Kauai: a quick overview

Living where we live, on the Columbia River Basalts, the geology of Kauai is very familiar.  Going from about the 45th Latitude to the Equator meant the erosion and flora don’t compare; from snow and fog to 70-75* F and sun was perfect.  I will hit the highlights for you here and then write about specific subjects later.

Winter means the weather is more changeable.  Both whale watching off of the Ne Pali Coast and ocean kayaking weren’t possible during our stay due to the winds.  Snorkeling was hit and miss due to the turbidity of the water after some heavy rains.  It was still balmy and warm to our thawing bodies, not complaining.  The pool where we stayed was cold for a couple of days due to a malfunction, but it was still better than snow…

Wailua Falls/Fantasy Island waterfalls
Wailua Falls, Kauai, fall from a basalt cliff over grown with vegetation in this tropical climate.

Waterfalls, creeks and incredibly bright ocean waters, fog high in the ridges happened a lot while we are there.  It is very humid, which meant my hair was super curly despite any attempt to tame it.

Fresh food is always available.  (Even if you have a black thumb, you would be able to grow something in the Islands due to the perfect growing conditions.)  There are still seasons, but they are less noticeably different to the casual observer.  We caught the tale end of some fruiting seasons, saw the beginnings of others, missed some (like plumeria flowers) completely.  So many things to see and taste!

Kauai chickens are wild.
A small gathering of chickens at one of the heritage sites we visited above Wailua River.

Chickens are wild!  It seems Hurricane  Iniki in 1992 destroyed chicken coops letting loose the fowl.  Now they strut their stuff everywhere as they are protected as all birds are on Kauai.  I had never seen so many colors on chickens and it surprised me to see them on the ocean beaches as well as in the mountains.

Kauai has only three big box stores in Lihue, Safeway, Costco and Walmart, and a few fast food chains.  I believe this is for tourists, to make them feel like they didn’t leave home. Boutiques and ‘Mom & Pop’ shops, Farmers Markets and Artist Fairs were the places to go though.  We discovered lots of interesting vegetables (i.e. winged beans), tasted truly fresh, vine ripened fruits, and there are delicious fish caught fresh.  Hubby and I walked and swam lots, but we didn’t keep vacation weight off as we hoped.

I could be very inclined to go again and Island hop. Have you been? Would you go again? Which Island is your favorite and why?

Are you missing me?  We have a new adventure launched here in Walla Walla that is taking up all of my spare time these days.  I am still working at Locati Cellars and helping with Lagana Cellars, but Hubby and I now have Walla Walla Soaring (the Facebook link), a glider ride and instruction operation.  When our website is ready, I will share it with you. Cheers!

Oktoberfest during Harvest

Last Saturday began the 183rd Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, it will go until the 3rd of October.  Thousands of people converge on the city to imbibe, eat and party together while the rest of the world celebrates where ever they are.  It is funny to me that a royal wedding celebration in 1810 for then Prince Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen sparked such a tremendous festival for the people that has a huge presence today.  Last November we were in Germany for a week of business followed by another of personal touring.  Oktoberfest was a memory by that time, so we didn’t search out the ‘Wiesn (field) but we were only a few blocks away from it.  Disease and war prevented some Oktoberfest celebrations; barring any further catastrophes 17 years from now will be the 200th celebration in which Hubby and I hope to participate first hand.

We flew into Munich from Berlin Sunday morning, where we had wished our fellow business travelers safe flights.  The Friday, November 13 2015 Paris attacks were to leave many of our group stranded in the locked-down security of the Paris Airport for a day or two before they could make their way safely home.

The train ride from the airport to Munich’s Hauptbahnhof and walk of a few blocks to the hotel and we were ready to get out and explore. (I am intrigued by the bicycle culture throughout Germany, please indulge the pictures.)  Had we turned west we would have walked toward the Theresienwiese and the Oktoberfest grounds, but we went east and wandered through Marienplatz, Munich’s main square.  The ancient buildings both spared and restored after the WWII bombings and the modern architecture were decked with holiday splendor.  The Christmas Village was nearly complete and vendors were selling roasted chestnuts (die Marone) and citrus that smelled divine.  We went into St Michael’s, a historic Jesuit church, as there was a service in progress.  It was as breathtaking inside as I expected.  Here is a wikipic to show you the High Alter: here.  We took no photos inside as that would have been highly inappropriate.

