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Walla Walla - Merged Topics


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#61 it's 5 pm somewhere!

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Posted 11 November 2007 - 07:13 PM

Have you had the croissants at Besalu and still think the ones in Walla Walla are better? I do love the almond croissants, and many other things, from Besalu. Writers from NY have rhapsodied, but they probably didn't go to Walla Walla.

#62 vengroff

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Posted 11 November 2007 - 09:45 PM

Have you had the croissants at Besalu and still think the ones in Walla Walla are better?  I do love the almond croissants, and many other things, from Besalu.  Writers from NY have rhapsodied, but they probably didn't go to Walla Walla.

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Besalu has been my favorite in Seattle for a long time. For pain au chocolate, however, I'd give the nod to Colville St.
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#63 vengroff

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Posted 11 November 2007 - 09:48 PM

One more tidbit: the owners of Saffron are opening Walla Walla's first pho shop right next door. It's going to be called Pho Sho and should be opening very soon.

As for Saffron itself, we had quite a nice dinner there. The cuttlefish and bean appetizer was, in my mind, the high point.
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#64 Ling

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 10:51 AM

Have you had the croissants at Besalu and still think the ones in Walla Walla are better?  I do love the almond croissants, and many other things, from Besalu.  Writers from NY have rhapsodied, but they probably didn't go to Walla Walla.

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I do like the almond croissants at Colville better than Besalu, but Besalu, imo, makes the best morning pastries overall in Seattle. I do love the pain au chocolat at Besalu, but I didn't get one at Colville.

Edited by Ling, 13 November 2007 - 11:02 AM.


#65 crouching tyler

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Posted 16 November 2007 - 01:58 PM

I am heading over to Walla Walla the first weekend in December and have drawn up a nice little list of places to try based on the recommendations here. And the knowledge of a great pastry shop is crucial!
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#66 crouching tyler

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 05:21 PM

...


The kouign aman was also incredible. I ate that too quickly before I could get an individual picture of it. There were large flakes of salt on the sugary top, which made the pastry extra addictive. These were probably the two best pastries I've eaten in my life.


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We spent the weekend in Walla Walla, hoping around the wineries, having dinner at Whitehouse-Crawford and experiencing some seriously divine pastries at Colville St. Patissierie.

The dh, after finishing his share of the kouign aman, said that it was quite possibly the best pastry he had ever had. He has not read this thread, and had never had a kouign aman before. He also said he really hadn't ever understoood why I liked pastries so much before our two visits to Colville St. Patisserie.

We also had an almond croissant, a quick bread, a cinnamon roll, a peanut butter cookie, and a goat cheese and herb croissant ( these were all shared between two people, over the course of two days). The wineries were fascinating, dinner at Whitehouse Crawford was really fun, but it is the pastries that will lead me back to Walla Walla.Thanks for the tip, Ling.
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#67 Jean Blanchard

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Posted 11 February 2008 - 07:12 PM

I'm visiting Walla Walla, Washington wineries this summer. Where do I eat?

#68 vengroff

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Posted 12 February 2008 - 03:10 PM

I'm visiting Walla Walla, Washington wineries this summer.  Where do I eat?

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See here, here, and here.

And be sure not to miss Colville Street Patisserie, arguably the best patisserie in the state.
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#69 Jean Blanchard

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Posted 12 February 2008 - 05:11 PM

Thanks so much. I was beginning to wonder if I was making a big gastronomic mistake.

#70 tsquare

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Posted 05 June 2008 - 11:30 PM

I see no reason to start a new thread, especially since I have no photos to post. However, Walla Walla was a great food trip. I loved the drive there and back, the changes in climate, geology, and vegetation. At this time, this year, it was green almost everywhere. The magpies in Yakima were a great surprise (I suppose the equivalent of crows in Seattle?) I bow down further to Henry and Lorna for their heroic eating adventures. I had to force down a little soup tonight.

After a late drive from Seattle to Yakima, we visited the town of Tieton - no food to speak of, yet, but an interesting place with a green town square, some freshly converted warehouses housing condos, a letter press, artists, and more to come. A cafe would be readily welcomed if anyone is interested.

