spring break

cold but cheerful

Last week for spring break we flew out to Kansas City for a family visit, so I had hoped to come home with a pile of food photos to share. Unfortunately a number of things came up that limited our excursions.

fending off starvation

The low point culinarily was probably when I was standing in a hospital cafeteria that hadn’t opened yet for the evening, staring at the vending machine options and weighing the pros and cons of an expensive packet of peanut butter crackers or, frighteningly, a cheeseburger. Yes, a vending machine cheeseburger. No, I was too chicken to try it. I ate the crackers. 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.

today's menu

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

the dinners of February

winter dusk

February has been surprisingly busy. I have a few articles coming out in the March issue of Grow Northwest, and I’m working on two restaurant reviews. I just took down one photography show and am about to put up another. Plus my band is deep into rehearsals for Saint Patrick’s Day (come see us!) But we’ve still been shopping and cooking and eating. And, sometimes, going out because we just don’t want to cook any more.


One night we decided to try two new recipes at once from our favorite Indian cookbook, the small but mighty Madhur Jaffrey’s Spice Kitchen (seriously, there is nothing bad in this book). The spiced broccoli was very nice, but the star was the chickpeas with tomatoes, ginger and green chiles. Along with a chicken coconut vindaloo and buttermilk chapati, this was a killer dinner.

Valentine's Day tagine Continue reading

dinner at The Walrus

Walrus and the Carpenter

Our last dinner at The Walrus and the Carpenter was two months ago, but the delight of it is still fresh. One of the most fun evenings out we’ve ever had in Seattle, in fact. The food was perfect, including the absolute best steak tartare I’ve ever eaten in my life, delicate gnocchi in duck brodo, a salad made of paper-thin ribbons of celeriac in a creamy dressing, and a mug of warm frothy cajeta for dessert, but that was only part of the appeal.

Walrus and the Carpenter

Walrus and the Carpenter

What made it so great was the company. Shortly after we sat down at the bar, the gentleman on Jon’s left congratulated us on getting a seat, and forced us to eat all the salty, crispy fried Brussels sprouts left in his bowl. They were incredible. The two men on my right complimented me on my choice of cocktail (the unfortunately named but delicious Sexy Old-Fashioned, spiked with Allspice Dram), and I helped them argue with the (extremely competent) bartender over what to have to drink with their dessert. The couple who came in after them were bar hopping around Ballard to celebrate a birthday, and after convincing me to eat some of their duck lardo (twist my arm…), ordered a Moscow Mule in a copper mug and we all had to try that. The Seattle Freeze was nowhere to be seen – everyone was pleased to be there, eating wonderful food and drinking fabulous cocktails, and we were all friends who had never met before.

Walrus and the CarpenterWalrus and the Carpenter

weekend eats

pass crossing

We visited my folks in eastern WA this weekend, rehearsing for our band’s annual Saint Patrick’s Day concerts.  Of course we made time for plenty of good food. One night I helped my father make a spinach lasagna – he informed me that he had read over a dozen recipes and intended to follow none of them, so we made it up as we went along, and ended up with a very delicious concoction of chicken, button mushrooms, dried morels and their soaking liquid, spinach, ricotta, and a little bechamel sauce. A salad of bosc pears, lettuce, and walnuts from my parents’ tree rounded it out nicely.

The next day my mother and I went to a yoga class, and afterward we all had lunch at South, which is always exciting and wonderful. I talked myself out of getting yet another fajita sandwich, and instead tried their Revolución shrimp burrito. It was spectacular – the shrimp were intensely spicy and perfectly cooked, studding the delicious matrix of cilantro rice and beans. As always, the citrusy cabbage salad on the side was the perfect accompaniment. Despite having had the owner send me the ingredient list for this salad, I’ve never been able to quite replicate it. Must keep trying.

Our trip home was less successful food-wise, as we decided to finally try having lunch at the Alpen Drive-In outside of Startup. Since Gracie-the-dog can’t as yet be trusted in the car by herself, we’ve been doing a lot of drive-in or take-out food on our trips over the pass, usually Zeke’s or the School Bus or Sultan Bakery, but we hadn’t tried the Alpen yet. I regret to say we will never go again. The food was slow to arrive and rather expensive, which wouldn’t be a deal-killer if it hadn’t also been nasty. The milkshake was fine, but it was the only thing that was. Jon’s hamburger was meh, with cold unmelted cheese. Fries were certainly hot and fresh, but oddly mealy, and came with no condiments at all. My chicken sandwich was not only tasteless but actually too tough to eat – I felt my jaw pop while trying to take a bite. I ended up throwing out the chicken and stuffing the bun with french fries, which was at least edible if not particularly nourishing.

fried rice and beer

As a result, I was starving by the time we got home and unpacked the car. Fortunately, we still had some Chinese sausages and one last jar of homemade kimchi (which has been slowly leaking and making the basement fridge smell very interesting), so I whipped up a big batch of fried rice. We ate it by the fire in the living room, cats draped all over us, while watching a dorky British comedy and drinking Tecate. That made up for a lot.

birthday weekend

On the weekend of my 40th birthday we took the ferry out to Orcas Island.

