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Celebrating People, Places & the Good Life in SW Washington State
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Shops to Love: Sweet Spot Skirts

Stephanie Carroll, Owner of Sweet Spot Skirts in Downtown Vancouver

Stephanie Carroll is an evangelist. She’s a vocal advocate for sporty, comfortable skirts and women are following her lead, converting their wardrobes to include her designs, which are worn over tights and other sportswear.

As a Vancouver real estate agent, Stephanie zipped around town by bike to visit her listings. “I used to wear a little disco skirt when I ran around checking my flyer boxes and taking photos.” When she received compliments about her short skirt, which covered her biking clothes, from two male acquaintances, the proverbial light bulb went off. “I think I can do better” with a skirt design, she thought.

Birth of a business
In February 2010 she took 45 skirts, all made by local seamstresses, to a bike swap in Seattle. She sold out and immediately filed for business incorporation of her Vancouver, WA-based Sweet Spot™ Skirts®.

At the beginning “it was a bookkeeper, myself and a seamer,” she says.” I was working out of my 9’ x 9’ bedroom in Vancouver. I lived frugally. The bedroom I was working in, I just stacked fabric and it was crazy.”

Fabric on display.

Stephanie continued to hire local seamstresses. In 2011 she hired a marketing director and they hit the road, selling skirts at events. “As a designer and creator of these items that these women love – I have tried my skirts on 2,000 plus women over just the last few months.”

Whether selling products from her downtown Vancouver shop, on her Web site at or from her 16’ Airstream trailer at events, Stephanie is attracting major attention with her designs.

Taking the skirts on the road, marketing with social media
Selling on the road is hard work, she says, but worth it. She spent July in the Midwest, selling her skirts at events like RAGBRAI, a 10,000-rider bicycle trip across Iowa.

While events have been a marketing mainstay , social media, particularly Facebook, has been the #1 sales tool for Sweet Spot Skirts, Stephanie says.  And hiring a marketing director was a turning point. “The marketing director has almost doubled or tripled our online sales and our exposure and she has been key to growing the revenue.”

Stephanie’s goals for  Sweet Spot Skirts are simple:

  1. Have fun.
  2. When goal #1 is done… Have a little bit more fun!
  3. Stay out of debt.

Skirts sewn on-site

Quality design, up close and personal

They hope to saturate the biking community with the bright, reversible skirts and outfit women for other sports including golf, yoga, running and tennis, among others. Future plans for growth include a big November 2012 release of a children’s line, new “flirty” skirts and kilts. She would like to eventually have a manufacturing site in Vancouver. “We are not going to go to China,” Stephanie says. “If we can’t grow this thing in the United States, we have to make it happen, we have to figure out a way.”

Sweet Spot Skirts Shop

Creating a headquarters in Vancouver
The downtown Vancouver store is a hub for the business. Located in the former Sixth Street Gallery at 105 W. 6th, the shop features wood floors, stacks of the colorful skirts and bolts of fabric where “you can go to the wall and pick out your fabric and have your skirt made,” Stephanie says.  There is no extra charge for the custom skirts. An operations director and store manager spend their days creating skirts and prototypes as well as assisting customers.

“We are working when people walk in. This is more of a manufacturing site. We call it our destination retail. You can come in and have a cup of coffee, you can have your skirt made, you can rent a bike.” Skirts that are sold wholesale are manufactured in Wilsonville.

Skirts on display

More skirts!

Proskins, jerseys and hats

Flipside Hats from Portland

Displays of the skirts, which sell for $69, are featured in the front along with hats by Flipside Hats, Proskins and Moxie Cycling Jerseys. The store offers bike rentals by the hour. The shop, which has the open feel of the former gallery including rotating art exhibits, is available for special events like bachelorette and birthday parties. They partner with local businesses like Top Shelf, which provides food and drink across the street from the shop.

Bikes for rent

Bike helmets

When asked what would surprise people about Stephanie, who is a whirlwind of ideas, her staff is unanimous: “She doesn’t sew a stitch!”

“I don’t know anything about sewing,” Stephanie admits. “I just know what I want it to look like.”

