Wednesday, June 27, 2012

George's Bakery

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookie
George's Bakery, $1

A disc of buttery shortbread and a dollop of fudgy icing:  sweet, simple, and satisfying out of all proportion to its size.  The same could be said for just about anything from George's Bakery.  

Founder George Marcis was born in Greece in 1933 and immigrated to the US as a teenager; he learned English while studying at Seattle's Broadway Technical School.  In 1964 Macris and his wife Jean opened their bakery on the main street in North Bend, a small mountain town in the Olympic mountains east of Seattle.  

Until the 1978 bypass, Interstate 90 ran past the front door, delivering hungry skiers and hikers to and from the mountains.  Macris' work day started at 3am, and one North Bend resident described seeing him work "like a buzzard" to keep his cases stocked with fresh baked goods:  cracked wheat, cinnamon nut, and rye bread, danishes, doughnuts, cinnamon twists, peaked "Mount Si" loaves, and boozy rum balls.  When there weren't enough chairs to go around, patrons would happily sit on the floor with their pastries and coffee.

The Macrises commuted into Seattle to attend the St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, and George's Bakery played an active role in producing goods for the annual fundraiser bazaars; in the days before an event, the bakery would host a revolving army of volunteer bakers, trying their best to meet the public's lucrative demand for specialty breads and pastries.  
Macris retired in 1993, selling the business to Greg and Cornelia Cordova.  In 2008 the business passed to current owners Kathleen Stokesbury and Joe McKeown, a third-generation baker from Pittsburgh who had previously run Seattle's Greenwood Bakery.  By all accounts, they've done little to change the formula that made George's Bakery a neighborhood hub:  the decor is still comfortably kitschy, the cases are still filled with familiar favorites. 
Macris passed away in 2008 at the age of 70; North Bend's mayor honored him with a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award, citing his unwavering support for community members and events. 

George's Bakery
127 W North Bend Way  
North Bend, WA


Other North Bend sources of notable sweets include Twedes's (below left), home of the "damn fine" cherry pie immortalized in David Lynch's Twin Peaks, and Scott's Dairy Freeze (below right), home of some damn sweet signage.   

Monday, June 25, 2012

Boehms Chocolates

Cherry Cordial (left)
Motzartkugel (right)
Boehms Candies

Calling all producers of romantic biopics:  wake up, smell the chocolate, and give the late Julius Boehm the big-screen treatment he so richly deserves!

Born in 1897, Boehm was a Swiss-Austrian who represented Austria in the 1924 Paris Olympics and was a torch-carrier in 1936--the same year he fled the Nazi invasion by skiing over the Alps to Switzerland.  Boehm eventually immigrated to the US and arrived in the Pacific Northwest in 1941.  

As if all that weren't epic enough, Boehm was also the grandson of a confectioner, from whom he learned a thing or two about treats.  In 1934 he and a friend opened the Candy Kitchen in Ravenna, a quiet residential neighborhood on the north side of Seattle.  In 1956, Boehm moved his business to Issaquah, where the surrounding Cascade range recalled the mountains of his childhood.  Next to the shop he built a replica 12th century Alpine Chapel, dedicated to the memory of lost mountaineers.  Boehm himself was one of the lucky ones, safely summiting Mt. Rainier for the third time at the age of 80, just three years before his death in 1981.  

The business Boehm built thrives to this day, cranking out an enormous variety of filled and flavored chocolates.  For the cherry cordials, ripe cherries are soaked in brandy for nearly a month, then double-dipped in milk or dark chocolate.  Mozartkugeln are Boehms' signature sweet, a dollop of soft marzipan blanketed in creamy chocolate ganache, encased in a chocolate shell, and dressed in foil imprinted with Mozart's silhouette.   Honoring the centennial of the composer's death, the Mozartkugel was invented in Salzburg in 1890 by one of Julius Boehms' ancestors, and could itself be the subject of a pretty gripping movie; the confection was a fad that has since become a classic--and the subject of lawsuits, industrial innovation, and consumer obsession.  
255 NE Gilman Blvd
Issaquah, WA

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Triple XXX Rootbeer

Triple XXX, from $2.75

Although "root beer" is catchier, "root-bark-herb-and-berry beer" would be more accurate; the first commercial recipe, launched by pharmacist Chester Hires at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, called for more than 25 different flavorings. 

Just after the turn of the century, the Galveston Brewing Company introduced a range of "XXX" soft-drink syrups, including ginger ale and root beer.  During Prohibition, Galveston supplied its syrups to more than 100 licensed franchises around the country.  Among them was Renton's Triple XXX Rootbeer, the first drive-in restaurant in the Pacific Northwest when it opened in 1930.  

The Issaquah branch--in its current location since 1969--and one in Indiana are the only surviving outposts of the XXX empire, but only the Indiana restaurant still uses the original XXX syrup; the Issaquah XXX sources its syrup from Coca-Cola, which uses a 1930s recipe.  

Although Triple XXX is no longer a drive-in, the parking lot is often lined with classic cars, whose owners gather at the restaurant for monthly shows and swapmeets.  Customers head indoors to order--and to ogle the accumulation of vintage memorabilia that clings to every wall and surface.  The root beer comes in "regular" or "supersize" glass mugs covered in velvety frost; it can also be ordered without ice, for an additional charge.  And of course there are root beer floats, made using Darigold ice cream.  

