Wallowing Through Wonderful Walla Walla, Washington

Good breads, pastries and sandwiches at the Walla Walla Bread Company

Good breads, pastries and sandwiches at the Walla Walla Bread Company

Here’s what the wine industry can do for a place. As recently as the late 1990s, Walla Walla was a relatively sleepy farm town that produced wheat and its signature sweet onions. Oh, and it had maybe three wineries.

Fast forward to today, when the number of area wineries has exploded to more than 200. You can tour a good number of them over a few days. Or you can take the more efficient route and stumble through a dozen tasting rooms in a couple of downtown blocks.

Walla Walla has a few other things going for it. Like gorgeous surrounding farmland and an impressive, well-kept downtown, with wide, shaded streets and lots of restored, historic brick buildings. It thus attracts not just wine sippers but also a growing number of retirees.

Dog sculpture in Walla Walla's lovely historic downtown

Dog sculpture in Walla Walla’s lovely historic downtown

Where there’s good wine, there’s invariably good food (you have to pair those merlots and chardonnays with something!) And while the wine crowd tends to prefer haute cuisine, enterprising road trippers can find some great, creative eats at most reasonable prices.

Could you resist this fresh fruit pie at Walla Walla Bread Company?

Could you resist this fresh fruit pie at Walla Walla Bread Company?

Besides the places I’ve been writing about the past week, I would add Olive Marketplace and Cafe (try the wood-fired pizzas) Walla Walla Bread Company for pastries and sandwiches and the unique Walla Walla Worm Ranch, serving good Mexican inside a bait-and-tackle shop. Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a streetside dog at Walla Walla Sweet Onion Sausage.

Beautiful deli display at Olive Marketplace and Cafe

Beautiful deli display at Olive Marketplace and Cafe

Overall, I’d rate Walla Walla a top road-trip food destination for a city its size (population 32,000) in the Pacific Northwest.

The Sandwiches are the Bomb at Graze in Walla Walla, Washington

 

Graze serves up some bountiful, well-aged meat sandwiches in Walla Walla, Washington

Graze serves up some bountiful, well-aged meat sandwiches in Walla Walla, Washington

I look up at the menu in *Graze, a cheery little sandwich shop in downtown Walla Walla, Washington. “What’s the Latronka, and what does the word “bomb” mean in the description?” I ask the server. “It means a lot of pastrami.” Eight ounces, in fact.

Thinking I’ll go for something lighter, I order the warm flank steak torta. Flank steak can be chewy, to be charitable, but here it is surprisingly tender, no doubt because it is seared, then finished in the oven.

There is a lot of flank steak in my torta, along with generous slices of avocado, provolone and tomato, all tucked inside a nicely toasted, local bun that doesn’t deteriorate after significant gnashing of teeth. Yes, it’s $10, but it’s one of the better and certainly one of the biggest steak sandwiches I’ve enjoyed.

A loaded, tender flank-steak torta

A loaded, tender flank-steak torta

Here’s part of an interview with Walla Walla Lifestyles that sums up co-owner and chef John Lastoskie’s approach to his restaurant and catering business:

“What is your favorite ingredient?”
“Time… When we do turkey, we brine it for 24 hours. When we do prime rib, we salt and tie it for three days. Everything we do has days in front of it, whereas a lot of people just pull something out of the fridge and throw it on the grill. Our pastrami takes, on average, about 22 days.”

Graze
5 South Colville and 213 South 9 Avenue (drive-thru) Walla Walla, Washington
Daily 10 am-7:30 pm, except 3:30 pm closing Sunday
Graze on Urbanspoon

Going Off the Breakfast Map at Bacon & Eggs in Walla Walla, Washington

 

Bacon & Eggs in Walla Walla, Washington looks after all the details

Bacon & Eggs in Walla Walla, Washington looks after all the little presentation details

It’s just five minutes after the 8 am opening of *Bacon & Eggs, in Walla Walla, Washington. Already, 10 tables of people are tucking into brimming breakfast plates at this popular locavore eatery. Obviously, they know how to keep folks happy.

As the name suggests, I order…. Texas eggs? I like a switch from the usual, especially at breakfast, and this dish delivers: Cumin-spiced black beans, brown rice, shavings of sharp white cheddar, fresh pico de gallo and a wedge of excellent, crumbly jalapeño cornbread. Oh, there are a couple of eggs, too, over easy to nicely moisten all the goodness in my deep bowl.

A delicious, healthy bowl of Texas eggs

A delicious, healthy bowl of Texas eggs

I eschew a long list of eye-opener cocktails for a bottomless cup of the “best coffee for 243 miles,” meaning Stumptown beans from Portland.

Bacon & Eggs
503 East Main Street, Walla Walla, Washington
Thursday to Tuesday 8 am-2 pm. Closed Wednesday
Bacon & Eggs on Urbanspoon

Though I might have found better coffee five miles away, beside the local airport no less. There, amidst a collection of small buildings hosting wine-tasting rooms, sits Walla Walla Roastery. I grab a lovely patio table, flanked by lawn and tall shade trees, and enjoy a flavourful, smoky espresso. Before hitting the road (not the runway), I pick up half a pound of freshly roasted beans.

Walla Walla Roastery, near the local airport, is a great place to savour a coffee

Walla Walla Roastery, near the local airport, is a great place to savour a coffee

Walla Walla Roastery
290 A Street, Walla Walla, Washington
Weekdays 7:30 am-5 pm, Saturday 9 am-4 pm. Closed Sunday
Walla Walla Roastery on Urbanspoon

Gassing Up For Great Food at Andrae’s Kitchen in Walla Walla, Washington

Kevin tends the grill at fabulous Andrae's Kitchen in Walla Walla, Washington

Kevin tends the grill at fabulous Andrae’s Kitchen in Walla Walla, Washington

This can’t be right, I’m thinking, as I drive around and around a gas station in Walla Walla, Washington. Finally, I go into the attached convenience store and there, just off to the cashier’s side, it is: *Andraes Kitchen.

