Posted by: hagengreen | June 19, 2010

Port Townsend, WA – a getaway for the discerning palate

I surprised Jaime with a trip to Port Townsend for her birthday. (Yes, this post has been sitting in my drafts! Waaay overdue!) It’s one of the few places we have not visited on the Olympic Peninsula. (Ok, we’ve never stopped in Forks. But really!?) Since PT is just about two hours and a 30 minute ferry ride away from home, it’s silly we’ve never made it happen until now.

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PT is a sleepy tourist town on the northeastern edge of the Olympic Peninsula. It resides on the border of Puget Sound and the Straight of Juan de Fuca – the Straight separates us from Canada as it heads out to the Pacific Ocean. The weather is beachy, which means it’s about 10 degrees cooler than the Seattle-area. They’re expecting a dusting of snow this week, so yes, colder. The “feels like” temperature is even colder than what the thermometer says, thanks to the ocean “breeze” which I’d say is more like a wind. Bring your heavy coats!

The highlight of PT is the downtown area. While most stores didn’t seem to open until noon on the weekend, there are a large variety of shops to please the discerning tourist. Most stores carry unique products that showcase locally designed and created items, such as soaps, jewelry, and clothing. The hot spot consists of roughly 10 blocks along Washington and Water streets where the stores and restaurants reside. Walking around will keep you (or your significant other) busy for at least a solid couple hours.

With all that walking you’re bound to get hungry. I sure did – multiple times. And you’re in luck. PT has some of the best food I’ve ever had for a small tourist town. You’d be hard pressed to find food this good in many small cities! My quote by the end of the trip was: “you can’t go wrong with the food in this town”. No matter which restaurant or cafe you chose, it’s darn good. We had the best salmon EVER at T’s at Point Hudson. The Lentil Burger was fabulous at Silverwater. (Everything at Silverwater looked amazing.) An underground cafe at the west-end of Water St also had a superb lunch menu. A Tapas joint off Taylor St was a lot of fun. I’m not a coffee person, but Grounds For Perfection was a cool coffeehouse. They use only organic fair-trade coffee, organic food, no soy milk, local honey, and whole milk. Several papers posted in the hallway walking in to the store explain why their menu is the way it is. I’d recommend trying their fruit smoothie and one of their sandwiches if it’s lunchtime. We were recommended several other eateries, but didn’t have time to try them all.

Just be sure to time your visit with a music or wine festivals (http://www.ptguide.com/) to get the full experience! We learned of an Art Walk which involved about 8 galleries in the downtown vicinity. We feasted on wine and cheese to our heart’s content! Be sure to visit William’s Gallery during an Art Walk; they were handing out chocolate rum balls. Learn from the person before me by keeping your mouth closed as you bite down. The other notable location, not on this list, was a guy whose gallery was slightly off the beaten Walk path. His studio consisted of a power-room bathroom sized area – you walk in and expect there to be a turn, but it’s really all there is! He had a keg outside the door for passers-by. Jaime and I spent the most time at this location. Not only was he very nice and genuine (and our age), but his works were fascinating. He had no formal training but worked from the heart. His mediums are wood and steel. You could stare at his creations for hours and keep finding new subtleties that have deeper meaning. Unfortunately I don’t remember his name, but I think he was on the corner of Washington and Tyler. Overall, the Art Walk was a unique PT experience that was an enjoyable evening. Just leave room for dinner and try to keep your wallet in your pocket.

Commander’s Beach House, a couple minute walk from Port Hudson Marina, is where we called home for a couple nights. I highly recommend bunking at this waterfront traditional all-American B&B. The hospitality is top-notch, location is prime, and the ambiance can’t be beat. If you can get into the Lighthouse Suite, it’s worth the tiny splurge. It’s the biggest room with its own bathroom and the best view in the house. The Island View room is the next best, but a bit smaller. The food is, as you would expect for a top B&B, a marvel of home cooking. And it’s not greasy splatter. They cook smaller, but wonderful portions. You’ll immediately notice someone is a gourmet chef, and they’ll cater to your various needs. In the afternoon and evening, they’ll pour you a glass of chardonnay and suggest you hang out on the balcony to watch the barges cruise by and wait for the crimson sky to set fire as the sun sets adjacent to the Olympics.

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Next time, I’d love to get out and hike the full Olympic Discovery Trail and get out to the tip of Fort Worden State Park. If we have more time, taking the Keystone ferry to Fort Casey might be a nice half-day trip as well.

If you haven’t yet been to Port Townsend, call ahead and grab a date. It’s a relaxing destination with some of the best (healthy!) food you can find in a tourist spot in the Western Washington vicinity.*

* No, I wasn’t paid to promote any business in this write up, but I’m happy to accept your money!

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