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Tastes along the tulip trek

Apr 3rd, 2014 | Category: Food

Delicious stops in La Conner, Mount Vernon

by Cait Auer

As you spend a day feasting your eyes on vibrant acres of tulips at this year’s Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, your taste buds also deserve a treat. Take time to satisfy your appetite at one of the many delicious eateries the area has to offer.

“A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand,” is the best advice painted on a butter yellow wall of the Calico Cupboard’s La Conner café and bakery (calicocupboardcafe.com). This cafe, also located in Anacortes and Mount Vernon, takes pride in only cooking with the finest of ingredients from local farms and companies, baking fresh pastries and breads, including generous gluten free options.

With a deck perched over the Swinomish Channel, this eatery is the ideal sanctuary to kick back and enjoy the springtime sun, and to relish an extensive breakfast and lunch menu that any grandmother would envy. For a leisurely breakfast, order the “calico benedict” with your choice of salmon, vegetables, or honey ham, or sample a unique scramble. For lunch, try the tender turkey pot pie.

Fish taco at Seeds Restaurant.  PHOTO BY CAIT AUER

Fish taco at Seeds Restaurant.

Choose from an assortment of cakes, cookies, muffins, scones, and brioches from their bakery. Satisfy a sweet tooth with a dense, gooey lemon bar, or attempt their famous, massive cinnamon roll (available in four flavors) topped generously with icing. Indulge in one of their cream or fruit pies with flaky crusts and overflowing insides.

The bakery’s sister bistro and bar in La Conner, Seeds, offers innovative cuisine housed in a 124-year-old renovated seed factory. Seed’s Bistro (seedsbistro.com) values the Pacific Northwest’s agriculture and farming, partnering with 21 local farms, creameries, distilleries and breweries to present food that highlights freshness.

They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a constantly changing menu that caters to in-season ingredients, especially seafood. A fan favorite is a heaping plate of Alaskan cod tacos, blackened or fried to your preference with piles of pepper jack cheese, smoky salsa, cabbage slaw, and avocado. Each salad accentuates every vegetable’s distinct flavor, and the vinaigrettes are tasty enough to drink plain. Their portions are sharable, with thick burgers and grilled sandwiches paired with hand-cut fries.

The full bar hosts classic and rare spirits, and every bartender appreciates a customer who loves to experiment with flavors. A daring choice is the Fisherman’s Mary, a twist on a classic Bloody Mary with smoked salmon vodka, local beets, lime, lemon, asparagus, carrots, pickled onions, and green olives. Sip on a glass of wine from one of Washington’s vineyards.

If your trip to the Tulip Festival needs a fine dining finale, cozy up at Nell Thorn (nellthorn.com), a dimly lit waterfront restaurant and pub. This intimate dining option offers three different seating areas appropriate for every age and purpose, from a formal room with a perfect view of the water, to a family-friendly dining area, to a sleek bar. Their expansive list of delicately prepared, quality land and sea entrées are quick to impress.

One impeccable dish is the Clams Toscano, where fresh local Manila Clams are simmered in their own juices with house bacon, garlic, chili, bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Their slow braised lamb shank stewed in Rockwell beans, garbanzo, mushrooms and greens is not to be ignored. Watch the sun set on the channel and appreciate the beauty of the day while enjoying expertly seasoned and prepared specialties that Nell Thorn masters.

Another stop in the La Conner area is the La Conner Brewing Company (laconnerbrewery.com), offering Northwest-style brewpub food, including wood-fired pizzas. A fireplace is an enjoyable spot for the crisp days, or dine on the patio. Nearby La Traviata offers fresh Italian cuisine.

For a great deal on wholesome foods, peruse the aisles and deli of Mount Vernon’s Skagit Valley Food Co-op (skagitfoodcoop.com). Play picnic at the Tulip Festival with a made-to-order sandwich, soothing soups, flavorful and exotic picks from the deli case, and a cup of fair trade coffee.

The Farmhouse Restaurant (thefarmhouserestaurant.net) is a Skagit Valley landmark featuring traditional, home-style dishes and freshly-baked desserts, including their famous Mile-High lemon meringue pie.

Skagit’s Own Fish Market (skagitfish.com) offers a mouth-watering lunch menu, complete with a fresh dungeness crab sandwich, oyster hoagie, and clam chowder, among others.

For more local options in La Conner and Mount Vernon, check with visitors centers, ask the locals, or visit www.lovelaconner.com and mountvernonchamber.com. Enjoy the fields and the food!

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