09/07/13 - Traveling a Bit

We have been doing a bit of traveling. We were in Seattle and got to see the disappearing Space Needle illusion and the new ferris wheel down by the waterfront. Then we headed east to the land of peaches, apples, and wineries which is slowly being invaded by hops. Eastern Washington State not only produces a lot of grapes for wine, but also a lot of hops for beer. It also produces a lot of electricity which is carried to the I-5 area and points west along power lines supported by strangely anthropomorphic towers.

The vanishing Space Needle Illusion

The new ferris wheel

Two guys walking around near the highway

Some beautiful country

Hops - They're grown in a protective frame.

Keywords: seattle, washington state

04/14/13 - Even More Walla Walla

Before dinner, we explored downtown Walla Walla a bit. Most of the downtown area seems to have been built in the early 20th century, so there are lots of nice old buildings to look at. We made a quick stop at El Corazon Winery which is right in town and looks as much like a hip bar as a winery. Then we wandered around a bit and dropped into Salumiere Cesario which sells charcuterie, salumi, cheese and other gourmet items. It looked like a great place to pack a picnic lunch.

Then we went to dinner at Saffron, a mediterranean restaurant which made the most amazing turkish lamb flatbread sandwich called a gozleme. It tastes like they put grape leaves and zaatar in it. We ordered one to go for breakfast. We also tried the lamb fatee, a stew with lamb and celeriac. Our appetizers were the grilled quail and grilled octopus, two separate dishes. Everything was wonderfully prepared and wonderfully spiced. The serving staff was great, especially given that it was Cayuse weekend, and the house was packed.

El Corazon Winery in Walla Walla proper

Walla Walla is full of early 20th century architecture.

Another Walla Walla street scene

Chandelier at Salumiere Cesario

The salumis at Salumiere Cesario

A whimsical sculpture

Another bit of whimsy

More great old buildings

Another downtown view

The river runs through it.

Saffron, our new favorite restaurant

Keywords: wine, restaurants, walla walla, washington state

04/13/13 - Walla Walla Continued

We wandered a bit more and dropped by Reynvaan Winery which made wines in what they called a French style, but they were too high alcohol for us.

We did get to learn more about the area. The Walla Walla valley is a broad, flat expanse, but bounded by gently rolling hills. The wineries occupy much of the flat land, but they also follow the land as it rises. The wine makers try to take advantage of the varying temperatures and exposures, as well as the type of land itself. Some vineyards have river stones arrayed between the rows of vines to hold the heat better. Others simply rely on the weather and land.

Wine making is an interesting business. Even we can understand its appeal. Back at our hotel, there was a winery for sale right outside our window. It looked like a bit of a fixer upper, in need of a lot of work and some replanting. Presumably this was reflected in the price what with it being "for sale by owner" rather than through a realtor. We were truly tempted, but we had other fish to fry this trip.

Walla Walla, hills and valleys

Dramatic sky

Reynvaan Winery

More rolling ground

We were so taken with the wine business, we almost bought a winery of our own.

Keywords: walla walla, wine, washington state

04/12/13 - Walla Walla Wine Country

We were recently out in Walla Walla with some friends of ours. They were there for one of the big local events, the Cayuse Winery annual release weekend. Cayuse is a bit of a cult winery with a serious fan base and limited production. Their wine is carefully rationed, with each buyer getting a certain number of bottles of each type of wine based on their previous purchases and seniority. This means their release is a big event with people driving in from a fair catchment to grab their allocation of yellow boxes. There is also a nice reception with all sorts of hors d'ouevres like smoked salmon, curried goat and pork loin sandwiches. (We washed a lot of them down with their Chamberlin Syrah.)

After Cayuse, we headed south into Oregon and dropped by Petits Noir, a confectioner selling ganache centered chocolate bonbons, a broad variety of nougat candies, and little chocolate buttons. Our favorites might have been the little chocolate buttons with pink peppercorns in them. This being wine country, there was also the Ellanelle Winery offering samples of their wares, and this being Cayuse weekend, also a selection of excellent charcuterie. We rather liked their wines and bought a few bottles, but they need a few years before drinking.

