Monthly Archives: September 2010

Port Townsend for a Day or Three

An artisan latte from Undertown Coffee & Wine Bar

On a recent trip, Christina Pivarnik, the marketing director for the City of Port Townsend, showed three of us travel writers around and uncovered places I didn’t even know existed. Even though I’ve spent my entire life in Washington State, until recently I’ve not spent much time in Port Townsend. And it seems like every time I go there I find something new. It’s like uncovering treasures in your own backyard.

Secret Port Townsend

I seriously doubt that I would have ever found the Undertown Coffee & Wine Bar on my own. It’s, well, underground. When you discover the stairs to this coffee shop on Water Street, you’ll see the sign for it.

We walked through a tunnel underneath the street and sidewalk. Then you go through a tunnel until you find the door and while you’re enjoying the Stumptown Coffee they serve, you’ll forget that you’re below street level. The fresh pastries, baked on site in a small convection oven by the lady with a bow in here hair, are to die for.

The Clam Cannery lodging facility remains unmarked and inconspicuous when you drive by, but take a look at the rooms on their web site, www.clamcannery.com. Each suite offers an unobstructed view of Port Townsend Bay and they are pet-friendly. This is definitely a place I want to see from the inside.

T's Restaurant serves a scrumptious Wild King Salmon dish with Chef Tim's special touches. 

Dining

I highly recommend T’s Restaurant, located on the waterfront. Tim, the chef, has worked at Spago’s and trained with Wolfgang Puck. T’s has been designated as a stop on the Olympic Culinary Loop.

Menu items include local Manila clams, a cheese plate featuring Mt. Townsend cheeses, fresh sea scallops, Black Angus Flat Iron Steak and my personal favorite, Ginger & Scallion Crusted Cape Cleare Wild King Salmon with artichoke hearts, roasted fennel and edamame succotash, garnished with a pomegranate port gastrique. My compliments to the chef.

Actually the food scene here gets rave reviews so the town prints a “Menu Guide” every year which you can pick up at the Visitor’s Center, 2437 East Sims Way or you can get the basics at www.ptguide.com/restaurants-and-dining.

My grandson recommends the crab shooters in Sambuca cream at Silverwater Café, 237 Taylor Street. For Italian fare, the locals like Lanza’s Ristorante, 1020 Lawrence Street.

For walking off some of those calories, request a room on the third floor of the Bishop Victoria Hotel – you’ll negotiate 44 fairly steep stairs getting to your room. An elevator is not an option. But the room décor as well as the common areas brings back the authentic Victorian era. The Bishop also allows dogs, gives you towels for them and has a stash of treats behind the desk.

For more information, visit:  www.ptguide.com or www.enjoypt.com.

Dog-Centered Events

This "stay" was a bit long for a dalmation.

We are all about dogs here in Washington State -lots of super-dog friendly hotels, off-leash parks galore and lots of places that let dogs inside. In addition, we celebrate dogs with fairs and festivals just for them.

Over the weekend I went to Dog Daze & Feline Fantasies in Kent Station shopping center in Kent. Way more canines than felines attended the event. Trainers, dog food companies and even the Missing Pet Partnership had booths and handed out information, treats or just let you get a dog fix by petting theirs if you didn’t bring one with you.

This dog was looking for the toy that his owner had touched.

 

Dogs paraded in costume and showed off their obedience, agility and scent-detection skills. Fun was had by all and visiting dogs went home tired, which is the best way to keep them well-behaved, by the way.

Even though Dog Daze has past, there are plenty more dog-centered events coming up in Western Washington. Perhaps you and your dog will find one here that’s perfect for you.

All events are subject to change or cancellation. I recommend calling first to confirm and making advance reservations whenever possible.

