The Pacific Northwest Gem: Whidbey Island

Whidbey Island, just off the coast of Washington State, is a destination all serious travelers need to add to their list. A 55-mile long green strip, stretched between Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Whidbey is blessed with surprisingly moderate weather.  It enjoys four distinct seasons, but without the extremes endured by many other northwestern areas.

I was extremely pleased with the diversity of the island’s landscape and the close-knit sense of community I felt as I traversed the island from south to north. Whidbey has wineries, distilleries, a lavender farm, cattle ranches, produce farmers, talented chefs, beekeepers, cheesemakers and clever entrepreneurs and artists, too numerous to mention.  It would take several weeks to explore the island properly, yet even in my three days there, I was fortunate to meet a number of these residents and enjoy the gorgeous scenery that is Whidbey Island.

Getting There

Getting to Whidbey Island can be a challenge, but your efforts will be rewarded.  There are two ways to access the island — by Washington State Ferry on the south end or by means of the Deception Pass Bridge on the northern end.  A shuttle also runs about every two hours from Seattle’s Sea-Tac airport to the island.  Reservations are recommended for both the shuttle and the ferry, especially during the busy summer months.

South Whidbey

When you arrive on Whidbey, you will find you’ve entered another world.  I began to relax on the ferry ride over, promising myself I would leave “my worries and my hurries” behind. After settling into The Inn at Langley, I decided to wander a bit, trekking down the hill to see if any shops were still open. The colorfully painted store fronts of Langley were a treat for the eye. As I strolled, I indulged in luscious, rich chocolates from Sweet Mona’s, a superb cup of coffee from Café and Books, and the best lobster roll I’ve eaten outside of Maine at the Saltwater Café.

My favorite spot to explore by far was the historic 1920’s Star Store, an honest to goodness old-fashioned grocery store. The towering narrow shelves and sometimes crowded aisles brought back fond memories of older grocery establishments I frequented as a child.  Of course, the Star Store was brimming with colorful local produce, meats, and cheeses, an extensive wine and liquor selection, along with local craft beers, one of Whidbey’s trademarks…everything local, if possible.

While walking back to the Inn around sunset, I noticed another Langley trademark — wild rabbits.  They were hopping and nibbling everywhere, all colors and sizes, stopping only to pose for my camera, and then they were off in a flash.  If Whidbey didn’t already have my heart, Langley’s charming furry residents certainly won me over.

 

The wild rabbits of Whidbey Island; (c) Tamra Bolton

 

After a restful evening listening to the waves outside my balcony, I headed for Mukilteo’s Coffee Roasters and the Café in the Woods. As I discovered, just finding places on Whidbey can be an adventure in itself.  Following several winding roads through looming evergreen trees that seemed to touch the overcast sky, I finally saw a sign for the coffee roasters. An arrow pointed the way farther into the dark green woods, and the narrow road led to a rather large opening with an unremarkable metal and wood building at the center. 

The unmistakable aroma of freshly roasting coffee filled the parking area and drew me in.  I was unprepared for the magical world behind the ordinary door I entered.  Startled by a massive golden dragon’s head protruding from near the ceiling over the baristas’ station, I craned my neck to look at the nearly ten-foot silver carp “swimming” on the ceiling.  Farther in, café tables were surrounded by a backdrop of Tuscan villas and Italian countryside.  Mukilteo’s is a favorite with the locals, and I was starting to see why. As wonderful as the café and roasters are, I discovered it’s the owners, Gary and Beth Smith, and the outstanding staff that makes Mukilteo’s such a special place. Not only do the Smiths give back in a big way to the local community, but they also give back to the coffee growers and their often impoverished communities.

I had a chance to sit down for a few minutes with Gary and Beth and listen to their amazing story.  Stories are my passion, and I found that on Whidbey stories of struggle, success, determination, and courage are the norm. This is a community of extraordinary people. People from diverse backgrounds, cultures, religions, and politics together are able to create a wonderful place to live and work. To me, that is one of the best things about Whidbey.

Another couple, Vincent and Tyla Nattress, offer cooking classes, wine appreciation, and farm-to-table dinners that will leave you wanting to start your own garden and raise hens.  At Chef Vincent’s, produce is only steps away from the kitchen, and he carefully chooses local producers of seafood and meats to complement the seasonal vegetable and fruit selections. The night I was there, some of the treats we enjoyed were Scarlet Runner Beans and Sweet Corn Succotash, Braised Beef Tortellini and Roasted Eggplant Caviar, and Ebb Tide Strawberries & Crispy Meringue with Crème Fraiche Ice Cream.  The farmhouse dinners and cooking classes are popular, and reservations are highly recommended.