Shops (and Skirts) to Love: Sweet Spot Skirts

Stephanie may not sew but she knows how to envision and sell her popular skirts. Check out Stephanie’s designs, the work of her seamstresses and other products at Sweet Spot Skirts in Vancouver at 105 W. 6th Street, at www.SweetSpotSkirts.comSweet Spot Skirts on Facebook or the company blog.



August 15, 2012   2 Comments

Burnt Bridge Cellars Opens in Downtown Vancouver, Joins Local Wine and Brew Scene

Clark County has yet another new and welcome winery. Downtown Vancouver is the location for Burnt Bridge Cellars, which opened the weekend of May 18-20. The former location of Sigma Design at 1500 Broadway has been transformed into a tasting room, cellar and bottling area.

The tasting room at 15th and Broadway in downtown Vancouver

David Smith and Mark Mahan have made wine together for several years, winning multiple awards in the 2010 WineMaker International Amateur Wine Competition for their Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlot, Syrah and blends under the David Mark Wines label.

Proof is in the tasting. Burnt Bridge Cellar’s current wines merit their new professional status. Just after opening, in fact, they won a gold medal at the 2012 Seattle Wine Awards for their 2010 Les Collines Viognier.

Mark Mahan and David Smith

Opening weekend we tasted their Semillon, Pont Brule, Syrah and Mourvedre. We enjoyed them all. A lovely bottle of Pont Brule joined our wine cellar. It won’t last long.

Burnt Bridge Cellars has joined another downtown winery and tasting room, Gouger Cellars at 1812 Washington. Look out, Walla Walla!

The Burnt Bridge Cellars tasting room will be open on Saturdays and Sundays f rom 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on every First Friday night. Beyond downtown Vancouver, Clark County wineries will also be open Memorial Day Weekend as well as other dates. Details and a map are here.

You haven’t been left out, beer aficionados!
Beer lovers have not been neglected.  Mt. Tabor Brewing, which is open on Friday nights, at 113 W. 9th, the Beer by the Bottle store and taproom at 104 W. Evergreen (and their recent acquisition of the Salmon Creek Brew Pub) and the future opening of Loowit Brewing Company, which is being constructed across from the Hilton on Columbia, feature quality brews.

Beer connoisseurs have, in fact, two upcoming events of their own – the Who’s Your Daddy? Beer Festival on June 15 at Turtle Park at 9th and Main in downtown Vancouver. And the first Vancouver Brewfest USA will be held on August 10-11 at Esther Short Park.

Winemakers, brewers…welcome, all!






May 24, 2012   2 Comments

30 April Events in SW Washington to Get You Out of the House!

It’s time to ignore the never-ending rain and get out of the house. From film to flowers, hiking to kayaking, contra to Indian dances, there are no excuses. See you out there!

WSU-V Native American Film Festival

April 4-6Native American Film Festival– Washington State University Vancouver is offering a Native American Film Series at 5:30 p.m. in the Dengerink Administration building, room 110. The series is free and open to the public. Each evening opens with a 30-minute guest lecture at 5:30 p.m. followed by the film screening at 6 p.m. Each film in the series addresses Native -American experiences with boarding schools. The speakers and films are:

April 4, “Older Than America” – Georgina Lightning, the film’s director and actress, will speak before the screening. In this contemporary drama of suspense, a woman’s haunting visions reveal a Catholic priest’s sinister plot to silence her mother from speaking the truth about the atrocities that took place at her Native American boarding school.

April 5, “Our Spirits Don’t Speak English: Indian Boarding School” – Jacqueline Peterson, WSU Vancouver professor emerita of history, will speak before the screening. This documentary uncovers the dark history of U.S. Government policy which took Indian children from their homes, forced them into boarding schools and enacted a policy of educating them in the ways of western society.

April 6, “The Only Good Indian” – Grace L. Dillon associate professor, indigenous nations studies at Portland State University will speak before the screening. In this film, set in Kansas during the early 1900s, a teen-aged Native American boy is taken from his family and forced to attend a distant Indian “training” school to assimilate into white society.

April 5First Thursday – Downtown Longview and Kelso  – Galleries and the Cowlitz County Historical Museum  are open in the evening with receptions at various galleries.

