Showing posts with label Yakima Valley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yakima Valley. Show all posts

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Gasperetti's - A Taste of Home

 My taste of home arrived at our village post office last Friday. 

My taste of home

Exactly one month after it began its journey from my hometown, Yakima, Washington, in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, it arrived in our adopted home in the rural Greek Peloponnese. 

Melt-in-your-mouth meatballs

'Gasperetti's, The Story of The Restaurant' was published as a tribute to the long-time Yakima business and the family for whom it is named. The restaurant is a part of Yakima Valley history, having been operated over a span of nearly 70 years, in two locations, by two generations of the Gasperetti family. It closed in 2020.

From the book, a menu, circa 1945

I liken the book to a multi-course meal at 'The Restaurant' (as it was called in its day). Its appetizer course is the opening chapter; a history that takes the reader back to the family's culinary roots in Tuscany, Italy. The main course consists of some 65 mouthwatering recipes for those favorite dishes that were once served at The Restaurant, now adjusted for home-sized cooking.  Sweet memories prompted by its photos was a most fitting dessert. 

Thursday nights Crab Cannelloni Nights

I was surprised by not only the hunger pangs it prompted, but the emotions as well. It was a shot of nostalgia, and memories both for the restaurant and the town.  It had been 'the place to go' when celebrating life's special occasions: birthdays, anniversaries, or even the end of an ordinary work week. It was at this restaurant where we gathered with our close friends a few years ago to celebrate our move to Greece.

Gasperetti's Comes to Greece

John Gasperetti and the book

News of the book's publication many months ago had me contacting my now FB friend, John Gasperetti, about ordering a copy. I'd finally decided the logistics of doing it from Greece were too difficult and I'd risk waiting until my next trip to the States to get a copy. I was hoping it wouldn't be sold out.

Postage to Greece is outrageous

Then came a message from my college roommate and forever friend, Mary. She said a parcel was headed my way. She provided a tracking number, but its contents remained a secret.  

She and I both began tracking the parcel two weeks into its journey. By then, it had reached Athens. In fact, it had shipped from Athens five days before the day I checked on it- but to where, I wasn't sure. The travel time between Athens and here is about four hours, certainly not days. . .

Nikos, the unflappable clerk at our small village post office, checked his computer. He told me it had shipped from the Post Office to Customs in Athens. He speculated, that maybe it had, or maybe it hadn't gotten there; maybe it had or maybe hadn't been shipped. . .or maybe it had gotten there, and no one recorded it. Bottom line, it was in a Black Hole somewhere.  Another 10 days and we'd have to start some sort of process to find it, he advised.

But what did it mean?

Its whereabouts got murkier when I checked on it this week and found signs of movement, I just wasn't sure what they meant. So back to Nikos I went. He frowned at the news of 'held in customs' because that could mean a hefty customs fee. 

Then he flashed a big smile and said, "Oh! My computer says it is here. Yes, it came Friday!"  He reached to a shelf a few feet from his chair and there it was - my taste of home!  As I've written before, getting mail in Greece is always an adventure.

Stirring the Italian travel bug

Besides taking me on a trip down Memory Lane, the book stirred our collective travel bug.

Borgo a Buggiano Italy

The family's culinary roots stretched back in time to a small village in Tuscany. 

 '. . .the family culinary skills were first showcased when, in 1800, the first Mario Gasperetti earned the praise of Pope Pius VII for his superior chicken cacciatore'.  

'In 1906,' the book continues, 'Mario's great-great-grandson Angelo Gasperetti arrived at Ellis Island in New York City from the small village of Borgo a Buggiano, northwest of Florence, Italy.'

The Gasperetti 'roots' in Borgo a Buggiano

'Near Florence!' I exclaimed as I was reading the passage to The Scout. 'Let's go visit that village the next time we are in Italy!' The Scout was already looking it up on a map of Italy. The village, it turns out, is between Lucca, where we now have friends living, and Florence, a favorite of ours! (Since we are less than a two-hour flight from Italy these days, a quick trip might just be in the offing!)

The Arno - Florence, Italy

Over the years of dining at the restaurant we came to know John and his sister Jean who operated 'The Restaurant' that opened in 1966 while I was still in elementary school. Their parents, Mario and Minnie, had operated the original Gasperetti's from 1943 until 1960 at another location.

John Gasperetti and his sister Jean Gasperetti Lemki

Let's Eat!

