Culinary Inspiration

Cookbooks feature the best of the Northwest

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

For several years, my former girlfriend and I used to make the most of every long Thanksgiving holiday weekend to escape to Vancouver Island for relaxation and rejuvenation via beach-strolling, storm-watching and hot-springing. Destination: Tofino!

Tofino hunkers down at the end of a narrow peninsula that reaches north from the rugged west coast of Vancouver into Clayoquot Sound, a stunning wilderness of islands, ancient forests and abundant wildlife designated a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations. The peninsula is blessed with long, sandy stretches of beach and, just offshore, 35 kilometers of gorgeous breaks, bestowing Tofino with the unusual title of “surfing capital of Canada.”

The tiny town itself is a laid-back blend of surfers, eco-tourists, First Nations peoples, wildlife biologists, artists, rich condo-dwellers and beach-camping vagabonds. This curious combination supports an abundance of galleries, sightseeing tours, spas, surf schools, yoga studios and an amazing array of places to eat, including renowned destination restaurants like Shelter, the Spotted Bear, and the Pointe at the Wickaninnish Inn.

These high-end eateries attract cosmopolitan connoisseurs from across Canada, but we discovered something even better than these chic restaurants: SoBo, a purple food truck parked in a gravel lot outside of town. Stumbling across it on a drizzly day, the warm, wafting smells of hot food together with the long line of customers convinced us to check it out.

It was a meal that neither of us will ever forget—grilled fish tacos served with fresh fruit salsa, salmon tofu pockets, polenta fries with Caesar dipping sauce and the most killer salmon chowder I have ever tasted. The food served out of this unassuming purple truck felt like a revelation; a brave, new cuisine that fused Pacific Rim flavors, surfer sensibilities (hot, nourishing, cheap), Left Coast creativity and the then-emerging trend toward locally sourced, seasonally inspired healthful vitality into an uncomplicated deliciousness.

The next time we visited Tofino, SoBo, or “Sophisticated Bohemian,” had grown beyond the parking lot to a new home at the Botanical Gardens. The following visit, SoBo had graduated to a permanent, spacious location downtown. While we missed the rugged charms of eating outside, the quality, tastiness and affordability of their gastronomical offerings remained consistent.

All these years later, SoBo now has its own cookbook, sharing for the first time the secrets of their rich salmon chowder, alongside inspired delights like Wild Nettle & Sorrel Soup, Hippie Chicken, Seaweed Salad, Surfer Noodle Soup, Smoked Oyster Spudwich, Braised Salt Spring Island Lamb Shanks, Left Coast Seafood Stew, and their divine take on the SoBo margarita.

I haven’t been back to Tofino since parting ways with that woman years ago, but my mind (and tastebuds) have often wandered back to SoBo. The Sobo Cookbook brings Chefs Artie and Lisa Ahier’s recipes out of the salty mists of the Clayoquot realm to the rest of the world, and it is a great and generous gift.

Other Pacific Northwest cookbooks of note include Graham Kerr’s Flash of Silver, an ongoing e-book series by the English chef made famous by his Galloping Gourmet TV series in the 1970s. This periodical is a memoir comparing his life’s triumphs and travails to that of a Pacific Chinook salmon. The Emmy-nominated food personality has sold 14 million cookbooks, hosted cooking shows on Discovery, NBC, and PBS and has been witness to evolving American attitudes toward cooking and eating.

Nowadays, Kerr—who has lived in Skagit County for many years—travels the country to share the healthy living practices he’s adopted and discuss how even simple choices can have a positive impact for the good of society and the planet. Discuss these issues at a dinner with Kerr and stay the night May 16-17 at the North Cascades Institute’s Environmental Learning Center. Fees are $150 and include a casual gourmet dinner, overnight accommodations, breakfast and a naturalist-led outdoor activity (go to for the specifics).

Finally, Greg Atkinson’s newly reissued In Season: Culinary Adventures of a Pacific Northwest Chef is more than just a cookbook, as it offers personal stories, food philosophy and kitchen advice alongside recipes. Atkinson is a popular chef, writer, restaurateur and early proponent of cooking and eating locally. In Season recounts many of the early “culinary adventures” in Bellingham and Friday Harbor that led him to adopt a cooking philosophy based on simplicity, seasonality and tastiness. Atkinson preaches the good gospel of preparing healthful meals high in flavor but low in fussiness, always best shared in community with others. Mussels, halibut, salmon, oysters and Dungeness crab make frequent appearances in these pages, alongside other local delights.

