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Natalie the Nomad: New Moon Cafe (Olympia, WA)

Monthly Feature
We’re never quite sure where Natalie will end up each month!

When you think café, the words “cozy”, “friendly” and “quaint”. The New Moon Cafe in Olympia embodies just that. But it gets better.

First off, let me just say that the decor here cracks me up. Its totally random – everything from the tables and chairs to local artwork (for sale) adorning the walls. Upon every table sits a small journal that you’re encouraged to write/doodle/rant/rave in – New Moon has definitely had some characters come through, that’s for sure.

Second thing, which I absolutely loved – everything here is homemade. EVERYTHING. Right down to the salad dressings and their famed so-scrumptious-I-could-eat-a-pound-of-them hash browns. The real treat is their blackberry jam. So popular that it requires an entire squeeze bottle sitting next the Tabasco, you can tell that heart and soul went into this jam. I honestly was looking for a way to smuggle a bottle out, but thankfully they had it for sale.

On to the entrees…I had the “Amsterdam Omelette” – I can’t decide if I want to know the meaning of the name behind this or not, but considering there were “Get your pot prescription filled by calling 555-5555 immediately!!”, I can only imagine… This omelette was composed of spinach, red onion, tomato, perfectly green avocado, and smoked gouda. Honestly, I would have liked to taste a little more gouda, but other than that it was perfect.

What I really liked at New Moon, was that the portion sizes weren’t made for a family of 47. You left full and happy, but didn’t feel like you had to walk laps around the mall to get back to feeling comfortable. My husband ordered the “Carne Omelette”, with the bacon and cheddar option. I can tell that this was delicious because 1) I wasn’t even offered a bite 2) it was gone in about 2 minutes. It is what I would imagine to be a ‘Man’s Omelette”’. Both omelettes were served with hash browns – I’m telling you, New Moon has this DOWN. Is it possible for potatoes to be heavenly? These had just the right amount of crunch, yet melted in your mouth. I almost felt bad smothering them in hot sauce. Almost.

Lastly, the kiddo had a “Panda Cake” – pancakes arranged to make a Panda’s face, which were promptly covered in their jam and devoured. I thought I would have to hose the jam off our toddler, and I also expected to be cleaning it up of the floorboard of the car. She ate that much. Not kidding.

As I explore more nooks and crannies in our little corner of Washington, I would have to say that this place is definitely a secret that is slowly bursting at the seams. There’s only seating for about 20 people, but we noticed as we were leaving, a crowd was slowly gathering outside. Another small word of caution – there hours are crazy limited, and the latest they’re open is until 2:30. For the price, you’re getting an amazing deal – especially since everything there is made to order, from scratch, and a little bit of hippie love (the good, warm kind; not the patchouli smelling kind).

New Moon Café
113 4th Ave West
Olympia, WA

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Natalie the Nomad: Anthony’s at Point Defiance (Tacoma)

Monthly Feature
We’re never quite sure where Natalie will end up each month!

With an address like “Waterfront Drive”, you KNOW this place is going to have rockin’ seafood. From the get go, Anthony’s is impressive – nestled on the Point Defiance waterfront, the restaurant and it’s outdoor patio overlooking Puget Sound, and you can see Mount Rainier beaming brilliantly in the distance. The restaurant shares a boardwalk with a local fishing shop filled with history and character – it is definitely worth meandering around in as you wait for your table.

Appetizers – We ordered Oysters, as well as the Calamari. While I didn’t touch the oysters, the table didn’t say one bad or good thing about them. The calamari, however was delicious. The accompanying sauce was tangy, and the perfect compliment to the fried rings of calamari. The crispy, light batter was so good, that I caught myself picking fried batter dough from the bottom of the platter. I honestly think I would have put down a 5 lb. bucket of this stuff, easily.

Entrees – The table in general had a pretty hard time trying to figure out what to choose for dinner. The baked Copper River Salmon was tender, and flavorful, served with exquisite garlic mashed potatoes, and steamed broccoli. The smoked salmon fettuccini was perfect – the blend of capers and lemon accented the smoked salmon wonderfully, without taking too much away from the dish itself. Finally, The Blackened Rockfish Tacos lived beyond any kind of expectations I had. The mango salsa was delectable, paired with the salsa mayo, blended with a crunch of cabbage – the background flavors were an ideal mix for the blackened fish. With all of this snuggled into a soft, flour tortilla, this main powerhouse definitely had me overlooking the slightly stale chips it was served with.