The cookbook is a tribute to an Italian family and the mark they've left on the culinary scene in Washington State. I know people who used to travel across the state from the Seattle area just to dine at this Yakima landmark.  A visit back to Yakima for us certainly wasn't complete without dinner at The Restaurant. 

The recipes, while predominantly Italian, also include those that spotlight Yakima's agricultural base, like the Broiled Yakima Pear Salad. Others carry names of restaurant patrons, friends and family.  Brad's Avocado and Dungeness Crabmeat Salad is named for John's husband, Brad Patterson, the restaurant's long-time creative culinary artist and chef. Brad joined the Gasperetti's team back in 1966 at age 19.

Note: Kalamata olives in this recipe!

As I was reading through the recipes, the one above stopped me in my tracks! Back in our Yakima days, I'd never have any more imagined Gasperetti's closing, than I'd have imagined us living in and growing Kalamata olives in Greece.  Yet, both have happened! I've decided this Chicken Cacciatore will be the first dish I make and will use our Greek home grown and oil-cured olives in in it. 

My homegrown and cured Kalamata olives

Thanks for indulging in my trip down memory lane and joining me for a taste of home. I will resume tales of Southeast Asia in my next post.  How about you? Any similar restaurants located on your Memory Lane?  Any cookbooks that sparked a taste of home?

And for those of you who want a copy of this book, they are available from Gasperetti's Floral Design, 5833 Summitview Ave., Yakima, Washington, 98908. Details and ordering information from: or the FB page, Gasperetti's Floral. 

Until next time. . .

Thursday, September 15, 2022

The Reunion Banquet ~ It Could've Been Worse

It could have been worse; I keep reminding myself when I think back to the banquet. 

We could have been at the Bates Hotel and Norman could have been in the kitchen with a butcher knife when Mary and I finally went in search of the food. 

The hotel lobby sign should have been a tip-off

Reunion Weekend

The Scout and I are back in the Pacific Northwest. As I've written in earlier posts, the trip was prompted by my 51st Class Reunion, a three-day event being co-chaired by me and my long-time friend, Mary, in our hometown, Yakima, Washington.  

"Doin' Downtown Yakima' is a blast!

Events included a Friday evening (hugely popular) no-host Meet and Greet event at Second Street Grill, a local restaurant/bar followed by 'Doin' the Downtown' at local restaurants, tasting rooms and ale house. That evening another gathering of classmates attended our alma mater's Homecoming football game. Saturday morning's highlight was a well-attended tour of the modern complex that has replaced our high school, led by the school principal who had her hair dyed the school colors (times have changed - our principal was bald). The weekend ended with a sendoff gathering at a long-time favorite hamburger joint, Miner's Drive-in, a local icon, that's been around since 1948.

The Marquee Event, however, was the Reunion Banquet. It drew 128 attendees of them, 81 classmates. Many had traveled from far distant points in the United States to be at this Saturday night affair. 

The Reunion Realities

We've been preparing for this weekend for nearly three years - COVID gave us an extra year for planning.  And we thought we had it nailed right down to the last detail. But as is so often the case, then reality stepped in:

The Banquet was held at the Red Lion Hotel, a place that once was a centerpiece conference hotel in the city. It shares a parking lot with the city's modern, sprawling Convention Center.  We'd had a similar banquet there for our 45th reunion and returned because of the good food and good service back then.  

As the night unfolded, we realized things have changed, and not for the good. And that's when I also started thinking about the Bates Hotel. . . I do that when we have bad experiences at hotels.

Once 'the' place to go in Yakima

Admittedly there are many types of horror, and this tale has no ranking, when compared to serious, life-threatening stuff.  BUT I can tell you that when you've organized an event down to the smallest detail -- the color of the napkins -- and it begins unraveling before your eyes, it is a very real horror.  

Norman Bates - the Bates Hotel

The Bates Hotel was a fictional location, the setting for the Alfred Hitchcock suspense thriller, Psycho.  The main character, Norman Bates (played by Anthony Perkins) suffered a dissociative disorder and while being the mild-mannered person who ran the hotel, he was also a serial killer.  

While we didn't have any Psycho experiences, I reminded myself several times that evening, 'It could be worse, we could be at the Bates Hotel.'

Showcasing our 'roots'

Way back in the planning stages we'd decided to showcase this land of our roots by offering a selection of ales and wines produced in our Yakima Valley wine AVA/hop growing region at our no-host bar for alcoholic beverages. 

