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Hi!

Welcome to The Basil & Cinnamon Sagas! I'm Alexa, and I am a food and travel blogger who loves cooking, baking, eating, and storytelling. Enjoy reading and eating your way through the sagas found here!

Spokane

Spokane


Photo by Mark Rehm (aka coolest photo-taking Dad in the world!)

Photo by Mark Rehm (aka coolest photo-taking Dad in the world!)

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As I said on Instagram and on Twitter, I have obviously been away from The Sagas and from social media for the past few weeks, and this is because they have been an insane whirlwind of movement and emotion and change and stress and joy and tears of all kinds. I had my last week of classes, in which my senior writing project was due (61 page manuscript + 11 page aesthetic statement was the final total!). Then it was finals week with its multitude of exams, and then my family came out to Spokane to attend my college graduation. After that, I had to get my whole life packed up and into the car, and we drove the two full days from Spokane back to Colorado. 

In spite of all the busyness and how quickly graduation weekend passed, it was a lot of fun. My family and I ate at a bunch of delicious restaurants in the city, saw Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 in the comfy recliners at the AMC River Park Square (HIGHLY recommend), and took a few barre classes at Spokane Barre. I got to see a couple friends who graduated early but came back to walk with us, and hear about their post-graduate lives and adventures. I enjoyed some final moments with my Gonzaga friends before we go off into the world and do who knows what with our lives (does anyone ever really know?).

And of course, I graduated from college! All the work I have done over the past four years allowed me to receive a Bachelor of Arts in English with a Writing Concentration and a triple minor in Italian Studies, History, and General Business on Sunday morning. (Side note--we had seriously the COOLEST commencement speaker: Sherman Alexie! He's a novelist, poet, filmmaker, and activist from the Spokane tribe. I have read his books and stories for years, have watched Smoke Signals many times, and was so beyond excited to hear that such a prominent Native activist would speak at my graduation. He did not let us down--his speech was awesome, funny, powerful, and a great reminder and call to action about our responsibilities as Americans and as human beings).

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Driving away from Gonzaga and from Spokane on Monday morning--less than 24 hours after I graduated--was very strange. I'm not sure when I'll be back, and that's an odd feeling, to leave your home and to not know when you'll see it again. So in honor of Spokane and Gonzaga and this place that I called home for four transformative years of my life, I thought it only right to write a post about Spokane.

In an effort to make it organized and neat (because everything else in my life is so up in the air right now and I need some semblance of order), I've separated this post into three sections: Spokane Places & Events, Eating Out in Spokane, and Gonzaga. So, here goes!

Spokane Places & Events

For all the crap that I give Spokane, due in large part to its less-than-stellar winter weather and some rather interesting members of its population who do weird and creepy things, its actually a pretty neat place full of cool locations, things, people, and experiences. I would 100% recommend Spokane as a travel destination in the Pacific Northwest, especially during the spring, summer, and fall (depending on what you're looking to do, there's different things each season). There's a music scene, lots of awesome hiking/biking locations (I've heard great things about Bowl and Pitcher, for example), and the Spokane Arena and convention center have cool events coming through all the time--I saw Cirque du Soleil OVO a few months ago, and it was incredible (you can read my review of the show here).

The Spokane River, flowing down to the falls. Photo by Mark Rehm

The Spokane River, flowing down to the falls. Photo by Mark Rehm

Photo by Mark Rehm

Photo by Mark Rehm

Photo by Mark Rehm

Photo by Mark Rehm

Spring and autumn are absolutely gorgeous in Spokane. In the spring, there are blossoming cherry blossom trees and tulips and daffodils and flowering bushes everywhere you look, and a heady floral fragrance drifts on the air and makes walking along the rushing Spokane River that much more beautiful.

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In autumn, the trees turn brilliant shades of red, gold, and orange, like I've never seen anywhere else. The colors are so incredibly vivid, it's like the branches hold gemstones instead of leaves. The air is crisp and basically every nostalgic fall activity you can imagine is available, from apple picking to pumpkin patches to cider to hay rides, and everything in between.

