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30 December 2015

Tonight's Episode: Wood-Fired Bavarian Alps in Western Washington

Over the Thanksgiving weekend The Girl and I decided to head to Bavaria for a traditional Christkindlmarkt. Luckily we now live in Seattle, so its a short 30 mile drive. "But wait a minute...." you say "when did you move to Seattle?" Hey, it happened and this isn't the time or place to discuss that Im trying to tell a story. "Sorry." Its ok, did you have any on topic questions? "Actually, yes, how are you driving from Seattle to Bavaria? I thought that was in Germany. Did Elon Musk finally build a James Bond villain super car?" Ok, first, I really need to stop talking to myself. Secondly, Western Washington has its own Bavaria.
Photo courtesy of ingejohnsson.photoshelter.com


I could wax poetic about the little town of Leavenworth. This hamlet in the Cascades reinvented itself as a Bavarian village, located where Icicle Canyon runs into the Wanatchee, is nestled in some of the most stunning landscapes in America. Approaching from Seattle US 2 (when open) is a scenic highway unparalleled for its beauty. 



The town really dresses itself for Christmas. Beautiful towering trees. Sledding hill in the center of town. Snow on the riverbanks. If you are there early enough in the year the hiking up Icicle Canyon is stunning.

And yes, they have restaurants. This tiny village of 2,000 people has 26 restaurants, a brewery, wine tasting rooms, a distillery. The main focus of most of the restaurants in town are, unsurprisingly, German. You can start off with something super authentic like King Ludwig's. This about as kitsch and authentic as you can get. The traditional rouladen, Thinly slicked beef rolls filled with a scrumptious filling of pickle, carrot and bacon, is especially tasty. They also have large family style platters that can be rather intimidating unless you brought a hungry brood.

A slightly different take on German cuisine can be found at Uncle Uli's Pub. This is the dive sports bar taking a spin through the Alps. Stop here for a section segregated from children, live sports fix, and a burger with a bratwurst patty.

The culinary highlight for us was a stop at a restaurant with no discernible Germanic influence, Sulla Vita. This upscale European small plate restaurant is tucked in between Icicle Brewery and the tasting room for Baroness cellars.

The first dish was a flank steak with wild mushroom marsala. This was a good dish. The meat was cooked well, the mushrooms were very nice, it was just missing something. Maybe just a bit more salt, maybe a little red pepper. Its a very solid dish, but just missing that extra something to make it memorable. 


The other two dishes we tried were far more successful. The first, a scallop piccata with crispy speck. This beautiful white wine sauce has just enough lemon to offset the richness, the scallops are just cooked through. Every bite is wonderful, but dipping the accompanying pita in the sauce is particularly delicious.

The third dish was a surprisingly delicious chorizo and sharp white cheddar stuffed mushroom. I'm not sure how this dish didn't end up a soggy grease bomb, but it was bright and biting with just a touch of heat. 

Leavenworth is a beautiful town in a picturesque setting. Busy weekends will turn this tiny hamlet into a mad house, but it is well worth it for the quaint village in a stunning natural landscape. Add in some very solid restaurants, and you end up with the perfect weekend get away just a short drive outside of Seattle. 




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