Good things to eat

Posts tagged ‘road trips’

Road side surprise

This past weekend the Chef and I headed “up island”  ( that’s what they call pretty much anywhere that isn’t Victoria, or more North than where ever you happened to live on the island!) to do a little family visiting.

We usually only make one stop on the way, to get gas at the place where it is always cheaper and to get a coffee at Tim Hortons  ( for my non Canadian friends, that is an essential part of Canadian culture!).   But due to timing and what have you, we found ourself needing to stop for a meal of some sort.

We didn’t want to venture too far off the highway and lose too much time, so we pulled over into a strip mall in the city of Nanaimo.  There were a few choices that seem to have sprouted up in most mall parking lots across the land, but we settled on a place called “Original Joe’s“.

I have seen one in a local mall parking lot, but it had never come up for us to have a chance to try it.

We were very pleasantly surprised.  We were expecting your typical parking lot style family restaurant or roadhouse type thing but it was much more inviting.

They had a simple, but nice menu and we both very much enjoyed our choices!

The Chef is very partial to a place called J & L Drive-IN in Port Alberni.  He loves it cause you can get a hot dog ON your hamburger!!

So imagine his delight when he found a similar product at Original Joe’s!!  Only this one came with a fancy sausage of some kind and two delicious sides, garlic roasted mash potato, topped with crispy onions and a tasty Caesar salad.

Big burger


I got the fish tacos, a dish I have recently become quite fond of and these ones did NOT disappoint.  Full of fresh toppings and a nice side salad.  I was very pleased.

Fish tacos

And then the Chef ordered something called “chocolate therapy”.  It was an ooy gooy moulton chocolate cake type thing with chocolate and caramel sauce and whipped cream.  I tried to take a picture but it didn’t work so well….too  decedant for even the camera!!

“Chocolate Therapy”

So if you find yourself in need of a bite and you see an Original Joe’s, give it a try.

New Years Eve in Seattle

We pulled into Seattle in late afternoon and went straight to the hotel.

We were staying at the Hyatt Olive 8, a shiny new state of the art eco-friendly “green” hotel in downtown Seattle.  We choose the Olive 8 not only for the whole green thing, but also because we would be having dinner in the restaurant downstairs.


“The menus at Urbane change frequently to reflect the seasonality of local ingredients including fish and shellfish native to the Pacific Northwest. Says Chef Lopez, “Preparations are traditional and simple allowing ingredients to complement each other without compromising how the food was intended to taste.” Chef Lopez selects the finest fresh foods from celebrated local Seattle resources that include:

  • Beecher’s Cheeses
  • Uli’s Sausage from Pike Place Market
  • Produce from Willie Green Farms
  • Salumi Artesian Cured Meats from Pioneer Square.
A commitment to local, organic ingredients doesn’t limit Chef Lopez’s range of creativity in the culinary arts. True to our regional focus, the wine menu at Urbane exclusively showcases fine Pacific Northwest wines. Enjoy tantalizing regional specialties at our Seattle downtown restaurant, such as:
  • Walla Walla’s Thundering Hooves’ pasture-finished bone-in Rib-eye
  • Pan-seared wild Arctic Char served with Butternut Squash Hash
  • Tempting desserts include Toffee Pudding topped with ice cream infused with Mount Rainier honey”

We made sure our reservation was late enough because we wanted to be able to stay up for midnight!  We’re old now so it’s hard to last that long!!

After a quick run around of the big downtown department stores ( we live in Victoria so getting a chance to be in the big city is a real thrill for me!) before they shut down for the big holiday, we went back to the room to rest up a little before dinner.

Finally it was time to go downstairs for dinner.  There also happened to be a big New Years Eve party going on in the ballroom at our hotel, so the place was just teeming with people all dressed up…..with somewhere to go!

We were shown to our table that was perfectly located right next to the window so we could watch all the action outside while we ate.  And imagine our surprise, when at the very table next to us, was the former Mayor of Vancouver, BC, Sam Sullivan, there enjoying New Years Eve dinner with some people!

