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Walla Walla - Merged Topics

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

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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.


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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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

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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.

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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 (log)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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