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Leader readers name county's best eats, treats

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This year, the Leader's Best Foods contest celebrates its 20th year with many familiar eateries taking top honors in their coveted categories as well as a few first-timers making a splash of their own.

As has happened in the past, the Leader revised its list of categories ahead of this year's voting, whittling the list from 21 to 18. A total 15 businesses have emerged from within those categories, and they represent Jefferson County's best eats and treats, as decided by Leader readers.

Here, we aim to introduce you to some old favorites retaining their reign, as well as some newcomers asserting their domain.

Doc's Marina Grill

141 Hudson St., Port Townsend

Now in its third year serving Port Townsend from its scenic perch overlooking the Point Hudson Marina, Doc's Marina Grill has quickly become a destination for locals and tourists alike.

“Our business has been up every year,” manager Teresa Schultz said of the restaurant's rise to popularity. “A lot of it has to do with the recovery of the economy. For example, people traveled more this summer. We're also located right at the RV park, so that doesn't hurt, and we're at the epicenter of the Wooden Boat Festival.”

Doc's is the second of its kind, having opening in July 2012, about eight years after the opening of the Bainbridge Island location of the same name. The owners are Tom and Tessa Aydelotte of Bainbridge Island.

Though this year marks the restaurant's first major Leader Best Foods contest win, with Best in Port Townsend, Doc's took third place for Best Steak and Best Happy Hour in 2014. Happy hour currently runs daily from 3-5 p.m. and 9 p.m. until closing, featuring drink specials as well as food priced between $4 and $7.

“We never close early,” Schultz said, pointing out the restaurant is open every day from 11 a.m to 11 p.m. “That's something unique about us.”

Doc's offers a seasonal specialty drink menu, with a winter menu coming soon. Schultz recommends the Bartender's Margarita. Doc's also offers daily seafood specials, sourcing much if its meats from Key City Fish Company.

“We make everything in house and we try to use the freshest ingredients possible,” said Schultz, who recommends the El Portal Burger and the Prime Rib & Cheddar sandwich.

“We cook fresh prime rib throughout the week and slice it for that sandwich and we do a prime rib special each weekend [after 5 p.m.],” said Schultz, who credits head chef Rafael Alvarez. “He's a great leader and very talented. He's a calm presence in the kitchen and all the other guys really respect him.”

Doc's employs 25-30 people depending on the season, often hiring local high school students.

“I like to hire local kids,” Schultz said. “I've lived here for 20 years and a lot of these kids I've known since they were really young. They're all very good workers.”

Whether you sit outside by the fire pit, at the bar to watch a game or in the cozy lounge overlooking the marina, Schultz' often-youthful staff is serving up plenty of positive energy.

“We have a good mix of professionalism and fun,” she said. “Our staff has a good time as they work. People comment all the time how relaxing our atmosphere is. We try to make you feel at home.”

Doc's kicks off its third year of wine dinners on Nov. 17. On the third Tuesday of each month between November and March, Doc's hosts an exclusive four-course dinner paired with five wines for $65 per person. Schultz recommends making early reservations as “it always fills up.”

“This win is so exciting for us because we are fairly new,” she said. “It's been an amazing ride so far. We have the best clientele and we're always excited to see new faces.”

The Ajax Café

21 Waters St., Port Hadlock

Ajax Café picked up two first-place honors this year – its traditional Best Steak honor as well as a new award, No. 1 in Port Hadlock, Chimacum and Discovery Bay.

Busy owner Kristan McCary, who has owned Ajax for 11 years, says there are customers who come to the restaurant who've been coming longer than she's owned it.

“We're pretty community based,” she said of people in the community having a vested interest in Ajax's success.

Of course, the first thing people think of when they think of Ajax is the funky hats that are hanging up throughout the restaurant and donned by customers on special occasions and for photographs. The most-used hat was a pink flamingo hat, but it was retired recently because the bird's head was coming off.

“Ajax, a little out of the way and way out of the ordinary” is the saying on staff T-shirts. Plates and cups are deliberately mismatched and there's an eclectic assortment of salt-and-pepper shakers, many of which have been donated by customers.

