Weekend Escapes: La Push, Olympic Peninsula, Washington

About a month ago I ventured off to the town of La Push, on the Olympic Peninsula. Seattle is a city with endless options for weekend and day trips, not to mention a city with countless nooks and crannies and parks and lakes to explore, so it’s not a shock that in my almost two years in Seattle, I never made it out to the peninsula until just the other day. Suffice it to say, it was stunning destination and well worth the wait.

The best part? Where we went, First Beach, was the dog friendliest beach I have ever been to. I think every single person there, short of the surfers who were up at the crack of dawn to tackle the waves, had at least one dog with them. It helps that the adorable cabins at the Quileute Oceanside Resort are dog friendly. I highly recommend the T-frame cabins, so adorable in their smallness and simplicity, and so clean they looked brand new. But if small isn’t your thing, the larger cabins looked great as well and had stunning views of the water (and sunset) from their porches.

Though pop-culture hotspot Forks is not too far away, I highly recommend skipping it and bringing food to cook, either in the cabin’s kitchenette or over a bonfire on the beach, which are legal just as long as you obtain a five dollar permit from the resort’s front office.

I feel lucky that I got to see this beautiful oceanside reservation before I pack up and head out of Seattle for my next adventure.

La Push, Washington Weekend Adventuring

A weekend escape from Seattle to the beautiful seaside Quileute Oceanside Lodge in La Push, Washington.

Seattle Restaurant Week 2013: Olivar

This week I tackled two more restaurants, getting the third one in last night on the very last day of week two of restaurant week. Like two giant clowns, we piled into a ridiculously small smart car (part of the zipcar-like cars2go service) and scooted up to Capitol Hill for dinner at Olivar.  I hadn’t heard of Olivar, but their yelp ratings are high and it’s Basque region Spanish cuisine, and I love me some Spanish cuisine. This was one restaurant where I think you lose out a bit if you dine only from the restaurant week menu.  Thankfully, we ordered many many many dishes off the regular menu on top of ordering restaurant week items. We didn’t even approach the specials, but they all sounded spectacular.  I think if I were to return, I’d probably throw the menu aside completely and order entirely from the specials written on a rustic chalkboard on the wall.

Of what we ordered, I’d say we had three really spectacular dishes – the  frisée salad with poached egg, crispy serrano & smoked tomato vinaigrette, sunchoke soup with crème fraiche & truffle oil, and the pimiento relleno con patatas a lo pobre (braised pork stuffed Anaheim pepper with yukon potatoes and fried egg) – the rest were just alright, but nothing I’d run back to have again. Our wine was spectacular, we ended up ordering a bottle of 2009 Puerto Salinas, Monastrell, which Jon picked because he was familiar with Alicante, the region it’s from. It was absolutely delicious and I wish I would remember in the future to keep an eye out for that region’s wine, but I know that I likely will not, because I’m horrible at remembering anything about wine.

Even though not every dish wowed me, the combination of the ones that did, the delicious wine and the good company made it a great night. And I just discovered that the restaurant holds cooking classes one Saturday a month, followed by a 3 course menu. The details on the classes were spare on their website, so if you’re interested I’d ask your server for more details.

Restaurant Week 2013 at Olivar - © Kara Stokes Photography


Seattle Restaurant Week 2013: Agrodolce

Last year restaurant week was a mixed bag for me.  At the soon to be shuttered Rover’s*, I had one of the most delicious meals I’ve experienced in Seattle but at Tilth, I had a pretty forgettable meal. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t wow me like I thought it would, given everything I know about chef Maria Hines. I meant all year to return to Tilth for a non-restaurant week meal, since I knew it was likely a reflection of restaurant week and not the restaurant or chef that I wasn’t wowed. Sadly that never happened, so once restaurant week rolled around again, I made plans with a friend to try another of Chef Hines’ restaurants.  Suffice it to say, I was wowed by my meal at Agrodolce. The service was great, the waitstaff was knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the menu and explaining the dishes, and the dishes were just spectacular.

