Palouse is a perfect little road-trip town to visit
I don’t often come across the perfect, middle-of-nowhere town. One that’s charming, historic and revitalized, with fabulous scenery and one main drag.
Too often, such places go in one of two directions: straight downhill—because there’s nothing left to sustain them—or overrun and loved to death. Hitting the sweet spot of overlooked yet vibrant is the rarest of feats.
I might have found the holy grail in Palouse, Washington, a “city” of 1,000 and a stone’s throw from the Idaho border. Perhaps its greatest attribute is the location, along the eastern edge of the other-worldly Palouse Hills and their rich farming soils.
The fabulous Palouse Hills, just north of Pullman, Washington
Anyone who’s used those AAA state maps is familiar with their dotted lines, indicating a scenic highway. I follow those highlighted routes whenever I can, because they’re a pretty reliable indicator of a fabulous drive, often on a winding, uncrowded secondary highway. But occasionally, I’m left scratching my head.
For instance, I was recently driving north of Moscow, Idaho on Highway 95. Pretty enough, I guess, but hardly worthy of its exalted dotted status.
But just to the west, across the Washington border, are the Palouse Hills, crisscrossed by a network of secondary and smaller highways. Nary a one of them has earned the precious dots. Now, this is a crime. Continue reading →
It may not be so good at football, but Washington State University produces champion cheese
When I was growing up in Edmonton, Alberta, a big part of any visit from our Pullman, Washington relatives was the tin of Cougar Gold cheese they’d bring as a gift. It was old and crumbly and came in a nearly two-pound tin. Yes, a tin. In my opinion, it’s the finest sharp white cheddar in North America, developed in the 1930s and still produced by students at Washington State University, with the individual maker’s name stamped on each tin.
So when I hear South Fork Public House in Pullman has a mac and cheese with Cougar Gold sauce ($11.50), I have to head right over. I don’t need a menu, steering right past the burgers, sandwiches, sliders and other pub food straight to the mac and cheese. The bacon bits and scallion topping are nice but don’t get in the way of the thick, rich Cougar Gold sauce sticking to the penne like a warm blanket. Now, that’s my kind of childhood comfort food.
After licking the bowl clean, I go in search of Dissmore’s IGA, so I can take a tin or two back to Canada. Note: The cheese is cheaper to buy at Ferdinand’s Ice Cream Shoppe, if you can find nearby parking on campus, but it doesn’t have Dissmore’s outstanding selection of beers. It can also be ordered online in the U.S. through the link above.
South Fork Public House makes an excellent mac ‘n cheese featuring, of course, Cougar Gold