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Wednesday, July 8, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Poulsbo Palate Pleasers -- Gustatory Pleasures Await Visitors To The Picturesque Waterfront Town On The Kitsap Peninsula

A sip of cool, creamy root beer, made right here, is the prize for stopping along a country road near Poulsbo on the Kitsap Peninsula.

Other edible rewards - tender fish and chips at a restaurant with its own fishing boat, irresistible pastries and perhaps a spot of tea - also beckon in this picturesque little town on Liberty Bay.

Collect the makings of a picnic as you go, or let others serve you in the eateries you'll find. Either way, you won't go hungry in Poulsbo.

A ferry ride from downtown Seattle to Winslow on Bainbridge Island starts you on your way. From Winslow, a drive north on Highway 305 and across the Agate Pass Bridge puts you on the Kitsap Peninsula.

If the day is warm, your gustatory tour might begin with that sip of root beer, or perhaps some real beer. The soft drink is made by Thomas Kemper Soda Company at the Thomas Kemper Brewery, a beer microbrewery. They're two separate companies owned by some of the same people.

Get to the brewery this way: Driving north on Highway 305, pass the Poulsbo exit and Poulsbo Village, a small shopping center on the left. Continue to the next traffic-lighted intersection and turn right onto Bond Road. Drive about 1.6 miles, turn left onto Foss Road (you'll see a Thomas Kemper Brewery sign) and drive a short distance to the brewery.

Two sisters, Laura Thomas and Carol Clemency, own the young soda company, which is bubbling with success. Thomas also co-owns the brewery, with her ex-husband, Andy Thomas, and others. Besides root beer, the soda company makes birch-beer soda and honey-vanilla cream soda.

The sodas are enjoying a growing market - throughout Washington and parts of Oregon and Idaho now, and probably into Montana later this month. Test-marketing outside the Northwest is planned.

The root beer gets its extra-smooth character from the unusual addition of honey, says Thomas. "We created it as an adult soda" - one that's less sweet and less carbonated than most.

You can buy a mug of root beer in the tap room-restaurant, which also sells the brewery's beer, on draught, and such foods as burgers with sauteed mushrooms, chili and cornbread, and a sausage plate. Children are allowed in the tap room, which is open every day in the summer.

To tour the brewery - and see how both the sodas and the beers are made - just ask in the tap room. Tours are free and you needn't call ahead unless you have a large group. For $1, you can sample all the brews.

There are picnic tables outside, and local musicians entertain on Saturdays, from about 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. The brewery's annual Oktoberfest, Sept. 25-27 this year, features live "oompah" bands, jazz or country music, food, pony rides and other attractions.

When returning to Poulsbo, consider stopping at the New Day Seafood Eatery at the south end of the downtown's main drag, Front Street. This informal little restaurant overlooks Liberty Bay and a marina, where pleasure boats and fishing boats attest to Poulbso's marine tradition.

Among the fishing boats is the New Day, owned by Denny and Gail Kimmel, the restaurant's owners.

Gail runs the restaurant and Denny the boat, which part of the time supplies fresh or flash-frozen fish to the eatery. Fish and chips, prawns and chips, oysters and chips, clam chowder, seafood salad - these and other seafood selections tempt the New Day diner.

Although illness has kept Denny from fishing recently, he expects to be back plying the waters of Washington and Alaska in the fall. The fish are caught on hooks and lines - without nets - for less bruising and better quality, said Gail. The catch goes not only to the restaurant, but to the New Day wholesale fish outlet in Port Townsend, run by the Kimmels' son, Scott.

Perhaps Poulsbo's best-known palate-pleaser is Sluys Poulsbo Bakery, touted as "world famous" and set amid the art galleries, gift shops and antique stores of Front Street. Norwegian in flavor, the bakery pays homage to the town's Scandinavian heritage.

This bakery developed the famous coarse-grained Poulsbo Bread, sold throughout most of the West - although, except for that sold in Poulsbo, it's now baked by a Seattle company. But there's more here than Poulsbo Bread. For instance: Norwegian black bread, Danish pumpernickel, Swedish limpa bread, Irish raisin bread, English muffin bread and German sourdough rye - not to mention a vast assortment of rich pastries and cookies. Be prepared to stand in line - this place is popular.

June's Home Bakery also has a loyal local following. The location, north of downtown on busy Viking Way, is not picturesque, but good things await inside. The bakery specializes in healthy treats such as whole-wheat, fat-free cinnamon rolls, lower-sugar cookies and the like.

For atmosphere and a light lunch or afternoon tea, stop at Judith's Tearooms and Rose Cafe. The eatery, on Front Street, is an American, '50s-style tea restaurant, says Judith Goodrich, co-owner with her husband, Chuck. What does that mean? "A special place to eat, serving hearty, homemade food," she explains.

She bursts with enthusiasm: "I love my restaurant. I love my customers. I meet the nicest people in the world."

Her customers find what looks like two restaurants in one: the sunny, plant-bedecked front, and more formal rooms at the back, where friends might share an intimate conversation over tea. The fare includes sandwiches, salads, soups and such specialties as salmon cakes and oyster stew. Then there are the desserts - tea cakes, cheesecake and bread pudding with bourbon sauce and others.

If you have a picnic in mind, Poulsbo's waterfront park is a charming spot for it. And there are plenty of places, besides the bakeries, to fill your picnic basket:

-- Poulsbo Smokehouse offers smoked salmon, trout, scallops, lox, oysters, tuna and halibut, plus pickled salmon and herring. The smoking is done in Kingston at Kingston Smokehouse, which owns the Poulsbo store.

-- Poulsbo Country Deli has sausages, cheeses, jams, jellies and other goodies.

-- Expressions is a gift shop offering a few specialty foods, such as canned smoked buffalo, rattlesnake and alligator meat and hot pickled asparagus and mushrooms.

-- Boehm's Chocolates sells the delicious confections made at the company's Issaquah factory.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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