On the Town – Paso Robles, CA

hammerskyLocated on California’s Central Coast, Paso Robles is surrounded by over 200 wineries and vineyards and is quickly becoming one of the country’s premier wine regions.  Dubbed ‘The Next Napa’ by Forbes a few years ago, as well as being named the 2013 Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast, Paso Robles has grown into a great food and wine destination.

La Cosecha Bar & Restaurant – Afternoon Cocktails

La Cosecha Bar & Restaurant was our first stop, conveniently located on the square in downtown Paso Robles. The weather was perfect, so we grabbed patio seat overlooking the park. Continue reading

On the Town – Cocktails in Denver

Whenever we go to a new city, we always check out the cocktail and food scene.  Each city has its own flair, bringing in local traditions and ingredients.  Some cities are on the forefront of craft cocktails, others are still finding their way.  The same with food.  Obviously, cities like New York and Chicago are well in front of the pack.  But we were excited to see what the Denver scene had to offer us in terms of cocktails.

A good evening on the town starts with a good pre-dinner cocktail.  We did some research before departing our hotel and found that a Denver cocktail bar had made a few ‘best of’ lists on both a local and national scale.  The Green Russell was going to be our first stop! Continue reading

Day Trip to Poulsbo

Summer is here and that means it’s prime time to get out and explore. Our chosen destination: Poulsbo, WA on the Kitsap Peninsula across the Puget Sound. Fortunately there are plenty of fun stops along the way, including Bainbridge Organic Distillers. A small outfit making some insanely delicious spirits. We tasted Vodka, Gin and my (Eric’s) favorite, Whisky. Good find and well worth the visit.

Bainbridge Organic Distillers

Just rolled into Poulsbo – our first visit to this Sound-side Nordic town. Wow, it’s happening. Let’s see what we can find! Continue reading

Seattle Summer Weekend

Long-time locals have said when summer arrives, you really have to live it up to stay sane during the cold & rainy seasons. I suppose this is especially the case when you are clawing your way through one of the coolest summers in recent Seattle history.

To be honest, we don’t have the historical justification to stand behind such claims of doom & gloom, but when the warm weather is upon us we never hesitate to go out and “get some”!

When Thursday hit (we like to call it little Friday) we knew it was time to kick the weekend into gear. What better way to enjoy some of the best Seattle has to offer than to visit Ray’s Boathouse in the Ballard neighborhood. This restaurant offers arguably the best outdoor dining venue in the city with magnificent views of the Puget Sound, some kicking cocktails and delectable seafood cuisine! We spent the late afternoon and evening taking down some elixir, gnawing on some vitals and soaking in the breathtaking views.

Here are a few pics for perspective:

View from the patio at Ray’s Boathouse.

What a sunset from the patio at Ray’s Boathouse.

Just after sunset against the Olympic Mountain silhouette.

 On Friday we hooked up with our good friends Nick and Laura at a classic little wine & tapas bar called Smash in Wallingford. The food was good, the atmosphere was comfortable and the company was fantastic. It’s hard to beat good conversation over drinks! Smash has a solid wine menu and a full bar capable of producing some tasty cocktails. If you’re in the mood for a nice casual setting in a great neighborhood, I recommend that you give this spot a try.

Saturday boasted more incredible weather which prompted us to spend the day among the raucous crowds at Century Link Field to watch the Seattle Sounders take on the Columbus Crew. We scored some sweet last-minute seats at mid-pitch and managed to catch a few up-close photos of the action. The Sounders administered a sound thrashing scoring 6 goals to the Crew’s 2. It was over 80 degrees but the beers kept us cool!  Combined ticket price the day of the game was $100. Attendance was over 36,000. Here’s how close we were to the action:

Seattle Sounders – right in the middle of the action!

Sunday brought more beautiful weather and the day was screaming “Let’s Go Wine Tasting”! So we obliged. Brian Carter Cellars in Woodinville has been on our list for well over a year and the stars aligned for some down-tempo, wine-sipping relaxation. If you haven’t visited this winery, do yourself a favor – go now! They have a lovely deck conveniently sheltered from the sun and pour a delicious vino plucked from of some of the region’s best varietals – all at a very fair price. While we were there Mr. Brian Carter himself came out to chat with us, he is a really nice guy. We picked up two 90+ point bottles in the $30 range!

