Kneading Some Wild Critters With My Ketchum Breakfast

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All those eyes watching me wolf down my non-meat breakfast

It’s quiet when I enter The Kneadery, in Ketchum, Idaho. Still, I can safely say it’s a bit of a zoo. That’s because I’m greeted by a stuffed, snarling grizzly bear by the front door of this rustic restaurant. It’s merely the start of a menagerie that includes a wall of mounted bison, moose and antelope heads.

With all these critters staring at me glassy eyed, I decide to go meatless at breakfast. It’s a great choice. My half order of French toast is still a plateful of fragrant, organic challah bread (from the nearby Bigwood Bread Bakery), lightly grilled and topped with fresh strawberries and, a lovely touch, warm maple syrup.

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Strawberry French toast instead

The morning meals at The Kneadery are substantial, as diners around me gamely tackle cage-free eggs Benedict and puffy waffles with gusto.

The Kneadery
260 Leadville Avenue, Ketchum, Idaho
Daily 8 am-2 pm
208-726-9462

Best Bloggers Blogging in 2016!

Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing

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These past few years (2015 and 2014), I’ve wrapped up twelve months of blogging by listing my favourite bloggers who I have subscribed to and read, and whose blogs I believe would be of interest to my readers. Chris Graham (aka The Story Reading Ape) created this nifty badge that any of the bloggers on my list are welcome to add to their own blogs!

This year’s list is going to look a bit like a roundup of the usual suspects, as so many of my favourite bloggers continue to post to their blogs and write so well. A few of those old favourites have stopped blogging, but there are a few new discoveries this year, and one is a former book publishing colleague who is absolutely new to blogging just this week! So I’ll begin my list this year with the newbies-to-me, for variety sake.

Please do…

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The Perfect Last-Minute Christmas Gift: Don’t Leave Home

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How would you like to do your last-minute Christmas shopping? At a crowded mall like this?

You’re not really thinking of hitting the mall for some last-minute Christmas shopping, are you?

Just think of the misery that awaits. The bundling up. The freeway gridlock. The musical chairs of finding a parking spot. The jostling with fellow customers, who grab the last copy of that lauded toy or book. The sweating under a heavy parka in an overheated store. The lineups at the till. The person in front of you trying to return a sweater, without a receipt. Need I go on?

Now consider the alternative. Sitting quietly at your desk, sipping a Pinot Noir or an amber ale while scrolling through your online options. Click. Click. Done. Delivered, perhaps for free, to your loved one’s door without you ever leaving the house.

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Or sitting at a desk, like this?

But wait, you say. With only a few days before the big day, isn’t it too late to get said online gifts delivered on time?

Well, I’ve got the perfect solution. It’s called e-books. I know, the publishing industry is properly chuffed about the revival of the printed book. And there’s no substitute for something that can be wrapped, placed under the tree, opened, held in the hands and lovingly flipped through.

But remember, this is about fulfilling your gift-giving duty—checking someone’s name off the list, if you will—without braving the last-minute horrors of the mall. Here, it doesn’t get better than an e-book.

Search. Select. Click on “give as a gift” to the recipient’s email address. Enter a delivery date. Pay. Done.

The beauty of this is you can even do your shopping at 9:00 Christmas morning, while hubby is poaching the breakfast eggs, none the wiser. And with a download, there’s no risk of an online retailer being out of stock.

But wait, you again say. There are millions of e-book titles to choose from and you don’t have time, at the last moment, to find the right gift.

Well, I just happen to have the perfect suggestion. Totally self serving, mind you, as it happens to be my own e-book, Marathon Mouth. If I do say so, it’s a lively, highly subjective guide to the best, affordable, independent places to eat and drink while on a road trip in western North America. It features nearly 900 cafes, diners, coffee shops, bakeries, brewpubs in 11 U.S. states (west of Texas) and two Canadian provinces and one territory.

Marathon Mouth ebook

The perfect road-trip gift, without getting in your car

I mean who doesn’t like to travel? Or eat? And if you happen to be on the road during Christmas, you can even find the best places to order a turkey sandwich. Dig in.