 

A bounty of produce; (c) Tamra Bolton

 

Coupeville

Near the “waist” of Whidbey Island (which is only about 1.5 miles wide), on Penn Cove, sits the seaside village of Coupeville, famous for its delicious mussels.  Penn Cove mussels are sought after world-wide, and if you pass by the cove going north, you can see the long rectangular mussel beds that produce this seafood wonder.

Coupeville has its own claim to fame as the setting for the Sandra Bullock/Nicole Kidman movie, Practical Magic. You can visit the 1890’s former pharmacy building where the scenes in Sally’s shop, Verbena Botanicals, were filmed. Today, it houses the bakery Knead & Feed.  I dropped by to take a look inside and sample some coffee and one of their snickerdoodle cookies that were as big as my head. The entire town was painted white for the movie, and many of the shops maintain that look even today.

I also stopped by the Lavender Wind shop on the corner of Alexander and Coveland Streets.  Housed in a restored 1916 craftsman home, the shop offers dried lavender goods, gift items, and delicious baked goods you can enjoy in their cozy tea room. I’ve wanted to try baking some lavender scones, so I picked up some culinary lavender along with some great baking tips from Sarah Richards, the owner. If you have time, visit the lavender farm about three miles north of Coupeville.  On a clear day, you will be rewarded with stunning views of the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  A small shop at the farm is open in summer. 

Oak Harbor

Busier than the other parts of Whidbey, Oak Harbor has about 23,000 inhabitants, the island’s largest population. Here you will find the only big box stores and chains. The Naval Air Station Whidbey Island is here, and it is not uncommon for conversations to be temporarily drowned out as low-flying Navy jets do their fly-bys, but no one seems to mind.  The Coachman Inn is reasonably priced and centrally located to several attractions like the PBY-Naval Air Museum and Deception Pass State Park.

My favorite chef in Oak Harbor, not only delivers a spectacular culinary experience but gives his heart and soul to the island community.  Chef Fraser donates his time to several community projects. Eight out of the last 12 years, his mentorship has brought home Washington State’s “ProStart Invitational” culinary competition title to Oak Harbor High School. When you go, ask to be seated at the chef’s counter for an up-close view of the kitchen and a chance to speak to him.  Fraser’s Gourmet Hideaway is an experience you don’t want to miss.

Chef Scott Fraser of Fraser’s Gourmet Hideaway; (c) Tamra Bolton

 

Whidbey Island is a patchwork of landscapes, people, and lifestyles worth exploring. It is a destination I hope you add to your list. I’m glad it was on mine.

The post The Pacific Northwest Gem: Whidbey Island appeared first on FWT Magazine: food wine travel.

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Latest News and Updates on Wine Tasting and Wineries in CT – Enjoy Reading People!

Just a very brief post as a resource for all to check out the latest scoop and news on what’s going on in the wine industry here in Connecticut and other locations in the U.S. Hope everyone had a peaceful Thanksgiving and are now looking forward to spending time with family and friends during Christmas and New Years.

Here are just two of the resources to check out at your convenience:
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Thanks for stopping by my Blogger blog, remember to be safe duing the upcoming holidays, and especially while driving to family and friends on New Year's Eve. There's a ton of idiots and drunk drivers out there on the road. Pleae DO NOT become a statistic. 🙂


Take care,


Luis 🙂

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Wedding Planners in CT Offer 7 Tips for the Perfect Wedding Day in This Video!

If you’re looking for one of the most affordable wedding planners in CT just contact us via cell phone or our website. Please take some time to visit our YouTube channel for more videos on weddings and wedding events in Connecticut. 
Shown above is a beautiful bride and her handsome groom performing their first dance together as husband and wife at their favorite wedding reception venue near the Connecticut shoreline.

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Wine Tasting in CT Is Always Most Enjoyable During Foliage Season!

The top wines in the world are meant to be enjoyed over a meal with family and friends.
Exactly like food, your first taste a wine starts with your eyes. You can be told a good deal about the wine by the color of a wine. 1 hint is, when looking at a wine, then hold out the glass and tilt it a little bit.

Attempt to maintain the wine on a surface such as a white table cloth, plain white plate, napkin or alternative sterile surface. At this point, you need to notice the depth of color from the rim. To completely comprehend the ramifications in this case, it will help to have a understanding of a wine must search for its grape varietal, growing season and era.

