Welcome to Discover Walla Walla. Here you will find interesting stories, amusing experiences, uncensored reviews, and insider information from a rotating cast of locals who want to share the best of Walla Walla with you.

The Green Spoon Restaurant Celebrates Third Anniversary

Thursday, May 1st 2014 by Kirsten Telander
Green Spoon celebrates its third year downtown after moving from its former home on Rose Street under the name Someone’s in the Kitchen. 
The initial business plan was a cooking school with take out lunches, but quickly the demand for sit down service dominated.
“We started out with four tables from Shopko,” recalls Green Spoon owner Katie Gonzalez. “My mom asked ‘Do you think you have too many seats?’”
Gonzalez, and former chef and business partner, Gene Soto, closed the Rose Street location with 22 tables and outdoor seating. The restaurant was ready for prime time a.k.a. Main Street.
“I turns out one block over and one block north was a huge deal,” says Gonzalez.
The new name “Green Spoon” was birthed as many concepts are: in the shower or over alcohol. In this case, it was a few shots of Oban Scotch. It makes sense (the name, that is) because the spoon in Someone’s in the Kitchen, was green, and Green Spoon is a departure from greasy spoon. The restaurant has an extensive selection of vegetarian and gluten-free options trending on locally sourced ingredients, and there’s no deep fryer.
Gonzales and Soto transformed the once controversial marble-clad storefront into a fresh, fashionable eatery with plenty of cheery green, and expanded the menu. But when Soto decided to relocate to Bend last August, Gonzalez found herself in a bit of a pickle.
“I didn’t come into this with restaurant experience,” Katie admits. “Eating in them? Yes. Owning and running one?” She gives a look that reads are you kidding me
Her choice was to step away or step up. Walking away may have been the easier choice for someone who never intended to run a restaurant solo (if at all), but fortunately for Walla Walla, Gonzalez was game on.
Gonzalez bought herself a drill for Christmas (in a green bag) and in January, she put in a bar – I like to call it the cute little bar – and not surprisingly, it’s green. She has since developed a creative cocktail menu with names like Toes in the Sand, Paper Airplane and Henry Miller. And, as if just for me (or the server Cody), the Sarah Jessica Parker. The drink allows me to live vicariously through the iconic Carrie Bradshaw of HBO series Sex and the City, who wrote an irreverent column for a New York City newspaper once a week and managed to afford a cool apartment in the city and cocktailing on a daily basis in designer clothes and shoes.
It has been hard for me to develop a favorite meal, because the menu is so varied. The half sandwich/soup or salad combo is a go-to. I typically combine the decadent Rachel – a sandwich with turkey, havarti, creamy slaw and Russian dressing – with the signature Green Spoon Chop – a yummy blend of romaine, garbanzo beans, grape tomatoes, kalamata olives, salami and mozzarella tossed in a creamy Italian dressing with a sniggle of parmesan and basil.
When I’m feeling Humboldt County - think Julia Butterfly sitting in the redwood tree (Google it for a good story) - I order the curry bowl with peanut curry, tofu, quinoa, and veggies (other options are available).
Most recently, I had the seared ahi tacos with a delightful green apple slaw, spicy crème, fire-roasted tomato salsa and avocado/tomatillo sauce.
Green Spoon has some killer sauces and dressings that are available for purchase. The chipotle chicken sandwich, for example, has Papi Chulo’s sauce named after Katie’s grandfather.
Gonzalez also started dinners – Thursdays are BOGO (buy one, get one free) burger nights, including lamb and veggie options – a screamin’ deal, not to mention creative burger toppings (think sautéed mushrooms and blue cheese, fried egg and shredded beets). Friday is spaghetti night and Saturday is taco night. Gonzalez also plans to bring back brunch and add a happy hour; check Facebook or the website for updates.
With the weather warming up the Green Spoon patio is the perfect spot to nosh and people watch. Not surprisingly, the patio is pet-friendly – when Gonzalez isn’t stepping it up at the restaurant, she can be found outside with her adorable dog, Fiona, whose photo hangs to the right of the cute little bar.