October 3:  Walk for Hope in Magnuson Park, Seattle.      http://tiny.cc/s7b7o

October 10:  Northwest Wiener Races, Puyallup. www.wienerraces.com

Volunteer Orientation for Missing Pet Partnership; find out how you can help find lost pets, Kent Senior Center. www.missingpetpartnership.org/seattle-events.php

October 23:  Woof Woof Walk in Spanaway Park, Spanaway. http://tiny.cc/8c3je

October 24:  Pug-o-War, Pugs in costume, Seattle. http://seattlepugs.com/events.html

Dawg Dash, Husky Stadium in Seattle. http://www.promotionevents.com/dawgdash/

November 13:  Toasts for Tales, Thurston County Fairgrounds.  www.concernforanimals.com

November 14:  Barksgiving at Dining Dog Café & Bakery in Edmonds. http://tiny.cc/9p9le

Captain Whidbey Inn Delivers on Its Promises

The lagoon where many weddings take place at the Captain Whidbey Inn on Whidbey Island

The brochure calls this inn “rustic sophistication.” After finally getting the opportunity to spend a night at the Captain Whidbey, I call it a “haven in paradise.” Lush grounds, a cozy cottage, no TV and nature’s beauty all around make this Penn Cove lodging one-of- a-kind.

More than 100 years ago, in 1907, Judge Still and his men cut and placed the first timber and laid the stone for the inn. When the Captain Whidbey (then it was called the Whidbey Island Inn) was first built, guests arrived by boat. Nearby, the town of Coupeville became a place for sea captains to settle.

Over the years the inn changed to a general store, a post office and a girls’ school, but it always returned to being a respite for travelers.

Accommodations include suites like the Captain’s Suite inside the Historic Inn that boasts a four-poster feather bed, a lagoon room with a balcony, private bath and view of the lagoon or a cabin with a deck, working fireplace and hot tub access. The lagoon rooms and cabins all have private baths.

The inviting lobby of the Captain Whidbey Inn.

 

The lobby invites you to make yourself at home – with the fireplace, a luscious view, a computer just in case you need to check your e-mail and comfortable places to lounge, read or just savor your down time. I even welcomed the rain as it added a kind of cloak of protection around the area that blocked out the stress of city life.

The chef takes advantage of locally grown foods including produce, seafood and meat for the entrees he creates for lunch on Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m., Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner on Thursdays through Sundays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Penn Cove Mussels, oysters, Sockeye Salmon, Dungeness Crab, pork chops, lamb and beef tenderloin are just some of the fare served in The Dining Room. Captain Still’s Tavern offers lighter fare like burgers, hummus and a cheese plate plus scrumptious sounding desserts like chocolate silk tart and blackberry crème brulee.

How I’d love to attend a Whidbey Island Writers’ Workshop here and take advantage of this place to engage in relaxed creativity. It has all the elements to foster productivity, originality and some really awesome writing.

For more information, visit www.captainwhidbey.com.

Friday Harbor’s San Juan Historical Museum Reveals Vivid Local History

"The worst county jail in the state of Washington."

When I’ve driven by this place in the past, I thought the museum was only the one house I saw behind the sign. So I’d never made the time to check it out as a full-on history museum. I was blown away by what I saw this past week, because the entire museum is not one building, but eight, the grounds cover 1.6 acres and the place tells fascinating tales of San Juan Island history.

Paper mache replicas of farm women doing needlework around the kitchen table.

 

Currently located on the James King farmstead property, each of the eight buildings – a carriage house, a milk house, a barn, the Scribner log cabin, an old shed, the resource center, the farmhouse and the first county jail – lets visitors discover what island life was like over a century ago. The two-level farmhouse was built in 1894 (29 years after the civil war) and housed three bedrooms upstairs. In later years it was turned into a rooming house for teachers. Filled with furnishings and items you needed to live, the farmhouse stirs memories of simpler days.

At this time in history, there was no organized ferry service in Friday Harbor – that won’t happen for another thirty years. The 1887 territorial census says 550 residents lived in all of San Juan County. The James King farmhouse was recently completed and 72 years later it became a part of the San Juan Historical Museum.

Let’s talk a little more about the jail. They always seem to depict at least some of the character of a place. It was originally built near the Court House in 1894 and cost $234.50. It had three cells and an office. From the 1890s until 1971 local lawbreakers were locked up here until it was declared “the worst county jail in the state of Washington.”