Wines on display Prosser's Viticulture Center

One of the distinctions of the Yakima Valley is that it is home to more than 17,000 acres of vineyards and growers produce more than half the state's wine grapes. There are more than 90 wineries and tasting rooms scattered about the valley. The reunion seemed a perfect place to drink a glass of local wine.

Yakima produces 75% of the nation's hops

Not only famous for its wine grapes, but the Yakima Valley is also known for its hop production. Growers here produce 75 percent of the United States hop crop. That has led to the establishment of numerous breweries, ale houses and tap rooms scattered about the city and surrounding areas.

Ale production for the Bale Breaker label

Despite numerous requests to showcase the local brews and wines, the hotel was unable to provide them. Disappointing, but certainly not the end of the world. The hotel representative agreed to offer a selection of wines albeit, mass-produced: a couple of red wines and three whites, Chardonnay, a Pinot Gris, and a Sauvignon Blanc.  

If the misspelled and hastily drawn welcome sign hadn't given us a hint of the way the night would go, the malfunctioning cooling system in the banquet room should have; but no, it was checking the no-host bar that we first got a foreshadowing of the direction this banquet would go.  

When I asked to see the white 'Sauvignon Blanc', they'd managed to get for us, the bar manager grabbed from the shelf behind her, a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, a deep dark red, and proudly showed it to me. Then she said she had added a sweet Moscato to the white wines instead of the dry, crisp wine we'd requested.

Banquet beverages

So focused on what would go in the glasses, we hadn't thought to confirm we'd have stemware and appropriate beverage glasses.  They must have cleaned out the hotel's bathrooms as they were serving drinks in those small, flimsy plastic glasses, like those wrapped in cellophane and often found on U.S. hotel bathroom counters. And they were charging $9 for each glass.  The story of the mass-produced beers - not ales -- was no better.

Finally, we understood why we had been advised during that planning meeting that attendees could not bring in a beverage. . .and we also understood why attendees would want to bring their own beverage. 

Buffet Buffoonery 

Co-chairs get the evening underway

The laughter and conversation had raised the decibels of the room, as long-time friends arrived. Classmates greeted each other with hugs. Joyous sounds of shared memories as attendees were seated. We opened the evening with enthusiasm. Food appeared on the banquet table at the time specified in our contract. The event, with a few glitches, appeared to be going well! 

Buffet selections were hearty choices

The buffet menu we'd selected was a hearty one as we wanted people to fill up on good home-cooked- style food. Chicken, meat loaf (always popular, they told us), spinach salad, green beans, ambrosia salad, mashed potatoes, hot dinner rolls and hot bread pudding for dessert.   

It was the disappearing dinner rolls that started the evening on its slippery slide south. Although at the time we didn't realize it, we had an inkling, when Mary pulled me aside saying, "We are out of rolls. They are baking more." 

'Baking more? They aren't heating more, but have started baking more?' I asked. They'd known the final count for a week.  Oh well, we reasoned, guests could go back for hot rolls when they came out. 

Then the buffet line quit moving.

Patient Pirates wait for food.

"We are out of salad," called out a classmate.
"And we need more meatloaf and chicken," others pointed out.
The bread roll basket remained empty. 
The hot bread pudding getting colder by the minute.   

It was when - with a third of the room almost finished eating, another third waiting to be called and a third standing in line - that we knew trouble was brewing in the kitchen (coffee certainly wasn't as we ran out of it as well). 

As co-chairs, the ones who'd signed that multi-thousand-dollar contract, Mary and I decided it was time to take action:  we had to find food.

So, we through the service door to the kitchen. . .

Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates

. . .and found ourselves in an empty room - apparently it is an outer room for the kitchen but no sign of staff or food in sight. (On the positive side, at least Norman wasn't waiting for us there either, I told myself.) 

When finally, a staff member emerged from the kitchen, she exclaimed, "You can't be in here! You have to leave! We have the chef is cooking, and the food will come when it is ready!"

Not a tuber to be found - 

And so it did - piecemeal fashion - the rolls and then the meatloaf and then the salad; nothing that allowed the line to move forward.  The straw that broke the proverbial camel's back was when the banquet manager reported they had run out of mashed potatoes! Completely - not a tuber to be found on the premises. 

The Grand Finale

Davis High Pirates 

The food fiasco had sent program plans back to the drawing board. Changes made, program shortened, we forged ahead. 

