While planning our trip to the northwest, my mom mentioned that we should hike Mineral Ridge, which loops around Lake Coeur D’Alene in North Idaho.
“I hiked it when I was nine months pregnant with you,” she casually remarked.
Huffing and puffing up the hills, I thought to myself, people in the West are crazy healthy.
Idaho is great. Steve and I made a list of all the states we had been to on a Southwest Airlines napkin (this was likely because as, both being oldest children, we are highly competitive but also because he is vair sweet and was probably trying to distract me from my avian phobia). He beat me, but he pointed out that he’d been to “boring Midwest states” and I’d been to “cool states”. Well said. Idaho was one of said “cool states” (really! Idaho is cool!) and I was delighted to share it with Steve.
When hiking with Idaho, you of course encounter a plethora of gorgeous evergreen trees. Hiking way up high in them, you feel like you are getting more oxygen or something.
And in the West, you are liable to stumble upon a mine a prospector started and subsequently abandoned.
Guess whose boyfriend decided it’d be fun to check out the creepy abandoned mine?
Another great thing about the west is hiking. Fact: I hated hated HATED hiking growing up. Well, I guess when I was really really little (and got to ride in the backpack), I liked hiking. But most of my youthful and pre-teen years were spent getting dragged up mountains, complaining all the while.
But I’ve come around. And I’ve realized that the topography of the West makes hiking particularly appealing because man oh man is there a view. On hikes in the West, you always get your money shot.
Perhaps because I was raised on it, perhaps because it’s just the most beautiful, I am happiest taking in scenery where the mountains meet the water. For me, there is nothing more beautiful or serene.
I’m grateful to Steve for being more sentimental than I am because it never occurs to me to take self portraits in these situations (due to generally loathing being photographed at all- David does a really great impression of me fake-smiling while our boss shouted “Teeth! Show me teeth Ileana!”), but this is a nice picture. Yay self timer!
In the inland Northwest, you cool down after an invigorating hike by getting in a lake. A very very VERY invigorating lake. A used to be a glacier you better believe it’s gonna be cold lake!
We sat down to admire people in goofy…. water four wheelers?
And sat down to a locavorelicious lunch!
Focusing on plant foods, feeling less than nutritionally sound due to the elephant ear extravaganza (ahem…), I brought:
Cherry tomatoes, yellow pepper, and Dave’s killer bread I got while raiding my registered dietitian godmother’s fridge (!), and local cherries and green beans I got at my new faaaaaaaaaavorite market (more on that in a bit).
My boyfriend is CRAZY. And adorable.
He decided that he should not impose upon our hosts by actually eating any of their food and so arrived in Washington with a suitcase (he checked it) full of canned beans, tomato sauce, and corn; and pounds upon pounds of pasta.
So this was what he brought to lunch. DORK. But considerate.
Let’s go back to these cherries, shall we? Can I just take a moment to absolutely REJOICE that I got to visit a place where cherries were still not only RIPE and BEAUTIFUL and DELICIOUS, they were also LOCAL and much much CHEAPER than home?!
I walked into my new favorite market and saw this:
Another time I got these (they WERE ginormous)
I giggled at this as I imagined local small farmers lovingly killing grasshoppers to fold them into desserts
I admired the wine and pastry selection
I loved the artichoke on the sign
And then I realized I was in a GAS STATION. Rocket Market, possibly my new favorite place to shop (a bit of a problem since I’m now 3,000 miles away from it), is definitely a GAS STATION MINI MART. How lucky are the denizens of Spokane to have this amazing mix of convenience store and sublime local food?
I can also vouch for their caffeine selection. To fuel the 18 mile walk, I had some of their cold-brewed iced coffee. It was unreal. I’m super into cold brewed coffee these days. I appear to be too lazy to make it myself, though…
(they also sold caramel waffles. So while I inhaled my coffee, Steve, who doesn’t like coffee, fueled in his own way)
There’s another great market downtown that has more local produce as well as your typical hippie dippie overpriced Whole Foods type stuff. I love them both for their awesome mural outside…
… and this very very cool policy to get kiddos aboard the produce wagon. I love this idea! I sure never tasted apricots when I was under 13.
