Bike Routes around the Pacific Northwest

A few months ago I bought a bike.   It has been about 7 years since I last owned a bike and that was a mountain bike used purely for weekend trailriding in Marin and for getting to and from school at Kellogg.

Although I have rented a bike many times in Seattle, owning is obviously much easier and a less cumbersome process.   As a result, we have been going nearly every weekend.  I’m going to start posting some of our favorite rides from the Seattle, Puget Sound, Portland, and Vancouver areas here.

1) Fremont to Red Hook Brewery/Woodinville wineries:

2) West Seattle/Alki Beach Loop:

72 hours eating and drinking in Seattle

I wrote a quick email for a friend the other week regarding places to eat and drink in Seattle while they were here for a weekend.   I figured I might as well capture it on the blog for easier reference (and updating) in the future.

Updated 11/13

1) First night depending on when you get in — dinner around where you are staying (in this case downtown).   Matt’s in the Market or Aragona (   Maybe drink after dinner at Alibi Room.

2) Friday — walk around the market in the morning pre-tourists, breakfast at Cafe Campagne or Fonte or Macrina (a little farther walk).    If you didnt do Matt’s in the Market, do it for lunch on Friday.   Catfish sandwich is great.   Friday night do Capitol Hill.   Dinner at Spinasse (make a reservation) and pre or post-drink at Artusi next door (they have great non-alcoholic drinks).  Or dinner at Zoe and drink after at Cannon or Tavern Law

3) Sat night — Ballard.   Dinner at Walrus and Carpenter (although check menu because they are heavy on shellfish), Staple and Fancy, or for maybe Bastille.   Drink at Percy and Company and walk up Ballard Avenue and maybe jump into Tractor Tavern for some live music or another place.

First trip to Austin – Memorial Day 2013

Given our love of music and food, Beth Ann and I had been talking about visiting Austin ever since we met, and unfortunately I had never made it down for SXSW.  So, when we saw that the Memorial Day weekend weather was going to be classic Seattle spring (read: rainy), we booked a last minute flight and hotel and went down for the long weekend.

Unfortunately when we got down there, we had brought the weather with us.   Our plane was met with the first rain in 60 days for Austin, and this was no ordinary rain.   It was a torrential downpour which forced the cab driver to go about 10 MPH….

We checked into the W Hotel in downtown, and we were upgraded to a River view suite which was an excellent surprise.    We then met one of Beth Ann’s friends and his wife at Swift’s Attic.   It was a fantastic place with great cocktails, funky décor, and great food.   From there we all decided to go see some live jazz at Elephant Room.  Elephant room is a cool, below ground jazz club with a good beer selection and wasn’t too crowded.

After a few beers there it was time to experience some Austin street food, and I finished the night with a Korean BBQ quesadilla at Chi’Lantro.   That was a treat and a perfect way to end the night — Caramelized kimchi, Bulgogi, cilantro, onion, Chi’Lantro salsa, magic sauce and sesame seeds.

The next day we woke up, and we headed immediately out on foot to the South Congress area to check out the area that was described by many as the coolest area of Austin.   We started with breakfast and bloody marys at South Congress Café which hit the spot – especially since we were able to somehow skip the 45 minute line (which seems to be the norm there).  We then spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the area, checked out a cool men’s shop called Stag where they give you beer as you browse, and then had a refreshment break from the heat at the Hotel San Jose.   The hotel is famous for its Michelada, and although I was not a fan due to the salt and soy combo, Beth Ann thoroughly enjoyed it!   We headed back to the W with the plan to hit the pool for a little bit of relaxation, but we were in for a surprise as the pool was going nuts due to the Wet and Wild Memorial Day bash and packed with an upscale version of the Jersey Shore crew.   Not exactly the atmosphere we were looking for, but it definitely provided some great entertainment value.    That night we had dinner at La Condesa which serves really good Mexican food in a fun atmosphere followed by a post-dinner snack at Barley Swine which was a culinary delight despite being located in the middle of nowhere.   We then walked to the Rainey Street area and had a phenomenal bar-crawl experience starting with Lustre Pearl (best bar there) and then going to Clive, Lucille, and Mum.   Rainey Street is a fun and vibrant place and the story of its inception is a super interesting one and Lustre Pearl is a cannot miss gem that made us hearken back to our college experiences (3rd edition tiki-bar during the summer specifically for me).  It is a shame but not suprising given the rapid growth in that area that Lustre Pearl is being forced out by a new high-end residential complex.