Hats aside, McCary says she's always worked hard to provide fresh ingredients and has always invested in grass-fed and antibiotic-free beef. “It just tastes different,” she said of the beef.

Although Ajax is known for its steaks, it has also won in the Best Seafood category in the past, and McCary says seafood is also a great seller.

Chef Dov Hayes, who complains his name is never spelled right in the Leader, even though it was spelled right last year, is one of “the really good chefs” McCary says she's had the fortune to employ over the years.

Looking for words to describe why the steaks are so special, McCary turned to host Kimberly Tornes and asked her. “It's because the steaks are juicy and scrumptious and the chefs go out of their way to cook them to perfection,” Tornes said.

Timberhouse Restaurant

295534 Hwy. 101, Quilcene

Quilcene's Timberhouse Restaurant has developed a reputation for being consistent and having delicious food, says chef Steve Serbousek, who developed the menu for owners Paul and Mary Schmidt.

Mary Schmidt credits Serbousek and the fact that Timberhouse pays extra for good, old-fashioned American beef.

“We have American Black Angus beef and ground chuck, not ground beef. Chuck is a roast with a lot of flavor. We have fabulous hamburgers and we don't overcook them,” Schmidt said.

Although Timberhouse is known for its prime rib sandwich, Serbousek says the top-seller is those beef burgers. The prime rib is available only on Saturdays and Sundays while hamburgers are available whenever the restaurant is open.

Schmidt also said Timberhouse, which she and her husband have owned since 2012, has a few unusual things on the menu, including a duck breast she says is wonderful.

But seafood is rising as a specialty with Hama Hama oysters so close by.

“Our cioppino is the best. He [Serbousek] uses all fresh ingredients, clams, mussels, salmon. We only get King salmon and we don't buy farm-raised at all. And none of it is sitting around in a pot,” Schmidt said. When someone orders cioppino, Serbousek gets out all the ingredients and makes it fresh. “There's an artistry to it,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt also is proud that the restaurant was featured in Sunset Magazine a year ago and was included in a book of recipes from restaurants on Highway 101. “We have five pages in there,” she said of the cookbook.

What's coming up next, she said, is plans to be “dressed to the nines for Christmas.”

1-2-3 Thai Food

2219 E. Sims Way, Port Townsend

1-2-3 Thai was voted Best Asian Food and Most Food for the Buck. The Port Townsend restaurant is an annual winner, and the Chenruk family takes pride in the awards, always thanking customers for their loyalty.

All of their awards – and there are many – are proudly displayed on the wall, alongside a giant menu of all the dishes they serve, complete with photos and descriptions.

The Chenruks attribute their success to hard work, dedication and the fact they take pride in their work.

“Good Clean Fresh” is written on the back of T-shirts the owners and employees wear.

Charlie Chenruk's family took over the restaurant eight years ago after his uncle, Sam Chong, established the business.

“We have regular customers who come in almost every day up to the point where we can almost predict them,” Charlie said of the important role customers play.

Although there is a star system for hotness, Charlie says people can ask to go beyond the typical 4-star level, up to a 10 or even a 20. “It goes up to four but some people like it spicier,” Charlie says.

Favorites include Pad Thai and spring rolls as well as Ka Pao Kai.

“We use the freshest ingredients, and my mom and dad always pride themselves on our customer service. When people come in here, we treat everyone like they’re family,” Charlie said.

A few days ago, a regular customer parked and Charlie knew him so he told the staff to prepare the man's favorite dish. By the time the man came in to order, it was almost ready for him to go, as usual, Charlie said.

For those who are very good regular customers, it's not uncommon to find an extra spring roll or treat in your takeout.

Blue Moose Cafe

311 Haines Place, Port Townsend

Once again, Tana Kettle and her family of staff at the Blue Moose Cafe have claimed the title of Best Breakfast in Jefferson County.

“We feel honored to be selected again this year and just want to thank everyone for keeping us in business,” said Kettle, who has owned the popular breakfast joint for the past 11 years. “There's not one shining star here – it's everybody. I don't think for one moment I've done this by myself.”

