Pacific NW: Efeste & exploring Bellevue

Our only wine tasting for the day was EFESTĒ to pick up our semi-annual allotment and try out some additional wines. Since it was Monday, we were the only people in the tasting room which meant a relaxed and casual tasting experience.

Working our way south, we stopped at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens which is a lovely (& free!) garden just east of downtown Bellevue. Volunteers were setting up the lights for the holiday festival so we got a sneak peek at what that is going to look like. There is a good mix of garden space and natural trail here and we will definitely be back during a different time of year.

holiday lights going up @ Bellevue Botanical Garden

Bellevue Botanical Garden

Bellevue Botanical Garden  Bellevue Botanical Garden

Finally hungry again, we stopped at Din Tai Fung and stuffed ourselves with xiaolongbao soup dumplings! We ordered 2 10-piece trays to start and then a third. So good.

xiaolongbao @ Din Tai Fung

With our parking validated for three hours, we had time to walk down the street to check out the Purple Cafe & Wine Bar for a glass of wine. We were hoping to meet another friend of mine from high school but he was swamped at work, so we stuck with one glass each and then entered rush hour traffic to get to our friend’s place in Burien.

We hung out with Jake and the dogs for a bit before grabbing a light dinner at The Point. I had the ahi sashimi appetizer and Eric went straight for dessert with the skillet cookie; we both had a local dark cider.

Pacific NW: Woodinville Wineries and hanging with friends

After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel we met my friend Barb (from high school) & her husband, Jon at Davenport Cellars at noon. Phil was our wine pourer and he definitely opened up a bit when we started talking about travel and discovered we both love one of the same wineries in
the Willamette Valley (Arborbrook!).

outtake of a photo with a friend from high schoolOur next stop was a two minute walk away – J&A Winery, one of our favorites from our visit two years ago. We got there just as Dick (the winemaker) was opening the doors and hung out for a bit while he got the tasting room ready. Once again, our tasting here was memorable. Eric loved nearly all of the whites and while I was less excited about the Bourdeaux-style blends, the rose and tempranillo were delicious. We put together a case and had him package it up for us in a shipper. If we lived near this winery it would be dangerous!

At this point we needed food, so we all decided on a burger place, Tipsy Cow. Great choice! Happy hour was from 3-6pm which meant $2 off selected bar snacks. I had the Silver City Fat Scotch Ale and Eric ordered the Crooked Belgian Wit from Two Beers Brewing. To eat, we split
the Pig Tails (panko-breaded pork shoulder, fried and served with BBQ Sauce), and an order of plain and truffle fries. Everything was filling (the fry plate was enormous) and tasty.

We had time for one more beer before meeting another set of friends for dinner, so we stopped at Hellbent Brewing. My winter ale was just okay but Eric liked the guest tap sour. The space is nice with an industrial feel and lots of seating along with comfy couches.

Parting ways with Barb & Jon, we met our friend’s Mark and Marie at their house in Shoreline. They had ordered take-out pizza, so dinner was a relaxed affair. Eric caught up with the adults while I learned how to play Pokemon with the kids. :)

Pacific NW: Willamette Valley, day 2

We met our friend from college, Nate Wall, at Day Wines for a tasting and tour. Got to try a bunch of different wines and have a great conversation about wine making methods.

orange wine @ Day Camp  gourds!

Our next destination was Sweet Oregon Berry Co, for their delicious hand pies. Eric got raspberry and I tried the seasonal pumpkin hand pie, and both were great. Our timing was good too, as this was the last weekend they would be open for the season!

Re-fortified we continued to Carlton to visit Cana’s Feast, a winery that had caught our eye on the 2016 trip with some unusual white and red varietals. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any whites open for tasting, only one rose and several reds. My favorites were the “Rhone” style wines, the Syrah and Joie de Vivre. Eric wound up buying a bottle of the Arneis white we wanted to try as well. As a side note, they have a big patio that is quite inviting.

Cana's Feast tasting room

On our way to the Argyle tasting, we passed by the new Dominio IV tasting room and stopped in to search out my favorite tempranillo, the Technicolor Bat. They didn’t have any in stock but we picked up a 2015 Viognier and a 2011 Tempranillo that was drinking well, according to the wine manager.

The last stop of the day was our members tasting at Argyle.  We were greeted at the door with a sparkling rose and once the group was assembled, our host Tim led to the Spirit House tasting room where we tried the 2014 Argyle Vintage Brut, 2007 Argyle Extended Tirage Brut (Eric’s fave), 2015 Argyle Riesling Spirithouse, 2015 Argyle Pinot Noir Nuthouse and the 2015 Argyle Pinot Noir Cowhouse. After the tasting we got a tour of the facilities, including the RD bubbles and magnums. All in all, a great member’s tasting experience and awesome perk for being a wine club member.

member's tasting @ Argyle

Argyle Winery

We headed back to the hotel room and watched the sunset with a glass of wine on the back lawn before heading to Dundee Bistro for dinner. I enjoyed a half dozen of oysters and an olive pizza with a De Ponte Melon de Borgonoune, while Eric ordered the butter lettuce salad and a margherita pizza alongside an apricot ale.

