A charcuterie board at the Muse Whiskey and Coffee in Everett, Washington on Monday, July 24, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

A charcuterie board at the Muse Whiskey and Coffee in Everett, Washington on Monday, July 24, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

In 2023, Herald readers feasted on food stories. Now, we go back for seconds

Fried dough, Prohibition-era cocktails and a day of crawfishing were among The Daily Herald’s most-read food stories of 2023.

It’s been a year, hasn’t it? As the end of 2023 blows right by me, it’s wild to imagine that I’ve been writing about food and drink in Snohomish County for almost an entire year.

It was a year of getting my feet under me in this new and expansive beat, of learning the best places to go for tacos and cocktails and industry gossip. I’m still very much figuring things out, and I have a lot yet to learn.

Thankfully, though, I couldn’t have landed in a better place for either menu options or food-loving folks. The most-read food and drink stories of the past year are a testament to your love of cuisines new and old, of age-old traditions and new and weird methods.

Take a quick walk with me down Memory Lane, won’t you? We’ll be skipping around a bit in the numerical order, but each of these stories from the past year of this column represent something important and beautiful. Each of them comes with its own set of memories for me, and hopefully, for you, too.

If nothing else, I hope you’ll take this ranked selection of some of the Herald’s most-read food stories of 2023 as a sign to go and try the places mentioned here if you haven’t already. Consider it my assist to you on your New Year’s resolutions.

11. At Everett’s new portside whiskey bar, linger in a cozy taste of the past (Aug. 4)

People chat in one of the sitting rooms at the Muse Whiskey & Coffee Bar on Wednesday, July 12, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

As I sat down to my cozy little corner table at The Muse, a coffeehouse-slash-bar that opened on the Port of Everett’s waterfront this summer, I remember thinking that I was really living out my food writer dreams. From my seat, I could look out at everything else happening around me: the people outside the windows, taking advantage of a cool summer day to run with their dogs, naturally caught my eye, but what was more interesting was watching the way the bar staff interacted with each other.

It was still in the early days of The Muse being open, and the bartender on duty was patiently helping a trainee find her way around the mirrored bar stocked with high-class libations. It was slow, early in the afternoon for a whiskey bar, and they were laughing amongst each other as one staffer climbed up the golden ladder to grab a top-shelf bottle and the other polished glasses. I didn’t know the people they were discussing, but as I sat quietly in my corner amongst the plush velvet seats, I remembered all the times I’ve been in their shoes. (Though I never served drinks quite as thoughtful and delicious as those served at The Muse.)

If you’re looking for a little taste of the high life with your people-watching, I can personally recommend The Muse’s charcuterie board and their sumptuous house cocktail menu. Any seat you choose inside the lovingly restored Weyerhaeuser Building is guaranteed to be historically gorgeous.

9. Add these two new Snohomish County farmers markets to your weekly shopping list (June 16)

Patricia Robles from Cazares Farms hands a bag to a patron at the Everett Farmers Market across from the Everett Station in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, June 14, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Patricia Robles from Cazares Farms hands a bag to a patron at the Everett Farmers Market across from the Everett Station in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, June 14, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

My visits to these two newest additions to the county’s farmers market roster could not have been more different. One, to the Everett Station Farmers Market, was balmy and sunny enough for me to catch a sunburn as I chatted with the owners of Pawsome Goodies and Treats, a Duvall-based dog treat producer. Herald photographer Annie Barker joined me on this stroll around the market, which was relatively quiet on a Wednesday afternoon, and we enjoyed plenty of samples and good conversation from vendors.

Most clearly, I recall the scent of strawberries in the air, overpowering almost everything else in the vicinity and triggering a cascade of long-ago summer memories. I didn’t grow up in a place where berries grow feral along every trail and highway, like they do in Western Washington, and this year I plan to indulge my curiosity and talk to some berry farmers. It must be hard picking that many bushels of deliciousness and not eating enough to make yourself sick.

The Marysville market I attended, meanwhile, was on a rainy and overcast day. But what struck me was the way that all the vendors, like the family owner-operators of Marysville’s The Creamery Co., pivoted seamlessly to address leaks sprung in tents and puddles forming under display tables. Like true Northwesterners, the rain didn’t slow them down, even as they kept cheerfully telling me their business’s backstory while positioning buckets under dripping tarps. I resolved not to let a little thing like the umbrella I’d just broken getting out of my car slow me down, either.

5. Fried dough on the go, from a woman who’s on the go (Feb. 3)

Lori Johnson, director of the Washington State Food Truck Association shows off a box of fresh malasadas during the grand opening of the GoodBelly LLC food truck on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Lori Johnson, director of the Washington State Food Truck Association shows off a box of fresh malasadas during the grand opening of the GoodBelly LLC food truck on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

I didn’t even write this article about Everett’s GoodBelly, a food truck selling doughnuts by way of Portugal and Hawaii. Eric Schucht, Herald local news web producer and all-around digital extraordinaire, did, because what can’t he do?

Throughout my time as the food writer for the Herald, Eric has always been there to help with anything I needed. Last-minute scramble to find file art for a story? Eric is there, and he probably solved the problem before you even finished panicking. If local restaurant news has even been passingly mentioned in another news source or is sparking discussion on the Herald social media pages, he’ll be the first to know. And last year, he wrote about the frenzy-inducing goodness of Sreylish “Alice” Tum’s malasadas.