Dessert – I’m not going to lie – from the moment I saw their “Anthony’s Burnt Cream” [crème brûlée], I knew that I wasn’t walking out of this restaurant without having it. While I was relatively full from my meal, I ordered it, and it did not disappoint in any way, shape or form. The only complaint I could possibly have about this dessert is that it wasn’t served to me out of a trough… The sugary top snapped delicately under your spoon, leaving a soft custard base that seemed to melt in your mouth. Aside from my personal dessert, the other popular one at the table was the Rhubarb Tart. A generous heap of vanilla ice cream was served with this savory tart; the locally grown rhubarbs were mixed with strawberry to create the perfect marriage of sweet and bitter, making this dessert the perfect end to our visit at Anthony’s.

We cannot wait to return to this restaurant. While Anthony’s has many locations, as they are a chain of fresh seafood restaurants. With that said, please do not mistake it for your local Long John Silver’s. Depending on where you are coming from, Anthony’s also has guest moorage spots available, so if you’re ever boating around and feel like grabbing a bite, just dock your boat on their pier and you’re good to go. You know, because we all have that luxury… I’ll get there, some day, especially if it means eating their calamari and burnt cream all day.

Note: 1 beer, two appetizers, two entrées, and two desserts will run you about $95.

Please check out Natalie’s wonderful blogs here and here!

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Natalie the Nomad: VooDoo Doughnut, Too! (Portland)

Monthly Feature
You never know where Natalie will end up. This month, she heads to Portland, Oregon!

Man oh man. I will try and capture the essence of this place with the correct words, but the first two terms that come to mind are ‘amazing’ and ‘flabbergasted’. The mecca to VooDoo began with my brother watching Food Network, and promptly planning it into his visit out to the West Coast. We figured that we wouldn’t encounter the long lines, as it was showcased on Food Network/Travel Channel. We figured we’d take our time with the menu, mull things over, order and sit down.

WRONG. It turned into a complete and utter meal, surrounded a bit by personal chaos rattling your brain as your eyes tried to soak in the menu of over, and your nose intoxicating the rest of your body with the sweet smell of sugar and flour. We pulled up to “VooDoo Doughnut Too”, a secondary location from the ever coveted original location (the original is closed due to construction). We immediately realized that this was not going to be an oridinary, run of the mill visit to a hunky dory doughnut shop. The building itself is painted bright pink, and the line wrapped along the back entrance, rounding the corner. Out back we noticed a few grills, and were perplexed at the idea, until we saw bacon going on the grill. Bacon? At a doughnut shop? Why yes, the lovely strips of bacon go directly on top of a maple frosting covered doughnut. Genius.

We waited in line, and finally took in the atmosphere. There were off the wall, random objects taped/pinned/glued onto the walls/ceilings/doors/windows; and the look was completed by random arcade games and a photo booth in the back of the shop. Our group was staring at the board, trying to decide what it is that we really wanted, reading over the menu like obssesive compulsive sugar addicts. We noticed that for $10, we could get the “VooDoo Dozen”, an option would include a dozen doughnuts, hand picked by the staff, at complete random. We decided to go from there, and make our way to the ‘seating’ area of the shop. I use that term loosely, as the entire store was one long line of people zigzagging, and there were maybe 10 seats for people to sit on.

Within the boxes, we found a myriad of sprinkled, iced, glazed floury bits of goodness, to include: The Loop [Fruit Loop covered], Diablos Rex [chocolate cake doughnut with chocolate frosting, red sprinkles, and chocolate chips in the middle], Mango Tango [filled with mango jelly and topped with vanilla frosting and tang], Dirt doughnut [vanilla frosting and crushed Oreos], Maple Blazer Blunt [maple frosting and red sprinkle ember… yes, it is in the shape of a blunt], Marshall Matters [vanilla frosting and mini M&M’s], Memphis Mafia [Fried dough with banana chunks and cinnamon sugar covered in a glaze with chocolate frosting, peanut butter, peanuts and chocolate chips on top], Old Dirty Bastard [chocolate frosting, Oreo’s and peanut butter!] Butterfingering [chocolate doughnut with vanilla frosting and Butterfinger crumbles] and a few plain’ old sprinkled doughnuts, a couple cinnamon/sugar ones, accompanied by chocolatey coconut covered ones.

