Hi, I’m back. 5100 miles of driving from Nebraska to Oregon and back, via Black Hills, Devils Tower, the Columbia gorge, Yellowstone and the Bighorn Mountains. Tiring but beautiful country especially at this time of year when everything is very green. Higher than usual snow in the mountains and suddenly warm days made for some very high water in all the rivers. And we got sick of bison. We first encountered them in Custer State Park in South Dakota. They ignore cars and stand in the highway as long as they like. It took an hour to go just a few miles. But it was worse in Yellowstone as the humans now had to admire the bison and so it was human traffic jams on top of large animals in the road. But I suppose we deserve some payback from them since we consumed some of their cousins as well as some elk.
But we had a real surprise in Walla Walla, Washington. I haven’t been there for at least 50 years and so didn’t remember anything. Walla Walla was not one of our planned destinations, just a midway point between Sandy Oregon and Boise Idaho. So we were surprised to see the profusion of wineries, at least 40 in the valley. Being from California naturally I can’t imagine wine in a cold state but the Walla Walla valley has mild weather so all types of fine grapes can grow there but it seems Syrah is what does the best.
But the real find was a restaurant, Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen. Often any region that has wineries will also attract interesting restaurants and there were several in Walla Walla. We chose this one because it had some menu items typical of Spain (as well as other parts of the Mediterranean). Here’s their menu, easy to read (at least for me as it’s in English, but with a few terms from Spain. On all this trip we tended to get too much food, which we then hate wasting (or accumulating as new fat) so my initial choice of patatas bravas gave way to wood grilled octopus instead. While patatas bravas is a fairly simple dish it is quite tricky to get the crunch just right so I wanted to see if Saffron could do it right. But my wife wanted the octopus and, actually, I’ve mostly avoided it but as it’s common in Spain decided to try. It was delicious. My main course was the Green Garlic Pappardelle and it was terrific, great lamb so while not particularly a dish from Spain at least a common ingredient used there. I’ll have to find out some day how Walla Walla compares to some comparable restaurant along the Camino, but for now this is the closest I’m getting to Spain.
While I didn’t get my patatas bravas I did get a great potato fix at Boise Fry, a place that says it serves burgers as a “side” to their fries. Being Idaho naturally the potatoes we saw growing in vast fields end up as a specialty item. I had a special that day (unfortunately I forget its name) that ended up with the second frying of my hand cut fries in duck fat. Talk about crisp. More sauces to try than I’ve seen anywhere else. We toured the Basque Market (a couple of blocks with Basque flags everywhere) but had already eaten so we didn’t get a chance to try more Spanish food there.
And I have to give a shout-out to Mama Inez in Pocatello Idaho where my wife, an aficionado of chile rellenos said she had the best she’d ever had. And a shout-out too for Sanfords Grub and Pub in Spearfish South Dakota, really funky but delicious. So good we timed our day’s drive to stop there on the way back after discovering it on the way west. So definitely some good eats on this trip.
And now back to the heat and humidity of Nebraska (after refreshing mountain weather on most of our trip) and the daily routine.