Andrae’s is serving up no convenience store snacks, let me tell you, but scratch-made breakfasts and lunches, produced in a little, open kitchen. And diverse to boot. How about a pork schnitzel sandwich, halal-spiced chicken, short-rib tacos or grilled corn salad? They even sometimes slow-roast pigs and goats out back.

Andrae's Kitchen is inside a Walla Walla gas-station convenience store

Andrae’s Kitchen is inside a Walla Walla gas-station convenience store

It’s the brainchild of Andrae Bopp, a French-trained chef who migrated to Walla Walla and eventually set up this gas-station kitchen, along with a roaming truck.

“I wanted to cook, not just open bags,” says Kevin, who’s running the early morning grill. “I’ve learned more here in three months than I did in five years at other places.”

He flips my perfectly over-easy eggs onto a toasted biscuit, melts some topping cheese under a lid. Voila, I’ve got a first-class breakfast biscuit ($5), which I scarf down at a plastic table.

A great, inexpensive breakfast biscuit

A great, inexpensive breakfast biscuit

It seems Andrae has made a convert of the convenience store cashier, too. “You’ve got to try the Voodoo fries (with pulled pork),” he calls out to me as he’s rings up a gas purchase. “I never knew French fries could be a meal.”

Andrae’s Kitchen
706 West Rose Street (Co-op gas station), Walla Walla, Washington (check the web site for truck locations)
Daily 6 am-6 pm, except 6 am-4 pm Sunday at the Co-op
Andrae's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Great, Healthy Fare at the Bronze Cafe in Las Vegas’s LGBTQ Center

Eight Pass Route 303

Ready for something healthy and unexpected in Sin City? Just head to the scruffy fringes of downtown Las Vegas and, yes, the gleaming new LGBTQ Center, with a lovely front garden patio. That’s where you’ll find the Bronze Cafe, where Carmen greets me with a thousand-watt smile.

Beautiful front garden at the Center

Beautiful front garden at the Center

As I’m perusing the breakfast options, she asks if I’d like a sample dixy cup of soaked-overnight Swedish oatmeal, served cold with fruit and agave nectar. Yum. As I’m polishing this off, she hands me a taster of an Ethiopian teff cereal (interesting!) and a swallow of ice-brewed coffee. At this rate, I won’t have to order anything.

Finally, I  succumb to a half Tree of Life, a pita flatbread containing a cornucopia of roasted peppers, avocado, house-made pickled onions, cashew crema, Brazil nut crumble and a mango-ginger vinaigrette. It’s a delightfully different wrap and vegan to boot, like much of Bronze’s scratch-made menu. But fear not, carnivores, there’s a much-lauded maple-glazed bacon sandwich, slathered in bacon jam.

Tree of Life goodness with a healthy side salad

Tree of Life goodness with a healthy side salad

As I’m leaving, another server gives me a sample of a refreshing watermelon-chia drink. Oh, and it’s a hot day, so here’s some ice water for the road.

The LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender, Queer/Questioning) Center supports a lot of neighbourhood social projects and offers meal discounts to area residents. And apparently free samples to road-tripping bloggers.

Bronze Cafe
401 South Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas
Weekdays 7 am-10 pm, weekends 10 am-8 pm
Bronze Cafe at the Center on Urbanspoon

A Bread Trail Leads to Fabulous Crumb Brothers in Logan, Utah

Fresh-from-the-oven bread at Crumb Brothers Artisan Bakery in Logan, Utah

Fresh-from-the-oven bread at Crumb Brothers Artisan Bread & Cafe in Logan, Utah

How do you build the perfect breakfast sandwich? You start, as you must, with fabulous, fresh-baked bread.

Obviously, *Crumb Brothers Artisan Bread & Cafe, in Logan, Utah, has this covered with an ethereal, slightly chewy ciabatta bun. But then chef Robert kicks things up a notch with two airy, pan-fried local eggs and some good bacon. For a creamy touch, he adds avocado slices, melted provolone cheese and a swipe of lemon aioli. The final, artistic note is a stacked swirl of thinly sliced apple on the side.

Breakfast sandwiches don't get any better than this

Breakfast sandwiches don’t get any better than this

It’s simple, and simply the best breakfast sandwich I’ve perhaps ever eaten, on bended knee, and for a token $6.50. (It’s a perfect comeuppance to people who suggest you have to spend a small fortune to experience the divine).

Indeed, it’s more souffle than sandwich, something to make you consider giving up the same-old egg-and-bacon breakfast forever. The only thing missing is a better name than Ciabatta Fried Egg Bun.

Of course, Crumb Brothers has a lot more to offer, including all-day sandwiches (try the artichoke tapenade with fresh mozza) and a savoury bread pudding. Most important is a baker’s dozen roster of rotating breads, highlighted by the five-seed Decker loaf, named after the California breadmaker who taught bakery founder and co-owner Bill Oblock many of his yeasty tricks.

The daily bread and food menu

The daily bread and food menu

Crumb Brothers has a nice indoor cafe, with a lovely jazzy playlist chosen by a local musician. But the patio is where you want to be on a sunny day, surrounded by a fantastic garden of drought-tolerant plants. You may never want to leave.

Crumb Brothers' fabulous garden patio

Crumb Brothers’ fabulous garden patio

Crumb Brothers Artisan Bread & Cafe
291 South 300 West, Logan, Utah
Weekdays 7 am-3 pm, Saturday 8 am-3 pm. Closed Sunday
Crumb Brothers Artisan Bread on Urbanspoon