It had been a long, hot week working and traveling through the Inland Northwest. The record temperatures wore us down, but I wasn’t too tired to suggest a side trip to Cle Elum, Wash., as we headed down Highway 97.
I’d heard Cle Elum was home to some of the finest homemade sausages and wanted to give them a taste. Pepperoni would be a spicy delight on our homemade pizza crust for a welcome-home dinner that night.
From Highway 97 we turned onto Interstate 90 and followed it northwest to Cle Elum. A low mountain ridge stood in the distance, surrounding a small valley of dry fields and pastures. Cle Elum means “swift water” in the native Kittitas language, describing the Yakima River which separates the valley.
We drove straight down Cle Elum’s main drag, First Street, looking for meat shop signs – and, as always, historical markers. A brown sign pointed us to the Carpenter Museum where, on this day, fiber artist Payge Baker worked on a teal scarf while she volunteered to greet visitors at the museum.
A partnership between the High County Artists and the local historical society helps keep the museum doors open and gives the artists a place to work and display their art. Admission to the museum is free; donations are accepted.
The big white, three-story house was built in 1906 by Franklin Carpenter, who established Cle Elum’s first bank. The brick bank building at 201 E. First St. still stands and was one of the few structures to survive a 1918 fire. It is now a branch of Sterling Savings Bank.
Furniture and most other items in the home were originally owned by the Carpenter family. A red velvet sofa sat in the parlor, while an old piano and record player were in an adjacent room. Upstairs bedrooms were filled with linens and clothes; one room featured toys and dolls in the middle of a tea party.
From a second-story window I saw John and our dog Kah-less resting in the shaded front yard as I continued my tour of the museum. A small staircase led the way to the maid’s room. Another small staircase allowed her to move from upstairs to down without disturbing the family in the parlor. The third floor once served as a ballroom for entertaining. The basement is now an art studio for the High County Artists.
The discovery of coal in the 1880s led to the formation of the towns of Cle Elum and Roslyn and brought miners and later businessmen, such as Carpenter, to the area.
Artist Baker, a Wisconsin native, said her husband’s job in the Coast Guard brought her to Cle Elum in the late 1990s. Then they were transferred to Illinois for a three-year tour of duty. At the end of that tour, Baker’s husband asked where she wanted to move.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m going back to Cle Elum,” Baker told him.
The couple returned with their four kids, ages 1 to 14, bought a house and hope to never leave. Baker said she fell in love with the small supportive community and the area wildlife.
“I’m a small-town girl at heart,” she said.
Downtown, John, Kah-less and I walked the sidewalks in search of a meat shop – the whole purpose of this pilgrimage.
At Glondo’s Sausage Co. and Italian Market, 216 E. First St., the ethnic traditions of early European immigrants are still present. Charles and Radine Glondo have been making and selling sausages and other meats with help from their five children, now ages 21 to 33, since 1986.
The couple both were born and raised in Cle Elum. Radine, who is of Croatian and Italian descent, said she remembered her uncles making blood sausage when she was younger.
Glondo’s produces fresh salami and pepperoni and is known for its beef jerky. Hunters looking for something different to do with their wild game can bring in their butchered meat and Glondo’s will make it into a sausage of their choice.
Radine Glondo helped me select a bottle of wine to go with the pepperoni and havarti cheese she had just weighed and wrapped. I choose a 2001 Merlot from Saint Laurent of Richland, made from grapes grown in the desert climate of Eastern Washington.
Jars of olives, dried porcini mushrooms and polenta sat on a countertop. Rows of various meat links lined cold cases. I savored samples of pepperoni and beef jerky and took a little outside to John, who was waiting with the dog. Kah-less wanted to know what John had done to deserve such as wonderful treat.
When I finally left, Kah-less tried to bury his head into the Glondo’s bag. A lady came out behind me, still chewing on a beef jerky sample. She cupped Kah-less’ head in her hands and told him what a good puppy he was.
Kah-less leaned into her face, inhaling deeply. He wanted to kiss her and snatch the unchewed piece from her hand. But, he didn’t.
Before we left, we grabbed a refreshing veggie sandwich from The Bakery House, a spinoff restaurant from the historic Cle Elum Bakery. The bakery’s original brick oven has been in continuous use and is said to have not cooled since 1906.
On our way back to The Dalles, Ore., the air conditioner and the truck’s engine hummed me and Kah-less to sleep as we both dreamed about the same thing – pepperoni and cheese.
But my menu of homemade pizza did not happen when we got home that night. Turns out we were too lazy, hot and tired to wait on a dough to rise.
Instead I served up Nancy’s “Four-Cheese, Spinach Stuffed Shells With Glondo Pepperoni.” This is basically lasagna filling with spinach stirred in (because we were also too lazy to make a salad). I cut the pepperoni into thick rounds and scattered a generous amount on top of my culinary creation. The pepperoni spices perfectly seasoned the dish and the havarti cheese melted nicely.
(By the way, don’t feel sorry for Kah-less not being able to eat spicy meat; he’s probably tasted more varieties of cheese than the average human. So far, his favorite is fresh parmesan.)
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