Every spring, northern Washington fields turn technicolor and visitors flock to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. I've managed to live in Seattle for fifteen years without ever seeing the tulips. Single guy. Tulips. I don't think so. But this spring I'm a little less single, which meant a lot more tulips.

Ooooh. Pretty colors.

"Festival" is really code for "cheap marketing device to lure tourists to local gardens where we'll charge them a few bucks for entry and then sell them bulbs and flowers at barely-discounted prices." Someone in the chamber of commerce woke up one day and said, "Gee, these fields are pretty. We sure grow a lot of tulips around here. If we called tulip season a FESTIVAL, we could boost the local economy!" I understand the Bellevue chamber of commerce is working on an Overpriced Condominium Festival and over on Aurora, a Festival of Whores is in the planning stages.

We ate at Calico Cupboard in La Conner, and while I could dwell on the atrociously long wait while several tables sat vacant but uncleared or the lackluster quality of the ensuing food, I'll choose instead to rhapsodize about the toffee bar I had for dessert. Oh. My. God. Imagine a big blondie with chunks of chocolate, toffee, walnuts, and pockets of creamy butterscotch or caramel (I always have a hard time telling them apart). It was a thick, hearty bar-- with every bite I felt like I should be resting my workboot on the stump of a newly-felled tree, smiling zestfully into the primevil forest, my trusty axe leaning jauntily beside me. It validated the entire trip. Now the quest is on for a recipe to produce this at home.


Wow. I went to the Tulip festival a few years back... Six now, I think.

I hope to never do that again. It was so bad that the girlf that conned me into going was bored out of her mind. :)

it's nice that you found a toffee bar that not only made you feel like a lumberjack, but, also made you feel OK...

I grew up on Lopez Island with a lot of family living in Mt Vernon. I've had more than my fair share of the tulip festival. It's rather scenic to drive past but the problem is that you don't have the option to drive past at anything more than 10mph in some areas.

It kills me every time I'm heading up to the island taking my usual route across Fir Island only to realize too late that tulips are in bloom and I should have stuck with the freeway.

If it's more complicated (buttery, creamy) than just browned sugar, it's butterscotch. Otherwise, caramel.

When trying to caramelize sugar at home -- don't, repeat, don't, use a regular plastic spatula (one that can't stand high heat). You'll be pulling little plastic bits out of the sticky stuff and throwing that batch out. And if you forget to add the water, don't add it once the sugar is on the stove, cause cold water + hot sugar = crystallization that you'll have to chip out of the pot.

Not that I'd know any of this from experience, of course.

Totally unsafe and energy wasteful soft caramel recipe that works:

Get a tin of condensed milk and remove the label.

Boil water on the stove uncovered (enough water to keep the top of the tin well below the waterline at all times). Keep a side pot to heat up water to add.

Turn the tin every 10-20 minutes, especially at the beginning.

Maintain this condition for four hours.

Turn off heat and allow to cool naturally.

Get out the can opener and crack into your can of homemade caramel.

Every authority in the world will tell you not to do this for obvious reasons. That said, it seems to be a yearly tradition as the holiday candy making season begins.

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