While Kettle regards all 10 of her employees as family, a couple of them actually are, including Kettle's sister Terolyn Marshall and nephew Nathan Metcalf. But it's not just the staff that's made to feel like family.

“We consider everyone who comes in here a part of our family,” she said, and many local regulars do their part to give the restaurant's atmosphere that homey feel. “Pretty much everything in my restaurant has been gifted to me by customers. When people go on vacation, they bring moose stuff back. And they can't wait to get back. When they do, they're always telling me things like they missed my french toast, for example. We just attract the kindest, nicest people.”

A fixture in Port Townsend's boatyard since the late '90s, the Blue Moose has consistently topped the Leader's list of breakfast spots since at least 2007, and has been recognized several times for its service, not to mention its plentiful portions.

In fact, this year the restaurant also took third place in both Most Food for the Buck and Best Service.

Corned beef hash remains the clear customer favorite, though Kettle says you can't go wrong with any one of a dozen-or-so variations on a dish called "Scooter."

“The Scooters are really hardy and inexpensive and will keep you going all day, so the boatyard guys really like that,” Kettle said, pointing out that Scooters are named for the customers or employees who order them regularly. “When someone orders a Scooter variation over and over, it eventually gets added to the menu. We've now got about four pages of menu and that's about all I can handle.”

Kettle has been known to support local events and sports teams with donations, and she's also known for hiring local young people.

“I've realized my purpose is to own this restaurant and teach kids good work ethic,” said Kettle, who insists on cooking from scratch and using local ingredients, such as Pane d'Amore breads.

The Port of Port Townsend recently allotted Kettle a bit more space for storage and refrigeration, allowing room for a couple more seats. However, she figures the house will remain packed to the brim on weekend mornings.

“It's worth the wait,” said Kettle, who doesn't plan on going anywhere anytime soon. “I don't mind getting a little bigger, but I don't plan to move.”

Burgers Landing

783 Nesses Corner Road, Port Hadlock

Boasting 10 previous wins for Best Burger in Jefferson County, Burgers Landing is right back where it belongs – on top.

The Port Hadlock take-out burger joint, often recognized by the nose of a Boeing 707 protruding from its walls, narrowly missed first place in 2014. Though that might as well have been a fluke after having won each year between 2003 and 2013.

The secret to such consistency: “We don't make any changes. We keep the same quality of food and we haven't increased our prices in the last two years,” said Randy Lechtenberg, who bought the business from his in-laws in 2011 and changed the name from Bloomers Landing.

In October 1997, Lechtenberg's in-laws turned what was previously a flower shop into a burger joint, naming it Bloomers Landing after the flower shop.

Lechtenberg said he buys his meat from Evergreen Meats in Port Angeles, including the thick-cut bacon he uses about 60 pounds of each week.

“Everything we have has bacon on it, except for the burger and cheeseburger,” he said. “And it's not like that paper-thin bacon you find at McDonald's.”

Speaking of McDonald's, Lechtenberg said, “Our prices are within a penny difference of McDonald's and you get far greater quality food.”

Lechtenberg said he sells lots of cheeseburgers and double bacon burgers, but for those looking for something a bit bigger, he recommends the Jalapeno Burger, Western Burger, Hawaiian Grilled Chicken or Patty Melt on Rye. And if meat isn't your thing, he's got you covered with vegan burgers, including a California Malibu Burger, Boca Burger and Spicy Black Bean Burger, as well as a Garden Burger for vegetarians.

“We don't buy cheap products,” he said. “My vendors will tell me I can save money going another way and I say no, because my customers notice the difference.”

Lechtenberg said his sauces are all made from scratch, often attracting customers who want to purchase his ranch, tartar or special sauce a la carte. He also said his customers swear by his gluten-free buns.

“It took me three months to find the right gluten-free buns,” he said. “It's like eating a croissant. They don't taste like a typical gluten-free bun. We tried to get as close to the bread flavor as we could. I have customers who come in just for those buns.”