Things started out rough - we missed Los Henandez in Union Gap by minutes. Sunday night in Yakima looked a little less than obvious. We headed into the amazingly crowded humongous Miner's for a burger, shake, and fries (I had the tots.) Okay, I am not a big fan of this type of food, unless you count Lunchbox Laboratory. But after eating, and not finishing, I felt ill. A deal was struck to stay with quality, mostly kept. Before leaving Yakima, we stopped in at Essencia Artisan Bakery and Chocolaterie. The breads looked good, the coffee was fine. We picked up a loaf of chocolate bread with cranberries and pepper(?) Interesting.

Stoppped by DairyFair (Darigold) for a quick tour (you may as well hang out at Beechers in the market - you will see more) and a cone. Missed the place in Zillah by how many years? Shuttered and for sale. Got into Walla Walla just in time for a late lunch at Lucious by Nature. Very nice, though a bit pricey for lunch. I had their rellano special which was a casserole style dish of tortillas, cheese, black and green olives, artichoke hearts, chilis and tomatillo sauce. I did not care for the green olives, otherwise, a nice dish. Fresh green salad rounded out the plate. That evening, we dined at 26 Brix. Pretty quiet evening, the menu seemed a little plain. The roasted chicken was very tasty as far as the crispy skin and flavor went - the breast itself was dry. The snap peas and very creamy polenta were excellent - the polenta was very corny, in a very good way. M had a house pasta dish. Better than this were the two desserts - mine was a huckleberry creme brulee with anise langues de chat, M's was a slice of roasted pineapple on puff pastry with a dulce de leche caramel, accompanied by a scoop of lime ice cream topped with a cilantro syrup. It hit on all cylinders, though not something I would have selected.

So, we already know Colville St. Patisserie isn't open on Tuesday. We tried going to John's Wheatland Bakery and found it not suitable for breakfast. If it hadn't been raining, the taco truck in the parking lot might have been the way to go - it smelled great. We stopped in for a gut buster at Clarette's next to Whitman College. This is a biscuits and country gravy, waffles, pancakes, (crepes!) kind of place with great service and bad coffee. Later in the day, we stopped by Cugini Import Italian Food and had a slice or two of the homemade salami and a good latte. They have interesting looking frozen pasta from Chicago, take out meals, sandwiches, and Italian staples. That evening, we had the pleasure of dinner at Saffron. The place was packed, the menu enticing. We shared a number of small plates and a pasta. The flavors are bold and he can sell anything - including a plate of beef liver skewered with pig heart - I tried the sauces, not the meats. The house made breads were excellent as was the octopus, the asparagus, and the pappardelle with pork. Desserts were not as interesting as the night before, but a slice of warm flourless chocolate cake with chocolate mint ice cream was soft, almost light, and delicious.

Wednesday! Colville Street Patisserie. Just like the photos above. We split a cannele, a kouign aman, and a brioche topped with cream and black currents. The last was the best! The other two, unusual and delicious as they are, was bested by the tart berries, rich cream and buttery broiche. A lovely latte and we were ready to see the town. A lot of Walla Walla does not open until afternoon as many of the storefronts are wine tasting rooms. Still, we wandered around a bit and worked up the need for an onion world sausage. We liked these more than H & L did. Moist, with a good snap to the well browned skin. I had been slightly dreading lunch of a sausage topped with grilled onions and was surprised to find the onions incorporated into the sausage, nicely lightening the texture.

We ventured out to Dayton, a bust - though the Weinhart Cafe looked interesting, and sampled a cone of Cascade ice cream at the local bakery and Kchotka store. But down the road (closer to Walla Walla) lies Waitsburg, another town undergoing a loving rebirth. We picked the wrong day and missed eating at Jimgermanbar. You should not make the same mistake. The small plates include locally sourced foods and excellent beverage options in an airy and artistic atmosphere. We may go back soon just to sit there and enjoy the place. Across the street is Whoopemup Cafe. I wish we had hiked 20 miles that day to do justice to the place. The gumbo was rich and full of tender bits, topped with a thimble of rice and some strips of fried yam seasoned with lime salt. The bbq ribs were smoked, tender and messy with a thick sauce. Adding to my week of corn, the cheesy grits were formed into a cake and slightly browned and the slaw was tangy, colorful and just a tad sweet. The breads included a jalapeno cornbread, cornsticks, corn foccacia, and chive cornbread. Horrors - dessert was not possible. I did not even see one served and they are supposed to be wonderful. This was an affront to all that is right with the world, but I had reached the end of my ability to eat for the day. There is a brewery, Laht Neppur Brewing Company just down the road (the bit I sampled with dinner had a nice hoppiness with a bit of spice), as well as a nice looking tavern - the Whetstone Public House. Anyway - it looks like a few more buildings are being remodeled, so if you want to open a bakery, this might be the place to do it.

