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I'll be traveling to Whidbey Island, WA in April for a half-marathon and was wondering if anyone had any dining recs? I'm staying in Oak Harbor, but will have a rental car. I'll be on the island two days so the recs don't have to focus on carb-loading for my race smile.gif

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Walla Walla

Before creating a new thread on what seems less likely to alread exist on dr.com, I always check. In doing so for Walla Walla in southeastern Washington, I was surprised to come across a thread that actually mentioned it Walla Walla Sweets aren't just a minor league baseball team with one of the coolest food logos; part of a pacific coast league that produced some MLB stars like Jacoby Ellsbury.

Nope, the baseball team monniker was inspired by the original onions grown here from seed brought over from Corsica a century ago. I won't write a lot about this other than to report that the early spring sweets we sampled (the larger real sweets are available mid June through summer) were wonderful. The Locatis are descendant from the original onion growers and, if you have more interest in this--the history and the substance around these onions--here are two places to go.

Vidalia has won the onion marketing war in America. Texas and Maui have made real claims on sweet onion pre-eminince too. But these nice folks in SE Washington who don't toot many horns may well be quietly producing the best sweet onions in America.

Aside from wine and onions, three decent or better spots for grub in Walla Walla include:

1. Saffron. This is thought by many on and offline to be Walla Walla's best restaurant. Mediterranean with a focus on tapas and mezze. And, while I'm sure if 100 dr.com'ers ate here, there'd be diverse views, I think it a bit over-hyped. At least as much as anything in this beautiful but remote area gets overhyped. Lamb is local, very good but a bit overdone. Lentils upon which is served were very nice if unexceptional. An asparagus with cooked, chopped duck egg and finely grated cheese was the standout. Pricey. The owners also operate a newer (and unique in WW) pho shop in town that gets good reviews though we didn't try it.

2. Colville St Patisserie. This is an excellent patisserie setup like a modern coffee shop with plenty of seating, floor to ceiling windows on two sides, excellent baked goods and the best coffee available in WW.

3. Green Spoon. A great example of why several grains of salt are a good idea with any yelp review. This place is one of the highest rated there with plenty of hyperbole like "exceptional." Good burgers made with beef of unknown provenance. Good all around including the prices. Nothing special nor anything egregious.

Finally, coffee.

Coffee's a funny thing in this part of the country. On one hand, Seattle, Portland and San Francisco along the coast are tip of the sword in coffee excellence and innovation for the US. But, go a bit east from the coast, still in the same states, and the offerings are surprisingly thin. Lots and lots of mediocre joe in Spokane, western MT, western Dakotas and here in SE Washington.

Fortunately, for Walla Walla, there is one source worthy of the northwest's general rep and it's here. The Walla Walla Roastery guys sell to several restaurants in the area along with the patisserie above. No pourovers but they do do french presses.

I agree with the thread I cited to start this post. No comparison if deciding between Vancouver, Seattle or Portland and Walla Walla. But, Walla Walla is friendly, fun and with more to offer than might be expected. At least more than I expected in a very off-the-beaten-path sort of way.

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Walla Walla

Marcus Whitman is arguably the best hotel in Walla Walla. There are several wineries worth calling and asking if you can visit. These include K Vintners ( kvintners.com ), Cayuse (cayusevineyards.com) and Rasa (who also make an excellent $28 syrah called PB). The cult wines to look for include Cayuse Bionic Frog, K Vintners' Royal City, Old Bones and The Hustler. Cayuse has a waiting list for their mailing list and K Vintners/Charles Smith sells out their best wines almost a year in advance on futures. Also, Reynvaan makes a knockout syrah called Stoneessence which similarly sells out its futures. I would make the sincere argument that the absolute best of Walla Walla syrahs are equal to the best of any in the world right now. As difficult as it is to find these it would be worth trying to source a bottle.

For value also take a look at Owen Roe Ex Umbris (although this is not in Walla Walla) along with the PB. Bergevin Lane has an excellent Cabernet called Moonstone for about $25.

I've been on Leonetti's mailing list for almost twenty years and have also been to their winery. For myself they have now priced themselves out of the market with their reserve going for $145. Stoneessence noted above is $75, Bionic Frog $85 and the K Vintners' $100 on futures. All are worth the investment.