Monday we participated in a walking tour of Hitler’s Munich, Third Reich guided by Sabri Ben Ltaief (also a photographer).  It was fascinating to step through time to experience the  streets and buildings that we had walked along the night before as they related to Adolf Hitler’s rise to power and their fate during WWII.  Hubby and I chose to take the second part of the tour to discover none of the other eight tour participants did.  Sabri went with us to lunch and we walked with him to his job at the University Library; he pointed out the  landmarks and points of interest that would have comprised the second tour.  What a terrific way to begin our vacation week!

Hofbrauhaus swag in the historical brewery.
Not Oktoberfest in the Hofbrauhaus of Munich, Germany. But you can still purchase beer related swag.

No visit to Munich and Marienplatz is complete without going to the Hofbrauhaus.  (This is the Oktoberfest tent.)  Founded in 1589 by then Duke of Bavaria, Wilhelm V., to introduce a quality, affordable brown beer for his family’s consumption.  The second brewing was built in 1607 by Wilhelm’s son, Maximillian I, for his burgeoning wheat (whit or white) beer production and the building was thus white.  In 1806, when Bavaria became a Kingdom, the ruling family became royalty, therefore Hofbrauhaus or ‘Royal Brown House’. In 1828, 18 years after his royal wedding, King Ludwig I decreed the royal beer could be consumed by commoners, but it was the transition of the brewing facility to a new location and the Hofbrauhaus restaurant and hall refurbished in 1897 that became the hall we recognize.   Bombing raids in WWII destroyed most of the building 1944-45; it took until 1958 for the Hofbrauhaus renovations to be completed, this is where we sat in 2015.  If you want to know some of the historical highlights of the worlds most famous brewery, here you go.

Sipping beer and  sharing a pretzel, an authentic Bavarian pretzel, soft on the inside with a crunchy crust and just a bit of salt, as we took in the details of the hall and listened to the brass band gave us pause to consider and discuss the significance of our history lesson that day.  No person or point in time is isolated, we all feel the ripples and choke on the waves of bad decisions as much as we float on the good decisions of those that precede and surround us.  The beer was good; the experience was terrific.

Hofbrau Dunkel in a bottle.
Oktoberfest 2016 distributed to a local grocery: Hofbrau Dunkel in a bottle.

This week, having procured a six pack of Hofbrau Dunkel, we are participating in Oktoberfest quietly, at home, after our respective harvest work.  This is the original brown beer, the one that started it all for the ruling family of Bavaria in the late 1500’s.  Yup, Hofbrau beer is now distributed far and wide, for all the common folk.  I thought about attempting to make traditional pretzels, but I will wait for the holidays to do so.  Bottled is not as good as draft, that said, this is it – a smooth, nutty beer with a bit of baking spices to keep it interesting.

We brought in just over 10 tons of fruit this week, Dolcetto and Cabernet Sauvignon.  We also pressed 2 tons of Chardonnay for Basalt Cellars (and here).  We are now half way through 2016 Crush by ton.  Cheers!

A Joy Ride

For three years a friend, Jackie, and I have been talking about her visiting us here, but it just wasn’t happening.  I wrote her asking if she would like us to come get her in our plane and spend a few days; her response was instant and positive.  I hoped her time with us would be as exciting as she anticipated it to be.

Friday afternoon, as she was checking out the parking situation at Midstate Aviation, Bowers Field, a fire broke out in the CWU Flight Program’s maintenance hangar!

Saturday morning we flew into the windy Kittitas Valley to pick her up; the flight back was a bit bumpy but beautiful.

Wine was not on the agenda as she doesn’t drink alcohol – she is even more a light-weight than me!  No problem, Walla Walla has lots to do and see.  Nature and History provided the primary points of interest.  Wheat fields, vineyards, and Bennington Lake Reservoir and all of the pastoral charm of the Walla Walla Valley put on glorious displays of color and texture.  She and I spent an hour touring the Marcus Whitman Hotel’s second floor gallery of paintings depicting the history of the Whitman Mission before enjoying a wonderful lunch at T. Maccarone’s.

