure the large trays of handmade focaccia cooling on the counters were also contributing to the mouthwatering aroma.  The more I breathed in, the harder the wait became.

While anticipating the tastes these smells would accompany, I had the chance to scope out the kitchen layout and design.  It’s a large, open area with high ceilings and several long, artistically arranged counters and tabletops.  While although the staff was abuzz with activity, the well-organized, open feel of the kitchen lent an unexpected sense of tranquility to the scene.  It was also great to see the two co-owner/chefs personally preparing the dishes.  Chefs Jamie Cassady and Jordan Cooper are graduates of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in New York and it certainly shows in the manner in which they present themselves in the kitchen.  Alas, if I had only half of their knife skills, my kitchen would be a much more productive place indeed…

As I admired the kitchen scene, I was also drawn to the well-stocked deli-case and counter at the front of the shop.  Loaded with rustic salads and stacked with freshly made bakery goods on the counter, I desperately searched for a justification to try each and every one of them.  And then it dawned on me… Catering! I vowed if I made it out of the shop with only my lunch order, they’d be hearing from me the very next time I was in need of a caterer.  (And a happy ending it was!  I only ordered enough for one that day, but did indeed get to try SO much more when I procured their catering services a few weeks later. I win!  And as I received rave reviews from the recipients of said catering, I’d say everyone was a winner!)

 

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Smoked brisket on house-made focaccia.

 

Of the delicious Deru Market items I’ve tried, here are a few of my favorites:

  • Smoked Brisket Sandwich (w/Beecher’s cheddar, arugula and aioli) – Tender, melt-in-your-mouth brisket on house-made focaccia.  I would eat this sandwich every day if I could.  Come to think of it, why can’t I??  (Except on Sunday. They’re closed Sundays. Sigh…)
  • Sardine & Herb Pesto Sandwich (w/aioli, arugula, lemon and pickled red onion) – Not made with the canned, oily sardine variety, this sandwich features delicate fillets on house-made focaccia.  The creaminess of the aioli with the bitterness of the arugula and tang of the onion is a perfect mix of flavors.
  • Kale Caesar Salad – Fresh baby kale with house-made anchovy vinaigrette and Parmesan.  Simple and delicious.
  • Celeriac Soup – This wasn’t on the menu the last time I went in and I hope they bring it back soon!  A satisfying blend of cream and comfort, but still very light and refreshing.
  • Marinated Beet Salad (w/pistachio, goat cheese and frissee) – Perfectly marinated beets tossed with frissee and pistachio encrusted dollops of goat cheese.  SO good!
  • Orzo & Cauliflower Pesto Salad – Orzo pasta tossed with pesto, walnuts, garlic, lemon and Parmesan. This salad is a wonderful side, but could easily stand on its own as a main dish.
  • Salted Peanut Butter Cookie – All of their baked goods have been delicious, but I have a special place in my heart for their salted peanut butter cookies. 
  • Any of their coffee drinks (w/house-made syrups!) – Did I mention they make their own syrups??
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I was able to snap one more photo before diving into the sandwich… It was a difficult task, indeed. 

There are several other items I could list, but at the risk of typing out their entire menu, I’ll leave some of that list for you to explore on your own.  You won’t be sorry.  But if you happen to grab the last brisket sandwich or salted peanut butter cookie, I’ll be comin’ for ya… To very politely ask you for a bite, of course. 

 

Deru Market

723 9th Ave – Norkirk Neighborhood

Kirkland, WA 98033

(425) 298-0268

 

M-F:  11am – 9pm

Sat:  9am – 9pm

Sun:  Closed

 

 

Next up:  Kalaloch / La Push / Forks

 

 

Happy New Year!!

I Ate the State – Maltby, Washington

Greetings!

As I’ve mentioned, I come from a foodie family.  One of the newer contributing members to the family foodie scene is my 10-year old nephew, Eli.  He has served as my partner in many foodie shenanigans and is well on his way to rocking his own foodie commentary.  Eli is also a co-founder of The Sandwitches – Our ongoing effort to reinvent the sandwich wheel.  I think we’re really making headway!  We’ve been putting together some crazy recipes and dream of someday sharing our creations with the world at large.  Stay tuned!

In the meantime, Eli and I recently visited The Maltby Café in the tiny town of Maltby, Washington.  Quaintly tucked away in the basement section of an old schoolhouse (circa 1937), this place is beyond a gem.  They regularly win ‘Best of’ awards and I can’t imagine this will change anytime soon.  Granted, Maltby might be a little off the beaten path for many in the greater Seattle area, but I assure you The Maltby Café is worth the trip. 

They are open daily from 7am – 3pm (lunch starts at 11:30am) and seem to be constantly busy.  However, due to an unexpectedly early morning for us, we got there early enough to beat the breakfast rush.  (It required extra coffee on the part of Aunt Dayna, but whatevs.)  When we walked in, we were immediately greeted by a hostess and led to a table.  On the way to be seated, I noticed a stack of cinnamon rolls packaged to-go, sitting on a stand near the entrance.  Due to the size of the packaging, I assumed they were servings of four rolls.  And that was where my assumption was very… WRONG.

