Top 100 cultural trends shaping the West
The ideas, people, places, and things that are making life out here better right now
2 | Tea hits the big time: We’re riding a tea wave here in the West: tea drinks, tea-flavored chocolates, tea soaps, all kinds of cool new artisanal teas, green teas, herbal teas, biodegradable tea containers—and that’s just in the grocery store (actual teahouses offer even more). One of our favorite sips is pu-erh, a large-leaf Chinese tea that’s aged for extra-rich, deep flavor.
3 | San Francisco: Grab a coffee and scone at always-ahead-of-the-trend Flora Grubb Gardens, then wander through lush plantscapes and cozy seating nooks that feel like a fabulously stylish friend’s garden. floragrubb.com
4 | Santa Cruz: Shop alongside skateboard-toting students and backyard farmers at Dig Gardens. The store has a great collection of botanical-inspired decor and local art, plus locally roasted espresso. diggardens.com
5 | Seattle Area: Molbak’s (pictured; molbaks.com) in Woodinville and Swansons (swansonsnursery.com) in Seattle have acres of greenery and airy, light-filled cafes. Check out the houseplant collection at Molbak’s—one of the best around—and Swansons’ conservatory and koi pond.
6 | Giant ice cubes: The best bar invention since the blender, these melt slowly—and take longer to water down that expensive single malt. Find Tovolo trays at amazon.com
7 | Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, Denver: With rustic tobacco and smoke flavors, this one’s for the die-hard whiskey lover. Distilled daily to guarantee small-batch quality.
8 | Victoria Gin, Victoria, B.C.: Deeply complex, with flavors of rose, citrus, and juniper, it’s our favorite gin. The company’s planning to ship to the U.S.; right now find it in Canada.
9 | Pacifique Absinthe, Woodinville, WA: Made in the 150-year-old Franco-Swiss tradition, this intense yet smooth spirit isn’t for the faint of heart—but it won’t make you crazy.
10 | Germain-Robin XO Brandy, Ukiah, CA: A Western cognac that goes toe-to-toe with the French? This is it—smooth and balanced, with rich dried fruits.
11 | Roughstock Montana Whiskey, Bozeman: Using Montana wheat grown just 20 miles from the distillery, this bourbonlike spirit will appeal even to whiskey newbies.
12 | New Deal vodka, gin, and liqueurs, Portland: A one-stop shop for your bar cart, New Deal Distillery is a standout for flavor and craftsmanship among Portland’s many distilleries.
13 | American Orange Liqueur, Denver: Leopold Bros.’ version of the cocktail staple is the first by an American distillery; it should replace triple sec or Cointreau in every margarita you make.
15 | Beer takes the spotlight: Beer no longer has to play second fiddle to the wine list, as restaurant menus now fizz with dozens of brews. We’re seeing this especially in Colorado, California, and the Northwest, where craft beer is king. Try the Kitchen in Boulder, the Ritual Tavern in San Diego, and Quinn’s Pub in Seattle.
16 | Dessert wine makes waves: More and more Western winemakers are tackling port-style wines—the dark, sweet, fortified stuff that is best consumed fireside. And made from a range of grapes (Zinfandel, Syrah, and the traditional Touriga Nacional and its cousins), they’re even more versatile than the Portuguese product. We (gasp) paired them with pizza. Look for Prager, Ficklin, Quady, Sonoma Valley Portworks, and PasoPort.
17 | Bartholomew Winery: The newest of the South Seattle Artisan Wineries makes beautifully balanced Rhône and Bordeaux blends. bartholomewwinery.com
18 | Portland Wine Project: A twofer (Boedecker Cellars and Grochau Cellars together) in Portland’s Northwest industrial area. 503/224-5778.
19 | The Winery SF: The first full-fledged winery in San Francisco since the repeal of Prohibition. winery-sf.com
20 | San Antonio Winery: The pioneer, it has operated since 1917, when it served L.A.’s Italian workforce. Now it offers workshops. sanantoniowinery.com
21 | San Pasqual Winery (pictured): In a retrofitted San Diego warehouse, you can taste north-of-the-border-made Tempranillo (a Spanish grape), grown in Baja, Mexico. The wines are works in progress but fun to try. sanpasqualwinery.com
23 | Bold new farm schools: Law school? That’s so 1998. More students are heading to the West’s ag schools, drawn by new curriculum emphasizing organic methods, sustainability, and the business savvy they’ll need to thrive. The University of California, Davis, is creating a formal college major in sustainable agriculture, merging theory with roll-up-your-sleeves farm time. Washington State University now offers one of the country’s first majors in organic agriculture, while Cal Poly San Luis Obispo lets any undergrad, no matter what her major, minor in sustainable agriculture.
