Central Oregon Daytrip: Albany, Lebanon, and Brownsville

A Daytrip in Central Oregon: Albany, Lebanon, and Brownsville

I have family who live in Lebanon, Oregon, located in the Willamette Valley in west central Oregon. While on a recent visit, my Aunt showed us around some of her favorite parts of the area for a day. We didn’t see a lot, but there are definitely a few things worth a stop on a road trip or if you are in the area. There isn’t much to see in Lebanon, so we spent most of the day in Albany, OR and Brownsville.

Our first stop on our day tour ended up being the highlight of the day for me. My Aunt mentioned an old historic carousel in Albany, so we went to check it out. What we found wasn’t a carousel, but a Carousel Museum and a work of art in progress.

Albany historic carousel museum Oregon

Albany historic carousel museum Oregon

Albany historic carousel museum Oregon

In 2002, Albany resident Wendy Kirby was inspired by a community carousel created in Missoula, Montana, and brought the idea back to Albany. Since 2003, volunteers have been working on carving, painting, and bringing to life the 52 unique carousel animals for the future Albany Carousel. It appeared that they were a little less than halfway done when we visited, with quite a few finished animals on display, and the rest in the works. Each animal takes years to complete, and the paint takes 6 months alone to cure.

Albany historic carousel museum Oregon seahorse
My favorite –“The Guardian”
Albany historic carousel museum Oregon
“Harriette”
Albany historic carousel museum Oregon
Hope the giraffe and Daisy the elephant

All the animals are created by volunteers, many without any prior wood carving experience. Anyone who wants to help can be given a job. The animals are so intricately carved and detailed, and you can see all the love that goes into each one. I was more excited to see this process than I was a finished carousel. I think that the process is the best part–something creative and exciting that brings the community together and will give them something to be proud of for years to come.

Albany historic carousel museum Oregon

Albany historic carousel museum Oregon

Albany historic carousel museum Oregon

Albany historic carousel museum Oregon
“Yun Hsiang”
Albany historic carousel museum Oregon
“Lady Sophia”
Albany historic carousel museum Oregon
“Sampson”
Albany historic carousel museum Oregon
“Kiger”
Albany historic carousel museum Oregon
“Morgan”
Albany historic carousel museum Oregon
“Kitty”
Albany historic carousel museum Oregon
“Hope”
Albany historic carousel museum Oregon
Model horses used for reference
Albany historic carousel museum Oregon
“Geno”

Albany historic carousel museum Oregon

Albany historic carousel museum Oregon
Bison
Albany historic carousel museum Oregon
The very beginnings of “Friend” the Chinese tiger
Albany historic carousel museum Oregon
The plans for “Friend” the Chinese tiger
Albany historic carousel museum Oregon
“Dexter”
Albany historic carousel museum Oregon
Carousel top
Albany historic carousel museum Oregon
Model of finished carousel

I didn’t see her in the making yet, but when I went to their website I saw that they are also making a walrus, “Walltha,” I must go back and visit the walrus someday. I LOVE walruses.

Albany historic carousel museum Oregon
“Walltha” plan. Image from http://albanycarousel.com/animals/

 

Also at the Carousel Museum are pieces of old carousels on loan from the Dentzel family, the first family to bring carousels to America in 1870. The pieces are well preserved and date from 1885 to 1905.

Albany historic carousel museum Oregon

Albany historic carousel museum Oregon

Albany historic carousel museum Oregon

Albany historic carousel museum Oregon

The Carousel Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and Wednesday evenings until 9:00 PM. Closed on Sundays. Address: 503 1st Avenue West, Albany, OR 97321.

After the Carousel Museum we decided it was time for lunch, so my Aunt took us to one of her favorite restaurants in Albany, The House of Noodle. It was a very reasonably priced Thai restaurant with many noodle and soup options as well as other traditional Thai dishes. My Aunt’s favorite is the “Spicy Drunken Noodles.” Entrees come with a small salad or cup of soup. I ordered the Tom Kha Chicken Noodle Soup, which was very good, and only $9.50 for a giant bowl of soup, veggies, chicken, and noodles.

House of Noodle Albany Tom Kha Chicken Noodle Soup
Tom Kha Chicken Noodle Soup

We made dinner and breakfast at my Grandma’s house during our trip, so I don’t have any other restaurants to report. However,¬† more dining options in Albany are listed here: http://www.albany.com/guide/guide_dining.cfm

 

After lunch my Aunt took us to her favorite thrift store in Albany, St. Vincent De Paul.

St. Vinnie's thrift store Albany OR
St. Vinnie’s thrift store
St. Vinnie's thrift store Albany Oregon
St. Vinnie’s thrift store

The store was huge, and had a large section of plus/women’s sizes as well as misses sizes. They also had quite a bit of furniture and a large used book section in the back. I found an awesome dress for $5.00, a shirt, and a pair of new-looking gold sparkly flats. My Aunt told us that St. Vinnie’s is a little less “picked-over” than other thrift stores in the area.

