road trip to Cali

on the beach

We’ve just begun to recover from our week-long road trip to Santa Cruz to visit my brother-in-law. We spent two days driving south, a few days there, then three days coming back. We hit an astounding number of brewpubs along the way. Here’s a (rather long) photo essay of some of the week’s eats and drinks.

HopworksHopworks Brewery

We left Mount Vernon bright and early, with our first stop at Hopworks in Portland. It was pouring down rain (my feet got soaked just going the short distance from the car to the door), but the brewpub was bright and cozy and the Women’s World Cup was just starting. We could happily have stayed there all day, but we dragged ourselves away at halftime.

Ancho chicken sandwich

steak sandwich

blue cheese salad

The sandwiches were excellent, especially the chicken ancho, and the salad had chunks of Rogue Creamery blue cheese almost too big to eat. Plus their beer is amazing – I had a pint of Evelyn’s Sunshine Imperial IPA, which was badly needed after our drive through the storm.

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a bite at Ravish

drinks at Ravish

Earlier this week we went to an AMAZING performance by guitarist Charlie Hunter at Jazz Alley in Seattle (Seriously. Amazing. Really!). Afterwards we had plans to have dinner with friends at the Palace Kitchen, but figured we’d better get a bite to eat ahead of time so as not to be completely knocked for a loop by Jazz Alley’s rather strong cocktails. We decided to try Ravish, a little place on Eastlake that a friend of ours had been highly recommending for some time.

(This was also my chance to really try out the camera on my fancy new phone instead of hauling along my old point-and-shoot that I usually use in restaurants – it was very exciting)

beer shadow

The place was cute, but not too cute, if you know what I mean. It looked like a cafe attached to a rather chic garden store, with bright green furniture and antique seltzer bottles and typewriters for decoration. It was quiet when we went in, except for a contingent of focused-looking young men gathered at the bar, but rapidly filled up with blond professional women meeting for wine after work.

Three Strikes

We decided to take advantage of their happy hour deals, which seemed very generous. I had a pint of Stone IPA (they ran out of Racer 5 just minutes before we got there) and Jon tried a house cocktail called Three Strikes, with rye, lemon juice, cherry heering and sage syrup. Many of the cocktails seemed a little extra fruity or spritzy to me, as if they were trying to lure in Cosmopolitan drinkers who might be ready to move on to more complex flavors.


An order of beef satay was not disappointing. The meat was very tender, as though it had been marinated in citrus juice for several hours, and had plenty of flavor all by itself. A coconut-orange dipping sauce was a surprisingly good match. We got three fat skewers with the order, which seemed like a very good deal.

beet salad

We had thought of stopping there, but then ordered a beet salad after seeing one go by. It was nicely built, with a good assortment of bitter greens, sweet roasted beets, crunchy candied walnuts, and Rogue Creamery blue cheese, and was plenty for two people to share.

I was impressed – this is a really nice place to come after work or before a show. Maybe one of these days we’ll have a chance to explore the menu a little more thoroughly.

weird weekend


Our fourth of July weekend was more than a little odd, which is why I haven’t quite pulled myself together enough to post on what we ate.

It all started with a birthday party…

the festive board

birthday canoe

the last checkerboard cake?

My grandfather was turning 98, so of course we had a party. Strawberries have just come in like gangbusters in our area, so we brought a flat, and my mother made yogurt cake and a checkerboard layer cake. It was all very festive and tasty. There were many relatives.

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back to South


I uploaded these photos last week and somehow they’ve just been languishing over on Flickr, which is a shame. South remains our favorite restaurant in the Bavarian hamlet of Leavenworth, serving Oaxacan-style food and fabulous cocktails, and I just can’t say enough about how much I like their work. I might only mention them now and then, but believe me, we go back every chance we get. These pictures are from our most recent visit.

sweet potato fries

Sweet potato fries are a relatively recent addition (I love their roasted green beans so much it was a wrench not to order them). They’re white sweet potatoes, very dry, with an oven-fried texture. They come with garlic mayonnaise but are also good with salsa. I am a total sucker for the cute wooden bowls they’re served in.


Speaking of salsa, it’s a get-it-yourself affair. While we sat on the patio I watched a handful of customers (all men) attempt to carry up to five bowls of salsa back to their table without a plate, which was exciting (no accidents, alas). The habanero salsa is also pretty exciting, even for those of us with a high spice tolerance.

patio at SouthStinger

The patio gets a little better every time we visit. Now they have a canopy over the upper part, and large market umbrellas for the lower section, so palefaces like me don’t fry in the sun. Grapevines cover the walls, and the whole space gives a sense of privacy and of, well, not being in Leavenworth. It’s a great place to sit on a hot summer day and drink a Daisy, a Caipirinha, or (our favorite) a Stinger – muddled jalapeno and cilantro with tequila and lemon. A bit spicy, but astonishingly good.

tacos al pastor

burrito and chips

As always, both the tacos and burritos are fantastic. Our favorite filling is probably the pork al pastor, but all of them have been good. The rice in the burritos is seasoned with lots of cilantro, so even the rice-heavy bites aren’t bland. And there’s NO CHEESE.