Then it was on to Watermill Winery which is in a lovely old building, some kind of agricultural office with a grand old safe and hard wood floors. They also make apple ciders, some flavored, but we most enjoyed their simplest with a good tart apple flavor.

Then it was back to Washington for Rulo Winery. They were caught up in the spirit of the weekend, so we wound up tasting most of their wines and really enjoying their grenache blanc. It actually tasted more like a rich French white than more traditional white varietals from the area. We also bought a few of their reds which were quite good, but also quite young. We are going to have to do some serious sampling over the next few years.

Wine country, flat country

The great Cayuse wine distribution - a surprisingly exclusive club

The Cayuse mascot

Wine country grapes

Ellanelle Winery had a table at Petits Noir chocolates in

Petits Noir has chocolate and nougat confections

Watermill Winery also makes apple cider

We could smell the foul burger grease across the street at Watermill.

Rulo WInery

One nice thing about winery is that you can drive your forklift right up to the wine and cheese table.

Rulo Winery and their child friendly policy

Keywords: walla walla, wine, washington state

07/02/12 - Murdock Beach

We heard about Murdock Beach a while ago. Apparently, it's popular with rock collectors. At low tide there are supposedly lots of agates. At high tide there isn't very much beach. We went at a middling tide, and there was a fair bit of beach, but it was also raining, so we didn't get far.

The trailhead is a bit tricky to find. You have to take 112 west past Joyce and look for the 45 mile marker on the left and Cannon Ball Road on the right. Then watch for a long guard rail. Right at the end of the guard rail is the turn off for Murdock Beach. The access road is a bit of a washboard and some of the potholes are deeper than they look, so drive slowly and carefully.

There's a little parking lot there and a pretty trail to the beach. The DNR land runs about 4,000 feet to the east and over four miles to the west, so, at low tide, there is lots of beach to explore. (Note, you'll need a Discover Pass if you go exploring there. We didn't see anyone enforcing things, though a Border Patrol SUV dropped by to see if anything interesting was coming in from Canada.)

The coastal forest

More lush forest

The beach seen from the forest

The beach

The forest seen from the beach - the green wall

The beach to the east

The beach to the west



Keywords: other parks and forest, washington state

06/12/12 - Mount St. Helens from the Johnston Ridge Observatory

The eruption of Mount St. Helens was front page news way back when, but it is hard to grasp the sheer scale of a mountain exploding from photographs or even video coverage. We drove a fair ways from the interstate through flat lands and hills and forest to the Johnston Ridge Observatory to get a better sense of things.

We saw glimpses of the volcano from along the road, but what impressed us even more was the land between us and the mountain. It was hard not to see that the topography had been recently altered by volcanic floes and ash, and that material had been carved by rivers and was only recently being recolonized by grasses, shrubs and trees. This was not a long settled landscape, but a new one.

We climbed the final hillside to the observatory proper and enjoyed the exhibit, but we were drawn again and again to the view. The building had great glass windows, but we had to go outside with the wind and rain and snow. (Just flurries, but snow nonetheless.) We explored the landscape of burned tree stumps and fallen trunks and gazed in awe at the fresh land in the river valley between us and the volcano. We were never really that close, and the clouds hid the upper reaches for most of our visit, but now and then the winds would blow, cold and hard, and we could see a bit more of the mountain that had blasted and charred the trees on Johnston Ridge and reformed the land.

One of our better views of Mt. St. Helens

The Toutle River and the new land below

More valley

Another glimpse of the mountain

Mountain and valley

Johnston Ridge, today

A story is told here.

A canyon carved in volcanic ash

A herd of elk

The flowers are coming back, but only the hardy ones.

Another view of the mountain and valley

Keywords: flowers, washington state, elk

06/11/12 - Wolf Haven

Wolf Haven is a rehabilitation and retirement center for wolves. They take in wolves who cannot live in the wild due to injuries or having been raised as pets. It's a quiet (usually), healing sort of place which is just as well given that wolves are wild animals and powerful predators. At Wolf Haven, located a bit south of Olympia, they live two to an enclosure with grass, quiet, and fresh air.