 April 6Full Moon Hikes at Ridgefield  National Wildlife Refuge . Evening hike, starting at 7:30 p.m. on the Oaks to Wetlands trail at the Refuge. Space is limited and reservations are required. Call 360-887-3883 for reservations and details.

 April 6 – As always, there are multiple First Fridays around Clark County including Vancouver, Ridgefield and Camas. For details check out the Arts of Clark County calendar.

In Downtown Vancouver – At 7 p.m., don’t miss the unveiling of the latest addition of public art to downtown Vancouver – a sculpture by Dave and Jennifer at Cobalt Designworks installed at Evergreen and Main. No excuses for staying in on the first Friday of the month!

In Downtown Camas – Visit each participating merchant, pick an egg out of the basket and see if you can select the Golden Egg!  Special deals are inside each golden egg at each of the participating merchants!

First Iron Man Strong Ale Festival

April 7First Iron Man Strong Ale Festival –  Noon – 8 p.m. The inaugural event features this year’s release of Walking Man Brewing’s Iron Man Imperial IPA, live music, hot food and a chance to sample a variety of Strong Ales from various breweries. Held in honor of “Iron Man Jim Caldwell.” Skamania County Fairgrounds. Admission.

April 7Vintage Fishing Gear Show – Display and show at 9 a.m. at the spring meeting of the NW regional of the National Fishing Lure Collectors Club. Red Lion Hotel in Kelso. Details at 360-274-8045. Admission.

April 7Klickitat Trail Conservancy Birding walk – 7 a.m. Lyle trailhead  – 3-4 miles. This is a special area. From the Conservancy: “The Klickitat Trail follows the first 31 miles of an old railroad corridor linking the towns of Lyle and Goldendale.  It is unique among rail trails. Nowhere else is there a rail trail that starts in a remote, beautiful tributary canyon, winds along a nationally designated Wild & Scenic River, and finishes in one of the nation’s only National Scenic Areas.”

 April 7-9Razor Clam Dig! – Three beaches – Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Kalaloch – will be open for morning razor clam digging all three days. Mocrocks will be open for two days, April 7-8, and Copalis will be open April 7 for one day only. Get the details here. Here is a ZEST post about our first excursion digging those delicious bivalves.

April 7-29Columbia River Kayaking has  a plethora of kayaking trips for beginners and experienced kayakers. Check out their calendar of trips here.  The river is really high right now. Be dry, safe and plan accordingly! Trips begin at their Paddle Center in Skamokawa unless otherwise listed.

April Contra in the Couve Caller Mary Devlin

April 13Contra in the Couve – Vancouver has a contra dance on the second Friday of every month at 7:30 p.m. the Hazel Dell Grange, 7509 NE Hazel Dell Ave. New and experience dancers welcome! Popular Portland caller Mary Devlin will be calling the dance. 

April 13-28Magenta Theater – Downtown Vancouver’s always entertaining theater company presents Hitchcock’s 39 Steps. Tickets are available here.

April 14Battle Ground Wine Loop – You can take the Battle Ground Wine Loop Tour bus around the loop for just $5 per person. It will make the loop all day long. Just hop on and off at each of the three participating wineries – Rusty Grape Vineyards, Heisen House Vineyards  and Olequa Cellars. Or take a designated chauffeur and drive the scenic 7-mile loop if you prefer.  Small tasting fees may apply at each location. Battle Ground Wine Loop from noon – 6, followed by live music after at Rusty Grape starting at 7 p.m.

April 14Klickitat Trail Conservancy Wildflower Walk – 10 a.m. 4 miles – Starting at the Lyle trailhead. Easy to moderate.

April 14-15Vancouver Symphony Orchestra – 3 p.m. on Saturday and 7 p.m. on Sunday. Winners of the Young Artist Competition will perform  the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3 and the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. Also All Classical’s Edmund Stone will narrate A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Mendelssohn with a performance by the Willamette University Chamber Choir. Buy Vancouver Symphony tickets here.

