If there’s a better way of spending a warm June afternoon then sitting in the sun in a garden, drinking rosé and waiting for someone else to finish cooking paella, I don’t know what it is. Continue reading
My review of Tweets came out in the Cascadia Weekly week before last. I had hoped to link to the article, but they never put it online. Fortunately you can read the original PDF here, and I thought I’d put up a few extra photos from my “research” trips.
To sum up: it took us a while to try Tweets, since it’s so close to our other favorite hangouts Slough Food and The Edison, but it’s now become our go-to breakfast outing. You order at the counter, pay in cash, then wander around with your coffee cup hoping a table will open up. There’s no guarantee you’ll find a spot, especially when the weather’s bad and there’s no outdoor seating, but people seem to be pretty good natured about shifting around to make room. Continue reading
Oof. It’s been hot, and the dog has needed lots and lots of walks, so we’ve been going on lots of forest hikes and we’re pooped. We have been cooking some, but there’s been quite a lot of takeout in our life recently. Also some (cough) fast food. I’m not going to apologize for my secret fondness for Egg McMuffins, but neither am I going to write a blog post about it. Not right now, anyway.
I will, however, tell you that we finally – after 15 years in this area – got around to trying the Fidalgo Drive-In in Anacortes. This is one of those places that looks like it’s been around for decades, essentially unchanged. And they really are a drive-in! We didn’t have to get out of our car at all, which was pretty swell.
For our first visit we tried some basics: a deluxe cheeseburger, a mushroom swiss burger, tater tots, and a milkshake. The burgers were very decent: the meat was a tad overcooked and dry (as you might expect), but there were plenty of toppings and it all held together just long enough to eat it. The mushroom burger had lots of mushrooms that tasted fresh, but the overall experience was a bit bland, unfortunately. Still, given how cheap it all was, it was pretty darned satisfying.
The burgers, however, were overshadowed by the very fine tater tots, which were served searingly hot and came with plenty of ketchup. The milkshake (we ordered mocha) was also very good, almost too thick to drink through a straw (it came with a spoon as well). It was tasty enough that I suspect we’ll be back before too long. There’s always a place in our hearts for good drive-in food.
The only hardship was suffered by the dog, who had to sit patiently in the backseat while we ate our burgers and didn’t share. Poor thing.
I had meant to post these pictures two weeks ago, but life sort of got in the way. Better late than never…
This was a farm-to-table brunch potluck out at Gothberg Farms on the Skagit flats. The weather was less than perfect (cold and windy with occasional gusts of rain), but we got by with great coffee, amazing food, good conversation, wine and beer and lots and lots of oysters.
Rhonda put together a cheese board with all of her fabulous handmade goat cheeses. I’m particularly fond of her “Woman of La Mancha” spiced aged cheese, but they really are all wonderful.
There was roasted asparagus wrapped with buttery phyllo…
…and lamb sliders.
Also several beautiful salads and what I believe were sweet potato cupcakes.
And I made a rhubarb custard pie with fresh-pulled rhubarb from my garden. The custard didn’t set up quite perfectly (it never does when I’m trying to impress people), but it was tasty.
And kumamoto oysters. The best.
Pretty much my favorite thing about coming here is watching the wok station in action. It’s a clever setup, with a hose that’s used to rinse out the woks after each stirfry, and drainage down the back, so the woks never need to be moved from their burners. Food frequently gets airborne, plus there are shooting flames all around. I love it.
What we ordered on our most recent visit:
Fried tofu. I love this stuff, I order it everywhere. I appreciated that this version wasn’t cooked to the point of having very sharp edges – you can hurt yourself on fried tofu, believe me.
Larb gai made with ground chicken. This was very tasty and an incredible vehicle for chile heat. I needed to alternate bites of it with the fried tofu.
Our favorite noodle dish, Phad ba mee. I love how smoky and savory this is. Our usual takeout order is one of these and one super-spicy eggplant with beef. And plenty of rice.
And, as always, it’s fun to watch your food getting cooked.