Bennington Lake, Walla Walla
Storms in the Blue Mountains looked pretty threatening over Bennington Lake.
Lunch at T Maccarone's.
Jackie and I enjoyed a delicious lunch and lots of talking at T Maccarone’s.

I met Jackie when I lived in Ellensburg with my children.  As my teenage son’s life seemed to unravel due to his Bipolar Disorder and other diagnosed mental illnesses I reached out to the local NAMI Chapter; Jackie was the point of contact.  Having local, personal, understanding was my saving grace.  All the professional care we had was as challenging as understanding my son’s needs.  She and several others helped me navigate and stay afloat during that time.

Our Tuesday evening flight to Bowers Field was more beautiful than Saturday morning.  We flew over the Yakima Valley and north, west of the Yakima River Canyon, into the Kittitas Valley.  So much terrain and alternating irrigated farmland and desert  meant some bumps were inevitable.  We just might see Jackie in Walla Walla again as she enjoyed her visit.

We don’t anticipate ferrying friends and family by plane, but we enjoy having visitors.  Hubby has been studying and practicing to renew his Flight Instructor Certification.  That is scheduled, weather permitting, as the next journey this plane has in store.  Just another step toward our dream.  Cheers!

Reaching new heights

Cessna 182 keys
The keys to our 1957 Cessna 182; a dream come true for my darling Hubby! It is super exciting for me too.

As excited as I get about all things wine, that is how my Hubby is about General Aviation; this encompasses civil flight operations in small planes, gliders, balloons, etc.  As much as we decided to put off a purchase of a plane until next year, Hubby has been comparison shopping since January.  We discussed the pros and cons of each ship he shared with me extensively (sometimes repeatedly as nothing new came up for sale).  In May he discovered a plane for sale that seemed to meet all of the wishes we had in our ‘desired’ column; the owners flew the Cessna 182A to Walla Walla for us to fly.  Last month Hubby went to Tillamook, where the plane was based, to complete the ‘Annual’, a regularly scheduled maintenance check-up.  He helped dismantle and reinstall almost everything on the plane while conversing with the owners and the mechanic.  I was still in Walla Walla working in the Locati Cellars tasting room, waiting, as if for news of an impending birth.  Prior to this inspection I was certain we would be making an offer for the plane; whether or not the owners accepted was the unknown.  Hubby was more pessimistic, but hopefully so; maybe guarded is a better term.

Our Fourth of July became a ‘vacation’ to Tillamook, Oregon to pick up the plane!  When in Tillamook, you join the hordes of visitors to the Tillamook Cheese Factory.  I enjoy reading the history and data shared on murals throughout the factory.  It was running at minimal capacity on the 4th, but there were crushing numbers of people queuing for ice cream upstairs and meandering through the gift shop and restaurant down stairs.  My daughter traveled with us to drive the car home while we flew; this was her first visit, our second.  Walking Rockaway Beach, a bit of wine tasting, and getting to bed early as we had been up with the sun to get on the road and fatigue had the three of us nodding in our chairs at dinner.

At 8:00 AM sharp we were all at the Tillamook Airport hanger (also the Tillamook Air Museum).  The clouds were cooperating with a similar forecast for the next several hours.  But the coast can change rapidly, so we were a bit apprehensive.  Completing the paperwork, walking around the plane again and again, determining what documents they had that should stay with the plane, fueling up, and waiting for the banks to complete the money wire.  Good company, the prior owners were gracious and fun to hang with so the time was well spent. After a salad and pizza for lunch the money had been transferred.  Although we sold our wonderful trailer and Toyota Tundra to fund this, it was still a reality check to see the dollars disappear so efficiently.

At 14:00 (2:00 PM), with cloud bottoms 2,700 feet above the ocean, we taxied north on the  runway and flew above Tillamook, west, toward the bay.  We flew along the Oregon Coast seeing landmarks we had visited in the past from a new point of view.  Yup, it was thrilling!  I took pictures as Hubby got to know this bird better.  Although competent to fly the plane, each has its own quirks and unique qualities that the pilot needs to become familiar with.

