This is Part 3 of the Walla Walla, WA: Walking Your Way to the Best Wine Vintages and Culinary Delights 3-part series. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
There are over 13 outstanding restaurants, all within a short walking distance of the downtown core of Walla Walla, Washington - that is a unique situation for this town of 32,000. Every time we go to this wonderful wine country, we see some new culinary stars. Here is just a small sample.
Hattaway’s on Alder
Southern Comfort in wine country? That is what you have when two Alabamans take their cooking prowess to Walla Walla. Owners Richard and Lindsay Hattaway recently started Hattaway’s on Alder. Folks sometimes wonder how married couples can work together, but Richard and Lindsay have been successful together since they began working Farmhouse Salad was made with greens from the local Hay Shaker Farm, lardons, a soft-boiled egg, and dressed with a mustard vinaigretteside by side in Atlanta.
Given that the restaurant was packed for our early weekday dinner, they are a power couple who has taken the wine country by storm.
For starters, we shared the Duck Paté, which was served with apple chutney, pickled celery and onions, and, some excellent crusty bread. It was such a tasty indulgence! Michael’s – which added a lively spice! I loved the Celery Salad – made of long cut celery, Parmesan cheese, figs, and hazelnuts. It was crispy and crunchy, and the tang of the cheese combined with the sweet figs make this a sensational salad.
For our main courses, Michael much enjoyed the Fresh Clams and Sausage made with house-made linguica sausage, prepared in the traditional Portuguese way. The combination of tastes from the garlic and paprika will make your taste buds jump! Keeping to a theme, I ordered the Duck Breast, which was tender and luxurious. It easily competes for the best duck I’ve ever had. It was served with Dirty Rice and a garnish of scallion collard kimchi, which gave quite a kick!
Owner Tom Maccarone is a seasoned veteran of the area with his Italian-focused cuisine. Originally named T. Maccarone’s, his restaurant dates to 2005. Tom recently rebranded as TMACS (because that was what everyone was calling it anyway!) So, the name was changed, and the menu expanded. Also, they just moved into their new building, The Showroom on Colville, which also houses other businesses such as a fine art collective, a day spa, and Tom’s other establishment -TMACS Epicurean Kitchen, a great place to shop for artisanal food products. For Walla Walla history buffs, this building used to be a showroom for cars dating back to the 1930s. Now a contemporary showroom for fine cuisine, the ambiance of high ceilings, and sleek furnishings is stylish and welcoming.
I started with the Root Vegetable Salad – made with baby beets, baby turnips, and baby rainbow carrots. And baby, it was great (and quite pretty)! The vegetables were accompanied by spiced goat cheese mousse and red beet puree and garnished with microgreens and toasted almonds. It was a tough act to follow, but the Seasonal Flatbread, with figs, prosciutto, and pickled onions was a serious contender. Sweet figs, salty prosciutto, and tart pickled onions – it was a beautiful riot of tastes.
Michaels meal was a combination of two of his continuing culinary quests: the best gazpacho and the best Reuben. And they both were high ranking in his estimation. The refreshing gazpacho with shrimp was made with heirloom tomatoes. The Pastrami Reuben featured thick-sliced pastrami and just the right amount of aged swiss on Wheatland Bakery Rye. The swirled dark and light rye bread was toasted and robust enough to handle this stack of goodness. It was served with apple-caraway braised sauerkraut.
A local teenager goes to Paris for a year and returns home to open a French Restaurant. That would describe Hannah McDonald, who started Brasserie Four in 2008. However, Hannah took a few years between the trip abroad and the opening of the restaurant to hone her skills at culinary school in Portland, Oregon. She also worked for several west coast restaurants, including a gig as chef of another Walla Walla establishment before opening Brasserie Four. Walking through the door was like teleporting to Paris. The relaxed and picturesque dining area and bar was the perfect setting for an ideal meal. The restaurant features a rotating art exhibit of talented local artists. An entertaining feature was the wall lined with bottles of wine. You can make your choice by picking up the bottles and reading the labels. Hannah recently sold the restaurant to friend Jamie Guerin, who also owns the Whitehouse-Crawford, another Walla Walla restaurant.
For starters, we shared the Trois – a colorful salad of beets, fennel and carrots and dressed with a champagne vinaigrette, along with the Assiette de Fromage – a selection of imported cheeses.
Michael ordered the Huîtres, a half dozen Willapa Bay oysters often thought of as the best of the Pacific oysters found in Washington. They had a light briny flavor with sweet cucumber notes. At least that is what he told me. You don’t ever try to get between Michael and oysters!
For the main course, I ordered the Lamb Navarin. The lamb was from the Upper Dry Creek Ranch in nearby eastern Oregon. It was braised in white wine, tomatoes, garlic, and onions. The tender and rich taste of the lamb went very well with the buttered white rice.
Michael had one of the specials – Sole seared with dill, parsley, tarragon, chives, and fennel. For dessert, we went back to sharing – trading bites of a delicious apple tart and crème brûlée. The perfect ending to a perfect meal.
This is truly a family that has had an exciting journey. After several years of collecting and enjoying wines from around the world, Tim and Jen were living in Chicago when Tim decided to sign up for remote winemaking classes at UC Davis. Which he enjoyed, and learned a lot. Then came a job offer from a particular software company based in Redmond, WA. Tim looked at a map and quickly noticed the burgeoning wine scene in close-by Woodinville. The wheels started to turn, and Jen the marketing person realized the potential of winemaking.