We took the pup with us. She had a great time. So did we.

The place we were staying had a fabulous kitchen, a huge hot tub and really comfortable furniture, so we did some cooking (and mixing of cocktails) and stayed in a lot instead of going out doing touristy things, which made a nice change. Continue reading

wine weekend


We spent our Labor Day weekend as usual, driving through the Yakima Valley ostensibly to play music at the Tumbleweed Festival in the Tri-Cities, but also (mostly?) to visit wine country. The weather was gorgeous and we hit all our usual favorite wineries, plus a few new ones. Continue reading

drive-in or take-out


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.

Fidalgo Drive-In

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.

drive-in burger

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.

tater tots & shake

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.

where's my cheeseburger?

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.

road trip chapter 4: the road home

the road north

We did the drive home in two days.

Steady Eddy's

The first morning, driving through the Central Valley, was bright and hot. We took a break in Winters, a really charming town we happened upon by chance last year. Iced lattes on the deck at Steady Eddy’s fortified us for the next leg.

Countryside Cafecorned beef sandwich

Lunchtime hit as we were passing through Red Bluff. A study of Yelp and Chowhound reviews led us to the Countryside Cafe, which was a slightly strange place but was cool, dark, and had cold beer, really good corned beef sandwiches and macaroni salad. What more do you want during a hot drive?


We continued north past Mount Shasta, and felt compelled to stop in Weed for another break.

Abner Weed

Just like last year, the Weed Alehouse was hot and muggy, but a really interesting place to sit and nurse a good IPA. The heat was enhanced by the fresh tarmac in the parking lot, unfortunately, so you really had to just resign yourself to roasting. Good thing we like their beer.


We stopped for the night in Medford, Oregon. Medford’s a bit of a food wasteland, and we had thought we’d need to drive back to Ashland for dinner, but then we discovered Elements, a tapas restaurant in downtown Medford. Their website said they were closed on Mondays but apparently they just decided not to tell anyone they were open.

basil gimlet

We got some remarkably pleasant cocktails here, including a basil-cucumber gimlet that I liked a lot.


The ceviche was a small portion, cutely served in a scallop shell, and nicely flavored. I liked the black salt on top.


We got the calamari purely by accident – we had been discussing what to order next and the waitress misheard us. It was a lucky mistake, though, because it was really good – lots of spices on the squid, which was perfectly cooked and not at all rubbery, and a red pepper sauce for dipping.

mushroom tapas

Then there was a small tureen of mixed mushrooms in sauce, also extremely good.


And we finished ourselves off with an order of flatbread topped with lamb, Rogue blue cheese and sharp olives. Very strong flavors and very filling. We took the leftovers back to the motel and I ate them for breakfast, which was perhaps a little odd at 6:30 in the morning, but at least there was Dutch Brothers coffee to wash it down.

Horse Brass

Our last stop before getting home the next day (unless you count the hour we spent sitting in Seattle-Tacoma traffic) was lunch at the Horse Brass pub in Portland. I’ve been hearing about this place for years but it’s not very handy to where we usually stay, so I’m glad we finally got to try it.

Horse Brass

The beer list was astonishing, all the more so since July is Oregon Beer Month and they were featuring local brews of all sorts. I got a Walking Man IPA and Jon got an amazing Velocirapture rye ale from Prodigal Son Brewing, one of the best rye beers I’ve ever tried. I was also able to try a Green Flash pale I’d never seen before but it wasn’t as assertive as I was wanting.

fish and chips

The food at the Horse Brass is straight English pub style, so Jon tried the fish and chips. The chips and coleslaw were fine, but the fish was perfect – everything you’d want fried fish to be. The waitress said they’re a little irregular in their quality, so it must have been a good day.

steak and mushroom pie

I got a meat pie. It was full of fatty, tender steak and lots of mushrooms, and it was very good in a leaden sort of way, with lots of brown sauce. The potato chips were so delicious I accidentally ate them all. Possibly a good thing, since it took us hours and hours to get home after that. But we made it!


road trip chapter 3: Santa Cruz


The object of our road trip (besides drinking a lot of good beer, obviously) was to spend a few days with family in Santa Cruz.