The air was bumpy, like the ocean waves below us, the air currents were strong enough to rock the plane as we flew.  Rich seafood for dinner on the 4th, minimal sleep the previous two nights, jet fuel smells while at the airport and the bumps caused me intense motion sickness.  I played with the air temperature inside the plane trying to adjust it to help minimize my nausea and I closed my eyes, that didn’t help much, but I made it home without being sick.  Phew, the only mar in the otherwise great experience of the first day owning a plane.


We were alone at Martin Field, a sleepy little airport west of Walla Walla, when we landed, so we tied her to the ground (to keep her from moving around or flipping over in a wind).  The afternoon of the 6th we had access to the hanger we are renting and we put her inside, just fitting the available space perfectly.  She is a 1957 four-seater plane and has been shown at Vintage shows and  fly ins because she is in such good condition.  There are big plans for this plane, but for the time being we will fly her and proceed to build upon those ideas.  I will share them as they happen.

Millet and beet salad
Our welcome home meal to celebrate the safe arrival of our new RV is a spin-off of a friend’s ‘Glory Bowl’.

Once home we needed a quick dinner that wouldn’t be too heavy in my stomach after two hours of motion sickness.  Working on the premise of the grain salad I cooked millet, added chopped beets, lots of herbs, onion and garlic, and grated gouda cheese with a lemon and olive oil dressing for a warm, colorful, and tasty salad.  Paired with Helix Stone Tree Vineyard SoRho, a Rhone style blend, it was a terrific finish to the day.  Two hours after we flew into Walla Walla my daughter drove in; she left mid-morning with plans to walk Cannon Beach on the way home.  There is something to be said for traveling by air.  Cheers!

A local adventure

Coffee Group friends at graduation.
My ‘coffee group’ friends; I missed visiting again this year.

My garden supplies me with culinary and tea herbs I enjoy and share with friends.  It is a joy to sit outside and observe the bees and butterflies up close as they go about their business procuring nectar and pollinating.  So when a friend suggested we go to the Blue Mountain Lavender Farm  here in the Walla Walla Valley I was all for it.  We had hoped a couple other friends would join us, but that didn’t work out; they were sorely missed.

I hadn’t ridden in Carol’s Mini Cooper, so we decided to take that from my house to the farm.  We looked up the directions prior to leaving the house since the motorcycle rides my Hubby and I took didn’t show us where it was located.  As navigator I had my phone out, map open.  You know how they tell you that the maps aren’t always accurate? You know they tell you to check the accuracy before committing to following their directions? Well, when you are unfamiliar with the area and have no way to check the accuracy of the directions, you tend to follow them.  We did, for a silly adventure along a canal bank named ‘Mud Creek Road’.  The Mini Cooper is a low-clearance, small car with terrific handling and speed; not a typical off-roading vehicle.

Do you know how far two miles is? Do you know how far two miles in a Mini Cooper on a canal bank is?  They are not equivalent by any means.  Dutifully following the blue line on the map we kept heading toward the little red bubble. Close enough to the alfalfa seed fields that the bees were audible as they industriously pollinated the dark purple flowers.  The ditch was running with ribbons of Chartreuse algae across much of the top.  Laughing, and cringing as my fibromyalgia pain ramped up, we crept around the potholes and larger boulders to watch the blue line flip in front of us; we had made it to the next paved road!  Heaving a sigh of relief we stopped to put the address into the phones again to see if we would get a more accurate map.  The blue line of the new map showed us a short route, on paved roads. There were signs pointing the way on this route too!

In just a few minutes we climbed out of the abused Mini into the mid-day heat.  The charming farmhouse and grounds planted primarily to lavender, the gift shop, the covered outdoor craft space were not large, but they were immaculately groomed.  It was hot, already over 90*F.  Wondering through the fields, noting the names and descriptions of the different lavender cultivars for future reference, we made our way back to the gift shop.  I purchased a tin of Apricot Lavender tea that smelled heavenly and Carol purchased a couple of tea towels and sachets.  We packed ourselves into the Mini and drove away,  astound to see the turn we took toward the canal bank so quickly as the two miles on the road blinked by.  We headed to my house for lunch and wine to enjoy the rest of our visit in air-conditioned comfort.

