road trip chapter 2: down the coast


After two great days in Portland we dragged ourselves back into the car and headed south. We drove across to Reedsport, then down the Oregon coast to Coos Bay.

view from the High Tide Cafe

At midday we took a small side trip over to Charleston and had lunch at the High Tide Cafe, which I had heard was reknowned for their clam chowder. It’s a cute place, very much a neighborhood diner sort of vibe, with windows looking over the bay and a fireplace for blustery days. They had some excellent beer on tap and were serving both breakfast and lunch.


I got clam chowder, of course. It wasn’t bad – creamy but not too rich, with herbs and plenty of clams and big chunks of potato. Not the best I’ve ever had but very decent. I was pleased that it came with oyster crackers because the slab of white bread that also came along was stale and dull.


Jon got jambalaya. It was pretty good – lots of seafood in a spicy tomato sauce, and a cone of rice in the middle. It did the job, anyway.

7 Devils Road

slow down at the curve

Onward! After a fun, upsy-downsy ride back to 101 on Seven Devils Road, we wound our way down through the redwoods and eventually arrived in Eureka.

Lost Coast Brewery

Our dinner destination here was the Lost Coast Brewery, and as far as I could tell it was everyone else’s destination as well – it was packed.


I was impressed by the decor – lots of weird papier mache heads and monsters. Also a large spider that was attached to the door by a string, so if you look up while the door is closing behind you you’ll see a vast arachnid descending on your head. Fortunately, I never think to look up.


Our local grocery store carries a lot of Lost Coast beer, and there weren’t a lot of enticing specials. I had a glass of the Indica IPA, then found out that they also had a cask conditioned IPA which I liked quite a lot more. Wish they had mentioned it when we ordered, but oh well.

fish and chips

Food was unexciting. I got fish and chips, which would have been quite good if the fish hadn’t been allowed to sit in a big puddle of its own oil, but unfortunately by the time I got to it it was pretty soggy. The fries were dusted with Parmesan and were tasty but too squishy to be addictive.


Jon asked for the “Famous Hot Brown” sandwich, which sounded really amazing (bacon! ranch dressing!) but was sort of blah. Also rather small. It came with a tiny dish of coleslaw on the side. I’ve seldom seen such small portions in a brewpub, which was not at all what I was expecting.

a very nice martini

We felt a little dissatisfied after our dinner, and downtown Eureka wasn’t really hopping (except for the brewery and a carnival down by the waterfront), so we headed back to the Red Lion, where we were staying, and actually had an extremely decent martini. Go figure.

Bear Republic

The next morning we had a very motel sort of breakfast at the Red Lion, then continued down 101 to Healdsburg. It was a beautiful day and all of Sonoma seemed to be screaming out to us to spend lots of money. We avoided a large number of adorable boutiques and wine tasting rooms and eventually found what we were looking for: the Bear Republic brewpub.

Bear Republictoday's beer list

Now this was more like it. The only Bear Republic beers I’ve had before were the Racer 5 and the Hop Rod Rye, both of which I adore. Their house beer list was long, with an equally long specials list, including some single-variety-hops brews that were really interesting. We tried the Aramis and Premiant Rebellions just for the hell of it, but then Jon discovered the Nor Cal Ale and was smitten. I tried the red, which was very good but a little heavy for my mood.



We each got a burger: Jon got a special that had brie, mushrooms and onions, while I got one with a whole grilled green chile and pepper jack cheese. He had green salad with his, while I tried the pasta salad side. We saw fries on neighboring tables and decided we weren’t missing anything, but the burgers and salads were fantastic.

Bear Republic

This place has shot up into my top five brewpubs. We may have to come back someday!


That evening we made it to Santa Cruz. Stay tuned for the next installment…


Rachawadee Cafe

I wrote a review for this week’s Cascadia Weekly about our local Thai place, Rachawadee Cafe, so I thought I’d post a few extra pictures I took that didn’t run with the article.

cooking with fire

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

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

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.

Phad Ba Mee

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.


candlelitA'Town Bistro

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.

wild boar burger

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.

ham shank eggs benedict

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.

the best biscuits and gravy

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.

pho toppings

wine with dinner

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.

moules fritesFrench onion soup

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 n chips

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.

steak and sprouts

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.

creme brulee

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.

gateau au chocolat

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.

salt cellar

I look forward to many, many more meals here.

weekend eats

Hanky Panky

Last weekend involved two different trips down to Seattle to have dinner with friends. I only took a few pictures, but both dinners were notable.