Their winemaking was so successful in the Woodinville Warehouse Winery District that they needed to expand since they quickly outgrew their space. They were looking for a vast wine region and a small community to raise their kids, so Walla Walla was the obvious answer.
Now they have a small farm where they grow grapes and live in the farmhouse. They are looking forward to opening a tasting room at the farm, but in the meantime, you can find them in downtown Walla Walla, as well as the first tasting room in Woodinville.
We started with the Viognier, which was also the first wine they made with all Walla Walla fruit. Some light peach fruit notes and orange blossom notes would make this a great pairing with Michael’s grilled salmon when we get home. Then we went on to Jen’s favorite, Fronk (which is how she fondly refers to Cab Franc.) Fronk is 100% Cabernet Franc and comes from their one-acre block located in Dineen Vineyards in Zillah, WA. It has taste notes of red fruit and licorice, smooth tannins and fresh acidity.
The distinctive labels on Otis Kenyon wines hint at an intriguing family history. Featuring a silhouetted man with a bowler hat, and a burnt edge, the labels harken to the story of great grandfather James Otis Kenyon. Back in the early 1920s, he was the only dentist in nearby Milton Free-water, Oregon. He thrived financially until another dentist moved into his territory and took half his patients. Not one to be competed with, James Otis burned the interloper’s office to the ground. He pleaded guilty and was sent to a mental institution to serve his time while performing great dental work for the inmates and staff. His wife divorced him, moved to Walla Walla and told her two young sons that their father was dead. However, in the 1970s, grandson Steve went on a mission to find out how his grandfather had died. The first thing he discovered was that no death certificate had ever been filed. After an intensive search, he found his “dead” grandfather alive and well, living on the Oregon coast. Not only had he left his arsonist ways behind, but he had also been given a city honor for having 50 years of dedicated dental service to the area. Steve brought him back into the family, where he is remembered as a loving and kind patriarch.
Today, under the guidance of winemaker Dave Stephenson, James Otis Kenyon is memorialized by some terrific wines. Dave was brought on board for the first vintage in 2004, and while continuing at Otis Kenyon, he also owns his winery and vineyard management firm and is a consultant to other wineries. Busy guy!
Our first taste of Dave’s wine was the Roussanne. This white grape, when left in contact of the skin, turns roux (meaning russet or reddish-brown). The 2018 vintage we tasted was dry, with peach, apricot, and lemon notes. It would pair well, with many different foods, from buttery shellfish to a spicy curry.
We also sampled two different Syrah wines, the first of which was the 2010, which had a light earthy taste. It was very different than the 2015, which was a much warmer vintage and produced a wine that is fruit-forward with flavors of black currant, blueberry, and notes of leather and sage. The final wine we tasted was the 2015 Merlot. This 100% Merlot was well-structured with dominant flavors of black cherry and chocolate. As the tasting notes suggest, this would pair well with duck. And I’m looking forward to testing that out.
The fascinating and heart-warming stories we hear from the winery owners is the highlight of our job, and DAMA Wines is an excellent example. Their story starts with Spring Valley Vineyard, which Shari Corkham Derby’s grandad farmed in the early 1900s. Sheri and her husband Dean first planted grapes in the early 1990s. Then later in that decade, their son Devin and his wife Mary Derby were the winemakers.
Tragically, Devin died in a car accident in 2004, and Mary Derby found herself at a crossroads. Should she leave Walla Walla or stay? The decision became easy when nine local wineries got together and donated a large quantity of wine to help her in the short term.
In 2007, Mary and her friend and fellow winemaker Dawn Kammer started DAMA Wines. Fast forward to today, and you will find Mary and her new partner Judith Shulman creating magic at one of the few women-owned wineries in Washington.
During this discussion, we were sampling wines. We loved the 2015 Cab Franc, which is 100% Cab Franc, all from Walla Walla fruit. Deep red color with light to medium boldness it presents taste notes of red fruit and a touch of chili pepper. Wine Press Northwest rated this wine outstanding, and we second that notion!
Named for Dr. Marcus Whitman and his wife Narcissa, this story includes an unfortunate fate. Dr. Whitman was a missionary who traveled west with his wife Narcissa – not a common occurrence for women of European descent. They built a mission and introduced agriculture and Christianity to the semi-nomadic Cayuse people of what is now Oregon. When a measles epidemic hit the Cayuse tribe, Dr. Whitman did his best to treat them, but half the tribe was killed by the disease. In the Cayuse culture at the time, if someone being treated by a medicine man dies, the family of the deceased had the right to kill the medicine man. On November 29, 1847, several Cayuse fighters descended on the mission and killed both the Whitmans and eleven other people staying at the mission. Shortly after, an associate of Whitman built Whitman Seminary, which was later moved to Walla Walla and renamed Whitman College.
The campus is a short walk (10 minutes) from downtown and is a delightful little side trip that includes the Outdoor Sculpture Walk, the Memorial Building (built in 1899) along with 1600 trees lining the campus.
Sadly, our two-day stay in Walla Walla was ending. We took the 20-minute walk back to our hotel, through downtown and past the many wine tasting rooms and restaurants. We noticed some that we didn’t visit, so we have a list all ready for our return visit.
Editorial disclosure: lodging, beverages, and food generously provided.