Before driving to Walla Walla, Carol picked basil from her beautiful garden for me.  The next morning I made pesto, using some of it for a pasta dinner that night.  I typically don’t grow an abundance of basil due to confined spaces, but I do enjoy pesto so this was a wonderful treat.  There are a few containers in the freezer for future use and a bit out to enjoy now.

The recipe for Basil Pesto from Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead’s The Herbal Pantry:

2 cups fresh basil leaves, 1/2 cup parsley leaves, 1/2 cup olive oil, 3 tablespoons pine nuts, 2 large garlic cloves, peeled, 3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons soft butter, salt to taste (I think the cheese adds enough salt, personally). In a food processor or hearty blender puree all but the cheese and butter. If you are freezing it, put it into your containers at this point.  Hand mix the cheese and butter into the pesto you are going to use.  If you have some to store in the refrigerator, put a thin layer of olive oil on top to preserve the bright green color.  Enjoy!

It is also time to start visiting the vineyards in anticipation of harvest. Lots of beautiful grape clusters, strong, healthy vines predict another fabulous crush season ahead. Cheers!

Patina Vineyard Syrah clusters
Patina Vineyard Syrah clusters are looking fabulous!


Red, Pink and Yellow Onions

It is Walla Walla Sweet Onion Harvest here in our verdant valley.  These delectable, fragile onions are only around for a short time each year and have to be used promptly or preserved as they don’t store like the average yellow, white or red onions we are familiar with in the USA.  I will be getting my 25 pounds to dehydrate this weekend; it is Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival weekend too.

Last November, during our tour through Germany we spent a day in Emmeloord, Netherlands.  (This a ‘polder‘ – land reclaimed from the sea.)  The perfectly flat terrain goes on for miles and miles where sheep graze and food crops grow with agriculture related businesses being the primary form of employment.  It is below sea level and the locals enjoy relating the marvel of their home as much as winery peeps in the Pacific Northwest (Washington and Oregon) like to expound upon the Missoula Floods that have  provided us with excellent soil for vinifera grape growing, amongst other crops.  Hey, we are all human, right?

One of the stops of the day was an onion packing plant; it was an excellent experience.  Set up like the one I have been through in Washington State: trucks backed in to unload, storage bins for the onions, long lines of conveyor belts sizing equipment and bagging/boxing.  What made it interesting to me was that my American perspective was large onions that are either in pre-weighed 5 or 10 pound net bags or loose in the grocery store is the norm.  From the Waterman Onion Packing facility yellow, red and pink (yup, just like wine: white, red and pink) onions the size of large shallots are packaged into net bags of about five onions for grocery store purchasers or graded and sized for bulk shipping to Asian and African nations.  Those destined for Africa were to be sold individually (pieced) as money and/or preservation are in short supply in many places.  Our American onions are less expensive too; sadly, we don’t see how well we have it most of the time.

The pink onions were touted as ‘sweet’ and, being from Sweet country, we had to try one.  A pocket knife was procured and layers were peeled for each that wanted a taste.  Although sweeter than the average onion and great tasting, they are not as sweet as our beloved Walla Walla Sweet Onions.

I had a blast going through the packaging plant while it was shut down for lunch. My white jacket was filthy in short order (I should not be trusted with white clothing) but none of the guys got dusty red jackets of out it…hmmmm.  Since we have been traveling through Washington during potato planting I recognized the huge bulk sacs for shipping at two places where I hadn’t  see them before.  The gypsy in me took advantage of some traveling opportunities while the geeky side is content with the new info.

By the way, feel free to mix and match your yellow/red/pink onions with your wines. Cheers!

