Monday, May 9, 2011

Traveling mercies...Eating mercies...

In preparing for a road trip there is always one vital thing to take care of before making a packing list, reserving a hotel room, or checking the weather forecast. This one necessary action could make or break a vacation. Obviously, researching eateries and formulating a culinary plan of action is what I am speaking of! Doesn't everyone do this as soon as an idea for a trip is conceived??

Okay Okay. Perhaps I am in the minority on this issue.
But travel with me and you are sure to eat well...

Jordan recently fell in love...with a guitar in Spokane. This gave us a wonderful excuse to get away together for a weekend in the 2nd largest city in Washington. Living in Big Sky Country is a dream, but this city girl was itching for a temporary taste of urban influence.

Upon researching Spokane, it came to mind that maybe...just maybe...there might be one of our "favorites" from Nashville in the city. I slowly typed "Maggie Moo's" into my Google search box with the hopes of a child anticipating Christmas morning. Back in the south, we were regulars at the treatery to get our fix of rich red velvet ice cream with brownies mixed in or creamy blueberry muffin batter ice cream with chunky walnuts. Alas, the ONLY Maggie Moo's in the entire state of Washington is in SPOKANE!! Take THAT, Seattle!!

The heartbreaking, or humorous...(however you want to look at it)...part of our story is that this particular Maggie Moo's only makes those two flavors seasonally. And apparently, we were there out of season. I may or may not have called the store to see if they would accept special flavor requests, but apparently they want me to have to plan another trip to Spokane this summer and then again around Valentine's Day...

Fear not...I had backups ready. I had found a trendy little place called FroYo Earth that I was interested in trying. Frozen yogurt seems to be all the rage in bigger cities...last time we were in Nashville, 4 or 5 new shops had opened up!

FroYo Earth was completely self-serve which is BRILLIANT!! The business saves money on employees because guess who does the work? WE DO!

There were 10 different flavors of yogurt on the back wall with dispensers allowing one to swirl flavors together if desired. Thimble-sized "tasting" cups were provided so that customers could sample until they found the perfect flavors. This sampling policy could get a girl in trouble...

I decided on bluebery acai, cake batter, and tart (basically a classic plain yogurt) flavors. The next step in the process was the ENDLESS self-serve toppings bar. Nuts of all kinds, granola, fresh fruit, gummies, candies, chocolates, pie filling, cheesecake, cookie dough, caramel, marshmallow creme, cereals...even sweetened condensed milk!! Again, this situation gets a girl in trouble. Please don't judge my overflowing cup of goodness...

Our first morning invited a culinary adventure we did not expect. After sleeping in a bit that Saturday, Jordan and I did something we NEVER get to do...go to BREAKFAST together! Jobs and schedules just don't allow this luxury, so our walk along the river into the city center of Spokane knowing that a good meal was in our near future was a treat!

Such a simple name for such an extraordinary place.

Jordan claims that this establishment caused him to become an "official foodie". We even had a celebration for his graduation to foodie-hood! I saw the immediate change in him...the sparkle in his eye with that first bite of apple cake French toast, the sigh that followed a swallow of thick-cut honey pepper bacon, the quick glances of curiosity each time a server walked by with a different dish, the grin on his face upon his return from going back to the KITCHEN to personally COMPLIMENT the cooks!! My husband was a change man from this morning forward...

And this is the cause...
Two dishes to share was perfect:
Apple cake French toast with maple pecan butter and caramel / Roasted asparagus, mushroom, onion, zucchini omelette / Garlic roasted red potatoes / Buttered toast

Ethiopia may not seem like a culinary destination, and it probably isn't. However, when an opportunity arises to taste something completely foreign to me, I seize it!

I discovered an Ethiopian restaurant in Spokane owned by natives of the country and thought it would be worth a try. Dinner at Queen of Sheeba was on our itinerary for the weekend and we were excited!

We learned that traditional dishes are served on one big round of injera - a flat bread made out of "teff". Teff is a grain that has more absorbable calcium than MILK and is richer in iron than liver!! Who knew!! The injera itself is similar to a pita/tortilla, but a bit spongy in texture and tart in taste. The flat bread is used to scoop up bits of the meat and vegetable dishes making utensils unnecessary. And who doesn't like eating with their hands?!

It was not a meal I would want to eat everyday, but it really was tasty! The experience of learning first-hand about an unfamiliar culture was what made it special, and I am so glad that we tried it.
Our meal included garlic collard greens, red lentils, steak with spices, ground beef in curry sauce, chicken slowly simmered in turmeric & cumin, and the traditional boiled eggs.

Funny know that guitar that had caught Jordan's eye? Well, a completely DIFFERENT guitar won his heart on our FIRST trip to Spokane. That's right, he found an even crazier deal that fit his taste and his purposes better. The only problem: it wasn't available for another 3 weeks! Oh well, another excuse for a weekend away, right?!

The second trip to Spokane just happened to be during the weekend of the BLOOMSDAY run. In layman's terms, this meant 60,000 participants taking over the city for 3 days. And we wondered why in the world we couldn't find an available hotel room...

Due to the masses of carb-loading runners downtown, Jordan and I decided to dine a little off the beaten path. This helped us avoid restaurants full of excitable travelers shouting encouraging phrases across the room to each other, comparing pedometers and sweatbands, or displaying recent injuries from the LAST run they finished. With 60,000 of them, they also might have already eaten all the food....

We found ourselves at a, (dare I say it?), restaurant CHAIN!! That was almost painful to type.
Chili's was our best option. I have to admit that it does hold a special place in my heart. My FIRST meal in America after a semester abroad in Spain was at a Chili's in an airport. I had never tasted better chips and salsa...true story...

On our second trip to the city, we thought it only appropriate to get frozen yogurt again...since there is no good place in Missoula to get it. We ended up at DIDIER'S. It was a cute little mom & pop storefront with friendly service and a hometown feel. This frozen yogurt shop was not self-serve, and the three young ladies working there truly did SERVE. They were great! What a fun late night treat!

I opted for white chocolate almond yogurt with chocolate covered graham crackers. DIDIER'S was VERY reasonable...just $2.49 for almost more than I could handle. :)

One question: Should we join a support group???
Somehow, we ended up back at MADELEINE'S for breakfast for the THIRD time in ONE month! It's just beyond me how that could have happened!

Whatever that force was, however, I am truly grateful for it.
For round three, we again shared the apple cake French toast because you CAN'T NOT order it!! Only this time we also split the corned beef hash...good quality corned beef with red potatoes, asparagus, peppers, onions, and fried eggs.

On our way out of Spokane, we took a detour to Green Bluff, Washington through gorgeous farmland to TREZZI FARM & WINERY. Here we feasted our eyes upon endless green fields and soft blue skies. And then, we just feasted...

Davide, (a Milan, Italy native), and his wife, Stephanie own this vineyard/event venue/catering business. And they do a fine job at all they do!

Jordan and I partook in a food & wine pairing on our visit. $3 gets you a tasting of Trezzi's Barbera red and their chardonnay, as well as a signature dish. On this particular Saturday, Davide had prepared baked polenta with marinara & mozzarella. And this Italian's idea of a "food tasting" was to keep urging us to go back and eat MORE! I like his style.

If you ever have the chance, stop by the farm for a tasting!! Davide is passionate about his cooking, (which he does ALL himself!), and doing what he LOVES. And that is most important. I think we all should be influenced by that attitude. The Trezzi couple will make you laugh, teach you something new, and inspire a fresh love of life during your time with them. They will also feed you well...
Happy Travels!!

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