Wednesday, August 31, 2011

native place

Oh well yes hello!

It has been awhile. I have been vacationing in my native place, my native place being a rather idyllic corner in a hectic world; Spokane Washington. The place I lived til I was 8, and have tried to visit every 4-5 years since. This year I brought a boy.


I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into at the commencement of this trip. Basically, Southwest Airlines had absurdly cheap flights for their 40th anniversary (anyone else capitalize on this?! Can I get an amen?!), and I’d waxed rhapsodic about how beautiful the west is to Steve, so he went WE HAVE TO GO MAKE UP YOUR MIND RIGHT NOW. Being an indecisive Libra, my inclination would’ve been to hem and ham until the deal was over and then vaguely wish I’d sprung for it. But bless my gung-ho boyfriend, because man this trip was amazing.

I’m going to have to divide our trip into SEVERAL posts (so please keep your eyes peeled!) because we covered a lot of turf, edible and otherwise, on our trip.

So this first trip, we’ll call it Nostalgia Trip.

Our first day we arrived, dazed and confused, at 9:45 a.m. despite having spent more than six hours on airplanes (flying West is ridiculous. But also really nice in terms of gaining daylit hours!). We got picked up at the airport by my godfather (my godparents, the greatest host and hostesses on earth, let us stay with them, lent us a car more than once, kept us fed, and basically in general were amazing and you should all be incredibly jealous that they’re MY godparents) and had a pleasant lunch. Which was nice since my breakfast on the plane had consisted of two Oreos and a whole lot of caffeine (I don’t like flying…) So then both of us, feeling sort of constricted by airplane seat, wanted to MOVE.

We got a ride down to Riverfront Park, a really really great public space. Spokane hosted the World’s Fair many years back, and relics still remain.

There’s a sweet carousel…


… and an art installation of running people.


Question: have any of you seen Benny and Joon? It was filmed in Spokane! (Tangent: Johnny Depp and his then girlfriend Winona Ryder rented a house down the street from my godparents. Their daughter spied on them from her friend’s yard. They still call it “the old Depp place” hahahaha).

Anyway, one of the opening shots of Benny and Joon features this, my favorite feature of Riverfront Park, the giant red wagon. I think as a child I thought every town had one of these.

For the record, there are steps on the inside (and a slide!). Steve just chooses to travel this way.


Then, displaying my somewhat frightening food memory (I spose it serves an evolutionary purpose; remember where to get the calories, survive and reproduce!) I looked through a gap in the trees by a spot where they have rides, and went, “That place sells elephant ears!”

Which they did.


Steve got one, massive, freshly fried, and positively suffocated with cinnamon sugar. Impromptu picnic!


I ate WAY more than I intended. Elephant ears are delicious!


Oh yeah plus I’d already gotten something of my own.


Huckleberry ice cream! Huckleberries only grow in the West, only grow way up at high altitudes, and only grow in the wild. Basically, you compete with bears to get them. They are DELICIOUS and it is the season for all things huckleberries out West right now.

I shared lots of this with Steve. Yay huckleberries!

Our next stop was Manito park, where I used to feed the ducks when I was a little kid :D Guys, NOSTALGIA. SO MUCH NOSTALGIA.


We strolled around the pond, looked at the weeping willows…

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Steve required another snack and I took him to another place necessary to visit for memory’s sake… Taco Time! My hometown may’ve had Baja Fresh, Chipotle, Qdoba, whatever… I have no interest in those things. Ever.

Because Taco Time sells TATER TOTS! The hungry boy shnarfed down.


I know.

So day one we HEROICALLY managed to stay away til 9:15. Considering we’d woken up at 3:50am on the East Coast and had thus been awake for 18 hours, I was quite proud of us.

Another day, we walked around town… apparently 18 miles! This is actually not the first time Steve and I have walked 18 miles together. It’s just kind of how we roll.