Last day - another morning of pastry at Colville - an all flake morning with samplings of the apricot almond pastry, the almond croissant and the chocolate hazelnut one as well. Nothing too sweet, everything with millions of layers. A few chocolates from Brights, and we headed home. This time, in Union Gap, just outside Yakima, we made it to Los Hernandez for fresh tamales. Not just chicken and pork, but the best of the bunch, asparagus and cheese. Really. And even though we drove home through Black Diamond, we did not look for the bakery - anyone know if it is still there - worth a side trip? I hope to not be hungry for a few days at least.

Edited by tsquare, 06 June 2008 - 10:27 AM.


#71 tsquare

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Posted 08 June 2008 - 10:04 PM

If you want some photos - and another version of the story
clicky here

(and sorry there are still typos in my post.)

#72 MGLloyd

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Posted 09 June 2008 - 08:00 AM

The two of us are heading for Walla squared next month. I was last there two years ago, so it looks as if Saffron and Colville will definitely be on our list of stops. I was already planning on returning to 26 Brix and Whitehouse Crawford.

Regards,

Michael Lloyd
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#73 Katie Meadow

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Posted 09 June 2008 - 09:41 AM

I was really disappointed in Whitehouse Crawford the last time I was there. All the dishes were exceptionally salty. None of us really liked our food and we felt ripped off, frankly.

My next trip up to Walla Squared may be very soon, and I'm looking forward to trying the new pho place. Nobody has posted any comments about it yet. I'll put in a good word for some of the cheap lunch options, like the taco wagons, and I too appreciate Onion World, which my family always refers to as the Hot Dog Window, and which has very limited open window hours during lunchtime. They do work the grill at the farmers' market on the weekend, so you can have one there. I'm not really a hot dog person, but their sausages are really good. If they would devote just a little thought to the whole package it would be even better: superior buns, grilled carmelized onions (in season no onion can touch a WW sweet!) and dijon mustard would do the trick. And then if they added a papaya drink like Gray's Papaya in NY it would be a dizzying meal.

This next trip I plan to investigate the food and drink in Waitsburg; it all sounds wonderful. If that town is carefully and slowly restored without too much kitch or clutter it will be really lovely.

#74 MGLloyd

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Posted 09 June 2008 - 12:22 PM

I have heard mixed things about Whitehouse Crawford, but was pleased the two times we have gone. It has not been mentioned elsewhere in this thread, but Patit Creek in Dayton deservedly enjoys a very fine reputation.

Regards,

Michael Lloyd
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#75 beauxbrie

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Posted 21 June 2008 - 10:07 AM

Hi,

We're going over to Walla Walla for the 4th, and definitely will be hitting Saffron and Colville based on all the great reviews and Ling's great pictures!

We are going with friends who really want to try Creektown Cafe. After the comments posted here, I'm skeptical and am leaning toward 26 Brix. Is Creektown really horrible--I'd really like to try to convince her not to go if it is.

Thanks!
"Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food." -- Hippocrates

#76 tsquare

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Posted 21 June 2008 - 01:16 PM

Go the 20 miles to Waitsburg and go to Whoopemup - or just snack at jimgermanbar. There is something special going on out there.

#77 Jaymes

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Posted 21 June 2008 - 03:51 PM

I had a very nice dinner at Bangkok 103 over at College Place. It's run by an ex-GI and his Thai wife. The best Tom Ka Gai I've had in a long time. I still think about it.

