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Walla Walla warms our hearts, fills our bellies and satisfies our palates

After such a wonderful first day in Walla Walla, we wondered how it could get much better…but we soon learned we were just getting started.

We woke at the crack of dawn and visited the Maple Counter Cafe where chef Kory Nagler cooked us up some of his specialties. We started with a HUGE apple pancake, which is more like a large sweet souffle of heaven. Then we tried the Klicker Farms strawberry granola buttermilk pancakes with homemade whipped cream & strawberry syrup…that was followed by a French baked florentine omelet with Swiss cheese & mushroom béchamel. Of course you can’t have all that without some thick sliced bacon and Walla Walla sweet onion potatoes.

To provide a bit of a break between restaurants, the organizers thought it would be fun to take a horse and buggy carriage ride around town, unfortunately Brian is very allergic, so I did this activity on my own.

It wasn’t long before we were eating our second breakfast of the morning. We headed over to”Bacon & Eggs” (Yep, that’s the name of it). Chef’s Michelle & Michelle prepared some interesting dishes…one I found pretty unique for the morning…shrimp & grits. Have you ever had shrimp for breakfast? I was skeptical, but found it was pretty good. We also had some huevos rancheros, biscuits & gravy, huevos chorizo, and French toast with Walla Walla Bread Co. Brioche & Blueberries. All of that was accompanied by some really thick and delicious Blue Valley bacon.

As you may know, Walla Walla is really well known for their sweet onions, so we took a break from eating and took a tour of a local onion farm and processing plant. I just had to see just how “sweet” these onions were, so I took a bite as if it were an apple…I was pleasantly surprised by its unique, sweet and delicious flavor. Throughout our restaurant tour of Walla Walla we encountered many different sweet onion accouterments.

Next up, we headed to Blue Mountain Vineyards where a special surprise was waiting for us—a huge tent had been set up on a hill overlooking the estate. In the foreground were hilly acres of vineyards…in the background, color-contrasting fields of wheat and other farm lands. Here we were treated to a multi-course menu by many of the same chefs who had prepared our welcome dinner. And, in true Walla Walla fashion, each course was paired with the perfect wine, which was supplied by Tranche Cellars.

Our lunch menu consisted of, and was prepared by:

Chef Antonio Campolio of The Marc – Antonio prepared something Brian and I had never had, nor heard of…house smoked baby back alligator ribs with local apricot BBQ, shaved cabbage and of course a roasted sweet onion vinaigrette

Chef Andrae Bopp of Andrae’s Kitchen made us a Middle Eastern style Draper Valley Chicken with yoghurt marinated chicken pieces in a roasted cumin, turmeric with Walla Walla Sweet Onions over rice and fresh lettuce. Oh, it was good!  He also rustled up some Blue Valley hamburgers with Walla Walla Sweet Onions and Tillamook cheddar cheese.

Chef Chris Ainsworth of Pho Sho sautéed some Vietnamese Chicken Wings with Walla Walla Sweet Onions and chili sauce. See the “Walla Walla Sweet Onion” theme? They used these seasonal onions on just about everything, much like Santa Fe does with chili.

I know what you’re thinking…but our day was only halfway through…we still had a lot of food to get to. Thankfully, we had some awesome guests who joined us for every meal to make sure none of this goodness went to waste. For lunch we enjoyed the company of Ron Williams, Waterbrook Winery , Zibby Wilder food and wine blogger, Duane Wollmuth, Director of Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance and a few others.

After that lunch, we went over to the Walla Walla Community College Culinary Program where Dan Thiessen- Director of Culinary Arts- and student chefs introduced us to some of the original winemakers in town who paired their wines with dishes that students prepared for us.  We got to meet Rick and Darcy Small, owners/winemakers of Woodward Canyon, and Chris Figgins, owner/winemaker for Leonetti Cellar.

After all of that, we had a whopping 45 minute break until we’d start our dinner tour. First up was Saffron, where chef Chris Ainsworth prepared:

  • Roasted Pork Belly Flatbread, Tuscan Kale, Grilled Walla Walla Sweet Onion, Chili Flake, & Ricotta Salata.
  • Lamb Tartar with Green Garbanzos, Preserved Lemon, Mint, Spices, Nigella Seed,Walla Walla Sweet Onion, & Grilled Pita.
  • All Natural Tender Beef Tongue, Beef Cheeks, Cherry Agrodolce, Gooseberries, Basil. & House Made Saba (these were firsts for Brian and I)

Our next stop was Brasserie Four, where the lovely chef Hannah MacDonald prepared a Soupe Pistou and a Fondue Savoyarde, which included classic Swiss fondue with challerhocker, scharfee max, gruyere cheeses, Edwards Farm early summer vegetables, Blue Valley cured meats & sausages, Morning Mist Nursery wild green salad. We enjoyed our Fondue with vino from Spring Valley Vineyard and Lullaby Winery.

Our next to last stop of the evening was at The Marc, where once again chef Antonio Campolio would prepare us a feast that we would not soon forget. The Marc is located within the spectacular Marcus Whitman hotel (which is where we got to stay for a couple of nights). We got the distinct pleasure of sitting at the “chef’s table” located inside the kitchen. There, we were treated to:

  • Cape Cod Diver Scallop with Rea Farms Sweet Peas, Klicker Farms Strawberry, Crème Fraiche
  • Pleasant Valley Foie Gras with Angel Food Cake, Apricot, Cherry, Marcona Almond
  • Tableside preparation (with Brian’s help)  of Strawberry Basil Sorbet with Candied Lemon Peel
  • Saint Ignatius Buffalo Tenderloin “Blis” Aged Maple, Baby Beet, Cambozola Cheese, Rhubarb
  • Our local vino this stop was supplied by L’Ecole PerigeeWatermill, The Foundry, and Walla Walla Vintners

Our final stop of the evening was at a restaurant owned by one of our beloved hosts, Tom Maccarone. T. Maccarone’s is lead by chef Jake Crenshaw where he prepared some amazing dishes, which included:

  • Upper Dry Creek Ranch braised lamb spare ribs with honey soy glaze and alder wood smoked
  • Upper Dry Creek Ranch beef strip loin with heirloom tomatoes, white anchovies finished with a pinch of sea salt
  • And for dessert…a mini “Cherry Pie”  made with local cherry tartlets

After the conclusion of our amazing eating tour, we headed to a private room above T. Maccarone’s where many of the chef’s of the day gathered to toast the festivities with more…wine. The folks in Walla Walla sure do enjoy their vino…and, are really passionate about good food. The residents and stakeholders in Walla Walla made Brian and I feel like we were part of their family…their community. It was endearing and heartfelt. Thank you all so very much and we hope to see you again soon.