This walk, however, was sort of exceptional. If you live in Spokane (and likely more hidden small places in the West), you have a town… but you quickly turn around and nature is there. High Drive, a street running up the side of the South Hill, Spokane’s major geographic feature, demonstrates this.

On one side of the road, you have ordinary, cute little houses.


And on the other side, you have cliff and valley and big open space and evergreens. It’s SO BEAUTIFUL!


We eventually wound our way around to Browne’s Addition, a cool, funky part of town that has these amazing old mansions.


The place to eat there, a total institution, is The Elk. But I had plans for us for lunch. But… we were on vacation. Which means why not do some day drinking!

We got ourselves settled on the lovely outdoor patio…


… Admired the waiters going in and out of this door assisted by sticking their foot through that helpful handle…


And got COCKTAILS! Once I read this incredibly inventive selection I couldn’t not… and yknow, vacation. And, yknow, I’d never been of legal age to drink in my native place before :D


I was super excited to see Micheladas on the menu- I’ve drunk them in Austin, and they are one of the few occasions I’m willing to drink a beer. Because it doesn’t taste like beer, it tastes like lime and Bloody Mary spices! Steve actually likes beer, so he quickly decided to try one of these.


I got this exciting concoction!

Lime muddled with our red chili ginger simple syrup topped with Pearl vodka. Served with a chili salted rim.


Exactly as delicious as it sounded. And yes, mathematicians, 18 mile walk+ cocktail on an almost empty stomach+ girl with fairly small body mass= pretty darn tipsy.

We also split a tide-us-over taco salad.


More walking, more walking…. more sunshine… Yes, a huckleberry milkshake to split is a good idea!


This was at Zip’s, a totally nondescript fast food place… and totally delicious! (You can also get really great huckleberry milkshakes at the Arby’s in Sand Point, Idaho. Huckleberry is totally my favorite milkshake flavor. And is regrettably highly regional and highly seasonal.) They seemed to involve merely frothing vanilla ice cream with some sort of huckleberry syrup. How, oh how, can I purvey some?


More walking, more walking… they call it the south HILL for a reason. Yeow.

Finally, finally, we arrived at Lindemans!

It’s a lovely place with light spilling in and a killer espresso bar…


But we were there for takeout, due to PICNIC PROXIMITY! Their selection is basically unbelievable.


After agonizing for quite some time, we set our hearts on the 5 cheese veggie lasagna and the goat cheese artichoke heart strata (!)


And a carton of the Israeli curried couscous, on the recommendation of the guy working the counter.


Two blocks made for one of the (emotionally) longest walks I’ve ever taken because the food smelled so unbelievably good.

Finally,we unloaded our lovely picnic in Manito Park.


The lasagna was incredible, with massive chunks of cheese (including BLEU CHEESE, which I never would have thought to put in lasagna but made for a wonderful rich depth of flavor). There were also mushrooms, bits of spinach… I myself was kind of craving more veggie wholesomeness and less grease, but, y’know, I’m me. And this is lasagna.

Steve dominated this (though, and this is a first for us, there were leftovers).


I focused on the strata, which was great chewy bread, kind of soaked in egginess while still retaining its texture, interspersed with bites of goat cheese, artichoke heart, and sun dried tomato. Carblicious!


And the Israeli couscous salad is one that I’m going to reproduce because it was SUPER tasty and also ridiculously simple seeming. Israeli couscous (which was wonderfully chewy!), almonds, dried cranberries, green onion, and curry dressing made a tasty, tasty combination.


Finally, to round out the meal (though again--- leftovers!) I ordered what was supposed to be a Nanaimo bar. Another regional thing. Cakespy will explain it to you!

However, it wasn’t a real Nanaimo bar. It was a brownie with white frosting. Which is fine if that’s what I wanted. But I wanted to teach Steve about a proper Nanaimo bar!


That afternoon included with a walk around the formal gardens at Manito Park…


That was the Duncan Garden, which is a formal Victorian-style (? I think?) garden that’s planted with new combos every year. This is the first time I’ve been in it on a weekday and therefore NOT inadvertently crashed a wedding. I was a little disappointed.