Triple XXX
425 NE Gilman Blvd,
Issaquah WA

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Chimacum Cafe

Chocolate Cream Pie
Chimacum Cafe, $3.22

The "prize-winning" pie at this vintage diner just about swamped me in waves of nostalgia. The chocolate cream pie, to an eerie degree, was just like my grade school cafeteria used to make: a blind-baked pie shell filled to the brim with instant chocolate pudding and topped with whipped cream and a few chocolate chips.  I've certainly had more adventurous or flavorful pies, but this wins my prize for affordably priced time travel.

Chimacum Cafe
9253 Rhody Drive
Chimacum, WA 98325

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Don's Pharmacy

Don's Pharmacy Soda Fountain 
Cherry Lime Phosphate (above)
Chocolate Milkshake (below)

Head past the world-class soap selection, gardening tools, and racks of novelty greeting cards to the back of Don's Pharmacy and you'll find a soda fountain installed in 1962 and untouched by the intervening years.  Seating is at your choice of booth or counter stool; service is quick and sassy--but completely genuine, like a sharp-tongued big sister rather than a gum-smacking, beehived retro cliche.  
The waitress is happy to explain some of the menu's more archaic items ("Brown Cow" is a Coke float, "Green River" is a lime soda) and to make recommendations.  She makes milkshakes (below) as thick as spackle from milk and hard-packed ice cream, with an entire second shake in reserve in the mixing cup.  

You can also get a made-to-order phosphate, a tart relic from soda's early days.  Although pharmacists initially introduced soda fountains as a way of making medicine more palatable (see my earlier post on the 1850s soda fountain at New Orleans' Pharmacy Museum) the public soon developed a taste for sweet syrup and fizzy water, minus the medicine.  The addition of phosphoric acid to drinks created a puckery sourness that found many fans; phosphates were a popular and prominent soda fountain offering from the late 19th century through the 1930s.  

Today many so-called phosphates, including those served at Don's, are made with citric acid rather than the harder-to-get phosphoric.  Although the citric acid gave my cherry-lime faux phosphate a deliciously sharp edge (waitress:  "Like drinking a sour patch kid!"), phosphoric acid aficionados claim that nothing matches the experience of genuine article.  

Don's Pharmacy Soda Fountain
1151 Water Street
Port Townsend, WA

1151 Water StWA 98368
(360) 385-0969

Monday, June 4, 2012

Better Living Through Coffee

Peanut Butter Cookie
Better Living Through Coffee, $2.25

Seemingly stapled onto the backside of a building that fronts historic Water Street, Better Living Through Coffee juts out over the narrow beach and hogs one of Port Townsend's most mesmerizing views.  The light bouncing off the water gives the coffee shop's single room a hazy quality that underlines the vintage feel; not much about the wood-framed room would raise the eyebrows of an 1960s hippie--or even an 1860s settler.  

BLTC specializes in "Organic Fair-Trade Coffee & Nutrient Dense Food."  The coffee is locally roasted and dripped-to-order in a rack of standing filters.  The baked goods are made with organic ingredients and unrefined sweeteners, and some, like this light and melty peanut butter cookie, are also vegan and gluten-free.

Better Living Through Coffee
100 Tyler Street  
Port Townsend, WA

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Courtyard Cafe

Cinnamon Roll
Courtyard Cafe

A family-run restaurant in a old house just off the waterfront, Port Townsend's Courtyard Cafe radiates at least a dozen kinds of warmth.  Although no one actually lives in the canary-yellow building, it has a lived-in hospitality that makes customers feel thoroughly welcome, with comfortably worn furniture, mismatched china, hand-me-down newspapers, and local musicians jamming in the living room.  When the couple behind the counter flirtatiously pelt each other with croutons, it's easy to imagine that you're just a friend of the family, dropping by for brunch.  

The sweet treats include hearty pastries, rustic fruit pies, meal-sized desserts, and hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows toasted tableside with a creme brûlée torch.  Owner Will makes the cinnamon rolls himself and takes great pride in the rapidity with which he goes through sacks of cinnamon; the spice is used so generously that it forms a distinct layer, side by side with the buttery pastry.  

The day-old baked goods are a steal at around $2 for a huge bag; Will's wife Heidi says the cinnamon loaf makes fantastic French toast.  Closed on Tuesdays, the Courtyard Cafe donates Monday-night leftovers to the Port Townsend Food Bank, another sign of this small business' big heart.  

230 Quincy Street
Port Townsend, WA

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Countryside Donut

Maple Bar and Old-Fashioned
Countryside Donut, $.85 each

For a donut-maker to hand over your order packed in a brown paper bag is a bit of a gamble. Will you make it out the door before fryer grease mottles the bag with disfiguring stains? Will you be down the block before the bag corrodes into oily pulp?

Or, if you've stopped by Countryside Donut on the way to the Edmonds ferry, will you get most of the way across Puget Sound before even a hint of oil stipples your to-go bag?

Husband-and-wife team Sokgim Lim and Youkhun Taing (below, left) came to the US as refugees from Cambodia, with a young family and no resources. After years of saving, planning, and looking for opportunities, they bought the Countryside Donut House, a new business in a small Mountlake Terrace strip mall. Absolutely the only thing they knew about donuts was Americans really like them.

Twenty-five years later, they know a whole lot more. The first months were rocky; the Taings lost customers and trashed unsatisfactory batches as they struggled to master the unfamiliar process. But being self-taught turned out to be a huge asset, with the Taings developing their own techniques that make their ordinary offerings (fritters, old-fashioned, glazed, etc) extraordinarily light and flavorful.

In addition to being not at all greasy, the old-fashioneds (above, front) combine crisp edges and a cakey center, while the maple bars (above, back, and below right) are airy and delicate, made with a slightly tangy dough and a mildly sweet glaze.

Countryside Donut House
21919 66th Ave W #1
Mountlake Terrace, WA