FWIW K vintners sells magnums of these wines at their shop. L'Ecole 41 will occasionally have etched magnums which are beautiful.

It is almost a five hour drive from Seattle to Walla Walla. My wife and I will return next year feeling that it is well worth the trip.

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Walla Walla

*scans over posts*

Marcus Whitman... check.

K Vintners... check.

L'Ecole... check.

Saffron... check.

Seriously people, follow the posts above and you will have a hell of a weekend. Walla Walla is surprisingly charming, you will drink as well as you hope, and will eat better than you'll reasonably expect. The bounty of the farms (and rivers) east of the cascades is fantastic, especially in the summer. The only real things I'd add to what's above is to note that the downtown farmer's market is near the Marcus Whitman, runs saturday/sunday every weekend and is worth a stroll for lunch. If you don't want that much interaction though, a great way to recover from a long night is a sweet onion sausage and bag of jalapeno Tim's Cascade from Onion World.

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Walla Walla

Marcus Whitman is arguably the best hotel in Walla Walla.

No doubt about this for hotels though there is also a high-end B&B whose name escapes me. We stayed at the Marcus Whitman. It's an old (as in around 100 years) hotel gently restored. Doesn't have the quirky or even nostalgic feel of the Murray in Livingston, MT about which I wrote last week. Doesn't have the sheer luxury trappings of many modern hotels in many cities. But we loved it and would suggest others:

- request a room in the tower for the full experience and new west wing only for convenience if closeness to a car is important
- appreciate the value of this property; it's an unusually good value in terms of what you get for what you pay. not very expensive
- the service, with particular emphasis on the front desk and Jonathan, who both manages and exemplifies the overall standard, is memorably hospitable, friendly and guest-focused
- definitely take advantage of the free/included breakfast. one of the better free hotel breakfasts you'll find anywhere
- take advantage of any free time to walk the town and stop in at various tasting rooms, a great charcuterie/cafe right near the MW and refresh or learn about the history of the Nez Perce

Can maybe avoid the hotel restaurant (The Mark). With full disclosure that we didn't try it, prices are very high and unlikely to be better than other spots already cited.

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Olympia

Olympia is one of those towns not known for good food. In fact, many complain about the scene. Washington State's Capitol sits at the southern end of Puget Sound where it is near totally in the shadow of the larger and more written about metroplexes of Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue, Vancouver and even Bellingham all to the north.

I don't know Olympia particularly well but I'd guess most outsiders pass it by without a thought on the way north or south to Portland and California. I can't say that's a bad decision but I will say if you ever see fit to get off I5 in Olympia for a meal or a break, there are at least two spots very much worth seeking out.

COFFEE SHOP

First, for coffee, there's a spot as good as any in the Pacific Northwest called Olympia Roasting Company which is pretty outstanding by any measure. Oliver Stormshak, the owner and roaster, is an incredibly knowledgeable and impassioned purveyor of premium coffee. His baristas have taken 2nd and 3rd at the NW Regional Barista Championships (NWRBC) over the past two years. A huge back area is full with piles of bursting burlap coffee sacks and a gleaming Diedrich roaster supports two local shops and a national wholesale business. There's a custom Marzocco up front, maybe half a dozen tables, good quality baked goods and a couple of tables outside at the downtown location.

Oliver's passion for great coffee is without qualification and he's a humble and willing teacher to any interested enough to ask. Across a few visits, we had some outstanding espresso drinks made with Olympia's "Big Truck" espresso blending some wonderful Costa Rican, Guatemalan and Ethiopian beans. A capp in particular, made with perfect ratio of milk to espresso and served warm, really backed up the two NWRBC trophies behind the espresso bar. A barista insisted on re-pulling a shot of Costa Rican Mirella when it sat on the bar just a couple of minutes while our friend who ordered it took a quick break before returning to get it. And, two pourovers made with Guatamelan Finca Santa Isabel and Costa Rican La Mirella Honey Organic were rich, sweet, smooth and simply delicious without anything being added. This is a wonderful shop. If you're in the area and really love great coffee or espressos, totally worth the detour from the interstate. It's a coffee lover's kind of place in every way.

