Jessica Mordo

The West is a big, big place, and every week our staff is all over it, digging up the shops and restaurants, beaches and trails, performances and, well, phenomena that make the region so vibrant. Here’s the Best of the West this week

Sunset Staff  – July 15, 2019

Camping in a Space Yurt

When it came time to invest in a family tent for camping trips, my husband was also coincidentally contemplating his shelter options for Burning Man, and we realized we needed a one-product-fits-all solution. After careful research, we discovered Shiftpod, which I affectionately call our “space yurt” due to its geodesic shape and reflective material that looks like it could house astronauts at a zero-gravity campsite. The domed shelter is spacious: According to the marketing, Shiftpod could sleep up to 8, which to me translates to 6 comfortably. In other words, my family of four has ample space to doze, lounge, change clothes, and even host a dance party (it’s tall enough for the average-height adult to stand up in without awkwardly bending one’s head). The reflective fabric isn’t just for looks, either; it reflects the sun’s rays back out, making the interior a cool and pleasant place to sleep on a warm summer night in, say, the Nevada desert (a big selling point for the Burning Man user). And best of all, it’s super easy to assemble, virtually popping out from a series of vertices (and then popping back in for easy breakdown), while a durable tent floor zips along the circumference. Now, I’m not going to lie—Shiftpod is a beast to carry and transport, clocking in at 67 pounds and 6 feet. But its benefits outweigh its bulk, and that’s really saying something when you’re loading up a four-door sedan plus a cargo bag on top of it for a family camping trip. —Jessica Mordo, associate digital director

Shiftpod2
   

A Tropical Tiki Escape in Colorado

Casey Giltner

Don’t get me wrong, I love Colorado’s craft beers and artisanal whiskeys, but being landlocked in the mountains I often find myself daydreaming about sipping a Mai Tai on a Caribbean beach. The team behind Arcana restaurant in Boulder just made my fantasies come true (well, minus the turquoise waters and sand) with this week’s opening of Jungle. The new tiki bar features classic island cocktails like the Zombie and Piña Colada, as well modern riffs like the High Off the Indo, a tequila and arrack-spiked drink accented with Thai peppercorn and banana, all served in kitschy drink vessels like Coco López cans and oversized ceramic mugs hugged by an octopus. I’m a one Mai Tai kinda girl, but luckily the drink menu also includes island beers like Red Stripe and Maui Brewing’s Coconut Porter, plus island wines sourced from non-Caribbean islands including Sicily, Santorini, Tasmania, and the Canaries. Luau pork sandwiches, Jamaican beef patties, jerk wings, and other island-inspired bar snacks almost make you feel like you’re on a tropical vacation. —Jen Murphy, executive editor

Raising Flowers to an Art Form

This week I have been going crazy for Kate Blairstone’s illustrations. This Portland artist does custom wallpaper and hand-painted murals (as seen at the luxury high-rise The Rodney in Portland and Seattle’s State Hotel) with motifs pulled from nature, and her botanical work is truly breathtaking. This week she shared a photo of a custom mural she illustrated, of Oregon-grape and Nootka roses, and I think it’s just spectacular. —Heather Arndt Anderson, garden contributor