At that time it was turned into a storage shed. During its reign as county jail its most notorious guest was Richard Straub who hanged on the lawn outside the jail in 1895 – San Juan County’s only execution.

Was the Maytag repairman lonely back in 1894?

Throughout the different buildings you’ll find artifacts like “noiseless” typewriters, adding machines, a wheelchair and an old switchboard. One display is a turnkey for twisting out aching teeth which really looks like an instrument of torture. Two original horse-drawn carriages, the rudder from a shipwreck off Hannah Heights and so much more dating to the turn of the century.

Bring a lunch to enjoy on the outdoor picnic tables.

Plan ahead to partake of the many activities the museum offers through out the year.

For more information, visit:  www.sjmuseum.org or call 360.378.3949.

Tour or Stay at Brown’s Point Lighthouse

Stove in the museum at the Brown's Point Lighthouse Keepers Cottage.

On a recent Saturday I took a tour of the Brown’s Point Lighthouse and Cottage in Brown’s Point, led by Barbara Heimers. She was visiting from the east coast for her niece’s wedding, which was set to take place in a few hours in front of the lighthouse with an up-close view of the beach. To keep herself busy, she deeply researched the lighthouse so she could voluntarily lead the free tours that afternoon and she gladly shared that knowledge with visitors.

The Brown's Point art deco Lighthouse.

Open Saturdays, between 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. from March through November, these tours cost nothing. Although by now Barbara has returned home, many other knowledgeable guides also lead the tours.

History

In 1887, a lantern hung from a post at Brown’s Point warning ships that they were approaching the entrance to Commencement Bay. Then in 1903 a wooden light house was built, also to warn ships and it needed a lighthouse keeper.

Oscar Brown and his wife, Annie, became the first lighthouse keepers at Brown’s Point that same year. They arrived with a cow and a piano. Their daily tasks included keeping the kerosene light burning and the fog bell ringing (Brown’s Point is one of the foggiest places in Washington, so this was very important), and Oscar kept a journal of daily activities plus gave music lessons to the neighborhood children. In 1939 Oscar retired and the United States Coast Guard took over the Lighthouse Service. At this time almost everything in the lighthouse became automated.

A kind of living museum has been established in the basement of the cottage showcasing many of the furnishings of life in the early 20’s times like an ice box, iron, treadle sewing machine and so much more.

The three-bedroom Brown’s Point Lighthouse Cottage rents for $800 a week, but guests must take over some of the Light Keeper’s duties – daily maintenance, conducting tours, raising and lowering the U.S. flag and making daily entries into the light keeper’s log book.

Barbara thought the appeal of lighthouses had to do with a reminiscence of simpler times

When people had to help others and everything wasn’t done by computers.

Whether you choose to stay in the cottage (available from May – October) or not, a tour is well worth your while. For information or reservations, visit www.pointsnortheast.org.

And it’s right on the beach.

Wine and Dog Lovers Unite in Tri-Cities

A typical vineyard in the fall in Eastern Washington

So far on this blog, I’ve not taken you to Eastern Washington, which is the home of some of our most famous wines. A section of Eastern Washington shares the same latitude as the Burgundy and Bordeaux wine regions of France and averages two more hours of sunlight a day than California during prime grape growing season.

And lots of our wineries in the Tri-Cities area, which includes Richland, Kennewick and Pasco, plus some in nearby areas, love dogs almost as much as they love their wine. If you want to take man’s best friend along with you on a self-guided winery tour, you’ll both be rewarded.

Bung, the Wonder Dog, at Bonair Winery.

Bung, the Wonder Dog, hangs out at Bonair Winery in Zillah. While you’re outside enjoying wine and tapas by the duck pond, Bung will hop in an empty chair and appear to have a conversation with you. Although he’d like to sample your appetizers, he’s not at all forceful or aggressive about it.

He’ll gladly show your dog around, too. Bung’s likeness, although it was a previous Bung who lived at the winery for 12 years, appears on Bonair’s Bung Dog Red wine.