My Mom and Grandma were ready for a nap at this point, so we took them home and then my Aunt and I continued to Brownsville. The drive to Brownsville from Lebanon is very scenic, with sweeping views of Willamette Valley and farms in the area. Brownsville is a very well-preserved historic pioneer town with buildings and houses dating back to the 1850’s through the 1920’s. It is very cute and has lots of little shops and cafes to poke around in.

We arrived too late for a tour, but the Moyer House was still an interesting landmark to see. Built in 1881, restoration is on-going and nearly complete on the historic Italian-style villa. Tours are offered Saturdays from Noon to 4:00 PM and Sundays from 2:00 to 5:00 PM.

Moyer House Brownsville Oregon
Moyer House

My Aunt’s favorite part of the house is the old 100+ year old wisteria tree in the front yard:

Moyer House wisteria tree Brownsville Oregon
Moyer House wisteria tree
Moyer House wisteria tree Brownsville Oregon
Moyer House wisteria tree

Our last stop in Brownsville was Kirks Ferry Trading Post (217 Bishop Way, Brownsville, Oregon, 97327). Kirks Ferry Trading Post is a restaurant, bar, and event space built around an old historical log cabin built in 1846 by Alexander and Sarah Kirk. It is one of the oldest buildings in the state of Oregon, and the first settlement in Linn County. It is now owned by the great grandson of Alexander Kirk.

Kirks Ferry Trading Post Brownsville Oregon
Kirks Ferry Trading Post

Alexander and Sarah Kirk were some of the early Oregon Trail pioneers who settled in the area . The 640 acre property borders the Calapooia River, and the Kirks set up a small flat-bottom ferry to transport horses and wagons across the river. It operated for 6 years until the county put in the first bridge across the river. The trading post was also a stop along the Oregon Trail for pioneer travelers. It was the first settlement in the area, and paved the way for other buildings and settlers. Eventually the town name changed from Kirks Ferry to Brownsville.

Inside the Trading Post building you can tour the outside and inside of the old cabin. We were there in January on a rainy day, and the Trading Post was warm and smelled of a wood stove. It was very welcoming.

Kirks Ferry Cabin Brownsville, Oregon
Inside Kirks Ferry Cabin
Inside Kirks Ferry Cabin Brownsville, Oregon
Inside Kirks Ferry Cabin
Inside Kirks Ferry Cabin Brownsville, Oregon
Inside Kirks Ferry Cabin

My Aunt had recently been there for her office holiday party. She said it was a very nice event space and there were appetizers laid out for guests on the bar inside the old cabin. Behind the cabin the event space and seating area continues, and there is a bar as well. We sat at the bar and talked to the owner for a little bit. He is very proud of his family’s heritage and is looking to book more events at the Trading Post. Next time I’m in the area I’d like to come back and try the food.

Kirks Ferry Trading Post bar Brownsville, Oregon
Outside edge of historic cabin and bar area
Kirks Ferry Trading Post Brownsville, Oregon
Large seating and event space area behind the historic cabin
Kirks Ferry Trading Post Bar Brownsville, Oregon
Bar

Kirks Ferry Trading Post Brownsville, Oregon

Kirks Ferry Trading Post Bar Brownsville, Oregon

Kirks Ferry Trading Post Bar Brownsville, Oregon

There is definitely some great history preserved in the Willamette Valley, and some great history in the making at the Carousel Museum in Albany. This was the first time I’d taken some time to sight-see other than just visit with family, and I’m happy that I was able to do both on this trip. I am looking forward to coming back to see the progress on the Carousel, having dinner at Kirks Ferry, and seeing what else the area has to offer.

Culinary Adventures: Maple and Apple Cider Brined Roast Chicken

Culinary adventures: Maple and apple cider brined roast chicken–our favorite fall/winter roast chicken recipe.

 

I got this recipe out of a magazine a couple years ago, and unfortunately the page I tore out of it has no indication which magazine it was. It is my favorite fall/winter roast chicken recipe now.

**Before you get started, note that this is a two-day recipe as you need to prepare the brine and brine the chicken in the fridge overnight for cooking the next day.

I did modify the recipe a tiny bit. The original roast chicken recipe called for a whole cup of kosher salt for the brine, but it ended up being pretty salty. A friend of mine who tried the recipe thought that was way too much salt and made it with half a cup instead, which is what I use now. It is plenty of salt.

The recipe also recommended marinating the vegetables in salt, pepper, and olive oil in the fridge overnight as well. I tried it the first time, but I really don’t think it’s necessary. There is a lot of fat in the chicken that flavors the veggies so I don’t think a lot of olive oil is needed. I put them in the roasting pan with a tiny bit of olive oil, salt and pepper (just enough to lightly coat the veggies and help the salt and pepper stick).