April 14-21Second Annual Cultural Immersion Week –   Immerse yourself in India! Columbia Theatre offers a wonderful schedule of events, culminating with a April 21 performance of Ragamala Dance (see below). Lots of events happening on Saturday, April 14 including Indian food, music, yoga, henna, fighting kites and “Bollywood Movez” dance lessons.

Holland American Bulb Farm Show Field


April 14-15 Woodland Tulip Festival –  The 10th Annual Woodland Tulip Festival will include annual blooming tulip fields, display garden and gift shop and much more. Check out the Holland America Bulb Farms Web site  for all of the events.

Cathlapotle Plankhouse

April 15Cathlapotle Plankhouse, Carty Unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, 28908 NW Main Ave., Ridgefield, WA –   The Plankhouse opens the season with a special presentation at 2 p.m. by Dr. Robert Carriker who will present “A Student in the Pacific Northwest: Sacagawea Travels the Columbia River.” Guided tours of the Plankhouse and children’s activities will be available from noon – 4 p.m.

April 19Sakura Festival – 1-4 p.m. To celebrate the breathtaking cherry blossoms that bloom in the spring, Clark College hosts an annual festival for the college and the region. The festival also honors Vancouver’s sister-city relationship with Joyo, Japan, which was established in 1995. This year, the Festival will also dedicate the new Royce Pollard Japanese Friendship Garden.

April 21Hometown Tourism Day – Many Long Beach Peninsula and Pacific County sites and museums are working together to promote Hometown Tourism Day. Check out the list of locations.

April 21Klickitat Trail Conservancy hike through Swale Canyon – 9 a.m. Lyle trailhead – 13 miles – strenuous. Early flowers should be at peak. The Trail is railroad gravel in places, so sturdy boots are needed.

April 21Kalama Word Catcher –  Writers take note – You can spend the entire day exploring your craft with an excellent roster of instructors including Larry Colton and Carolyn J. Rose. This is a benefit for the Kalama Public Library. Pre-register here.

April 21Columbia Theatre presents Ragamala Dance – 7:30 p.m. The classical dance troupe will perform “Sacred Earth” as part of the Second Annual Cultural Immersion Week sponsored by Columbia Theatre. Tickets available here.

April 21Trout Lake Run – The Half-Marathon, 10K & 5K running/walking events start and finish at Trout Lake School, which is the beneficiary of the event.

April 21Earth Day Celebrations – Lots happening around SW Washington. Check your local papers and Web sites!

April 21-22 Woodland Tulip Festival –  The 10th Annual Woodland Tulip Festival will include annual blooming tulip fields, display garden and gift shop and much more. Check out the Holland America Bulb Farms Web site  for all of the events.

April 21 – May 13Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens Lilac Days –  10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Hulda Klager’s farm home and beautiful gardens will be open and lilac plants and gifts will be offered for sale in a lovely gift shop. During Lilac Days, the farmhouse will feature a display of vintage hats and accessories. Admission.  This is easily combined with a visit to the tulip festival! Here is a past  ZEST post on the Hulda Klager Lilac Days.

April 27-29Home and Garden Idea Fair –  The fair features hundreds of ideas on how to make your home, yard and garden a more beautiful, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly place. Sponsored by Clark Public Utilities.

April 28Klickitat Trail Conservancy hike from the town of Klickitat to Pitt – 9:30 a.m. Lyle trailhead – easy walk.

If these aren’t enough events to get you out of the house, check your local newspapers for more ideas!

April 1, 2012   No Comments

10 Minute Conversation with Lee Rafferty

Lee Rafferty is the Executive Director of Vancouver’s Downtown Association. She has lived in Vancouver since 1974.

Lee Rafferty, Executive Director, Vancouver's Downtown Association

What brought you to SW Washington?
I married a man who lived in Vancouver. I continued to commute to my job in Portland for several years and left that job and sold real estate for a bit and then started my own business, Spanky’s. We had that business for 28 years ago and sold it about two years ago.

What do you love about SW Washington?
I love that we have a rich history and a bright future and a lot of it is tied to the beautiful Columbia River. We also have sports available to us, all kinds of recreation. We have a community that values education. We have community that values giving back and has a great deal of community pride in the things that we support and the things that we oppose. We don’t take an elitist approach to life. Anything that has been accomplished in Vancouver has been accomplished with a great deal of hard work and seeing a vision through. Nothing has been handed to SW Washington. We have always sort of lived in the shadow of sparklier places across the river. We know who we are and we know what we are doing and we are not trying to emulate.