If it's not a burger you're looking for, he also offers mozzarella sticks, jalapeno poppers, a shrimp basket, clam strips, fish and chips and chicken strips.

“We take pride in what we're selling,” Lechtenberg said. “Our goal is to keep putting out quality food.”

Easy Times Espresso

41 10th Ave., Port Hadlock

For a second year in a row, Easy Times Espresso in Port Hadlock has taken first place in Best Coffee and Best Service, with manager Jamie Montgomery citing consistency as the secret to success.

“People don't like change so we try to keep things the same,” said Montgomery, who started with Easy Times as a barista when owner Wendy Davis opened the business on Cinco de Mayo nearly 13 years ago. “Why change a good thing?”

Montgomery said it's her nine experienced, well-trained employees that keep their more-than-250 customers coming back each morning.

“Not everybody is Easy Times material,” she said, pointing out that it can be hard for her to buy coffee anywhere else in town. “It's hard for me to go anywhere else because I'm kind of a coffee snob and I like it my way.”

Easy Times brews with Seattle-based Herkimer Coffee. Herkimer is all about premium green coffee grown under old-world cultivation methods, in naturally shaded areas where no pesticides and fertilizers are used.

“We like good, quality stuff,” she said. “That's why we've stuck with Herkimer.”

Lattes and mochas are 50 cents off if you get there during happy hour, between 5:30 a.m and 6:30 a.m. each weekday.

“It's an extra perk for waking up so early,” Montgomery said.

Answer a weekend trivia question correctly and get 40 cents off any drink. If that weren't enough, Easy Times offers specials each weekday, with names like Mocha Monday, Wake Up Wednesday and Free Flavor Friday.

This time of year, customers can order seasonal drinks such as a pumpkin pie latte or an eggnog latte. Easy Times also carries breakfast treats, such as gluten-free cookies, croissant and bagel sandwiches, and seasonal biscotti.

“For us it's all about pleasing our customers,” Montgomery said. “If they're not pleased, we're not pleased.”

Fiesta Jalisco Mexican Restaurant

10893 Rhody Drive, Port Hadlock

For the ninth year in a row, Fiesta Jalisco in Port Hadlock has earned its reputation as the best Mexican restaurant in the county, with owner Elena Arceo dedicating the win to her late husband and former owner of the beloved restaurant, Pedro Arceo.

“Many of our employees worked under Pedro and were trained by him,” Arceo said of her late husband, who passed away in January 2012. “We all still honor and respect his memory.”

Port Hadlock's Fiesta Jalisco opened in October 2002, a year after the restaurant's Port Angeles location opened. Cesar Navarro is the manager and Oscar Munoz is the head chef. The restaurant employs 15, all of whom bend over backward to keep their devoted customers happy, Arceo said.

“When you walk in our doors, it's like you're entering a real, authentic Mexican home,” she said. “You are greeted with warmth and kindness the way any family member would be welcomed.”

Carne Asada remains a popular dish, Arceo said, as does the Mucho Loco Grande Platter. Fiesta now offers Fajita Fridays and El Jefe Saturdays. The El Jefe is only served on Saturdays and features carne asada, pollo asado, tequila lime shrimp, and jalapenos stuffed with shrimp and cheese, then wrapped in bacon.

“This one features a combination of the best we have to offer,” Arceo said. “You will never leave hungry.”

Fiesta also offers happy hour specials between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., along with a $5 bar menu.

“I can't say enough how grateful and thankful we are for the community that continues to come through our doors and give us their business,” Arceo said.

Waterfront Pizza

951 Water St., Port Townsend

For locals and tourists alike, Waterfront Pizza is essentially synonymous with Port Townsend.

The 38-year-old, two-story pizza joint is one of the longest-standing downtown Port Townsend eateries and, despite plenty of other pizza options around town, a consistent Best Pizza winner.

“We're kind of in our own little niche,” employee Mike Pruitt said. “We don't have a lot of storage space to change our menu, and if you don't change that menu, you can last for 38 years.”