Green Spoon
13 E. Main St.
Downtown Walla Walla
Lunch: Mon-Sat, 11 am - 3 pm
Dinner: Thurs-Sat, 5 – 9 pm
brunch & happy hour coming soon

The Vine

Friday, May 24th 2013 by Kirsten Telander
If you ever want to pretend you have a private chef in your own villa, make a reservation at The Vine Fine Dining at Cameo Heights Mansion. But don’t worry about booking the Chef’s Table. Chef Nathan Carlson is front and center, and even served a couple of our courses to us when my husband and I dined there. And, if you’re a food geek like me, he seemed completely nonplussed when I stood and watched him cook, asking him what certain ingredients were. You won’t see him screaming on a reality show any time soon – Chef Carlson goes about his business in such a relaxed manner that you wouldn’t expect the attention to detail and exceptional level of food he cranks out.
Alan and Deanne Fielding didn’t mess around when they made a mansion out of a bunch of molehills. The once barren land is now lush with apples, cherries, and grape vines. Cameo Heights (named after Deanne’s favorite apple varietal) sits cheerily perched above the orchards, with stunning views of the Walla Walla River Valley.
The owners of TERO Estates and Flying Trout Wines announced that they would be the first winery to partner with The Vine as part of a featured winery of the month program in April, we learned that you don’t need to stay at Cameo Heights in order to dine there! As a restaurant stalker, I’m not sure what molehill I’ve been in. Keep in mind, though, that seating is by reservation only, Tuesday – Saturday, 5:30 pm to 8 pm.
The wine tasting menu without the pairings is $55, or $80 with the featured wine. This is what we dined on, which also included an amuse bouche and intermezzo dish:
Soy crepe with crab, mango, wild salad, topped with sweet ginger lemongrass sauce with peanuts. It was paired with the Flying Trout 2011 Torrontes, the tropical notes melding beautifully with the touch of mango.
Papardelle pasta with nettles, house made Ricotta and pumpkin seeds paired with the TERO 2009 Estate Cabernet Franc, the hint of smoke a lovely companion to the nettles, and the mouth feel perfect with the creaminess of the Ricotta.
Cider-balsamic pork shoulder with cucumber, Asian pear, and wild watercress paired with the TERO 2009 Estate “Windrow” Field Blend, the earthiness and spice lifting the marinade on the pork.
Chocolate croissant bread pudding with orange caramel sauce and whipped crème fraiche paired with the 2010 Gamache Malbec touch of marmalade on the palate.
The prix fixe menu is as equally beguiling, and equally as reasonable: seven courses for $59, an additional $20 if paired with wine. A la carte options are available. Chef Carlson changes up the menu every couple of weeks, and this gives you of sense of his creative offerings:
As a starter, prawn & sea scallop ceviche with avocado-jalapeno mousse, corn cracker, organic greens, Blue Cheese, beets, extra virgin olive oil, and 18 year old balsamic vinegar.
A couple of the main dishes: Mishimi Ranch Wagyu beef Teres Major, smoked asparagus, prosciutto, garlic cheese, radishes, bone sauce; Alaskan day boat Halibut, Hoppin’ John, morel mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns, mustard butter.

One of the desserts: crème fraîche panna cotta, cherries, rhubarb, red wine, cheese - nibbles of a variety of cheeses, walnuts, and apple.
The menu includes a couple of small dishes to start, and an intermezzo, and finishes with fig, almond, and chocolate.
You can also order bottles of wine should you wish to forgo the selected pairings. Be prepared to find some of the area’s most prestigious producers on the extensive list, and vintages long gone from tasting rooms (some 2004, 2005).

The level of hospitality at Cameo Heights is of a bygone era. Alan and Deanne go above and beyond in making sure your experience is unforgettable. They even have a money-back (they phrase it more nicely) guarantee and they mean it.
Tags: Cuisine, Food, Wine

