Wine and Food Await: A Lake to Lake Stroll in Kirkland, Washington

December 16, 2015

How many folks have hiked or biked the new Lake to Lake trail in Kirkland? Well, that is my name and it’s officially called CKC or Cross Kirkland Corridor.

We started at the north end near the Totem Lake area of Kirkland. Many folks naturally think of Totem Lake Mall, built in the 1970’s, in this region, but did you know there is actually a Totem Lake? Totem Lake is a 17-acre wetlands that is worth a side visit.

We hiked the CKC (above) in segments, starting with the northern stretch from the Totem Lake area to just south of the lake. It was a pleasant stroll with some initial sections taking us behind some businesses but soon we were surrounded by trees. We even took a little side trip off to the east to Cotton Hill Park. This is a restoration project of a small wetland with educational plaques explaining about the native  trees and plants.

We hiked two miles and were ready for the turnaround to do some research regarding the next day’s work out. Once home and digging into some history it was interesting to note that Totem Lake in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s was named Wittenmyer Lake after an early settler. Then for some reason the name changed to Mud Lake in the 1940’s. Perhaps locals did not appreciate the aesthetic beauty of wetlands.

So the hiking plan for CKC was to also get close to the other lake, Lake Washington so we started just west of the Houghton area of Kirkland. Once on the trail we hiked north and enjoyed the views of Lake Washington. Along the way we came to “The Family Fitness and Play Area” with volleyball and basketball courts, children’s playground and CrossFit equipment. This area is next to the Google Kirkland campus, which helped to fund this area.

We couldn’t find any takers for basketball or volleyball so we continued our hiking workout. However, it was time to start thinking about refreshments, so back to the car for Friday Happy Hour.

Just before we started to hike back we noticed this red Santa Fe caboose set off on the side of the trail.The CKC is part of a 42 mile long former railroad bed, called the Eastside Rail Corridor, that runs from south Renton to the northern most point of Snohomish. This was the route of The Spirit of Washington Dinner Train,

My wife and I had extreme pleasure to enjoy this while it operated from 1993 until 2007. We boarded in Renton and enjoyed drinks, music, and dinner as the train rolled north through Kirkland. The train made a quick stop for some wine wasting in Woodinville.

Well the good old days of a dinner train are gone but we enjoyed the weekly happy hour at Northwest Cellars. Bob Delf poured his finest, the first was the Chardonnay which was blended with one of my favorite grapes, Viognier. The result is a light tropical fruit tea note with a little spice. Then we quickly proceeded to the reds and Bob put us hard at work to test our skills with two 2012 Malbecs from Eastern Washington. The one from Red Mountain was my favorite and I think Bob liked my choice. I really liked the rich taste which was not heavy in the tannins.

We also enjoyed the Madrigal red blends that Bob poured. However, once served Bob’s 2012 Fortissimo my wife loudly proclaimed this was her favorite. She really liked the cherry nose and the light pepper taste of the Syrah.

Bob poured two more of this reds, Madrigal and Cadenza, both very smooth and enjoyable. Since I use to play the string bass and Elizabeth the guitar we instantly liked the musical names in many of Bob’s wines:  Fortissimo (“to be played loudly”), Madrigal (“vocal music”), and Cadenza (“virtuoso solo passage”). 

Bob told us of his music connection as well. He is a classically trained pianist going back to the age of five and has played professionally in bands and the theater. However, the software business was his main career until he started the Northwest Cellars in 2004. Bob’s expertise is on blending the wine; however he uses Robert Smasne as his winemaker. Smasne Cellars was awarded the 2013 Washington Winery of the Year. Mr. Smasne uses experience as a fourth generation Yakima Valley farmer. Robert also operates Smasne Cellars in Prosser in Eastern Washington.

On the topic of music again it was time for some live entertainment from David Flett who was featured tonight. His voice and solo guitar playing were as fine as the wine.  We sat back and enjoyed more wine and some of the happy hour snacks and thought we were going back in time to the sounds of James Taylor. It would have been easy to stay longer but it was time for a fine Italian dinner just a ten minute drive to downtown Kirkland at Volterra Restaurant.

It did not take long for us to be seated with the server showcasing wines the famous wine regions of Italy. The first was from Piedmont in Northern Italy, Scarpa Monferrato ‘Rosso Scarpa.’ We enjoyed the Dolcetto grape which means “just a little bit sweet”, which was a perfect description.

For our appetizer we chose the mussels. The succulent mussels from local Taylor Shellfish Farms on Hood Canal were prefect starters. Taylor Shellfish Farms has been in the business since the 1890’s and they sure know what they are doing.  This was paired nicely with Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino, from the famous Tuscany wine region, just south of Florence. This Sangiovese wine is the most planted grape in Tuscany. the dry red paired wonderfully with the mussels and spicy Italian sausage served in zesty tomato sauce. Spices just right!

We needed to have another appetizer so the server strongly suggested their signature, Lamb Meatballs. From nearby Anderson Valley Lamb (Oregon) this 100% grass-fed lamb was tender and served with roasted squash, goat cream cheese, and nicely finished with Calabrian Chilies. What a prefect mix of flavors. Carpineto Chianti Classico was the wine of choice, also from Tuscany. The blend of Sangiovese and Canaiolo with dark red colors and a nice vanilla nose was prefect with the lamb.

We are sure you are noting the excellent wine offerings and we can see why Volterra received a 2014 Restaurant Award from the prestigious Wine Spectator for their wines. They have an extensive list of Italian wines and also a good selection of domestic wines.

Along the lines of an Italian theme we needed try their pasta so we selected the Dungeness Crab Ravioli which was balanced with chives, mascarpone cheese and light tomato cream. My wife stated everything has clarity of taste, which was nicely enhanced by the Santa Lucia Brigante Vermentino. Vermentino is white grape grown in Central Italy in Tuscany and an excellent choice with pasta and fish dishes.

You would think we would be done eating. However, you have to remember we have been sharing the food presentations so there was room for a final entrée, Wild Boar Tenderloin served with gorgonzola sauce, mustard and light fingerling potatoes. It was our first experience with wild boar, but won’t be our last. We enjoyed every tender bite. Now we were almost done, except for the Tiramisu. It was absolutely light and fluffy with layers of expresso dipped ladyfingers and topped with chocolate shavings and chocolate sauce.  

This wonderful dining experience was due to the talent and efforts of Executive Chef Don Curtiss along managing partner and wife Michelle Quisenberry.  Before we left we wanted to know a little background on them and found out that Don and Michelle got married in the small town of Volterra in Tuscany and returned to the Puget Sound area to start their restaurant.

Dinner was a terrific ending to this wonderful day of hiking, dining and sipping some local wine and wines of Italy. There so many things that we will return to especially since Kirkland is only thirty minutes from Downtown Seattle and half that time from our home in Redmond. We need to visit the waterfront again with Juanita Bay Park, Juniata Beach Park, and Marina Park. However, one activity that we will take a pass on is Kirkland’s Polar Bear Plunge on January 1.