SANDWICH SHOP

Second, 5th Avenue Sandwich Shop downtown is a wonderful place for a lunch stop. It's a kitschy shop transported from the 70s in decor and menu which is a family affair. The owner, Bonnie Elsey, has been in the restaurant and especially baking businesses for more than 25 years. Her adult son and daughter work as servers. All the staff are incredibly friendly. The food is simple, fresh, served in large portions, delicious and very affordably priced. We really enjoyed a reuben, a huge cobb salad with an extra scoop of fresh chunky chicken salad and one of the best versions of a lemon meringue pie I've had in years. The meringue, baked by Bonnie's daughter, had peaks 2" high.

Lunch at 5th Avenue Sandwich Shop followed by a coffee at Olympia Roasting is a fabulous way to break from driving for an hour or two. Great spots both.

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Walla Walla

From Cayuse:  Whitehouse-Crawford

Also:  Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen

For a hotel:  the Marcus Whitman 

My wife and I are going to do our best to drink our way around Eastern Washington and Kelowna in British Columbia this Fall.  Above is some of my research which was sourced from Cayuse.

I should note that after four years I am still on the waiting list for the mailing list at Cayuse.  One day-and I am told I am close-I will make it.

Cayuse, KVintners, Leonetti-some of the best wine in the world is coming from the now, 135+ wineries in the Walla Walla area.  Last time we were there, in the mid '90's, there were five.

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I suspect the answer is no, but has Rockwellian ever had dinner or stayed at Willows Inn on Lummi Island?  We're considering re-routing our June vacation itinerary somewhat to accommodate for a dinner and stay here.  It would be a splurge, so we would like as much outside confirmation as possible that we're not setting ourselves up for an expensive disappointment.

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I suspect the answer is no, but has Rockwellian ever had dinner or stayed at Willow Inn on Lummi Island?  We're considering re-routing our June vacation itinerary somewhat to accommodate for a dinner and stay here.  It would be a splurge, so we would like as much outside confirmation as possible that we're not setting ourselves up for an expensive disappointment.

Here is the original article from January, 2011 in the New York Times that first told the world about this place.  Last Monday evening it's chef won the James Beard Rising Star Award.

This is a review of it from a person named uHockey who is extremely well known on Chowhound.  Although he's based in Columbus, OH he has a national reputation on CH. This is from his blog, including detailed photographs of the experience. I should also mention that he's eaten his way through DC and most other significant restaurant in the US:

http://endoedibles.com/?p=1854

All of this is going to be academic.  I'll be shocked if you can get in.

Good luck.

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Thanks for the Chowhound recommendation.  So far, everything we read for Willows Inn have been glowing, but we were recently stung by rather disappointing meals at Vetri and Bibou so I wanted to seek out as much outside opinion as possible.  The dinner and room costs are not unreasonable (the room we're booking is cheaper than the Saturday surcharge at Inn at Little Washington), but we're not financially at the point where we can afford $600-700 disappointments.

It's possible that things would be different during the *high* high season, but our booking there has been quite easy.  They give people who book a room at the Inn priority on dinner reservations, then open the rest of the tables to reservations two weeks before the night of the dinner.  We were able to make a weeknight reservation for early June without much fuss.  It looks like they don't get much traffic during the off season, because they were running a weeknight half off on rooms promotion until May 1.

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Thanks for the Chowhound recommendation.  So far, everything we read for Willow Inn have been glowing, but we were recently stung by rather disappointing meals at Vetri and Bibou so I wanted to seek out as much outside opinion as possible.  The dinner and room costs are not unreasonable (the room we're booking is cheaper than the Saturday surcharge at Inn at Little Washington), but we're not financially at the point where we can afford $600-700 disappointments.

It's possible that things would be different during the *high* high season, but our booking there has been quite easy.  They give people who book a room at the Inn priority on dinner reservations, then open the rest of the tables to reservations two weeks before the night of the dinner.  We were able to make a weeknight reservation for early June without much fuss.  It looks like they don't get much traffic during the off season, because they were running a weeknight half off on rooms promotion until May 1.

