Day II on Vashon: Hiking, beaches and a lighthouse

Point Robinson Lighthouse, Maury Island

The view from Point Robinson Lighthouse, Maury Island

Yesterday was our first full day on Vashon Island. Eager to see some island scenery and stretch our legs, we drove a mile down the road to the Island Center Forest. This 363-acre forest has 9 miles of hiking trails, two ponds and is open to bikers, hikers, dogs and horses.

We passed a few other hikers but mostly it was very quiet, and besides getting a little lost we were successful in finding both ponds. Though I’ll say one was definitely more of a marsh than a pond but still, it was a fun trek.

Island Center Forest, Vashon Island

Love how green it is here!

Island Center Forest, Vashon Island

Mukai Pond, Island Center Forest, Vashon Island

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Day 1 in Seattle and Vashon: Doing what we do best…eating!

Brunch at Joule, Coulotte with eggs

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my husband and I drove up to Vashon Island from Portland to spend Labor Day weekend away from the city. On our way up, we made a side trip to Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood for brunch at Joule. We had both heard rave reviews about their food but had never been in before. In all honesty, I went in with fairly low expectations simply because of the hype but was totally blown away.

First of all, I loved the concept of their brunch menu. You can pay $17 for a walk through their buffet and you get to order an additional entrée as well. For $12 you can do one or the other, but it was well worth the money to try both. The bonus is that you get the best of both worlds — you get to eat something immediately (and we were SO hungry after the three-hour drive) but you also get a hot dish made to order, which can’t be beat.

The buffet isn’t the basic cafeteria-style line up of eggs, pancakes and toast. Instead it’s a small table of fabulously prepared items, all based on a theme. While we were there, the dishes were southwestern inspired: peaches in habanero syrup with cilantro, jalapeño pimento cheese with homemade crackers, green tomato jam, corn salad, corn bread, pickles and more.

I filled my plate and cleared it in record time. Everything was so good, but the peaches were the winner, perfectly ripe, sweet and spicy.

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Celebrating love with an island getaway

Ferry to Vashon Island

Vashon Island is definitely not a tropical island!

Last weekend my husband and I hit our 7th year marriage milestone. To celebrate, I forced him to make my favorite dinner ever — chittara pasta with roasted cauliflower, chili flakes, bread crumbs, Parmesan and a LOT of olive oil. (Side note: This was the first time I’ve actually watched him make this dish and I have to say after I saw the sheer amount of oil in it, I almost wished I hadn’t helped him make it. My god!)

But besides a fantastic dinner and a bottle of bubbles, we laid low for the day, saving our energy for this weekend instead. My husband took a very rare Saturday off and, thanks to Labor Day, we have two blissful days planned on Vashon Island in Washington.

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Crossing Bridges for Beers

Walking Man Brewing, Stevenson, WA

A full line-up of hoppy, malty goodness from the Walking Man Brewery.

A few weeks ago it was my husband’s birthday. We didn’t have anything exciting planned so I proposed a beer tour, working our way east from Portland toward the Columbia River Gorge. (So, yes, if you’re keeping score, I chose my favorite activity for my husband’s birthday and then made him drive so I could imbibe the lion’s share of beer. I know, I know, I am a terrible wife. But he still loves me, so it’s all good!)

Anyways…Usually when we drive to the gorge, we drive on the Oregon side of the river out of convenience sake. To try something different, I suggested this time we take Highway 14, on the Washington side, instead. It was a surprisingly good choice.

Even though we were headed in the same direction, being on the other side of the river made for a completely different view. In fact there was a moment when I almost felt disloyal to Oregon, thinking, “Wow, the Washington side is a much prettier drive!” But then my husband reminded me the reason for that is because we were looking at Oregon from across the river. I felt much better (though a little slow!) after he said that.

At any rate, the scenery was so gorgeous that we pulled over near Cape Horn so I could take some pictures.

The left-hand coast is Washington, across the river is Oregon.

Columbia River Gorge. The left-hand coast is Washington, across the river is Oregon.

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Feasting in the Forest

Nothing like a delicious meal in the most beautiful of settings!

View from Skamania Lodge

View from Skamania Lodge

Back in June my husband was asked to partake in a dinner series at Skamania Lodge, a luxurious hotel in the Columbia Gorge about an hour outside of Portland. When we heard that a room was included for the evening, he we accepted immediately. I am not in the habit of turning down a complimentary night away from home!

The event, called Feast in the Forest, brought two chefs out from Portland each month, from June to September, to do a sit-down, multi-coursed dinner. After the four dinners had taken place, a final dinner was planned where each guest chef would return to the lodge to cook a dish for the Grand Feast.

My husband’s first dinner was in July and he prepared this dish as his contribution:

Wild Boar Trio: homemade sausage, braised belly and rack

Wild boar sausage, braised boar belly and rack, with whipped cornbread and pickled cherries.

It was a wonderful meal and the view only got better as the night progressed:

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And yet another reason to love pork…as if you needed one!

As promised, a few mouth-watering tidbits from Cochon 555, undoubtedly the porkiest culinary event in the country:

Pig in the Sky: Cochon 555 in Seattle, WA 2013

Pig in the Sky: Cochon 555 in Seattle, WA 2013

Cochon 555 is essentially a competition that features different chefs from the same city all cooking a different heritage breed of pig. Beyond that it’s a celebration for chefs and food fanatics across the nation to eat as much pork as possible in one afternoon.

This year’s PNW bout was held on St. Patrick’s Day at the beautiful Cedarbrook Lodge just outside of Seattle. Each chef put out several pork-filled courses to be first scored by a panel of judges and then enjoyed by the masses. The highest-scoring chef will go on to compete in Aspen for the title of “King or Queen of Porc.”

As a very lucky attendee, I suffered the hardship of walking around, gorging on pork in various forms, sweet and savory.

Here’s a few of my favorite swine-filled sweets:

Chef John Sundstrom of Lark wowed the crowd with his chicharone nutter butters.

Chef John Sundstrom of Lark wowed the crowd with his chicharone nutter butters. This was one of my all-time favorite bites.

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