What is the best-kept secret about SW Washington?
I’m in the business of exposing secrets and making everyone want to come here! I’m in the business of making sure that people understand the opportunity on every level that is here. This is a great place to raise a family. This is a great place to bring a business. The tax structure is very favorable for people who want to start a business and this area is completely invested in making sure that economically this area thrives.

As far as downtown Vancouver, I have always said that it is our recent success is because we are a downtown of opportunity. People are coming here, buying buildings, launching businesses and making their own way because it’s possible. We not so priced out of the market yet. There is a real fervor for this reinvention and a new vitality that is palpable. You go out on the street and you can just know that if you have taken stock of what was here last year and you look now at the change of views, rehabilitation of buildings, the plans to rehabilitate, the new businesses that have landed. It is amazing the change. It has happened pretty quickly and we are in the midst of a huge change that is very positive.

Our organization (VDA) is uniquely placed. We’re not government but we work very, very well with government. We don’t own anything but we understand the pressures of owning a building that is underperforming. We understand what it is to have a business that needs more traffic or maybe could use some advice about how to merchandise or how to light and bring in customers. We understand what it is to have issues where you need to be able to navigate permitting issues or know how to bring an event downtown. We are uniquely placed to be able to hook people up with what they need. We are a conduit and that’s pretty exciting. We do have our fingers in a lot of pies.

What is your favorite place to relax or play in SW Washington?
I have a couple of little granddaughters. I have three now. I like the Waterfront Trail, along the Columbia River. One granddaughter is old enough now to ride a bike. And I have one is in a stroller and I’ll probably have one in a front backpack and it’s very fun to go along the river and enjoy that.

The other thing I love is the new library. I am so pleased about the library and how it is becoming ever more a hub for downtown activities and for all ages. (Editor’s Note: The new Vancouver Community Library was just named #2 on the list of Top 10 Libraries for Children in the U.S.)

If you didn’t live here, where would you live?
My dad immigrated from Scotland and I always say when I go back to visit that I can see myself living there, not in the city but in the north of Scotland where he was raised, not far from Inverness.

What’s coming up that you are excited about?
I am really excited that we have several property owners who are going to be taking advantage of our façade improvement program, which is half loan and half grant. A mandatory piece of any project we fund is that it needs to include lighting. We are trying to make sure that downtown is a more walkable, safe, inviting place 24/7.

Columbia Credit Union very generously gave us about $5,000 so we put that money into lighting ridgelines and some trees so that is the beginning of hooking place to place together, strong node to strong node. We know which areas we want to light and why we want to light them. We know why we are putting trees along those avenues and flower baskets there and we know why we are putting more art on the streets and where we are placing it because we know which corridors need to be activated.

And it’s not just north and south. We need to be activating east and west as well, especially now that we have this strong node of the library. That needs to be hooked to Esther Short Park and we need to make it a walkable, very intuitive way That is our mission to make everything more connected.

What would surprise people to know about you?
I grew up in Eastern Oregon and excelled at showing and fitting Polled Hereford cattle as a 4-H member. I was usually pretty intimidated by those huge animals, but I knew I could never let them know it.

Somehow not surprising… Lee’s favorite quote is “Nothing is impossible when you work for the circus!” Her favorite part of the quote? “Nothing is impossible.”

February 9, 2012   2 Comments

February is For Hearts and Horses, Art and Wine, Cinderella…and Chocolate!

February is a short month that offers a long list of activities. From quilts to chocolate, kites to Chalacha – no need to stay home.

February 1-29Castle Rock Quilt Show – Castle Rock Exhibit Hall, 147 Front Ave NW, More than 80 quilts All those tiny stitches! Don’t miss them at the quilt show.

Friday, February 3 – First Fridays in Multiple Cities!

February 3 First Friday – Ridgefield, 5 to 8 p.m.- Alcove Art Gallery will feature nine artists for the month of February. The theme will be entitled “Passion for Art.” Shops and restaurants will be open, too.

