Kingston: Mossback Restaurant

I’m not a foodie but nearly everyone in my eclectic circle of local friends had asked if I’d eaten at Kingston’s relatively new Mossback Cafe. “No,” I’d reply but then never made a point of going. This week I met one of the owners while we were both hanging out in the waiting room of our mutual esthetician. We talked about my upcoming trip to India. I decided to try out her restaurant.


Mossback is a small place. Housed in a 100 year old farmhouse, it’s been part of Kingston’s food scene since 2014. The restaurant features locally sourced food made from scratch and a regularly changing menu. Limiting hours and days of operation (its only open Wednesday – Friday from 4-9pm) allows the staff to focus on quality, experimenting with wild edibles and building relationships with local providers.

We showed up on a Wednesday when Happy Hour runs from opening to closing. The restaurant’s cozy bar, Rabbit Hole, is reached by exiting the back door of the restaurant. And because I’m not a foodie I’m going to describe the far more interesting food and drink ordered by my surprisingly food experimental son who joined me for dinner.


He ordered their special cocktail of the night; a drink so newly designed it didn’t yet have an official name. Made of beet juice and balsamic with vodka, the drink was surprisingly refreshing and worthy of a second round.


His main course choice was a savory piroshki; beef, cabbage and radicchio kraut in a pastry with a side of horseradish creme fraiche for dipping. And desert was a rich rosemary cream brulee. My salmon cakes followed a cheese and chutney plate all sourced from local farms.

On Sunday Mossback offers an economic three course dinner for $25.



Poulsbo: What? We Have Mass Transit?

If you read last week’s post you know I’m a Kitsap urban dweller who walks to almost everything. Two weeks ago I found myself sans auto for three days while it was in the shop (I was even able to walk round trip to the auto body shop). Now I’m an avid traveler who relies heavily on mass transit wherever I find myself and so it was with some surprise that I found myself feeling a tad abandoned and desolate without my car. I came up with all sorts of out-of-walking-radius errands that couldn’t wait for three days.


I was on my daily walk to the post office when I noticed this sign.


I was on my way back when I spotted this one.

I counted the steps back to my house. 240. Within 240 steps I had my choice of stops for four Kitsap Transit bus routes! I’d vaguely noticed the signs before and paid even less attention to the green Kitsap Transit buses that made their way around the county. I got on their website, downloaded the schedules and routes for 32, 33, 43 and 44 and walked 240 steps to wait for the #44 just to see where it went.


For a $2.00 fare I can take a bus to Olympic Community College, Office Depot, the medical plaza, my favorite out-of-walking-radius grocery store and it travels my daily walking route through downtown Poulsbo. It also stops at the Poulsbo Transit Center where I can catch buses to Bainbridge Island, the ferry to Seattle and to Jefferson County across the Hood Canal Bridge. The #44 is Poulsbo’s newest route and the bus running the route is painted distinctive blue with Viking characters instead of Kitsap Transit green to identify it. It runs every 30 minutes.

Since I was the only rider for much of the round trip, the friendly driver and I had a great chat. When I told him I was now noticing all the bus signs on our route, he told me it was reticular formation which I had to Google when I got home. Britannica Encyclopedia says its a neurological function that, as an example, rouses a sleeping cat to alertness.

As I disembarked the bus after riding the entire route, the auto body shop called to say my car was ready. I walked to get it, but I could have taken the #43 now that my cerebral cortex is in a general state of wakefulness about local mass transit.






Seabeck: Guillemot Cove Nature Reserve

“People really live out here?” I found myself repeatedly muttering on the drive to find Guillemot Cove Nature Reserve for my post on the Shire of Kitsap. (I’m a Kitsap urban dweller. I walk to the grocery store, the dentist, the post office, three local brewpubs, restaurants and the monthly art gallery walk.) Then I’d round a back roads narrow corner and there would be a guy in a Seahawks jersey walking his poodle or a woman out for a run (they all waved) or a large home set back in the trees. Getting to Guillemot requires turning west off the highway, following the road to Seabeck and taking two more turns on increasingly narrow roads til you can go no further or drive into Hood Canal. Its the kind of place mostly trod by the US Postal Service, Puget Sound Energy and intrepid Kitsap adventurers.