24 | Chèvre with white pepper, Nordland, WA: A mild, buttery, romantic goat cheese with a delicacy and balance not often seen in flavored cheeses. $8/4-oz. log; mysterybayfarm.com for stores
25 | Txiki, Marshall, CA (pictured): This rich Basque-style sheep’s-milk cheese smells like soil after a rain. The deep, earthy flavor goes on and on. $30/lb.; available summer/fall; barinagaranch.com for stores
26 | Two-Faced Blue, Doty, WA: A smooth, pale-yellow cheese with craggy lines of blue shooting through it, this mellow beauty reminds us of Stilton. $26/lb.; willapahillscheese.com
27 | Seascape, Oakdale, CA: Both cow’s and goat’s milk go into these big wheels, creating a complex cheese with nutty sweetness and great acidity. $17/lb.; centralcoastcreamery.com
At risk of getting the fish-eye ourselves, we’re here to tell you that you can eat salmon without fear of social ruin. For a start, always go with wild over farmed: All salmon fisheries off the West Coast are responsibly managed, so any salmon from these waters is sustainably caught. Wild salmon stocks from Alaska are particularly healthy and strong, and Oregon salmon from north of Cape Falcon (on the coast roughly west of Portland) are doing well too. So are salmon fished off of Washington.
Take one of these wild fish home, grill it until it’s crispy on the edges, and savor it with a good glass of Pinot—and a clear conscience. Because the West doesn’t taste any better than this.
30 | Foraging: Hunting for mushrooms has become a passion in the West, as foragers scour damp forests, mountain peaks, and coastlines for the coveted caps. To safely join in the adventure, check out a mushroom club near you (namyco.org for listings). Or sign up for Healdsburg, California’s Relish Culinary Adventures (relishculinary.com), where you forage and then cook up your haul.
31 | Dinners: Menus here are the most fungi-friendly in the country. We like Poggio Trattoria ($$; 415/332-7771) in Sausalito, California, which celebrates the rainy season with dishes like porcini pasta and pizza with chanterelles.
32 | Festivals: Mushroom festivals are weird and wonderful things, mostly happening in late fall and winter. Get your feet wet at California’s Mendocino County Wine & Mushroom Festival (visitmendocino.com) in November. In late January, Oregon fetes its most famous fungus with the Oregon Truffle Festival (oregontrufflefestival.com), which hosts seminars and dinners in and around Eugene.
34 | Farmers’ markets go viral: Imagine a Craigslist for local produce, grass-fed beef, eggs, and the like, and you’ve got the idea behind two new online marketplaces that bring backyard gardeners and grocery shoppers together. The friendly Portland Food Exchange (portlandfoodexchange.com) and Sandy’s Produce (sandysproduce.com), in northern Arizona, are still in the beta stage, but we expect to see more sites like these soon.
36 | Car-free festivals: Since 2008, cyclists have taken over San Francisco streets on designated Sundays (sundaystreetssf.com). As of 2010, Portland (portlandsundayparkways.org), Oakland (oaklavia.org), Boulder (bouldergreenstreets.org), and even L.A. (ciclavia.org) are joining in.
37 | City planning: Believing that biking to work should be easier for locals, Tucson’s Department of Transportation is planning a network of 40 bicycle boulevards, with traffic-calming elements for safer commutes. The first, along Third Street, is already complete.
38 | Bike sharing: Home to more than 300 miles of trails, Denver launched the West’s first bike-share program (bcycle.com) last April, with 50 kiosks of cherry red bikes (pictured). They reopen March 1 for the season; Seattle hopes to follow suit in 2011.
39 | Bike Basket Pies, San Francisco (pictured): Every week, the one-woman operation delivers cupcake-size pies all over town. bikebasketpies.com
40 | SoupCycle, Portland: Sign up for a subscription and choose from three varieties—vegan, veggie, and meat—each week. soupcycle.com
41 | Small Cog Coffee, Seattle: There’s nothing better on a foggy morning than this micro roaster’s coffee—except finding a bag of it on your doorstep. smallcogcoffee.com
42 | Most worth-it homesteading trend: Rent a goat: Cheaper than a weed whacker, healthier than pesticides, and darn cute to boot, goats chomp through your invasive plants and weeds—from blackberry bushes to stinging nettle—often in a matter of hours. Rent from a farm or grazing service. Lease pairs at vegetationmanagementservices.com in Vernonia, OR, or check livestockforlandscapes.com for herds.