Originally we thought we were going to have to order off the set menu that they had shown for the evening on-line.  But much to our delight, we were allowed to choose off the fixed menu or the regular dinner menu.

We both started with a salad. 

The Chef got:

caesar | grilled romaine | bacon | croutons |

While I got:

roasted beets | quillisascut blue | pistachios | greens |

Both were very nice.  Then for our main courses…..

The Chef got:

lavender seared duck breast|  cherry sauce | apple fennel salad | lentils |

And I ordered:

steelhead salmon| spaetzle | kale | browned butter |

Mine was SO good.  I’m not a fan of duck so I didn’t try the Chef’s dinner but he was very pleased with his too.

It was New Years Eve so we HAD to order some dessert.   This time we ordered off the special NYE menu and got:

 chocolate trio| frozen mousse | stout gingerbread | white chocolate cherry bar |

Ah what a meal, definitely worthy of a celebration like New Years!

Somewhere during our meal, from our window seat, we noticed a lot of sudden action outside.  Fire trucks and ambulances and a gaggle of police on bicycles all appeared and sped around the corner.  We didn’t think too much of it, not wanting to look like small towners, I mean we have both lived in big cities before……..

After our wonderful dinner we went back upstairs to rest for a few minutes before we got changed and bundled up to walk down to the Space Needle where there was a big midnight celebration and fireworks display.  We turned the TV news on for a few minutes, to see how celebrations were going around the world and imagine our surprise to see footage from outside our hotel!!   Seems there was shooting RIGHT outside our hotel, just around the corner!!!  Seems that’s what all the hubbub during dinner was!   How exciting!   How I miss the big city!

We got bundled up, although I have to admit it wasn’t actually that cold out and headed down in the elevator.  We stopped on a few floors and picked up many revellers who were already in quite “festive” states.  

You know girls….if you are gonna get that drunk… really should re-think the wardrobe choices before hand.  Perhaps some lower heels and dresses that don’t hike up dangerously when you fall over……just a suggestion.

So we walked over to the Space Needle with the thousands of other people just in time for midnight.

It was quite a spectacular display and it was really fun to be in the streets with all kinds of people that we don’t even know! 

A fine way to wrap up a very enjoyable trip!  Tomorrow we would head home!

Space Needle Seattle

New Years Eve celebration in Seattle


Fireworks over the Space Needle in Seattle


Somewhere on the I-5

We got started bright and early the next day after a wild evening of outlet shopping!

I DID mention there is no sales tax in Oregon right??

Last night we just ended up getting some grilled cheese, mind you really great grilled cheese filled with local Tillamook cheese, sandwiches at a family restaurant next to the outlet mall.

This was also the last day of the free breakfast buffet so we had to make sure we had the obligatory Belgium waffle, but to be honest I really wasn’t that into it.  I was looking forward to the holiday binge being over soon, but there was still one big celebration left!

So we got a good jump on the drive but as expected, eventually our stomaches got the best of us and we had to stop for some lunch.  Especially because it was New Year’s Eve and so we wouldn’t be eating dinner till later than usual, so we had to give in.

We pulled off the I-5 at a town called Castle Rock, Washington.  I have to admit that I have driven by Castle Rock a bunch of times in my life and have yet to identify any particular “rock” that looks like a castle, but maybe it is off the road somewhere.

We stopped at a place called “Peper’s 49er Restaurant”. 

Peper's 49er restaurant

This is a very unsuspecting place.  Just a joint by the side of the road, we weren’t expecting much but it was really a good experience.  

It was lunch time, but I ended up ordering breakfast and the Chef ended up ordering off the dinner menu and everyone was more than happy to accommodate us!

The service was exceedingly pleasant and most of the clientele you could tell were regulars mixed with a few folks like us who had wandered in off the interstate.

I had a very satisfying full deal breakfast and the Chef ordered the fish & chip dinner that came with a drink and dessert included.   We were very satisfied with our bellies full and ready to face the new year!

The Journey North

Well after a week of over indulgence in the South it was time to set our sights on the journey North. 

I almost want to say that I was a little tired of eating altogether, but luckily that wore off.