#78 beauxbrie

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Posted 11 July 2008 - 12:41 PM

We really enjoyed our trip over to Walla Walla over the 4th. Started on Thursday with a quick stop at Colville-it was mid-afternoon, so not many pastries left, but picked up a brioche with strawberries, a lemon poppyseed quick bread, and a chocolate chip cookie. Hubby said the quick bread was quite delicious, and I guess I'll believe him as I didn't get a single bite! Unfortunately I didn't eat the brioche until the next morning, and I thought it a little dry, probably because it was a day old. Otherwise the flavor was good. Next we went across the street to Luscious for a refreshing glass of hard cider and a flatbread. It was about 95 degrees, and the waiter was kind enough to bring out a fan with a mister. Cute place, but I had thought since they call themselves an urban market, that there would be more items to purchase, i.e. cheeses or breads or other such items that you could take for a picnic.

That night we had dinner at Saffron and everyone really liked the food. We had a couple of flatbreads (obviously we were on some sort of flatbread theme...), the beef cheeks, papparadelle with braised pork and a few other items. The cheeks were really yummy.

Saturday and Sunday returned near opening time to Colville--had the kouign aman, a cannele, an almond croissant, and a pain au chocolate. A friend also had the goat cheese and herb croissant. While I loved all of these, I thought there could be more chocolate in the chocolate croissant (but I always think there could be more chocolate...), and thought in general the croissants were a little buttery. Now I know that is a key ingredient, but there was quite a butter stain where they sat. The croissants I picked up on Sunday were, however, not quite as buttery, but still that wonderful flakiness. And I absolutely loved the caramelyness of the kouign aman and the creaminess of the cannele!

Saturday afternoon we stopped at the brewpub in Waitsburg, which was refreshing since it was hot all weekend. From there we went over to jimgermanbar and had some great crostini and cocktails. They definitely know how to mix drinks there. Then across the street to Whoopemup. We all enjoyed the food here--we had corn fritters and fried oysters to start--who doesn't love fried food?? The oysters were very fresh tasting. Most of us had the gumbo to start, and it was extremely tasty, possibly the favorite item of the night, although we enjoyed everything. We stayed with the theme and had fried chicken, etouffee, jambalaya, and mac n cheese. After that, there was no room for anything else.

We cooked in the other nights, so that was the extent of our food tasting. We did do wine tasting (of course!) Fri, Sat, and Sun, complemented midday everyday with some lovely salamies and cheeses from Salumerie Cesario, and some homemade crackers and caponata I'd brought. There was a lot of good wine, and we came home with 3 cases! There went the wine budget, guess we'll need to slow that down for a while :)

We had a great time, and I really appreciate the input from all the eGulleters about the places to try. (Maybe next time the Salumerie won't be out of the Petit Jesu, which Ling had gotten me all excited about...)
"Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food." -- Hippocrates

#79 Katie Meadow

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Posted 11 July 2008 - 02:11 PM

I'm really looking forward to the Waitsburg experience next time I go to visit my daughter. Meanwhile I am trying to get her to go for the pho and report back, but have been unsuccessful so far. She would be a good test, since she's used to great Viet food when she's home. Despite full-time summer jobs she and her friends are shockingly frugal and never eat out. Okay, I'm not complaining.

Beauxbrie, I would agree with you about the croissant at Colville. It was just dripping with butter. It was all outside, and no inside, if you know what I mean. I am not a huge croissant fan ordinarily but in France we stopped at a roadside bakery outside a small town and had a wood-fired croissant that was crunchy and flaky and a little smoky on the outside and totally greaseless. There was a real inside, also greaseless and light and more like...like a cloud. I thought about that croissant for the rest of trip. My husband and mother were amazed, since I'm not typically wowed by pastry. It was different than anything I've ever experienced. It was so good it made me want to weep. So that's my standard. Next time I will try the kouign aman. But I was not disappointed in my Colville experience; the coffee was very good and the atmosphere lovely and the sun was pouring in on our table by the window.

I did end up ordering a birthday cake from Colville over the phone. The owner was gracious and happy to accomodate a special order (I switched the filling on one of his standard cakes) and my daughter said it was wonderful, although I believe that by then--Sunday afternoon of her birthday weekend--she was partied out and this was her third cake. My parents never ordered me a cake like that when I was away at college.

