Mt. Rainier Road to Paradise Wine Fest… and more

Need a getaway to the Mt. Rainier area? The Mt. Rainier On the Road to Paradise Wine Festival in Ashford, WA is held in the Spring and Fall every year. The Spring festival was held on April 28th and in the Fall, it is scheduled for November 3rd.  Keep track of the event at  The Spring wine festival showcased 11 wineries, 1 brewery, and Mountain Lodge Farm cheese.  Also, celebration artist Teresa R. Oltman showed her paintings and painted wine glasses.  I happened to purchase a great piece of art made of acrylic and oil (see pic below). Appetizers and bbq pork sliders were available for purchase (or with the tickets that come with admission).  Live entertainment was enjoyed – Bill Compher was the perfect starter and the Randy Oxford Band, the perfect end to the event.  Local artist, Teresa Oltman sang on a couple of songs with the Band as well.  Shoestrings also performed. A welcome addition to a trip to Mt. Rainier during the slower tourist season in the spring and fall.  Some lodging offered complimentary tickets to the festival with a stay.

We stayed at the Nisqually Lodge – it is clean and has an inviting lobby for conversation.  The bed is not so comfortable, but works.

I scouted out the food options and found that Copper Creek Inn would make a nice stop for breakfast.  It is no Maltby Cafe, but the location and ambiance are ideal.  Copper Creek’s menu is plentiful.  To give you an idea of what the menu looks like:  Breakfast – Build your own omelet, Hikers Hot Stack Old-Fashioned Pancakes, Sunrise Breakfast (and many side options); Lunch – Cheeseburger, Turkey Bacon Club, Grilled Ham ‘n Cheese, Soups and Chili; Dinner – Pasta, Steaks, Trout and Fried Chicken. Their specialty of the Inn is Copper Creek’s blackberry jam and their world-famous blackberry pie, since 1954  is served all day… and more.  Various cabins are available for lodging and be sure to stop by the gift shop.  Copper Creek Inn is located two miles from the Mt. Rainier National Park entrance and has been around since the 1940’s (built in the 1920’s as a service station and lunch counter).  Check out all the details at

Experience the forest!  Unplug.

And remember…you are in the heart of one of the most beautiful regions in the world, so get out and enjoy a nice hike on one of the abundant trails all around you and the many waterfalls that fill the mountain air with a peaceful tranquility.

Al Boccalino – Seattle

Al Boccalino, near 1st and Yesler in Seattle, offers cooking classes taught by the famous Luigi DeNunzio himself.  The class is a communal meal, you take home a recipe, and have fun!  Vino is offered (you are in Italy for goodness sake…ciao bella!) and you take home some cooking tips!  Luigi was a fine host on this night; there were 22 of us and four were chosen from a random drawing to help cook.  The ingredients are already prepped, so that makes it easy to get started.   The crowd was mixed, which was quite refreshing in that it really showed the uniqueness of life and lifestyles. Arrive early to engage and get to know your dining partners.

Some of the tips that Luigi wanted us to know…

  • Buy spices at a spice store.  Spices shelf life is 8-12 months.
  • Taste… and meet people
  • If there is a picky eater (like some of your children), they will be picky thinkers – I like this one for kids and adults alike.  At a young age, you don’t know if you like it or don’t like it – you need to taste it, experience it, keep on tasting it, be consistent
  • Bruschetta is pronounced “brewsketa”
  • No need to add oil to the water when boiling water for pasta, salt the water like the sea.
  • Break eggs on a flat surface, not on a rim of a bowl/dish
  • Try to taste without discrimination, explain what it is that you are tasting
  • Use your senses – smell, taste, touch, as well as common sense.  A balance between patience and passion is needed.
  • Capability is not a substitute for authenticity
  • When you plan a couple of meals a little at a time, you get better results
  • Some of the ingredients or prepared food from one meal, should be used to make a new dish another day

The meal this night consisted of Bruschetta con la muffoletta, Penne zucchini & pecorino romano, pork sausage, and Mele al brandy.  Various wines and after dinner drinks were offered… prosecco, wine, grapa, lemoncello, and more…

The Al Boccalino menu is subject to change (even on the night of the class)…there is always something for everyone.

