When summer hits here, it hits hard. Mark and I were lucky enough to be able to steal another day off on Saturday and we had so much fun! It felt like we were back to our younger lives, where we took lots of day trips and had playtime galore. We are in love with our lives, and we love what we do! Work time and play time sort of meld together like they never did before, and those ‘stolen’ days off are coming a little more often. We are SO lucky!

We started the day with cheese, of course! We got out to Montesano and visited Estrella’s Family Creamery. This is an amazing family running this farm and their cheeses are in huge demand right now. They have cows and goats and do both types of cheese. The goats aren’t milking much right now so we did not get any fresh goat cheese, but we got some fabulous cheese nonetheless!

We bought some ‘almost’ Grisdale. (Normally it is a 60-day aged goat cheese, but this one was mixed with cow’s milk.) It is soft and creamy and mild…really nice with a sweetness from the goat milk. We also got some Bea Truffled, which is a bit older (4-6 months) and is cow’s milk. It is somehow made with locally foraged truffles and I just love it. I got some Chevrette, a mixed cows and goats milk cheese, that is super soft and super stinky and oh so sublime. (Mark doesn’t go for the super stinky cheeses; he draws the line at medium stinky.) Mark picked out the Jalepeno-garlic buttery, which is all cow’s milk and aged at least 60 days. It is somewhat cheddary in a mild way with real jalapeno’s and garlic studded throughout. It is really zingy and we both love it!

Kelli Estrella was at the U-district market so we did not get to say ‘hi’ to her or the kids. But we met Anthony and he let us say hi to the goats and mama cows, and we got to play with the baby bull. The calves all wanted milk and they would suck our fingers for a few seconds before they caught on to us. It was such a lovely way to start the day! You can get Estrella’s cheese at several local markets, but if you have a chance to go to the source I highly recommend it.

We headed out to Ocean Shores; the ultimate goal of the day was to go see the sand sculpture contest and the chain saw sculptures. We were hungry for lunch so when we got to Ocean Shores we stopped in at the Galway Bay Irish Pub for lunch. It was too hot to sit outside (and you know both of us are so fair, we stay out of the direct sun as much as possible.) We enjoyed the cool interior of the bar and it has a fun atmosphere. It is a full restaurant and bar with really great food. Traditional Irish to be sure, with a Northwest flair. The menu seems to be homemade and high quality and we thoroughly enjoyed what we had. Ocean Shores doesn’t offer a ton to go back for, but this place will definitely be getting another visit from us.

We played on the beach for a bit and we checked out the chain saw artists… and yes, they are definitely artists! Absolutely amazing! I love the smell of sawdust; it is a trigger for childhood memories for me. My grandfather cut wood with a chainsaw and I remember hating the noise when I was little, but the smells I associate with him in a good way.

Before we left that morning I looked through our farmer-chef connection catalog to see what farms, besides Estrella’s, that we might visit. I foundWalter Dacon Wines and since we had already decided to drive back through Shelton, we stopped in for a tasting. They do Rhone-style wines, and the tasting room is very nice. We particularly enjoyed the Sangiovese and the Cest Syrah ‘Beaux’ and bought a bottle of each. I really want to try the Syrah head to head with the McCrea Syrah, since they use some of the same vineyards in their wines. That ought to be a very tasty dinner!

The main reason we were going back through Shelton was one particular restaurant. You have probably heard of it: Xinh’s Clam and Oyster House. Mark and I have known about this place for a couple of years I think, but we have never gotten out there to try it. It is owned by Taylor Shellfish Farms, who are also members of the Chef’s Collaborative. The chef is Xinh and she is from originally from South Vietnam. Her interesting story is on the web site and she has been on several television shows. We saw her on “Dirty Jobs” just the other day and when we were at the restaurant we saw a photo of her with Mike Rowe on the wall. We didn’t have reservations and were shown to a table in the back, where it was very nice and quiet. While we were there we saw Xinh come out a few times to have her photo taken with different fans. She is very gracious and seems to thoroughly enjoy herself.

We had never tried geoduck before (which is a bit wierd since we love shellfish) and the geoduck comes highly recommended there. We had the appetizer which was lightly breaded and pan-fried. OH. SWEET. YUMMINESS. I had no idea what to expect. I cut off a bite and it was tender, slightly sweet, and melted in my mouth. I tried to think of what it was like so that I could describe it… Razor clam came to mind first, with the sweetness of an oyster, and then I thought of conch. I love conch! A cross between a razor clam and a conch probably comes closest to it for me… you will have to try it yourself to see what you think.

It was so hard to decide what to eat. The menu is a dream come true, filled with fresh seafood and innovative preparations. There is certainly an asian flair, along with ‘northwest’ flavors. The focus is the seafood and the high quality of the ingredients and I am willing to bet that you cannot make a bad choice. I had the Black Tiger Prawns in Curry Sauce and Mark had the Spicy Black Tiger Prawn Stir Fry. In a rare move we decided to not tell each other what we were ordering and just go for what we wanted… and they ended up being similar and yet oh so different. The first bite I took brought an audible “MMM” to my lips… and I kept making yummy noises through the entire dinner. We shared bites and while we both liked mine a bit better, Mark’s was fantastic as well. We purposely saved some to take home as leftovers… Sunday breakfast was more yummy noises! Olympic Mountain Mango Sorbet was the perfect end note and so refreshing after that hot day in the sun.

Xinh’s is an absolute gem and I am SO glad that we finally tried it! We will be back, and we will take others. If you haven’t gone, it is worth the drive, I promise you. You can check out the menu on the web site, minus the daily specials of course. I do wish they had a better wine list, but I will live without wine while dining at Xinh’s, her phenomenal food is worth it!

It was a wonderful day!!