Category Archives: Sweet Treats

Don’t Overlook Salem

Last week at this time I was touring Oregon’s state capital, Salem. Oftentimes, travelers concentrate on the big city of Portland, the coastal towns or the wine country of Willamette Valley when they consider Oregon as a destination. Consider Salem, also. Here’s why:

 

Just a few miles outside of town sits the lovely Bavarian town of Mount Angel. At the Glockenspiel Restaurant, local ingredients from less than a mile away, are the emphasis. That makes the entrees served taste a lot fresher and really brings something special to the table. Besides the tried and true German recipes like wienerschnitzel, I urge you to try their special cabbage, which takes the chef five hours to make. It will tantalize your palate. Then at the appointed time, go outside and watch the performance of the wooden dolls in the Glockenspiel tower alongside the restaurant.

For a healthy walk after dinner, head up to Mount Angel Abbey. Enjoy the gardens and the peacefulness.

Mount Angel’s largest claim to fame and what the townspeople put the most energy into is their Oktoberfest. This year is the 45th annual and runs from September 13-16. With all kinds of fun for the whole family, Oktoberfest celebrates the harvest and the bounty of the earth through live music, street dancing, a car show and more.

Gallon House Covered Bridge

On the way back to Salem, visit the Gallon House Covered Bridge, Oregon’s oldest covered bridge. It was named for the days when liquor was sold by the gallon or quart in a nearby house.

Gerry Frank’s Konditorei, with more than 40 flavors of cake and pastries, is a must-stop for dessert in Salem. Local favorite cakes include Barney’s Blackout, Chocolate Raspberry and Lemon Cream. I savored the seasonal Marionberry and highly recommend it.

Then for $1.50 you can’t beat the price for a ride on the old world-style carousel housed in a stately building on the banks of the Willamette River.

Salem makes a fabulous family vacation and every year right around this time it hosts the Oregon State Fair. Scones, funnel cakes, food on a stick…

In Cashmere: Mission Square is a Must-Stop

Tucked in between the tourist Mecca of Bavarian-themed Leavenworth and Wenatchee, which boasts a myriad of outdoor recreational opportunities, Cashmere has long been known as the home of the jellied candies, Aplets and Cotlets. Lots of folks frequently stopped at Liberty Orchards to take a tour and buy candy to take home, but then returned to their cars and raced down the freeway leaving the rest of Cashmere unexplored.

Now a variety of tourist-friendly businesses have taken up residence in Mission Square, an old pear packing warehouse in the Mission District.

It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere is an artisan craft distillery with a tasting room in Mission Square. They produce 30 gallons of spirits a day. Their spirits are all made by hand using fruits and grains grown in Washington. Their offerings include Moonshine, Sunshine, Wheat Whiskey, Grappa and Brandy. But their most renowned product has got to be their Northwest Dry Gin with a range of botanicals not found in any other gin — star anise, juniper, orange, lemon, coriander and others.

 

Wine Design showcases and sells clocks and tables all made from old wine barrels. Owner and craftsman, Brian Ropp will build anything you like from signs to tables to chairs and more to your specifications.

Besides wine barrels, four wine tasting rooms grace the Square so there are plenty of opportunities to try local wines.

Snapdragon Coffee Café should not be missed whether you stop at the beginning or the end of your visit to the Square. They serve coffee drinks to warm you up and really good, authentic Italian gelato that can be consumed in any weather.

The day I was there, the flavors on tap for both gelato and sorbet included chocolate, chocolate cabernet, blackberry cider, white chocolate raspberry, mango, raspberry cider, lavender, old world cider with Aplets and Cotlets and salted caramel. The cider in the frozen confections is made by the owners of the café who also own the Cashmere Cider Mill. The Greens also have lodging available at the Cider Mill property.

Time it just right in the afternoon and you can imbibe in Snappy Hour at the Snapdragon Café and savor an exotic drink (alcoholic-free) with either a juice base or a coffee base. I highly recommend the piña colada. Very refreshing on a hot day and I’m sure it’s just as tasty on a cool one.

I love it when first-rate businesses band together in one structure.

Do you have a place like this that you love?

Heather Larson writes about the Pacific Northwest from her office in Tacoma, Washington hoping she can entice you to visit or share your own memories of the region. You can reach her at writemix@harbornet.com.

Fran’s Chocolates, So Tasty

Some astonishing flavors have originated here in Washington and chocolates made by Fran are one of my all-time favorites. She sold salted caramels before anyone else here and possibly in the nation. Hers remain the best overall with sea salt sprinkled on the top of the chocolate by hand.

Fran's Bellevue store

I’m not the only one who prefers Fran’s salted caramels. In 2003 her Gray Salt Caramels won the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) Outstanding Confection Award.

In 2005 her Smoked Salt Caramels won the same award.

Fran’s Chocolates have won numerous awards over the years.

On Food Network, Iron Chef Bobby Flay claimed the creamy Coconut Gold Bar his favorite confection on the show, “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” The list goes on.

Fran’s Chocolates have been featured on the History Channel’s “Modern Marvels,” in People Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Savvy Magazine Japan, Martha Stewart and many more publications.

What makes these confections so newsworthy?

Fran Bigelow, herself.  She is dedicated to preserving the pure, clean flavor of chocolate. By building layers of flavor, she teases out the depth and complexity of chocolate. She uses small batch production and selects all natural and when possible organic ingredients, including sugar and almonds. Many ingredients she uses come from local Washington and Oregon farms including organic cream and butter. Only the finest cacao available from Venezuela, Madagascar and Ecuador is used in her chocolates.

Fran also makes truffles, chocolate-dipped fruits and a few flavors of chocolate bars. The coconut gold bar is her rendition of an Almond Joy candy bar. Boy did she hit that one out of the ballpark, but the sweet, buttery flavors of chocolate and caramel enhanced with a pop of salt will always be my first choice at Fran’s.

Stores are located in downtown Seattle, University Village and Bellevue.

2012 Easter display in Bellevue store