After being seated at our table, our server stopped by right away and got us going with our morning beverage requirements.  We both perused the menu and Eli immediately zeroed in on the homemade cinnamon rolls – with a side of delicious bacon.  I opted for the breakfast classic of bacon and eggs with potatoes and toast and we were ready to roll. Key word: ROLL.

When the breakfast arrived to our table – very quickly, I might add – both of our jaws dropped to the ground.  Not only was my breakfast and Eli’s side of bacon ENORMOUS, the cinnamon roll was quite literally the SIZE OF OUR HEADS.  Possibly the size of both our heads put together!  We both stared silently at our plates and then back at each other.  And then started laughing hysterically.  There was no way we could ever finish everything!  If this were an episode of Man vs. Food, food would definitely walk away the victor.

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Note the size of the cinnamon roll as compared to Eli’s head. They’re the same!

  

Eli’s cinnamon roll was not only gigantic, it was incredibly delicious.  Warm and topped with gooey frosting, it was melt-in-your-mouth perfection.  Our only issue was the fact it was studded with evil raisins.  (Are raisins evil?  Yes.  As are bananas and walnuts.  Be aware.)  I know it’s common to add these little monsters to cinnamon rolls, but I just can’t get on board.  That said, as the roll was so ridiculously delicious, neither of us were too bothered to have to pick out the raisins.  And I’m sure we’d do it again… However, we plan on having at least four people at the table to collectively take on this beast moving forward.

My breakfast was prepared perfectly and the bacon was fantastic!  The ratio of crispness to thickness was just right and it had an excellent smokiness.  Not to be outdone by the enormity of the cinnamon rolls, the bacon slices were equally great in size.  Between the two of us, there were eight slices of bacon on the table.  We are both bacon freaks, but by the time we squared our to-go boxes, there were still six slices left.  (I honestly got two more meals out of my own to-go box!)  They even actually made my eggs the way I’d requested – Over-hard.  Restaurants always seem to dork up that particular egg order, but the Maltby Café completely nailed it.  Fried eggs with the yolks broken and all the way cooked… Thank you, Maltby Café!  I also want to mention their homemade bread – thick cut and super fresh.  I haven’t tried their sandwiches yet, but I’m sure the homemade bread is a winning addition.

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Note the size of the bacon strips as compared to the plate. Nay, PLATTER!

While although each of us only finished about a quarter of our respective meals, we were both completely and positively full – and deliriously happy.  (And hopped up on a cinnamon roll/hot chocolate sugar overload in the case of Eli.) We can’t wait to go back and try more of the menu.  And we’ll be bringing more hungry family members to help us out!  

Check out The Maltby Café, located in Maltby, Washington.  Open every day from 7am – 3pm – Stop by and enjoy some classic, home-style cooking.  Come hungry!  Suggestion:  This a great place to stop on your way up to Stevens Pass for a day of snowy fun. 🙂

Other places of interest in the Maltby area:

Snoqualmie Ice-Cream – Makers of amazing ice-cream and custard.  They have a nice little café, featuring great sandwiches and deliciously fresh ice-cream and custard.  (And espresso!) Their salted caramel and French lavender ice-creams are two of my all-time favorites.  They even grow their own lavender!  (And offer tours of their farm and creamery!)  This is located just past The Maltby Café, on the right side of the road.

 

Up next:  Deru Market in Kirkland. YUM!

Cheers!

I Ate the State – Yakima Valley Edition – Part Deux!

Alrighty – It’s Part Deux of my Yakima Valley adventures!

As I mentioned earlier, I was born in Yakima, Washington.  (Pronounced YAK-ih-ma, not Ya-KEE-ma  J)  I only officially lived there until I was 7, but of the early memories I carry with me, some of the fondest are my visits to Miner’s Drive-In Restaurant on 1st Street. 

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Miner’s Drive-in as it was in 1948.

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Miner’s Drive in today. 

What is now a fairly sprawling sit-down restaurant was then only a drive-thru with a small, ordering area inside.  When it was nice outside, there was – and still is – ample picnic-style seating available in a grassy area next to the restaurant.  Open since 1948, it was one of the first drive-thru restaurants in the area.  I can’t count the times I went through that drive-thru with my mom, grandma, great-grandma – whoever in the Smith or Brown family who happened to be craving a milkshake and fries at the moment.  It was always especially enjoyable for me due to the somewhat backwards drive-thru layout.  The driver does the ordering, but the pick-up window is actually on the passenger side.  Not only did it make me feel very adult and important to be handling the monetary transaction, it also meant I was the first one with hands on the fry bag.  HA!  (I will fight you for your fries.)

And on the topic of those fries, here are a few menu items I can recommend:

The Big Miner burger – Seriously.  There is no exaggeration in the use of ‘big’ to describe this burger. Words such as humungous, ginormous, gut-busting and insanely-proportioned are also appropriate descriptors.  Made with giant, grill-fried patties of locally-sourced beef, buttered and toasted sesame seed buns (very important ingredient) and all the fixin’s, one burger will likely cover your food requirements for the day.  (I like to add cheese and Walla Walla sweet onions)  Throw in an order of fries or TATOR TOTS and a thick shake and you’re probably good for a few days.  (Did I mention they have TATOR TOTS?  Yeah.  TATOR TOTS.)  Note to the incredibly hungry, incredibly brave or just incredibly insane:  They also have a DOUBLE Big Miner.  Yowsa.