My personal favorite was the Butterfinger one [I refuse to call it by it’s real name, Butterfingering], while other popular ones at the table being the Marshall Matters, Old Dirty Bastard and the Dirt Doughnut. We also purchased some of the more popular items, the original VooDoo Doll, and the Texas Challenge doughnut. While we didn’t participate in the challenge [you get your money back if you can finish the whole thing in 80 seconds], the giant doughnut was equivalent to 6; but was a fluffy haven every bite of the way. The VooDoo doll is filled with raspberry jelly topped with chocolate frosting and a pretzel stake, and what makes the Doll unique is that the characteristics of every Doll is different.

My original intent was to experience VooDoo, have a doughnut [gluten intolerancy be damned] and hit a local lunch spot afterwards. In all honesty, I couldn’t really eat much the rest of the day, and even turned down the additional doughnuts we had brought home. The doughnuts didn’t give anyone else in the group stomach issues, and I’m pretty sure smelling sweet flour and sugar for almost 2 hours did a number on my senses. I just wasn’t feeling it and I am apparently a 90 year old with an evil stomach.

If you are making a trip to Portland, and you like doughnuts, you MUST go to VooDoo. Their doughnuts are soft, VERY fresh, just the right amount of sweet, and the relaxed atmosphere alone will have you kickin’ back in no time. Be advised though, there is plenty of stoner humor and perverse sayings/drawings throughout the shop. While it takes adult type knowledge to realize what you’re seeing, I wouldn’t necessarily be a fan of my kid seeing some of the stuff. All three VooDoo locations are open 24 hours, 7 days a week. While all 3 locations take cash only, they have ATMS available in each shop. I would highly advise checking out their online menu, to narrow down what it is you really want. Seeing a HUGE chalkboard in front of you can be intimidating, and we all agree that “having one of everything” at a doughnut shop probably isn’t socially acceptable. Though it should be… dammit.

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Natalie the Nomad: Engine House 9 (Tacoma)

Monthly Feature
Natalie is always on the move, bringing us the very best in restaurant reviews. This month, she’s in Tacoma.

There is a reason why Engine House 9 is one of the area’s Top 10 Restaurants. Not only is this brew pub in the National Historical Register, but it is one of the liveliest and unique places around. The walls are littered with what the restaurant used to be – a firehouse. Names of firefighters line the walls, the original fireman’s pole stands strong in the front of the pub, and you can’t even use the restroom without passing framed photos of the good old days. There’s always something to look at, but if your lazy eyes get tired, there’s always a well placed tv around to ensure you don’t miss the latest sporting event.

Let’s cut to the chase – the beer. Our table got the sampler, nicely priced at a cool $5. Our particular sampler included Belgian White [light and fruity], Fire Engine Red [dark and a little too hoppy for the table’s taste], Tacoma Brew [pale ale], Irish Stout [strong, dark and heavy], Rowdy Dick Amber Ale, and India Pale Ale [hoppy but light]. By far, the Amber Ale was the winner of the group, and was ordered numerous times throughout the night – which helped when saying you wanted another “Rowdy Dick”… For those keeping track at home, this won the table over because it was light, airy and smooth but not too wimpy.

The beers did not disappoint, and we were all eager to get started on the food. Again, Engine House 9 delivered. Ordering the Texas straws [fried jalapenos and onions] and the Crab & Artichoke Dip, we thought we would be in over our heads. To say they were delicious would be an understatement, and while we were getting to the point of being full, we were looking forward to dinner even more.

Dinner was BEYOND any of our expectations. The rule is usually “don’t eat the food at the bar” – at Engine House 9, you MUST eat. Their menu pretty versatile, ranging from the Famous E9 Soft Taco, to Fish & Chips, as well as a London Broil and their signature E9 Chili. Our table had a smattering of different dishes; Chili burger, Smoked Turkey sandwich, Smoked Salmon Pasta, and a Cajun Chicken Sandwich. Judging by the silence at the table, everything was delicious and cooked to perfection.

If you are ever in the Tacoma area, and want a great meal surrounded by a comfortable atmosphere, check out Engine House 9.

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