Ingredients:

1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 cups apple juice or apple cider
4 cups water
1 cup pure maple syrup
2 tbsp Dijon-style mustard
1 5-6 lb roasting chicken
6 large carrots, cut into 2 inch chunks
2 large onions, cut into1/2 inch slices
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut into wedges
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 medium orange, halved
salt and ground black pepper

**You will also need kitchen twine and a large roasting pan.

Directions: 

1. For brine, in an extra-large stainless steel pot combine the kosher salt and brown sugar; stir in apple juice, water, and mustard. Cook and stir over medium high heat until salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. 

2. Remove giblets from chicken, rinse inside and out with water. Place chicken in stockpot, making sure it is immersed in the brine. Chill for 12 hours or overnight. 

3. Once chicken has brined, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove chicken from brine and discard brine. Pat chicken dry inside and out with paper towels. Sprinkle chicken cavity with salt and pepper. Place orange halves and four springs of the thyme in cavity. Skewer neck skin to back, tie up legs and tail with kitchen twine. Twist wing tips under back. Spread vegetables around chicken evenly in roasting pan. 

4. Roast chicken for 1.5 to 2 hours, or until a meat thermometer inserted into center of an inside thigh registers 180 degrees. We put the lid on the roasting pan for the first hour or so, and then take it off. Remove roast chicken and vegetables, let stand 10-15 minutes before carving.

maple and apple cider brined roast chicken recipe

I always let Paddy truss the chicken, he’s the pro. If you’re not sure how to do it, here is a good instructional video I found on YouTube:

We arranged the veggies in the pot around and underneath the roast chicken, so that the juices would flow down and flavor the vegetables.

maple and apple cider brined roast chicken recipe

 

A satisfying meal for a cold winter day.

maple and apple cider brined roast chicken recipe

Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, WA in the Winter

The San Juan Islands have plenty to offer in the winter with lower prices and fewer tourists. What to see and do in Friday Harbor, WA in the winter time:

 

I was born and raised in Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, WA. Paddy spent his high school years there as well, and both of us lived there for a short period of time as adults after we met. It was a unique way to grow up, something I appreciate more and more as I get older.

Summertime is peak tourist season for the San Juan Islands. Hoards of tourists travel from all over the world to come see the beautiful islands, many in hopes of catching a glimpse of the infamous orca whales in the area. The tourists thin drastically after Labor Day and by November are nearly non-existent until spring.

Friday Harbor in the winter
Friday Harbor

Friday Harbor in the winter

While the locals breathe a heavy sigh of relief after the craziness of the summer season, those in the service industry must tighten their belts as their incomes decline for the winter.

I think winter is a great time to visit. We end up there in the winter most often because we visit family during the holidays, but winter time in Friday Harbor has its merits:

1. Prices are lower.

Hotel prices drop almost 50%. Almost all of the accommodations in Friday Harbor and San Juan Island cost a small fortune in the summertime. By spending less money on lodging, you’ll have more money for going out to eat and other things.

2. Less waiting in line.

Whether it is for a ferry or a popular restaurant, you will spend much less time waiting and more time doing things. Even with the newly introduced reservation system for the ferries, you will have more room to be spontaneous with your ferry times and reservations will be plentiful.

Friday Harbor in winter christmas lights

3. Friendlier locals.

As someone who worked summers in Friday Harbor restaurants and hotels for ten years, I can attest that summer can be hell for those in the service industry. Rude, entitled tourists, family groups of 16 expecting to walk in and get a table at a restaurant without a reservation, non-stop lines and never being able to find a parking spot in town takes it’s toll on the locals. In the winter, everyone is relaxed and happy to accept your patronage. Most people anyway.

Friday Harbor in the winter
Spring Street on a quiet November evening

4. Peace and quiet.

Going up to the island in the winter has a calming effect on me. It probably has to do with my memories of living there in the winter: cozy evenings by the wood stove, enjoying a cup of tea with a friend at her cabin in the woods, walks in American Camp with no one else around. Time slows down, and relaxation begins.

Friday Harbor in the winter quiet forest

There is a lot to see and do in Friday Harbor and San Juan Island, and I’m not going to cover everything here. Just the highlights of my favorite things to do and see for a winter visit.

How to get there:

You can reach Friday Harbor via Washington State Ferry from Anacortes, WA. Up until this month, the ferries were first come, first served. This meant long ferry lines in the summer, and needing to arrive 1-3 hours in advance depending on the season. There is absolutely nothing to do near the Anacortes Ferry terminal (except take a walk on the rocky beach), which makes for a boring wait.

