I love to travel, but would rather crawl behind a rusting tractor instead of looking for the nearest interstate ramp when there's stretches of countryside basted with a glorious gallery of daffodils painted from one side of the road to another.
It pays to go slow.
One of my favorite back road drives is that from Anacortes to Silvana, & now's the time to do it. The pastures are filled with new offspring nudging their mothers alongside the Pioneer Highway, and the tulips should be in glorious bloom (hope all those hail storms & snow didn't inhibit their beauty.) I took this photo a few weeks ago & can't even imagine how beautiful the fields look now...
Many years ago, I was forced to visit a hypnotist to cure my fear of flying after a particularly hairy landing into the crosswinds of the Denver airport, as it's completely impractical to swear off air travel when half you family lives in the Midwest & the other half, in New York.
As a part of therapy, my soft-spoken hypnotist asked me to recall a place of tranquility that I could go to after counting back from one hundred-- perhaps a desert island, a sunset on the beach? After taking the back roads from San Juan Island a few weeks ago, I think I'll place my thoughts here when I fly off to San Fran next Friday for a mega-tasting of vino. Turbulence will be met with blue mountains topped with snow, poplars dusting the clouds, a field of petals below me...
So, if you've got the Tulip Fest on your itinerary these next few weeks or you're thinking of a vacation anytime on the San Juan's, here's three solid reasons to extend your island vibe and take the slow roads home:
1. Silvana Meats- I've heard gushing reviews of this place from customers for years & finally decided to stop in--they were right. With friendly old-fashioned service & great prices for naturally grazed meat, Silvana Meats' owner, John Karlberg, keeps to the three rules his father taught him: "Honesty, quality and giving the customer something they couldn't get at the grocery store." Dry-cured hams, braunswieger (the foie gras of sausage), & true slab bacon are just a few of the temptations here. The best plan is to pack an ice chest for your booty of hormone-free, cut-to-order Northwest meat home fresh from their coolers (wish I'd had one.) Their smokehouse list is simply overwhelming.
2. Snow Goose Produce- Worth the stop as they stock Gothberg Farm Chevre, the best I've tasted in WA state, and their freshly made waffle cones served up with dreamy Lopez Creamery ice cream--a combo that will bring you to your knees. And for other fellow New Yorkers & locavores, don't leave without some of the Glacier Deli-Dills from Pleasant Valley Farms--a discovery I made lunching at Seeds in La Conner--these local picklers have brought the flavor & crunch I crave to the west. Fourth-generation farmer, Mike Youngquist, is trying to keep Skagit growers & migrant workers in business after Bay Valley Foods (owners of Nalley, Farman's and Steinfeld's) just announced their plan to ditch local cukes in favor of those from other states, even outsourcing to India. Ask your local grocer to buy these pickles & support Skagit farmers!!!
3. Slough Food- Okay, so if you've got a little extra time on your hands, start heading for the highway from Anacortes & jog north on Farm to Market road (great name isn't it?) to visit my friend R. John DeGloria. Slough Food is a fabulous gourmand shop at the crook of eclectic Edison, a rural outpost where locals, tourists, and bikers (both Harley & Schwinn) patronize the one saloon & a couple of off-the-wall galleries, respectively. Look for cheese, honey, eggs from Skagitonians, plus artisan wines, Salumi meats, exotic chocolates & the like.
By all means, ask for a taste of whatever looks interesting, put your elbow on the counter and listen to R. John spin stories--it's just plain fun to stock up for a picnic here or a nosh for the ride home. But make sure to visit his buddies at the Breadfarm next door--after you taste their black olive baguette, it's hard to resist going the few extra miles for an experience like this.
Consider the ever-increasing Euro to dollar ratio, a trip to our own Skagit Valley is a relative bargain... We can make a difference by shopping locally-- & you get to tip-toe through the tulips along the way!
Silvana Meats 1229 Pioneer Hwy, Silvana, WA, 360.652.7188
Snow Goose Produce 15170 Fir Island Rd, Mt Vernon, WA 360.445.6908
Slough Food 5766 Cain's Court, Suite B, Edison, WA 360.766.4458
Breadfarm 5766 Cain's Court, Edison, WA 360.766.4065