February 3A Chocolate Affair to Remember – 5 to 8 p.m. in downtown Camas. Sample locally made chocolates, specialty chocolate drinks and more! Plus local quilters kick off 2012 with a show of their original work at Second Story Gallery in Camas. The annual open exhibit in February will begin with a reception on First Friday and remain on view inside the Camas Public Library through the end of the month.

February 3 First Friday Artwalk – Downtown Vancouver, 5 to 9 p.m. Always a great celebration of community and fine art and a way to stroll with neighbors and friends. Downtown shops, restaurants and lounges welcome you as well. Art is leading the way for changes in downtown Vancouver!

February 3Wintertide – VSO Chamber Music Group – 7 p.m. Trinity Lutheran Church 309 W. 39th Street in Vancouver. The Columbia River Brass present various styles from composers including Wilke Renwick, Samuel Scheidt, Eric Ewazen, Dave Robertson and J.S. Bach. Concert is repeated on February 5 at 3 p.m. at Zion Lutheran Church in Camas.

February 3-4Indoor Market – Long Beach Grange, 5715 Sandridge Rd., 10am to 4pm. A variety of vendors will be selling farm fresh eggs, home-baked goods, handcrafted items, goat cheese and goat milk soaps, gift items, art, jewelry and more. Lunch will be served from the Grange kitchen.

February 4Stand up Comedy at the Old Liberty Theater – Downtown Ridgefield. 7:30 p.m. An evening of “honest comedy” featuring: Ian Karmel- From IFC’s “Portlandia” plus other comics. 21 and older. Tickets by phone: Don Griswold,, booking phone (360) 601-7549.

February 4-5Asian New Year at the World Kite Museum – Long Beach. This opening has special events to introduce the Bali Kite Exhibit. The exhibit lasts until March 25.

February 7Chocolate Confession by Joan FreedKiggins Theatre in downtown Vancouver. This hilarious one-woman show is a fundraiser for the Pink Lemonade Project. This is a perfect warm up for Valentine’s Day!

February 10-25Sense and Sensibility Magenta Theater – downtown Vancouver’s theater troupe presents an adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel in their intimate theater.

February 11Valentine’s TeaPomeroy Living History Farm, 20902 NE Lucia Falls Rd., Yacolt. Noon. Reservations required (360.686.3537). Seasonal menu will include assorted tea sandwiches, scones, desserts and two kinds of tea. A tour of the historic log house can be added for a small, extra charge.

February 11-12Columbia Gorge Wineries Valentine’s Day Open House Weekend – Columbia Gorge Wineries in Washington and Oregon. Winery Open House Hours are 11am – 6pm. What a great opportunity to taste and purchase wine for Valentine’s Day.

February 12Bravo! Concert Series – Leonard Bernstein Mass – St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 400 S. Andresen Road, Vancouver. 2 p.m. Leonard Bernstein’s Mass blends sacred text, human emotions and musical styles – from classical to sacred, rock, blues and jazz. The Bravo! Chorale, guest soloists, and Chamber Orchestra will perform.

February 14 Musical Dinner Theater Historic Trout Lake Country Inn. Go up and play in the snow on Mt. Adams and then enjoy a dinner show.

February 16-19CinderellaThe Columbia Theatre presents Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. February 16th at 7pm, February 17th at 7pm, February 18th at 2pm & 7pm, and February 19th at 2pm.

February 17-19Washington State Horse Expo – Horses and equestrians come together en masse at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds. Check out the full program schedule.

February 18-20 Columbia Gorge Wineries President’s Day Open Houses – Yet another wine weekend as the Gorge wineries open up again to celebrate President’s Day. More than 30 wineries will be open with special releases and discounts. Live music at Maryhill Winery.

February 21 Volcano Views & Brews – Tommy O’s Pacific Rim Bistro in downtown Vancouver at 801 Washington Street. Doors open at 5 pm. Speaker presents from 6:30 – 8 pm. Rick McClure, the Forest Archaeologist and Heritage Program Manager for Gifford Pinchot National Forest presents “The Place Called Chalacha – History Beneath the MSH Monument Headquarters and Chelatchie Prairie.”