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There's so much I could suggest about things to do and see in Spokane (feel free to contact me with any questions!), but let me focus on a few of my favorite Spokane places and events....

  • Pig Out in the Park: an end-of-summer event in Riverfront Park where local restaurants, food trucks, vendors, and retailers set up booths all along the pathways of the park. There's face painting, henna, stands with fun knickknacks to buy, lots of bands playing live music at three different stages, and SO. MUCH. FOOD. It's a ton of fun, and it's just a twenty minute walk down the Centennial Trail from Gonzaga, so I went with friends and family all three years I was in Spokane for the fall (junior year I was in Florence for the fall semester). My favorite food booth for dinner was probably Taste of India, but you absolutely cannot go wrong with pumpkin and huckleberry doughnuts for dessert. Huckleberry seems to be a huge thing in the Pacific Northwest in general, and I have never seen a city with such a strong tie to pumpkin doughnuts as Spokane, but I'm not mad at it. Those things are sugar-dusted, deep-fried, cinnamon-spiced gold.
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Have I mentioned that the Spokane sunsets are stellar? This was my view while eating the above pictured Taste of India curry and naan, and pumpkin doughnuts. Not a bad view at all. 

Have I mentioned that the Spokane sunsets are stellar? This was my view while eating the above pictured Taste of India curry and naan, and pumpkin doughnuts. Not a bad view at all. 

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  • Green Bluff Farms: I cannot say enough about how cool the Green Bluff area is. Just a thirty minute drive from downtown Spokane is miles and miles of rolling farmland arranged in two connected loops, each loop dotted with farms of all shapes, sizes, and types. The Green Bluff area has various events throughout the year:
    • Blooms on the Bluff--Mother’s Day Weekend

    • Strawberry Celebration--June/July

    • Cherry Season--July

    • Peach Season--August

    • Apple Festival--September/October

    • Holiday Memories--November/December

While each of these events sound incredible, I've only been to Peach Season, the Apple Festival, and Holiday Memories (the others are during the summer, while I'm not in Spokane). However, I can speak to how much fun those three festivals are. Going out into the fresh air, away from the city hustle and bustle and into the countryside, and picking fresh berries or peaches or apples from the trees and bushes is so much fun. And then since I'm a foodie, making treats from this fresh, handpicked produce (blackberry pie, anyone?) makes it all even better. 

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The Apple Festival is by far the most famous event at Green Bluff. It's fall in a nutshell: pumpkin patches galore, apple orchards as far as the eye can see and farther, petting zoos, apple pies, corn mazes, apple cider, giant markets selling things like candles and candied nuts and homemade crafts--one farm even has camels you can ride. And of course: PUMPKIN DOUGHNUTS. This is pumpkin doughnut season, and they're all over the place, in every size imaginable. You buy them by the bagful, you rejoice, and you feel not at all guilty.

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I also really love Holiday Memories. Me, Heather, and Friend Thom went last December and picked out little Christmas trees, drank hot cocoa and apple cider, ate some chili, and explored all that the winter farms had to offer. There are breweries, places for kids to write letters to Santa and/or meet him, candy canes, sleigh rides pulled by big Belgian horses, Christmas markets, Christmas wreaths, and fields of trees to walk through, pick from, cut down, and take home. It's a veritable winter wonderland.

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Check out the website linked above to see which farms participate in which seasonal events. There's a map to show you where all the farms are located, and each participating farm is marked with a number, both on the map and in real life. Or just cruise around the loops and take in all the scenery, and stop at whatever farm has something that strikes your fancy!