43 | Cadeaux Chocolates, Seattle: Each gemlike truffle is filled with beautifully textured ganache. The caramels are dreamy too. cadeauxchocolates.com
44 | Chocolot, Ogden, UT: The company works wonders with the cacao nib, especially in its Orange Nib Bar. sweetchocolot.com
45 | Au Coeur Des Chocolats, San Francisco: These airbrushed truffles are (almost) too pretty to eat. heartofchocolates.com
46 | Michael Mischer, Oakland: We love his single-origin bars studded with toffee and salt. michaelmischerchocolates.com
47 | Xocolatl de David, Portland (pictured): We’re obsessing over the Raleigh bars (like a gourmet Snickers). xocolatldedavid.com
48 | Seth Ellis Chocolatier, Boulder, CO: Organic, handcrafted truffles with silky smooth ganache astound; try the raspberry. sethellischocolatier.com
51 | Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay, California, drowns its organic vanilla soft-serve with a shot of bitter espresso to make a very Italian affogato. samschowderhouse.com
52 | At San Francisco’s Zero Zero, you choose both base (ricotta doughnuts, say) and topping (pomegranate seeds and saffron?) for your Straus Family Creamery soft-serve (pictured). zerozerosf.com
53 | Restaurant Jane in Santa Barbara tops swirls of soft-serve with housemade toffee and caramel as well as seasonal berry sauces. 805/962-1311.
54 | June Taylor Company, Berkeley: The grand dame of small-batch jams, Taylor seeks out heirloom and forgotten fruits. From $13; junetaylorjams.com
55 | Hurley Farms, Napa: Its Royal Blenheim apricot preserves and Sun Grand nectarine jam are sunshine on a spoon. $6.75; hurleyfarms.com
56 | Ayers Creek Farm, Gaston, OR: The Ayers Creek family crafts small-batch jams using only fresh fruit, lemon juice, and a touch of sugar. The loganberry is a must. $7; 503/985-0177.
57 | Ellelle Kitchen, Pasadena, CA: We love the fun, delicious jam combos like Backyard Grapefruit with Campari or Two Berry with Lavender. $14; ellellekitchen.com
58 | INNA, Berkeley: Pure jam perfection—the ideal spoonable texture (between runny and firm) and not too sweet. Try the Seascape strawberry jam. $12; innajam.com
59 | The Girl & The Fig, Sonoma: The to-die-for black Mission fig jam is made with fruit picked at its peak, cooked with sugar and a touch of cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg. $6.75; thegirlandthefig.com
60 | Aravaipa Farms, Aravaipa Canyon, AZ: Apricots from the owner’s own sun-drenched orchard are turned into glorious preserves, using an old French recipe. $8.50; aravaipafarms.com
61 | Forward Thinking Foods, Victoria, B.C.: Stop by Moss Street Market and pick up a jar of perky-tart berry jam; sadly, they don’t ship. From $3.41 U.S.; forwardthinkingfoods.blogspot.com
62 | Blue Chair Fruit, Oakland: Made with local organic fruit in small batches, its seasonal flavors, like Adriatic fig, are simply transcendent. $12; bluechairfruit.com
63 | Lotus Wei: This Phoenix-based line (pictured; lotuswei.com) is the brainchild of organic alchemist Katie Hess, who infuses flower essences from local blooms for her skin tone–boosting elixirs.
64 | Gunilla Skin Alchemy: At her cult San Francisco spa, Gunilla Eisenberg blends essential oils and herbs, mostly from Northern California, for her Gunilla Skin Alchemy line (gunillaskinbutik.com).
65 | Isun Skincare: Bunnie Gulick, founder of Isun Skincare (isunskincare.com), brings a touch of the mountains to her organic line, with wild herbs foraged near her lab in Colorado’s San Juan Range. Although packaged in glass and sustainably sourced, these aren’t the hippie tonics sold on card tables at your local farmers’ market—they’re used in some of the best spas in the West.
Everyone can be a cheesemaker here: The DIY food obsession has led to classes in everything from canning to kombucha fermenting (really). For our money, the biggest payoff comes from learning to make cheese—totally doable, yet utterly impressive.