Wolf Haven gives regular tours, so we were able to see some of these fantastic animals, mostly those who will be spending the rest of their lives there. The wolves being prepared to return to the wild are kept away from most human contact, so they are kept in another part of the haven.

Some of the wolves were front and center curious about us. Some were pacers and explorers. Others just slept or stayed hidden during our visit, but most of the wolves made an appearance. They also howled. This was the high point of our visit, and actually rather unusual at Wolf Haven. We were watching one pair of wolves when we heard a distant, rising howl, and soon the wolves in the next enclosure joined in, and then the ones we were watching. We recorded some of the long howl as a video.

The howl of the wolf - Click here for a howling movie.

A friendly face with killer jaws

Just pacing


A real cutie

Keywords: animals, washington state

04/24/10 - Asparagus and Other Signs of Spring

Washington State is famous for its asparagus. Even the stuff at the supermarket can be great this time of year, if you make sure it is local, but nothing can beat the stalks at the local farmers' market. We wait all year for the crop at Westwind, and now Johnston Farms has asparagus too.

Other sure signs of the season are rhubarb, baby arugula and garlic stalks. Garlic stalks look like scallions, but taste more like garlic than onions. They're great sauteed. On the fish front, Tuna Dan has been selling good looking tru cod and steelhead, and the fat spring salmon have been coming in.

Great asparagus at Westwind Farms

Johnston Farm has asparagus for the first time this year.

Is that rhubarb?

Keywords: farmers' market, johnston farm, westwind farm, salmon, washington state

03/21/10 - Morse Creek Wildlife Area

There have been some changes at Morse Creek curve on Route 101, that roller coaster turn east of the Walmart. There's the new fish crib that seems to be complete, possibly save for the fish, and there's the little building to the east of the creek which seems to have been spruced up somewhat. That's the interpretive center for the Morse Creek Unit of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The fish crib is apparently a survival plan for the Elwha River salmon who will be having their river remodeled in 2012 when the dam comes down. Think of it as temporary housing. If all goes well, they'll be back in their new, improved digs by the middle of the decade, but we all know how remodeling works. Still, it's good to know that there is a plan in place.

The interpretive center is part of the 133 acre Morse Creek Wildlife Area. It was closed when we dropped by, but it looks lived in. We'll see how it shapes up.

The interpretive center

Keywords: elwha, morse creek, salmon, washington state

02/18/10 - What's the next town after Joyce?

We were looking at an old map of Washington State in an early 1930s edition of The Volume Library and couldn't help noticing that there seemed to be a lot more towns west of Port Angeles back then. For example, there was the town of Ramapo, right there on the statewide map. What was Ramapo? Where is it today? There were even towns west of Joyce; the next town was Hilda, and even further west, there was the town of Majestic. How could we not have heard of a town named Majestic? We had driven out west on route 112, but we had never noticed any signs for Majestic.

Naturally, we decided to investigate. So, follow the link for the mystery of the missing towns, or who's Hilda.

The map that started it all

Keywords: science, port angeles, maps, washington state

08/05/07 - Black Douglas Cod - A Northwestern Treat

We'll admit that isn't the best picture there, but we have discovered a great way to prepare black cod. Black cod is an oily fish, and there is a temptation to blast it with flavor. We often marinate it in mirin and soy sauce, but this time we took a more subtle approach. We marinated a two pound filet overnight in two or three tablespoons of Clear Creek Douglas Fir Eau de Vie, a quarter teaspoon of wasabi powder, a quarter teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper and two pinches of sea salt. We stared roasting the fish in the oven, but we wanted to render the fat so we popped it in a frying pan until it was nicely flakey and just starting to brown.

This dish was suggested by a dish we had at Coupage, a Korean fusion restaurant in Seattle. They served arctic char marinated in fir eau de vie, and it was quite good. This dish has a slightly stronger flavor, and the light green notes of the fir buds come across as rather bright and fruity. No, it doesn't taste like wood pulp.