  • Bloomsday: The Bloomsday Run is a big deal in Spokane. It's a 12 kilometer (7.46 mile) run held the first weekend of May each year in the city. It starts and ends downtown, weaving its way up and around the outskirts, up a giant hill called Doomsday Hill, and through neighborhoods in-between. There are live bands and radio stations camped out on the side of the race blasting music, and people line the entire course, cheering the runners and walkers on. There are thousands of people who participate (I believe this year was something like 39,000), and at the end there's food stands and a beer garden and instant photo printers and all kinds of fun things. I run/walked it this May, and it was an absolute blast. I highly recommend participating in Bloomsday; it's an incredible community event, and really allows you to see a proud, positive, and interconnected Spokane.
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  • Spokane Barre: Okay. Time for me to gush about my favorite place in all of Spokane, beating out even Gonzaga. This place is absolutely, 100%, breathtakingly, incredibly special. Spokane Barre is a barre fitness studio located in the Globe building in the University District of downtown Spokane. It's on the third floor, the walls are redbrick, and the decor is cozy and classy all at once. The classes make you feel powerful and alive and strong and unstoppable, and oh my gosh, the people. The people who work at that studio are some of the most inspiring, positive, gracious, graceful, and beautiful people I have ever had the honor of meeting. I was blessed to be able to work as a barreista (front desk) at the studio for my senior year, and take classes for even longer than that. 
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For those who may be wondering what the heck barre is ("I'm going to barre!" "Oh, what bar? I didn't know you worked at a bar." "No, barre, like the fitness class" = me basically everyday), I always explain it as a combination of ballet, yoga, pilates, strength, and aerobics. It involves a lot of isometric holds and deep muscle flexing movements that burn your body into a longer, leaner, and stronger version of itself. The isometric holds and small movements are interspersed with big movements and moments of cardio that get your heart rate pumping and release the lactic acid buildup, before getting back into another deep hold and burning your muscles out again. It's low impact, meaning it is easy on and safe for the body, and it's easily modifiable for all types of body needs. There is no shame in modifications in barre--you can get just as powerful of a workout using modifications as you can with full movements. It's all about deep muscle burn, deep concentration, and deep flex, about getting so focused into a posture and working from there that your body starts to shake and quake. I love it.

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If you go to Spokane, go to Spokane Barre. You will be welcomed warmly and emphatically by employees and clients alike. You will sweat and you will shake. You will be encouraged and inspired by some wonderful women and men. Maybe barre won't be your thing--it's not for everyone, though I have yet to find someone who has tried it but hasn't liked it. But if you're going to try it, this is the place to do it, and these are the people to do it with. And when you do, tell Leslie, Alli, Cori, Kate, Chelsea, Cat, Hillary, and Lindsey hi for me.

Photo by Jeff Sanborn

Photo by Jeff Sanborn

Photo by Jeff Sanborn

Photo by Jeff Sanborn

Eating Out in Spokane

Spokane is serious foodie central. There are all types of restaurants, from the classic to the eclectic, in every variety and culture of food imaginable. New restaurants are constantly popping up and being positively reviewed, so much so that I managed to eat at only a fraction of all the delicious places that Spokane has to offer in my four years there. If you want a more comprehensive analysis of all things Spokane food, check out Spokaneeats. Chandler moved from Texas, and promptly became the trusted food blogger extraordinaire of Spokane, and I had the pleasure of getting to meet her and interview her for the Gonzaga Bulletin newspaper (article here). I've taken her restaurant and food advice time and time again, and she's never led me astray. Plus, her blog and photography is gorgeous, and she's just a friendly, likable person, so you can't go wrong.

It's hard to narrow down my favorite Spokane restaurants, but I'll try my best to name at least a few:

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  • Bangkok Thai: I'd suggest beef pad thai with a side of sticky rice, but the curry is also incredible. Actually, I've never heard complaints about anything anyone has ordered there. Spice levels go from 1 (mildest) to 5 (spiciest), and I'd error on the side of caution, because sometimes they go a little crazy with the spice-shaking. But this is by far my favorite restaurant in Spokane--I went here more than anywhere else, and I miss it probably more than a person should ever miss a restaurant. But how can I not? It's right along the river, and there's Predator, Iron Man, and Optimus Prime statues as decor. Plus, after dinner you get the best minty chocolate sticks with the check. Seriously, go here. There's two locations, but I've only ever been to the one by Gonzaga's campus, so that's the one I can vouch for.
  • Luna: This restaurant is just plain cool. It has a little farm out in the back, so you can bet the ingredients are fresh and local. The decor is farmhouse fancy, the food is seasonal and local and they support farms in the community, there is fresh bread you can buy daily, the kitchen is open and the staff all wave and say goodbye to you in a big rousing chorus of "Have a nice day!" when you leave--need I say more?
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  • Yards Bruncheon: Spokane has a lot of cool brunch places, but this and Chaps (see next) take the cake. The food is delicious, and the Kendall Yards location is up-and-coming and super neat, with incredible views over Spokane. I had cinnamon roll pancakes last time I went there, if that gives you any kind of indication of the deliciousness that awaits you there. 
  • Chaps: This place is eclectic for sure, but in a really unique, charming way. The restaurant is in a house. There's an old yellow pick-up truck parked in the outdoor dining courtyard. There's a couch in front of the restaurant with a chalkboard behind it that always sports fun calligraphy of phrases like "here comes the sun" and "every little thing is gonna be alright," a couch that people sit on to take pictures with, a couch that has probably appeared on every Spokane college student's Instagram account at some point (guilty as charged). The menus are on a table right inside the door, and you go up and order at the cash register and then find a seat. They're famous for their lavender coffees, for their pastries, for their breakfast and brunches, for the cozy and quaint decor and the friendly staff and the fact that just being in Chaps makes you 1000 times happier.
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  • Central Food: Once again, delicious brunch. Perfectly done breakfast potatoes. French toast from the gods. Breathtaking views of downtown Spokane, the falls, and the river. Fresh baked bread you can buy by the loaf. I'm like a broken record, but Spokane's brunch options are on point. 
  • Clover: Clover is in a house by the Gonzaga University campus. It's pricey, but the food is oh-so worth it. Full of flavor, bright ingredients, and an interesting cozy/classy vibe that can only come from a fancy restaurant located in an old house. 
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  • Sweet Frostings Blissful Bakeshop: I love cake like I love the air I need to breathe, but I am discerning when it comes to placing a title like "ONE OF THE BEST CUPCAKE SHOPS IN THE WORLD." Sweet Frostings gets this title, and then some. Their cakes are moist and airy and delicious, their frosting is creamy, not too sweet, and perfectly balanced, their decor makes them one of the most cheerful, cutest stores I have ever been in, and they have a little thing on Saturdays called Cupcake Happy Hour, where you get all cupcakes half price. Best news ever? Definitely. They also have some lunch options, gelato, cookies, muffins, dog treats, full cakes, and more. I'd encourage you to stop by, because dang. You will not be disappointed. 
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  • Froyo Earth: Creamiest, most flavorful froyo I have ever tasted, hands down. Constantly rotating in fun new flavors. Toppings galore. The lactose-intolerance in me screamed no, but thousands of times my heart and my stomach overrode my gut and we grabbed a box of Lactaid and made our way to Froyo Earth, and I regretted it all of zero times.
  • Churchill's Steakhouse: Fancy, fancy, fancy, and expensive, but if you're willing to shell out a pretty sum, the food is so worth it. Delicious steaks and vegetables, and they have a dessert called the Chocolate Sack: seriously a "brown paper sack" made out of chocolate, filled with all kinds of chocolate goodies, from marshmallows to sticks to creams to bars to cakes, and everything in-between. Maybe you don't want to pay a pretty sum though, so NEVER FEAR! I have a fix that ends with you at Churchill's: Wednesday nights are cheap burger night. Head downstairs and find a seat at the bar or at one of the tables. There is live music, and a burger menu of three absolutely amazing gourmet burgers all for only $7. You read that right. A huge burger and plate of fries, high quality and dripping with juice and toppings and flavor, for only $7 plus tax. Where else can you go to a fancy steakhouse and get a luxurious burger for less that $10 total?

Other incredible places in Spokane: Frank's Diner, The Blackbird, Tomato Street, The Flying Goat, Clinkerdagger, Casual Friday--I could write about these places and more, but I don't want to bore you. Please ask me any questions you have about food in Spokane; you know better than anyone that I love to talk about food (hello, food blog).