Pruitt started working for owner Diann Kuchera in 1993. He took a couple years off in the late 1990s, which just so happen to be the only two years the pizza joint did not win Best Pizza, as he recalls.

Pruitt said Waterfront has stuck by its homemade sauces and a roughly 100-year-old sourdough starter that makes its pizza unique. In 1979, Frank D'Amore shared with Kuchera a sourdough starter he'd been given by a “little old German woman” while working at the Little Bread Company of Seattle.

A sign inside the restaurant warns customers that Waterfront only uses the finest of glutens, none of which are free.

“We don't have the room to do a gluten-free option, what with flour flying through the air all the time,” Pruitt said. “We're too small and we like our gluten. When those who don't like gluten need a gluten fix, this is where they come.”

Pruitt said the most popular pies seem to be the Greek Pizza, and anything with linguica sausage. Pruitt's favorites: Canadian bacon and onion, and Italian sausage with jalapenos.

For those who want to bake it themselves, Waterfront offers a $4 dough ball perfect for making personalized pizza creations at home.

Pruitt said he's proud to have worked under Kuchera all these years because she knows how to treat her 20-25 employees, helping to pay for childcare and giving out regular bonuses.

Jordini's On The Water

929 Water St., Port Townsend

Jordini's may have changed ownership in the last year, but it hasn't changed its approach to sandwiches.

“We want to stay true to what Jordini's is,” said new owner Fierra Krader. “We didn't want to take over and change it. We do plan to revamp the menu, and that will come out fairly soon. Though we will still have all the same sandwiches people love and are looking for when they come in.”

Jordini's has been a downtown Port Townsend fixture since 1995. Krader, who purchased the restaurant from six-year owner Beth Diodene in April and reopened in May, has hired an all new staff and says she's “really happy with them.”

As for sandwiches, the Flanigan Shenanigan and San Juan Special paninis remain most popular, with the Special Italian Sub coming in close behind. Krader said her favorites are the Glacier Peak and the Indian Island paninis.

Jordini's still offers seasonal homemade desserts, such as apple pies and crumbles this time of year and fresh berry pies in the summer. Krader plans to introduce some new soups as well, such as a gazpacho soup.

“We are keeping with the tradition of good soups,” Krader said. “We also have a new television system with a big screen for sports like football and baseball, and during the next summer, we hope to extend our hours a bit later.”

Krader said the new menu would feature flat bread sandwiches, incorporate more soups and stews, and add more paninis.

Being new owners, we're really glad that people are responding well to us and enjoying the sandwiches and the atmosphere,” she said.

Scampi & Halibuts Seafood Grill

1050 Nesses Corner Road, Port Hadlock

Though brothers Jeff and Craig Erickson's Scampi & Halibuts Seafood Grill in Port Hadlock has placed in a couple categories nearly every year, this year marks their first Leader Best Foods contest win.

“We always seem to get beat out by Sea J's for fish and chips or The Ajax Café or Fins for seafood,” owner Jeff Erickson said. “We've paid our dues. My brother and I have been in this business since we were kids. We certainly appreciate that we finally broke through for a first place.”

Scampi & Halibuts opened in 2004 and employs between six and 10 people, depending on the season.

The most popular dish: Captain Scampi's Caribbean Seafood Stew, which features prawns, scallops, shrimp and cod with fresh veggies in a savory tomato lime coconut milk broth. Erickson also highly recommends the fish tacos, though seafood isn't all he offers.

“We sell massive, gourmet burgers,” he said. “And we have a really good house salad that comes with our entrees. Most people are surprised that we have burgers and steaks. It's a pretty big menu for our size.”

Business, Erickson said, has been up about 20 percent this year over the past couple years.

“We have had just a really great, strong year,” he said. “We rarely have a bad day. And for our size and location, we can really crank out the orders.”

Erickson said he and his brother prepare all the food.

“No one else cooks it for us,” he said. “We've been doing this our whole life.”

Scampi & Halibuts also boasts two flat screens televisions constantly showing sports, as well as a custom-made musical soundtrack.