There is now a reservation system for ferries both ways (you pay in Anacortes round trip). You reserve online, pay when you get there. A credit card is required to make the reservation but it is only charged a $10.00 no-show fee if you miss the boat. If you need to change your reservation to a different boat, you can do so up to three hours before departure of the sailing you reserved.

There has been some debate and controversy from locals about this system, as it doesn’t let people be as flexible. During tourist season in the summer, it could either be a blessing or a burden for local residents. Time will tell.

Cars loading onto the ferry heading to Anacortes in Friday Harbor
Cars loading onto the ferry heading to Anacortes in Friday Harbor

A “straight through” sailing from Anacortes to Friday Harbor (and vice versa) is about an hour. If there is a stop at Lopez Island, usually about an hour and a half. We’ve come to take the ride for granted due to the number of times we’ve taken it in our lives, but the scenery is stunning.

San Juan Islands ferry
Booths inside the ferry cabin

Friday Harbor in winter San Juan Islands ferry

 

San Juan Islands ferry
Ferry cabin
San Juan Islands ferry
Observation deck

San Juan Islands ferry winter time

Friday Harbor in winter (27)

Friday Harbor in winter (28)

Friday Harbor San Juan Islands in winter (17)

San Juan Islands ferry Outside deck seating

San Juan Islands ferry winter time

sunset from Friday Harbor ferry

Things to see and do:

 

**Note: Bring your car. It is expensive, but worth it as everything worth seeing on the island is outside of town, and there is no public transportation.

North side of the island:

Head out of town on Roche Harbor Road 9.5 miles to Roche Harbor on the north end of the island. Near the road down into the harbor you will find an expansive 19 acre outdoor sculpture park right outside the harbor road entrance. The Wescott Bay Sculpture Park has many unique pieces to view, so bring some rain gear and walking shoes and plan to spend awhile.

Westcott Bay Sculpture Park
Westcott Bay Sculpture Park. Image from http://www.thesanjuans.com/san-juan-island-activities/san-juan-workshops/westcott-bay-sculpture-park.shtml
Roche Harbor Canadian geese
Canadian geese in the airfield across from the Sculpture Park
Roche Harbor Canadian geese
Canadian geese in the airfield across from the Sculpture Park

 

On the opposite side of Roche Harbor Road from the sculpture park is one of my all time favorite places to see on San Juan Island, The Mausoleum.

The Mausoleum was built by Roche Harbor founder John McMillan as a final resting place for his family.

Parking is in a gravel lot facing the private airfield, and the trail is just up the road a few feet. An easy half mile hike through the woods takes you past several old tombstones that are gated by wire and picket fences.

Mausoleum at Roche Harbor
Mausoleum at Roche Harbor

Mausoleum at Roche Harbor

Mausoleum at Roche Harbor

The windy little path through the woods meets up with a wide path that leads to the Mausoleum, “Afterglow Vista.”

It is beautiful and eery at the same time. The structure contains symbolism of the Masonic order. Grecian style columns surround a marble and stone table on a stone platform with six chairs surrounding it. Each chair contains the ashes of a family member, as well as his secretary. One of the columns was built purposefully broken.

Roche Harbor Mausoluem
Roche Harbor Mausoluem

Mausoleum at Roche Harbor

Mausoleum at Roche Harbor

Mausoleum at Roche Harbor

Mausoleum at Roche Harbor

Mausoleum at Roche Harbor

Mausoleum at Roche Harbor

Mausoleum at Roche Harbor

I was here in December and there wasn’t another soul around. It was peaceful and a little spooky. I remember coming here as a teenager with my friends at night and scaring ourselves.

If you venture into Roche Harbor, you’ll find a harbor, a cafe, grocery store, gift shop, old historic Hotel De Haro, and remains of John McMillan’s lime quarry. McMillan’s Restaurant in the Hotel De Haro is pricey but very good. The restaurant and hotel are rumored to be haunted. Paddy worked with a guy who used to work there and he has stories of lights and radios coming on by themselves when he was alone at night closing the kitchen in the winter. In the summer you’ll find Roche Harbor bustling with wealthy tourists, the harbor full of expensive yachts. In the winter, it is a sleepy little historic spot.

Hotel De Haro, Roche Harbor
Hotel De Haro, Roche Harbor
Roche Harbor San Juan Island
Roche Harbor

On the way back to town, stop off at San Juan Vineyards for wine tasting and be sure to say hi to Mona the camel across the road.

Mona the camel San Juan Island

Mona the camel San Juan Island
Mona the camel
Mona the camel San Juan Island
Mona’s friend the alpaca

A camel? What? Yes, there is Mona, the San Juan Island camel who lives on a farm across the road from San Juan Vineyards. Mona has a story, which you can read here. San Juan Vineyards has even made a wine in honor of Mona, the Mona Vino.