#80 Katie Meadow

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Posted 24 May 2010 - 09:53 AM

Pho Sho: Finally, after two trips to WW since this little place opened. Friday night we had a quick dinner before a play on campus. I thought it was excellent, and I eat a lot of Viet food at home in Oakland. And if you should doubt the street creds, note that the owner is the wife of the owner of Saffron and she is in fact Vietnamese. The rare beef pho had the best tenderest rarest beef and lots of it. The noodles were perfect, the broth was delicious. My daughter had a chicken curry that was also very good, the spring rolls were okay, served with a too-thick peanut sauce, and the imperial rolls were great--very crunchy and fresh tasting--and I don't usually love them. Not to knock Bangkok 103 in College Place, since the owners are so sweet, but Pho Sho is far superior and not at all expensive. My large bowl of pho was maybe $8 and came with the requisite plate of sprouts, jalapenos, thai basil and lime wedges.

On Saturday afternoon we went out to the Monteillet Fromagerie, which is between Waitsburg and Dayton. This was amazing. They have been farming sheep and goats since 2002 and turn out a staggering variety of cheese. Right now all the cheeses are 70% goat and 30% sheep, but there will be straight goat and sheep cheeses later in the season. For $10 you get a full tasting of about 12 different cheeses, and the tasting ends up to be very generous. For another $5 you get two pours of wine. They start with the freshest cheeses and a lovely semillon, then move into the more aged cheese and a local pinot noir. Some of the cheeses are outstanding. There are a LOT of baby goats right now, and they are about the cutest things you've ever seen. It's hard not to over-buy cheeses on your way out. I was ready to buy a baby goat, but there are no pets allowed at the hotel in Ashland, which is our stopover on the way home.

Saturday night we had drinks at jimgermanbar in Waitsburg, and some of their fabulous sauteed cashews. My husband had a delicious martini with Hendricks gin and a cucumber garnish. I'm not into cocktails so I stuck with my straight Old Overholt, but Jim's cocktails all sound great and he is the sweetest guy. My daughter wasn't too keen on the room with the communal table, it was a bit stark for her, but we are going back Monday night for dinner and have been promised the table by the window in the bar.

Then it was across the street to The Whoopemup. It was packed, every table full of freshly minted Whitman grads and their families. And it was totally fun, just my daughter's kind of place: cozy booths and generous portions and a terrific starter pizza. They call it a crawfish pie, but it's a crispy thin crust pizza in my book. I could have made that my whole meal.

My husband and daughter had salads, and I had the asparagus soup, which was very good. Apparently this was a bumper year in WW for asparagus, and it's all over the place. I thought my bbq chicken was the best of our three entrees, and so did my daughter. It was served with a very good cheesy grits cake and a sweet slaw. My daughter had spare ribs, which I thought were okay, and my husband had jambalaya, which was pretty interesting. The major disappointment was the cornbread. Three different cornbreads come to the table in a silly bucket and red-checked cloth napkin, and they were dry and not very flavorful. I pretty much LOVE my own cornbread, so I'm the worst critic. There was way too much food. This place is generous, to put it mildly. I couldn't imagine getting dessert, but then it seemed wrong not to get something. They are famous for some type of banana bonanza, but none of us wanted anything heavy. We split the grapefruit tarragon sorbet and it was a knockout. It comes with a drizzle of raspberry sauce, and there were three good-sized scoops, one for each. Really really good. I'd be pretty happy with just the pizza and the sorbet for dinner. But it is definitely a good time.

There's a very nice artisan bakery in WW on Main St near 1st. They make a great crusty sourdough loaf, which is what I had toasted for breakfast today. We'll have a baguette and eat up some of our Monteillet cheese for lunch.

Edited by Katie Meadow, 24 May 2010 - 10:01 AM.


#81 Katie Meadow

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Posted 25 May 2010 - 09:10 PM

Our last night in Waitsburg was spent happily at jimgermanbar. If you see their kitchen you will realize just what kind of magician Claire (Jim's wife) really is. The place was hopping on a Monday night. Everything we ate was excellent: an amuse of house-cured jamon, smoked salmon rillette with crostini, crispy cumin potatoes with aioli, rare slices of hanger steak with perfect local asparagus (so glad I had plenty of aioli left) and a lovely cupcake for dessert. The steak came with a remarkable herb pesto I couldn't identify. It turned out to be lovage, from Claire's father's 30 year old plant in Seattle. I'm sure I've never tasted lovage before; it was addictive. This is a gracious and friendly place, with great food and drink. On our way out we stopped for a bit to listen to music made by birthday celebrants in the room with the big table. The birthday girl was playing a hand saw with a violin bow. Otherwordly it was.