We then made our way to one of our all-time local favs JM Cellars. We’ve written about this place in the past and that’s because quite simply, it rocks! In fact, as wine club members we try to make it there at least 4 times per year; and for the record, their club pickup gatherings are off the hook! Sliders, salami and cheese, a whole range of top-notch wines all served at their truly remarkable tasting room. If you are a wine-lover looking to join a club in the Seattle area, JM should be on your short list.

Pic at JM Cellars – Tour de France athletes staying healthy!

 With Sunday afternoon coming to a close, it was time to find some dinner. The weather remained spectacular and it seemed fitting to wrap up this weekend extravaganza with one last water view meal. After a little research we settled on Bin on the Lake in Kirkland. Waterfront? Check. Outside seating? Check. Good wine? Check. Great food reviews? Oh yeah. Did it live up to its reputation? You betcha!

Beautiful sunset from the patio of Bin on the Lake, Kirkland, WA

Looking back at the restaurant from the docks.

Picture Perfect – Lake Washington, WA

When weekends like this come along, it just seems prudent to jot down our experience to preserve these great moments in life. Next week we will be on the shores of South Carolina enjoying the sights and sounds of Kiawah Island.  A special vacation installment to follow! Thanks for reading everyone!

A Portland Adventure

With a long Memorial Day weekend ahead of us, Jen and I decided to hit the road and explore our surroundings a bit. So we called the cat sitter and hit the road bound for Portland. Our first stop was our Washington Capitol Olympia, for some lunch! Found a great little restaurant called the Dockside Bistro. On the way out-of-town, we stopped to check out the Capitol and snapped a few photos – definitely plan to return to Olympia and spend more time absorbing the city!

The next stop was the pleasant Three Brothers Winery in Ridgefield, Washington. While the wines were a bit young, the grounds were nice with a large picnic area that managed to keep up a “boutique feel”. A great destination for sipping wines while basking in the sun.

After a few tastes we were ready to finish off the drive, check in to our hotel in Portland and start thinking about dinner! We stayed at the Vintage Plaza (a Kimpton property) which was conveniently in the heart of the action. While we don’t know a lot about Portland, we’re educated enough to know if you step foot outside the door only to be greeted by the infamous El Gaucho just steps away, you know you haven’t strayed too far! Despite temptation, we decided not to part with a small fortune for such a treat and opted instead for some delicious Italian fare at Pazzo Restaurant which ended up being a very good choice and highly recommended.

The next day we headed out to explore The Gorge along the mighty Columbia River. Despite less than desirable weather, we were both awe-struck by the sheer beauty of this natural wonder. Massive rock walls give a perfect landscape for some of the most amazing waterfalls just a few steps from the road. Best of all, there’s wine in them hills!

Of the wineries we visited that day, Cathedral Ridge Winery in Hood River definitely impressed us. I was particularly intrigued by the 1965 Triumph Bonneville which had been meticulously restored and was offered at the reasonable price of $15,000. Jen said no. But the wine helped me cope with the lost opportunity, and soon I was sipping some great Oregon vino. We learned from the Tasting Attendant that the well-known Sabatiani family (Michael Sabastiani) from Sonoma California was behind this project. The experience and long history of this family tradition was most certainly present in these delicious varietals.

With our last night in Portland upon us, we were determined to select a dinner experience that would put an exclamation point on a great trip. So we booked a reservation at the Portland City Grill, perched on the 30th floor of what seemed to be the tallest building in the city. The drinks were good, the views were great and the food hit the spot. In the end we enjoyed the experience, but did feel that the restaurant seemed to be geared toward a corporate clientele which I suppose stands to reason given the location. As always, we managed to be the very last table in this rather large eatery – we certainly have a knack for taking our time!

We arrived home on Monday afternoon just in time to enjoy one of the first sunny afternoons heading into summer. Threw a few New Yorks on the grill (because we just didn’t have enough to eat over the weekend), popped a few beers and just enjoyed the sun in our backyard. I think it was at that very moment that I realized – it is going to be an awesome summer! More to come!

Vancouver Weekend Get-a-way

2010 Olympic Cauldron in Vancouver, Canada

It’s always nice when you stumble upon one of those unique weekend get-a-ways – the kind that prompts reactions like “wow, now that sounds fun”, or “can you send me the link, I want to go”! Now Jen is without a doubt becoming an astute hunter of hidden gems and our latest trip is a testament to her diligence.

