Les deux Palouse

I dedicate this blog post to Pat, one of my very best friends, who just lost her courageous battle with cancer. She has been–and always will be–my inspiration in my writings, travels and parenting, and so much more. In her words, “If you can take the trip, don’t wait. See the world. Go…” I will–I promise. J 

There’s something about rolling hills and endless fields of grain under a beautiful blue sky that just gives off good vibes. French-Canadian fur traders of yesteryear referred to the area where the borders of Washington and Idaho meet up as “pelouse”—land with short and thick grass.

While the fur traders’ primary reason for visiting this land of rounded grassy mini mountains was, well, furry, The Palouse of today is all about growing food. And fun. And for two college towns, thriving economies.

On a recent road trip to this happening place, my daughter and I experienced for ourselves how this landlocked corner of the Pacific Northwest is anything but square…

Lodge-ical

Every fun road trip deserves a hip motor inn on its route. For us, that meant the newly renovated Monarch Motel. Friendly helpful staff, comfy clean rooms, and funky décor (like fuzzy orange throw pillows!) made this boutique hotel the perfect home base for our Palouse adventure.

And its location can’t be beat—walking distance to everything in downtown Moscow. Gotta love that! Just a few steps to stores, restaurants and one very swank farmers market…

Eventful

True to its name, the Moscow Farmers Market sells local seasonal produce—super fresh and very colorful. But this Saturday-only, May-October event isn’t just about fruits and veggies; nope. It’s all about pizazz…

We entered the market at one end of the closed-off road where a local band played upbeat tunes for all passers by. Walking with our friends, we encountered another band playing at a city park, surrounded by market vendors and patrons. No shortage of music here!

Selling everything from painted rocks to fresh cut flowers to yummy kabobs, this street party has it all. I even tried Egyptian food for the first time ever! A dish known as Koshari—and it was goooooood…

Not to be outdone by Moscow, Pullman was hosting its own event that same weekend: the National Lentil Festival. Yes, that’s right—this little legume has its very own annual party. Farmers in The Palouse grow and harvest about one quarter of the lentils (and other pulse crops) for the United States. Because of that stat, this town throws one heck of a summer celebration.

From the downtown parade to the ginormous vat of lentil chili, we found ourselves in good company. Ever present vendors selling their wares, alongside food booths, activities, cooking demos, and of course, lentils. My daughter opted for a bowl of the featured chili dish, while I (still full from my Egyptian brunch) acquired small bags of the dried take-home ready-to-cook variety.

Flavorful

In the mood for fried garbanzos, pasta and funky drinks our first night out, we stepped into Nectar. Just across the street from our hotel meant an easy walk back to our room, once we were ready to sleep off our long drive + food coma.

And we had this wonderful restaurant to thank for our recently remodeled roadside inn; Nectar owns the Monarch, offering its dining patrons who are overnight guests a 10% discount on all meals.

There’s a long list of fantastic food and beverage places we enjoyed here in this small town. Here’s the short version:

Bloom for brunch, serving me one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve had to date. It’s not-so-secret ingredient? Cougar Gold cheddar.

Maialina for pizza—and not just any pizza! Unique is one word I would use to describe their menu; superb is another I’ll use to describe the flavors. Seriously good…

Hunga Dunga. Aside from the unusual name, this brew house has a delicious, ever-changing menu. I enjoyed a brisket sandwich on a pretzel bun. Stick-to-your-ribs gooooood…

The Breakfast Club. Fun decor, serving large portions, they’re not afraid to feed you the good stuff here.

Café Artista. Gotta have my java! Also One World Café. Gotta have more java… Both offer great coffee drinks very close to our temporary Moscow residence.

And in Pullman, our friends’ java joint of choice? Café Moro. Excellent coffee, and conveniently located on the same corner as our Lentil Festival parade perch…

Last, but not least: Colter’s Creek wine tasting room. What an upbeat place! Also within walking distance to our hotel, I really enjoyed my Chardonnay—made locally from their Lewis-Clark Valley vines.

Educational

Taking our legs for a walk is an easy thing to do in a college town. Just head for the campus. University of Idaho (established 1889) features an arboretum and botanical garden, and very convenient walking paths. It’s the one place where Vandals are accepted—in the form of their team mascot…

Over in Pullman, the Washington State University Cougars (established 1890) are busy making cheese. Really-really-really excellently yummy cheese! This commercial product made on campus at the WSU Creamery date stamps each can of deliciousness with the student employee’s first name too. Quite a nice personal touch.

Artful

From street décor to metal works to galleries to culinary masterpieces, there is no shortage of amazing art in The Palouse. In search of souvenirs, we managed to find a good concentration of all things artful at Essential Works Art Gallery. It was their sandwich board that drew me in: “Chocolate—Open” …yup…

The representation of local and regional artists was amazing. Before leaving the store, I purchased glass earrings, wine bottle ornaments, specialty coffee beans (after sampling the brewed version), and of course chocolate. Hope I didn’t forget anything…

Sustainable

Investing in its future, this beautiful corner of the world is all about sustainability. Along with recycle bins, I enjoyed discovering repurposed buildings and reminders painted on the street, asking to care about what drains to the streams. Before heading home, our friends took us to one last stop: The Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute.

In addition to providing us with beautiful walking trails, this local non-profit organization educates young students and adults alike in ways to care for our crops as well as the land, streams and animals. Important knowledge to share regarding The Palouse of tomorrow.

Heading back home, we enjoyed seeing the beautiful rolling hills one more time as our car followed the highway’s many curves. What a gorgeously fun place! But knowing that the locals are looking out for the land’s future gives me a good vibe for The Palouse of today. J 🌾

 

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