Kelly's Bakery

We had to have at least one breakfast at Kelly’s, of course.

Kelly's Bakery

Their pastries, poached eggs on polenta, and bagels with capers and lox would all be good any time, but eaten at an outdoor table as the Santa Cruz morning fog dissipates in the sun, everything tastes better.


We also went to breakfast at Hoffman’s in downtown Santa Cruz, a favorite of my brother-in-law’s.

eggs benedict


The service was a touch flaky (note to waitstaff: when an allergic customer asks you what kinds of nuts are in something, don’t just say “I dunno” and wander off) but the food was excellent. Jon got a very fine crab and avocado eggs benedict, and I fell for the chilaquiles. The waffles with strawberries looked like they had a quart of berries on top. The basket of scones that arrived with our coffee was a nice touch, too. Nice place, I wouldn’t mind trying them for dinner some time.

Santa Cruz Mtn Brewing

For lunch one day we took advantage of the arrangement between Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery and Kelly’s Bakery. As with several other businesses in the Swift Street Courtyard business park, you can get a pint of beer at the taproom counter, then order from Kelly’s menu and have your food carried over by someone from the bakery.

burger and fries

Jon got their hamburger, which was surprisingly good.

fish tacos

I had fish tacos, which were fantastic: the fish was deep-fried and very crispy, and served in soft corn tortillas with lots of cabbage and cilantro aioli, plus a big salad.

Vine Hill Winery

We also had to visit a few wineries, of course. Vine Hill was a new addition to the building, so we stopped in to pet their dog and taste their wines. They had a nice chardonnay.

a good wine tasting

We always have to stop at Sones. When we went into the tasting room this visit,  it was full of people who had just discovered the winery for the first time and were excitedly buying one of everything. We pretty much do the same thing whenever we go – you just can’t help yourselves. I don’t know of any Zinfandel I like better than theirs.

Quinta Cruz

We also stopped into Quinta Cruz/Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, and had a nice discussion with the server about how awesome Rock of Ages was. They make really lovely Old World-style wines, but unfortunately not everything is available for tasting. We’ve never gone wrong with any of their wines, though.


On Saturday we walked to the nearby farmer’s market. It was another beautiful day and everything looked wonderful.





We wanted to cook one dinner at my brother-in-law’s apartment, and when we found the pasta booth I knew what I wanted to do. We bought several tubs of the goat cheese-green onion ravioli, plus a container of basil-walnut pesto. Then we picked up a gorgeous bag of salad mix full of edible flowers, and some pink fingerling potatoes. Dinner was taken care of (along with a Sones Sauvignon Blanc and a pie that was brought from Emily’s Bakery).

Bonny Doon

Finally, our big splurge dinner for the trip was at Le Cigare Volant, the Bonny Doon winery restaurant.

bread plate

The whole menu is done as small plates, so for four people we needed to order nearly one of everything. We started with a bread plate…

grilled octopus

…and an adorable little container of grilled octopus.

coconut dome

When we ordered the ceviche, we didn’t really expect it to come looking like this…

broken shell

…but the coconut milk dome just needed to be broken apart, at which point it began to melt over the seafood.

cherry tomato salad

This unlikely-looking plate was a lovely, fresh cherry tomato salad with basil foam.

avocado corndog

And this was an avocado corn dog, which I’m still not really sure about.


The waitress absolutely insisted that we get the fingerling potatoes, and she was not wrong. Crisp, seasoned wedges in a cute little pot, they were perfect potatoes – but what you don’t see is the big wodge of cream in the bottom of the pot. Yum.

squash blossoms and harissa foam

I’m afraid this looks absolutely disgusting, but I’m told it was very good. Squash blossoms stuffed with hummus, served with couscous and harissa foam.


And I think this was arctic char with cornbread, but I have only the vaguest memory of tasting it.


I was a little distracted by my duck with snap peas and a lettuce roll. This was beautiful.


Jon was the only one who felt up to dessert, and got this cute creme brulee with lots of berries.

Le Cigare Volant

On the whole, it was lots of fun, but I thought much of the food wasn’t quite delicious enough to hold up to the level of fussiness. Very amusing presentations, though.

morning fog

On Monday morning, as the fog burned off, we headed back north on the final leg of our trip.