“Our ambiance is right there with Red Lobster and way above Ivar's or Skippers,” he said. “And I'd put my food up against Red Lobster any day of the week.”

Hillbottom Pie

215 Tyler St., Port Townsend

For soup lovers in Port Townsend, Hillbottom Pie is the place to be.

“Consistency is our thing,” co-owner Mariko Willenhag said of the business she and her husband, head chef Tim Roth, opened in late April of 2014.

That year, the downtown restaurant was voted New-Found Favorite while also earning top honors for its gourmet soups, the most popular of which remains the Mulligatawny, though Willenhag says the clam chowder is no slouch, either.

In its first year, Hillbottom's soups were so popular, Willenhag kept a list of phone numbers so she could let regulars know when their favorite soup would be available.

“We still have it but we stopped calling people because the list got too long,” she said. “So now we tell people to call us.”

Roth and Willenhag opened the Tyler Street Coffeehouse in the same location in 1999, then sold that business in 2008. They still offer Caffe Vita coffee, and Willenhag recommends the cappuccino.

Nowadays, every seat in the house is in high demand during the lunch hour, but customers aren't just looking for soup.

As its name suggests, Hillbottom also offers pie, as well as wood-fired pizza and salads. Several types of pie are made fresh each morning and are available by 12:30 p.m.

Customers come from all over the Pacific Northwest to try their pies, which include marionberry, blueberry, apple, peach and strawberry/rhubarb, among others, such as seasonal pies like pumpkin.

“Any and all of our pies just blow people away,” waitress Michele Mailloux-Zabransky said, adding that marionberry and rhubarb are the fastest selling, though she recommends the pecan.

Hillbottom often uses local seasonal ingredients in its soups, pizzas and pies, such as pumpkins from Spring Rain Farm for its pumpkin soup, fresh greens from Red Dog Farm for salads, as well as locally harvested chanterelle mushrooms for both pizza and soup.

Port Townsend Food Co-op

414 Kearney St., Port Townsend

It's no surprise that health-conscience folks choose the Port Townsend Food Co-op, which has been named Best Vegetarian in the Leader's Best Foods contest this year.

Deli manager Brendan Johnson said although the co-op offers a great selection of vegetarian options, that's clearly not the only thing customers want.

“We try to find a balance as far as offering meat dishes and vegetarian dishes,” Johnson said. “We listen to our customers as much as we can. We always try to make new vegetarian soups, for example, but people in Port Townsend like meat, and we do have a lot of good meats here.”

Whether vegetarian or not, customers can be sure their foods are responsibly sourced, Johnson said.

“Before we bring it into the store, we can pretty much tell you the whole story of where it came from,” said Johnson, who tries to consider his customers' suggestions as much as possible. “We always try to go local. I could tell you the story behind every turkey we sell, for example. I think our customers appreciate that.”

Vegetarian options include just about any green salad, such as the beet and kale salad or the garlicky greens from local company Crust, among others. Johnson recommends the spinach lasagna, quinoa pilaf, macaroni and cheese, and any of several dishes made with seasonally fresh squash.

“Just as we thought the squash dishes weren't selling like they should, we're making more of them,” Johnson said, pointing out that not everyone may know about the deli's extensive to-go buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

As for those ever-popular meat options, Johnson said the most popular tend to be tandoori chicken pies, meatloaf made in-house and bone-in pork chops. Turkeys are also available, even without reserving one, he said.

Johnson said the deli's menu is constantly changing with the seasons, and once an item gets on people's radars, it's gone.

“We're always thankful for the continued support of our customers,” he said.

Lanza's Ristorante

1020 Lawrence St., Port Townsend

For more than 30 years, Lanza's Ristorante in Port Townsend's Uptown District has maintained its sterling reputation for authentic Italian cuisine in a romantic setting.

Had the Leader's Best Foods contest included a Best Pasta category this year, Lanza's surely would have once again taken first place in that category, as well.

Nevertheless, owners Lori and Steve Kraght said they are honored to be considered the county's most romantic restaurant.