I liked Vetri but I didn't love it.  I'm also one of the few people who gave up after three disappointing trips to the Inn at Little Washington.  We went for a 50th birthday, an anniversary and I went a couple of years after it first opened.  The low point of the evening was their famed cheesecart which I had to move my chair for twice so it could pass. Patrick O'Connell is a fantastic chef but I never fell in love with the overall Inn experience. Frankly, today I would find a way to do Roberto's Eight or land one of the six nights at Riverstead in Chilhowie. For a special occasion I would return to Fiola Mare and reserve a window seat.  Or, what my wife and I did for our anniversary two years ago was go to the Birchrunville Store Cafe.  A year ago Zagat gave this a 29 for food, a point higher at the time than Vetri.   negative is that this place is legendary in the greater Philadelphia area and a nearly impossible reservation on a Friday or Saturday night unless you do it 90 days in advance.  Extraordinarily beautiful countryside.  BYOB-all in, you're $200 or less for an enchanting evening for two.

I was also a huge fan of Tarver King when he was at the Ashby Inn.  We're going to Patowmack Farm in a few weeks and really look forward to trying him there.  We've been to Patowmack Farms a number of times over the years and with Tarver there this could really be special.

By the way, have you been to Vancouver?  Most beautiful setting of any city on earth.  Now, a great restaurant city, too.

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Joe, thanks for your suggestions.  We've been to many of the places you've mentioned and most have indeed impressed us.  Despite being out of our usual price range (it's the cost of staying at the Inn versus a budget airbnb place nearby that really moves the overall cost up) for special occasion dining, Willows Inn is particularly attractive because it shares a similar philosophy to sourcing/cooking/plating as NOMA, Favriken, Town House, etc.  That style of foraging and seeking inspiration from nature seems perfectly suited for the fecundity of the Pacific Northwest.  We're pretty much committed to going and will report back eventually.

The trip we've planned out will hit Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria, and Tofino, each for 36-48 hours.  Also some hiking in the North Cascades and Olympic Peninsula.  We'll be covering a lot of ground and a lot of restaurants.  We've driven past Portland and Seattle before, but otherwise this is pretty much all virgin ground for us.

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Port Angeles

We have Bellingham and North Cascades coming up.  For now, a report on the Olympic Peninsula.

We stuck to Next Door Gastropub in Port Angeles, not so much because of the quality of the food (it's decent bar grub but no more) but because they serve meals throughout the day and late into the night, which makes it a lot easier to have dinner after watching the sunset at Hurricane Ridge.  They do seem to have a good draft beer program.  Elsewhere, we self catered.  Western Olympic Peninsula has few food options.  Eastern Olympic Peninsula has a lot more potentially good choices, but we didn't have time to linger there.

For hikes, most of the higher elevation trails don't open until sometime in July, some of their seasons are only late July-early September.  So we knew we were going to be restricted from some of the best higher elevation hikes.  Still, there's lots to see in the beach and rainforest hikes, and luckily Hurricane Hill was open all the way to the top.  We didn't have much time so we stuck mostly to the best known shorter hikes in the Olympics.

Second Beach was by far the best beach trail we encountered - sea stacks, rain forest walk, tidal pools galore.  There's walk to beach camping available there as well.  Rialto Beach is pretty and easy to access.  I didn't like Ruby Beach as much the others, the seastacks are pretty but no tidal pools or much else to see.  Shi Shi Beach is supposedly the best of all, a more remote and beautiful version of Second Beach - it's a couple extra hours of driving and requires 8 miles of hiking round trip (often done as an overnight hike) to see the sea arches.  That will have to be a different trip.

We lucked out and had almost no rain at all in the Olympic Peninsula, so the rainforest hikes were superb, albeit not representative.  My favorite might be the Hall of Mosses trail in Hoh, though the hike to the Big Cedar (biggest tree in the world outside of California) in Quinault Lake was really cool too. For a plant nerd like me, every old growth forest is different and they're all quite magical.  Marymere Falls also had a wonderful section of rainforest.

Hurricane Hill is definitely a great hike.  Paved and easy to walk.  Some snow early in the season so best navigated with a trekking pole.  We went too early for much flowers but I bet the trail will be gorgeous in July.  The views are not too different from Hurricane Ridge, but the perspectives do change a bit and at the end, there were views to the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island.  The last 1/3 of the trail is the best, lots of marmots there who were happy to pose for pictures.

There are just endless numbers of hikes available in the Cascades and Olympic NP.  http://www.wta.org/ would be a good place to explore the options.  Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker area offer some gorgeous hiking and the more shapely mountains than the Olympics.  I'd probably go with trails in those areas if coming July-September.

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Lummi Island (near Bellingham)

Willows Inn did not disappoint at all.  The meal itself was composed of a series of courses, each with one or two elements, done to a surprising depth.  It's a meal that expanded my palate and how I think about food.

