Recipe – Taco Soup

Mexican food is by far the favorite flavor in our house, second only to soup. And this soup is both, win win. I think I found this recipe a few years ago in a magazine, it may have been advertised as a white bean chili but I change it every time I make it based on what ever we have in the house or is available at the grocery.  The beauty of this soup, or I suppose most cooking recipes (not baking, baking is its own special chemistry that should never be messed with unless you REALLY know what you are doing) you can kind of make it your own.
Ours always has tomatillos, garlic, onion, peppers of some sort, broth of some sort, and beans. We also always make sure to add either ground chicken or turkey as we are not vegetarians but it could easily be left out and taste just as good.
Also something you should know, I don’t really measure so this recipe reads like a child wrote it, or your grandmother trying to give directions “just turn at that place where we saw that deer that one time”.
– Taco Soup – 
Half a produce bag full of tomatillos
About 3 cups of various peppers (bell peepers are the least hot, I usually use pasilla and jalapeño)
Half a bulb of garlic
One medium onion
One box of broth, looks like about 32 ounces (we use chicken or homemade bone broth)
One can of beans drained and rinsed (I use white beans usually)
Taco Flavors: If I feel lazy I just use a package of taco flavor from the store. Or you can use a combination of cumin, chili powder, garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper. I have no measurements for this I just wing it.
Optional – One package of ground meat
Optional post cooking toppings – Tortilla chips, grated cheese, sour cream or diced avocado.
I always brown my meat before adding it to the crock-pot, so I cook that up and add the flavors to the meat directly and then transfer once browned to the crock pot. Peel, rinse then chop the tomatillos, de-seed and chop all peppers (remember to wear gloves if using hotter peppers you will thank me later when you accidentally rub your eyes), peel and dice both garlic and onion.  Add everything to the crock-pot (add spices if you didn’t add to meat already), pour in broth, cook on high or low (depending on your needs) until the tomatillos start to look a bit like jelly and fall apart. Add beans and cook for about another 20 min.
Serve on it’s own or with your selection toppings.
Allergy Reminder – Tomatillos and peppers are both nightshades, if you react at all to eggplant, potatoes or tomato I would not suggest eating this soup.

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Parlour – St. Paul, Minnesota

My favorite Minnesota haunt strikes again, this time with its second location in St. Paul. Parlour is a Minneapolis bar that I first visited at the behest of a coworker a few years ago while I was in town for work. Then the last time I was in town the same friend took me to the newly opened second location in St. Paul.

Dare I say I like the St. Paul location better? I think it is probably not surprising, while the original is dark and luxurious. Sitting in the basement annex of its larger parent restaurant in downtown Minneapolis it is velvet tufted booths and rich colors.  All of which I love. But for me, a large renovated turn of the century building with floor to ceiling windows is tough to beat. Plus I love the smaller town vibe of St. Paul over Minneapolis.

We brought a vegetarian friend with us, which is a bold move for a bar known for their not veggie burgers. But she ordered the cauliflower (above) which was almost better than the burgers. And their fries which this round were not pineapple and bacon but vegetarian served with a side of delicious dip.

And then of course for those of us who eat meat, the main course, the burger. Buttered non sesame bun, salty delicious patty, cheese and pickles it really cannot be beat. If you are in the area make it a priority you and even your vegetarian friends won’t be disappointed.

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Baldwin Saloon – The Dalles, Oregon

If you ever find yourself around the Gorge in Oregon you will likely have been in or near The Dalles. It is often pronounced, much to our amusement here in Oregon, like the city in Texas, but is not and I am not a linguist so have no clue how to write out how to properly say it.

Regardless of pronunciation it is one of the larger towns along the Columbia River, having been established in the 1840s as a major rail and river depot for families coming into the area via the Oregon Trail. It was featured in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ as the home town of Cheif. Bobbie the Wonder dog trotted through the area on his way home to Silverton Oregon. It had a US Mint and was home to the single largest bio-terror attack in US History. Moral of the story it is a much more interesting town than it may look upon driving by it on the freeway with quite a few nice establishments to go along with its rich history.