Mona the camel San Juan Island
Mona
Mona the camel San Juan Island
Mona

As tempting as it is, please don’t feed Mona. Too many people were coming by offering her apples and carrots and she became in danger of developing diabetes. Just take a photo and say hi to her from the fence.

 

South side of the island:

 

I grew up out on the south end of San Juan Island, and it is one of my favorite parts. The beaches are the best on the south end, and the grassy trails of American Camp park and cliffs overlooking the sea are a place I used to spend hours wandering while growing up.

To reach American Camp Park, head out of town on Mullis Street (left turn off Spring Street if traveling from the ferry/main part of town) and continue about 6 miles on Cattle Point Road.

It’s not much to see in the winter time, but the most popular beach on the island is Eagle Cove Beach, which is accessed just before American Camp by taking a right down Eagle Cove Drive when you see the American Camp sign (just before the sign). The parking area will be on the left about 1/4 of a mile.

Eagle Cove Beach San Juan Island
Eagle Cove Beach
Eagle Cove Beach San Juan Island
With Dad at Eagle Cove Beach this December
Eagle Cove Beach San Juan Island
Dewey, my parents’ dog at Eagle Cove Beach

Eagle Cove Beach San Juan Island

The tide stays pretty high all winter long at Eagle Cove, but in the summer it goes out pretty far, creating an ideal sandy spot for families and skim boarders.

Eagle Cove Beach trail in the snow
Eagle Cove Beach trail in the snow
Eagle Cove Beach in the snow
Eagle Cove Beach in the snow
Eagle Cove Beach in the snow
Eagle Cove Beach in the snow

 

Back to American Camp. There is a lot to see in this expansive park. The park gets its name due to it being the remnants of a civil-war era American military camp (there is also a British Camp Park in the north part of the island, which is lovely but I prefer to visit it in the summer time.) From Cattle Point Road, turn right onto the small road at the American Camp sign (the road right after Eagle Cove Drive). A parking lot and visitors’ center is at the end of the short road.

**Note: the park ranger is pretty strict about keeping dogs on leashes everywhere in the park. Failing to do so may result in a ticket.

From the parking lot, there is a well-maintained pathway around the old officer’s quarters and other historical buildings, with plaques explaining the historical significance along the way.

Once you’ve had your fill of history, branch off on one of the trails heading towards the sea to explore the cliffs and hidden coves along the coast. If it is winter, you might have it all to yourself.

American Camp San Juan Island

American Camp San Juan Island

American Camp San Juan Island

American Camp San Juan Island

American Camp San Juan Island

American Camp San Juan Island
My favorite spot on the whole island
Seals at American Camp San Juan Island
Seals basking in the winter sun
Granny's Cove American Camp San Juan Island
Granny’s Cove at high tide

 

If you continue on the path going straight (south) from the visitors’ center parking lot and officer’s quarters, you’ll find more trails that will eventually connect with the Redoubt and the road to South Beach.

The Redoubt American Camp San Juan Island

The Redoubt American Camp San Juan Island
The American Camp Redoubt
Griffin Bay American Camp San Juan Island
View of Griffin Bay from the Redoubt

American Camp San Juan Island

American Camp San Juan Island
View from the American Camp Redoubt

 

There is more to see if you continue by car down to Cattle Point, the south tip of the island:

4th of July Beach

Some people like this beach on Griffin Bay for BBQs and picnics, but it is one of my least favorite beaches on the island. I find it rocky and kind of boring. Skip it and head to South Beach instead.

Jakle’s Lagoon and Mt. Finlayson

This is a loop trail with a peaceful woodsy walk to Jakle’s Lagoon and stunning views of American Camp on top of Mt. Finlayson. Mt. Finlayson isn’t much of a mountain, but it’s the highest point on the south end of San Juan Island. You can hike it either direction from the parking lot.

Mt Finlayson San Juan Island
View from Mt Finlayson
View from Mt Finlayson San Juan Island
View from Mt Finlayson

South Beach

South Beach is the largest beach on San Juan Island. Fires and BBQs are allowed in designated spots, but no overnight camping and keep your dog on a leash. There are outhouses available here.

Christmas Day walk on South Beach San Juan Island
Christmas Day walk on South Beach

Cattle Point and Cattle Point Lighthouse

At the end of the main road you’ll find a parking lot for Cattle Point Beach Park (Discover Pass required to park in the parking lot) and a short and very scenic trail to Cattle Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse hike is beautiful and I highly recommend it.

Cattle Point Lighthouse San Juan Island
Cattle Point Lighthouse

In Friday Harbor town:

Friday Harbor in the winter
Town
Friday Harbor Port
Friday Harbor Port

Back in town you’ll find a lot of shops and restaurants. The boutiques on Spring Street have some nice things but most tend to be a little expensive, especially clothing. Some of my favorite shops:

Serendipity Used Books

Located right across from the ferry landing at 223 A St, Serendipity Books is full of used gems at reasonable prices. They also buy books for cash or trade.

