At the beginning of the month – literally Sept. 1, the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend – my family and friends were hunting in Walla Walla, attending three nights of the Dave Matthews Band at the Gorge or enjoying a final weekend on their boats at the lake.
With all the peace and quiet around me, I took it upon myself to enjoy a sugar rush – everything in moderation, of course – and checked out two new businesses and a new dessert menu in the Spokane area. My sister Michelle Harmon, a teacher in Spokane, joined me for the first two stops.
Hello Sugar, a popular and cozy doughnut and Indaba coffee shop in Kendall Yards, opened its second location in Spokane Valley in July, and I was looking forward to comparing the two locations, as Hello Sugar is a mainstay at family get-togethers.
The Spokane Valley location is much larger and open – in fact, there is a lot of open space. It also has its own coffee service (no Indaba), and there’s a drive-thru. Drive-thru’s are one of the best inventions ever.
What haven’t changed are the friendly service and the yummy little doughnuts. Since they’re so small, they’re less of a guilty pleasure, right? When you order a coffee concoction and request to “make it a unicorn,” the beverage is garnished with three doughnuts on the straw. Fun!
Along with doughnuts, cider is another sweet treat that gives me great pleasure. A Facebook post about 2 p.m. Sunday tours drew me to the new Trailbreaker Cider in Liberty Lake (it also opened in July), partly because the tour is only $5 and includes a full pour and take-home pint glass.
Before the tour, Michelle and I enjoy pints of cider, as well as a tasting flight – five 2-ounce samples at $2 each, a great way to sample Trailbreaker’s rotating flavors for only $10. I enjoyed the Whiskey Barrel and Crabby flavors; Michelle liked the Blackberry; and we both gave thumbs up to the Cucumber Mint.
I partook in the AYCE salad bar ($8) that included knockout huckleberry vinaigrette, quite possibly the first time that I have overwhelmingly enjoyed a huckleberry flavor in town. Trailbreaker’s naturally lit, expansive, open and family- and pet-friendly space is inviting, and I look forward to returning with fellow cider fans. Wait for it … this cider house rules.
Trent Maier, owner and president of Trailbreaker, chatted with yours truly post-tour.
Trent, why did you move Trailbreaker Cider to Liberty Lake from Pullman?
We had been focusing on the Spokane area for the better part of a year prior to purchasing land here in early 2018, but Liberty Lake stood out to us for a few reasons. It seemed to have a thriving business community, along with what we quickly learned was a very underserved local community that was badly wanting more options for a modern brewery atmosphere close to home.
We have so much of that here in Spokane that we all enjoy, but it’s always nice to have that in your backyard. Furthermore, we were excited about being right in the middle of the Greater Spokane/CdA communities, and as things continue to grow closer together, we’re right in the middle.
How is business going so far?
So far we really don’t have any complaints. Both the business community as well as those who live here in Liberty Lake have been incredibly supportive. We honestly didn’t have any expectations going into this and mostly just wanted to get the doors open after the effort and time put into construction.
But we were pleasantly surprised with everyone’s favorable reviews and earnest appreciation for being here. We’re very happy to be where we are so far and very much looking forward to having the best yet to come.
What makes Trailbreaker stand out in a region that’s burgeoning with craft beer?
There are obviously a lot of options for people in this part of the country when it comes to craft beer, and really craft beverages in general are gaining popularity throughout the entire country. I think what we do is unique because we start with apples, make a really great juice that we utilize throughout our production processes, and continue to always have a focus on quality, regardless of the costs.
We spent a lot of time over the last five or six years honing in on a hybrid of many other processes to produce products that everyone can enjoy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people try our ciders after stating “I’m a beer guy” and walk away as a newest member of the cider community. We’ve found a way to create ciders that are not generally very sweet but still taste like the fruit that we put into them – and who doesn’t like the taste of an apple?
Tell me about the 2 p.m. Sunday tours, and how long will you be continuing them?
When we were in the dog days of construction, we would occasionally have visitors pop into the facility, and I would happily take a break from running whatever power tool I was using that day to show them around and explain what makes this facility so unique. As time went along and the pieces were falling into place and it was a little clearer, I found a genuine interest from total strangers in what we were doing.
After we opened, I guess I missed that part, and so I said let’s get our fix by having tours once a week. Honestly, I probably enjoy them more than anyone on the tour – it’s fun teaching people about the possibilities and history of cider or wherever the conversation takes the group. We’ll do them as long as I am in town to do it, and I don’t see that changing anytime too soon.
How many apples are processed at Trailbreaker Cider?
It’s hard to say exactly how many apples we press, but I can say that we process between 40,000 to 80,000 pounds of apples every month right now and hope to steadily increase that over the next couple years. We’ve built for expansion, and if people like our cider, that’s just what we’ll do.
We’re really just food and beverage geeks who have found a healthy outlet to live out our passion and interests. We couldn’t have found a better place in my mind to be able to do that for what is hopefully a very long time.
I’ve been told by one reader to stop writing about Luna, but if loving Luna is wrong, then I don’t want to be right. And I’m still going to write about Luna when the classic Spokane restaurant continues to reimagine itself – and I would say that about any restaurant in Spokane.
Taylor Siok, the pastry chef at Luna, recently added three of his creations to the dessert menu: Chocolate Coulant (molten chocolate cake, caramel and vanilla gelato); Petite Confection (three post-dinner bites with an option of a macaron); and Cheese and Chocolate (Fourme D’Ambert Blue, Midnight Moon goat milk Gouda and Belize single-origin dark chocolate).
The Chocolate Coulant is divine – and right now the customer favorite, Siok said. My 12-year-old niece Anya would love the Petite Confection with tea, and the Cheese and Chocolate board includes a lovely sliced mini loaf wrapped in twine, marmalade and oh-so-healthy granola.
“People oftentimes forget about dessert, consider it an afterthought or are too full after dinner,” Siok said. “Dessert should be top of mind, and this menu and its new offerings are reasons to indulge in after-dinner treats. They won’t make you overly full, and my hope is that they end dinner on a perfectly sweet note.”
The classic Coconut Cake, which Siok updated for the better and tastier as Coconut Cake 2.0, is still on the menu, as is his updated Passion Fruit Baked Alaska. The three new desserts pair perfectly with an after-dinner cocktail – I loved South of No North (Reposado Tequila, coffee syrup and chocolate bitters) – or a fine digestif – a Chateau Rieussec Sauterne, anyone?
There’s always room for dessert.
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