The agricultural communities of Bow and Edison in the Skagit Valley provide a delightful day trip for food lovers.
EDISON, Skagit County — Right here. Right now. We will cease to refer to these historic farming towns in the Skagit Valley as “sleepy” or “best-kept secrets.”
The eat-local, slow-food mantra has turned Edison and the adjoining community of Bow into foodie destinations. Is it just us, or does it seem like all city dwellers with their dog-eared copies of Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” are here on weekends?
That it’s an 80-minute drive from Seattle makes it an appealing quick getaway. But now you get Vancouver foodies from up north, obsessed with their 100-mile Diet, touring Bow and Edison.
Bow and Edison remain mostly mom-and-pop shops, passed down from generations. Their businesses often double as their homes and the food sold often comes from their backyard or farm across the street. Milk from the cows out back, apples for the pies from the orchard behind the barn and oysters from the bay behind the seafood store.
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Build your own meals as you go along. Here’s an hour-by-hour itinerary for a one-day visit:
That sounds like a late start, but for Edison and Bow, it’s still early. Even Edison’s two bakers keep banker’s hours. Have breakfast at Edison Café, 5797 Main St., a farmers’ hangout, if you arrive early. Otherwise, don’t miss Farm to Market Bakery, 14003 Gilmore Ave., with its signature lime-soaked polenta cake, as well as cinnamon buns with cream-cheese frosting and scones. Locals also love the soups and quiches. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Stroll along Edison’s main street. Gather your bounty for a picnic by first hitting BreadFarm, 5766 Cain’s Court., to buy bread to pair with the local cheese, butter or soup from Farm to Market Bakery. Talented bread maker Scott Mangold uses Skagit Valley potatoes for his Samish River Potato Bread, local cornmeal for his Chuckanut Multigrain and local honey for his whole-wheat and challah breads.
Stop in next door at the wine-and-deli Slough Food, 5766 Cain’s Court, located behind Edison Slough, specializing in slow food, hence the name (get it?). You can get sandwiches to go if you don’t want to build your own picnic. Owner R. John DeGloria, who lives upstairs from the shop, recently opened his courtyard, adding picnic tables and now selling wine by the glass.
Coffee house Tweets, 5800 Cain’s Court, also sells local organic produce and dairy products and next month will start serving vegan and vegetarian snacks and small plates.
Take a break from food, and check out the antique shop and art galleries along the main strip, most notably Edison Eye Gallery, 5800 Cain’s Court, and Smith Vallee Gallery, 5742 Gilkey Ave., the latter located in a restored, turn-of-the century schoolhouse.
You’ll find three cheesemakers in the area, though Gothberg Farms doesn’t sell on the premises. Slough Food, Metropolitan Markets and some local farmer’s markets carry Gothberg’s goat cheese, a favorite of bread maker Mangold.
Samish Bay Cheese, 15115 Bow Hill Road, features fresh cow’s-milk cheese, including the soft cheese Ladysmith. There is free cheese tasting, and don’t miss the bargain bin, where misshapen cheese and cheese left over from farmer’s markets gets discounted up to 40 percent. The farm also sells Greek yogurt, plus pork and beef from its own herd.
Golden Glen Creamery, 15098 Field Rd., sells milk, eggs, hand-stretched mozzarella and Gouda. Hands down, best snack: BreadFarm’s Parisian baguette with a spread of Golden Glen’s fresh butter.
From Bow and Edison, it’s a short drive to Bayview State Park or Larrabee State Park for scenic hikes. (You are going to have to work off all that butter and cheese.)
For a more structured activity or easy hike without veering far from this food-centric trip, head for Padilla Bay Interpretive Center, 10441 Bay View-Edison Road, a 10-minute drive west of Bow and Edison. A good place to picnic, with views of the water and mountains.
The interpretive center is building a mini aquarium featuring marine life from the nearby bay, which could be finished by January. In the meantime, get an early glimpse with its six-foot long tank with perch, stickleback, pipefish and sea stars, plus display boards about the local wildlife.
Outside of the center is an easy, flat hike: the Upland Trail (0.8 mile), with views of Mount Baker and benches along a gravel path.
Or walk to the observation deck overlooking Padilla Bay, with a spiral staircase to the beachfront. You might even see some harbor seals.
Head back to town on the aptly named Farm to Market Road and hit Rosabella’s Garden Bakery, 8933 Farm to Market Road, for hard-cider tasting, $1 per tasting. This red barn/retail store sells all things apple: freshly made apple doughnuts, apple salsa, cinnamon apple cider jelly, apple-cranberry butter, Dutch apple syrup and its famous five-pound apple pie.
It’s all from fruits of the 50-acre orchard behind the retail shop, run by Rose and Alan Merritt, who have owned this farm for 40 years.
Head north to Taylor Shellfish Farm, 2182 Chuckanut Drive, on Samish Bay, for harvested oysters, Manila clams, Mediterranean mussels and geoduck. But also go because Taylor Shellfish offers a panoramic view of the San Juans, Lummi Island, Samish Island and, on a clear day, Mount Rainier. Watch blue herons and bald eagles hover over the bay. It’s arguably the most scenic stop for a picnic.
Buy some smoked oysters, smoked salmon or cooked crabs in Taylor’s retail shop and sit near the 16-foot lighthouse decorated in shells. Try the delicious Shigokus oysters, meaty and briny, if they aren’t sold out already.
Or get some oysters, halibut or salmon to grill in the picnic area. (Bring your own charcoal.)
Wind back to Edison and the Old Edison Inn, 5829 Cain’s Court, a century-old tavern. It’s an institution, with locals gathering every Sunday evening for live music, usually bluegrass and country. Eat some local oysters and down a Boundary Bay Scotch Ale from Bellingham, with nice malt notes and a strong hop finish.
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