For more information, visit or call 206-622-7688.

Space Needle at 50!

Today begins a six month celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the World’s Fair and the Space Needle… as a Seattle, Washington symbol and attraction.  The celebration runs April 21 – October 21st, 2012.

The Seattle Center showcases festivals, sporting events, fireworks at the Needle on New Year’s Eve, arts & entertainment, and holiday happenings.  The Seattle Center is changing and leaving behind some history with it.  One thing that the Space Needle represented fifty years ago is the future (space age), and today in 2012, the anniversary celebration takes on “The Next Fifty” in which the city will be focusing on the areas that will promote future development and well-being for the area.  Many human interest stories and other are being showcased right now… whether it be the iron worker that helped build the Space Needle, the shuttle drivers, or of those that came to enjoy the rides.  It was just recently that the amusement part of the Seattle Center has been removed.  Elvis Presley showed up at the fair in the late summer to shoot “It Happened At The World’s Fair”.  There have been books published.  The local newspapers, magazines, and news stations of the Puget Sound are featuring these stories.  Check out their websites for past photos, stories, and a list of events.

A number of events, publications, and attractions that are surrounding this celebration are:

I could go on and on about all the activities, both those that regularly occur here, as well as those that focus on the 1962 World’s Fair 50th Anniversary.  To help you gather your itinerary and make your plans:;;;;;;;;;

Whether you are 20 or 90 years of age, take the time to learn or to remember, and you will no doubt find it fascinating.  This was and is both a local and international celebration.  So cool!

Washington Artisan Cheesemakers Festival

The Washington Artisan Cheesemakers Festival, held on Saturday, April 7th at the Seattle Design Center (Sixth Ave S) showcased some of Washington finest cheesemakers, but also a number of local cider, beer, wine, and artisan food vendors.  21 and over.  This event is a benefit for the Cascade Harvest Coalition.

There is cheese made from cow, sheep and goat.  There is organic, raw, and farmstead.  Farmstead cheese is a cheese made from milk from the farmer’s own herd or flock, on the farm where the animals are raised.  The types were varied.  Cheesemakers came from Tacoma, Seattle, Adna, Winlock, Bow, Chehalis, Vashon, Dayton, Freeland, Eatonville, Port Townsend, Omak, Fall City, Lynden, Twisp, Tieton, Doty, and Darrington.  Quite the mix!  After tasting many of, but not all, my hands-down favorite is Dinah’s Cheese from Kurtwood Farms on Vashon Island – excellent quality! Cow/soft-ripened/bloomy/Aged 30 days/Farmstead.  Others that I enjoyed were Willapa Hills Cheese (Two-Face and Big Boy Blue), Beechers Handmade Cheese (Flagship), and Backcountry Creamery’s Trailblazer and Camp Chego.  Also, Mountain Lodge Farm’s table/display was nicely done as well as their selections…Chevre and Paradise.

For tips on choosing a cheese, you may want to consider the following:  kind/texture, rind, and age.  And for tips on how to serve and store cheese, check out these sites:

After tasting the 20+ Cheesemakers selections, most can be purchased at the festival cheese shop. Additional drink tickets could be purchased here as well. To try these tasty bites, be prepared to stand in line.  A suggestion…”light” live music would be nice as well as maybe to incorporate the artisan cheeses in specialty dishes made by local restaurants.  To view the full list of Cheesemakers, Sponsors, Artisan Food, Wine, Beer, and Cider vendors, check out:

Buttercups and daisies…

 “Through all the frozen winter
My nose has grown most lonely
For lovely, lovely, colored smells
That come in springtime only.

The purple smell of lilacs,
The yellow smell that blows
Across the air of meadows
Where bright forsythia grows.

The tall pink smell of peach trees,
The low white smell of clover,
And everywhere the great green smell
Of grass the whole world over.”
– Kathryn Worth, Smells

 “Buttercups and daisies,
Oh, the pretty flowers;
Coming ere the spring time,
To tell of sunny hours.
When the trees are leafless;
When the fields are bare;
Buttercups and daisies
Spring up here and there.”
– Mary Howitt

 “Spring with its wavin’ green grass and heaps of sweet-smellin’ flowers on every hilland in every dale.” – Roy Bean

 “Drinking good wine with good food in good company is one of life’s most civilized pleasures.” – Michael Broadbent

Hello April!

