Smelt fries at Salt & Iron in Edmonds, WA

One late night, some forty years ago, after working the swing shift at the Brazier sawmill in Molalla, Oregon, a few of us guys drove to Troutdale to dip-net for smelt. For a few brief days the rivers near the Columbia are alive with these small, silver fish, the river sparkled as if filled with silver sequins; the best smelting is done at night. If memory serves me correctly the thrill of the chase, male testosterone, and probably a brew or two, resulted in quantities caught that would not have pleased the game warden, had they checked, thankfully they did not.


Salt & Iron, in Edmonds, Washington, is a favorite restaurant thanks to an ever changing menu reflecting the local and the creative. Saturday they had smelt fries on the menu, from Oregon – I am sure from Troutdale (it’s my story and I am sticking to it). There was no choice, I was having Smelt Fries & Chips, the British rendering of fries did not escape me at all. It was perfect.

Smelt taste like fish, they are “fishy”, delicate breading will not hold up, Salt & Iron did it right, prefect balance of fish and bread. The chips, well I defy you to find any that are better.

Chips, Fries, are a personal thing, please do not come to my table and gleefully offer me “steak fries”, they are little more that soggy wedges of potato, without copious amounts of some sauce they are completely inedible – they render any meal less enjoyable. Good fries must be crisp, placid potatoes should be mashed not served, the centers should be moist and soft – the world standard is Belgium. In general the thinner the cut the better as it allowes for quick cooking resulting in the required crispiness.

Salt & Iron has perfect fries, a glass of Pilsner and a plate of their fries would make for a delightful afternoon. Matched with the smelt fries it was comfort food at its best.

A restaurant that makes you look forward to the next visit has done it all as it should be, we will be back, and most likely not soon enough.

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Getting through the chaos-food, wine, friends, and Tricia

Taking a break this morning to reflect on the things that get me through the challenges. I have been on over 20 flights in the last 11 weeks, thankfully none this last week. On the week-ends we pretend to be contractors, doing the repair work left us by our anniversary week-end flood in December – Wainscoting, painting, repairing sheetrock, installing a cabinet, ceramic tile, etc.

IMG_1947Two weeks ago I was in the Holiday Inn next to Disney, in Anaheim. It is a short walk to Downtown Disney, and Catal Restaurant. Upstairs at Catal is a quiet oasis in the chaos. A glass of wine, bacon wrapped dates, calamari, and of course pen, ink, and paint, made for a nice break from the travel.
IMG_1948The next week I had Asian Meatballs and broccoli, in Sirachi sauce at Niki and Joe’s in Newberg. We finished the evening with a we dram of Laphroaig, and my first game of Catan. I slept well on the hide-a-bed, visited by Nuli, their way too cute kitten.

Last weekend Tim came up, a good excuse to put the construction on hold, and instead too much food, some good discussions, and a bit of guitars and singing.

Thursday night of this week Tricia and I went to Daniels for Happy Hour. Just what we needed before this weekend of the final push in the basement.

These breaks make it possible to go on, food and friends have always been part of what we humans need for rejuvenation in the midst of challenges. I am so grateful.

Five Days on the Road, Day 1

It’s turbulent at 30,000 feet today, Monday afternoon, on the way to Sacramento. Surrounded by Alaska Air navy blue, with complimentary MVP Gold  white wine in a plastic cup. Seat 6C, the bulkhead, is good, as much leg room as in first class, and you get your wine right away, quick deplaning.

After 22 years on the road, travel for work, any travel is different. My life has three venues, home with Tricia, Travel with Tricia, travel alone. Home and travel with Tricia are the best, travel alone is where I spend too much time.

It is a quick flight, already we are beginning to descend, the turbulence reminds me we are actually up in the air. I use the scuba divers technique to release the pressure on my ears, flight attendants are scurrying to pick up the “remaining service items.”

After 840 steps, one train, and one shuttle-bus I get to the National car rental. A silver Chevy, the exact same one I drove last week. Then 13 miles into town. Staying at the Rodeway Inn just a few blocks from the Sacramento Rivercats baseball stadium, too bad there is no game. No Hilton hotel tonight.

My room is small, but clean and it looks recently remodeled, I have stayed in worse. I stayed here because the management responded to every comment on the website, even though it is not a fancy place they seem to be making an effort to do it as well as they can.

2016-02-29 17.44.02Across the street is a bowling alley and Cap’s Bar & Grill. Its close, and the only thing I see within walking distance except a Subway and some Chinese place. One difference between Tricia Time and my Vagabond Life is that I would not be eating here with her. In my Vagabond world I hit dive bars and drive-ins far too much.

My view is the bowling lanes, only three are being used, one looks like a dad and his little girl, cute. There is a family with a few kids, and a couple that spends more time talking than bowling. I order a Patty Melt, and a Sierra Nevada on Happy Hour. At the bar there are regulars.

Thanks to Wi-fi I watch soccer on my iPad while I eat. The sandwich is fine, it is new to the menu they tell me, it could use more salt or a savory sauce, but its not bad. I pay, then walk back to the hotel. I started to watch a documentary on Winston Churchill, but it was demanding too much thinking, will finish it later. So watched a couple of episodes of MASH, then went to bed, read a bit and lights out by about 8.00PM.

Memorable Winery Visits of 2014

A warm summer evening, a serendipitous encounter, a surprise birthday party, a missed release event, and some much needed winding down, each produced one of five memorable winery visits in 2014. One was in Woodinville in early summer, three were in Eastern Washington in August, and the last was Oregon in December.

