Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Out and About: The City So Nice, They Named It Twice

"Out and About" is an occasional piece I throw out there to document some of the unique, quirky and/or totally fabulous aspects of living in -- and around -- the fair city of Bermtopia.


No doubt against her better judgement, my boss sent me to a meeting of the state's community college public information officers last week. It was in Walla Walla -- an easy (and beautiful) 3-hour drive from Bermtopia. My date hopped on board for the trip -- to golf and stave off allergy attacks while I was in meetings.

The pollen count was ridiculous. And that's per the National Weather Service. Exact words.

Don't worry. Aside from dribbling on three different shirts (Note to self: White + Travel = WHAT
were you thinking?), I managed to conduct myself in a fairly credible, coherent way during the "official" parts of our trip, but let's face it, the best part of any business trip is exploring the community you're visiting.

Over the last 20 years, Walla Walla has transformed itself from a sleepy little agricultural town to one of the Pacific Northwest's top AVAs (American Viticulture Area -- see what I learned last week!). Accompanying this transformation has been an explosion of crazy good restaurants and a way cool arts scene.

Despite being out in the middle of nowhere by most definitions, Walla Walla is also home to three colleges, including the brainiac Whitman College and Walla Walla Community College, which has the gold standard viticulture/enology program in the state. It is also home to the state maximum-security prison.

While higher education and corrections are not particularly interrelated (oh wait. . . .), it does add an interesting juxtaposition to the community. Not unlike the hotel where we stayed, which Saturday morning was home to a passle of state employees (largely highway construction workers and a few stray PIOs as best I could tell) and Whitman families gearing up for graduation on Sunday.

Guess who was wearing the Dartmouth and Swarthmore T-shirts? No, silly. The Whitman families.

Anyway, here is a pictorial tour of  our visit to Walla Walla:

UntitledIn 2012 the American Planning Association honored downtown Walla Walla with a "Great Places in America: Neigborhood" designation. One well deserved, I might add.

Personally, I think it's got just the right amount of Cool and "Say, whaa-aa-tt?" Like apartments with their own pop machines.

How cool is that?

And then there's ridiculously fun public art. . . and funky quaint architecture. . . and candy stores with Old School nut-roasting machines.



I cleaned up most of the nose art on the display case.

Now on to wine. . .

We did not have a super amount of time to enjoy the wine-tasting possibilities of Walla Walla so at the suggestion of Tom, a bestie of the Number 2 Son, who is now an assistant winemaker with Saviah Cellers, we stopped by the Foundry Vineyards tasting room.

The owners of Foundry Vineyards founded the Walla Walla Foundry, pretty much a landmark studio for sculptors and other artists here in Washington. Many spectacular pieces of sculpture -- largely from their private collection -- are displayed in the tasting room and on its grounds.

A bronze, yes bronze, by Deborah Butterfield.
  She's Famous. She has a Wikipedia page.
And I do not.
The art was spectacular -- ditto the wine. And I was tickled to see a couple of small pieces -- even got to hold them! -- by one of my favorite sculptors, Tom Otterness. Remember him?

                                          Next stop: The Canoe Ridge Vineyard car show. Car show?

What is it about us and car shows, anyway?

Yes, indeedy. We stopped for a tasting at Canoe Ridge only to find ourselves hanging with a group of Porsche enthusiasts touring their way across Eastern Washington for the weekend. Wine seem to be an inextricable part of their itinerary.

We made friends.
Madrid and his midnight blue Mustang:
"I only drive her on sunny days when I know it won't rain."
Tillie, Porsche rally organizer, and her latest ride:
"I've been into cars since I was 4-years-old."
Sipped wine.

And polished off two delicious blackend fish tacos with cilantro crema prepared by the the culinary arts students from Walla Walla Community College.


Check. It. Out. They've got their own bitchin' food truck!
Thank you, WWCC website, for providing evidence of pure genius!

And finally, Walla Walla sweet onions.
Okay, okay. Early as it was, we couldn't pass up on Saturday Market. We bought "baby"  Walla Walla sweets, truffle-balsamic vinegar and garlic that would curl your toes. (Totally acceptable in this household). And met The Falalfel Man.
He had a whole onion simmering in his cooking oil.
I sense a theme here.
A word about Walla Walla sweets. Aside from being Washington's State Vegetable (in case that ever comes up in a cocktail party conversation), they are stand-up delicious. It's the low sulfur content that makes them "sweet" -- and maybe the fact they originated in Corsica. 

Anyway. They didn't last 24 hours in our humble household.

So that's Walla Walla: Wine, onions, Porsches, sculpture and falafel. Not necessarily in that order. 

And still Walla Walla wonderful nonetheless.

Next time you're looking for Hip in the Middle of Nowhere? I'd head straight to Walla Walla. 

1 comment:

  1. Now, that sounds like a great trip! Something to put on the list of places to visit.