It didn’t help that the sky was colored Northwest Gray or that it was the first dry day in five. Everything seems longer and more primeval when its wettish and darkish. It also seems much more Hobbitish – like Mirkwood in Middle-earth.


Originally called Frenchman’s Cove after Henri Querrette, who had a cabin on the cove, the nature reserve was renamed Guillemot after the ubiquitous small black seabird by the Reynolds family who homesteaded the original 80 acres of the now 184 acre park.


The reserve still has remnants of it’s former human inhabitants including a barn built in 1940 by the Reynolds family out of wood milled on the property. The barn was destroyed in a 2014 windstorm.


In 1946 the Reynolds family built a summer beach house known as the Nest House which is slowly giving way to vines and weather.


Off trail its easy to spot other vestiges of human habitation such as the rusted remains of this vehicle.


But its Mother Nature who plays the starring role here. The Reserve hosts a rare old growth stand of cedar maple. In addition to being a bird habitat, there are beaver dams everywhere. Boyce Creek flows downhill through the property and after rainy spells the reserve becomes noisy with water flow coming making its way to the creek or downhill to Hood Canal. It’s a mandatory galoshes kind of place if you want to explore it in the winter or spring seasons.

It’s also evolving trail-wise as the creek seeks new tributaries and bridges get washed out. There’s a trail map on the Guillermot Cove county parks website that may not be entirely accurate or to scale. It’s best to print it out and bring it along if you want to explore the reserve or find the Stump House.




Volkswalking in Kitsap County


I lost my virginity in Nepal in 2007. My status as a Hash House Harrier Virgin ended after a Hash sponsored 10K walk through rice fields when I managed to slog down the required Hash urn of beer before the end of the ceremonial group initiation song. I even have the t-shirt to prove it because if you’re going to lose it, there’s no better t-shirt to boast about it with than the Kathmandu Himalayan Hash House Harriers. The U.S. Ambassador to Nepal was an avid Hasher (he was a runner; I was a walker) and helped with the initiation. It turns out there’s a Kitsap County Hash Club which requires further investigation on my part because as the tagline goes for all international HHH Clubs – “Hash House Harriers – “A Drinking Club With A Running Problem.” But I digress. It’s really volkswalking I want to talk about in this post.

I was grabbing a latte at the Port Gamble General Store when I noticed the plastic box next to the front door. “Kitsap Volkssporters Walk Box”. Inside were maps, registration logs and information about the Kitsap Volkssporters. It sounded like a significantly tamer version of the Hash House Harriers.

Volkswalking, also called volksmarching, originated in Europe as a way to encourage fitness by offering non-competitive biking, swimming, walking and other activities in scenic or historical areas. Volksmarsch is a German word that literally means “peoples’ march”.  Kitsap County has a Volkssporters Club that offers a full array of volkswalking (and some biking) activities from one time traditional walks to year round walks. This coming 2016 summer, the Kitsap club will be offering a Tuesday Night Guided Walk Series all over the county.

The group sponsors regular group walks on the first and third Saturdays of the month. The 2016 schedule can be found here.

If you don’t have the time to participate in the guided walk series, the club has walk boxes in eleven locations throughout the county. Inside each box are specific directions and descriptions of local walks between 5 and 10 kilometers. Each walk is rated from 1-A (easiest) to 5E (hardest) and the description advises whether it’s appropriate for strollers, pets and if it has bathroom facilities. I checked out two other walk box locations in addition to the one in Port Gamble. Located in coffee shops, stores and medical facilities, I found that employees in the locations often didn’t know there was a walk box there. Ask around. They’re generally located in a visible location in the front of the premises.

The traditional group walks often end with group refreshments, though I suspect not with drinking songs and virgin initiations. And while I’m not sure if there are t-shirts, there are club sanctioned achievement awards based on mileage and number of walks completed.



Poulsbo’s Teeny Tiny Tearoom


This little gem of a place has become my new favorite local indoor sketching nook. Who can resist a sidewalk sign declaring “The earth without art is just “eh”?

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Located in Liberty Bay Art Gallery in downtown Poulsbo, the gallery has been an institution on the Poulsbo art scene for years. Before the historical building housed the current gallery, it housed another gallery. Before that it was an appliance store and prior to that an annex for the Olympic Hotel.