Torii Mor Winery, from the Dundee Hills of Oregon, opened a tasting room in Woodinville, Washington in 2014; one of  the first Oregon producers with a tasting room in Washington. They bring excellent offerings of the Pinot Noirs that have made the Yamhill wine area famous to Washington, a bold move for sure.

A few weeks after opening they held a party, Washington club members, of which there are many, brought friends, and other folks to whom Torii Mor was unknown joined them. It was a simple affair that showcased why I am enamored with wineries – great wine and interesting people. We met new friends, even discovered that some old acquaintances were Torii Mor fans. The party was a success, and the evening memorable.

Visiting wineries while on business trips is one of the advantages of being theWinesketcher. August 2014 took me to Toppenish, Washington to teach communication and time management, the schedule was such that I had two half-days to explore the Rattlesnake Hills Wine region east of Yakima. My objective this day was Dineen Wines, I had met one of the owners while sketching at Bonair the day before and she invited me to stop by the tasting room. When I got there it was closed, but being in the mood for a glass of wine and my paints I set off exploring.

2014-09-14 16.47.23A mile or so down the road I spotted an easel-sign pointing up a gravel road through an apple orchard, Reflection Vineyards, and the tasting room was open. I spent an hour or so sketching while sipping their Viognier. I wrote a blog, you can read it here. Reflection Vineyards is one of our favorites these days.

Just days later my wife and I were on a trip to the Prosser area for my birthday. We planned to stop at Kestrel’s Prosser Tasting room to pick up a club shipment, and to have a picnic on their patio. We were just settling in by the fountain when our simple picnic turned into a surprise birthday party with the arrival of Brian and Anita, they made a special trip just to join us, they are great friends.

imageWhile I was traveling that month, Tricia attended a release event at Bunnell in Woodinville. She was so impressed that she took me back the next Friday. We had what amounted to a private tasting, in part because they forgot to turn the sign from closed to open until we were about done. The wine was amazing, the cheese and olives fit, and the conversation entertaining. The best part, they decided to show some of my artwork.

By the time Christmas is over each year I am tired and ready for quiet, and intimacy. Catching up with family and friends is fun, but draining, always lots of energy and emotion. We drove to Canby, Oregon to see my granddaughter and her new husband, exchanged presents, and had a spirited Nerf gun battle. Then Tricia and I headed for Ponzi. We had a club shipment to pick up, which was actually just a good excuse to have some Chardonnay and cheese. Their new tasting room is comfortable, with an amazing view; it was just what theWinesketcher needed to close out the year.

I am sure I have quoted my uncle Farquhar before, and probably will again but it fits this year. His opinion on pie was that, “It’s all good, but some’s just better than others.” Well most wines and wineries are good, but some’s just better than others.” For me in 2014 these are a few that stood out.

Tablas Woodstone Taverna

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The best part of Tablas Woodstone Taverna in Mill Creek, WA is the live Flamenco guitar. It is not a bad place, but as a frequent visitor to the sister restaurant, Dimetri’s in Edmonds, WA, I was expecting a lot more. We had a good experience, but based on our history with Dimetri’s and recommendations from Mill Creek locals it was not what I hoped for.

The Tablas decor seems a bit worn, sitting in the lounge you get the wonderful view of a messy bar, if you are going to have seating that allows patrons to see behind the bar then it is important to keep it meticulously clean, this was cluttered. The view toward the kitchen/server station was just as unappetizing  The food was good but then again not up to Dimetri’s quality, though I did enjoy the grilled sardines.

Most disappointing was the wine list, I know this is a Spanish theme, but please, we live in Washington, have at least something local on the list.

I loved the music, Flamenco is a weakness of mine, so that made it better, as did the bartender who was a pleasure.

In The Red Wine Bar

Thanks to Groupon we found a new place to hang out, In The Red Wine Bar. Located on Phinney Ridge in Seattle. They have a happy hour from 3-6 with small plates at prices from $5-8

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Think of sitting in a living room decorated with retro chairs and tables, a couple of overstuffed wingback in front of electric fireplaces.

Chad, the owner, escaped the corporate world of telecommunications to serve good food and wine at the only place of its kind in the area. Well worth checking out.

Souix Falls, nice evening

Made it to Souix Falls and had a great abbreviated seminar day one. Went to Old Chicago last night and hung out. Had the $2.99 happy hour pizza, what a surprise, not a frozen-pop-in kind of thing but made to order – anchovies and kalamata olives, it was great! They even had Belgian beer in proper glasses, interesting people to talk to made it a good evening.

Stayed at SpringHill Suites and am so impressed. One of the more comfortable rooms I have had in a long time. A bit higher price than some I stay in, $101, yet have to say it was worth it.

315 Tapas Bar in Idaho

This place is great, simply called “315”, check out their web page Sat on the deck, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, the only thing missing was my best travel buddy. That is the downside of traveling alone, some of the best places, but no one to share them with.

Oh and all this with a happy hour!!!!!

Downtown Oakland

Staying at Clarion in Oakland, really small rooms, no wifi, but used points so it was free and the location was good. Ate with Tricia last night at Scotts at Jack London Square. Buttonwood Sauvagion Blanc for only $4 and great appetizers. Nice place, in the old style, vested waiters, piano, a real class place, wonderful time.

Elevation 486, Twin Falls, ID



Elevations 486, (the 486 referes to the height in feet above the canyon) has to be one of the best places in a long time. Went there a couple of weeks ago, and with the happy hour menu had 2 IPA’s, a plate of wonderful shrimp, and a baked brie appatizer all for under $20. The view alone was worth at least that.