You might want to check out Clear Creek Distillery, the folks who make the eau de vie, or check out the Washington State Liquor Board for availability.

Not the best picture, but it sure tastes good.

Keywords: fish, seattle, washington state, kale

07/18/07 - A Word From Clear Creek

We recently received a note from Clear Creek Distillery in Portland. We have long been fans of their eaux d'vie, including their rather amazing Douglas Fir brandy. They've answered a few of our questions:
The brandy is about 96 proof so around 48% alc by volume and made by macerating young Douglas Fir buds in unaged grape brandy, distilling the buds, then infusing more buds in the Doug Fir brandy to retain color (everything comes out of the still clear). We sell it here at the distillery as well as some Washington State Liquor stores and a handful of other states. The Seattle area stores do a great job keeping our products on their shelves.
If you are interested in finding this product in Washington State, click here.

Keywords: food, washington state

02/07/07 - Douglas Fir Based Eau d'Vie from Clear Creek

We first heard about this product at Coupage, a Korean fusion restaurant noted in the item below. One of their dishes was arctic char marinated in a Douglas fir based liqueur. We had expected it to be overwhelmingly pine flavored, perhaps even resinous. It was not. The flavor was clear, but unusual, and rather hard to place.

The very next day we saw the bottle on the right at a Washington State Liquor Store. Clear Creek, based in Oregon, makes the unusual alcoholic beverage shown to the right. According to the little tag, they use grape based brandy and young, hand picked douglas fir buds. They soak the buds in the brandy, then redistill the batch.

As for the flavor, it tastes a bit like rose water with that rich tang. It's a very clear, clean flavor. Think woodsy, not pine-y. We can't find it at the state web site, so it is probably a one shot item, or perhaps being sold illegally. We don't care. We like it.

Douglas Fir Based Eau d'Vie

Keywords: seattle, restaurants, washington state

Dungeness Valley Farm and Creamery

01/21/06 - Raw Milk at Dungeness Valley Farm and Creamery

The Dungenesss Valley Farm & Creamery in Sequim is the first dairy in Washington State licensed to sell raw cow's milk to the public. We have been following their attempt to get the necessary license. The picture on the left is from the October 2005 open house Farm Tour, and the picture on the right is of a jar of fresh, raw milk.

Raw Milk in a Jar

We drank some of the raw milk, and we were impressed. It was almost like drinking ice cream, but without the sugar rush. This stuff is extremely rich since it has all the butter, heavy cream, light cream, milk and buttermilk all mixed in. (That's the recipe you'll have to use if you want to try making some raw milk for yourself using supermarket ingredients). The milk is not homogenized, and they keep it in a tank with a little rotor to keep the fractions from settling out. Needless to say, everything is amazingly clean.

If you want to buy some of this wonderful stuff for yourself, head over to 1915 Towne Road in Sequim, but come early. They are usually closed up by 10:00. Call them at (360) 683-0716 for more information.


Keywords: milk, dungeness, recipe, washington state

King Crab Legs w/Angle Hair Pasta

11/14/05 - Fresh Alaskan King Crab Legs

This is one of those dishes that one reads about, but that one never sees served in restaurants. Most Alaska king crab is frozen when it is caught, or as soon as the ship arrives in port. The only people who get fresh king crab legs are people who catch them for themselves.

One of the advantages of living in Washington State is that Alaska is sort of the next state to the north, if you don't count British Columbia and the like. This means that the folks at Bella Italia were able to snarf a some fresh Alaskan king crab legs from their friends to the north. We were trying to figure out what to do for dinner when we got the call. Dave Senters was cooking, the crab was in, and we were ready.

The dish pictured above is a plate of fresh Alaskan king crab meat with fried bread crumbs, fried garlic, baby potatoes, and fresh scallions in brown butter sauce with balsamic vinegar on angel hair pasta. We were quite impressed. The crab meat was richer in flavor than our own local Dungeness crab meat, and had a meaty, almost chunky texture. It was as sweet as local crab, but the chunks were larger. If you've ever had Alaskan kind crab legs at an upmarket brunch, you probably remember them as a bit bland and watery, perhaps even a bit stringy. There was none of this here. This crab had legs, and it stood up to a powerfully flavored pasta dish quite nicely.