Hot Dogs – Not to be outdone by the burgers, their hot dogs are equally tasty and ENORMOUS.  High-quality beef dogs, split down the middle and grilled, served on a buttered grill-toasted bun.  Add onions, relish, mustard, chili, etc. – they’re delicious!  Also try the DOUBLE Dog!  ;-} Pairs nicely with TATOR TOTS and…

FRY SAUCE – Do they have other condiments besides fry sauce?  Certainly.  They have quite a few delicious dipping sauces, in fact.  Does that really matter when FRY SAUCE is on the table?  NO.  End of discussion.  (Oh, wait – one more thing.  TATOR TOTS.)

Other delicious items of note:  I’m not gonna lie.  I typically order either the Big Miner or a hot dog.  With TATOR TOTS.  Or sometimes a small order of fries.  (A large order will feed your neighborhood.)  However, I have sampled many other delicious items on their menu.  Check out these tasty gems:

–          ANY of their BBQ items.  Want a BBQ Ham sandwich?  They’ve got it. 

–          Big Chicken Swiss w/Ham – YUM!

–          Fish Burger.  Mmmmm.  Try adding cheese and Walla Walla sweet onions!

–          ANY of their salads – particularly the Shrimp Louie salad.  (‘lots of shrimp!)

–          Dipped ice cream cones, milkshakes and hot fudge sundaes! 

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Many delicious items to be had on the Miner’s menu. And… TATOR TOTS!

Even though I no longer live in Yakima, much less the Central/Eastern side of the state, I try to visit Miner’s whenever I’m in the area.  It might also be true I’ve been known to make daytrips to the area just for the sake of a Miner’s Burger.  I can neither confirm nor deny this.

 

Moving on to the beverage portion of the adventure, I’d like to give a shout-out to Yakima Craft Brewing Co.

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Yakima Craft Brewing Co. = Delicious beer!

If you’re looking for a meal other than beer, you might want to perhaps stop at Miner’s first.  While although Yakima Craft Brewing does have a simple appetizer/bar menu in their Taproom pub, they don’t have a full kitchen, so the offerings are pretty basic.  However, if you are perfectly content with making a meal out your beer – and what’s wrong with that?? – Yakima Craft Brewing Co. is a good place to check out. (And the sausage sampler w/German mustard IS pretty tasty if you’d actually like something to accompany your beer.)

Tucked back into the River Road industrial area of North Yakima, (just off Hwy 12) Yakima Craft Brewing Co. has been brewing some very enjoyable beer since 2007. The Taproom is a fairly small pub siting adjacent to the main brewery.  Stop in for a pint or two – or several – and be sure to fill up your growler on the way out!  While we were there, my brother and I sampled the following brews:

Pale Ale – Light, very drinkable ale and not overly hoppy. 

1982 – Amber ale with just the right amount of depth and hoppiness.  Not too heavy for the hot summer days and not to wimpy for cooler fall nights.  Plus, the label is an awesome homage to the cassette tape.

Imperial Red – If you often go by the nickname, ‘Hoppy McHopperson’ you will love this beer.  VERY hoppy and pretty in-your-face.  I will admit to siding more with the Belgian-style golden ales, so this was a bit much for me.  My brother, aka ‘Hoppy McHopperson’ LOVED it.

Heather – A light, Scottish ale brewed with honey and heather.  My favorite of the day – and that was saying something.  Delicious!

Summer Serendipity – VERY tasty Kolsch-style brew and from what I understand, very limited in release.  Made me want to float down the Yakima River in an inner tube and a 6-pack of the stuff…  Yeah.

 

There were many other beers we would’ve liked to have tried, but the evening was approaching and it was time to consider eventually heading back towards Seattle.  I will, however, definitely be back – and in the near future.  In a nutshell, drinking locally brewed beer in the area where the majority of our nation’s hops are grown is a not only a privilege, but should also be a Washington beer lover’s rite of passage.  It makes me very happy to see the craft beer scene continuing to grow and develop in this part of the state.  It just makes sense!  And I am very happy to do my part to support this plan.

I’d definitely recommend stopping in for a visit the next time you’re in the area.  And don’t forget your growlers!

 

Some other areas of interest in the Yakima Valley area:

Additional Old Skool Burger Joints – Try them all!

Pepp’rmint Stick (Union Gap)

Laredo Drive-in (Naches)

King’s Row (Selah)

 

More beer!

Bale Breaker Brewing Co.Excellent local brewery and taphouse.  Try their High Camp Winter Warmer – delicious!

Moxee Hop FestivalCome celebrate hops in the tiny, hop-growing mecca of Moxee, Washington.

 

Learn more about the Yakima Valley!