Serendipity Books Friday Harbor
Serendipity Books
The Second Act

The Second Act on 2nd Street has been around for ages, although it has changed locations a couple of times. I found some amazing vintage dresses there back in high school. It is a consignment shop so everything is used but in like-new condition. Prices are good and there’s new items all the time.

The Second Act Friday Harbor
The Second Act
Griffin Bay Book Store

If you didn’t find any used treasures at Serendipity, or you did but are looking for something specific, Griffin Bay Book Store at 155 Spring Street is the new book store on the island. It has also been around forever and has changed locations as well, as is common for island businesses.

Griffin Bay Books Friday Harbor
Griffin Bay Books Friday Harbor
Funk & Junk Antiques

Another great spot for treasure hunting. Also been around forever, has also change locations. Now at 85 Nichols Street.

 

Restaurants:

Some of my favorite restaurants on the island aren’t open in the winter, are closed on weekends, or have a habit of closing up for extended periods in the winter. Here are a few solid suggestions for winter which should be open:

Cask & Schooner

Cask & Schooner Friday Harbor

I’d have to say this is my favorite winter dinner spot. Formerly the Friday Harbor Alehouse, the new owners have really done a great job remodeling the interior and adding a whole new fantastic menu. I highly recommend the beet salad, and I’ve had the best crab cakes I’ve ever had in my life here. That’s a big statement for me–I’ve eaten a lot of crab cakes. If you’re not hungry, it’s still a great spot to warm up with a drink at the bar.

1 Front Street. Dinner specials rotate, available after 5:00. Regular pub menu available for lunch and dinner.

Cask & Schooner Friday Harbor
Duck breast dinner special

Cask & Schooner Friday Harbor

San Juan Island Cheese

Yes, they sell cheese. They also serve wine and beer and a delicious light lunch from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM Tuesday through Saturday (Cheeseboards and snacks available until 3:00 PM). Great spot to pick up a picnic lunch or stop in to warm up in the afternoon with some wine and a sandwich. Their bread is from local Bakery San Juan. http://www.sjicheese.com/

BLT at San Juan Cheese Friday Harbor
BLT at San Juan Cheese
Salad at San Juan Cheese Friday Harbor
Salad at San Juan Cheese
The Hungry Clam (breakfast)
Hungry Clam Friday Harbor
Hungry Clam

I’ve never been a huge fan of the lunch at the Hungry Clam, the fries are always really greasy. However, they took over the breakfast menu (and staff) of the long-standing local favorite Blue Dolphin Cafe, after the Blue Dolphin lost their old diner spot next door. Standard big greasy diner fare, and open early right next to the ferry landing if you want to go in for breakfast before your boat. Paddy always orders the California Omelet and I always order the Veggie Benny. Just be sure to leave enough time to dine, you need to be back at your car 20 minutes before departure for ferry loading. 205 A Street.

Mi Casita

Mi Casita relocated a couple years back to 680 Spring Street (inside the Best Western Hotel) and I’ve only been to the new location once. When I Paddy and I lived on the island 10 + years ago this was one of our favorite restaurants, with some of the best blended margaritas I’ve ever had. My favorite is the seafood quesadilla.

Vinny’s

Vinny's Restaurant Friday Harbor

Vinny’s has solidly good Italian food, and it has stood the test of time in Friday Harbor–something that is not easy in a seasonal economy. The atmosphere is nice and romantic.

Vinny's seafood pasta Vinny's Restaurant Friday Harbor
Vinny’s seafood pasta
Vinny's veal marsala Vinny's Restaurant Friday Harbor
Vinny’s veal marsala
Other suggestions:

I’ve heard great things about Cafe Demeter (80 Nichols Street) for coffee and pastries, Pablitos Taqueria (104 A First Street) and Tops’l Seafood and Sushi (1 Front Street, above the Cask & Schooner) but I have not yet had a chance to eat at any of them. My all time favorite lunch spot is The Market Chef, (225 A Street) but last time I checked they are still closed on weekends, which is the only time I am ever on the island. If you’re visiting on a weekday, definitely make a point to check the place out for lunch or to pick up a picnic to go. Everything they make is outstanding, including homemade bread for their sandwiches.

 

Where to stay:

Being former locals, we haven’t stayed at a lot of places on the island ourselves. However, we know a bit about a few of them and here are my suggestions:

Juniper Lane Guest House

Juniper (the owner) is a friend of mine and has done an amazing job of blending cozy island style with hip, modern decor to create a warm, inviting, and affordable B&B. Juniper Lane Guest House also offers a cabin for rent and two backpacker/family rooms that can accommodate up to 6 people with bunk beds. Children must be 12 or older to stay. The Guest House is not very far from town (a little bit of a trek but still walkable) and offers beautiful grounds and pastoral views.