But my favorite thing about The Dalles is The Baldwin Saloon. Situated just off the main road downtown it can be hard to find but it should not be missed. The saloon originally opened in 1876 over the years it has also been a restaurant, a steamboat office, a warehouse, a coffin storage site, and a saddle shop. In 1991 it was finally restored back to its original state and reopened as a bar and restaurant. The owners have taken great pride in bringing it back to life by keeping the old that was worth keeping and decorating it with antiques of all kinds.

Not only is it quite a lovely little place the food is outstanding. They offer lunch and dinner with a large variety of sandwiches and filling entrees as well as vegan options a plenty. And given their location their wine menu is of course impressive and extensive. So if you ever find yourself near the area I highly suggest you stop in, it is in my opinion the best place in the area by far.

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The Drive-In – Condon, Oregon

A few weeks ago I talked about the Condon Hotel which is a darling historic hotel in Condon Oregon. While we were there we obviously needed to eat dinner. There were a couple restaurants that we wanted to eat at, one was closed and the other was out of to go boxes. Third times a charm took us to The Drive-In, which is on the south end of town across the street from the newly built city park which was also having  a farmers market that we had wandered around earlier in the day.
We chatted with the owner a bit while we waited for our burger, which we split with a large order of curly fries and a chocolate shake. He had mentioned that they had recently opened but they were busy so I didn’t get the chance to get too many details about how new or the history of the building they occupied. It was clearly built as a drive in, and was very popular with the locals.

They had an extensive menu with some really fantastically inventive burgers. We chose one that had a slice of ham as well as the burger. It was incredible! If it weren’t a 10 hour drive from my house I would go there for dinner every week.
We had a wonderful time sitting there waiting for our food, not only chatting with the owner but the locals that came and went for their dinners as well. I love getting to witness this kind of small town community and caring. They do not have a full website but a Facebook page with their hours can be found here. I would highly suggest stopping in if you find your way out there. Though as I write this in August they are currently closed as they are feeding the firefighters in the area trying to keep the wildfires from burning any more farms and historic homes. Once again, small town caring and community, it’s so wonderful to see.
Additional Information:

433 S Main St. Condon Oregon
11am to 7pm
Closed Sunday

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Mel's Drive-in – Los Angeles, California

When I was last in Los Angeles I twice saw an “Original Mel’s Drive-in”, in two different neighborhoods. I am a huge movie buff so I of course recognized the name as the diner from the movie American Graffiti. However it has been years since I had actually seen the movie and couldn’t recall just by looking at the diner and surrounding area to recall which of the two locations were actually used in the movie.

We were pretty busy when we were in LA, so I completely forgot to look up while we were there which location was used. And then as we were headed out town we needed to grab a bite to eat so we popped into the Sunset Blvd location, which my dad had also suggested as a decent place to eat. I later looked up filming locations of the movie and it turns out neither of the LA locations were used, as the movie was mostly filmed in San Francisco and the original location has since been demolished.

Despite not actually having been used for the movie the Sunset location is full of movie memorabilia and holds true to its 50s style decor and menu.  There isn’t a lot of information out there that I could find out the diner’s history or at least there appears to be some contradictory information. But the general idea is that Mel Weiss and Harold Dobbs built the first location in San Francisco, a true drive in style diner which catered to the ever growing car traffic on the west coast.

Several more locations were added over the years and ownership has since changed hands from the original families that built the drive through empire. Regardless that the location we ate at was not the original we thoroughly enjoyed our experience. As I mentioned the waitstaff was incredibly friendly, helpful and prompt. The diner was clean and while we were there blissfully empty. Which was a nice reprieve for us from the busy LA mood.  I would most certainly go back if I find myself near a Mel’s location, the kitschy decor and delicious diner food made the whole experience quite fun.

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The Block House Café – Dayton, Oregon

I have an affinity to hamburgers. I didn’t eat red meat for about 20 years and when I went back to eating it I did so with gusto. I LOVE HAMBURGERS. I can’t say that I am terribly picky either, I like fancy gourmet burgers, I like burgers with crazy toping, and I like flat greasy diner burgers from little hole in the wall places.