The current owner, who was fond of the town’s now shuttered tearoom, decided to convert a space in the back used as a classroom to a cozy tearoom with an open invitation for visitors to make art and sip tea. She also offers classes in the space.


There’s a supply of art tools on the table but I bring my own. I like spreading out my markers, watercolors and pad of paper surrounded by the work of professional painters, weavers, sculptors and photographers. Their art silently reminds me to up my game. I find I spend more time on a sketch lulled by the tea and the music that wafts through the gallery.

The gallery is located next to Sogno di Vino Restaurant (formerly the main Olympic Hotel) and the picture window in the tearoom overlooks the restaurant’s patio and comely magnolia tree. I can’t wait for the weather to get warm enough for the tree to bloom and the patio to get populated with people to sketch.

The Shire of Kitsap

My brother, Tony, thinks he’s Bilbo Baggins. Its not that he’s delusional, but in his job working for a UN humanitarian agency, he lives a nomadic life, often in the most inhospitable of places and so he identifies with the wandering Hobbit of the Shire. It may be the reason he calls Poulsbo his permanent home when not off burglaring with the Dwarves to reclaim the Lonely Mountain. Kitsap County resembles the Shire.

When you have a brother who channels Bilbo Baggins, it’s difficult to ignore all things “hobbitish”. That’s why I stopped for a closer look at this Bainbridge structure on High School Road while driving the island doing research on labyrinths of Kitsap County. The Bainbridge building has been dubbed the Hobbit House according to one of its neighbors. It’s available as a vacation rental (the sign posted out front advertises 206-842-0255 for inquiries) and it comes with its own miniature Hobbit playhouse for…..well, really tiny Hobbits.


Bainbridge’s Hobbit House looks suspiciously like the Old Mill owned by the Sandyman family in the village of Hobbiton in the Shires where Bilbo lived.

Hobbit 1 - Port Orchard101

The Brothers Greenhouses in Gorst near Port Orchard is where the replica of Bagshot Row and Bilbo’s hobbit hole, Bag End (sans its green door) is located. Built by the owners as a way to showcase garden creativity and plants, the house was decorated with Christmas lights when I visited in December. The tiny hobbit hole’s interior, though smaller than Bag End, is paneled and even sports a faux fireplace. Its available to visit anytime during the nursery’s open hours and the friendly staff are willing to share its origins.

Fairy garden

The Hobbits of the Shire referred to the Elves as fairies and the owners and staff at Brothers cater to the Fellowship by specializing in how to entice them to visit by building fairy gardens. The greenhouse has an entire section devoted to fairy-sized furniture and accessories and offers classes on fairy gardens.


Guillamot Cove Nature Reserve in Seabeck is the site of the “hobbitish” Stump House. Well signed and easily reached, the Stump House sits on 158 acres of land and trails that were purchased by the Trust for Public Land for public use. There is a rumor the Stump House was built by Dirty Thompson, a criminal who used it as a hideout.  I’m sure it’s a Hobbit-invented story intended to deter the Orcs.

Bilboa baggins costume

This week happens to be my brother’s birthday. This is not my brother. It’s a late birthday gift – the Bilbo Baggins costume that awaits his next visit when he returns from the Misty Mountains to wander the Shire. You’re welcome, Tony.

ADDENDUM:  Tony read my post and texted, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Such a Bilbo he is.











Poulsbo’s Russian Orthodox Church

I passed by it every day enroute to work. The small sign at the entrance to the business park on Highway 305 – St. Elizabeth Orthodox Church. There it was along with signage about a hot yoga business, a Crossfit facility and an auto repair shop. Then it moved but was still on my daily driving route. Now the sign was was posted at the Breidablick Hall, the old rural community building that was most recently used for square dancing and an occasional wedding. Also burials since a cemetery established in 1904 was on the property. St Elizabeth Orthodox Church. What would an Orthodox church be doing an a community largely settled by Scandinavian Lutherans?

