When last we left off, Jon was having a pleasant day touring Bainbridge Island, and had just consumed some of the best whiskey he’d ever tried in his life. Unfortunately, things were about to take a dark turn. A turn as twisty and dark as a bowl of spaghetti. That was a dumb metaphor. Forgive me.
So, like I just said: Harbour Public House, #1 Craft Whiskey in America, feeling like a dragon. Then, suddenly, things became very bad, very quickly. I was eating, drinking, and I paused. I felt…heavy. Like a great and terrible force had suddenly birthed in my bowels. And I was very specific about that: this was a problem DEEP within me. My stomach was fine. This was somewhere about 2 inches in front of where my spine met my pelvis. Like a Balrog waking in shadow and flame, the weight grew.
The OTHER Balrog, smartass.
So of course, my first reaction is ‘ooh, that Winter Elixir punched straight through me’, and I excused myself to the restroom. This did not aid things. At all. In the bathroom, I was forced to reflect on the fact that Yama, in addition to the quaint name of an abandoned Japanese village, was also the name of the Hindu God of Death. Rooster-riding Yama had come for me, it seems. I returned to the table a changed man. My face was pale, I’m told. I was sweating. And through it all, I think it should be noted, I wasn’t in pain. It didn’t hurt, it just weighed on me. Like I had eaten a bowling ball the night before, and this was the start of the gruesome egg-laying process that would render me incapable of walking.
I stopped eating, because, yes, I had continued to eat through that. Look, I have this mental tic about eating, based on my all-too-precise understanding of the amoung of people starving, or suffering from food instability, and so on. Deep down, failing to eat as much as I can of a meal presented to me in many cases weighs on me as a moral violation. That’s not a joke. That’s just a peek into my white-guilt neuroses. What COULD be a joke, and is honestly pretty funny, is the idea of a man slowly, methodically, taking bites of an enormous steak sandwich, his face a rictus of pain and terror, seemingly forced to eat it by some sort of gypsy curse.
Some people critique me for using "Gypsy", which is considered a slur in some regions. To which I say: If you consider calling someone a member of a colorful, nomadic people rumored to possess magic powers insulting, maybe it's your culture that's in the wrong.
We left the public house, and walked to the car. My step was uncertain, the bracing wind of the day seeming sharper, crueler than when we had walked the streets mere minutes before. Unwilling to let my suffering deter anyone else’s good time, I insisted we push on. Like the time I discovered I was allergic to my host’s cat an hour into a house party when my eyes swelled shut, and I, chuckling wryly (and thickly, through puffed cheeks) , dismissed talk of leaving, as I “didn’t want to be a bother.”
Luckily, and almost imperceptibly, it passed. Seriously, I felt like I was legitimately dying for a little bit, and then, fifteen or so minutes later, I realized I was feeling perfectly normal again, and I had no sense of when this transition had occurred. (We believe it may have been a bout of sciatica, meaning I had somehow pinched the largest nerve in my body, and it had responded by going numb, leading my body to start panicking.) So it was with trepidation that we arrived at the distillery.
Guys, let me tell you this right now: the distillery itself was almost worth the trip. Because I don’t know if we came on a specific important day, but I can tell you this: The distillery was redolent, in a way that perfectly justified that $2 word, with the smell of bread. It was like we had been shrunk by an inattentive Rick Moranis, and fallen through the crust of a freshly baked loaf of French bread. The tasting of their wares was handled with amazing efficiency: From the moment we entered the shop till we left was maybe 15 minutes. We had 5 tastes in that time, dithered on whether we should get anything, bought, paid, and left. Though we did spend some time looking at the barrels of Yama Whiskey.
Fun fact: By my math, each of these barrels contains (assuming they're full), roughly $25,000 of whiskey. Meaning that this photo contains roughly 1 small house's worth of alcohol.
At this juncture, we hit the road again, as we still had 2 hours of driving to get through, so I’ll jump through the story a bit more fluidly.
Via Rosa 11: An Italian market that shares a wall with a Jiffy Mart, we were not initially too hopeful. But the inside of this place was a delight. A wood-fired oven for pizzas, fresh pasta being worked just behind the counter, a collection of sauces, this place sang of an attention to detail, and a love of Italian food. The staff were very helpful, talking us through how to cook fresh pasta, what sauces went with which noodles, etc. JJ demanded we invest in a 4 pack of “Penis-Lemon” soda.
I've criticized JJ for a great many things, but his phallic fruit identification is on point.
Chimacum Corner Farmstand: A neat little niche, this was basically across the road from our destination in Chimacum, and turned out to be an organic market, with a cool array of little culinary odds and ends. I got some raw cacao nibs, and a protein bar made from cricket powder. It felt very much like a sort of whole-foods “mother earth” kind of set-up.
Finnriver Cidery; Half the reason we started the trip, Finnriver is a cidery in Chimacum that my mother, at some juncture that even she doesn’t fully recall, had visited and decided to get a cider subscription. JJ and I had been very impressed with their Habanero cider. We were walked through something like seven ciders, and tried a wide variety. I even had my first taste of Kombucha there. It’s fine. Tastes a little like soap.
We had some other little odds and ends to the trip: We tried to visit another cidery, only to learn Google hadn’t updated to their winter hours, and they were closed that day; cars kept pulling over to let my mother pass despite her driving at basically the speed limit, and not tailgating at all. The last little bit of excitement came at about 4:24 PM.
Now, if you’re not familiar with the region, you have no reason to know this, but the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard is based in Bremerton, a town roughly 15 minute from mine, which we had to pass to head out on our journey. And the Day shift, which is by far the largest shift, lets out at 4 PM. Meaning that around 4 PM, somewhere in the range of five to six THOUSAND people all head home, many of them by car. And right outside of Bremerton, the highway tightens under an overpass from 3 lanes to one.
An endless river of metal, screaming, and noxious gas? I'm pretty sure Dante visited here briefly.
The trip from Bremerton to Port Orchard easily doubles in length during this time. And we were coming from the FAR side of the whole thing. 2 miles took us almost 15 minutes to drive. And we were CHEATING, refreshing Google maps every 2 minutes, to find our way around THIS traffic jam. If we had stayed on the main highway, according to Google, we’d have taken an extra 10. Two Miles in Twenty Five minutes isn’t traffic, it’s practically my walking speed!
But in the end, we made it home, and today’s adventure in Alcohol came to a close. What had we learned? The Yama whiskey is practically magical, but I would definitely recommend making the trip to Bainbridge to try it. (Seriously, you save up to $100 on the shot. You could drive to Bainbridge from IDAHO and it’d still be a better deal.) The tasting at the distillery was fun and quick, and we ended up picking out their gin. And Finnriver had a plethora of great ciders, as well as a fun atmosphere. All in all, it was a great day.
NEXT TIME: SHIT, I DIDN’T WRITE A RECIPE ON THIS ONE. ALRIGHT, THURSDAY’S GONNA BE ABOUT GENERAL PASTA TIPS AND TRICKS, AND I’LL PUT ONE THERE.