Summer is an exceptional season for food in Seattle. But it is also a great time to explore outside the city limits. While the less adventurous dodge strollers at the farmers market, gastronomads can go straight to the source with a day trip through Skagit Valley.
Chef Jay Blackinton, of Hogstone’s Wood Oven and the forthcoming Aelder (opening July 7), has plenty of experience making the sojourn through Skagit, to and from his famous Orcas Island restaurant. On his list for a delicious stop along the way is Rexville Grocery (19271 Best Rd., Mount Vernon). A converted gas station, Rexville is a country store and food hub that has been open since 1935. “They have a sandwich counter that’s really good, with great sandwiches,” Blackinton says. If he doesn’t feel like ordering from the menu of 20 sandwiches—which includes a hot homemade meatloaf sandwich with melted cheese and bacon—he’ll pick up cheese and crackers for the road.
Another must stop for him is Snow Goose Produce (15170 Fir Island Rd., Mount Vernon), known for its “immodest ice-cream cones” and which the chef calls a “great gathering space.” A huge, sprawling covered farm stand with multiple rooms and a gigantic inventory, you can find everything from fresh, locally caught fish and live Dungeness crab to locally grown produce, packaged goods, wine, beer, and those insanely large cones packed with Lopez Island Creamery ice cream.
He’s not the only one who loves Snow Goose. John DeGloria, owner of Slough Food (5766 Cains Ct., Suite B, Edison) is also a fan of the cones. (Pro tip: Ice cream is cash only). Another pick of DeGloria’s is Tacos Tecalitlan (702 N. Burlington Blvd., Burlington), a truck near Burlington-Edison High School. There, he recommends the al pastor and carnitas tacos. They have a dozen meats to choose from, super-soft and delicious tamales, and grilled jalapeños served alongside your meal.
DeGloria knows good food, after 13 years of stocking artisan foods and a small but excellent wine and beer selection while running a small eatery in his slender store. Stop by Slough and you’ll find a small menu with noshes like snack plates (choose from the “nibble” or “more” sizes) and great sandwiches made from the small producer meats and cheeses, including Salumi salami, Acme camembert, and cheeses from neighbor Rhonda Gothberg of Gothberg Farms (15203 Sunset Rd., Bow). Though he sells some of their products in his store, DeGloria points to BowHill Blueberries (15628 Bow Hill Rd., Bow) as the place for those who want their fruit fix. “They have you-pick, a store, and a ‘grazing pass’ for people who want to stroll through the fields and just eat all the blueberries they want instead of picking any to take home,” he says. For $5, you can get the pass, and even help pick for the store—once you pick 10 pounds for them, which they say takes about 40 minutes, they refund the price of the pass.
Seattle chef Zephyr Paquette is a fan of Slough’s neighboring bakery, Breadfarm (5766 Cains Ct., Edison, cash only), beloved for its deep selection of excellent baked goods. Loaves like the sour cherry lemon bread are exceptional, and self-described “Cookie Monster” Paquette especially loves their shortbread and Graham crackers (which she takes home for s’mores). She says, “If they have their chocolate-chip cookies, I buy all I can.”
Just around the bend, at Gothberg Farms, cheesemaker Rhonda (who offers an honor box for her award-winning goat cheeses) says folks heading to dinner on their voyage should check out Chuckanut Manor (3056 Chuckanut Dr., Bow). “They have the most beautiful view, and the same family has owned it for over 50 years,” she says. Another not-to-be-missed stop is Farm to Market Bakery (5507 Chuckanut Dr., Bow), where Culinary Institute of America grad Jim Kowalski serves super-delicious green posole and makes enormous and popular pastries. They’re regionally famous for their crazy-big sticky buns, which are covered in pecans and impossible to eat without a friend.