Yakima Valley Museum  – The very first museum I ever visited.  And largely responsible for making me the giant nerd I am today.  Thanks, Yakima Valley Museum!

Yakima Valley Appellation – Wine TrailThe Yakima Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) is the oldest and most diverse wine growing region in Washington.  Tour all the local wineries and ENJOY!!

Yakama Nation Museum & Cultural CenterStop in and learn about the history, people and culture of the Yakama Nation.  Located 18 miles past Yakima in Toppenish, WA.  Well worth the visit!

Next up:  The Maltby Café in Maltby, WA.  Cinnamon rolls the size of your head!

Cheers!

I Ate the State – The Yakima Valley

Howdy!

In a continuing tribute to my family and the roots of my foodie propensities, please join me on a visit to Yakima, Washington and the nearby, mountainous community of Cliffdell.

I was born in the sunny expanse of the Yakima Valley and spent the beginning years of my life in the area.  Home to hops, orchards, wine, a lot of sunshine and the gateway to the Cascade Mountains, it was an idyllic place to spend part of my childhood.  And since my family only moved a little further to the southeast for the remainder of my formative years, we returned often to visit family and friends.  To this day, I frequently visit the area to get a dose of sunshine and enjoy the surroundings.  (And the wine)  (And the beer)  It does of course help that it’s conveniently located along the route to visit my Eastern Washington relatives.  (And the wine and beer)

Recently, my brother and I made a couple of summertime foodie pilgrimages to Yakima and its surrounding communities.  Allow me to share a brief breakdown of our culinary adventures…

First stop:  Whistlin’ Jack Lodge – Located on Hwy 410 (Chinook Pass Hwy) in the community of Cliffdell.  (Pop.  Approx. 100)

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Whistlin’ Jack Lodge in the mountain community of Cliffdell, WA. 

Whistlin’ Jack Lodge was built in 1931 and has been an official operation of the Williams’ family since 1957.  It’s a rustic oasis for weary travelers, bikers, sportspersons and campers who just can’t handle another meal over their makeshift fire pit/outdoor grill. (Losing 4 hot dogs to the fire was enough; let alone the T-bone steak…) Whistlin’ Jack Lodge is host to a cozy assortment of bungalows and riverside cottages along with rooms available in the main lodge.  In addition to the main lodge restaurant, they have the Fireside Lounge which sports a full-service bar, a café style menu and live music on the weekends.  They also have a nice little deli and grocery store if you’re stocking up for a hike or have run out of marshmallows. (Not good.) Throw in a gift shop with ‘lots of quirky souvenir items, interesting antique displays and a somewhat frightening taxidermy tribute to local wildlife and you’ve got a mountain wonderland.  And if you’re running low on fuel, be sure to stop in at their gas pumps before traveling further.  (Seriously – the next gas station if you’re heading west isn’t until Greenwater – 53 miles away.)

If you’re stopping in for something more substantial than marshmallows, there are many items I can recommend in the riverside lodge restaurant.  During my last visit, my brother and I, along with my three nieces all enjoyed some tasty meals.  We happened to be there during brunch, which is quite an elaborate spread, but since we weren’t hungry enough to require such a large affair, we chose to order from the menu.  They were serving both breakfast and lunch at the time and we were a bit torn, but we all opted to enjoy a spot of breakfast…

Ham & Eggs – Nicely smoked, thick-cut and pan fried, the ham was very tasty.  Served with lodge-made hash browns, fresh eggs and toast, this was much more food than I’d planned on eating, but I didn’t argue!  (I also stole some of my brother’s gravy for my hash browns.  Don’t judge me.)

Country-fried Steak & Eggs – My brother’s selection.  While although the steak was served on top of the gravy, rather than the gravy being on top, it was nicely battered and tender.  As I come from a family of gravy lovers, my brother ordered an additional side.  That was a good plan. (And nicely supported my own gravy theft plan.)

French Toast, Hotcakes, Belgian Waffles – All of the sugary menu options for my sugar-loving nieces.  Who am I to argue?  Syrup is delicious!  They all loved their orders and as I sampled each dish myself, I’d have to agree.  (They may or may not have been looking when I sampled everything.  Again, don’t judge me.)  The hotcakes were fluffy, the French toast was nice and thick with ‘lots of butter and the Belgian waffles were deliciously malty.  For the lover of sweets, I’d also recommend their homemade blueberry cinnamon roll and the blueberry hotcakes.  (Great remedy for a night of drafty tent camping.)

If you’re in the mood for some very tasty, local fish, I recommend the pan-fried Rainbow trout.  It is delicious and is boned tableside by your server.  Cool!

If you happen to be around for dinner, try their dinner preparation of the Rainbow trout – or any of their delicious steaks.  (Including elk steak!)  In the lounge, they serve a great burger and have a good selection of beer, wine and other assorted adult beverages.  As a note, the main lodge restaurant can get crowded on the weekends and sometimes the service can be slow.  I’d recommend reservations for the dinner hour and if you’re in a hurry, I’d opt for the Fireside lounge or their deli.