We aren't sure if your local restaurant provides this kind of service, but if you do get a call saying that the fresh Alaskan king crab legs are in, don't wait. Even at 3AM it is worth scrambling down for a taste of this king of the crabmeats.

Keywords: fish, food, dungeness, restaurants, washington state, alaska

11/07/05 - Eggs, Poultry and the Plague

We were out at one of the local farms the other day to buy some eggs, and since this was a chicken farm, we also learned something about about the H5N1 virus. It was odd to consider something as mundane as buying eggs put as at the public health frontier right. It was almost something out of The Microbe Hunters. We've been buying chickens and eggs, actually first eggs, then chickens, from this farm for years, and all the while we've been taking certain things for granted. It turns out that chicken farmers are first responders, and our local chicken farmer was concerned enough to contact the State of Washington to ask them what they are doing about the risk of an epidemic and, more importantly, what he should be doing.

Washington State does have a program to test for H5N1 in eggs and poultry, so now he is awaiting instructions for sending in egg samples as part of a program to catch any H5N1 invasion early. Unlike many government programs these days, this one has money for testing, and there are plans for controlling the virus if and when it appears. Being a first responder, he asked what to do if one of his chickens dies of a respiratory ailment, and was told that they would want some samples from the dear departed. Apparently, it isn't always obvious when a chicken has a cold, or the flu. They don't sneeze the way people or dogs do. It takes a bit of watching, we were told, to realize that chickens with head colds keep their heads pitched back, most likely because this makes it easier for them to breathe.

Most of the chickens we see are in the pot, but it is nice to know that people in the State of Washington are keeping there eyes open and watching for any signs of H5N1. The first signs of West Nile virus in New York City a few years back were dead birds discovered at the Bronx Zoo. We civilians can afford to ignore a few dead birds, but with the H5N1 virus out there, it's nice to know that someone is watching out for us.


Keywords: birds, food, farms, new york city, washington state

Dungeness Spit Composite

10/23/05 - Coastal Panoramas from the Olympic Peninsula

We were browsing the web and came across the Washington State Department of Ecology's Shoreline Aerial Photos database, and we couldn't resist putting together a couple of composite images. The one linked to above is of the Dungeness Spit. The image above is just the image chip, click on it for the full 5910 x 448 image. The one linked to below is of Second Beach, the image is 3916 x 710. That California Coastal Records database gets all the attention, but the Washington State Coast has its charms as well.

Second Beach Composite

 For a bit more info on these composite pictures, you can see our coastal composite page.


Keywords: panoramas, beaches, dungeness, dungeness spit, second beach, washington state

08/23/04 - Feral Green Monsters

Check out these little green apples. You can't buy them in any store. They're tart and dry and perfect for a pie. You have to add water to them to make applesauce.

They might not look like much, but they are intensely flavored. Washington State may be famous for its apples, but let's face it, the "Delicious" apple is delicious in name only. It usually tastes like sugar and cardboard. Even Washington State farmers are now starting to pull out their Delicious orchards and putting in other varieties.

Our default supermarket apple is the Granny Smith, but even these can be more sweet than tart. When we lived in Massachusetts, we'd often try out other cultivars. Even Stop and Shop had a fairly good "apple festival" with a good dozen types to choose from. Baldwins and Northern Spies weren't too bad, but our favorites were the Gravensteins. There was an orchard in Littleton that had Gravensteins.

Out here in Washington, we actually found some Gravensteins at the Port Angeles Farmer's Market. They were pretty good, and we'll be looking for them again this season. Still, even Gravensteins pale in comparison with these feral green monsters.

Where do we find them? That would be telling, but they are on legally accessible land and not so far away that we couldn't carry back a pie or two's worth.

Great Green Pie Apples

Great Apples: Born to be wild and be green.

Keywords: food, port angeles, washington state