In the Cloud; enjoying the weather, food and brew Cloud Mountain Farm is a perfect location for their yearly Fall Fruit Festival. Located in the rural setting of Everson Washington, Mt. Baker’s towering giant snow cone makes a scenic backdrop. Mt Baker holds the world record of yearly snowfall of 1140 inches which is testimony that it is wet here over the winter. In fact one is told when traveling to this region, which is just 100 miles north of Seattle that it rains here all the time. However, the months of June through September generally receive less than 2 inches of rain a month. So no worries – the fall festival is usually dry.
One of the highlights of The Fall Fruit Festival is gazing and grazing on the fresh harvest from local farms. You will find all varieties of apples, peppers, grapes and tomatoes beautifully displayed on long tables. Stroll among the produce, sample as much as you like and chat with the farmers who are staffing the displays. While you are sampling, take a walk around the farm, watch the kids play in the pumpkin patch and soak up the good country air. Then, just when you think you are done eating there is one more stand that forces you to have just one more taste. The sign reads: “Fresh Made Mallard Ice Cream” and the ice cream is so good that their web site states this: “could ice cream really be the food of gods?” Our answer was: most probably!
Later that evening we attended an amazing eating event – a gourmet dinner prepared by Ciao Thyme. The dinner was part of the “Incognito Dinner”, a fundraiser for Cloud Mountain Farm which is now becoming a nonprofit organization dedicated to sustainable organic farming. The original owners Cheryl and Tom Thornton started farming at this location in 1978 and now have donated the farm to the non-profit but continue to provide labor, expertise and teaching workshops for other area farms and family gardeners. They also conduct research on best organic practices and varieties of fruits and vegetables that grow in the area.
The Incognito Dinner started with champagne and appetizers of baked kale, parsnips, and artichokes, served in cones (like French fries – only healthy!). We then entered a large greenhouse that had been transformed into an enchanting dining room. The beautiful lanterns, flowers and formal place settings along with music from a live band – took our breath away. The dinner featured local wines and fresh local foods. One of the highlights was the squash soup which is served in individual carved squash shells. Also served were heirloom tomatoes, and Chantal mushrooms. The main course was tender deliciously prepared rabbit. Last but not least was the caramelized apple bread pudding that was heavenly. The food, atmosphere and company all combined to create a feeling of truly being in the clouds.
After dinner we drove about 20 minutes to our lodging for the night, where we were transported from the clouds of Mt. Baker to the exotic Mediterranean. What a surprise it was to find this beautiful Mediterranean room at the Tree Frog Night Inn. The Inn offers two delightful suites: The Mediterranean and The Coast Salish Native American Suite. It was easy to settle in and enjoy the Turkish wall hangings, Persian rugs, and very colorful tile in the bathroom. The generous hospitality included a check list of breakfast choices for the next morning.
For breakfast, a short stroll to the main cabin will find the hosts Kara Black and Kurt Yandell waiting for you with a delicious breakfast. Be sure to try Kara’s Mexican egg omelet bake with scallops, salsa and green chilies. The eggs are so fresh – you probably met the hens who laid them while walking over to the main cabin. (They are very friendly hens.) Also of note – the delicious home-made apple butter on home-made bread.
Kara and Kurt recommended a number of Mt Baker trails and the Excelsior Trailhead was a perfect choice for this day. The pleasant drive through this glacier valley with the specular scenery is only fifty minutes. The hike to the viewpoint of Mt. Baker is four miles in through lush forest, small waterfalls and valley views.
After the hike comes the time honored tradition of visiting the North Fork Brewery, Pizzeria, Beer Shine and Wedding Chapel. Along with brews and pizza they actually do host weddings there, officiated by Vicki Savage, ordained minister and one of the owners.
The North Fork is known for the custom brews served which they sell to just a few local restaurants. Having trouble deciding between the thirteen beers? Then go for the Beer Sampler. Sandy Savage, one of the owners and former head brewer specializes in the British Ales style. This style is well represented in the ESB Extra Special Bitter which offers a full body but not a heavy taste. However if one is looking for a lighter taste then the Lighter Shade of Pale is perfect choice. The final sample of beer was their special homemade root beer. Which was amazing. Only thing missing was the ice cream.
Sampling the beer was now complete, so bring on the food. The French Onion Soup is a big hit on a chilly fall day. And of course you can’t leave without trying their fabulous pizza.
Dessert? If one is still hungry the word is the signature brownies are not to be missed. However if one is going on an extensive wine and food visit the next day, one might want to pace themselves and take a pass. Life is full of hard decisions.
Cloud Mountain Farm,
6906 Goodwin Rd. Everson, WA 98247 360
207 Unity Street, Bellingham, WA 98225,
North Fork Brewery,
6186 Mt. Baker Highway, Deming, WA 98244,
Sponsored by Bellingham Whatcom
Author: Michael Fagin is a freelance travel writer who has traveled over the last ten years across Canada and visited all the major Canadian wine regions. Mr. Fagin is currently touring the Pacific Northwest enjoying the wine country, dining, and hiking the region. While he is not writing Mr. Fagin is a meteorologist for West Coast Weather, LLC forecasting weather for the West Coast of the US as well as on an international basis.
Photos by Elizabeth Fagin.