As the saying goes, the world is your oyster and there is no better way to discover the hidden pearls within than renting a car and exploring areas like Northern Idaho. After 10 days of traversing glorious snow-covered mountain peaks with side lakes and streams, we spilled out of the woods and into the rolling hillsides along the Washington/ Idaho border, an area known as the Palouse Hills. The vast magnitude of farmland acreage is staggering. For miles and miles, the blanketed hues of green and gold flow like carpets in the wind, a calming sight to behold. The area leads the US in production of lentils and peas due to the rich soils and minimum labor requirements.
Amidst these rolling hills, the small city of Moscow embraces its rich cultural and historical beginnings with eclectic, intimate art galleries, theatres, restaurants and a wine tasting room. Pubs dot the streets. Home to the University of Idaho with Washington State University across the state line in Pullman, WA, just ten minutes away, the collegiate scene is alive and well. Moscow is modern while laidback and genuine with a hometown feel.
We found the perfect spot to rest our traveling bones at the Monarch Motel. There is a new trend across the country of buying and renovating old motels into modern, art deco mediums for travelers to enjoy. Monarch is one such delight, strategically located downtown with a front street suite upstairs that is really pretty sweet with retro furniture and modern conveniences. The courtyard below has comfy old chairs and a swing under the shade trees. We walked everywhere. Monarch owners Nikki and Brett Woodland hit the double jackpot with their Nectars Restaurant and Wine across the street. The real recipe for creating incredible culinary experiences is having an abundance of local organic freshness at your fingertips. Chef Nikki has a following for her local favorite, bacon wrapped meatloaf with a flavorful glaze that is finished on the grill for a crisp texture. The baked halibut was equally exquisite.
Variety is the spice of life and golf courses. The University of Idaho Golf Course in Moscow accentuates the rolling hills of the Palouse. The design hugs the hillsides with an abundance of trees to guide the fairway routing. Water features are emphasized for a variety of shot selection. The last three holes are designated the “Heartbreak Ridge” for the challenge of prevailing winds that either hinder or help in closing out a good round. 18 culminates with a split fairway to maneuver. This renowned course will test your mettle. Due to state legislature oversight, the course is not allowed to sell beer or wine on premise as it is considered part of a k-16 campus. Exceptions are made for planned large groups. A riddle for sure, but the staff makes it a must play with their extraordinary efforts while handcuffed by the restrictions. And, there are plenty of 19th hole substitutes in the aforementioned downtown Moscow, minutes away. A sure bet for wine lovers is the Colter Creek tasting room in the Hattabaugh Building, circa 1890. The southern end of the Palouse hills is the start of a newly designated AVA, Lewis and Clark Valley. Colter Creek is one of the finer wineries in the area, making annual gold medal winners with Rose, Tempranillo, Syrah and Chardonnay since 2007. Celebrate here and you can even refill your own bottle from its variety of wines on tap.
Golf packages in the area include the University of Idaho, Palouse Ridge and a few more. Downtown Maialina Pizzeria Napoletana offers a varied menu with hand stretched pizza, not tossed. That means light and fluffy, a description we never considered for pizzas. Happy pansy faces mixed with herbs decorate the patio, a pretty place to watch the passers by and greet guests you know. We asked a local gentleman there what the mascot of U of I’s name, Vandals implied, and he said, “We steal things like victories.” We say that U of I, the Vandals and Moscow stole our hearts.