The first night we started out with drinks at Canon (which was inexplicably empty despite the Cinco de Mayo madness going on in every other bar in town). I tried one of the aged cocktails, and was surprised to have it served in its own little flask. I felt rather foolish drinking from a bottle, but it was a great cocktail. Two of our party ordered the “shrouded roulette,” where you request your base spirit and the bartender makes up something for you. I hadn’t realized they wouldn’t tell you what was in it even after you were finished. Sneaky.

small plates at Quinn's

After drinks we walked down to Quinn’s for dinner, and the four of us shared a bunch of small plates. I’ve never gotten to try this many things at once at Quinn’s, and as usual it did not disappoint. We started with stewed oxtail with a bone marrow custard and a dish of excellent olives (not pictured), then had a green salad with scallion aioli, pig face nuggets, and a really delicious plate of sockeye salmon lox with steelhead roe and grilled bread. I would have been delighted to have a whole plate of the salmon to myself – the roe in particular was addictively good. The pig face nuggets sounded more exciting than they actually were, but they were unctuously porky and the sauce was delicious.

small plates at Quinn's

We had to get the wild boar sloppy joe, which was as wonderful as we remembered, and we also tried the cotechino sausage with cassoulet. It was very good, but maybe better suited for a cooler evening. I took a bite of the grilled fresno chile that came with the sloppy joe and nearly had the top of my head come off.

dessert at Quinn's

Some of our party had room for dessert. One of us got butterscotch custard, served in its own tiny jar, another ordered orange cake with Sichuan pepper ice cream, and the third got a chocolate peanut butter torte. I finished my beer and called it good.

sausage-rapini pizza

The next night we found ourselves at Via Tribunali pizza in Fremont with a large party. I’d never been here before and it was excellent.

The pizza is nicely charred and very, very thin. It comes uncut, so you can make the slices any size or shape you want. I got the salsiccia rapini – tomato sauce, Italian sausage and rapini (broccoli rabe) – one of my favorite Italian flavor combos.


Jon got the Via Tribunali house special, which is sort of an Everything pizza with the edges folded in on itself. Just a hint of smoked cheese gave it a distinctive character.

Great place! We’ll definitely be back to try more pizza, some salads and perhaps some tiramisu. Soon.

via tribunali

a warm weekend in Kansas City

spring sunlight

We spent a few days in Kansas City last weekend to visit family. After a solid month of cold rain here in the lovely PNW, we were ready to appreciate the freakishly hot weather happening in the midwest, and were not disappointed. It reached 91 degrees one day. Bliss.

wisteriaTomahawk Creek

We didn’t do a lot of chowhounding, but we did eat some good things. First, of course, was the family doughnut day. I like doughnuts all right (especially cream-filled ones), but I get really excited about finally having decent bagels.

Doughnut Day

And there had to be barbecue, of course. We ordered takeout from the local Jack Stack, and it was excellent as always. Their burnt ends are particularly great – I love the bits of smoked sausage in there. We also got beans, coleslaw, potato salad, and a weird regrettable dish they call their “cheesy corn bake” which seems to consist of corn kernels floating in a container of velveeta sauce – it wasn’t a favorite. I ate the leftover beans the next day, cold, standing at the kitchen sink with a bottle of Boulevard Pale.

leftover barbecue

One evening we wanted a little extra bite of something and a drink. We wandered into Blanc Burgers & Bottles not too long before they closed for the night, and were really pleased with the service and the food. After trying a couple of their beers on tap (not an extensive list; KC seems to be much more into bottled beer than draft), we decided to take advantage of their half-off wine special. The Pinot Grigio we ordered went nicely with the chicken caprese sandwich we split. I wish we could go back regularly and work our way through their burger menu, it looked fantastic.




Another day we ventured into the Westport district for lunch. It was fairly quiet, as most of the businesses in that area are bars that don’t open until evening, but we had a fine lunch at the Westport Cafe & Bar.

Westport CafeWestport Cafe

I was really impressed by the bartender’s work. I got an old fashioned, which was served very simply, no ice, no fruit, just a fat strip of orange rind. Jon got an interesting drink with chai-infused something or other and a garnish of blueberries.

Westport Cafe

Westport Cafe

The food was very straightforward, but well thought-out. I got the tuna sandwich, which was a soft bun dressed with aioli, fresh spinach, and barely-seared tuna that was so tender it almost dissolved in the mouth. The flavor was good, but I really thought the texture was the highlight of the sandwich. The side salad was arugula dressed with truffle oil and thin slices of radish and Parmesan.

