Duncan Hines 60 years ago alerted New Jersey travelers to The Afton, where the "cinnamon buns are good and so is the pastry. Tea-roomy perhaps, but not too dainty as to portions."
Anna Roth, author of West Coast Road Eats: The Best Road Food From San Diego to the Canadian Border, believes food-themed travel guides are as relevant today as they were when Hines issued his groundbreaking Adventures in Good Eating. But in an age when most tourists rely on digital devices to steer them to their next meals, guidebooks need to give readers more than a cinnamon-bun tip.
"That's a question I grappled with a lot," says Roth, a former Seattleite who will be promoting her book tomorrow at Costco in Issaquah and at a Kim Ricketts Book Events-sponsored panel on Monday. "I wanted to make it about my impressions of places and give a snapshot of what's going on in West Coast food now."
That means Roth excluded restaurants that seemed tangential to the story she set out to tell. An impressive falafel joint in Ashland, Ore., didn't make the cut: "It didn't seem to fit in with the community," she explains. But she found room in the book for the shuttered Estrella Family Creamery, which the FDA closed in 2009, as "an encouragement to independent dairy farmers everywhere." Roth's West Coast is populated by imaginative artisans who appreciate the bounty of the land and ocean.
"I really do believe something interesting is happening with west coast food," Roth says.
Roth tackled a few places that weren't as interesting as others. "It's really hard to find good food on the Washington coast," she says.
Her explorations finally led her to Jimella's Seafood Market & Café in Klipsan Beach, which she counts among her favorite finds. "They make these really good fried oysters," Roth says. "I expected them to be gluey and gross, but they blew me away."
Even better, Jimella's was owned by Jimella Lucas and Nanci Main, the women credited with igniting the Pacific Northwest's local-food movement. Roth is pleased to have the chance to share their history with readers. "I wanted to find good food," she says of her scouting trips. "But I really wanted to find the stories behind the food."