This past Saturday Beth and I headed up into the mountains for a day trip to Leavenworth. Leavenworth is like a lot of small mountain towns. Formed when the railroad came through, Leavenworth was a happening town in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Then around the 30’s or 40’s, things changed. The railroad changed direction, and the main source of income, the sawmill, shut down. The town was hanging on by the proverbial thread when, in the early 60’s, community leaders decided the only thing that would help was tourism dollars. The town sits in an area that is very reminiscent of Bavaria, so they remade the town into a little bit of Alpine goodness, and the rest as they say is history.

This little jewel sits off of Route 2, past Stevens Pass, nestled at the foot of Tumwater mountain. Total drive for us is about 90 miles, which makes it a very affordable day trip. And boy do you get your money’s worth on the trip there and back. The scenery is just spectacular with great views of the mountains, kayakers taking on the Wenatchee river and assorted creeks, and on this particular trip the bluest sky we’ve seen in a while. Love it.

So what does one do once in Leavenworth? Well, for us, first stop is always to grab a brat and a beer at Uncle Uli’s, a little pub/restaurant that is a favorite of locals, dogs and tourists alike. On this trip we got treated to Brat Burgers. Great bulk bratwurst sausage, made into patties, grilled and served with bacon, cheese, lettuce, onion and tomato. Hands down a new favorite. Same great taste of a brat, but with more room for the fixings. That burger and an ice cold Widmer Hefeweizen made for one great start to the afternoon.

After lunch we wandered around the town square looking at the art and carvings. Most weekends there is some sort of an art show going on. In the fall, usually around Thanksgiving, they have the tree lighting ceremony and the whole town square lights up. If you can make it, I highly recommend a trip to Leavenworth around the Holiday season, after the tree lighting. The town takes on vibe that is, well magical. Snow on the mountains, warm lights in the store fronts, handsome cabs taking bundled up fares for rides as steam rises off the horses. It’s beyond words really.

We also hit up some of the stores. Some are the cheesy little tourist trap stores, but most are pure gems. You have your leather outlet, hats, vintage clothing, kitchen gadgets, metal sculpture, you name it. You’ll also find candy stores selling bag candy right out of our childhoods and some pretty spectacular art galleries. You’ll find a chocolatier, Schocolat, sitting at the back of a store, that sits next to a wine tasting room for Kestrel wines. How convenient is that? So convenient that it has now become a tradition to go to the chocolate store, purchase 6-8 pieces of assorted chocolate nirvana, then go next door to pair them with wines. A great way to spend an hour or so.

After we had our wine tasting, it was on to The Cheesemonger’s Shop to find some new cheese to try. On this trip we snagged some Toscano Salumi along with some smoked mozzarella, smoked gouda, whisky soaked white cheddar and applewood smoked cheddar. We also picked up some crackers and assorted small jars of different mustards, then hit the road for home.

Back home we set out a dinner spread of a lovely Kestrel Cabernet Sauvignon, and our cheese shop bounty. The whisky cheddar was very strong, but in a good way, with that sharp bite cheddar lovers crave. The winner of the group was the smoked mozzarella. Firm, but with a melt in your mouth quality that was spectacular with the Cab. I’ve got to be honest, there is no better way to end a day of traveling than to just relax with a nice glass of wine and some cheese and salumi. Perfection.

You really don’t have to travel for hours and hours, spending $$$$, just to get someplace to wash away the work week. Look close to home, you’ll be surprised at what you find.

Cheers,
Gregor

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