Juniper Lane Guest House Friday Harbor
Image from http://juniperlaneguesthouse.com/
Organic Green Tea Room Juniper Lane Guest House Friday Harbor
Organic Green Tea Room (Image from http://juniperlaneguesthouse.com/)

 

Lakedale Resort

I used to work at Lakedale Resort many years ago and therefore know it pretty intimately. If you are looking for secluded peace and quiet or a romantic getaway, this is your place. The resort offers 9 lake view lodge rooms with jacuzzi bathtubs and gas fireplaces, as well as 6 cabins and one three-bedroom lake house. Cabins and the lake house enjoy shared use of a hot tub in a centrally located gazebo. The woodsy decor, lake views and fireplaces make it an ideal winter getaway, and the prices are much lower November through April.

Be aware that it is four miles from Friday Harbor town so you will need to drive into town for meals if you stay at the lodge. Cabins have full kitchens and accommodate up to 6 people with one bedroom, a loft bedroom, and a futon in the living room.

Lakedale Resort Lodge Great Room Friday Harbor
Lakedale Lodge Great Room
Lakedale Resort Lodge Room Friday Harbor
Lakedale Resort Lodge Room

 

Lakedale Resort cabin Friday Harbor
Lakedale cabin (image from www.lakedale.com)
Island Inn

I haven’t been to the Island Inn, but I’ve heard great things. It is centrally located in town within easy walking distance to everything. The rooms look modern from the photos and many appear to have great views of the harbor. They have some budget friendly-options as well.

Island Inn Friday Harbor
Image from www.123west.com
Friday Harbor House

Paddy and I stayed at the Friday Harbor House once in November, and it was really nice. The prices in the summer are atrocious, and even in the winter it is a bit of a splurge but much more reasonable. Most rooms offer views of the harbor, gas fireplaces, and jacuzzi tubs. The complimentary continental breakfast in the morning was outstanding, including house made quiche and coffee cake. Location is ideal–easy walk from the ferry and everything in town.

Friday Harbor House room Friday Harbor
Friday Harbor House (image from www.fridayharborhouse.com)

 

There are a ton of places to stay on the island, including many B&Bs. The above places are just a few suggestions, but there are a lot of other great accommodations as well. A good place to look is on Tripadvisor and http://www.friday-harbor.net/accommodations/index.shtml.

 

If you’re looking for a relaxing getaway, wintertime in Friday Harbor is about as laid-back as it gets. Only a two-hour drive from Seattle to the Anacortes Ferry, it makes for an easy weekend visit. The islands stay beautiful year-round, just remember to bring some rain gear and warm clothes.

Friday Harbor ferry dock
Goodbye, Friday Harbor

 

Friday Harbor

 

 

Culinary Adventures: Moqueca (Brazilian Fish Stew)

Culinary Adventures: Moqueca (Brazilian Fish Stew). Super easy Caribbean style fish stew from Brazil. Healthy and flavorful–we’re adding this one to our regular recipe rotation for sure!

 

We were watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown about Salvador de Bahia in Northeastern Brazil, and started drooling over all the food he was eating. We have always wanted to go to Brazil. We were having some friends over for New Years Eve dinner, and I ditched my original fondue plan in favor of a Brazilian feast. I cooked several dishes, but the Moqueca (Brazilian Fish Stew) was my favorite.

I found my moqueca recipe on Pinterest from a cooking blog called What’s Gaby Cooking. Her photos are way prettier than mine–I was rushing to get dinner ready for 10 people and didn’t have time to take pretty pictures. I guess you get the reality pictures.

Here is her recipe–it’s super easy. The only oddball ingredient is red palm oil. I found it at Whole Foods, which is usually sure to have oddball ingredients. I’d never cooked with it before but I really liked it. It has a sweet smell and unique flavor to it and turns everything a bright golden yellow.

Red palm oil for moqueca
Red palm oil

 

**I also used pureed ginger in a tube as opposed to mincing fresh ginger, which many grocery stores sell near the fresh herbs in the produce section.

The first thing you have to do is make a marinade for your fish. I used shrimp and mahi mahi like she suggested but I think that cod, halibut, or any other firm fish would work as well. Make sure to use raw shrimp.