I’ve traveled a lot in countries where the Orthodox religion was a significant part of the country’s history and culture. Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Greece, Albania and Macedonia all have ancient, ornate churches steeped in tradition. The Orthodox religion claims to be the oldest Christian church, its roots going back to 33 AD. For its first thousand years the church was run from five centers called Patriarchs located in Rome, Jerusalem, Constantinople (modern day Istanbul), Alexandria in Egypt and the ancient city of Antioch in Greece. The Roman Patriarch broke away in 1054 AD to form what is now the Catholic Church. In 988 AD, Orthodox missionaries made their way to Russia and then in 1794 the first Russian Orthodox missionaries arrived on Kodiak Island, Alaska to introduce the religion to the North American continent. Today the church is a single body with self-governing entities: Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, Romanian Orthodox, Antiochian Orthodox and Orthodox Church in America. St. Elizabeth Orthodox Church is part of the Orthodox Church of America, but it’s roots come from those Russian Orthodox missionaries.

It’s patron saint, St. Elizabeth was a German princess who married into the Russian royal family and converted to the Orthodox religion. As Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia (1864-1918) she saw her husband assassinated, gave away all of her possessions and became an Abbess in an Orthodox convent. In 1918 she was executed by Russia’s new Communist government.

St Elizabeth Church was having a a Christmas Eve service open to the public (as are all of its services). In advance of Christmas Eve I convinced my not particularly religious dinner guests that we should attend. We asked Google if there was any protocol we needed to know. It advised modest dress for men and women (no tank tops, short skirts, cleavage or tight pants). St. Elizabeth Orthodox Church maintains a very informative website with links that explain their Christmas Eve service called Christmas Vigil. Earlier in the day was the celebration of the Eve of Nativity which includes the tradition of Vale, a twelve course dinner served just before the Vigil service begins. Though we opted out of  the church’s Vale, it  was still in progress when we arrived. From the moment we set foot in the door we were graciously greeted, invited to join the holy supper and to participate in the choir’s practice of familiar Christmas carols for the next day.


After the meal, the lights were darkened and everyone entered the nave (the part of the church where the congregation assembles) which was lit with candles that were reflected in the many Orthodox icons displayed all over the room.


Though not made of ancient stone and minus the domes, rotundas and murals found in older Orthodox churches, the wooden, square, former square dance hall in Breidablick has been magically transformed into an Orthodox setting. St. Elizabeth’s has a fundraising plan to eventually build a more traditional church on the site which they purchased five years ago.

Iconclast and vestments

There is an iconstasis, the carved and painted partition that separates the sanctuary from the nave. There are large icons, particularly of the patron, St Elizabeth. The clergy wore traditional vestments that changed throughout the service and the tiny choir had glorious voices for coming from such a small congregation.

What we didn’t read in our research was that we needed to stand for the two full hours of the service. Or what we could and couldn’t do about the icons and the communion. However, we were each given a very informative pamphlet as everyone extended their goodbyes to us, First Visit to an Orthodox Church: 12 Things I Wish I’d Known. It explains:

  • You stand up for the whole service. As the pamphlet emphasizes, “Really.” Many Orthodox churches have no pews and only  a few chairs scattered about for those who can’t stand. St. Elizabeth had pews arranged in a U shape around the iconstasis and I ultimately sat for half of the service – who knew two hours of standing was so hard?
  • It is appropriate to kiss the icons though only on the feet and hands of the image.
  • Everyone has communion. A portion of the loaf of bread is soaked in wine which is reserved for attendees who have been baptized into the church. The remainder of the loaf is blessed by the priest and distributed to everyone attending.

Perhaps the most impressive thing I learned was how this Russian Orthodox influenced church is part of the greater Poulsbo and Kitsap community. Founded in 2001, it’s the first and only Orthodox church in the county. Beyond its informative and up-to-date website (source of all my photos) St Elizabeth Orthodox Church maintains an active Facebook page. It also has a booth at the Kitsap County Fair and during Poulsbo’s May Viking Fest celebration.

Did I ever find out how a Russian Orthodox church ended up in a community pioneered by Scandinavian Lutherans? No. I never asked. I’m sure there’s an answer, but frankly I don’t need to know. I’m celebrating our growing diversity and inclusivity here on the western shores of Puget Sound and its enough to know the welcoming St. Elizabeth Orthodox Church is emblematic of that.