One thing I did learn: When I ask a waiter what he would order if he was me, I really should listen.  Because I asked and he shared, but I foolishly only ordered one of his suggestions, the cured pork loin appetizer with fennel.  It was my favorite of my three courses, hands down.  And go figure, my friend’s entree of ricotta cannelloni with roasted garlic, green garlic and stinging nettles was the other dish I fell hard for, and he suggested that too. Next time, I listen.  Really though, every dish was on point. My friend’s spring onion soup with pickled garlic, watercress, and pecorino was the creamiest, richest thing that you’d never know it would be vegan, if it weren’t served with the pecorino crisp lounging across the rim of the bowl. And as I told another friend, the desserts were but a blur, thanks to the delicious wine.

Agrodoce 100% revived my faith in restaurant week meals.


*Rover’s was slated to shut its doors for good in early June, but they recently announced that they are extending the closing date to June 23rd.  If you have money to burn, I highly suggest a meal there.

Animal – Los Angeles

When I decided to move cross country I wavered between moving to Seattle and L.A., but fortunately my job (which I love) in Seattle (which I also love) has brought me to L.A. a few times already this year, so I feel like I get the best of both worlds. This last trip was a quick one, with time for only one food adventure with my capricorn partner-in-crime Tina. We settled on Animal, the head-to-tail dining concept by Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo.  It was pretty darn spectacular, not just the food but the service and wine as well. Even though we didn’t venture too deeply into the offal and odds and ends portion of the menu, I was proud of myself for chowing down on a plate of pigs ears, which were crunchy like bacon after being slow cooked for hours and then flash fried and served nestled beneath a fried egg.  Our favorite dish of the night however was the hamachi tostada, which makes me think a trip to the duo’s seafood restaurant Son of a Gun needs to be on the agenda for my next trip to the city.

So much amazing food on this planet, so little time.

river valley cheese, fall city, washington

This past weekend I did something I have been wanting to do for ages. On a whim I signed up for a cheesemaking class, and it turned out to be the best possible way to spend that particular Saturday.  The class was taught by Julie Steil, whose River Valley artisan cheeses are featured on the menus of numerous James Beard award winning chefs in Seattle (including Tom Douglas ) as well as in the Williams Sonoma catalog.  She’s kind of a big deal, especially when you realize that Julie has only been making cheese since 2005, when she picked it up as a hobby.

The class was on making parmesan, which was the draw for me, as well as fresh mozzarella, which I’d made before on my own.  Crazy thing is, I learned just as much about making mozzarella as I did the parmesan, because Julie shared tips here and there, sprinkled in with her stories about her past victories and failures.  Now I know that it’s not just how long I handle my fresh mozzarella that determines how tender or rubbery it is, but also the temperature at which the curds form.  And I know too that I can premake curds and freeze them, and then just pull them out and make cheese from them whenever the urge hits.  And I know what the best local farm is for buying milk.  And that’s just scratching the surface.  I have notes scribbled all over my recipe packet of the tips and tricks she shared with us.

And that’s just the mozzarella.  She walked us through the entire process of making the parmesan, from adding cultures, to cutting curds correctly (do it wrong, and you won’t end up with parmesan), to draining it in the molds. And now I have a 2 pound wheel of parmesan of my own, aging in my fridge (and hopefully, soon to be aging in a dedicated “cheese cave”….aka mini fridge.)  I left confident that, armed with Julie’s advice, I can age my cheese perfectly, refining the flavor with terroir, which I now know I can achieve by sticking carrots or parsley near my aging cheese.

And that’s just what I learned.  I also spend those three hours eating a disturbing amount of cheese.  Her amazing Tomme was dangerously piled high on a platter just a short arm’s length from my station, so I really can’t be blamed.  And that Tomme was just so damn good, I am already planning to return to her cheese room for her Natural Rind Tomme and Bavarian Feta class in June.   Her classes cost $145 per person, which is a steal when you factor in how much you learn, the cheese you stuff in your face during the class, the cheese you bring home with you, and a great afternoon spent in a room full of fellow cheese lovers.


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