Saturday, October 28, 2006

Wassup in Walla Walla

Just spent a couple of days in Walla Walla at a family event and got to check out some of the local flavor. First up was a personal tour of Walla Walla Vintners with Meagan, the daughter of founder Myles Anderson, and an up-and-coming winemaker in her own right. We tasted through their very fine wines, then went into the back and tasted three single-vineyard cabs right out of the barrel. It's a striking example of the same grape from three different vineyards in the same region and aged in the same kind of oak barrel can have a subtle but discernable individuality.

Since I'd been complaining about being hungry since Meagan picked me up, after our tour she suggested stopping for tacos at Walla Walla's secret foodie hangout, Taqueria Yungapeti, which sits just outside downtown on a busy thoroughfare. We walked into what looked like a former fast food outlet that had been transformed with a little paint into a cheerful taco stand with the ubiquitous horchata and tamarindo drink coolers whirling away on the counter. We ordered a sampling of several different tacos, and I can say without hesitation that it would give our favorite taqueria here in Portland (La Sirenita on Alberta) a run for it's money. Fresh corn tortillas, great salsas, well seasoned meats and a fine fish taco make this a place to seek out.

Then there's the local chocolate maker, Bright's Candies, who've been making their own chocolate confections since 1934. It's in a charming, old-fashioned and very original storefront right on the main street downtown. And if you think we got out of there without sampling their wares, I'd have to say, "Get real!"

And then my personal favorite stop, New York, Walla Walla's authentic small-town western outfitter's, where you can buy your Wrangler rodeo jeans, spangly blouse and, my choice, a beautiful pair of boots that will go oh-so-fabulously with skirts, jeans, etc. The truth is, I've been wanting a pair for years and haven't wanted to go into a city store where they'll charge $350 for a pair that would stand up to a real horse for about, oh, 30 seconds. I told the guy these had to stand up to scrutiny by my cattle-ranching relatives, and I didn't want any laughing or pointing at my expense. He guaranteed these were the genuine article, so this was the perfect opportunity, and well worth the trip!

Next time we're in the area, my uncle has promised a tour of all 100-plus wineries, which should be an interesting experience, and I'm anxious to try out two restaurants I've heard about but didn't get to on this trip, 26 Brix and Whitehouse-Crawford, the latter being located in an old wood planing mill and having nothing to do with our current president and his Texas ranch. I asked.

Details: Walla Walla Vintners, 225 Vineyard Lane; Phone 509-525-4724. Taqueria Yungapeti, 320 S. 9th Ave.; Phone 509-526-9494. Bright's Candies, 11 E. Main; Phone 509-525-5533. New York Store Western Outfitters,2254 E. Isaacs Ave.; Phone 509-529-3600.

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