The cruise lines here in Seattle which include Holland America, Princess and Norwegian, all have ships that move twice per year, providing the opportunity for a 1-night cruise on these great ships that usually take their passengers on 7-10 day journeys up into Alaska. This seems to occur in April and October and can be booked directly from their website. These overnight cruise packages go from Seattle to Vancouver in October and vice versa in April. Taking advantage of this opportunity is really easy and a lot of fun!

We both left work a little early on Friday and walked down to street level to grab a cab out to the cruise terminal. We were on the Zaandam by 4:00 PM with cocktails in hand shortly afterwards. After acclimating ourselves to our surroundings, we hit a few ship bars, listened to some good live music and made our way to the Pinnacle Grill for a nice 2-hour steak dinner; we then hit the ship casino to see if we could make a few bucks. In the end we were up about $70 thanks to some riveting Blackjack and Craps mastery (and a lot of luck). What a fantastic night!

The next morning we weren’t feeling our best, and to make matters worse, apparently the crew wanted us off the ship at some point before 9:00 am. RUDE! So we reluctantly climbed out of our comfy bed nursing a couple of hangovers as a result of our ‘ship pub crawl’ and slowly packed our things to disembark. Twenty minutes later we were on the street trying to get our bearings so we could navigate the shortest possible route to our hotel for some much-needed rest and recovery. After an ‘exhilarating’ 20 minute walk, we arrived at The Sutton Place Hotel and had a big breakfast while we waited for our room to be ready. A nice long mid-morning nap followed.

View of Vancouver Harbour from the Zaandam
The weather during that first weekend of October was fantastic, and not wanting to miss any chance for sunshine as we approach winter in the Pacific Northwest, that afternoon we took a great walk down by the water. It was a treat to see some of the leftover relics from the Olympics held there earlier this year, including the cauldron (see photo at the top of the page).
Burrard Street in Vancouver, Canada
Sunny day in Vancouver Harbour
Olympic countdown clock in Vancouver, Canada
Fortunately we had all Sunday to explore the city as our train home didn’t depart until 5:45. I suppose the lack of a grueling hangover also prompted us to be a little more adventurous. So we headed out with cameras in hand to see what we could see. Our first destination was Gastown, a nostalgic area of the city featuring cobblestone streets, historic buildings and tons of shopping. While the area certainly had that old-time appeal, many of the shops clearly catered to tourists, with a myriad of Canada t-shirts and snow globes, which is just not our thing.
Gastown street view in Vancouver, Canada
The Gastown Steam Clock, Vancouver, Canada
After Gastown, and a rather brisk walk through a quiet waterfront park, we decided to check out Roger’s Arena where the Vancouver Canucks play. We jumped on the SkyTrain and headed for the stadium. As it turned out, it was fan appreciation day, which included free admission to a full team practice. We grabbed a few free tickets and walked right in – pretty cool for a hockey fan like myself!
Cruise Terminal in Vancouver Harbour, Canada
Vancouver Canucks – Roger’s Arena in Canada
Vancouver Canucks team practice – Roger’s Arena in Canada
With the last leg of our journey was upon us, we headed for the train station to catch our chariot home (the Amtrak Cascades) which departed at 5:45 and arrived in Seattle around 10:00. It was a pleasant and scenic trip made even better by a nice bottle of wine.
For any of you locals reading this, I would highly recommend this trip. Another option would be to catch a flight home on Kenmore Air out of Vancouver right to Lake Union – perhaps next time!