Sunday was the day for our BBQ expedition, and as everyone had told us prior to the trip, we had to get it at Franklins.   That turned out to be more of a challenge than we thought since we arrived at 9:15am (1.45 hours before opening) and immediately learned that we had missed the cut for guaranteed BBQ.   It blew our minds but we quickly hatched plan B thanks to a newly published article of the “50 best BBQ joints in Texas”.   photoWe hoofed it through “up-and-coming” neighborhoods to the next on the list – John Mueller Meat Co.   And were we in for a treat!    The atmosphere was great, they had a live band playing, free Lone Star beer and Bloody Marys, and best of all they still had BBQ.  And some fine BBQ it was.   We sampled the brisket, pork shoulder, turkey, and pork rib and inspired me to step my meat smoking game up a notch.   Here is some of their handiwork:


Although we weren’t fortunate enough to eat Franklins BBQ, we also didn’t have to wait in very hot and VERY boring line for 4 hours!   We headed back to the pool where we let the food digest and prepared for the favorite meal of the trip – Uchi.

We live in Seattle and get great sushi there but Uchi is definitely one of the best if not the best Japanese food experience that I have ever had.   If anyone reading this is going to Austin, either Uchi or Uchiko are must visits.   Just make sure you have a reservation.   The sushi is imported each day from Japan and is very good but the hot and cold dishes were the standouts.    After a meal like that, we felt like the only way to chase it was with some great live music and the Continental Club didn’t disappoint.

When we woke up Monday, we still hadn’t had enough bbq so we hit up Lamberts for some great (albeit higher class/higher priced) bbq.   Then, in the airport we finished with a pulled pork sandwich from Salt Lick in the airport!   What a city and what a great place to take a long weekend vacation.   We will be back soon.

Other Resources:

A friend of mine put together a cheat sheet of his Austin favorites and recommendations which was super helpful in the planning.  I uploaded it and put it here:  Austin Spots.   Here is a good NY Time Travel article.

An interesting Wired article — how they found Wired writer Evan Ratliff

In the latest Wired magazine, there was a fantastic article written by Evan Ratliff where he describes the process that he underwent to try to disappear for one month and hide from a series of electronic cyber-detectives.   Besides the gripping details of the manhunt, I was amazed by how much information people can find out about you online.
You can read the article here or in the December ’09 issue of Wired.

Great TV show – Expedition Great White on National Geographic channel

Just saw this show on the National Geographic channel this morning.   It was called Expedition Great White and it detailed the work of a scientist who was tagging Great White sharks off the coast of Guadalupe Island (150 miles off the coast of Baja) in order to track and study their movements in the future.
The only problem… in order to tag them they need to get them safely on the boat and then release them safely back into the wild.    If you like sharks, science, or fishing, this show is for you!

Willamette Wine weekend: another great weekend

One of the things that anyone who has ever blogged before knows is that it is like exercise…  once you stop it is hard to get started again.    I have had a ton of different things that I wanted to post, but the majority of them are longer entries and I haven’t had the time to sit down and write for an extended period of time.   I am going to make an extra effort over the next few weeks to write a few.

wiullamette_glasses As anyone who has read this blog before knows, I love wine and particularly Pacific Northwest wine.   Last year, Beth Ann and I organized a wine trip to Walla Walla and this year we wanted to do something different so we organized a trip to the Willamette Valley in Oregon.   Great Pinots in addition to a fantastic city – Portland – as home-base.   How could you go wrong?

