Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Charleston, SC

People thought we were crazy for flying to Charleston for the weekend. Crazy we may be, but Alaska Airlines now flies there nonstop from Seattle so it was an easy weekend getaway. 

This was my first time visiting Charleston and it was perfect in every way. It's small enough that you can walk everywhere, and there's so much to look at that I logged over twenty miles on my pedometer between Saturday and Sunday. 

We wandered all over the city in between amazing meals and even had friends from Savannah drive over to join us for part of the weekend. We stayed at the Ansonborough Inn which was gorgeous and close to everything. Here are some of the highlights from my first visit to Charleston:

Favorite Sights

Fort Sumter National Monument (History and a beautiful view from the ferry.)

Molly & Me Pecans at the Farmers Market (Free samples! Our favorite flavor was bourbon. These taste like pie.)

Savannah Bee Company (Our Savannah friends brought us some of there honeycomb when they visited a year ago so we had to stop in and get more. You can sample all of the honeys. I came home with a bag full.)

The Battery (View of the water and incredible homes)

The Commons (If you're lucky she'll make you an Old Fashioned to sip while you shop. We were lucky.)

Favorite Restaurants & Bars

Hominy Grill (Great Southern breakfast)

Husk (Get a side of grits, they are the cheesiest)

Magnolias (Good for lunch)

Pavilion Bar (Rooftop bar, great place to relax in the early evening)

Slightly North of Broad (My favorite meal was here!)

The Gin Joint (Choose from a list of adjectives and they will make you a surprise drink)

There is still more to see and do in Charleston and I will definitely be going back!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Washington Wine Country

I am very, very lucky to call Washington my home and to share it with delicious wine. Weekend getaways to wine country are a great way to escape and relax. Earlier this Fall we made the drive to Walla Walla, enjoying tasting rooms featuring wine from the Red Mountain, Walla Walla Valley, Wahluke Slope, and Columbia Valley AVAs

I've been in wine country during every season and any time of year is a beautiful time to go. If you are planning a getaway, here are my recommendations for you...

Favorite Tasting Rooms (in no particular order):

Cooper Wine Company (casual atmosphere, great wine, and a sweet dog)

Kiona (a family business for three generations + one of the owners gave us a free tour and let us try the wine at different stages of the process - we learned a lot!)

Fidelitas (great wine, Joe is a member here)

Gifford Hirlinger (a couple run this winery and live up the hill, one of them will be pouring for you and can tell you anything you ever wanted to know about wine making)

Glencorrie (cozy tasting room)

L'Ecole No. 41 (amazing location in an old schoolhouse)

Three Rivers (laid back setting and now I buy their wine at Fred Meyer all the time)

Favorite Restaurants (in the order in which we visited them):

If the weather permits, eat lunch outside at Brasserie Four. I highly recommend the Moules Frites with the Pernod and garlic broth!

For a nice (and delicious) dinner make a reservation at Whitehouse-Crawford. Brick walls and twinkle lights!

Be prepared to wait in line for breakfast. These Walla Walla folks are serious about their weekend brunch and there are several good options. I recommend Bacon and Eggs and the wait is shorter if you are willing to sit at the counter. 


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Boozy Clams with Tarragon

Friday nights are for homemade meals that don't take a lot of effort and give you an excuse to open a bottle of wine. I picked up some clams, rosemary bread and a bottle of Oyster Bay sauvignon blanc on my way home from work. Once I got home I massaged some kale for a salad and dinner came together in a matter of minutes. 

Cooking seafood is fairly new to me since I was vegetarian for so many years. I still don't feel confident in my fish-cooking skills but clams... clams are something I can handle! They are so much easier than I ever thought possible. If clams are new to you to, here are some tips I have learned:

  • Friday is a great day to buy clams. I found these ones at Ballard Market. I also often buy from Hama Hama at the farmers market on Saturday (University District) and Sunday (Ballard). 
  • A little gaping is okay if the clams have been sitting for a while, but they should close up tight when they are agitated. When you are rinsing your clams, discard any that are open or smell bad. 
  • You can store your clams for a few days in the refrigerator covered with a damp cloth.
  • Do not let your clams sit in stagnant water. When you are ready to use them, just take them out of the refrigerator, place them in a colander, and rinse them well. 

Boozy Clams with Tarragon
Serves 2


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 pounds manila clams
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Heat the olive oil on medium heat in a wide saute pan. Add the tarragon, red pepper flakes and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until the garlic is soft. 

Add the wine, stir briefly, and add the clams. Spread the clams in a single layer and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Turn the heat down to low and let the clams steam for 5-10 minutes, or until they have all opened up. 

Use a slotted spoon to remove the clams and divide them between two bowls. Add the butter to the pan and stir the liquid until the butter has melted. Divide the broth between the two bowls.

Serve immediately with lots of crusty bread and a big salad. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Lake Valhalla Hike

Finding time to hike in the Fall can be a challenge, but it is so worth it. I had never hiked to Lake Valhalla before, but it was probably ten times more beautiful with all of the color popping at the end of September. 

My hiking buddies for this trek were my best friend from childhood and her nine month old baby girl, Penny. This was Penny's first hike and Kate's first time hiking with more than just a backpack to carry, and they were both champs. 