We checked in and took a walk on the adjacent beach, which helped us to adjust to island mindset.  Afterwards, we sat on the veranda and watched the sun move lower and lower on the horizon, while drinking cocktails and nibbling on their pre-meal nibbles (for us each - an Olympia oyster, a gorgeous Shigoku oyster, and a selection of veggies).  We were called to the dining room around 6:30 PM and dinner lasted until around 9:30 PM.  There were perhaps 15 courses during the meal.  Each a small dish of something, very simply done, but every dish was fantastic and surprising.  The lack of frills really concentrated the essence of the dish.

We stayed in one of the cheaper rooms.  It was small but quite comfortable, with a very nice size bathroom.  It's probably worth about what we paid for it.  It's worth staying here because it's the only way to ensure a restaurant booking more than 2 weeks in advance.  The ferry does run until midnight, so staying in Bellingham or making a late drive back to Seattle is certainly possible.  On Yelp, some people have had multiple dinners here during a stay, and reported that there are only a few overlaps between the dinners.  So it's certainly possible to make the stay into a multi-day getaway too.

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North Cascades and Mt. Rainier were busts due to a return to more normal "Junuary" weather, as the locals put it.  June is too early anyways as the best trails tend to not open until mid July.  Next time, we'll try to go immediately after Labor Day.  The area feel a lot like Glacier NP but more snow and shorter season.

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Walla Walla is indeed an adorable little town, kinda perfect for a long weekend.

The several blocks of the historic downtown area are filled with restaurants and cafes, boutiques, antique stores, art galleries and of course tasting rooms.  There are about 35-40 tasting rooms in the immediate downtown area. 

Surrounding Walla Walla are a ton of wineries most within a 10-15 minute drive of downtown, many are just next door to each other, one road we were on had 8 in a row. 

Most charge a $10 or $15 tasting fee, which is usually waived if you buy.  We found a few places that had bottles starting at $20, but a lot of wines are in the $30-$50 per bottle range.  They grow a lot of different grapes in the area, but there is a real focus on Syrah and Syrah blends with Cab and/or Merlot.  A lot of the wineries were offering their 2014 vintage, which apparently had a hot summer and alcohol levels of the reds were in the 14% range.      

It was definitely off-season last week.  Many tasting rooms had reduced hours or were closed mid-week or by appointment only, but generally you are looking at places opening at 10am/11am and closing 4pm/5pm, and maybe a little later on weekends. 

Obviously tastes differ, but we enjoyed:

Downtown

Mark Ryan Winery:  We bought several bottles of his excellent Viognier.

Maison Bleue Winery:  We had some very nice Syrah and Syrah blends, another top pick.

Seven Hills Winery:  Really cool tasting room in an old warehouse with lots of reclaimed wood and they have moved their production facility on-site.

Charles Smith/K Vintners:  Our last stop of the day and I think our palettes were shot.  Nothing really struck us and his stuff was pricey.  Only place we didn’t buy anything.   

Foundry Vineyards:  I wasn’t overly impressed with their wine, but the owner also runs one of the leading contemporary sculpture foundries in the country, so the tasting room also has an attached art gallery and sculpture garden.  They often have art openings featuring world class artists.   

South of Walla Walla

South of town you will find wineries that grow their own grapes, more of your classic winery surrounded by rows and rows of grape vines.  To the south you also get amazing views of the countryside and Blue Mountains to the east.  Very scenic.

Basel Cellars – The most touristy feeling of the wineries we visited, but amazing views.

Amavi Cellars – We really enjoyed Amavi, cool contemporary building with a deck overlooking the surrounding fields and the Blue Mountains.  I would definitely recommend. 

Va Piano Vineyards – We also enjoyed these guys, also a lovely setting for drinking wine.

Saviah Cellars – Things were getting a little fuzzy by this point, and it was dark out, but certainly a place I would visit again.  

We really enjoyed Walla Walla, just wish it was closer!

Finally a good tip:  If you are an Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Member, they will check a case of wine for no cost.  Flying out of the following airports: Boise (BOI), Eugene/Springfield (EUG), Lewiston (LWS), Medford (MFR), Portland (PDX), Redmond/Bend (RDM), Pasco (PSC), San Luis Obispo (SBP), Santa Rosa (STS), Walla Walla (ALW) or Yakima (YKM).  Although we did talk them into waiving the fee flying out of Sea-Tac (direct to BWI, really can’t beat it!)    