What a great month! See you out there!

February 2, 2012   No Comments

Celebrating National Pie Day in Southwest Washington

“Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.” – Jane Austen, 1815

Some holidays shouldn’t be skipped. I’m adding National Pie Day to the list. Why is January 23 THE pie day? “Because celebrating the goodness of pie is as easy as 1-2-3,” says the American Pie Council, which created the holiday. In the words of Bobby Hill from King of the Hill, “You had me at fruit pies.” Me, too, Bobby.

In celebration of National Pie Day, we planned a Saturday morning field trip to Sweetie Pies in downtown Vancouver. Entering the shop, the scent of hot cinnamon rolls bowls us over. Is there a National Cinnamon Roll Day? Note to self: Research that holiday, too. Actually, National Cinnamon Bun Day (Kanelbullens Dag) is October 4 in Sweden. Another note to self: Future road trip?

Sweetie Pies in downtown Vancouver

Back to our closer-to-home research, Linda Davis opened Sweetie Pies in November 2011 in a shared space with Swoon at 1006 Main Street in downtown Vancouver. The pie shop is complemented by Swoon’s collection of antiques, vintage, resale and hand made clothing, jewelry and art among other collectibles.

A baker of pies for 40 years, Linda knows her pastries. Under her mother’s tutelage, she baked her first pie at age 13 or 14 in New York State. A former owner of Antiques and Country Décor in Camas, this businesswoman is now a professional baker.

Today’s selections include rhubarb and mixed berry pies. They share the counter with cinnamon rolls, lemon bars and cookies. Three of Linda’s collection of 30 or so vintage rolling pins hang on the wall.

Pastries of the day

Linda serves up hot cinnamon rolls behind the counter displaying rhubarb and mixed berry pies

A perfect crust

Making a decent crust has always been the downfall of this blogger. Linda’s advice? Don’t overhandle the dough. Don’t use too much water. Use ice water and keep everything cold including utensils and bowls, which can be kept in the freezer until needed. “The colder the better,” she says. Keep the dough in the fridge for 20 minutes.

The perfect research project

Moment of pie-tasting truth

After tasting Linda’s pies, I make a silent pledge to permanently give up frozen, store-bought pie crusts. Sweetie Pies’ crusts are flaky and buttery. The fruit-fillings are perfectly sweetened and downright succulent. This being 10 a.m. and election season, I’m thinking that “Pie for breakfast” would make an excellent campaign slogan. Why not? “Pie is the food of the heroic. No pie eating nation can ever be vanquished,” the New York Times allegedly reported in 1902.

The very happy pie taster

Linda Davis, Piemaker

So let’s celebrate! The American Pie Council suggests making, eating and/or giving a pie on the day. Other days work, too, no doubt. Find their history of pies and pie making tips here.

Pie Recommendations for Southwest Washington
Here is a handy pie reference list, recommended by genuine pie eaters (thanks, Gian and Franji!) in Southwest Washington. Feel free to add your favorites by commenting.

VANCOUVER– Sweetie Pies – Try everything!
LONGVIEW Judy’s Restaurant and Catering – with high recommendations for Peanut Butter Pie, Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Pie and Marionberry Pie
CHEHALISMarket Street Bakery and Cafe – with accolades for the Marionberry Tart
CENTRALIAThe Good Lunch – Oatmeal Pie especially suggested
CENTRALIABerry Fields – all pies recommended
WHITE SALMONSweet Things Kitchen – also available in Stevenson at the A&J Select Market and Chuck’s Produce in Vancouver
OCEAN PARKFull Circle Café – Check out their daily menu

And if you want to watch a quirky, fun movie about pies while enjoying your dessert, check out Waitress with Keri Russell, Jeremy Sisto and Nathan Fillon. It will be impossible to NOT crave pie while watching this film.

Get out there and eat pie!

And remember: January 23, 2012 is also the first day of Chinese New Year (aka Lunar New Year) but that’s another story. For a 2010 ZEST post on this colorful holiday celebrated by billions, visit Gung Hay Fat Choy!

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January 22, 2012   1 Comment