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If you happen to be on the road over Christmas, you can still get your turkey fix

Here’s where you can download Marathon Mouth, for a bargain-basement $10 or less: Amazon.com, (Amazon.ca in Canada), Kobo, Apple iBooks and Chapters/Indigo.

Where’s the Beef? In Babb, Montana

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Cattle Baron Supper Club

Yes, the steaks at Cattle Baron Supper Club, in Babb, Montana, start at a road-trip unfriendly price of about $33. But when you consider the inch-and-a-half T-bone weighs in at an artery-choking 40 ounces, it’s time to reconsider the math, or at least remove one cow from the equation.

In fact, if you’re not a glutton, you could feed a carnivorous family with a single steak or have enough leftovers for a long cattle drive. The setting is everything you’d expect in small-town ranchland Montana—a character place that’s sufficiently dimly lit that all you can focus on in is stuffing another mouthful of tender, local beef down your throat, along with maybe a beer or two to help in the digestion.

Babb Bar Cattle Baron Supper Club
Highway 89, Babb, Montana
Daily 5 pm-10 pm. Closed during winter

Fresh, Local Fare in Creston, B.C.

Local. Fresh. Healthy. It doesn’t get much better than that, especially when you’re surrounded by verdant fields of veggies and fruits, ready to be plucked and plated.

To keep things simple, just call it what it is: Real Food Cafe. This one’s in Creston, B.C., just north of the Idaho border. Though why these type of wholesome eateries aren’t more common in agricultural small towns is a mystery to me. It isn’t to the Creston locals, who have the cafe happily abuzz on a Friday evening.

There’s so much local stuff on Real Food’s menu, let’s just look, for simplicity’s sake, at what’s traveled a tiny distance for tonight’s specials. There’s the acorn and butternut squash for my earthy cup of soup. There’s watermelon in the salad, pear in the cake. Of course, I have to spoil things by ordering a quinoa and black bean burger, which is topped by local greens and a killer, house-made corn relish.

But perhaps the most impressive local thing about Real Food is the service. I seem to have two or three courteous, friendly waitresses attending to me—keeping my water glass topped up, asking if I’d like something to read while I wait all of five minutes for my meal, discreetly bringing an extra napkin when some leakage stains my face (that could be a full-time job).

They’re around so much, I can hardly take furtive pictures of my food. In fact, other than one blurry shot in a dimly lit room, I’m forced to solely focus on all the fresh flavours.

Real Food Cafe
223 10 Avenue, Creston, B.C.
Monday to Friday lunch 11 am-2 pm, dinner 4:30 pm-8 pm, Saturday 4:30 pm-8 pm. Sunday closed
250-428-8882

Formidable French Bakery in Central Washington State

French toast and strong coffee hits the spot at Anjou Bakery near Cashmere, Washington

French toast and strong coffee hits the spot at Anjou Bakery near Cashmere, Washington

An artisan bakery near the speck-on-a-map town of Cashmere in central Washington has my GPS so befuddled it sends me out to an apple orchard. Finally, I seek directions from a local, who directs me back to Highway 97/2, just west of Wenatchee, where I soon spy a big road sign for Anjou Bakery (which aptly is backed by a pear orchard). So much for high technology.

Inside the lovely cafe is a bakery, which for some two decades has been producing loaves of hearth-fired bread. But that’s just the opening act for an irresistible lineup of baked goodies one might expect in a French patisserie.

There are flaky almandines, airy meringues, mini cherry and marionberry pies. I go for a crispy slice of fruit-filled French “toast” to accompany a good, strong coffee. Formidable!

Why go for a slice of formidable pie when you have the whole thing?

Why go for a slice of formidable pie when you have the whole thing?

Other customers don’t seem encumbered by my directional challenges, as there’s a steady stream of travellers stopping for their morning treats. One simply says to the server: “Give me six of your pastries. You choose.”

Anjou Bakery
3898 Old Monitor Highway, Cashmere, Washington
Thursday to Sunday 8 am-5 pm. Closed Monday to Wednesday
509-782-4360