I recently wrote a review for Grow Northwest about a new place in Anacortes called A’Town Bistro (you can read my article here). With the help of various friends and relatives, I’ve been able to try about ten different dishes here, and there has not been a loser among the bunch. They’re trying to focus on local, seasonal produce as much as possible, which should pick up now that the farmer’s markets are opening. I’m really excited about this place and I can’t wait to see what they do as the season progresses!
First, let me tell you about their Sunday brunch. Good mimosas, great beer selection, and a lovely assortment of egg dishes and more lunchy things.
Such as the wild boar burger. This is already A’Town’s biggest hit, from what I’ve seen, and rightfully so. It’s thick and juicy, good condiments, good bread. And, apparently, made from wild boar knife-hunted in Texas. In case you were wondering how your wild boar was brought down.
They offer several types of eggs benedict – this one had ham shank. There was a nice pile of properly cooked vegetables on the side and the English muffins were exceptional.
Jon had to try their biscuits and gravy, and after eating for a while he declared it to be the best biscuits and gravy ever. This is really saying something. It was partly that the biscuit was fresh, tasted homemade and was full of cheese and herbs. The gravy also was excellent, with plenty of sausage. But the presentation took the cake, with one large biscuit with a hole punched out of it and filled with gravy, then a sausage sandwich made out of the removed circle of biscuit. This is a lot of food, and so good you might be inclined to do yourself a mischief. Be warned.
They also have pho on the brunch menu, which I thought was such a good idea I needed to try it. The broth was aromatic with star anise and the paper-thin slices of beef poaching in the bowl with the noodles, and there were all the right toppings: sprouts, cilantro, basil, jalapeños. A bottle of Sriracha and some hoisin sauce did very well for condiments. I love noodles for brunch, and this was perfect.
We’ve also visited for dinner. The wine list is nicely thought out with a mix of northwest, California and European bottles and, I thought, very reasonably priced. This muscadet was on special and we really liked it.
They have a lot of classic bistro dishes on the menu. I tried the moules frites, which were well cooked and brightly flavored with Spanish chorizo. The fries are small-cut, crispy and seasoned with truffled parmesan, which makes them smell fantastic. French onion soup was also a winner – I find that many places try to make up for a dull broth with too much salt, but this had lots of flavor and wasn’t too salty. We also tried the beet salad, which was a nice variation on the usual: golden beets, greens, and quenelles of soft pungent cheese, very prettily arranged (we had them hold the hazelnuts).
Halibut and chips were good, too. My father compared them favorably to the best fish and chips place we’ve been to. The tartar sauce was good, plus you get curry ketchup for your fries.
Jon got the steak. This was where we really became impressed, because it was perfect. Medium rare, absolutely delicious, tender and juicy. A nice amount of sauce, and a pile of Brussels sprouts and just a few smashed purple potatoes to go alongside. A really well-conceived entree – not many places do steak this well.
There were only three desserts on the menu: a cheese plate, crème brûlée, and gâteau au chocolat. We haven’t tried the cheese plate yet but we covered the rest. The crème brûlée was simple and perfect, nice and cold inside, with the sugar hot and crispy on top.
The gâteau was rather like the best fudge in the world, with whipped cream and a salted caramel sauce. Oh, and the coffee was good, too.
I look forward to many, many more meals here.
Back in October I went out to interview the Jensen family at Golden Glen Creamery for the Nov/Dec issue of Grow Northwest magazine. You can read the original article here, but I thought it would be fun to post some of the other photos I took.
The Jensens don’t actually own the creamery any more, but the family is still very much involved in running the place. All the folks I talked to were exceedingly proud of their milk, the quality of their cheese, and their rather snazzy cheese room. When Vic opened the door and let me peek in, a vast waft of garlic hit me in the face from the fresh wheels of dill-garlic cheese resting on the racks. If you’ve ever had that stuff as fresh cheese curds, you may agree with me that it’s one of the more addictive dairy products out there. I also got a glimpse of the aging room, which happened to be a trailer parked behind the farm store.
I did not get to meet any cows. I was informed that they were off being milked (something they spend quite a bit of their day at). No cheese samples, either. But I got to have a large dog lean against my legs while I took notes, and the view from the farm was nice.