Cugini Italian Import Foods Celebrates 10th Year in Business

Friday, May 10th 2013 by Kirsten Telander
Cugini Italian Import Foods celebrates its 10th year in business in April, and things have never looked more favoloso for this unpretentious little gem. Cugini was voted Best Gourmet Grocery in the Walla Walla Valley for the second year in a row. Owner/chef Chantelle Martuscelli is the only one east of the Cascades curing her own meats, and there’s a waiting list for restaurants that want to carry them. Chantelle has plans for expansion and is ready to launch a new logo to celebrate Cugini’s success.  Congratulazioni!
Cugini has the kind of story that births great fiction. Cugini’s founder, Don Maiuri, learned to cure salami and make Italian sausage from his father, Emilio, who learned from his father. It was Don’s Grandpa that sent for Dominick Martuscelli in Italy in 1921 to come work the Maiuri family farm. Dominick saved his money, bought and farmed his own land, and made wine for the Italian neighborhood (customers still tell stories of about him and his wine cellar). The family resides at the same land he farmed around the corner from the shop. Dominick’s great granddaughter, Chantelle, ended up working for Don when he opened Cugini, learning the business from him, which she now owns.  No, I am not making this up.
Situated in Walla Walla’s own little Italy, the shop is like a real-life movie set, with regulars who come in and ask, “Whatcha gonna make me today?” Chantelle’s Grandpa (also named Dominick) comes in for coffee and samples what she’s cooking, often there with Don. Chantelle continues to play with old-world recipes passed down through generations including those from her late Aunt Marguerite (the inspiration behind Chantelle’s Walla Walla Valley Coffee Table Cookbook in the works), Aunt Marie, Aunt Rosie, and Grandma Kathy.
Chantelle has a cult-like following for her meatballs, so my husband and I had to come on a Wednesday – spaghetti and meatballs day.  He promptly confirmed that yes, they are much better than the ones I make at home. I agreed.
I reveled in the garlic chicken Panini – roasted chicken, provolone, a sublime sundried tomato pesto, and garlic. We started with a generous salad of fresh spring greens, aged balsamic, sundried tomatoes, and black olives.
Being that Cugini  ain’t just a spaghetti and meatball kinda joint, I went back on Thursday for the pasta special, which Chantelle always changes up. Former specials posted on Facebook, which garnered the restaurant over 2,000 “likes” in a couple months, include baked trenne in a gorgonzola dolce sauce, gnocchi and guanciale with fennel sauce, butternut and goat cheese ravioli with fresh sage.
On this Thursday, it was a Blue Valley Meats lamb ravioli with sautéed carrots in a parmesan cream sauce. Chantelle made a vegetable stock in the morning (over the years I’ve gained great appreciation for a good stock), cooked the lamb in the stock, and then used the lamb stock in the sauce. I decided to let the gentleman behind me provide these words, spoken to his wife on his cell phone:
“It’s like the most amazing thing I’ve had in my life. Ridiculous. I’m still in shock.” No, I am not making this up, and Chantelle did not bring him in as a prop. Josh, as he later introduced himself to me as, placed an order to pick up later in the day for his wife to try, and shook his head all the way to his car as if still dumbfounded by his culinary discovery.
The next day, I had every intention of going straight to Home Depot, but found my car heading down what has now become the familiar road to Cugini. It was a Friday, my work for the week was done, and I was in luck: the special of the day was a flatbread with a house-made Alfredo sauce, fresh mozzarella, zucchini slices, sundried tomatoes, and pesto. As with everything at Cugini, Chantelle made the flatbread before my eyes, and delivered its bubbly deliciousness right out of the oven to my table outside, where I basked in the early spring sun while sipping on a glass of Arcangelo Salice Salentino red wine from Southern Italy.  Perfezione.
Cugini Import Italian Market
Tues-Fri 10-6, Sat 9-5
960 Wallula Ave.
Walla Walla
Tags: Cuisine, Food

Salumiere Cesario

Tuesday, November 20th 2012 by Kirsten Telander
I’ve often said that when I die, I’d like to end up in a Sephora store with a cheese closet and a wine cellar. As a mere mortal, I can’t seem to maintain a wine cellar, my husband has banned me from Sephora, but who would figure that this small town would have a cheese closet?  

Thanks to Damon Burke, along with his wife Colby, Walla Walla was introduced to the cheese closet in 2006 when the couple opened Salumiere Cesario Gourmet Grocery in a modest space on 2nd Avenue.     

The first time I interviewed Damon, I had to ask the obvious: where did the idea of the cheese closet come from? Apparently, he was flipping through television channels and ran across Keeping Up With the Kardashians, and the famous for being famous family was having lunch at [The] Blue Table, which he and Colby used to frequent while living in Los Angeles.  "It totally changed the way I viewed cheese,” he said. And then I lied to him. I told him I had never watched the show. 

Salumiere Cesario recently expanded and moved to the enviable location of 12 E. Main Street in the building most recently occupied by Romanza. The name? Damon combined Salumiere, which means grocer in Italian and Cesario (pronounced CHE-sario), his grandmother’s maiden name, to honor her memory. Apparently, she was a great storyteller and if you have the time, Damon can tell you the story behind any product in his store. 

I can tell you from experience that whether I’m buying gourmet salts, Turkish olive oil (you can also create your own olive oil blend at the olive oil bar), tonic water, or a brand of wine that I’ve never heard of, Damon is very particular about what hits the shelves.  

The staples of the shop are the meats and cheeses, the ginormous and diverse selection of which has nearly landed me in a 12-step program: I, Kirsten, admit that I have eaten a ridiculous amount of D’Affinois and Drunken Goat cheese. Meats? There’s Salumi (Seattle), Fra’ Mani (Berkeley), Salumeria Biellese (Brooklyn), Creminelli (Salt Lake City), plus Prosciutto and ham that you won’t find anywhere else in these parts. The expansive commercial kitchen –a far cry from the former cubby in the grocer’s former location – allows for more catering and prepared meals.  

