OK, here's the deal: I'm not trendy. I've never been hip. Occasionally I make attempts to liven things up a bit for my wife (last weekend I got a few summer shirts that weren't Hanes Beefy-T's). Don't get me wrong, I'm no Dave Barry-esque everyman curmudgeon. It's just that style, in the parlance of my infinitely hipper friend Ben Cooley, ain't my jam. (Case in point: Ben used to say "That's your jam" more than three years ago, and I've just recently started saying it.)
Then again, dig this: We rent a 1927 homesteader's house out in the trees between Woodinville and Duvall. My dog, Baxter, is my only co-worker. In the summer, I walk outside and eat blackberries off the vine for lunch. In the fall, I watch the salmon spawn up Bear Creek when I go to fetch the mail. That's my jam.
So that's the context from whence I write this little guide. I'm not an Eastside maven, but I have cultivated some favorites out in our neck of the woods. You can read about the Herb Farm and the Red Hook Brewery elsewhere; I'm gonna tell you about the day life, because that's where my neighborhood excels.
In the morning, if I'm not gonna drink java round our woodstove, I might head out for the Duvall Cafe (15505 Main N.E., Duvall, 425-788-9058), but I wouldn't take the Woodinville-Duvall Road. The traffic's so heavy these days that the Department of Transportation had to shut down the 1951 Duvall bridge for repairs. No matter—you can still get to the cafe. The place is simple—hot coffee, warm wood surroundings, fine veggie sausage, and booths straight as Quaker church pews. What's great is feeling like you're at home, whether or not you're one of the diner's regulars.
Can't venture out that far? Check out the Triple J Cafe in Kirkland (101 Central Way, Kirkland, 425-822-7319)—enjoyably busy, like a main street eatery should be. Ready to go farther? Hike on out to the Maltby Cafe (8809 Maltby, Snohomish, 425-483-3123), in the basement of the old Maltby schoolhouse gym. Their cinnamon buns are fit for four; I myself prefer the equally rich yet savory scramble with pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes.
So it's getting on toward noon, and I'm jumping down 202 past the old Hollywood Schoolhouse. Destination: The Root Connection (13607 Redmond-Woodinville, Redmond, 425-881-1006). Known to supporters simply as the Farm, the Root Connection is a community-supported agriculture operation and may well be the coolest thing ever. Each spring, my wife and I buy a share of the farm's output. Then from June through October, every Wednesday, I'm down at the Farm, giddy about what organic goodies I'll find in our bag. The harvest varies—you're buying a small piece of the farm life, which can mean feast or famine. Your bag is lean or overflowing with the success of the fields that week. Carrots, lettuce, peas, bok choy, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, turnips, green beans, basil, mustard greens—you name it, they've grown it (including kohlrabi, which I still haven't found a good recipe for). The herb and flower gardens are U-pick for members. In the fall, you're out hunting with kids in the pumpkin patch. Better still, on pick-up days, you catch something of a cross-section of the county: folks who work for their share, Microsofties with a taste for the natural, home-schooled children out with their moms. (Hey, Seattleites, the Farm delivers to city drop-off points—call for information about signing up.)
Farm goods in hand, I'm off to Taqueria Guadalajara (148th N.E., just off 520, Redmond). The Taco Wagon, as we locals affectionately refer to the silver-bullet trailer that houses the stand, is without a doubt the best thing that ever happened to the 76 gas station where it's parked—the people flocking here for the food might as well fill up the tank, too. And they come with good reason: The family that runs the place cranks out the best tacos and burritos in these parts—fresh, authentic, and inexpensive.
It's not even dark, and I've packed a day with the Eastside's best. Before I head back to the homestead, I make the obligatory stop at Theno's Dairy (12248 156th N.E., Redmond, 425-885-2339). If cream is your vice, then Theno's is your joint. While you're there, pick up some hormone-free milk in returnable glass bottles. Then order up a scoop of strawberry-rhubarb, or, if it's October, the locally treasured pumpkin.
It's not trendy, it's not hip, but dang, it's good. No wonder this place is my jam.