We packed up all of our loot, hugged the relatives good-bye and set off North.  Our big concern for the next few days was to get through the Cascade mountains without meeting up with any snow.  That’s why we had taken the coast on the way down, to avoid any such unpleasant weather as the mountains are prone to have this time of year.  Our only goal was to make it to Seattle by New Years Eve because we had plans that we had to get to.

But unlike the trip down, we hadn’t plotted any particular culinary stops on the way back and were just going to have to take our chances.

I’m afraid that this first day was a bust when it came to eating.  We stopped somewhere outside of Sacramento because we were starving and could go no further.  We had been looking for a Sonic Burger, because of the many American burger chains available, I have always found that one to be my favorite.   But instead we had to settle with an IN/OUT burger.  I had heard good enough things, but, I regret to say that I found it most average.  I will give it the benefit of the doubt in that we were pretty much over eating in general and so anything may seem a chore, but unfortunately that is the way things turned out.

We stopped for the night in Redding California.  That is the last sort of “real” place on the I-5 before heading up into the mountains.  It was getting dark so we figured we would get a fresh start in the morning to tackle Mount Shasta.

We had no dinner plans but we happened to pick up a flyer in the lobby of the hotel for a near by restaurant.  I was very excited at the prospect, it was called ” Dill’s Southern Style Barbecue”.  Now I love BBQ and this place sounded like a “joint” which usually always turns out to have the best stuff!

But sometimes that can be furthest from the truth!

Now I am usually of the thought that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, but I’m afraid it is my civic duty to warn you NOT to waste your vacation or eating pleasure on this place.  It is just plain bad.  I can’t even make any excuses for bad days on their part or ours.  It felt like eating in the back room at your garage while you are waiting for your oil change.   Bright fluorescent lighting, absolutely no decor, indifferent service and the food was microwaved and  awful.   Sorry Dill but I won’t be back!

The next morning when we got up it was pouring rain!!  Hopefully it wouldn’t be coming down as snow in the mountains.

Mount Shasta - photo courtesy of Blooming Rose Press

This is a picture of Mount Shasta on a clear day when it is quite spectacular, but on our day passing by we couldn’t even see her for the fog and rain.  

I’ve never actually stopped for any reason,  in the town Weed, which is high up in the mountains,  but the exit sign gets me every time!

Finally we made the trek through the most threatening part of the mountains and decided to stop for lunch in Eugene, Oregon.

I’ll admit that I have never stopped there either.  Usually when I am heading up the I-5 it is alone and I am on a mission to get to the Canadian border and don’t have time to stop and explore the towns along the way but we were in no immediate hurry so we ventured in.  Eugene is in a ways off the highway and not just an exit on the highway.

We had a hankering for some pizza and would have been happy with just a pizza parlour type scenario but instead we lucked out with a place called La Perla“.

La Perla Eugene Oregon

What a wonderful surprise this was!  The have those wonderful Neopolitan style pizzas with handmade dough and then cooked in one of those fancy dome ovens for 90 seconds at 1200 degrees!

We split the Caesar Salad and then I had the Capricciosa which consisted of:

Pomodoro San Marzano, artichokes, mushrooms, olives, fresh house made mozzarella, prosciutto cotto and Parmesan.

The Chef had the Campagnola topped with:

Pomodoro San Marzano, fresh house made mozzarella, Italian sausage, porsciutto cotto and Calabrese salami.

They were fresh and delicious!   If you are ever in Eugene, this place is worth the stop!!

Sushi Lessons

My Scotland relatives who now live in California that we were visiting for Christmas are very hard to shop for.   But the one thing we knew they enjoyed was eating.  

And sure we cooked while we were there, which they always enjoy, but why not teach them some cool stuff that they can do on their own once we are gone?

It isn’t every day that you get a professional Chef coming to stay, so why not take full advantage of the situation?   So we decided to give them an “Asian party snack starter kit” and a coupon for a cooking class with the Chef!

It was a basket filled with all the fixins and tools to whip up some sushi, gyoza and assorted other things.

The lesson was well attended and the pupils fast learners!

