Sunday, October 14, 2012

Burger Tour – Columbia Gorge 2012

I wish it was a book tour, maybe someday. But yes, you read it right: Burger Tour, as in a lump of ground beef, two white flour buns on either side with a lot of ketchup, and if I feel adventurous a wedge of pickle. After all, I am conducting this tour with the Pickle Princess herself – Tonia Farman of the Farman Pickles. Few people realize that Tonia is from a pickle dynasty. She is more famous for her creation of Athletes 4 Cancer, an inspirational non-profit that helps cancer survivors rebuild their lives, but on food tours she’s the Pickle Princess in my mind. Let’s be real, I can’t conduct a food tour without a Princess in tow.

Let me give you a background. The first food tour I ever took part in was with the Pickle Princess herself in La Ventana, Mexico - a tiny tiny town that sits on the Sea of Cortez on the Baja Peninsula. Down there when the sky gets dark – I mean really dark – there are no city lights to dull the black nights, these little hot-dog carts roll out of nowhere and set up shop on random corners throughout town. They hang a glaring light bulb that dangles over the hot-dogs and precious toppings. With five gorgeous babes and one Pickle Princess at the wheel of a suburban that would never pass a state inspection as its missing at least one door, a few windows, and probably never had seat belts, I experienced my first food tour – the La Ventana Hot-Dog Tour.

Since neither the Pickle Princess nor I is heading down to La Ventana this year we are brining the Food Tour to the Columbia Gorge and we have chosen to tour the burger joints. If you don’t like meat – stay tune – our next tour will be chocolate deserts!

First stop, McDonalds. Well let me clarify – I just drove by. Their parking lot is not even worthy of the Pickle Princess, and I’m not ruining my palate with make-believe beef. But, I have to at least acknowledge that there is a McDs in the Columbia Gorge.

Second stop Trout Lake, WA Chevron Gas Station:

There is not much in Trout Lake, WA with a population of 848 people, but as you drive into the little town with big Mt Adams towering over there is a Chevron gas station. Attached and just around the back is a little restaurant with no name and a big wooden door with a crack at the bottom that oozes smells of burgers, bacon, and grease. I’m sure the place has a name, but the Pickle Princess and I couldn’t find the sign. Inside there are about four tables and bar with another six stools for seating. The walls are lined with license plates and old pictures of the White Slalom River flooding the town.

We went there on a random Wednesday night and the place was packed! Well, packed for Trout Lake – there was about ten people in there, the Pickle Princess and I rounded the count up to 12. Seating was slim pickings and with everyone staring at us we wedged ourselves into a little corner table. I’m undecided if the stares were friendly. Since I was with the Royal Pickle Princess they could have just been staring at her in awe that she was gracing their presence, but I’m thinking they were just a little shocked to see two girls with pony tails dressed in cute jeans and colorful tops invading their little-one-restaurant town. Nonetheless, people quickly returned their attention back to the burgers and the waiter brought us some menus with a nice smile on her face.

It’s important to note that there are different categories of burgers: gourmet, classic, and grease. And on this occasion we were most definitely exploring the grease category. Prior to even ordering you could feel the film of grease soaking into your skin – YUM!

I had the vision of asking where the meat was from, but the Pickle Princess made a good point, do we want to know? Alas, we never asked the questions. Instead, armed with numerous napkins we dug into the greasiest, juiciest burgers ever. I seriously went through ten napkins and washed it down with a huge chocolate milkshake! And yes, a pickle came on the side and I nibbled on it in between bites.

Without further ado our results are as follows:

Tonia – the Royal Pickle Princess’s Results:

Atmosphere: Priceless! Okay, scale of 1-10, I give it a 7.
Service: 4 - We were not exactly "welcomed" warmly; got the drinks after the burgers.
Burger (grease category): 8 - Temperature good, patty covered almost the entire bun, bacon was crispy & quality, cheese was a good cheddar, great bun, good green leaf lettuce and tomato was quality, just a little too much juice -- or was it grease-- dripping from it?
Fries: 3 - Too chewy and a bit thin for my liking for how chewy they were.
Extras: Chocolate Milkshake gets a 10!!

Sarah’s Results:

Atmosphere: 9 – I loved it! I’m a total sucker for the country store feel where there is barely enough room to turn around.
Service: 4 – I’m with the Pickle Princess on this one. To their credit, however, the place was packed and we got there 40 minutes before they closed.
Burgers (grease category): 9 – I wasn’t over exaggerating, I went through at least ten napkins. Grease was dripping from my fingers, covering my lips, and coating my taste buds! It will be interesting to see if any other burger in the Columbia Gorge can beat these guys in the grease category. And I agree with the Pickle Princess – good leaf of green lettuce.
Fries: 2 – I didn’t finish them and if I don’t finish my plate of fries you know they are not good because I always finish my fries. They were the skinny kind and just didn’t have that salty, crisp goodness.
Extras:  10 - Chocolate Milkshake was AMAZING! The best one I’ve ever had – seriously – AMAZING! Pickle was very good too: crisp and crunchy with just the right amount of dill. (You might be wondering why the Pickle Princess didn’t rate the pickle – it’s too much of a conflict of interest for her. Being from a pickle dynasty, she understandably cannot be an impartial judge of a pickle.)

Stay tune for Burger Food Tour number 3! Location is top secret but it has been decided! 

To view Sarah's middle grade fiction book click here: Paperback and Kindle 

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