Westport Cafe

Jon got the steak sandwich, which was also very simple but delicious. The fries that came with it were classic bistro style and rather addictive. Nothing to complain about here.

Westport Cafe

Another place we visited in Westport was the Beer Kitchen. Again, they only had a few brews on tap, but their bottled list was extensive and interesting. Not a lot of hoppy IPAs in this town, but I did find a nice pale ale to drink.

Beer Kitchen

Beer Kitchen

Beer Kitchen

The place was deserted except for the staff, but it made a pleasant place to hang out on a hot afternoon. We weren’t hungry when we were there, but we admired some menu items like “Tur-Ducken Poppers” (with schmaltz!) and “Piggy Fries” which are like poutine with burnt ends. Good drinking food.

Beer Kitchen

Beer Kitchen

Room 39

On our last night we went to Room 39. Like many places in the Leawood/Overland Park area, this is an extra branch of a restaurant that first started up in KC proper, and maintains two locations. The restaurant was quiet, as that was the night of the KU/Kentucky game, so we almost had the place to ourselves.

Room 39

We started with an appetizer of grilled asparagus, served with a beautifully poached egg and garnished with black salt. The waitress was apologetic about the small portion size, but I thought it was about perfect.

Room 39

My mother-in-law got a small order of the gnocchi. They were pan-fried until crispy, and tossed with shiitakes and onions. I thought they tasted rather like potstickers, in a really good way.

Room 39

My father-in-law and I both got the halibut. This was a hefty entree: a large piece of halibut, cooked until crusty, and served over a substantial pile of mushroom duxelles and topped with celery and cooked radishes, with a swirl of fresh pea puree on the side. It was good, but the flavors were bold and overwhelmed the fish a little.

Room 39

Jon got a piece of bass served with spinach, microgreens and a wonderful red wine and butter sauce. Nice.

Room 39

For dessert there was espresso creme brulee, plus a memorable dish of goat cheese beignets in a pool of warm caramel sauce and topped with whipped cream. Holy cow, this was good. I opted to drink my dessert in the form of a Manhattan, but ended up having to help out with my mother-in-law’s beignets, which wasn’t a particular hardship.

Room 39

This was a really good place, I would go back.

back in Seattle

The next day brought us back to Seattle, where it was raining. It was kind of nice.

another day, another lamb burger

lamb burger

We finally got around to visiting the Copper Hog pub in Bellingham. Not a bad place at all! Large and bustling, nice decor, lots of natural light, and alarmingly polite service. Good food and beer, too. It made an especially strong impression on us after our disappointment with the Fish Tale Brewpub a couple of weeks ago.

For one thing, we got to sit by a window.

window table

The view was made extra amusing by the fact that some sort of commercial was being filmed on the premises, and groups of people wearing sports scarves were running around screeching for the camera. Even without that, though, it was a nice place to sit.

beer list

The beer selection here is pretty ace. I tried the “Copper Hog Red” made by Flyers in Oak Harbor, and really liked it. Dry and bitter, but with lots of flavor.

fish n chips

It was a forgone conclusion that one of us would get the lamb burger, and Jon won the draw. I got the fish and chips instead, and was happy enough. I was a little put out by the size of the fish fillet – most places would have cut this into two or three pieces. It was so big, and so blazingly hot, I had to eat it with knife and fork, which seemed kind of silly. The schmear of pureed peas on the side was a peculiar but pleasant touch. And the fries were fantastic – hot, salty, nicely crispy on the outside but buttery-soft inside. And served in a reasonable quantity, so I didn’t hurt myself by eating all of them. Not too much, anyway.

lamb burger

The lamb burger was excellent. It was on a good bun, the meat was juicy and nicely cooked, and it had a big blob of chevre on top and a lot of pickled beets. I love pickled beets. It was by far the best lamb burger we’ve had lately.

the insufficiently sauced burger

lamb burger at Lola

We recently stopped by Lola for lunch, on our way to see Pina at the Seattle Cinerama (which was amazing, by the way). We’d been to Lola for breakfast before, plus a late night run for doughnuts and grappa, but never for lunch, and I had to try the lamb burger. Because I always have to try the lamb burger.