Tum, an immigrant from Cambodia, discovered malasadas on a trip to Hawaii and brought them back to Washington after being unable to find a place doing them like they did in the islands. A dogged worker, she eventually opened her own food trailer serving up piping-hot fried dough to lines of dedicated customers, and Eric was there to capture her very first day of business.

Shamefully, I must admit that I have yet to personally try a GoodBelly malasada. But it’s certainly not due to lack of trying — they sell out unbelievably fast, so you have to strike when the iron is hot. If I still haven’t gotten my hands on a box of these ethereal delights by this time next year, I officially resign my food critic credentials.

2. A Southern tradition, fresh from the Snohomish River (Oct. 13)

Ithamar Glumac, a native of Texas who is one of only a few commercial crawfishermen in Washington State, spools rope while collecting his traps from the Snohomish River on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023, near Snohomish, Washington. Glumac is a welding engineer by day but has also run Washington Crawfish Company since 2015. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Ithamar Glumac, a native of Texas who is one of only a few commercial crawfishermen in Washington State, spools rope while collecting his traps from the Snohomish River on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023, near Snohomish, Washington. Glumac is a welding engineer by day but has also run Washington Crawfish Company since 2015. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

I’ve never liked seafood, generally. I have been told countless times since moving here, to a place with actual coastlines where fresh, flavorful fish are pulled out of the ocean and rivers on a daily basis, that I just haven’t had it done right.

Nonetheless, I was a little doubtful I’d find any redeeming traits in a crawfish, of all creatures, when I set up a time to join Ithamar Glumac on his boat. Glumac, owner and sole employee of Washington Crawfish Co., spends nearly every morning during crawfish season out on the Snohomish River, setting and checking traps designed to lure the little bugs in by the pound. If anyone was going to change my mind on these little guys, it was him.

The boat trip itself was unforgettable. It gave me an appreciation for the kind of older gentleman who, in his retirement years, wants to do nothing more than spend his time fishing. An early morning on the river, moving at a brisk clip past other fishermen and wildlife grazing on the banks and salmon splashing in our wake, will plant that hankering in you.

But the best part of this story was undoubtedly what came of the two wriggling plastic bags Glumac handed me and Herald photographer Ryan Berry when we disembarked. Each contained several pounds of the freshest crawfish you can get — we’d literally seen them yanked from the water just an hour before. It would be sacrilege to pass such an opportunity up, we knew, but what do you do with several pounds of crawfish?

The answer, as Glumac told us and as generations of folks from cultures all around the world know, is to boil them en masse. Ryan and I combined our bags of treasure into a cooler, where Ryan dutifully rinsed and stirred the soup of live, wiggling crustaceans for a day as they purged their bottom-feeding detritus. I scoured local stores for a stockpot big enough to hold our catch, and gathered up yellow potatoes, heads of garlic, whole onions, bags of seasoning mix.

The result was a crawfish boil for the ages, thrown together by a bunch of landlocked weirdos who didn’t have a clue what they were doing. Ryan, my roommates and I stood over a plastic folding table in my backyard, plucking the heads from the crawfish as easily as squeezing a garlic clove from its skin, and ate in rapt silence. It was delicious.

1. An ode to Buzz Inn Steakhouses, a Snohomish County institution (Oct. 7)

The exterior of a Buzz Inn restaurant in Everett, Washington on Monday, July 24, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

The exterior of a Buzz Inn restaurant in Everett, Washington on Monday, July 24, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

In our top spot for most-read food and drink stories of 2023, we have another entry that I didn’t even write. Ben Watanabe departed the Herald last year after a decade-plus of serving the community he grew up in with excellent analysis and reporting, and I’m proud to count this hard-hitting piece on a crucial dining destination for those growing up in Snohomish County among that body of work.

The idea for this story came from another coworker sharing a text from Ben with me shortly after I’d taken on the food writer position. Ben had meant it as a sort of tongue-in-cheek review of the kind of place everyone has been to but no one has particularly strong memories of, I think, the kind of place that occupies a disproportionate chunk of your childhood memories. He was a little embarrassed at the idea when I first pitched it to him for an issue of Sound and Summit magazine, but he took it on with characteristic dedication and journalistic vigor.

The article that resulted is a testament to the kind of local institution that Buzz Inn was during Ben’s childhood, a uniquely shared place of which everyone who grew up here has memories of birthday parties and post-soccer game dinners and family gatherings. Despite not being from here, and never previously having been to any one of the seven iterations of the chain around Snohomish County, I felt a little bit more like a local after reading Ben’s article, a little more in the know. His reporting for the Herald, on Everett politics and transportation and a little bit of everything else in between, did much the same thing, offering insight you just can’t get without being deeply embedded in the community.

So let’s raise a discounted draft beer to Ben Watanabe, to Buzz Inn, and to getting to know Snohomish County. I’ve had such a great time introducing myself to all of you this past year, and I can only hope for another year of meeting great people and tasting great food ahead. Stay hungry in the New Year.

Riley Haun: 425-339-3192; riley.haun@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @RHaunID.

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