Lost in translation – Not

We had lots of craziness involved with construction for the last two weeks as new floors and molding went into the whole house.  The tired  (pink) carpet with no pad beneath it, the bold (pink) entry tile and shrunken (pink) linoleum were unceremoniously ripped out in clouds of dust and debris to make way for the new laminate floors we chose to replace them.  The three guys that were doing the work had limited English and my multi-lingual skills were too rusty to allow coherent non-English sentences.  But this reminded me of our visit to Eichbaum in Mannheim, Germany when we shared a table with a long time resident of Mannheim that hadn’t spoken English in the many years since his wife passed away.

The Mannheim Water Tower
The Mannheim Water Tower on a gloomy November day; it finally stopped raining enough to stop and take a picture.

We were a few days shy of leaving Germany and in need of dinner after a cold, rainy November day touring Heidelberg Castle.  Eichbaum came up as a restaurant so we made our way there around 5 PM.  There were basic pub foods to choose from which made the decision fairly quick.  The flight of beers on tap made their way to us promptly, but the food took some time to emerge despite it being a slow night.  So, when our new friend asked to sit by us while he drank his beer we didn’t mind.  Our server gave him a glare when he sat down; we might have taken that as a sign, but no.  We managed to eat between questions due to the time it took to comprehend what he was asking.  When he whistled for another beer the server berated him for his rudeness; in his defense, his glass was empty for quite a while and she didn’t come by to check.  She glared at the back of his head another time or two.  It was clear that he loved the time he spent in America many years ago as much as he loved his deceased wife and was super lonely.  His little apartment a few blocks away meant he was a regular customer from way back when.  Like an old uncle that doesn’t know when to leave, the server chided him and tolerated him.  We had a good time chatting while we ate and drank, we certainly won’t forget him as that evening was a lot longer than we anticipated.

The beers were good, but not exciting; no need to translate taste thank heavens.  As one of the oldest breweries in the Baden-Wurttemberg region we were impressed with the huge, modern facility we arrived at.  Now knowing how large they are and how far they distribute, makes sense.  Apparently it was a popular college student haunt when the University of Maryland University College (1995-2005 in Mannheim) had a campus there.

The experience was humbling, we didn’t speak German well enough to communicate with this man, but we could understand his German enough to answer in English which was apparently ok.  The vast majority of Germans speak impeccable English; we should be better prepared to participate in the world we travel in.  Of course, back at home, we were poorly equipped to converse with non- to minimal-English speaking people.  They did great work and we are so happy to be moved back into our home.

Have a safe Memorial Day, keep those that defend us (past and present) and all that they give up for us in mind this weekend.  For my family, friends and for those that I don’t know personally that still are and have served, thank you from the bottom of my heart.


Breakfast tasting

Tulips of Skagit Valley 2016.
We spent a little time visiting the tulip fields. They were already peaking the first week in April.

Each Spring we make a valiant attempt to get to the Skagit Valley to enjoy the Tulip Festival. Some years we do it up right with a grand tour of a grower’s facility and other years we are content with gawking at the incredible displays of color.  This year we towed a trailer over with a piece of potato planting machinery the previous day, so we had the empty trailer behind us as we meandered through the valley.  The daffodils were almost gone and the tulips were at their peak the first week of April. Have you ‘done’ the Tulip Festival?

Ruby Sue's Tea Shop, La Conner, WA.
Ruby Sue’s Tea Shop in the town of La Conner carries Harney & Sons Fine Teas; we came home with some.

To shake things up a bit we parked on a back street of La Conner to walk through town as it had been a few years since we last visited. ( If you haven’t been to this sweet little town, you should put it on your bucket list right now.)  Lots of artist galleries, there are some fun foodie places with terrific seafood, and a smattering of other places along with seaside village charm.  Our stops this visit were Ruby Sue’s Tea Shop and The Wood Merchant as we were a bit early in the day for many others; we have restocked the tea cupboard.

Our tea haul included Irish and Scottish Breakfast teas; we have English Breakfast from Germany.  All are blends of black (oxidized) tea leaves [Camellia sinensis] from China, Shri Lanka, India,  and other Asian countries.  We spent a blissfully slow Saturday morning comparing the three teas: measuring the loose tea into the tea balls, boiling the water just right, smelling the aromas as the steam rose, ah, yes.  The teas steeped for four minutes, recommended steeping time is 3-7 minutes.  I don’t care for the rough tannins that long steeping releases; besides, this was to taste the nuances of each tea to compare them and that was enough before the temperature of the water dropped too far for ideal extraction.