Camano Island Life

The calm waters off Camano Island
With thoughts of a possible summer home in our future – yes we know, perhaps we should start with a primary residence first – we decided to explore the relatively quiet Camano Island. This resident community of just over 13,000 lies between the shores of the mainland and Whidbey and is known for its stunning views, national parks and fishing beaches. You won’t find any fancy resorts or pricey restaurants, rather a handful of modest eateries and mom & pop B&B’s.
Before arriving to the Island, we stopped at the Port of Everett for a bite. We settled on Anthony’s Woodfire Grill, ordering a few light lunches which were complemented by views of a rather large boat harbor. The food was “good” but the weather and views made up for any lack of taste. Typically one would expect to pay at least a 100% markup for similar views anywhere else – so we’ll chalk that up as a bonus!
View from Woodfire Grill
Our first stop on the Island was Cama Beach. It was a bit of a hike to get down to the park, but once there we were greeted by one of the largest stretches of beach that we have seen on the Sound. That said we both felt there was something just a little odd about the area. It didn’t take long for us to realize that it was the little cottages that were lined up along the south end of the beach that were throwing us off – kind of reminded us of Army barracks. But after looking on line at some interior views, perhaps we jumped to conclusions. Looks like some of the cabins, at least those that aren’t clustered together, are quite nice inside. There I go again, Judgey Judgerson.
Cama Beach goers!
Jen on the shores of Cama Beach
Anyway, as we continued to tour the island we came across several small boat launch ramps nestled among neighborhood beach side communities. Locals seemed to gather in these areas, taking advantage of the weather and calm waters that were just begging for boating enthusiasts. As for the people, they seemed kind natured and pleasant. I suspect they helped to promote the “Island feel without the hype” theme that the Chamber boasts as the island’s mantra. Let’s just put it this way; if you’re between the ages of 21-30 and looking to get rowdy, this would not be the location for you. But if you like kayaking, fishing or just lounging on the beach with a good book, this would be your kind of place. Hmmm, I guess we are getting a bit older now aren’t we.
Camano Beach Hood
One of the local harbors
We both realized that this destination would be best visited with a set of kayaks or bikes – that is the only way to really dig in to experience all the island has to offer. So even though we won’t be moving to Camano Island anytime soon, I personally loved the overall feel of the area, plus it made for a fantastic day trip! I guess one should never say never…

A Seattle Walkabout

St. James Cathedral

Before we moved to Seattle, we purchase a box of 50 walking tour cards in and around the city. While we’ve already toured many of the areas listed in the deck, the cards offered insight to some of the featured attractions along with notes of interest and touring tips. Saturday brought excellent weather and since all of our local sporting teams were on the road, we decided to pull a few cards from the deck and put our feet to the pavement for an urban adventure.

It wasn’t long before our bellies were calling for satisfaction. We stopped in at a quaint little indoor market square at the base of Capitol Hill and ordered a few tasty sandwiches. The market itself is unassuming from the outside, but inside a true Mecca of gourmet delight! From fresh cut meats to wine, booze and cheese – there was even a nice little coffee shop in the back with window seats in the sun!
Homegrown Sandwich Shop Market
We hit the road to reach the start of our first tour which took us through Seattle University (founded in 1891), the awe-inspiring St. James Cathedral (1907) and the Frye Art Museum (free admission) all of which lie just a few blocks from one another. This particular tour ended at the Sorrento Hotel where we took a seat in the warm afternoon sun and sipped a few cocktails to recharge.
Seattle University Grounds
Seattle University Plant
St. James Cathedral
St. James Cathedral Main Hall
Sorrento Hotel Outdoor Patio
We then made our way to Volunteer Park for our second walking tour of the day. Here we saw one of the finest parks we have seen in Seattle with spacious lawns perfect for picnicking, to sweeping views of the city and picturesque neighborhoods reminiscent of a 1940’s movie set. The park also hosts a historic water tower adorned in a brick exterior housing a series of 107 steps to the top. The reward is a set of awesome views of Seattle, Queen Anne, Downtown Bellevue and everything in-between. If you have the chance, do visit this historic landmark to get a firsthand view of the surrounding communities.
View from Volunteer Park
Flower Garden at the Conservatory, Volunteer Park
Water Tower, Volunteer Park
Water Tower Staircase
View from Water Tower
By now our hunger had returned and it was time to start thinking about dinner. It was 8:30 PM and we were six and a half hours into our walkabout. While searching for an adequate eatery, we stumbled onto a great little bar known as the Summit Public House and watched our own Seattle Sounders capture their 7th win of the season over the San Jose Earthquake! This little bar was going nuts and it definitely made our beer taste just that much better.
With victory giving us that extra charge, we started off on our 1.7 mile trek to Serafina in Eastlake. The walk, though long, was well worth it. We are now big fans of this locals-only Italian get-a-way. The food was delicious; the jazz band relaxing and the wine a flowing. It was packed but offered a great intimate feel and we spent the next 3 hours dining in bliss.
With a fantastic day behind us, it was time to take that last voyage home. Two miles separated us from our comfy bed but we were determined to log this last jaunt – all together we covered an impressive eight miles in just less than 12 hours. OK so we won’t be winning any marathons with that time, but it did offer enough time to take in some of the best the city has to offer!
To see more pics from our walkabout, CLICK HERE>>