I used my trip out to the dairy as an excuse to drive around on the Skagit flats at dawn and take pictures of the autumn fields in the morning mist.
(There are, by the way, calendars of my photographs for sale over at Qoop. Just thought I’d mention it.)
I seem incapable of writing a coherent post these days, but that hasn’t stopped us eating some amazing food. We went to dinner at the Chuckanut Manor with friends (inspired by a ferocious craving for clams) and were pleased and surprised at how good it was – normally we only eat at the Manor when we have a gift certificate from the auto glass shop. We ignored the Friday Seafood Buffet (previously known as the Smorgasbord and now known to us as Chum Night (thanks, Rich)) and ordered off the small plates menu.
Steak frites were perfectly done. Shellfish were ethereally good, the mussels in a lobster-saffron broth and the clams in a sweet onion and cider sauce. Halibut and chips looked perfectly fine (I didn’t taste them), and the cocktails were large and quite well mixed. Some of us threw caution to the winds and had chocolate martinis for dessert, while Jon took the sensible route and had a cheesecake made with Gothberg goat cheese and a large pile of fresh berries.
The view from our table did not suck.
Neither did the view from the parking lot, at sunset.
The tulips are officially open up here in Skagit, and the annual Tulip Festival street fair came and went without any major disasters. The weather was a mite iffy, but there were enough sunbreaks to keep things lively and the traffic thick – and most importantly, it didn’t snow. We had to venture out onto the flats so I could tear down my photography and weaving displays at Pleasant Ridge Gallery, but otherwise we stuck to walking in town. We tasted curry sauce, admired handmade hats, and bought new hose guides from our favorite metalwork artist at Red Grass. It was too cold for ice cream, so we stuck to our primary mission of corn dogs.
As I’ve written before, every year our local wine shop features a flight of Pinot Gris, available to anyone who walks in with a corn dog during the street fair. I personally can’t resist this, and the pairings are generally amazingly successful. Haven’t tried drinking wine with a corn dog? You should.
Our corn dogs this year turned out to be oddly sugary, which was problematic with the drier wines, but we had excellent luck with a slightly oaky Oregon pinot gris – the oak and the sugar sort of cancelled each other out. Next year I feel like we should do a full testing of all the corn dogs on offer, though, so we can pin down the best ones ahead of time. Sugar in a corn dog is really weird.
Unfortunately for Maggie the Wine Shop Dog, we did not drop anything.
I live in Mount Vernon. It’s a small town in a rural county in northwestern Washington State, built at the site of an old log jam on the Skagit River back in the 1800s. People in Seattle have heard of it, either because they’ve come up here for the annual Tulip Festival or because they’ve driven by on I-5, but most of them never stop in town. Which means that it’s still rather a well-kept secret that our small downtown is one of the best places to drink beer of, well, pretty much anywhere.
We have two breweries, Skagit River and North Sound. Then there are the pubs: the Empire Alehouse, the Trumpeter Public House, and the Porterhouse. All have multiple rotating taps, as many as twenty-one at a time, almost entirely West Coast microbrews. From our house we can walk to four of these pubs and drink some of the best beers available. It’s pretty sweet.
Last year, wanting to raise awareness of the local beer possibilities, encourage responsible drinking and promote downtown businesses, our friends Lyra and Ryan Morrison attempted something they dubbed the 30 Day Beer Challenge. The idea was to drink a different beer every day in March, staying within the downtown area of Mount Vernon. Given the options, it was extremely easy. So this year they’re doing it again, with a twist – they can’t repeat any of the beers tasted last year. And they’re bringing in some help, including us.
Every day this month, at a predetermined pub, representatives of the Beer Challenge will show up and drink their chosen beer. A brief review will be submitted to the team leader for online publication and discussions will be held on the beer’s merits (or just beer in general), with public participation encouraged. You can follow along on Facebook, Twitter or by text. Or you can just come out and have a beer with us. Jon and I will be at the Empire tomorrow night, March 3rd, and at Skagit Brewery on the 24th (not to mention our band playing at the Empire on St. Patrick’s Day – and there’s a special local beer release that night, too). What beers will we be tasting? You’ll have to wait and see.