Seriously, I don’t want to drone on about this place, but I felt I should revisit it for a moment. Don’t eat bratwurst in Leavenworth, go here instead.

wall at South

sunset at the manor

Samish sunset

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


goat cheesecake

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.

view from our table

nice dinner view

The view from our table did not suck.

Samish sunset

Neither did the view from the parking lot, at sunset.

weekend edition

vinho verde

Last weekend was a true taste of summer: sunny, seventies, and mosquitoes. We finally got our patio free of the encrustation of junk (ladders, plant pots, rocks, dishes, ancient bags of fertilizer) and sat outside for dinner for the first time this year. We went to the local farmer’s market and bought asparagus and sweet baby turnips. We made nuoc cham and ate it on Vietnamese spring rolls and Korean pancakes. I pulled rhubarb in the garden and made buttermilk muffins. We drank white wine with a hint of fizz. And we had brunch at Revel. It was a good weekend.

rhubarb muffins

salmon cakes

High Plains Drifterbaby turnip

grilled shrimp in nuoc cham

spring roll fixings

spring roll

kalbi burger

pork belly galette

the deck at RevelRevel

oysters on the slough

dollar an oysteroyster shucking

On Sunday afternoon we drove up to Edison to eat oysters and drink wine, fabulously presented by Slough Food and Les Huitres Volantes (The Flying Oysters). The oysters, from Taylor Shellfish, were cheap and blazingly fresh, the Chablis was chilled and dry, and it wasn’t even raining. We ate ourselves silly. The place was packed and they ran out of oysters. It was fantastic.

fresh horseradish

Have I mentioned that we love Edison?

order up

resting between oysters

tulips and corn dogs


spring rainstorm

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.

corn dogs and wine

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.

fine dining

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.

ma po pie

ma po tofu

After a long hiatus, we just made it back to our current favorite Chinese restaurant, Peaceful in Vancouver B.C. After a mighty emotional struggle, we decided not to get noodles this time. Instead we got Jon’s favorite beef rolls (rich fried bread rolled around thin slices of beef, raw scallion and hoisin sauce, OMG theyaresogood), an order of Sichuan greens and ma po tofu. I burned my mouth and ate way too much and have no regrets whatsoever. The ma po was really good – remarkably like the version we make at home, but with pork instead of beef, loads of Sichuan pepper, and very fresh wobbly tofu – but it inexplicably arrived in a Pyrex pie pan, which made me feel like a complete hog. Not that that’s a bad thing.

food as big as your head

Sultan Bakery

We drive over Stevens Pass with some frequency, a trip that usually takes us 2 ½ or 3 hours and often requires a stop for sustenance along the way. Often that means the School Bus for barbecue, cornbread and hot pinto beans, or on the way home we may push on for Fred’s Rivertown Alehouse in Snohomish, but other times it means the Sultan Bakery. It’s not fancy, the service is slow, there’s not much to drink except coffee and water, and they have a definite tendency to run out of the very thing I was craving, but they make the best old-fashioned sour cream doughnuts I’ve had anywhere, and their sandwiches are as big as your head. Maybe bigger.

Sultan Bakery

Sultan Bakery

Sultan Bakery

The menu here is flexible, with separate items written on a variety of white boards and set out or taken down as necessary. You can pretty much always count on there being tuna or plain deli meat sandwiches, with tomato soup or chili or maybe split pea to go on the side. They usually have French Dip or open-face turkey sandwiches, although not always, and depending on time of day there may be both breakfast sandwiches and a prime rib plate with mashed potatoes. We have tried some of their hot food, but every time we stop here I secretly hope they’ll have either the egg salad or the BLT.

Sultan Bakery

Here’s what we got last weekend. I normally prefer my BLTs on thin toasted sourdough bread, but the Sultan Bakery’s country white bread is an exception. It’s like ultra-Wonder bread, cut so thick you think you’ll never fit it in your mouth, but squishing down to almost nothing. It’s exceptional for egg salad, as it molds around the filling without coming apart, but it’s also excellent with tuna or bacon. And as you can see, a single sandwich can easily feed two people. I saw a turkey sandwich across the room that looked nearly twice as big as this one – I believe a to-go carton was required for that.

The tomato-basil soup is deceptively heavy, being so laden with cheese you can almost stand a spoon up in it, and as I recall the chili is equally solid. The sandwiches here used to come with a really good goopy macaroni salad, but unfortunately that’s been discontinued. However, getting sufficient calories is not going to be a problem. And if you are still hungry after lunch, there are always doughnuts. Or cookies, or brownies, or turnovers, or bearclaws, or…

Sultan Bakery