67 | The Cheese School of San Francisco: Learn the ABCs of making fresh cheeses (think fromage blanc), and leave with a chèvre you’ve flavored yourself. $65; cheeseschoolsf.com
68 | Kookoolan Farms, Yamhill, OR: First, watch the brie, gouda, or cheddar demo. Then buy the supplies here to make your own. From $65; kookoolanfarms.com
69 | Old Windmill Dairy, Estancia, NM: Hands-on intros walk you through the mozzarella process. A springtime bonus: bottle-feeding the farm’s baby goats. From $38; theoldwindmilldairy.com
70 | River Valley Cheese, Fall City, WA: Tackle a different cheese every month, from blue to havarti to manchego, and age it yourself. From $125; rivervalleycheese.com
75 | Inspired salvage (pictured): Only out here would people think to make homes from abandoned cargo containers and old planes, lamps from bike chains, or planters from discarded sinks. Call it a knack for seeing the potential in something others have cast away.
So get right to the source at one of these oyster farms: Buy a few dozen sweet little Kumamotos or plump, cucumbery Pacifics, and get cracking.
78 | Taylor Shellfish Farms, WA (pictured): taylorshellfishfarms.com
79 | Brady’s Oysters, WA: bradysoysters.com
80 | Hama Hama Seafood Store, WA: hamahamaoysters.com
81 | Oysterville Sea Farms, WA: willabay.com
82 | Oregon Oyster Farms, OR: oregonoyster.com
83 | Hog Island Oyster Farm, CA: hogislandoysters.com
84 | Tomales Bay Oyster Co., CA: tomalesbayoyster.com
85 | Drakes Bay Oyster Co., CA: drakesbayoyster.com
86 | Morro Bay Oyster Co., CA: morrobayoysters.com
87 | Garden tours and classes at Napa Valley’s Bardessono are open to the public as well as to guests at the neo-schmancy hotel. By appointment; from $20; bardessono.com
88 | Dinner no longer starts with appetizers at the Herbfarm in Woodinville, Washington. It starts with working in the idyllic kitchen garden and on the farm—and ends with a well-earned nine-course meal. $1,200 for 2, including classes, meal, and lodging; herbfarm.com
89 | The third Saturday of the month, Pie Ranch welcomes volunteers to its coastal farm south of San Francisco to learn about organic growing. After a good hand-washing, all join a potluck dinner and then do-si-do at a barn dance. Dance from $7 (sliding scale); pieranch.org
91 | The Presidio Motel, Santa Barbara: Its tiny office may shout “motor court lodge,” but the loaner cruiser bikes and new glam touches (like embroidered pillows and chic wall decals) scream cool. From $179; thepresidiomotel.com
92 | Caliente Tropics Resort, Palm Springs: Elvis Presley and Nancy Sinatra used to hang at this 1964 hotel, where the original Polynesian decor has been upgraded to tiki-modern. From $105; calientetropics.com
93 | The Pearl Hotel, San Diego: The vintage motel turned boutique hotel has kept its spirit with classic cocktails and “dive-in” movies by the kidney-shaped pool. From $129; thepearlsd.com
94 | The Motor Lodge, Prescott, AZ: At the 100-year-old motel, rooms have gotten a dust-off with luxe linens and original art. Catch a ride downtown in the lodge’s flame orange 1965 pickup. From $89; themotorlodge.com
No place takes as many pains as Disneyland to get the details right, down to its Mickey Mouse topiary. And while the park is 55 years old, it never stands still. Its theme park twin, California Adventure, has opened a hallucinogenic laser- and fire-effects show. Coming this spring is a Little Mermaid extravaganza. And the sparks keep flying from Disney’s alliance with the animation wizards at Pixar: Finding Nemo’s Nemo, Toy Story’s Buzz and Woody—all have been installed in the pantheon of Disney rides. Next year, the Pixar-inspired Cars Land opens—the Disney equivalent of a new continent.
So give in. Brave the lines. Let yourself go. Because somewhere, say on Nemo’s submarine, you’ll feel gratitude for pop culture that exalts rather than demeans. And you’ll grasp the essential Disneyland secret: All the pains the park takes are taken just for you.
96 | Park Hotel, South Lake Tahoe, CA: Comfy reclaimed-wood furniture and recycled Doug fir walls, covered in craft newspaper, are a warm welcome back from the slopes. From $189; 968parkhotel.com
97 | The Oxford Hotel, Bend, OR: Silver tree stumps and cork floors merge rustic with cool. Explore on cruiser bikes, then snuggle under duvets made of recycled plastic. From $189; oxfordhotelbend.com
98 | Gaia Shasta, Anderson, CA: Watch swans and koi swim in the lake surrounded by leafy native plants. Inside, tubular skylights bring the sunshine in. From $89; gaiashasta.com
99 | Hotel Terra, Jackson hole, WY: A chic mountain resort (pictured) with eco tours of Grand Teton National Park, and plush organic mattresses. From $319; hotelterrajacksonhole.com