Let us return to Idaho for more awesome local food- the Coeur D’Alene farmer’s market! After our frigid swim in Lake Coeur D’Alene, we snoozed on the beach for a bit, then wandered into town to delightfully stumble upon vendors setting up.
This farmer’s market was legit!
It was filled with scads of produce but you’ve all seen that. I’m much more fixated on SAMPLES!
This salad dressing was excellent. I envisioned terrible encounters with TSA, however (they stole Steve’s huckleberry jam!) so I regretfully left it.
There was an awesome pizza stand with a wood burning oven in the middle of the street
And a make your own lemonade!
We watched the guy crush up lemons, muddle in sugar, and then add our flavoring of choice- no surprise here, more huckleberry!
And, being on vacation, we of course had to stop into the chocolate shop (and by “we” I definitely mean “I”. Steve is indifferent on dessert).
We were welcomed with a sample, which was obviously awesome.
To share, we got the ghost chili chocolate purely for novelty’s sake. Guys, there is a reason they call this the hottest chili in the world. It is the hottest chili in the world. Lots and lots of water was consumed after this.
Also got some huckleberry chocs for our host and hostess.
And now… we have the ULTIMATE in locavore lusciousness. My godparents had another friend who was visiting from Honolulu, and he makes a point of whenever he is in Spokane to visit this place: Latah Bistro.
Looking at the beautiful decor, you would never guess that it is in a strip mall. Seriously.
As a girl who likes my steak rare and my poached eggs runny, I appreciated this note on the menu.
We began with two scrumptious appetizers to share.
Lovely, oh-so-fresh bruschetta (Spokane had a late harvest and tomatoes are really JUST coming into season and are wonderful) and a flatbread that was drizzled with balsamic reduction and INSANELY delicious.
My godmother is HILARIOUS and very supportive of my blog and went around the table holding up a candle so I could get a picture of everyone’s entree. Whether they wanted me to or not.
She ordered the mushroom ravioli, which came in a bacon sauce. Mmm bacon.
Steve ordered the Magherita pizza, which had more of those amazing just-hitting-their-prime tomatoes and huuuuuuuge quantities of woooooooooonderful garlic.
My godfather has been eating “mostly plant based” but clearly was taking a break. So he ordered a T-bone :D It came with a massive hunk of, what sold him, “Dungeness crab butter.
Greg the houseguest had osso bucco (which apparently always got ordered by someone cause it was so delicious and oh man- it was pork, rather than the traditional veal, and had a kalamata olive glaze that made my eyes kind of roll back in my head). Christian my godparents’ son had the salmon… except they were out of salmon so he had the trout.
And finally I went TOTALLY Portlandia on them and asked (among a LITANY of questions- I am always that obnoxious person at restaurants), “Is the chicken local?”
The chicken was local. They didn’t have any pictures of it putting its arm around the other chickens or anything, but it was local enough for me.
It was the night’s special, served in a curry broth with fresh summer vegetables and perfectly cooked rice. I’m so into curry right now. And local food. And man oh man sometimes it’s really great to just eat a chicken breast. God bless Latah Bistro for giving me a guilt-free one.
I wasn’t sure whether I was going to eat dessert, and my godmother rolled her eyes and said, “You walked 18 miles today. And you’re 22. Use this opportunity.”
Pumpkin bread pudding with cinnamon cream oh my godddddddddddddddddddd.
Not only ate it, scraped the dish bare. Nothing left. Nada.
To conclude with another environmental message: people pick up litter if you have a Garbage Goat.
To explain: a leftover from the World’s Fair, garbage goat is part art installation, part trash compactor. You push a button (demonstrated by the kid in the sweet hat and shades) and stick your garbage in to get sucked into the goat’s mouth (demonstrated by my boyfriend).
It is adorable and also just fun. And, my godparents were quick to point out, the area of the park near Garbage Goat is absolutely devoid of litter.