The night certainly wasn't going as planned, so I don't know why I was surprised during classmate introductions when a classmate reported having been abducted by aliens shortly after graduation, getting over it and then adding that there could be aliens in the room with us at that very moment.

At that point, I was hoping they were. I would have volunteered to have gone with them!!


The hotel charged us the full contract price. Classmates staying at the hotel reported the room quality matched the quality of the banquet - perhaps, worse.  Our class won't be returning for any future gatherings. 

Decades of friendship filled this reunion weekend

However, the weekend and the reunion were great! I know many of you in conversations with me have expressed that you can't imagine going to a high school reunion (let alone co-chairing one). Let me tell you, when you've reached a 'certain age', you really should take the opportunity to enjoy those long-time friends! The joy of seeing so many  friends and classmates far outweighed the shortcomings of the hotel experience.

We are coming to the close of our time in Washington State and will soon be heading back to our Stone House on the Hill in Greece.  We've experienced some culture and sticker shock while here and I continue to ponder the question, 'Can you go home again?'  Wishes for safe travels to you and yours. Thanks for your time with us today ~ hope you come back again and bring a friend with you! 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

WAWeekend: What's New in The Yakima Valley

The Yakima Valley – where I was born and raised – is in the center of Washington State’s agricultural lands.  Once it’s only claim to tourist fame was its more than 300 days of sunshine each year.

WARoadTrip2012 226

These days  the sunshine is just an added benefit. It has become a place where wine roads, ale trails and hiking/biking paths intersect.

ChelanToppPort2010 105
Hop yards - hops are used in the valley's ales
We returned to Yakima a couple months ago because I was researching an article for The Seattle Times.  I was in search of ‘what’s new?’.  Let me tell you I found plenty. 

If you’ve not had Yakima on your travel radar it is time to adjust your compass and head out for some incredible hiking and biking and then hit either the ale trail to local craft breweries and distilleries or set out to sample wine at the dozens of wineries that are scattered throughout the area.

Where to Go and What to Do in the Yakima Valley?
Just click this link to my article in The Seattle Times for my recommendations!

Map picture

Saturday, August 17, 2013

WAWeekend: The Old West ~ Fort Simcoe

Fort Simcoe in Central Washington State isn’t a place that you happen upon along the way to somewhere else.

It is an out-of-the-way place -- definitely a destination – surrounded by miles of undeveloped range land; so much so, that first-time visitors might wonder if they’d taken a wrong turn along the way.

ChelanToppPort2010 104

Fort Simcoe – now a 200-acre day use heritage park on the Yakama Indian Nation Reservation – was established in 1856 at the foot of the Simcoe Mountains on a route that linked the Yakima Valley and the Yakama Tribe’s traditional fishing area on the Columbia River. 

As a child growing up in Yakima, it was always a ‘far away’ adventure to visit this outpost that seemed from another world and as an adult far too many years had slipped past without a return to this sprawling testament to history. So one fine summer’s day we went back in time . . .

ChelanToppPort2010 100 

Fort Simcoe was built on the site of the Indian’s campground, an area they called “Mool Mool” (‘bubbling water’) for the natural spring that existed in the area’s oak grove.

ChelanToppPort2010 092

The purpose of this United States Army post was to keep peace between the settlers and the Yakamas, although the Fort’s history includes the hanging of two Yakamas from a beam set in an oak tree because they had been implicated in the killing of an Indian agent. (Source:

ChelanToppPort2010 101

The original Commander’s house, as well as the houses of three captains (which were built at the upper end of the parade ground )and one blockhouse still stand; other buildings have been reconstructed. Several of the homes serve as interpretive areas and have been furnished as they might have been when lived in.

PicMonkey Collage

The supplies for the Fort were brought in by pack trains from the Columbia and Yakima Rivers because the transportation route, Satus Pass, (now a major cross-state route) hadn’t been completed.

ChelanToppPort2010 098
The Blockhouse

ChelanToppPort2010 097

Fort Simcoe, as such, lasted only three years. In 1859 the soldiers were dispatched elsewhere in the Territory (statehood didn’t arrive for another 30 years) – some to Colville and others to Walla Walla. The Fort became an Indian agency at that time.

ChelanToppPort2010 096

It became a state park in 1956 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. 

The place, we found, hadn’t lost its magic. It is well worth a visit, so pack a picnic lunch, get a Discover Pass and take a trip back into Washington history!