For the time being, we’re likely to concentrate on Bordeaux wine, that is a combination dominated by Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. To get a Bordeaux wine, the wine ought to be dark, displaying a depth of colour from the rim. The color can comprise dark or purple blue, often shiny accents. Richer and deeper colors let the taster understand this is a wine that is concentrated. For my palate, depth and concentration of taste is a good thing.

Wines that lack color are going to be lighter ripe and acidic in style. This is natural for wines produced from Pinot Noir. However, for wines produced using Bordeaux types, you wish to see an excellent, rich color. The depth of color is also a beginning indicator of a wines style. An dark Bordeaux is going to be intense, mouth filling reduced and long. Young Bordeaux or youthful Bordeaux styled roses with pale colors will be lighter in flavor, with red fruits compared to brighter and white black .

How to Taste Wine, Enjoy Wine, Evaluate Wine like Professional Tasters
The very first step in knowing how to taste would be wine is get over your anxiety. There is no right or wrong. You are going to enjoy what you like as you like. Do not listen to geek at the wine shop. He can not decide what wine is most effective for your palate you can, although he tastes a lot more wine than you do.

Too many people make wine too complicated. Wine as a drink that is unique is complicated. Recognizing wine is simple. Comparing wines is much simpler. To get a look at wines scored and are rated when compared to other wines at the peer group read on to see how and why wines scored and are rated in a system.

You have looked at the wine already, what’s next in learning to taste wine like an expert? That is easy. When we looked evaluate it, remember? Now, smell, we’re likely to swirl and sniff the wine. The sense of smell is stronger than you realize. It’s a key component to understanding how to taste wine like a sommelier.

The difficulty most folks have with wine is “oenophobia,” a panic of wine. The anxiety comes from the a variety of factors starting with unfamiliarity and how to talk about wine and clarify what you’re tasting.

How to Examine a glass of wine.
Next in your visual test of the wine is the legs or tears on the side of the glass. This is not important. If you like, you may jump. But as you have heard lots of folks comment about legs or the tears at a wine, even if you didn’t jump ahead, let’s cover it now.

The best way to understand the smells, bouquet, aromas or cologne of a wine.
Oenophobia, the fear of wine. Let’s eliminate any fear you might have concerning wine tasting because wine is a true drink, so sit back and relax and enjoy that woody flavor.

Some Connecticut wines are expensive, some inexpensive. The YouTube video below may help you understand how to correctly taste wine and why this one issue should be seriously factored in to your final decision prior to purchasing your next case of vino.

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Enjoy Unique Wine Tasting at the Best Wineries in CT!

Looking for the best wineries in CT? Out for a Sunday drive looking at the beautiful fall foliage, then all of the sudden the wine tasting bug gets you?

The Constitution State has much to offer to it’s residents as far as entertainment and vineyard hopping is concerned. Connecticut wineries produce some of the best wines in the Northeast, and some local wine tasting connoisseurs actually believe a few select vineyards in CT are in direct competition with some world famous California vineyards in Napa Valley. How’s that for putting up some stiff competition in the wine tasting arena? https://goo.gl/2BbJVY

“People have been tasting wine for thousands of years. People have been making money as wine tasters for more than 100 years. What do they know that you don’t? When it comes to tasting wine and understanding how to evaluate a wine for its qualities and note its faults, after reading this page, not much. Of course they will have a greater understanding on the history of the wine, the grape, the appellation the wine came from, as well as the chemistry behind things, but knowing those types of interesting information are not going to make you a better taster.”
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In reality, a wine’s color is due to several factors, including skin contact time and the type of grape varietal the wine is made of. Past experiences may have taught us that whites are more pale yellow when young and turn darker amber as they age. We associate brickish brown red wines as old and deeper purple wines as young. By seeing the color we may make an unconscious predisposition towards that wine.
A wine’s overall quality assessment, based on this examination, follows further careful description and comparison with recognized standards, both with respect to other wines in its price range and according to known factors pertaining to the region or vintage; if it is typical of the region or diverges in style; if it uses certain wine-making techniques, such as barrel fermentation or malolactic fermentation, or any other remarkable or unusual characteristics
You’ll find that your wine knowledge is like a tornado; you learn wine tasting and vineyard jargon more quickly and easily as you move forward in the process. As with anything else in life, hard workers that are self-motivated will graduate to the ranks of professional wine connoisseur much sooner than others who are less driven.  https://goo.gl/zHPrQP
If you have a hankering for a smooth Merlot or a dry Chardonnay, or maybe you just want something that’s earthy, fleshy, herbaceous, nutty or oaky. The best wineries in CT have much to offer with a variety of wines and wine tasting events to fully satisfy even the most savvy vineyard dweller.

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