#82 tsquare

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Posted 30 May 2010 - 11:00 PM

I was thinking about jimgermanbar just this evening - great to hear they are thriving. I guess it is fortunate that you have a reason to visit WW on a regular basis.

#83 Katie Meadow

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Posted 04 April 2011 - 12:35 AM

Once again back in Walla Squared, and as always, there are new places to eat or places that, surprisingly, I missed before.

We got in late Friday evening and had dinner at the relatively new Brasserie Four in the space which used to be Grapefields Wine Bar. Clearly if we had come with no reservation before 8:30 or 9:00 we would not have been able to get a table right away. We weren't terribly hungry so we ordered a bottle of sauvignon blanc from France on the waitress's recommendation and it was delicious. We split an appetizer of mackerel and potatoes; the mackerel was fabulous, the potatoes very plain but perfectly cooked. The bread was excellent; I didn't ask where it came from, but I should have. Then we split an order of moules frites in a white wine pernod broth, also very tasty--and not too salty. And there was plenty of it for sopping up with the bread. They were really nice mussels from Penn Cove WA, which are not easy to find even in the bay area. PEI mussels are far more common in CA than Penn Cove, which is too bad, since Penn Coves are really wonderful. Dessert was a tarte fromage blanc, which was fantastic, served with a gooseberry jam on the side which sounds interesting but was too sweet and not necessary. The tart was perfect just plain by itself. Good espresso, too.

Our hotel serves a buffet breakfast but it's unspeakably bad, so our typical morning routine is to cruise by Starbucks for a NYT and then round the corner to Coffee Perk or the Colville Patisserie for food and drink. I like the coffee at the the patisserie, but I have to admit that I much prefer the casual atmosphere of Coffee Perk, where the tables are like desks and there is usually a student sleeping on the sofa in front of the fireplace who looks like he has been there all night. It's just endearingly comfy and friendly. Everything at the patisserie is super flaky but sweeter and more buttery than I can handle in the morning. Coffee Perk's pastries are pretty poor and also far too sweet, but they toasted a bagel for me. The patisserie is always full of tourists and parents; Coffee perk is full of townies and professors and students working away at their laptops, or snoozing. My daughter ran into two of her fifth grade students from the public school where she teaches. (They are on break this week, not truants.)

Saturday afternoon we had sandwiches at Graze for lunch. Also packed, mostly with students it looked like. I'm not ordinarily a sandwich person but these were great. We split a pulled pork and a somewhat untraditional banh mi. Dinner that evening was nothing special, just pizza at Olive before a performance. Never been there before.

Today we had an exceptionally weird day. We decided to see what could be seen at the Hanford nuclear facility, which no longer produces plutonium, but exists as a major toxic storage site. They are giving tours for the first time this year, but they are all booked until 2012. It turned out to be a snafu we will remember always, but suffice it to say we are pleased to report that what is now a large functioning nuclear power plant has excellent security. As a result of our being detained we came back through Pasco hungry and grumpy and stopped at the first Mexican cafe we saw that had a lot full of cars. Los Pinos turned out to be a hot ticket. The goat was outstanding, and we improvised our own goat burritos with their hot corn tortillas, home made salsa, rice and and chopped lettuce. Also a very good Tamarind soda.

On the way out of Pasco we stopped at the Panadaria Viera, and that place is a trip. I've never seen such whacked out cakes and such a big selection of pastries. I solved my breakfast problem by buying some excellent cuernitos (like a Mexican croissant, but not really)--a personal weakness. My daughter was unable to resist a guava filled glowing neon pink triangle affair that looked like it came from Hanford as well. None of us had the nerve to try it.

For dinner my daughter made a pasta primavera with some very good early Walla Walla asparagus.

#84 Katie Meadow

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Posted 12 August 2011 - 07:27 AM

We made what may be our last visit to WW at the end of July. We were rushed and busy packing up our daughter, so there were not too many opportunities to try new places, and one of our two nights there was a Monday; note that just about everything is closed on Monday in WW. You can, however, go to Jimgermanbar in Waitsburg on Monday night. Last time we did that though Jim and Claire took the day off and the food wasn't as good.