Whistlin’ Jack Lodge occupies a very special place in my heart and is home to many happy memories.  I grew up spending countless summer weekends camping in the area with my family.  With bated breath, I’d sit in the back of our loaded down Ford Super Cab, anxiously waiting to see Whistlin’ Jacks appearing magically out of the forest.  If I were lucky, we’d make a quick pit-stop before heading onto the campground.  If not, I knew I could probably sucker one of my family members to give me a ride over on one of their dirt bikes.  Or, as I got older and was able to ride a dirt bike myself, I’d grab the hotrod Honda Trail 90 and make my marshmallow run. (It’s important to not run out of marshmallows.)  After all this time, I can honestly say that I still get an anxious, excited feeling whenever I’m heading up Hwy 410 towards the mountains.  I know it’s getting close; just past that next bend in the road… A good meal, a goofy shot glass, a bathroom that doesn’t involve an outhouse and a replenished marshmallow supply!  Thank you, Whistlin’ Jack Lodge!

Other spots to visit in the area:

Boulder Cave – Family-friendly hike featuring one of the largest caves of its kind in the state.  It’s a beautiful and very interesting hike.  Bring flashlights! 

Naches River – Great places for fishing, camping, rafting and general adventuring all along its shores.

Chinook Pass – One of the highest drivable mountain passes in Washington State at 5430 ft.  Stop at the top of the pass and hike around Tipsoo Lake or investigate part of the Pacific Crest Trail.  Absolutely beautiful area and an absolutely beautiful drive.

Mt. Rainier National Park – I can’t say enough about Mt. Rainier National Park.  I spent many summers working at the lodges and ‘The Mountain’ is one of my favorite places on earth.  So much to do – so much to see.  If you haven’t been, make it a priority.

Crystal Mountain Ski Resort – Ski resort just over Chinook Pass.  Great hiking, biking and summer adventure options. Not accessible via Chinook Pass during the winter months.  (Although I highly recommend hitting it from the other side as the skiing is fantastic!)

 

And as this entry is getting long, I’ll continue the Yakima Valley journey with my next entry.  (Miner’s Drive-in, and the Yakima Craft Brewing Co.)

Cheers!

Food and Family – A Tribute to My Grandma

Greetings!

Food helps shape the culture, traditions and soul of family life.  In addition to simple nourishment, food offers entertainment, adventure, reward and comfort; and often within each family are those individuals who gravitate towards the nurturing of one or more of these esteemed conventions.  

Within my own foodie family, there are many members upholding these pillars of culture and tradition.  We are lucky to have several amazing cooks, not to mention artists, musicians, engineers, scientists, adrenaline junkies – you name it – adding their expertise and enthusiasm to the family table.  Thankfully, we also have some very sympathetic shoulders to cry on when one or more of these activities (and recipes) leads to a less than desired outcome.  I feel very lucky – and somewhat intimidated at times – to be part of such a dynamic group of people.

While although my family is quite a multi-talented bunch, there has always been one member to whom we have all looked for guidance.  One person who encompassed all the aforementioned attributes and to whom we all have aspired to emulate.  One cook who made the lemon meringue pie none of us could ever seem to master…  The matriarch of our family, my grandmother, Dorothy Brown.

Sadly, my family recently lost this very remarkable and amazing woman.  She passed away in the company of family at the age of 90 on June 15th in Richland, WA.  Wife, mother, office administrator extraordinaire, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend – she wore many hats and she wore them exceptionally well.  (All without messing up one hair in her always perfectly styled hairdo)  To say she will be missed is an incredible understatement.  She was the matriarch of our hearts and history and the irreplaceable head of our table.  It is with much love, gratitude and many happy memories that I dedicate this entry to her…

My grandmother was born in 1923 in Philipsburg, Kansas and spent her childhood years in Lincoln, Nebraska.  She moved with her family to Yakima, WA as a teenager, where she met her soon-to-be husband (and my grandpa), Leland Brown.  They married in May of 1942 and were able to spend a precious few months together before my grandfather left to fight in WWII.  My mother was born in May of 1943 and it wasn’t until the end of the war at age two when she finally met my grandfather.  My grandparents were two of the strongest, most formidable people I’ve ever known, but the hardships they faced were many.  Their stories have never ceased to amaze and inspire me.  (On that note, I’d say that of all my grandparents and great-grandparents)  I only hope that someday I’m able to look back and feel I’ve faced my own challenges with half their grace and fortitude.

I could write endlessly of the love, support and adventures shared with my grandmother over the years, but in keeping with the spirit of my project, I’m going to share stories of something else she gave in endless abundance:  Food – And a complete mastery of its preparation, presentation and place in the lives of my family.

As is the case with many families, there are certain recipes that define a celebration – Or the family itself for that matter.  There are recipes which have been handed down through the generations and there are recipes that would produce heartbreak if they were ever lost in the shuffle of time.  I can say with complete authority there are several such recipes born as a result of my grandmother’s foodie expertise and experimentation.  I’m heartbroken indeed to have lost my grandmother, but it gives me comfort and hope knowing that a piece of her lives on through her recipes.  I was very excited and relieved to learn of my aunts’ plan to create an actual cookbook containing all of my grandmother’s most popular and irreplaceable recipes.  I will do my best to channel my grandmother as I use the cookbook to try and recreate her chicken and noodles or her pumpkin torte.  (Note: The chicken and noodles recipe is actually from my great-grandmother, handed down to my grandmother – And now to the rest of our family… The deliciousness lives on!)