Dogs are often seen hanging out on the patio at Kiona Vineyards in Benton City. Located on Red Mountain, Kiona’s tasting room was named the Best in Washington State in 2009 by Seattle Magazine, probably because of the breathtaking panoramic view of the estate.

Aurora, a loveable shepherd mix, who graces the label on Sleeping Dog Wines’ Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, can also be found in Benton City welcoming all, both human and canine, to the Sleeping Dog Wines tasting room. Here the vineyards give pups a place to stretch their legs. Water and peanut butter treats are almost always on hand.

You’ll find Riley at Hightower Cellars, also in Benton City, where dogs are allowed to play off-leash outside or partake of the water bowl in the tasting room.

In Richland, Barnard Griffin Winery welcomes canines and also supports them through a partnership with the local Humane Society. Their 2009 Rose of Sangiovese just brought home its fifth gold medal in a row from the San Francisco Chronicle Competition.

I’m sure there are many more wineries that are dog-friendly as there are more than 160 wineries within a 50-mile radius of Tri-Cities. Just call and ask if you find one you’d like to visit.

For more information on what to do and see in the Tri-Cities area, head over to www.visittri-cities.com.

An Aquarium at Redondo

Blue wolf eel at Highline's MAST center

This past week-end I found more free attractions right in my own backyard. One of them is an aquarium put together by the Marine Science and Technology Center (MAST) at Highline Community Center. Located next to Salty’s Restaurant in Redondo on the beach, this place shows visitors what’s going on in the surrounding underwater communities in Puget Sound. I never realized we had such colorful fish in our waters. I thought they’d all migrated to Hawaii.

See-and-touch tanks allow you to feel starfish the size of steering wheels. Did you know they are soft on the bottom of their legs or stars and spiny along the side of their legs? I braved it and touched one because I didn’t want all the kids in the building showing me up. Tanks also hold sea stars, sea urchins, sea pens, anemones, snails, a blue wolf eel, ling cod, black-eyed hermit crabs, peanut sea squirts and an entire tank full of moon jellyfish. Grab a laminated mat from the chair up front and you can match the pictures on the mat to the actual marine life and learn their accurate names. A staff member is available to answer questions.

You enter through a separate building which has lots of displays and some interactive exhibits for kids to do. Leashed dogs are allowed.

MAST is open from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information, visit www.highline.edu/mast or friend them on Facebook, www.facebook.com/hccmast.

Salty's Restaurant at Redondo.

 

While you’re in the neighborhood, you’ll love dining at Salty’s (next door). This restaurant has a killer happy hour from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily (Sundays are a bit different) with delectable appetizers priced from $2 to $9 – appetizers that are very satisfying. My favorite is the smoked salmon with capers, egg, onion, dill cream cheese and crackers. I’m salivating just thinking about it.

Visit www.saltys.com for menus and other news.

Should you overindulge at Salty’s, when you walk out the door, you’re only steps away from one of the most scenic waterfront boardwalks ever. Walking the full length and back again is one mile. How many miles do you need to walk off your “indulgement”?

Along the boardwalk, you can read about the history of Redondo with its skating rink and dance hall. It used to be quite the entertainment destination for Seattleites.

New Red Wolf Exhibit at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Penguins at the Pt. Defiance Zoo in Tacoma.

The red wolf, courtesy Pt. Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

I love Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo for a variety of reasons. The first is that they give anyone who lives in Tacoma a discount on admission. I think they recognize that those of us who already live here could potentially be their best customers. Other reasons to favor this zoo include its cleanliness, kid-friendliness, a friendly and knowledgeable staff that is always available to answer questions for you, easy-to-find exhibits and a very cool stage for their shows.

The big news this past week-end, Labor Day, 2010 was the opening of the new red wolf exhibit.

Called Red Wolf Woods, the exhibit houses five red wolves – a breeding pair, Graham and Ocean Blue; and three 3-year-old sisters, Nami, Tala and Mika. These red wolves aren’t new to Point Defiance, but during construction of their new $1.1 million habitat, they stayed at Northwest Trek in Eatonville.