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Gonzaga

I don't know how to even begin speaking about Gonzaga, which is probably why I left it for last. Like any place and any college, it has its good and its bad. But what sets Gonzaga apart is that it was my college, the place where I went to further my education and begin to discover myself and the world. 

College Hall in the wintertime

College Hall in the wintertime

I'm going to rely mostly on pictures for this segment, because 1) I don't trust myself not to start crying if I write and think too much because leaving Gonzaga is very fresh and leaving home and the people who made it home is a very hard thing to do, and 2) pictures tell a thousand words as they say, and I don't think you need thousands upon thousands of actual words detailing a college that you most likely have no emotional attachment to, so we'll go the picture route instead. 

But allow me just a few words about what Gonzaga means to me:

  • Friendship: the closest friendships I have ever forged where made here. Some of them lasted, some of them didn't. But all of them were powerful and deep and meaningful. All of them changed me as a person, and forever impacted the course of my life.
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I told them to smile, so naturally....

I told them to smile, so naturally....

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  • Community: there is a special type of community at Gonzaga, and it's unlike any sense of community I've felt elsewhere. There's a pride, a passion, an unsurmountable emotion that flows through your veins when you hear the word "Zag" and know it refers to you and the people who surround you in red and navy blue. Zag up, Zag always. 
The late summer roses surround College Hall with their vivid blooms

The late summer roses surround College Hall with their vivid blooms

The new student center, Hemmingson, and Foley library

The new student center, Hemmingson, and Foley library

  • Stress: so, so much stress. I have never been more busy and overwhelmed in my life than I was at Gonzaga, and I have to say that I hope I am never again this stressed. Gonzaga challenged me in more ways than I can count, but I grew stronger as a person because of it. I learned things about myself, the type of things you can only learn when you're between a rock and a hard place, when you don't know if you can keep going and all you want to do is give up, but then you keep pushing on and elevate yourself in the process.
  • Learning: Perhaps this is a no brainer, but it's true. I learned a lot at Gonzaga, about all sorts of things. About writing and literary analysis, about the problems facing our environment, about accounting and marketing, about Italian culture and language, about both pivotal and minor points in history, about the social problems and humans right issues plaguing the nation and the world at large. There were some places my learning was lacking. But there were also places where it far surpassed my expectations of what a college education would be. 
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  • Basketball: what other people think of when they think Gonzaga, is--for better or worse--at the core of the school spirit that sustains the university. So much pride and excitement and unity come from unifying behind the basketball team, from waiting in line for hours in the pouring rain for the potential to get a ticket for a game, from tenting out overnight in the freezing cold and snow for the potential to get a better seat in the Kennel, from driving twenty hours there and back to Phoenix to watch the Zags compete in the Final Four and the National Championships. Basketball games are incredibly fun, high-spirited, potent moments of Zag life. They're not all positive in any respect; I have seen some of the ugliest actions done by Zags, done at basketball games. However, I have also seen some of the most unifying and the most beautiful, some of the most resilient.
  • Cura Personalis: this means "care for the entire person" and it is the cornerstone of Gonzaga and Jesuit education. It involves shaping a person into a whole, well-rounded, educated individual who thinks of and cares for others in the global community. I heard this phrase approximately a billion times during my four years at Gonzaga, but I have to admit, my time there was shaped by it. Every piece and part of my person--my mental, educational, physical, spiritual, emotional, conscious, subconscious self--was molded by my experiences at Gonzaga.
St. Aloysius Church--the spires are iconic of Gonzaga, and can be seen from far away. The spires are what let us know that we're home

St. Aloysius Church--the spires are iconic of Gonzaga, and can be seen from far away. The spires are what let us know that we're home

The Centennial Trail, alongside the river

The Centennial Trail, alongside the river

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Red, White & Blue Mason Jar Trifle

Red, White & Blue Mason Jar Trifle

Pepper Jack Chicken Parmigiana

Pepper Jack Chicken Parmigiana