|A culinary journey to the State of Bliss|
The state of Washington is a place of exquisite natural beauty. From the Olympic mountains of the northwest peninsula, extending across the islands of the Pacific coast and the lowlands around Puget Sound, to the Cascade Mountains dominated by the volcanic Mount Rainier in the east, the landscapes are sure to take your breath away.
The food of Washington is no less spectacular. Washington has much prime agricultural land where beef and dairy cattle, wheat and potatoes are raised. But perhaps the products most associated with the state are seafood and fruit.
Ports in Puget Sound and along the Pacific coast are home to many fishing vessels, which return with diverse catches that include salmon, oysters, crab, shrimp, halibut, flounder, tuna, cod and pollock. Fresh seafood is featured on countless restaurant menus along the coast and throughout the state, prepared in myriad different ways.
Fruit production is a major industry in Washington. The state leads the nation in the production of apples - among the varieties produced are red and golden delicious, gala, Fuji and Granny Smith. The apple harvest lasts from mid-August to late October or early November. Washington's fertile lava-ash soil in 2000 produced a record 99 million boxes of apples! But you'll also find here delicious cherries, plums, apricots, pears and blueberries...
Speaking of fruit, we can't neglect grapes. The first wine grapes were planted here by Hudson's Bay Company employees in 1825, and wine production has continued ever since, with hybrid varieties being introduced as early as 1854. Commercial-scale wine plantings took off in the 1960s, and today Washington ranks second in the US in premium wine production, with over 170 wineries and 29,000 acres devoted to grapevines. Some 15 varietals are grown here, including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.
A unique style of cooking, termed "Pacific Northwest cuisine," has grown up around all these local products. Characterized by its use of the freshest vegetables and fruit, locally-raised meats and Pacific fish and seafood, this is a delicious and healthful cuisine that lets the flavors of its ingredients shine through, often enhanced by a judicious use of international flavors, including Asian influences from the "other" Pacific coast.
On the southern end of the Pacific coast of the Olympic peninsula, you'll find a region of seaside resorts and golf courses, where you can rent a boat and fish for salmon. Stop at Grayland to sample the clams. And don't miss trying the excellent little oysters from Olympia. It's the state capital and the southernmost port on Puget Sound. Seattle is the largest port on the west coast. For the best views, head for the top of the Space Needle. Take the monorail from downtown to the Seattle Center. An elevator will take you up the 180 meters to the observation deck. Then be beguiled by the Pike Place Market where the fish market is located. Feel like Chinese or Japanese? Head for the heart of the International District , bustling with Asian culture, where you can taste numerous Asian cuisines and browse in many specialty shops.
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