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Walla Walla

We were staying in the tiny, rural village of Waitsburg (population 1,200), which is about 20 minutes north east of Walla Walla.  There is no reason to visit Waitsburg unless you have extended family living there.  Because of this we actually didn't eat out in Walla Walla that much.  

The Maple Counter Cafe:  A breakfast all day and lunch place.  Although all day lasts until 2pm weekdays and 3pm on weekends.  My impression of The Maple Counter is the restaurant that could have inspired the Cracker Barrel chain, but is family run, homey-small town, and good.  Quiet good in fact.  Big platters of pancakes, an excellent BLT with great thick cut bacon, a huge wedge of quiche.  This is the kind of place you go to with a raging hangover, eat, and then good home and take a nap.

Olive Market Place & Cafe:  Cafe, artisanal market, wine and coffee shop.  Cheeses, salumi, cakes and pies.    We had a very good thin crust pizza topped with smoked salmon. If you are roaming downtown wine tasting this is a good option for an easy food fix.

Walla Walla Indian Cuisine:  The best -- and only -- Indian restaurant in the area, which recently opened in October.  Sadly, I can only give it a mediocre recommendation.  The Chili Paneer was the best dish we had.  The breads were solid.  The Dal Makhani was ok, but did not have that smoky creamy taste of a good makhani.  The samosa chaat and pakora were both a mess.  The cilantro and tamarind chutneys both lacked any kind of pop.  The owner was very friendly and engaging and we had a nice long chat about visiting India.  Hopefully the cooking can improve.

Petits Noirs: An artisanal chocolatier located in nearby Milton Freewater, Oregon.  Excellent dark chocolate with cardamom.  

Book & Game Co.:  If you need a break from the wine, stop in the Book & Game Co., a very good independent bookstore.        

           

 

 

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On 11/20/2017 at 4:11 PM, Tweaked said:

Yakima

Finally, a driving tip.  If you find yourself in the town of Yakima, or near the intersection of I-82 and I-90, I recommend Route 821, which winds along the Yakima River Canyon.  It's about a 25 mile drive, with plenty of pull overs and several recreational parking spots.  Lovely!

 

IMG_1944 DR.jpg

 

That's home!

If you're a runner, you can have a good long time to watch the big horn sheep traverse the hillside while running a point to point uphill marathon from Ellensburg to Selah: https://www.databarevents.com/yakimarivercanyon?RL=1

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Back in the Walla Walla area with its rolling wheat fields, perfect weather, lovely scenery, and Washington State wine.

Walla Walla

We didn't have a ton of time in Walla Walla proper, but we did hit one of our favorite wineries, Amavi Cellars, for a glass and excellent view of the Blue Mountains.

Brasserie Four: An airy French inspired brasserie in the heart of downtown Walla Walla.  We sat at the bar and enjoyed geoduck Provencal, slices of geoduck (tastes like a cross of calamari and clams) in a broth of white wine, capers, and tomato; a nice large cone of pommes frites, and a solid Margherita pizza, which was a little to soupy in the middle.  Wine list was a mix of local and European wines, all priced under $10 a glass.  In the back are some selves with bottles of wine for sale.  

Bright's Candies: Across the street from Brasserie Four and a great place for sweets, including about 20 flavors of ice cream.

Even though it was summer, most of the wineries and tasting rooms close by 5pm during the week.  Friday night was livelier, with many tasting rooms downtown open until 8pm or so.  Plan accordingly.

Waitsburg - A small town of 1,200 people located 20 miles North East of Walla Walla.

Ten Ton Coffee: A hipster-y coffee shop along the main 3 block drag of downtown Waitsburg. Solid coffee and cookies with beans from local roaster Rey's Roast.  

Whiskey Canyon Sports Bar & Grill:  A fairly bare bones sports bar along Rt. 12 on the outskirts of town.  Well made BLT and very good onion rings with a couple of local beers on tap.  They had the Women's World Cup on during the day so points for that.  

Mr. C's Smoked Meat & Cheese:  The name pretty much says it all, down a driveway in a metal building that could pass as an auto shop garage.  A refrigerator case contained hand packaged smoked meat and cheese.  The gentleman was also selling Walla Walla sweet onions and Rainier cherries.