Red Wolf Woods includes hardwood trees, low grasses and shrubs, and a stream – all designed to mimic the red wolves’ native surroundings, yet give zoo guests an unobstructed view of these beautiful animals which have been brought back from the brink of extinction. In the 1970s there were only 14 of them. Today they number about 300, many of which have been reintroduced into the wild. Point Defiance Zoo played an integral role in the wolves’ 40-year  recovery program.

Did you know that a red wolf can smell a scent from two miles away?

The zoo holds lots of other treats for visitors, too.

Although we visited sans children, we took a peak at the Kid Zone and whatever kids like to do was represented. Climbing on a rope hammock, playing in sand with a cement turtle, watching meerkats and lemurs, feeding live goats to feed and learning how to care for critters were just a few of the enticements for children.

The walruses in the Rocky Shores area seemed to be putting on their own show for zoo guests by making animated noises, then swimming upside down and coming back and doing it all over again.

Pt. Defiance also has an aquarium, a very unusual phenomena at a zoo. It’s great fun to watch all the different marine life in a huge tank with shipwrecked boats.

Penguins, tigers, elephants, polar bears, pythons, leopards and more. Ride a camel, take a spin on the Paul Titus Antique Carousel, browse the wonderful gift shop or enjoy a twirl of flavors like cotton candy, bubble gum and cool mint in your ice cream cone. There’s something for everyone at the Pt. Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.

For more information, visit www.pdza.org.

20 Free Things To Do In Western Washington

Olympia's Capitol building in the background

Here are some options for totally free activities to help stretch your budget.

In Seattle:

Frye Art Museum

704 Terry Ave.

Seattle

206-622-9250

Always free

Center for Wooden Boats

1010 Valley St.

Seattle

206-382-2628

Free “Living Museum” and free boat rides on Sunday afternoons

Ballard Locks

3015 NW 54th St.

Seattle

Free guided tours from March – November

Call for tour times, 206-783-7059

Museum of Flight

9404 East Marginal Way South

Seattle

206-764-5720

Free from 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. the first Thursday of every month

Coast Guard Museum

Pier 36, 1519 Alaskan Way S.

Seattle

206-217-6993

Free admission

Washington Park Arboretum

3501 NE 41st St.

Seattle

206-543-8616

Free guided tours

McCaw Hall

321 Mercer St.

Seattle

206-733-9725

Free tours the first Tuesday of every month

Benaroya Hall

200 University St.

Seattle

206-215-4800

Free tours on Tuesdays and Fridays at noon and 1 p.m.

Paramount Theatre

911 Pine St.

Seattle

206-682-1414

Free tours the first Saturday of every month

In Tacoma:

Washington History Museum

1911 Pacific Ave.

Tacoma

888-238-4373

Free from 2 p.m. – 8 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month

Free on your birthday

Tacoma Art Museum

1701 Pacific Ave.

Tacoma

253-272-4258

Free from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month

Tacoma Nature Center

1919 S. Tyler St.

Tacoma

253-591-6439

Free self-guiding paths with wildlife observation

In Olympia:

Washington State Legislative Building

416 Sid Snyder Ave. SW

Olympia

www.ga.wa.gov/Visitor/

Free tours

In Keyport:

Naval Undersea Museum

1 Garnett Way

Keyport

360-396-4148, x220

Free admission and free parking

In Long Beach:

Marsh’s Free Museum

409 S. Pacific

Long Beach

360-642-2188

Always free

In Snohomish:

Blackman House Museum

118 Avenue B

Snohomish

360-568-5235

Open Saturday and Sunday from noon – 3 p.m.

Free, donations accepted

Labor Day Weekend, 2010:

Olympia Harbor Days in Olympia

www.harbordays.com

Bremerton Blackberry Festival in Bremerton

www.blackberryfestival.org

On September 25 & November 11:

Free admission to Olympic National Park

Free admission to Mt. Rainier National Park