It is April 1st and it is a time to think ahead to sunnier days and the upcoming festival season.  Have you started getting tickets to the plethora of summer concerts?  Did you know that this March was the 3rd wettest on record for March in Seattle history?  Why am I thinking Summer when it is Spring?  It’s the time of year to Spring ahead, right?

Looking for something to do this month?  Here is a sampling of ideas:

  • Head to Mount Vernon (and surrounding towns) to see the tulip fields – the largest display in the great US of A
  • It’s National Park Week – admission to the National Park’s is free all week April 21 – April 29th
  • Enjoy a new restaurant during Seattle Restaurant Week – April 8 – 12th and 15 – 19th
  • Washington Artisan Cheesemakers Festival – April 7th at the Seattle Design Center
  • The Space Needle starts their 50-year celebration this month (a separate post coming soon)
  • Pike Place Market – April 20th Arcade Lights: a celebration of artisan food, beer, and wine
  • Support a cause – how about the MS Walk on April 15th? Alaska Airlines Arena/UW
  • Go shopping for a pop of color
  • April 21st – World Class Crab Races and Feed, Westport, WA
  • Moooove on over to the Spring Fair in Puyallup – April 19th – 22nd
  • See the Pacific Northwest Ballet perform Carmina Burana and Apollo at McCaw Hall
  • Check out the 3rd annual Mt. Rainier Spring Wine Festival in Ashford, WA on April 28th (2-8 pm)
  • Astoria, OR hosts the 30th annual Astoria Warrenton Crab, Seafood & Wine Festival – April 27, 28, 29th
  • Take a walk on a trail closest to you…or maybe within four hours reach?
  • It’s baseball season – get in to the swing of things with a Seattle Mariners game at Safeco Field
  • Check your listings for an Earth Day event
  • Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival 2012 at the Seattle Center

The Scotch and Vine

The Scotch and Vine Restaurant, located on Marine View Drive S. in Des Moines, WA, is a treasure…there to delight your palate and quench your thirst.  The ambiance (a mix of vintage wine decor, dark woods…warm and inviting) with jazz/blues played overhead and live entertainment during the weekends. The great food, a large selection of bourbons, wine, scotches, local beer (like Big Al Brewing), and the hospitality… can’t be beat.  The menu is varied and what comes from the kitchen – delicious!

David, Jill and crew make you feel welcome and Chef Adam in the kitchen, cooks up top-notch creations.  On this visit, the Black Hills Gold Buffalo and N’awlins was had, along with Fry Bites (smashed pan-fried fingerling potatoes – a must side), a beverage and the can’t go wrong, favorite – a 15 yr. Pappy Van Winkle.  Mm Mm Good!  The Black Hills Gold Buffalo is a bison burger, served on a divine artisan bun, Beecher’s flagship cheese, Frisee lettuce, and a black bean corn salsa (which I asked to be served on the side).  Also served on the side is a trio of mustard and aioli for dipping with Fry Bites (or to be used on your sandwich).  This was a nice accompaniment as I am a big mustard fan!  The N’awlins is an Andouille sausage and beef burger with WSU crimson fire cheese.

The menu has something for everyone and you just might get a kick out of the references made to Squirrel food, Rabbit food, Just Beet It, You Say Tomato…  Artisan Cheese, a variety of Succulent Starters, Field Of Greens, Beef and Bleu salad, The Southern Belle (Louisiana gumbo), Lawrence Elk (elk burger), The Portobello, Seared Chicken, Crabby Risotto, and more.

The restaurant has a private room upstairs, complete with full bar – reserve it for a party, business meeting, or other.  Like The S&V on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, and check out their website for more info (and sign up for their newsletter).  The Scotch and Vine has a Wine class, Scotch class, Whiskey tasting, and weekly wine tastings on Thursdays (come by at meet the rep/wine maker).  Wine is available for take home purchase as well.  Live music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.  Stop in for happy hour.

I had an enjoyable dining experience and I know you will too!  Go by on a weeknight or for one of their tastings. Open daily.