The hike allowed for the perfect amount of exercise without being overly strenuous. There are a couple different routes to this lake and we took the shorter Smithbrook Trail. It is a 7 mile out and back with 1500 ft. of elevation gain. 

The lake has a sandy beach which was a perfect place to sit and relax and let Penny get her wiggles out (also chew on sticks, rub sand all over her face, and get all up in the outdoors like a pro). There were some PCT hikers also hanging out on this beach and planning to camp there for the night. 

This was a perfect way to spend a sunny September day with my best friend and her mini-me. Today is Kate's birthday (Happy Birthday, lady!) and I hope she gets her wish to hike with the family.

For more information about hiking to Lake Valhalla, visit the Hiking Guide from Washington Trails Association here

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Sourdough Bagels

Favorite foods are difficult to choose. After thirty years of life I think I can safely say that a toasted bagel with a generous layer of whipped cream cheese is at the top of my list. Perfection. Unfortunately there are a lot of bad bagels out there in the world, which is why making good ones at home is totally worth the time. Make the dough and form them on day one, then boil and bake them on day two. It's a perfect weekend project and they freeze well, so you can be in happy bagel land all week. Doesn't that sound like a nice place to be?

Sourdough Bagels
Yield: 1 Dozen

Take your starter out of the fridge and feed it the day before you plan to make the bagels. I used an electric mixer but you could also make the dough by hand or in a food processor. The technique for forming the bagels comes from Cook's Illustrated, but the recipe is my own. 

  • 1 cup (226 grams) sourdough starter 
  • 4-1/2 cups (630 grams) bread flour
  • 1-1/4 cups water
  • 4 teaspoons (28.1 grams) molasses
  • 1 teaspoon (2.8 grams) yeast (optional, but made my bagels slightly more puffy)
  • 2 teaspoons (11.4 grams) salt
  • 4 quarts water (day 2)
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar (day 2)
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda (day 2)


Make bagel dough

Add the starter, flour, water, molasses, yeast and salt to the bowl of an electric mixer. With the paddle attachment, mix the ingredients on low speed until all of the flour is incorporated, about 1 minute. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. 

Switch to the dough hook and knead for 1-2 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Turn the dough out onto a clean, unfloured counter. Use a pastry cutter to divide the dough into 12 pieces. Gently roll each piece in your hand to form a small round. Cover in plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes. Cover two baking sheets with a single layer of plastic wrap. 

Form bagels

When 15 minutes has passed, begin working with one ball of dough at a time. Lightly coat the ball of dough with a sprinkling of flour, then use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a 5-6 inch round. Beginning at the end farthest away from you, roll the dough toward you, forming a tight roll. Use both hands, held flat, to gently roll the dough into a rope about 10 inches long. Do not taper the ends. Twist the rope of dough by holding your hands on the ends and rolling in opposite directions. Hold one end of the twisted dough in your hand and pull the other around to join the ends and form a ring. Press the two ends of dough together on the counter and gently roll with your hand. Place the dough ring on the plastic-covered baking sheet. Repeat with remaining balls of dough, leaving an inch between each ring on the baking sheets. 

Cover both baking sheets loosely with a sheet of plastic wrap. Allow them to rest at room temperature for 1 hour. Then, tightly cover each sheet with plastic wrap and place them in the fridge for 16-24 hours. 


One hour before baking, place a baking stone on the middle shelf of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees. 

Boil the bagels

Bring the water, sugar, and baking soda to a boil in a dutch oven. Remove the bagels from the fridge and gently slide them off of the baking sheets, including the top and bottom layers of plastic wrap. Using a pair of scissors, cut through the plastic wrap to separate each bagel (this makes it easier to move the individual bagels and remove the layers).Place a rack into each of the baking sheets and top each with a piece of parchment paper.  

Gently remove the plastic wrap from one of the bagels and transfer to the boiling water. Boil for 20 seconds, flip over, and boil for an additional 20 seconds. Gently remove the bagel from the boiling water and place it upside-down on the parchment-lined racks. Repeat this process until all of the bagels have been boiled. 

Bake the bagels

Pour 1/2 cup of boiling water into the rimmed baking sheet and place it in the oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Removed the bagels from the oven and carefully flip them, removing the parchment paper as you do. Return to the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes more. 

When the bagels have browned to your liking, take them out of the oven and allow them to dry on racks until cool. These are best eaten the day they are made but hold up well in the freezer. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Glacier and Waterton Lakes

A few days before we drove to Glacier National Park, the Reynolds Creek Fire broke out and closed the Going to the Sun Road so that driving all the way through the park was impossible. Waterton Lakes in Canada was fire-free (and wet, as you can see in the photos) so we changed up our route. 

Instead of our original plan to camp, we splurged and stayed at the Prince of Wales Hotel. We had high tea overlooking the lake and then toured the park in the car as it was raining. 

We were able to drive down into Glacier the next day. The photo below was taken along the drive. There were many times when we had to drive very slowly around cows lying in the road. 

Once inside the park, we hiked to Iceberg Lake from Many Glacier, which was not impacted by the fire. The lake was beautiful and I am so glad we chose this hike. There were clouds seeping over the tops of the mountains but we managed to enjoy a dry and partly sunny day. 

On this trip we saw bighorn sheep, mountain goats, bison, deer, and cows (!) but no bears. I am looking forward to exploring more of this place someday. 
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