Category Archives: road food

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

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.

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

Old-School Diner in Snowville, Utah

Mollie's Cafe is a classic diner just off the interstate in tiny Snowville, Utah

Mollie’s Cafe is a classic diner just off the interstate in tiny Snowville, Utah

A woman peers over the high counter as I enter Mollie’s Cafe in Snowville, the last Utah outpost on the I-84 west before it enters Idaho.

“Are you a salesman?” she asks, perhaps noticing the nylon briefcase slung over my shoulder. “Because if you are, I’m not buying.”

“But, hey,” I counter, “aren’t you selling something? Like, maybe, food?”

“I’m just the cook,” she laughs.

Lots of barstools and red vinyl booths. What's not to like?

Lots of barstools and red vinyl booths. What’s not to like?

Mollie’s is the kind of place you enter as much for the colour, the character and the conversation as the food—and the food’s pretty damn good for a classic country kitchen.

I go for a classic BLT on sourdough, lots of crunchy bacon to offset the tomatoes. Nicely done, with a side of chunky vegetable and beef soup. There’s nearly a dozen fresh fruit and cream pies to tempt, but with hours still to drive, I don’t want to fall into a food coma.

The classic diner fare is bountiful and affordable

The classic diner fare is bountiful and affordable

Of course, the soup comes with crackers

Of course, the soup comes with crackers

Mollie’s Café
15 Main Street, Snowville, Utah
Daily 6 am-10 pm
435-872-8295

Great Thin-Crust Pizza With an Extra Topping of Friendliness

Nicely blistered pie at Centro Woodfired Pizza in Cedar City, Utah

Nicely blistered pie at Centro Woodfired Pizza in Cedar City, Utah

I’m not sure if there’s something in the rarified air of Cedar City, Utah (elevation 5,846 feet), but the folks at Centro Woodfired Pizzeria are just so darned friendly. The staff all smile broadly each time they walk by my table.

They welcome a group of youth volunteers on a fundraiser; no surprise, these beaming teenagers are soon helping bus tables. The server even apologizes when my pizza takes all of 10 minutes to reach the table.

The nice thing about Centro’s pizzas is they don’t gild the lily. My $12 pie has but three ingredients: roasted crimini mushrooms, creme fraiche and thyme, atop a thin, blistered crust. Good stuff.

Pizza isn't the only bread product pulled from the wood-fired oven

Pizza isn’t the only bread product pulled from the wood-fired oven

And if that’s a bit charred for my liking, they’ll happily undercook it a bit. Enough!

P.S. The woman in charge of the youth volunteers says she used to oversee similar volunteer projects in Southern California. These often involved helping the homeless or picking up litter. In Cedar City, she says with some astonishment, “they don’t have either.”

Centro Woodfired Pizzeria
50 West University Boulevard (Center Street), Cedar City, Utah
Monday to Saturday 11 am-10 pm. Closed Sunday, of course (it’s Utah!)

Cafe + Books = The Perfect Combination

The cafe part of Canmore's Cafe Books is a little station at the back of the bookstore.

The cafe part of Canmore’s Cafe Books is a little station at the back of the bookstore.

I’ve loved the idea of combining a bookstore with a cafe ever since I wandered into Seattle’s famous Elliott Bay Book Company many years ago. Indeed, one of my “must stops” on long western Trans-Canada Highway drives is Bacchus Books & Cafe, in Golden, B.C. The wee cafe—up a rickety flight of stairs above the bookstore—serves great coffee, muffins and healthy soups and imaginative paninis, witness a Nutella/bacon combo.

Actually, I’m surprised this concept isn’t more popular (outside of corporate joint ventures like Starbucks and Chapters/Indigo), though it does come with the risk of pages stained by coffee and sticky jam. So, it’s a pleasure to discover Café Books, on the busy main drag of another mountain town, Canmore, Alberta.

Owner Joy McLean runs this great, eclectic bookstore, with a hallway leading to a room of used books surrounding a small cafe. Here, I enjoy a lovely little French-press pot of coffee (beans from local roaster RAVE), served with a couple of bite-sized cookies.

A shameless promotion of a book signing I was doing at Cafe Books while savouring a lovely French-press pot of coffee

A shameless promotion of a book signing I was doing at Cafe Books while savouring a lovely French-press pot of coffee

The short menu features British-style snacks like Cornish pasties and Welsh rarebit, along with sweets such as cupcakes and macaroons. You can even order high tea, complete with scones, jam and clotted cream. Just be careful not to spill on the books.

A short but diversified menu, with a British bent

A short but diversified menu, with a British bent

Cafe Books
100, 826 Main Street, Canmore, Alberta
Monday to Thursday and Sunday 9:30 am-7 pm. Friday-Saturday 9:30 am-9 pm
403-678-0908