It was disappointing. Not the lamb patty itself, which was cooked just the way I asked, or the bun, which was very nearly perfect, but the adornments, which I feel are the most important thing. They need to be interesting, but also messy and squishable so everything melds together into the sandwich. In this case there was nothing wrong with the lettuce, the grilled onion, the fabulous pickled vegetables, or the “Lola ketchup” which tasted like red pepper puree – but the vegetables were too firm to squish and didn’t fit on the burger, the ketchup was far better used as a dip for the (amazing) polenta fries, and there was no other sauce or cheese whatsoever. This is a pet peeve of mine about burgers in my home town, which never have any sauce on them and need to be ordered with a side of mayo just to get them properly drippy. Burgers should not be easy to eat neatly. I ended up borrowing a spoonful of tzatziki sauce from my husband’s plate of squid kebabs.

squid kebab

I was envious of the squid kebabs. Perfectly cooked, coated with chermoula sauce and accompanied by Greek salad and pita bread, they were some of the best squid I’ve eaten. I know what I’m getting next time we go there.

squid kebab

on the bus again

Old School BBQ

It’s been a while since I first mentioned Old School BBQ, but it’s worth revisiting. We stopped for lunch on a recent trip over Stevens Pass, for possibly the dozenth time, and I really think this place is just getting better and better.

combo plate

The barbecue is Texas-style, with a good smoke ring and wonderful tender meat. I usually get pulled pork and my husband likes brisket, but on this occasion he sprang for a combo with some ribs that turned out to be excellent. The coleslaw is, admittedly, a little bland, but the meat more than makes up for it.

beans and cornbread

I’ve always loved their beans, which are served very hot and soupy with big chunks of pork. I just discovered that if you order just beans and cornbread, you get a great big bowl of it for something ridiculous like $4, and a nice piece of sweet cornbread with butter and honey. For me this is a perfect lunch. Plus you get to eat on board an old school bus, minus the smell of gym socks and all the bullies sitting in the back, and how cool is that?

Brave Horse

Brave Horse Tavern

Geez. I had meant to run this post off several days ago, but first I got busy and then the phone company helpfully cut off my DSL connection at home. Thank goodness for public wifi…

Anyway. Last week we were in Seattle again and needed an early and not too involved dinner, so we decided to try out Tom Douglas’ new place in South Lake Union (well, one of them), the Brave Horse Tavern. We showed up a bit before six and the place was already packed with people who all seemed to have gotten off of work at the same time; many were still wearing their official lanyards. The music was incredibly loud, the crowd was louder, and a rowdy shuffleboard game was in progress in the corner. Long tables filled most of the space. We pushed and shoved our way into an empty spot with some difficulty and attempted to have a conversation over the uproar.

Brave Horse Tavern

It was Fresh Hop week at the Brave Horse, and I ordered a Killer Green Fresh Hop Ale from Double Mountain. It was extraordinary – somewhat high in alcohol, although not as ferocious as some, but with a huge depth of flavor and a serious hop hit. Jon settled for his favorite Total Domination from Ninkasi. We really wanted to try some of the pub snacks (they have fried cheese curds, people!) but didn’t have time, so I settled for a basic pub burger and fries, and Jon got a steak salad.

burger & fries

I was impressed. The burger was very different from the Palace Kitchen version. It channelled a summer grill party, with iceberg lettuce, plenty of mayo and a barbecue-like sauce, and a soft and sweet bun that never quite disintegrated but got very close. I chose cheddar and grilled onions as my toppings, which were excellent with the sauce. Next time I might go for avocado. Or maybe the fried egg.

Then there were the fries, which were, let’s face it, perfect. Steaming hot, crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and heavily studded with salt. I hate fries that aren’t salty enough – these were incredible.

steak salad

The steak salad was a success, too – a large piece of perfectly cooked steak, very tender, with a pile of mixed greens, stinky blue cheese, really ripe tomatoes, paper-thin radish slices, a chunk of grilled bread, and a dressing made with A-1 sauce. Brilliant.

steak salad

We are totally coming back here. I need to try those fried cheese curds. And another burger.

happy hour

happy hour

When you’ve just spent a substantial amount of time quietly freaking out about something, getting unexpected good news may well send you straight to the nearest bar to try to process the emotional reversal. Last week, after spending the afternoon at Virginia Mason Hospital and being reassured by a reliable source that my husband would most likely NOT need a horrible sounding medical procedure, we headed right for Barrio and began consuming celebratory cocktails, including one made of extremely ferocious ghost-chile-infused tequila. Plus a lot of their most excellent guacamole.

Then we went to Volunteer Park and sat together, enjoying the view.

Volunteer Park