‘Tis the season, right? No, not that season. At least not yet anyway.
Apple-picking season. Fall season. Harvest season. The perfect season for creamy soups and hard ciders.
Pumpkin spice lattes. OH YEAH. I’m on THAT train.
‘Tis the season for moving away from the light, summery Pinot Grigios and Pinot Noirs and moving into the heartier Cab Sauvs.
For root vegetables, butternut squash, and heirloom tomatoes. Is fall not the absolute best time to eat?
Fall is my absolute favorite season, and I can’t imagine a better time to have ventured a little ways northeast of Portland for a few days to eat, drink, and be very, very merry.
Did you know that Wenatchee, Washington is the “apple capital of the world”? I knew they had some apples for sure, but rolling into town you’ll be greeted by a giant sign that boasts just that – Apple Capital of the World.
And indeed it is. Chris and I spent a whirlwind few days meeting farmers, eating apples and pears and plums and pluots right off the tree, tasting wine made from local grapes, cheese-making with local farmers, and sipping hard cider (because what else are you going to do with ALL. THOSE. APPLES)? I could describe in great detail how each of these things went down, but instead, let me show you through some of my favorite photos from the week.
Farmhouse Table, Chef Richard Kitos, and the IvyWild Inn
The very first item on my itinerary for the trip was a stop in at Farmhouse Table where I met Chef Richard Kitos. I deferred to his expertise as he gathered ingredients for a fresh, local, seasonal farm-to-table lunch.
My eyes lit up when I saw him grab the okra. Born in Huntsville, Alabama and with family still scattered all over the south – I love me some okra. Except, I’ve only ever had it fried. So, imagine my intrigue when Chef Richard sliced it raw and topped our salad with those seedy little green slices.
Chef Richard also schooled me in the Art of the Omelet, regaling stories of having been known as “The Omelet Guy” at one of Southern California’s farmers’ markets at one time or another. The trick(s)?
1. Get the pan smokin’ hot.
2. Add the eggs, and immediately sorta scramble them.
3. Spread ’em out around the pan.
4. Top with super fresh ingredients like pretty tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella.
4. Fold omelet in half, then serve hot — right alongside that fresh arugula salad topped with okra, corn, and apples.
At some point here, I should probably mention that Chef Richard Kitos served up brunch with a side of PBR. As someone who drank PBR in college in Minnesota because it was cheap waaaaaaay before it was ever cool… well, that just felt like home. PBR pairs really nicely with eggs and fresh veggies, I promise.
We did a lot of eating and drinking in Wenatchee, and that long list of delicious things we did while visiting included:
Wine-tasting at the Wenatchee Valley Visitors’ Bureau
The visitors’ bureau in downtown Wenatchee offers some sampling of some of the best local grapes. We had a great time, took some copious notes (at first… eventually it’s just more like a bunch of smiley faces and “YES” written all over the page…), and even went home with that Jones of Washington Rosé.
Wine-tasting at Chateau Faire Le Pont
I did a more detailed write-up here on The Local Dish, but suffice it to say – the winery and tasting room are gorgeous, the owners (Doug and Debe Brazil) are so warm and hospitable, they make some truly great wines, and their restaurant is fantastic.
Tapas-style dinner at Caffé Mela
Caffé Mela is a coffee shop in downtown Wenatchee that recently introduced a dinner menu to their offerings. It’s mostly small plates and is completely delicious. The veggie sliders were a highlight. As were the heirloom tomatoes served under the prawns and scallops. As was the sauce on the stuffed mushrooms. As was the live music. You get the picture.
How do you like them apples? Sure, pies and fritters are fine, but how about some hard apple cider? The father-son team (Lars and Peter Ringsrud) at Snowdrift Cider has this down to an art — an award-winning art, in fact. Also, turns out hard apple cider pairs incredibly well with crostini and creamy Brie-style cheese. But I already knew that much.
Tiny’s Organic Farm
We enjoyed a quick little tour of Tiny’s Organic Farm in East Wenatchee where we met the chickens, ate fruits right off the tree/vine, and saw CSA boxes being wrapped up and ready to send out to CSA members. I got jealous. Think they’ll deliver to Portland from Wenatchee?
Alpine Lakes Cheese
The Wenatchee-area also boasts some seriously amazing cheese. And it’s no secret how I feel about cheese. I spent my Wednesday morning taking a cheese-making class with Catha of Alpine Lakes Cheese. I learned more about bacteria, milk, curds, whey, and exactly what an actual art cheese-making is than I ever thought possible.
I mean, you start with THIS:
And [what seems like, but really isn’t because it’s cooking and science and art all rolled up beautifully into one easier-than-you-think process] magically end up with THIS:
We stayed at the Coast Wenatchee Hotel located right down town, within walking distance of the riverfront park and all of downtown’s local shops and restaurants. They’re pet-friendly, so we got to bring Kona. THAT was awesome.
The drive between Portland and Wenatchee was also a really, really stellar one. Thanks to some really great customer service from our local Enterprise shop here in downtown Portland, we got a great deal on our car rental and drove to Wenatchee by going up to Tacoma and then headed east, and we returned home from Wenatchee by driving south through Yakima and coming back along the Columbia River.
This is [basically] what our loop looked like (we actually went around Seattle, not through it, but whatever):
And this is what some of our pretty little country looks like, right around the Columbia River Gorge:
Disclosure: Thanks to the fine folks at the Wenatchee Valley Visitors’ Bureau and their partnering PR firm, Chris and I enjoyed the accommodations, activities, and dining part of this trip at no cost. We did handle our own transportation. All opinions are my own.