People were always asking for my grandmother’s recipes and to my knowledge she was never hesitant to share them.  The caveat being, however, it was rare the recipe ever turned out like my grandmother’s version.  Many a cook has attempted to replicate the towering peaks of my grandmother’s lemon meringue pie and many have failed mightily.  And I’d be a complete liar if I said I’d ever been able to duplicate the fluffiness of her divinity or the perfection of her pie crust.  (Even after watching over my mom’s shoulder as she nailed it every time.  Apparently I did not inherit the pie crust gene…)

Several years ago, I spent some time working in the Scottish Highlands at a small village inn.  While there, I became friends with a few of the chefs working in the well-reviewed inn restaurant.  They were truly talented and I am happy to have returned home with many new recipes and delicious memories of their Scottish (and Irish!) cooking.  One day, we were chatting about foods they’d enjoyed during their visits to the States, but had never been able to copy.  Among the foods on their lists were peanut brittle and zucchini bread.  When I mentioned those were two of the recipes for which my grandmother was widely known, they practically marched me out to the village phone booth to call my grandmother straight away.  However, as there was a 9 hour time difference and it was probably 3am at my grandmother’s house and there was currently a large gathering of sheep loitering around the one and only phone booth, I promised to call her as soon as reasonably possible. (And after the sheep mob had dispersed.)  

A phone call later and a few hand printed recipe cards sent courtesy of my grandmother, my chef friends were madly racing about the kitchen gathering ingredients.  After days of experimentation and several takes on the recipes, they came pretty close to recreating the magic.  Close, but based on my personal consumption of the real deal, not quite close enough.  Granted, their versions were very tasty and I much appreciated the effort, but a couple of things were off.  Not enough lightness in the crunch of the peanut brittle – not quite enough moistness in the zucchini bread…  These were top chefs and they’d made some very enjoyable tributes to my grandmother’s recipes, but they just weren’t the same. 

I never did have the heart to give them my thoughts on their renditions.  They were so happy with the results and definitely thought they’d recreated what they’d sampled in their journeys, so why ruin the party? (Plus, their results really were pretty good – and I love peanut brittle…)  Most importantly, however, was the idea that I’d been able to share a little of my family’s food traditions with people living on the other side of the planet.  Thanks to my grandmother, peanut brittle and zucchini bread now make people happy in the Scottish Highlands – hopefully just as much as they do in my family and in our home of Washington State.

I can honestly say that I’ve never eaten anything my grandmother made that I didn’t like.  Granted, I’ve never been a fan of cooked fruit and I’m allergic to walnuts and bananas, but that’s not on her.  In retrospect, I feel bad if she ever happened to catch some of the faces I made whenever I accidentally sampled her food containing any of those items.  (I do have it on absolute authority that she pretty much rocked all of those ingredients in many dishes over the years.)  Whether it was a simple fried egg, a cream pie she’d made especially for me so I wouldn’t have to eat the fruit pie or any of the dishes she made for our elaborate family celebrations or camping trips – it was all amazing. 

Through my grandmother’s cooking she brought us love, comfort, camaraderie, identity and probably a few buttons popping off after one of her gloriously decadent desserts.  She brought a kind of magic to her dishes and I will forever miss hanging out in her kitchen and taking it all in.  But just as will our memories of this amazing woman live on, so will her recipes.  I can only hope we’re able to do those recipes justice as we attempt to recreate the magic.  I know we’ll give it our all, but as was the case with my Scottish chef friends, it likely won’t be quite the same.  And who knows – in following my grandmother’s inspiration, maybe one of us will get lucky and create a dish of our own to pass down through the generations.  A foodie girl can dream…

One of my very favorite pictures of my very favorite people.

(from left to right) Joann (my mom), Leland (grandpa), Dorothy (grandma)

 

NEXT UP:   A visit to Miner’s Drive-In Restaurant in Yakima, WA.  (Yakima County)  I’ll get back to my previously scheduled programming soon thereafter, but I’d like to add a little bit more to my family tribute.  🙂

Cheers!

I Ate the State! (Washington Edition)

Greetings!  And welcome to a first look at my new travelogue project, I Ate the State! – Washington Edition.  It will be part of a more far-reaching series, I Ate America!, but more on that later. And for those who have inquired about the progress of The Secret Galaxy of Stars, rest assured it is indeed on its way.  (And thanks for asking!)

In the meantime…

For as long as I can remember, my family has cataloged, described and waxed philosophically about their travels and adventures using the language of food.  In addition to such lengthy discourse, we’ve also extensively photographed, painted, drawn, written songs and probably, after a few drinks, even danced interpretively about the topic.  (I will categorically deny any involvement in the interpretive dance portions – And promptly destroy any photographic evidence should it ever emerge. Promptly.)