Moqueca Fish Marinade:
    • 1 1/2 pounds Mahi Mahi, cut into large chunks (skin removed)
    • 8 ounces shrimp, peeled and deviened
    • 1 lime, juiced
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 inch ginger, minced
    • 1 tablespoon palm oil, melted
    1. Combine the Mahi Mahi, shrimp, lime juice, garlic, ginger and palm oil in a large bowl. Toss everything together to combine and let the fish marinate for 20-30 minutes.
    2. After marinating, drain the fish and shrimp of any excess liquid. Meanwhile, cook the rice according to the package directions. Set aside once done.
how to make Moqueca --marinating fish
Moqueca –marinating fish
Once the fish is marinaded, the rest of the moqueca is a breeze:
Ingredients for the Stew:
  • 2 tablespoons palm oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 cups bell peppers, finely sliced
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup fish stock (vegetable stock works too)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1-2 cups jasmine rice

 

Directions:
  1. In a large heavy dutch oven, melt the palm oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, onions and bell peppers and sauté for 4-5 minutes until fragrant and the onions are softened. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and nestle the marinated Mahi Mahi and shrimp in the bottom of the dutch oven. Season the fish with salt and pepper and then add the fish stock and coconut milk to the pan. It should just about cover the fish and shrimp.
  3. Bring the stew to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 10 minutes until the shrimp is cooked and the fish easily flakes apart. Taste and season with the juice of 1 lime, more if you’d like, and add the cilantro, basil and more salt if desired.
  4. Serve the stew over the jasmine rice.
how to make Moqueca, ready to serve
Moqueca, ready to serve

 

The moqueca turned out amazing, and was a hit at our dinner party. The flavors of fish, lime, and the herbs really stand out. I have no idea what the moqueca tastes like in Bahia and how close this recipe is, but we plan to find out someday.

 

 

Snow Tubing at Snoqualmie Pass, WA

Snow fun for people who don’t ski or snowboard: New Years Day snow tubing at Snoqualmie Pass, WA 2013

 

Paddy and I have a long-standing tradition of spending New Years Day being as slothfully lazy as possible. Bloody marys are usually involved. One year we even watched 12 straight episodes of Lost in our pajamas. We took a couple breaks to make food, but that was about it.

For New Years 2013, we wanted to do something a little more exciting with our mid-week day off. So we went snow tubing at Snoqualmie Pass, about an hour outside of Seattle.

Seattle is a city blessed with tons of surrounding outdoor adventures. Multiple ski mountains, national parks, rainforest, beaches, rivers, lakes, and is also only a three hour drive away from the desert areas of Eastern Washington. We love it. Snoqualmie Pass is a ski area just an hour outside of Seattle off I-90. In just one hour you can go from 40 degrees and rainy to a winter wonderland, and then back again in the evening.

I-90 heading to Snoqualmie Pass
I-90 heading to Snoqualmie Pass
Snoqualmie Pass winter wonderland
Snoqualmie Pass winter wonderland

We were able to pre-reserve a spot in a snow tubing session at the Summit at Snoqualmie beforehand online. There are several two-hour sessions throughout the day that you can book for $23 per adult.

We booked an early afternoon session. We left in the morning, and traffic was non-existent. Parking was plentiful in the large lot at The Summit West. We walked around and watched the skiiers, and checked out the bars and restaurants. It was packed with families enjoying the holiday ski season. Unfortunately, the food options are not good at Summit West. We had lunch at Big Air BBQ, which left a lot to be desired.

snow tubing at snoqualmie
Watching the snow tubing session before us from afar

snow tubing at snoqualmie

snow tubing at snoqualmie
Outside the little snack bar/ticket office at the snow tubing hill
snow tubing at snoqualmie
Ready for snow tubing!

Finally, we headed to the tubing hill and had some hot chocolate while waiting for our turn. The session group before us exited, and the tubes were rounded up by the staff. Everyone crowded at the entrance with session tags on our coat zippers, and when the gates opened it was a full-on free for all.

Snoqualmie snow tubing hill
Snoqualmie snow tubing hill

snow tubing at snoqualmie

Fortunately, there are several lanes to go down on the hills, so the lines aren’t too bad, and move fairly quickly. The ride down is FAST. Slightly terrifying, considering what could happen if you fell out. Which is of course why you sign a waiver. The tubes hold you in pretty snug though.

snow tubing at snoqualmie

snow tubing at snoqualmie
Paddy coming down the hill

snow tubing at snoqualmie

You can either hoof it back up the hill (the faster and healthier way), or hook your tube to a rope pulley system at the bottom of the hill to be slowly pulled up to the top. We went with the lazy option.

snow tubing at snoqualmie pass
Line for the rope pull
Snow tubing at Snoqualmie Pass
Slothfully being pulled up the hill

Snow tubing at Snoqualmie Pass

We did the snow tubing thing for about an hour and a half, and then decided we’d had enough. It was super fun and we’d definitely like to go again. It was such an easy day trip from Seattle for some fun in the snow. Make sure you check the road conditions before heading out, and you should have chains with you just in case. Mountain pass info for Washington can be found here: http://www.wsdot.com/traffic/passes/default.aspx

 

This year, we opted for the slothfully lazy day of movies and bloody marys. Maybe we’ll tube next year. Happy New Year!