A New Columbia River Gorge Basecamp with Style 

Courtesy of The Society Hotel Bingen

Downtown Portland’s Society Hotel is a favorite for discerning, budget-minded travelers for its hip hostel-hotel digs that deliver on boutiquey amenities (plush mattresses, craft drinks, 24-hour text message concierge) without the high price tag. That’s why I can’t wait to check out the team’s new locale on the Columbia River Gorge. This time, they took over an 80-year-old schoolhouse and transformed it into a stellar adventure hub complete with cabins, bunk beds, a sun-soaked spa, and stylish communal spaces. Instead of jumping on the already popular Oregon side of the gorge, the owners—five outdoor-loving Portlanders—are banking on the quieter Washington side, where you have access to the Columbia and White Salmon rivers, famed mountain biking trails, and the Columbia Gorge wine country. There’s plenty to keep you busy (or blissfully chilled out) on the 2.5-acre property: a spa with saltwater and cold plunge pools, a lobby café with good books and fancy cocktails, and an updated gymnasium with its original bleachers and basketball hoops. Most of the beds are set up camp-style with bunks, but there are also 10 private rooms and 20 cabins that encircle the spa and a fire pit. And while all this stuff is great, what draws me most is the owners’ commitment to supporting sustainable development in the Pacific Northwest. The hotel’s arrival in this part of Washington—which seriously lacks lodging options—intends to boost the tourism economy in tiny-town Bingen and the surrounding areas. Bring on the hot, wet, American summer. —Stephanie Granada, travel contributor 

The Perfect Sausages for Grilling 

I love fresh pork sausages come grilling season, but typically avoid cooking them on the grates for fear of them popping from the heat and letting all of their pork juice (which is really the point of sausage, right?) run out and go up in flames. I recently had my mind changed by the good people at Peads and Barnetts, farmers and purveyors of the finest pork (and flowers!) in Southern California. They make a mean sausage called butifara, which has variants throughout Spain, Portugal, and Italy, and is simply seasoned with salt and pepper. I don’t know what cuts of pork they use, but the coarse grind is studded with bits of fat and other porky textural perfection that somehow holds up on the heat of the grill. The other night, one of the sausages even popped and let out some of its juices, but was still rich and juicy at the table. Hugh Garvey, food editor

A Sleek-yet-Mighty Camping Stove

Camp stoves fall into a couple of categories: fast-and-light for backpacking trips and more powerful basecamp style set-ups designed for powering through meal prep for a group. In the latter category, I’m in love with this clean, smart setup from Primus, a Swedish brand founded in 1892, just a few years before Sunset. The Tupike model not only offers precision control of 7000 BTUs to its two burners, it boasts Scandinavian design touches such as oak lathes and a smart stainless closing mechanism. What’s more, the optional carrying case made from Fjallraven’s hardwearing G-1000 material helps protect it for stow-and-go missions and will wear beautifully with age. —Matt Bean, editor in chief

Primus Tupike Stove
   

The Art of the Cheese Course

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Whether your holiday plans involve relaxing at the beach or orchestrating the ultimate picnic under the fireworks, our 4th of July Collection will fill all your cheese desires. This collection contains both of our lush triple-creams Red Hawk and Mt Tam, as well as the sweet and tangy Bay Blue, artisan salami, Cowgirl Crackers, and a Cowgirl cooler to pack it all in. Orders must be placed before 12:00 pm Pacific Time on Tuesday (7/2) for delivery in time for July 4th! . . . #july4th #independenceday #redwhiteandblue #4thofjuly #cheese #cheeseplatter #cheeseplate #picnic #triplecream #bluecheese #cheeselover #eeeeeats #cowgirlcreamery #mycowgirlcreamery #ilovecheese#cheesemonger #cheesemaking #artisancheese #cheesemaker #farmtotable #cowmilk #redhawkcheese #yum #farmstead #milkshed #westmarin #cheeseislife #cheeseaddict #stinkycheese #washedrindcheese

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I just got back from a trip to France where I ate cheese three times a day, except on the days when I let loose and really indulged. Luckily my new fromage habit is something that can continue now that I’m back home in California. The West produces a huge variety of curd, some traditional and some of which dares to shake up the moldier conventions of the cheese world. My personal favorite cheese shop, Cowgirl Creamery, has two brick and mortar locations, well worth a pilgrimage if you’re in San Francisco or Marin’s Point Reyes. But if you’re not, they deliver all over the continental United States. You’ll miss out on the tasting experience—oh yes, you can sample at the counter—but you can hardly go wrong, so order some up and throw yourself a cheese party—because a good wheel really is something to celebrate. —Nicole Clausing, content producer