Breakfast Tea Tasting

The English Breakfast tea (Tee Handelskontor), possibly the most recognized, is a medium sized cut leaf: with smokey, earthy aromas and flavors with smooth tannins and minimal acidity.

The Scottish Breakfast tea (Metropolitan Tea Co.), most obscure of the three, is a large cut leaf: similar aromas, but more earthy than smokey aromas and flavors with dusty tannins and mild acidity.

The Irish Breakfast tea (Metropolitan Tea Co.), also fairly common, is pelletized rather than flat leaf: more barnyard than earthy aromas and flavors with gritty tannins and crisp acidity.

I add a smidge of honey to each of mine while hubby adds a tablespoon of creamer.  Those additions shift the mouth feel of the teas and play with the acid and tannin perceptions.  The creamer smooths the rougher tannins while the honey balances the acids.  We tasted all three teas without amendments first, then we sat back and enjoyed them as we would typically have then.  Like wine, tea is all about where it came from and who blended it.  If we purchased another trio of breakfast teas we might find different results.  Recently two tea companies were suggested: Builders and Harney & Sons Fine Teas.  I don’t think Builders will be my cuppa but Hubby might like it, but Harney & Sons definitely has a lovely selection of teas. In another post I will tell you about one we brought home with us.

The colors, aromas, flavors and acid/tannin balances of tea have similar components to wine.  (Although I don’t drink coffee, it does too.)  When I slow down to explore what I am eating and drinking, to really taste it and enjoy, I tend to need less volume and more variety. How about you? Cheers!

Event-full week

Almost 800 miles and two events and I am home just in time to share the high points with you! I poured at the Seattle Wine and Food Experience (#SWFE) and attended the Oregon Wine Symposium (#OWS16), both for Locati Cellars. So many neat people and good information.


Locati Cellars Industry Night food platter.
Industry Night food is the only picture sent to me of our thank you event at Locati Cellars.

Oh, we had a fun party at the Marcus Whitman Hotel to celebrate our 4th Anniversary here along with Tero Estates, Lodmell Cellars and Mansion Creek Cellars while I was gone. It was interesting to plan the food and wines to pour knowing I wouldn’t be here to participate. We had Cugini’s Salami with Locati Sangiovese, Italian cheeses, marinated olives and mushrooms with fruit and bread to pair with our Reed Pinot Grigio, Barbera and Primitivo. It is wonderful to have a terrific staff and supportive owner to pick up the slack and make it happen. Might have to work on their photography to ensure I have something to share with you in the future.

There is a quieter week to come; good thing as I think I have a cold trying to take me down. Cheers!

2 Towns, 3 Romantic days

While trying to save a draft WordPress published my rough draft Thursday night, sorry for the confusion.

I am one very lucky girl, my hubby whisked me away for a charming Valentine’s weekend! We tend to like to keep things flexible, so there were no plans and reservations only for our hotel. Apparently this isn’t wise in Spokane over Valentine’s weekend, but that just made things interesting. Have you visited Spokane on a holiday weekend?  Tell me about it! Do you live in Spokane, is it frustrating to have out-of-town visitors when you want to go out?

Friday evening:

Our two flights of No-Li Brews, some aged in Dry Fly oak barrels.
Our two flights of No-Li Brews, some aged in Dry Fly oak barrels.

We had dinner at No-Li Brewery, neighbor to Dry Fly Distillery (we have been there too!), and National Brewery of the Year 2015, on Trent Ave. It is Spokane’s oldest brewery (EST 1993) beginning life as Northern Lights Brewery (‘No-Li’) and has great beers. Have you been to No-Li?

  • My favorite: Spin Cycle Red, 5.75% ABV, 49 IBU
  • Hubby’s favorite: Copper Donkey, 8% ABV, 30 IBU
Jazz at Nodland Cellars in the Chronicle Building.
Nodland Cellars new tasting room in the Chronicle Building in downtown Spokane’s Cork District.