Then we feasted on the fruit of the labour.  Which was really nice to have a break from freakin turkey!

Sushi lessons

If you’d like to make some sushi of your own,  click here  to check out an old posting of mine where I give you the blow by blow.

Or  click here   for the gyoza lesson.

The gift of food always seems welcome!

The Very Next Day

Well obviously we couldn’t eat ALL that food at one seating!!  No matter HOW hard we tried!

So what to do with it the next day?

I mean after the compulsory turkey sandwiches and what have you, we still had to eat didn’t we??

So the Chef whipped up a wonderful dish with the left overs.  A fantastic Turkey Pot Pie!

He started by lining the bottom of the casserole dish with those cute little piped potatoes because those are made by making mash potato, piping them on to a tray and then baking them slightly so they keep their shape and get a nice toasty bottom.

So they made a nice base for “innards” that would go in on top.  

Next he diced up the roasted root vegetables and turkey meat into nice bite size or smaller chunks then added the left over gravy and mixed it all together and heated it in a pot on the stove.   Once that was done, he poured it over the potatoes in the dish, leaving space at the top for the puff pastry.

Now HERE is where things get crazy!

He gently removed the puff pastry coating off of the left over Beef Wellington.  Reheating Wellington doesn’t do justice, the meat will be over cooked and the pastry soggy.   But as it was the pastry was still perfectly good, not only that, but if you know what’s in a Beef Wellington, you’ll know that on top of the beef is a delicious layer of  “mushroom duxelle”  and then the residual beef flavours of course.

Then the pastry is added to the top of the cassarole and baked in the oven for about 20 minutes just to make sure everything is heated enough.

Voila!  A turkey pot pie the likes of which you’ve never tasted!  Layer upon layer of flavour!

Christmas dinner left over Turkey Pot Pie

But I know what you’re thinking.  He used up a whack of left overs for that one dish but what became of the beef?   Well don’t fret, that went to good use too.   He cut it up into small bits and with the left over UN-baked puff pastry from the fridge, made a whole bunch of mini party snack beef Wellington that he then froze and bagged up for my relatives to enjoy for weeks to come!!

Nothing went to waste!

Cabbage rolls on the Oregon Coast

The Oregon coast is one of the most breath-taking areas around and I like to take Highway 101 down the coast any chance I get.

After Portland we cut off the I-5 and took Highway 18 West till we hit the coast again at Lincoln City.  I often make a pit stop in Lincoln City because there is a big outlet mall and of course on sales tax in Oregon so you can often pick up a deal or two.

The trip along the coast took a little longer than planned because we made a lot of stops to look at everything.  Then as we grew hungry, it was so hard to choose what to eat because every little town seems to have somewhere interesting to stop.  But we kept saying “just one more town and then we will stop for lunch”.  Before you knew it we found ourselves at almost 3:00 in the afternoon.

We pulled into a town called Reedsport and saw they first place on the left, looked kinda like a light house.  This is the place!  We can go no further!

We didn’t really have much expectations because it just looked like a road side coffee shop but were surprised to see so many cars there this late in the afternoon. 

Harbor Light Restaurant

Inside, it was very charming and had that “coastal town” theme of a lot of fish related decor.  But the atmosphere was friendly and the waitress extremely pleasant.

We went for the special of the day which was a cabbage roll dish.

What arrived were two huge plates of food.  Beautiful home-made tasting cabbage rolls topped with a zesty merinara sauce and a big portion of salad with dressing that definitely didn’t taste like it came from a bottle.

All the other customers seemed very pleased with their dishes as well.

When I looked up the Harbor Light Restaurant on restaurant review sites there appeared to be only great comments.

Well done Harbor Light, you were a beacon in our day!!

Complimentry Breakfast included

Don’t be so fast to dismiss the “Complimentary Breakfast” that a lot of the motor Inns and road side hotels are offering these days!

Things have come a LONG way from the old days when “Continental breakfast included” consisted of and old jug of water on a hot plate, some tear open packages of freeze-dried coffee, powdered milk and some day old super sweet, super dried up muffins tucked in the corner on a card table next to the front desk!