Like so many chefs in Walla Walla, Damon wants to change the way that people eat and wants to "expand and delight the palate,” he says – a phrase I sometimes speak out loud with an English accent for reasons I can’t explain.  

The day I dined there, the gentleman next to me was enjoying a tall glass of amber colored beer (Colby says the beer on tap is a huge hit) and the grilled cheese sandwich on locally made sourdough with a "secret blend” of cheeses. Clearly it was a religious (or other) experience for him. I felt like I was on the set of the film, When Harry Met Sally, and I considered ordering it myself. But the thought of the two of us groaning on the patio, potentially scaring passersby, had me looking at other options.    

The menu is limited by design ­– Colby emphasized that they are a grocer first – and everything on the menu is refreshingly simple. "I don’t like fuss in food. If you can’t eat it (referring to garnish) why is it there?” Damon says.   This has always been my experience with the chicken salad sandwich.  So simple, but oh so good. And the house made pickle served with it has made me a convert. Never again can I eat one out of a jar with a stork on the label.  
Salumiere Cesario relies heavily on their website ( and their Facebook page ( to share specials events, menu items and seasonal promotions. Check it out.

Address: 12 East Main Street, Walla Walla, WA 99362
Phone: (509) 529-5620
Hours: Mon-Sat  11am–6pmSun  11am–4pm
Tags: Cuisine, Food

The Rise of South Fork Grill

Monday, September 24th 2012 by Kirsten Telander
I’m a sucker for a comeback and the Phoenix-rising-ness that birthed South Fork Grill is the kind that good stories are made of.

In July 2010, Creek Town Café (now South Fork Grill) unexpectedly closed its doors, leaving tourists and locals who’d clamored for reservations since its opening in 2002 grieving… and hungry; employees grieving for a different reason: they were all out of work without notice.

But long-time server Jodi Worden, and her husband Chris ­– with no experience running a restaurant – decided to take a chance and re-open as South Fork Grill. They hosted the 30 former Creek Town employees in their back yard with hot dogs and Keystone Lights ("That’s all I could afford!” said Jodi). She asked if they’d come back to work if they were able to pull it off.

Two months later, South Fork Grill opened with the original 30 employees (including familiar face Kelly Salee), and the intimate bistro with its colorful patio filled once again.

The patio was the first place I experienced "fine dining” when I moved to Walla Walla seven years ago, and I remember saying I feel like I’m on vacation in wine country (duh) at a cute word of mouth little place (double duh).

So, for sentiment sake and having heard that they’d just brought on a new chef, I treated my former student and now good friend Paco to a last meal of sorts before he returned to his hippie existence at Evergreen College.

As last suppers go for college students, Paco proceeded to work his way through several baskets of bread (made in house) to dip in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. In a moment of carb envy witness, Paco’s relentless intake of the fresh bread (I’ve tried to eliminate carbs from my diet - please feel free to yawn and roll eyes here) I caved. Not only did I indulge in the bread, I decided to share the Fettuccine with English Peas with him.  The pasta, also made in house, was sublime – fresh and light – served with roasted garlic cream sauce, tomatoes, basil, Castoldi Farms spinach, and shaved Parmesan. We added pancetta for added perfection.  

The half portions were generous, but we couldn’t resist one of the special appetizers – Mediterranean black mussels with garlic, white wine, basil, and yellow grape tomatoes. The tomatoes were such an outstanding and unexpected addition that I asked where they were from. Our server responded nonchalantly, "Some lady down the street.” Not surprising, given that the restaurant prides itself on fresh, local ingredients.  

We ogled the case of goodies – a massive selection of fresh pies, cakes, and crisps (check their website for items you can order through their bakery). I chose not to indulge (I avoid sugar – please feel free to yawn and roll eyes again), but had great admiration for the plates of peach and bing cherry crisp and red velvet raspberry cheesecake being delivered to a nearby table. 

Drum roll please: the new chef is David Belcher. I managed to lure him out of the kitchen for a photo op. The 26-year cooking veteran moved from Jackson, Wyoming (his wife Kelly recently opened Main Street Furniture Co. downtown). Chef David has degrees from both The Culinary Institute of America in New York (!) and Florida International University. Not too shabby, as my uncle Laurie used to say.  

South Fork Grill
1129 2nd, Suite D
Restaurant Hours: Tues-Sun 11am-9pm 509-522-4777      

Tags: Food, Wine