ICU Roof #2
More Food...
Fungi Feasts
Mushrooms gone wild

I typically hear from fungi enthusiast Erin Moore when the days have shortened, the nights have cooled and seasonal rain has come to the Pacific Northwest. That’s when the longtime Northwest Mushroomers Association member reaches out to remind me about the club’s annual Wild Mushroom Show,…

more »
A rousing roundup

Although the original Oktoberfest was held to celebrate the 1810 marriage of a couple of German royals—Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and his blushing bride, the Saxon-Hildburghausen Fraulein known as Princess Therese—it has since spread its partying proclivities far and wide. Following…

more »
Brunch Alert
No shortcuts at the Birch Door Cafe

Buttery, silky-soft pancakes that melt in your mouth. Sweet blintzes filled with creamy ricotta and topped with berries. Apple cinnamon pancakes that emerge from the kitchen three inches high and dripping with sweetness. Next time you’re up for an indulgent weekend brunch, make sure you…

more »
Book Group Mixers

5:30pm|Village Books

Bringing history into sharp focus


Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

U.S. Citizenship Class

6:00pm|Lynden Library

Balkan Folk Dance

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library


7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Women of Lockerbie

7:00pm|Lynden Christian High School

Summer Bike Stories

7:00pm|Cafe Velo

Young Frankenstein

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds


7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Women of Lockerbie

7:00pm|Lynden Christian High School

Young Frankenstein

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Wild Things

9:30am|Stimpson Family Nature Reserve

Book and Bake Sale

10:00am|Lynden Library

Grand Opening and Open House

11:00am|Social Fabric

Books and Bites

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Clean Eating

2:00pm|Cordata Community Food Co-op

Coffee Tasting

3:00pm|Camber Cafe

Food Not Bombs

4:00pm|downtown Bellingham

Art Night

5:00pm|SpringHill Suites by Marriott

12 Minutes Max Auditions

5:00pm|Firehouse Performing Arts Center

Amber Sky CD Release Party

6:00pm|Presence Studio

Gore & Lore Tours

6:00pm|Historic Fairhaven, downtown Bellingham

Falliday Vintage Market

6:00pm|Port Transit Event Center

Family Story Night

6:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Wild & Scenic Film Festival

6:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Poetry Party

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre


7:00pm|Village Books

USA Dance


Thriller Dance Class

7:00pm|Moles Farewell Tributes

Halloween Movie Night

7:00pm|BHS Performing Arts Center

Friday Night Flicks

7:30pm|Van Zandt Community Hall

Sanford-Hill Piano Series

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center


8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Holding the Light

8:00pm|Honey Moon

Bellingham Farmer’s Market Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds


7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Women of Lockerbie

7:00pm|Lynden Christian High School

Young Frankenstein

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Book and Bake Sale

10:00am|Lynden Library

Gore & Lore Tours

6:00pm|Historic Fairhaven, downtown Bellingham

Falliday Vintage Market

6:00pm|Port Transit Event Center


8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Harvest Happens

8:00am|Bellewood Acres

Lynden Breakfast

8:00am|VFW Hall

Ferndale Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

NSEA Work Party

9:00am|Terrell Creek

Scarecrow Stuffing Contest

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

Twin Sisters Farmers Market

9:00am|North Fork Library, Nugents Corner

Landscape stewards work party

9:00am|Chuckanut Center

Pumpkins 4 Pajamas

9:00am|Lakeway Fred Meyer

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Pumpkin Patch on Rails

9:00am|Wickersham Station

Port race ponders a wasted waterfront


Everyday Superheroes 5K

10:00am|Squalicum Creek Park

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|H Street Plaza

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Bellingham Comicon

10:00am|Ferndale Event Center

Fall Family Fun

10:00am|Glen Echo Garden

Blaine Oktoberfest


Community Cider Pressing

10:00am|Chuckanut Center

98221 Studio Tour

10:00am|Fidalgo Island

Correspondence Club

10:30am|Mindport Exhibits

Enlightened Caterpillar

10:30am|Village Books

Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen

11:00am|Community Food Co-op

Crown Jewel Wilderness

11:00am|Western Washington University Bookstore

Mushrooms gone wild


Fidalgo Youth Symphony

1:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Conquering Writer's BLock

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Winter Birds of Whatcom County

2:00pm|Ferndale Library

Undersea Bubble Fantasia

2:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Brew on the Slough

5:00pm|Maple Hall

Community Library Celebration

5:00pm|North Fork Library

Bellingham Hoptoberfest

6:00pm|Bellingham Sportsplex

Seeds of Change

6:30pm|Edison Granary

The Great Unconformity

7:00pm|Village Books

Skagit Symphony's Gala Concert

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Whose Live Anyway?

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Concert Hall

The Tannahill Weavers

7:30pm|Littlefield Celtic Center

Original Comedy Night

8:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

see our complete calendar »

Bellingham Farmer’s Market Trove CWWarrenMiller Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Mt. Baker Theatre Undersea Bubble Village Books