No no no, now they have dedicated breakfast rooms that can usually accommodate about 30 people at a time.  And a glowingly versatile offering of breakfast fare.

There is always coffee and tea ( with real milk and cream) and juice of some kind.   A selection of cereals including oatmeal, a good choice of bread products like English muffins, bagels, raison bread and a toaster to toast them in, with a good selection of toppings.

Then there is usually always some fruit of some kind, bananas, apples etc.  I’ve seen yogurt and even hard-boiled eggs!  A lot of the places now are even offering a few hot selections like scrambled eggs, potatoes, bacon and sausage.

And then don’t forget the ever popular make them yourself Belgium waffles in the big machine that a lot of folk can’t seem to master on the first try.

So no matter what your breakfast style is you can pretty much find SOMETHING to eat that will get you on your way.

We even fill up our “to go” coffee mugs as we are packing into the car so we have one for the road.

So don’t dismiss the breakfast bar so quickly, they even usually have free news papers!!

Complimentry hotel breakfast

Scouts – Be prepared

I think that when heading out on any road trip it is important to be prepared.

Sure there is all the obvious stuff like making sure the car is in good working order and having some basic emergency items on board in case of incident.

But what I’m really talking about is how important bringing along the right food can be!

I’ll admit that I am very very bad about having food in the car.  Whether it is for a road trip or just a day out with picnic.  I can’t stand knowing food is there and so it makes me so hungry that I just can’t wait to eat it!  Many a “perfect picnic” destination has been missed in my life by my anxious “oh this place will do” attitude.  Sad really.

The deck of the M.V. Coho Ferry

We had to start this journey by taking a ferry.  Actually, when you live on an island, most journeys start that way.  I love taking the ferry except for the fact that it is so expensive so I always at least try to pack some food to ease the burden.

My favorite thing to bring along for the early morning wait in the ferry line up is a good breakfast sandwich.  I try to make most of it the night before and then just assemble it in the morning, wrap it in some parchment and then some tin foil and then bung it in the oven on a low temp while you are getting ready.  Then into one of those thermal grocery bags, if you have one and they stay warm enough till you are ready to eat them.

For a real treat you can make a breakfast pastry.

You’ll need:

  • a few sheets of prepared puff pastry rolled out to size
  • 1 egg per pastry
  • sliced ham
  • favorite cheese
  • Dijon mustard

I beat the eggs one at a time in a bowl and cook them omelette style one at a time.  Or you can make one big omelette and then cut it into pieces.

Roll out the pastry and cut it into about six-inch squares.   Put a bit of diction mustard in the middle ( or whatever other condiment you might enjoy) then layer the rest of the items as desired.  Fold the pastry over to make a nice pocket and make sure you seal the edges very well.  Poke a whole or two in the top and then give it a quick wash with some beaten egg or some milk and then bake as per pastry instructions.

Make sure you let them cool really really well before you wrap them, otherwise they get sweaty and unpleasant.   Then pop them back in the oven in the morning to heat them before you go.

But the breakfast sandwiches are usually long gone before we ever actually make it on the boat!!  The wait line can take awhile.

Then we load up the cooler with whatever planned or unplanned food we have kicking around that can be easily eaten along the way.  But be careful when crossing boarders because some countries don’t want you bringing your stuff to their side.  For instance, British Columbia lamb is for some reason forbidden when crossing into Washington State.   And of course don’t even think about bringing fruit to the Pacific West.  Don’t forget that Washington, Oregon and especially California are big agriculture States and they don’t need any pesky stowaway!!

My other favorite thing is to hit up the bulk section of the grocery store.  There are a multitude of pre mixed or make your own combinations of munchie snacks!  My favorite is sesame sticks with dark chocolate covered almonds!!

Packs some drinks and some water and some stuff to clean up with and you are ready for whatever the open road has to offer!!!

California Dreamin

So the Chef and I are heading out on a California bound road trip to visit the relatives for the holidays.

I suspect there will be a lot to eat along the way, not to mention when we get there!

I hope to share some of the journey with you!

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