There’s also a greenhouse to see whacky new species…


… and a rose garden that makes me, the girl who doesn’t usually like roses, GAPE.


We visited my old house but that’s too intense and personal to share (or for y’all to even really get :D). Then walked back to my godparents.

So we conclude. 18 miles, cocktails, milkshake and lasagna. 

That day also concluded with stomachaches :D

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

welcome back!

To me, that is.

Last week I saw

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 DSC06030DSC06179  DSC06125DSC05991DSC06301

And the Milky Way. And an osprey nest. And I wish I’d seen a bear, but the sign on the trailhead said to talk or sing to avoid sneaking up on them. So I serenaded the beautiful beautiful forest with Bonnie Raitt.

We’ll catch up soon!

Monday, August 22, 2011


The oregano on my deck is growing like a WEED!


It is so nice to go out and just inhale the wonderful smell. It takes me back to being in Greece, where you walk around on the mountains and smell all the wild herbs growing. So heavenly.

The chives and thyme are doing respectably, too :D


Still, I decided some serious oregano action was due. Fresh, uber-local herbs should never be allowed to go to waste. Plus, you know, I love it!

Began with tomato salad, because I just am eating as many tomatoes as I can right now.

Fresh local tomato+ avocado+ the oregano+ lemon juice.

The avocado was a little old and ugly, but still YUMMY. It and the lemon made a fat and acid dressing thing that was grand.


Also ad libbed some black bean burgers.

3/4 of a cup of black beans, drained (Goya low sodium, my fave)
tons of fresh oregano
3 T oats to thicken it up
1 T ground flax
1/4 cup or so of onion, grated
big glug of Worcestershire sauce

I basically took all the things I usually put in beef burgers and mixed them with beans instead. Cooked on my nonstick skillet. Quite good! Though my lentil veggie burgers (in Favorite Recipes) are the ultimate, they take a bit longer, and I already had the beans open!


Also had my first brussels sprouts of the season! Wee babies from the farmer’s market.

I did my usual saute methodology (which I call Austin brussels sprouts since they’re based on ones I ate at Snack Bar in Austin), in which I coated a frying pan in oil, added the brussels (the tiny ones I left whole, the slightly larger but still quite small ones I halfed and started cut side down) and let saute. Then once they’d browned I deglazed the pan with dijon mustard, honey, and (instead of my usual dill), more oregano!

Good but not great. I need to let them cook slower. I’m too impatient!


Quality, oreganofull dinner. I ended up topping the burger with peach salsa, which was an EXCELLENT choice.


Monday the 15th marked my first day of eating meat after two weeks of abstaining (church related). It was beef time.

Quickly thawed (well actually my mom thawed, I am chronically bad at defrosting things due to my lack of patience and general grossed outedness at raw meat) a pound of organic ground beef.

Then added a colorful mixture of 1 egg; 1/4 or so of an onion, grated; 1/2 of a small carrot, grated; a sprinkling of breadcrumbs, salt and pepper, and TONS of oregano. Who knew it could be so pretty?


Rolled them into little meatballs and broiled them 3-4 minutes per side. Wonderfully tender (the grass fed beef just has a better flavor) and nice and flavorful from the veggies and herbs.


Enjoyed them with pasta and HOMEMADE TOMATO SAUCE!

How I made tomato sauce:

Bought seconds tomatoes (cheap!). Blanched them in boiling water about 20 seconds (they were big so I just used a bit of water and submerged them one half at a time). Meanwhile sauteed sweet onion and garlic over medium low heat til tender. Along with, wait for it, lots of OREGANO! Added the tomatoes, chopped, some red wine, and salt and pepper. Let cook til saucy (I kept mine chunky).

Honestly, in the summer, I like my tomato sauce with a side of pasta. Tomatoes are just SO GOOD RIGHT NOW!