Waitsburg Grocery:  Basically the same as a DC corner bodega, lots of name-brand canned and packaged foods, very little fresh food.  I was able to buy some decent pre-made packaged garlic bread from a Seattle bakery.

Dayton - Further east along Rt. 12 is the town of Dayton (pop. 2,500), which has a several block long commercial strip anchored by the historic Weinhard Hotel

Blue Mountain Station: Located on the outskirts of town, Blue Mountain Station is a food incubator, co-op, and commercial kitchen.  The main building has several store fronts, including Mama Monacelli's (chocolates), XO Alambic distillery, and Rey's Roast (coffee roaster).  I picked up some chocolates (decent) and locally milled hard red wheat bread flour.  The venture is supported by the Port of Columbia.   

Dixie - A blink and you'll miss it hamlet (pop. 197) halfway between Walla Walla and Waitsburg, you know you are approaching Dixie when the speed limit gets reduced to 40 mph. About .5 miles along Biscuit Ridge Road aka Upper Dry Creek Road (turn at the elementary school) is a small but pretty good U-Pic strawberry farm.  It seemed like it was near the end of strawberry season, so the price was reduced to $2 per pound.  We managed to pick 6 pounds of strawberries.  You're following the roadside strawberry signs for this one.

 

 

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Finistere in Port Townsend is likely to be your best restaurant option on the Olympic Peninsula.  It's not better than very very good modern American restaurants elsewhere, but it does everything well, it's not expensive, and it's a very pleasant place to sit down for a meal.

Return trip to Willows Inn was technically fine but a definite let down.  Fewer courses, courses of just random minimally-prepped veggies displacing the magical proteins that used to come out of their smoke house (still magical but far fewer in number), and a substantial uptick in prices.

The current trend of serving barely adorned fruit and veg at high end restaurants is getting really tedious.  Look, if I want a good local peach or eat some roasted winter squash, I can shop at the local farmers market and prep it to my liking.  If I am paying $300 a head (after mandatory gratuity and tax) for a tasting menu or $25 for a small appetizer, I want magic that I can't make on my own, not long winded explanations about this super special artisanal landrace roasted squash that somehow tastes just like an inferior delicata squash that could be bought for a buck anywhere in the fall.  Of course, we suspected we would be disappointed but was hoping to recapture the magic.  

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In Bellingham, we had very nice meals at Hokkai ramen and sushi.  Their ramen is comparable to the top tier DC options.  Really delicious takoyaki and pretty good sashimi and karaage.  Bantam 46 had very very good crusty crispy fried chicken, great service, and very nice bar program.

We stopped by Taylor Shellfish for bivalves and I learned to shuck oysters.  The drive there is lovely and the guys at the store are great.  The view is very PNW in a very good way.  Oysters were very fresh and tasty, but no discount buying from the source.  We went on an overcast Tuesday and it's relatively quiet.  They told us that it's gets pretty mobbed on weekends, mostly from weekenders from Seattle.

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On 9/23/2019 at 11:57 AM, astrid said:

Return trip to Willows Inn was technically fine but a definite let down.  Fewer courses, courses of just random minimally-prepped veggies displacing the magical proteins that used to come out of their smoke house (still magical but far fewer in number), and a substantial uptick in prices.

The current trend of serving barely adorned fruit and veg at high end restaurants is getting really tedious.  Look, if I want a good local peach or eat some roasted winter squash, I can shop at the local farmers market and prep it to my liking.  If I am paying $300 a head (after mandatory gratuity and tax) for a tasting menu or $25 for a small appetizer, I want magic that I can't make on my own, not long winded explanations about this super special artisanal landrace roasted squash that somehow tastes just like an inferior delicata squash that could be bought for a buck anywhere in the fall.  Of course, we suspected we would be disappointed but was hoping to recapture the magic.  

Perhaps this NYT article from earlier in the week goes a long way to explaining the overall letdown and feeling you weren't exactly getting a fresh, hyperlocal meal (behind paywall if you have used your allotted monthly links):

The Island Is Idyllic. As a Workplace, It’s Toxic.Globe-trotting diners flock to the Willows Inn’s serene Northwest setting. But former employees say faked ingredients, sexual harassment and an abusive kitchen are the real story.

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