After another full day we went back to the room to watch Stranger Things season 2. :)

Pacific NW 2017: Willamette Valley, day 1

Our flight into Seattle landed at 10pm, so fortunately our friends Dave and Jake who offered to host us for the night live just a few minutes from the airport. Of course we stayed up talking and hanging out with them and their three crazy dogs for a while.

filling breakfast @ Shelly'sThankfully we were able to sleep in until 9am. After a quick re-pack of the car we headed to a filling breakfast at Shelly’s, where I had a salmon benedict and Eric had an omelet with huge chunks of ham and crispy potatoes. My benedict had WAY too much hollandaise sauce but was otherwise good and the coffee was solid.

Completely stuffed we started the drive south through Tacoma, Olympia, and Portland – took a little over 3 hours – not bad! About halfway the clouds suddenly parted and we had beautiful blue skies and sunshine for the rest of the trip.

We had a 3pm appointment for tasting at Erath, and with an hour to kill we wanted to try another nearby winery. Unfortunately our first choice was closed so we decided on Hyland Estates. They are located behind our B&B so we first checked in and dropped off our luggage, hoping to find a tasting card and sure enough! Complimentary tasting for 2 plus 10% off a purchase when buying a single vineyard pinot noir.

Our tasting with Paulina at Hyland Estates was very nice. We arrived at the same time as an older couple so we all did the tasting together. She was very knowledgable about the wines and I had no trouble understanding her even with her French accent. We tried a Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, their standard Pinot Noir and two single vineyard Pinot Noirs, Clone 117 and Coury Clone. Our favorites were the Gewürztraminer and the Clone 117. We overheard the manager tell another group that the Gewürztraminer was buy two get one free so we got the same deal plus a bottle of Pinot. Came out to be $100 with the B&B discount.

Only five minutes away, our next stop was Erath, one of our favorite places in the valley, and where we have been wine club members for years. Dixie was our entertaining server and we chose to sit out on the patio while she brought us wine after wine in a very relaxed experience. She also mentioned that their penny shipping deal was still going on (!!!) so we selected two cases to have shipped home to us in NC. My only complaint was snacks were not offered (except off the paid menu) – as our last few member tastings came with a small cheese plate. We didn’t ask after it and it wasn’t a big deal.

yellow vines @ Erath

For dinner we chose to walk to the Babica Hen Cafe. Less than a five minute walk from our B&B, it was fine in daylight but a bit tricky after dark  as there are no sidewalks. Dinner started out a bit bumpy as a few of the beers on the menu weren’t available,  but after a few false starts Eric ended up with a tasty Pale Ale and I found a Pelican Export Stout (not listed on the menu) that was very good. I had the Mad Beaver burger with horseradish aioli, crispy onions and blue cheese (cooked perfectly medium) and Eric had the Texas pulled pork sandwich with fried jalapenos, both with curly fries. Everything was delicious.

After a full day we retired to our room to enjoy some of the Hyland Gewürztraminer and plan our Friday.

Paris 2017: picnic in Luxembourg Gardens

After visiting the Musée de l’Orangerie and several other sights on Sunday, we took the metro down to the Saint Germain area and picked up picnic supplies for a relaxing lunch in the Luxembourg Gardens.

and a ham and cheese baguette...  buying champagne...  

We chose a bottle of chilled champagne from La Dernière Goutte, a ham & cheese baguette from Cul de Cochon, and a chocolate tart topped with gold leaf from Gérard Mulot. I had saved nice plastic cups from our first hotel, so we had vessels for the bubbly.

pouring champagne in the park

champagne and a chocolate tart

A big band was playing in the pavilion and the people watching in the park was very entertaining. Once we finished our picnic, we wandered the grounds, enjoying the landscaping and watching families sail their rented boats in the small lake in front of the palace.

Luxembourg Gardens

Luxembourg Gardens

If the weather is good you will not be the only people here on a weekend, but I highly recommend a trip here regardless.

Paris 2017: sights

On this trip we spent a lot of time inside the major museums and a palace, which will have their own posts. In between we wandered around the city enjoying the many Parisian sights, taking full advantage of our metro card.

Notre Dame
Notre Dame near sunset

Pont de Invalides
Pont de Invalides (bridge over the Seine)

Eiffel Tower  Eiffel Tower
we visited the Eiffel Tower twice, for late afternoon and evening photos

Sacré-Cœur interior  Sacré-Cœur
Sacré-Cœur was fine for a quick visit, the views of Paris are expansive but you can’t see the Eiffel Tower clearly from the city viewing point

Moulin Rouge
Moulin Rouge

Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe, 12 (!!!) streets meet at this huge traffic circle

Av. des Champs-Élysées
, complete with guys renting luxury vehicles by the hour

Canal Saint-Martin
Canal Saint-Martin

bubble hair  admiring the art
the street art scene was strong along Canal Saint-Martin

20 years later…

Eric and I are celebrating twenty years as a couple today. In 7,305 days we have visited 40+ countries, bought a house, started a business, raised two dogs, and most importantly, fallen in love again and again. Happy anniversary Eric!

I wrote about our ten year anniversary here, and below is our official engagement photo, taken in 2000. :D