Fort Simcoe
5150 Fort Simcoe Road
White Swan, WA 98952
(509) 874-2372 Call for interpretive center hours of operation

Map picture

Fort Simcoe is about 40 miles southwest of Yakima, seven miles from the small town of White Swan as noted in the map above.   The drive is through cultivated truck gardens, hop yards, orchards and open range land. (Yakima is about a two-hour drive from Seattle and a less-than 45 minute flight from SeaTac airport).

Driving Directions:

From Yakima: Take the Hwy. 97 exit off of I-82 (south bound), and drive to the first traffic light (Lateral A). Turn right onto Lateral A. Drive to the second stop sign, about 12 miles (Fort Rd.) Turn right on Fort Road. Drive about 15 miles to the city of White Swan. In White Swan, watch for road signs to Fort Simcoe. The park is seven miles west of White Swan.

Note: A Washington State Park’s  Discover Pass  is required – for information on how to obtain a Pass, visit that website by clicking the blue link.

More Information for History Buffs:

Visit for more information on Fort Simcoe history.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Traveling and Writing ~ Love and Legacy

Carnival to San Jose 072

On a ‘cool, slightly overcast’ Friday, March 23rd, 1956  -- the Italian freighter, Eugenio C, set sail at 8 p.m. from Dock 5, in Brooklyn, New York  heading to Genoa, Italy.

Among its passengers were a Central Washington State daily newspaper reporter and her photographer husband, Phil and Dean Spuler.

Carnival to San Jose 067Following their April 8th arrival in Italy and a few days spent with friends on the Riviera; they boarded a train in Chamberey, France bound for Milan, Italy.

(photo of the Spulers departing France)

In Milan they purchased two Lambretta scooters, (earlier versions of the one pictured here),
1A1[1]that would carry them on a year and a half  journey through Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, England, Scotland and Ireland.

But their story really doesn’t begin nor end with this journey . . .

Phil and Dean Spuler
Carnival to San Jose 066
Phil (who never used her given name, Phyllis) and Dean  had met in the late 1940’s  while students at San Jose State College in  California;  both worked on the campus paper, the Spartan Daily. Times were tough, money scarce. Romance bloomed, they married and began their careers at the paper now known as the Yakima Herald-Republic in Central Washington State.

It was at that paper, in the early 1980’s, that as a ‘cub reporter’, I worked with -- and became friends with -- the Spulers. They were the seasoned professionals and as such, mentors, in a newsroom bursting with several other near college-age journalists. They’d returned to the newspaper at the conclusion of their European adventure (and stayed until their retirements).

Carnival to San Jose 065

Their European Adventure

It was never clear what had sparked their desire to sell most of their belongings and head to Europe. Perhaps inspired by writer Ernest Hemingway who had returned to Paris in 1944 or Julia Child, of cookbook fame, who arrived in France four years later. . .they never said. Regrettably, I never thought to ask.

Their travel budget was $5 a day and that included all food, lodging and travel expenses. They stayed in youth hostels and rode their scooters in both good and bad weather.

Carnival to San Jose 070Their travel journals tell of spending  the winter in Paris where they enrolled in a French language school, and spent time exploring art galleries, sidewalk cafes, and attending plays and operas.

Spring found them in Berlin. They returned to the United States the summer of 1957 on a small Italian passenger ship.

Their Love and Legacy

Our friendship grew over three decades and during that time their travels – although shorter and more luxurious than their Europe trip – included cruises and excursions to foreign lands. They drove “dune-buggies’ through the desert surrounding  their Arizona retirement community until age and health slowed them. Then, they told us, they lived vicariously through our travels.

Carnival to San Jose 073Prior to their deaths – now, a few years ago – they set forth their wishes to help other journalism students at their alma mater, San Jose State University.  Since then we’ve had the pleasure of working with the university to make that happen: Each year two scholarships are available to journalism and photojournalism students. They endowed an annual symposium.

Carnival to San Jose 038Author’s note: I wrote this post after returning from a whirlwind campus tour of the media and journalism department at San Jose State University this week. Joel and I attended the 4th Annual Spuler Ethics in Media Symposium, we visited the college newspaper and magazine. We met inspiring and enthusiastic professors and students.

Our two-day visit concluded with meeting this year’s journalism scholarship recipient; a soft-spoken, dedicated young man, Francisco Rendon,  former editor of the  Spartan Daily paper and now a contributing writer to it.

When we asked of his future plans. He told us he’ll be writing for an organization in Israel.   Travel and writing. . .we know  Phil and Dean Spuler would be delighted!


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