The Block House Café in Dayton, Oregon has a nice mix of all these traits and come out clean with a burger to suit all type of burger consumers (in my opinion anyway). But most importantly they offer a mini burger that is more suited to my stomach size.

As an added bonus the restaurant resides in the building of the former First Baptist Church of Dayton Oregon. It was built by a family who opened one of the first brick companies in the area and is one of the oldest standing brick buildings in the valley. It has been beautifully restored into a small dining facility with high ceilings, bright windows and a relaxed atmosphere. The wait staff was incredibly nice, and the menu aside from the hamburgers list boasts a large selection of sandwiches and a brunch menu to die for. They also have cinnamon roll pancakes, which are truly incredible. They are located on 301 Main Street in Dayton, open only for breakfast and lunch closing at three everyday.

After we ate we walked around the town, which is mostly just three shop lined streets that flank the main square park. It is a very small town. But it does have a surprising list of places to eat, none of which I have been to yet. One of which, Archie’s is a 1950s themed ice cream shop decorated  to resemble the Archie comics I am so very fond of. Had I not been stuffed and it been a slightly warmer day I would have pounced on the chance to go in. Next time. There is always next time.

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Twin Peaks-ing in Washington

As a happy accident my best friend decided to get married at the Salish Lodge, which to the happy couple was a place of retreat and celebration throughout their relationship. But to me was in fact, the exterior filming site for the Great Northern Lodge in David Lynch’s epic cult classic TV show Twin Peaks.

**A damn fine cup of coffee**
I have been a fan of Twin Peaks since the very first time I heard the theme music play while watching the show for the very first time. The show itself has managed to drum up thousands of oddly obsessed fans world wide. There is something uniquely special and easily identifiable about the show and the themes that drive the story. As such, rather than fans, the show has the kinds of crazed fanatics that make pilgrimages to filming locations. Which is exactly who I am and exactly what I did at the end of August 2016.

**I am clearly underwhelmed by my experience (except not at all)**
We didn’t have a lot of time to spend in the area, as we were both fairly busy at work and couldn’t take any time off to drive all over Washington to see every single filming location in the state. And truth be told not all filming locations are in Washington, a large portion of sites are actually in California.

**Look at that fine example of 80’s neon lighting**
My main intent for the trip (aside from attending a wedding) was to visit the famous Double R Diner. Which is currently named Twede’s Café and is not in fact the original diner from the show.

**Twede’s exterior shot**
Thompson’s Café was built in the early 1940’s. The pilot for David Lynch’s television show was filmed at the original café, but sets were built to look exactly like the café in California for the remainder of the shooting. The café changed hands over the years and was bought by a couple who renamed the location Twede’s Café.

However in 2000 the location burnt down, and was then rebuilt. I am happy to report that since the rebuilt the owners have attempted to insert some Twin Peaks-ness into it. It is as expected a greasy spoon type diner, and loved every minuet of my visit.

**Crazy diner interiors, I love them all**
As I mentioned the wedding later that weekend took place at the Salish Lodge. Which was used for exterior film scenes and the site of the famous waterfall in the intro of the show. I was fairly busy with wedding attendant duties, but did manage to take a couple shots between photo shoots.

**Snoqualmie Falls**
For more Washington film locations you can visit these sites:
Laura Palmers House is located at: 708 33rd St, Everett, WA.
Double R Diner(ish): Twede’s Café North Bend, Washinton.
Exterior of Great Northern and Waterfall: Salish Lodge in Snoqualmie, Washington.
Interior Filming of the Great Northern:Kiana Lodge in Poulsbo, Washington
Ronnett’s Bridge: Snoqualmie River on the Reinig Bridge in Snoqualmie, Washington.
Roadhouse Exteriors: Fall City Roadhouse and Inn in Fall City, Washington.
Roadhouse Interiors:Raisbeck Performance Hall at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington.

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