Others may dream of Paris or Rome, a weekend in London or a month in Capri. Me, I just wanted a few days in Walla Walla.
I'd been wowed by the wines that I'd tasted recently from this far corner of Washington State--although I knew it wasn't much of a destination for food. Or, as a friend who had visited told me, "There's a Burger King, a Dairy Queen and a lot of places to buy apple-head dolls." While I wouldn't exactly call myself a snob about restaurants, somehow these facts kept me from crossing the country.
Then one day late last March, I ran into Steve Burns, head of the Washington State Wine Commission, in New York for a tasting. Steve, who knew that the lack of a serious place to eat stood between Walla Walla and me, grabbed my arm and fairly shouted with excitement. "There's a new restaurant opening this spring in Walla Walla! They say the chef is from Campagne, one of Seattle's best restaurants!" A few months later, I was on the phone with Marty Clubb, owner and winemaker at L'Ecole No 41, a leading Walla Walla winery. Clubb was raving about the new place, Whitehouse Crawford, and its chef, Jamie Guerin, who'd been lured there by the restaurant's charismatic owners, the Schmitts. (Walla Walla is so small that Whitehouse Crawford's arrival seemed as newsworthy as Hillary Clinton's becoming a resident of Chappaqua, New York.) Clubb invited me to visit and promised I'd get to taste Guerin's food.