Whidbey Island, Washington

Penn Cove Mussels on Whidbey Island

The weekend started off a bit rough. We were both fighting off a bug while having to endure a heartbreaking USA Soccer team loss to Ghana. Between tissues, headaches, medicine and damaged pride, Saturday was a bust. But with Sunday promising another 16 hours of daylight, we were determined to salvage our weekend. So we plotted our course, grabbed our cameras, climbed into the Murano and set out for a tour of neighboring Whidbey Island.

After a quick 20 minute drive up to Mukilteo we boarded the Cathlamet (Ferry) for the short jaunt to Whidbey. Ten minutes later we found ourselves tasting vino at one of the oldest wineries in the area – Whidbey Island Winery – a tranquil estate that has been producing nectar for over 18 years. All told we tasted over eight wines which put just the right spin on our little journey. Jerry, our tasting room friend, provided excellent service and managed to convince us to take home a nice red blend along with a Barbera Port! We highly recommend you stop at this great little winery if given the opportunity.

The colorful Whidbey Winery Tasting Room
Whidbey Winery Grounds

Whidbey Island is also home to Penn Cove, a rich source of mussels in the Northwest. Given Seattle is now our hometown, we felt it was our civil duty to give a few of our hard-earned dollars to the Island’s local merchants. So we made our way to Toby’s Tavern (Coupeville) on the shores of Penn Cove and cozied up in a booth with a bucket of shellfish soaking in a garlic and butter marinade. We washed our seaside snack down with a nice cold beer while taking in the sights of this local hangout. Check out the before and after shot of our handy work:

Yummy mussels soaking in garlic!
We made short work of those puppies!

At this point we had already covered nearly 2/3 of the Island, so the we decided to continue on to northern most tip across Deception Pass Bridge and take the mainland home. On the way up we captured a pretty cool photo of a Bald Eagle near Penn Cove.

The Regal Bald Eagle
Sheepies on Whidbey Island
As we crossed Deception Pass, we started our drive back to Seattle which was now over 80 miles away. By this time the mussels had warn off and we were ready for some dinner. Ocho in Ballard had received several rave reviews, so we choose this rather small Spanish tapas restaurant to finish off our day right. What a great find! Small plates and big appetites equal a very comprehensive tasting opportunity! From Dates wrapped in Pancetta stuffed with Blue Cheese, to succulent flank steak and braised Chorizo – Ocho definitely hit the spot! All accompanied by some bumping rock n’ roll that made us feel like a couple of thirty something hipsters!

To see all the pictures from our day, click here >>

Seattle 360

The Man in the Clouds – Smiling!

It’s Friday and boy was the weather incredible! Jen caught the above photo this afternoon of the Man in the Clouds welcoming us to the weekend. And yes, we have some fun plans!

Tonight it’s a trip to the recently opened BlueAcre Restaurant, literally one block from our apartment. It has mixed reviews, but the owners run one of our all-time favorites in Steelhead Diner near Pikes Place Market. If you are from the area (or visiting soon), Steelhead cannot be missed. If they can produce that kind of product, how can this be bad?

On Saturday it’s off to Qwest Field to see the Seattle Sounders take on the LA Galaxy. Soccer games here are crazy and Sounders fans are among the most loyal in the league. Last weekend we attended our first MLS match when the Columbus Crew came to town and the crowd was raucous! Chants, marches, scarves – you name it, we had it. Not to mention the weather is supposed to be near perfect and we all know there is nothing better than a few beers in the sun.

Last Week’s Game – Sounders Vs. The Crew

On Sunday we’ll be seeing David Sedaris, an intellectual comedian (I know that sounds a bit pretentious) – but I have heard from a very reputable source that the show will be quite worth the time. I am looking forward to a good show.  Oh, and I might even tell you who the reputable source is AFTER we see the show, in case it sucks!

So for now I must leave you faithful readers as it is time to partake in my new favorite dish…Fish! Wow, did I really just say that?

We love you all…and until next time, cheers!