For our last celebratory night we went with several of our daughter's friends to the Green Lantern. I'm totally sorry we didn't discover it before. It's a terrific pub, and perfect for a warm evening. They have what is really just a very large back yard with picnic tables, umbrellas and a ping pong table in the middle. The beers on tap are excellent and interesting. And they have a dynamite hard cider. Food was just okay, but the crowd was a great mix of local people, including a couple of business sponsored baseball teams, and there was a rousing game of beer pong going on. Friendly and happy, great send-off.

#85 Andrew Chalk

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 10:08 PM

After one flying visit to Walla Walla. Here are some impressions to add to those above, about the second most important thing, the food.

1) Best At What It Tries To Do: Colville Street Patisserie. Flaky cheese and jambon croissant. Crumbly Indian turnover. Sweet and chocolately éclair. All fine examples of their craft and good latté too! One downside: They don’t open until 9am, which rules them out as a breakfast destination many days.
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2) Best Restaurant: Saffron. Almost missed it. Unanimous choice of the crowd round the tasting table at the last winery I visited when I asked “Where should one eat on a Sunday night in Walla Walla?” Tough to get a reservation too. It was hopping. Flatbreads (esp. Guanciale) are must tries. These could be a “Beyond Pizza” category nationally. Patatas Bravas is the old Spanish tapas favorite but well executed. I wonder what type of potatoes work best for these? Textural contrast ‘twixt skin and interior is key. Grilled quail was succulent and tasty. Our waiter was bubbling with enthusiasm and friendliness. He knew a lot about the menu and the wine list but, when probed with some fairly detailed wine questions, had the sense to ask and even bring back trade fact sheets on the wines. Best service on the trip. I was surprised to find somewhere so cutting edge in a town so remote but apparently the chef trained at the French Culinary Institute in a NY and then became Todd English’s point man to open new restaurants. That must make rural Washington a breeze no matter the number of Wallas. One downside: Not enough wines by the glass.
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3) Best Wine List: Brasserie Four. Not just because it is accurate to use that common phrase well chosen but because of the depth. That is, the number of well-aged wines to be found. For example, we had a 2004 Loire made of Chenin Blanc. That’s almost old enough to be a risk and it was oily. But I liked it.
4) Best Restaurant Décor: The Marcat the Marcus Whitman Hotel. The dark wood and deep banquettes won’t be first choice with the aging hippies but this was the dining room that had the most work put into it.

Some other comments: Our second favorite restaurant was Brasserie Four. It is a truly authentic French bistro. It was nice to have bouillabaisse again, although this one was too moule-centric. We liked sitting on the patio and I wonder, are all those hard walls inside tough on the ears?

The Marc, despite the impressive installation, was just too pedestrian a menu to excite me. The most adventurous thing was buffalo tenderloin and that was very good. I consider, rightly or wrongly, Washington to be at the center of the wild salmon catch. This led to high expectations and deep disappointment with the Columbia King Salmon. It was dry and relatively tasteless. Also, for a restaurant this expensive the service should be superior. However, our waitress engaged us about as much as argon gas engages anything, and at times was as hard to find.

Finally, the first most important thing about Walla Walla is the wine. This is a wine town. In fact, it is the best kept secret wine town in the USA. This is the first airport that I have been to that had more wineries than departure gates. And 120 wineries in a county of 60,000 people is incredible. At the moment, the wine scene is still mainly at the level of ‘meet the winemaker’ although there are signs of ‘Napaization’. However, this trend can likely never run to completion due to the sheer remoteness of Walla Walla from major cities. Let’s hope all the start ups continue bidding up the quality of the wine. I was impressed with Five Star Cellars ‘Stellar’ and Ensemble Cellars intriguing multi-vintage homage to Château Margaux (both of these wineries are at the airport), Sleight of Hand Cellars and Saviah Cellars (thanks to the couple tasting at Charles Smith who recommended these two). Charles Smith was good too, but was not a new find to me. Forgeron Cellars also had some well-made Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

One general impression came over very clearly: This is a red wine AVA. There were many excellent reds but no impressive whites. Despite trying Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussanne blends, Muscat blends, etc. they only reached the level of average. I could think of lots of comparables from elsewhere that were better.

An interesting wine area and lots more to discover on the next trip.