The depth of this food dogma never really struck me until reading back over the articles and blogs I’d written during my years performing and touring as a musician.  Regardless that I was writing about music and often of my adventures on the road, my foodie musings always seemed to find their way into the story.  Whether highlighting the fare of a tour venue (which was hopefully free to the starving artist) or discussing the fine art of foraging for dinner at a Chevron mini-mart, it just felt relevant to weave my food adventures into the rest of the tale. 

Granted, food is an essential part of everyone’s existence – a necessary factor in the human equation.  Yet even with this reality, many seem to miss the more creative role food plays in their daily lives and adventures.  For them, it is simply a perfunctory task and source of fuel for the day.  (Not to knock a regular consumption of the foods one loves, but I have to question a never-waving lunch of turkey on white with a side of carrot sticks.  Sure, I love a good turkey sandwich, but come on. You know who you are…) Not only does food fulfill our fundamental need for nourishment, it helps tell the story of our histories, cultures, families, adventures and even dreams.  It is an actual character in our stories.

Without a doubt, food has become a beloved character in my own adventures and generally taken on a life of its own.  It still doesn’t laugh at my jokes, but it has certainly provided me with countless hours of enjoyment, adventure, sympathy and companionship.  Lounging on a boat while enjoying a homemade margarita and fresh guacamole with chips, grilling caught-that-day salmon on a deck overlooking the Puget Sound, crying in my Snoqualmie Falls Lavender ice cream over love gone wrong – Oh, the good times… We make quite a pair, Food and I.  Please join me as I share further some of our finer adventures.

And with that, I bring you the first installment of I Ate the State! – Washington Edition.

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You might be asking yourself why I’ve decided to start with Washington State.  (Not to be confused with Washington DC)  Is it because it’s located in the northwest corner of America and is a fine jumping off point from which to start a US exploration?  Or possibly that it offers a fine example of almost every ecosystem imaginable?  Perhaps because it boasts an extensive agricultural landscape producing delicious ingredients and wares on a global scale?  Is it because it supports a wine, beer and craft distillery scene to rival that of any the famed viticulture, beer and spirit-producing regions? 

Blanket answer:  YES!

Interesting tidbit:  Washington State and more specifically, the Yakima Valley produces 75% of the US hop supply.  This contributes greatly to the US being the second largest producer of hops in the world.  Beer is delicious!

And while although it is certainly ALL of these things – and more – it is indeed the place of my birth and host to many of my most cherished food adventures and experiences.  Even though I love traveling throughout the world and am always planning my next big adventure, I am a proud Washingtonian at heart and can think of no better place from which to begin my food chronicles. 

When thinking of my approach to accurately representing a state and all the culinary gems it has to offer, I hit upon the idea of visiting each and every county.  I don’t want to offer up one of the travel digests focusing only on the largest or most visited parts of any state.  Just because a region doesn’t enjoy the highest number of tourist stats doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful, interesting or worthy of adventure.  Whenever I visit somewhere out of my state, I love to try and blend in and experience the area as a local. I do appreciate many of the big ‘tourist attractions’, but I’ve always found I learn more about the area by blending into the background, traveling outside of the tourist hubs and being respectful and open to the areas unfolding around me.  This is what I’d like to achieve in my plight to experience the stories and food offerings of each state.

In Washington State, there are thirty-nine counties – And I mean to explore them all!  Since I know my state well, I will make an educated guess that a few of the less-populated counties of Eastern and Southeastern Washington won’t have many notable food options, but mark my foodie words – Even if I have to pull over to the side of the road and bust out a camp stove, I swear to have a food adventure in every county of the state.  (And believe me, I wouldn’t be the first one in this state to pull over and fire up a grill…)

I was born in Yakima (viva la hops!) and spent my formative years in both Yakima and the Tri-Cities.  I have many a tale to tell regarding where to go in these areas, but for current logistical purposes, I’ve decided to begin by exploring the western side of the state.  (Home to the well known burgs of Seattle, Bellevue and Tacoma)  And in keeping with my pledge to highlight the less featured, but no less enjoyable areas of the state, I now present to you the lovely town of… Bothell.  (Located respectively in King County)

To reach Bothell, head 20 minutes north of Seattle on the well-traveled lanes of Lake City Way and you’ll find yourself in the heart of downtown Bothell.   (Also very reachable from I-405) Far from the well-documented and populated streets of Seattle, Bothell is a slice of classic, Hometown USA.  From the charming ‘Old Town’ area featuring several lovely blocks of restaurants and local shops to the meandering, tree-lined bike and walking trail following along the Sammamish River, Bothell is a welcome respite from the bustle of nearby Seattle.  And should one crave a quick shot of said Seattle bustle, it’s only a quick trip up Lake City Way and you’re back in the thick of it.  No traveling across one of the oft-crowded and much maligned floating bridges necessary! 

For my first foray into eating the state of Washington, I’m gonna go old school and visit the Bothell burger institution, Ranch Drive-in.

