Food

Tasty Washington

Rick Steves gets wowed in Whatcom County

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

“Travel guru” Rick Steves is no stranger to Bellingham, but the world-famous guidebook author and activist’s visits here typically focus on schooling interested parties about the ins and outs of traveling to Europe and other far-flung global locales on a budget, with an aim to connect with local residents wherever you may land.

During a visit to Whatcom County in late May, however, the Seattle-based Steves became a temporary tourist in his own backyard. During a whirlwind two-day trip, he immersed himself in all the area has to offer. From visiting Blaine to suss out Drayton Harbor Oyster Farm’s shellfish situation during low tide, to discussing how apples can be turned into everything from juice to gin at Bellewood Acres in Lynden, to hanging out with brewery owners in downtown Bellingham and dropping by the Mount Baker Theatre to play the 1927 movie palace Wurlitzer pipe organ, his explorations focused on unearthing many of the county’s hidden treasures.

“European travel was not possible in 2020 or early 2021, and we were delighted that Steves chose to explore the rich experiences in his own backyard instead,” says Amy Guerra of Visit Bellingham/Whatcom County. During his visit, the tourism-focused nonprofit worked with Seattle’s All is Well Studios under the creative direction of Steves and Seattle Times Content Studio to produce three short films sharing the highlights of his trip.

The first of the trio of videos was recently released for public consumption—the others will be rolled out in September and October—with a focus on farm-to-bottle offerings and the local beverage makers responsible for making and sharing their bounty.

“When I’m not in Europe, I live here, in tasty Washington state,” Steves says soon after the opening credits while standing in one of Bellewood Acres’ apple orchards. “Today I’m exploring the tasty world of farm-to-bottle. We’ve got everything from locally made but globally famous craft brews, to award-winning coffee brewers, to gins actually made right here, from our famous Washington state apples. Here, in the Northwest corner of the United States, you can whet your whistle morning, noon and night with Washington state drinks—homegrown, farm-fresh and downright delicious.”

While visiting Bellewood Acres, he learns it’s a no-waste farm that grows 27 different varieties of apples used in everything from pie to chips to fruit-based booze. In Bellingham, he discovers that venues such as Chuckanut Brewery and Aslan Brewing Co. are just as focused on community as they are on producing high-quality craft beer, and that the 17 breweries in the city support each other and are invested in helping each other succeed. He also explores what the word “pub” means, samples a variety of sips and makes creative connections.

“From the beaches of Birch Bay all the way up the Mt. Baker Highway,” you can have fun drinking like a local,” Steves says near the end of the video. “There are so many wonderful things to discover.”

In coming episodes, Steves will delve even more into the area bordering Canada and the Salish Sea. Other featured experiences and places include the bayside Hotel Bellwether, Blaine by the Sea, Peace Arch State Park, Sustainable Connections’ Eat Local initiatives, the Arts District in downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven, the Schooner Zodiac, Whatcom Museum, and a poem read by Washington State Poet Laureate, Rena Priest—the state’s first indigenous Poet Laureate, and a member of Lummi Nation.

While the goal of the project was to have Steves explore the Northwest corner of his home state while he was holding off on traveling to Europe and beyond due to the pandemic, the videos also act as a way for the people who live in Whatcom County to rediscover what’s so special about the place they call home. Tune in, and see for yourself.

To view the first video in the series, go to http://www.bellingham.org/ricksteves

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