Nodland Cellars (and their website) made the move from Spokane Valley into the Downtown Spokane Cork District the weekend before and had live Jazz to pair with their wines. Nice new digs in the old Chronicle Building. Hubby shared a bit of his glass of Frassy, the new label for Nodland Cellars, because this lightweight had way too much beer with dinner.

Saturday morning:

3rd St Marina, Lake Coeur d'Alene on a February morning.
Our two flights of No-Li Brews, some aged in Dry Fly oak barrels.

2009 we walked in to a little beach on Lake Coeur d’Alene with a photographer and a minister to speak our vows of commitment to each other on a lovely July morning. Valentine’s weekend February 2016 seemed like a great time to revisit that beach for the first time since. Cold, windy, and trying hard to rain, it was still a beautiful place to be. Sappy as it might sound, we are more committed to each other than we were the day we married. It took a couple of stumbles to get here, but worth each step. As we walked back to the car we wondered how many other couples married on that beach, or got engaged there.  Our whole morning was devoted to spending time on that beach. As in the morning we wed ducks were our companions once again. Before leaving Idaho we went to Cabella’s where lunch was convenient and quick after visiting the aquarium and wandering through the different departments.

Panorama of Lake Coeur d'Alene from a little beach.
Our moment of sunshine on the beach on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Saturday Afternoon:

We ‘planned’ a visit to Overbluff Cellars (their Facebook page), another winery that moved into the Cork District late last summer. A huge warehouse with room to crush and press outside and store fermenting, barreled and cased wine in the basement. There is an old loading dock in the parking lot where bands will perform during the nice spring and summer evenings. This visit, although we saw Jerry, the wine maker, we also had the opportunity to meet and visit with the team of owners. Mark, who roasts coffee under his Anvil label, will eventually have a large espresso roasting and brewing space for coffee aficionados that want to taste their coffee not hurry out with a fu-fu drink. Hey, craft wine, craft coffee, why not? It was great to put faces with names and email addresses.

The twin stacks of the Steamplant Brewery are their flight board.
Our two flights of No-Li Brews, some aged in Dry Fly oak barrels.

Saturday Evening:

Dinner was a little more complicated as all of the restaurants that came recommended were booked up. We were left with finding a spot in a bar, so we decided to try our luck at the Steamplant Brewery; a recommended spot. There were a trio ahead of us as we entered the bar, so we weren’t very hopeful. Like playing duck, duck, goose as a kid, we happened to pass a table as the occupants left and we sat down. Crazy!  We had a flight of beers with dinner; good thing we shared our wine tasting at Overbluff beforehand. There isn’t any info on ABV or IBU’s for these beers but they are pretty true to type. Have you been to the Steamplant for a meal? For the beer? What is your favorite?

  • My favorite: both the Bock (a nitro) and Scottish Ale
  • Hubby’s favorite: the Bock, Jalapeno Ale, and Huckleberry Ale (yup, fruity)

Valentine’s Day Lunch:

But the very best meal we had in Spokane was lunch on Valentine’s Day at Queen of Sheeba Ethiopian Restaurant in the Flour Mill!  If you have never had Ethiopian food, please find somewhere to experience it as it is wonderful cuisine.  Of course, we bought tea in the Kitchen Engine shop in the Flour Mill because, besides memories, that (and wine) is what we bring home with us. Have you been to the Flour Mill? Tell me about your experience with Ethiopian food, especially at Queen of Sheeba’s!

Barrister Winery (website) was our last stop, mostly to meet Tyler, the assistant winemaker since we haven’t seen him during prior visits.  We had hoped to visit the newest tasting room by the Davenport Grand Hotel, but we missed seeing it and didn’t leave enough time to return this go around. Next time we are in Spokane we will check it out. Have you been to the tasting room that opened last Fall? Tell me about it.

Well satisfied the weekend was what we hoped it would be, we turned the wheels toward Walla Walla and home. Just after dark we pulled into the garage where our kitty Dragon welcomed us with loud wailings and complaints about being left alone. Cheers!

Black and white cat sleeping beside me.
Our cat, Dragon sleeping beside me; he has it so rough.