“I was thrilled when I heard we won Most Romantic,” Lori Kraght said. “We put a lot of heart into this restaurant. From our whole staff, everyone puts a lot of love into what we do here, so thankfully that shows up to the customers.”

The Kraghts bought the restaurant in 1996. It's been in the Lanza family since its opening in 1983. Lori is one of Gloria Lanza's daughters.

The most popular dishes remain the Penne Bella and Spaghetti with Mama Gloria's Meatballs.

“We make our own dough and shred our own cheese,” Kraght said. “We make everything from scratch, such as our homemade sausage.”

Kraght said she's added a few new appetizers and wines to the menu over the past year. She recommends the roasted garlic asiago dip.

The Uptown Port Townsend restaurant, catering largely to couples in love, is only open in the evening hours for romantic dining by candlelight. Call to make reservations starting at 3 p.m. before the restaurant opens at 5 p.m. any day but Sundays and Mondays.

Kraght still uses her mom's Italian Wedding Cake recipe, usually baking the coconut- and pecan-filled and almond-covered cake for weekends. To ensure a slice, Kraght recommends calling in to reserve it, just as you would a table, because the whole cake tends to disappear well before the weekend is over.

Elevated Ice Cream Co. & Candy Shop

631 Water St., Port Townsend

“I like to say we're in the business of smiles,” general manager Andy Hamm said of the Elevated Ice Cream Co. & Candy Shop in downtown Port Townsend.

Julie and David McCulloch's 38-year-old ice cream parlor and candy shop has now claimed first place in the Best Dessert category 19 times in the Leader's 20-year history of Best Foods contests, and that's only because the category didn't exist one year.

“There's a reason Elevated has been here for 38 years,” candy manager Stephanie Redmond said. “If you can maintain for all that time and still be thriving, that's saying something.”

Some 23 employees work between the ice cream parlor and candy shop, while another five make chocolate fudge.

“We box our chocolate each week so they're always fresh,” Redmond said, adding that hotels such as Ravenscroft Inn, the Resort at Port Ludlow and the Old Consulate Inn often carry their boxes of chocolates. Redmond said Elevated candy can also be found at the Rose Theatre and Key City Public Theatre, among other establishments.

“Lots of businesses come to us wanting to carry our products,” Redmond said, citing Lanza's Ristorante, Khu Larb Thai Cuisine, Hanazono Asian Noodle, Fort Worden Commons, Chimacum Corner Farmstand and Jefferson Healthcare as purveyors of Elevated's ice cream.

The best-selling ice cream flavor every year Elevated has operated has been Swiss Orange Chocolate Chip. Hamm said Blind Love is also popular. His favorites are Espresso Chip, Cardamom, Ginger and Dutch Malt.

“It's all pretty unique,” he said. “It's definitely not something you'll find in the grocery store.”

Hamm said Elevated sources black currants from Finnriver Farm in Chimacum, apples from Solstice Farm in Chimacum and both strawberries and raspberries from Graysmarsh Farm in Sequim.

Redmond said the locally made salted caramels are particularly popular on the candy side, as are Elevated chocolates.

“It's old-style chocolate making with the best ingredients [the McCullochs] can find,” Hamm said.

New flavors as of the last few weeks include caramel swirl and salted caramel swirl. As for seasonal flavors, November is all about pumpkin and gingersnap, while December features peppermint and eggnog. Special to the holiday season are tiramisu and spumoni, Hamm said.

“Basically, we're a family ice cream parlor, so you can come in and spend a dime or go crazy in the candy shop,” Hamm said. “We cater to everyone and do our best to accommodate even the silliest requests.”

Hamm said Elevated is unique in that it offers ice cream pies, made to order with any ice cream flavor and a crust made with either vanilla wafers or Oreo cookies.

Elevated-brand mugs, made by Daily Bird Pottery in Port Townsend, are available for use in-house or for purchase as souvenirs.

Both Hamm and Redmond agree: no matter what your mood when you come in, you'll be feeling good on your way out the door.

“We have ice cream and candy,” Redmond said. “How could anyone leave in a bad mood?”

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