It all started Friday afternoon.   After a quick 3 hour drive down to Portland, our first stop was a microbrew joint where we could warm up our taste buds with some of Oregon’s finest homebrews at Bailey’s Taproom.

hummerThe next morning we got up early and hit the road at around 9:30am in two 18 person white stretch hummers.    Is there any other way to transport 32 of your friends around to 6 Willamette wineries?    It was a beautiful bluebird day, and we started out at Argyle where we were set up at a few tables outside and proceeded to taste some nice white wines, a few different champagnes, and their Pinots.   It was a great start but I could tell that people were wondering if Willamette had the picturesque vineyards similar to Napa and Walla Walla.    Our next stop – Domaine Drouhin – was a good intro to the Willamette countryside.

domaine_drouhin       willamette_vines2

#2 on the wine trail was Domaine Drouhin and was it spectacular.   Not only were the views from the winery stunning, but the wine was tasty, and we were able to do our tasting in the bowels of the barrel room.    Among the 5-6 wines we tasted, my favorites were the 2005 Domaine Drouhin Laurene Pinot Noir and the Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet.   While they were clearly on the pricey side, I thought that they were worth the value and I ended up purchasing them both.

The 3rd stop was Sokol Blosser where we stopped for lunch and for some less expensive, everyday drinking wines.   I had pre-ordered sandwiches from Elephant’s Deli in Portland and they both hit the spot and perfectly complemented some seriously good value wines like the Meditrina red blend and the Evolution white blend.

After lunch, we were ready to step our game up a little bit and the next stop was a personal recommendation by my friend Greg Harrington of Gramercy Cellars in Walla Walla.    Carlton Winemaker Studios was the place.   Greg recommended Carlton because they make quality wines, but also because of the principles on which the studio was founded.   From the website:

The idea behind The Carlton Winemakers Studio was to create a space where artisanal wine producers could come together under one roof and have access to a state-of-the-art, gravity-driven, efficient facility which would not only produce, but also promote their ultra-premium wines: all this without the extremely high up-front cost of building individual production facilities.

The winery is not in the hills and thus not extremely picturesque, but it had a cool little patio where we sat in the sun and enjoyed the lovely afternoon while tasting wines from 6 of the ten different wineries.   My personal favorites:  Hamacher 2007 “H” Pinot Noir, the Andrew Rich Vintner 2007 Rousanne, and the Carlton Winemakers Studio 2007 Malbec.

willamette_vinesBy this time, we were falling behind on the itinerary, but we still had two wineries left and I didn’t want to miss out on either of them.   Willakenzie was next so we boarded the Hummers and headed back into the hills.   People were definitely starting to feel the effects of all of the wine, but that didn’t stop them from buying a few bottles of the H “for the road”.    Looking back on it, it was clear that we didn’t know what we were in for because when we arrived at Willakenzie, we saw that the tasting menu was 9 different wines.  Each of them was fantastic and the views of the vineyards were gorgeous (see pic on the left).   It might have been the wine, but I left with a bunch of new purchases including:   Pinot Gris, Pierre Leon Pinot Noir, and the Kiana Pinot Noir.

medici_2The final winery was a special one for me because it is owned by the family of one of my brother’s best friends from college – Mike Medici.    His grandfather, Hal Medici, started Medici Vineyards in 1976, and it is one of the oldest vineyards in Willamette.   Wow, were we lucky.    Hal was there and he not only did he give us a personal tasting but he gave us a tour of his facilities where Medici’s winemaker – Peter Rosback – also makes Sineann, a Oregon cult wine.   Hearing his passion for wine, entrepreneurship, and family brought tears to everyones’ eyes, and we left feeling like some of the luckiest people to have gotten such an intimate glimpse into his life.   Plus, we tasted some amazing wine.   If you can get your hands on Medici and/or Sineann wines (they are hard to find), definitely pick some up and consider yourself lucky.

The ride home after the wine tour was a sight to behold.   Lots of people napping in preparation for a 5 course pre-fixe meal at Andina.   The food at Andina was delicious, filling, and for $60 per person very reasonable.    It was the perfect place for group dining, and it looked like it would have been just as good if not better with a smaller group as well.

image While some people went back to the hotel to pass out after dinner, I wanted to get the full Portland experience so we went to the Doug Fir and sat around a fantastic outdoor firepit and recapped the hilarious stories and events of the day.   Too much fun…

All in all, a great weekend of good wine, good food, and good friends.    The only issue is going to be finding a place to top it for next year’s wine trip!

For anyone planning a trip to Willamette, you can see our full itinerary  here (thanks to our insane trip planner/advisor Beth Ann) or by clicking on the SkyDrive image to the right.   Let me know if you have any questions though.

UPDATE 11/2012

We have taken a few other trips to Willamette and here is another great itinerary that we put together for smaller groups of people:

Just another site


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