Ranch Drive-In first opened in 1959 to the roar of fin-sporting Eldorados and Thunderbirds cruising past its walk-up window.  Fast forward to 2013 and the engines don’t roar quite as loudly, (Hybrids are eerily quiet!) but that same humble walk-up window still welcomes the daily throngs of devoted Bothell patrons.  Added later on, but still humble and unchanged is a small, inside dining area sporting Formica and faux-wood covered booths and wood paneled walls.  Enhancing the ambiance are a few photos featuring Ranch Drive-In history, a choice bit of wagon wheel décor and a fairly elaborate, carved wood mural – not to mention a carved wood, western-style menu.  Every time I walk into this place, I’m time-warped back to all the carefree days of my childhood – and to a time when I could still quickly metabolize a visit to Ranch Drive-in.  Ahhh, the good ol’ days…

Ranch Drive-In is not part of a chain.  It doesn’t adhere to corporate recipes or franchise shenanigans.  It’s a classic, Mom and Pop burger joint owned by the same family for three generations and it follows its own rules and recipes.  They hand-batter their fish and onion rings and grill each burger to its individual perfection.  And as long as these recipes and rules lead to a continuing stream of crinkle fries, hand-battered onion rings and malts, I will be a patron for life.  (Much to the chagrin of my doctor.  I know I can’t really play off crinkle fries and malts as ‘heart healthy.’)

I am still eating my way through the entire Ranch Drive-In menu, but I’ve already become devoted to several of its items.  Following are a few of my favorites:

The Ranch Burger – ¼ lb grilled beef patty, lettuce, tomato, pickle, delicious dressing and ketchup on a toasted sesame bun.  (Onions and cheese on request)  It’s that great, classic burger joint taste – Fresh, hot and filled with goodness.

The Bacon Ranch Burger – ¼ lb grilled beef patty, BACON, lettuce, tomato, pickle, mayo and ketchup on a toasted sesame bun. (Onions and cheese on request)  It’s an old-school burger masterpiece with BACON.  Need I say more?

The Fish SandwhichDelicious fish filet served with tartar sauce and lettuce.  I add tomato, onions and cheese to take it over the top.  (Note: All of their sandwiches are described as some type of ‘whiches’ on the online menu.  I don’t know if this is intentional or if they are spelling challenged.  Whatever the case, it doesn’t really matter.  Their ‘whiches’ are delicious.)

Fish and Fries (Not listed as Fish-n-Chips – we’re not in the UK, after all) – Hand-battered and delicious with their homemade tartar sauce.

Corn Dog – Simple, classic, fried and never disappointing. Don’t forget the mustard!

(CRINKLE) Fries – I would marry an order of their crinkle fries if I could.  MARRY THEM, I say!  Ketchup is indeed an acceptable accompaniment, but might I suggest the homemade tartar sauce instead?  Actually, I really must insist – Try them with the tartar sauce!

Onion Rings – Hand battered and Panko-encrusted, their onion rings are sublime.

Shakes and Malts – They have PEANUT BUTTER shakes and malts!!!  It’s a dream come true… (Sure, sure – they have other flavors, too.  Whatever.)

 

And there you have it – A little old-school burger love to get you started.  The menu is simple and certainly not rocket science, but it’s tasty and it’s full of good ingredients and happy memories.  Ranch Drive-In has been rocking their carved wood menu for over 50 years – I hope they make it for 50 more!  Please stop and visit the folks at Ranch Drive-In the next time you’re in downtown Bothell – I hope you’ll enjoy your experience as much as I’ve enjoyed mine!  Slide into one of those ergonomically molded Formica booths, order up some delicious crinkle fries and bask in the glory of burger days gone by – Enjoy!

For a full list of menu items and a map to their exclusive Bothell location, please check out:  www.ranchdrivein.com

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Next stop on my state-eating adventure: 

Bothell Country Village

Depoe Bay, WA

 

STAY TUNED!

The Board of Education CD Release Show – This Saturday!

Hello! And happy Thursday – better known as THE NEW FRIDAY!! (in my mind, anyway – and it doesn’t even matter that I’m not actually taking tomorrow off…)

ANYway…

Wooo hoooooo! The new Board of Education album, Binary has finally been released! A lot of hard work and diligent study went into this one. Give it a listen and we guarantee you’ll learn about everything from binary stars to famous inventions (Kevlar, anyone?) to details on how we’re gonna make it to Mars! (The VASIMR rocket – check it out!) And for all of you people born PSW (‘Post Star Wars’ – after the release of the original three movies), be sure to check out Why Is Dad So Mad? for a poignant tale of prequel woe. Ohhh, the horror…

If you happen to be in the Seattle area this Saturday (10/20), please stop by Town Hall for the big CD release show. TWO SHOWS at 11am and 1pm. Bring the family – Join us! (Kids 12 and under are free!)

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THE BOARD OF EDUCATION CD RELEASE SHOW

When: Saturday, October 20th

Where: Town Hall, Seattle – 1119 8th Avenue

Time: Two shows – 11am and 1pm

Tickets: http://townhall.strangertickets.com/events/6082132/saturday-family-concerts-the-board-of-education 

ROCK!!!