Our anniversary was something we wanted to celebrate. We decided to make it a weekend of fine dining mixed in with a little art, perhaps a film, and a nap or two. We had been working non-stop and needed to unwind and relax.
We started with one of our favorite restaurants outside of Tacoma, not too far outside of Tacoma. Just south of Des Moines and just north of Browns Point is the area of Redondo, the home of Salty's at Redondo. We've met Chef Gabe before and were looking forward to some excellent seafood.
Actually, all three of the restaurants we picked specialize in seafood and fine dining. Two of them have water views. The third is located in downtown Tacoma and we ended up with no view what-so-ever. And really, for the third restaurant we ate at night and again, no view . . . but we knew it was there.
Guarding and decorating the door at Salty's is a colorful nutcracker. Peg gave him a hug and we entered the restaurant. We had a nice table at the window. The view is of Puget Sound with Vashon Island flanked by the Olympic Mountains. We were in luck and saw a container ship sail by. The waves from the ship finally reached the shore outside Salty's about five minutes after it passed.
While we sipped wine and ate, we enjoyed the marine tableau. We saw buffle-headed ducks, a kayak paddler go head-under and back up a couple of times AND saw a ring of scientific SCUBA divers go beneath the surface about fifty feet away and then appear just below our window. Such fine entertainment . . . and no cover charge.
For starters we ordered the Seafood Trio appetizer and an extra crab cake. The trio came with its own crab cake as well as four coconut prawns and deep fried calamari. The chili dipping sauce was fantastic. I thought perhaps the price ($25) was a little pricey, but it proved well worth the cost. As soon as I bit into my first prawn I was well pleased. The crab cake was huge. I wish it had been a little more crunchy on the outside, but the contents were very tasty. It was perhaps the best crab cake we've eaten and we've sampled quite a few. I'm always looking for ways to improve, however. Just a little more crunch.
We ended up with a "to go" box of a coconut prawn, some calamari and half a crab cake. We also took the last two pieces of bread that were served. I could have eaten lots more bread. It was as good as the appetizers. Of course eating bread and watching the view all day would be a worthy pursuit.
We ordered off the dinner menu, which put the restaurant a little behind the eight ball and we ended up disappointed. Peg had the weathervane scallops, which were served with mashed potatoes and three large spears of asparagus. She never touched them. I was surprised that only three scallops were plated. They were good, but didn't stand out.
I had the 12 ounce lobster tail. I should have asked for the shell to be left with me. There were a couple of morsels that I felt I missed. The lobster was good, but even though it looked good and it felt flat. It wasn't over-cooked and it was cut nicely, but it was a little stringy. The vegetables served with the lobster were non-descript. They were a complete waste. From a restaurant that once served me the best risotto I've ever had, I was dismayed.
Perhaps, we should have stopped with the bread, the salad (excellent greens, pepitas, cheese, and dates), and the appetizers. We were extremely happy with the food until dinner was served. Too bad.
When we drove to Redondo from Tacoma we drove the winding road north from Browns Point. CenterStage and their latest production called to us as we drove past, but we continued on. For our return trip we came back via Highway 99 and I-5. It was quicker, but not as beautiful.
Back in Tacoma we checked into the Marriott Courtyard in downtown Tacoma. We love the hotel. It's so close to some of the things we love: theatre, art, museums, shopping, and food. We had King room with a comfortable bed and of course, our own pillows that we always bring with us for overnight-stays.
Orignally, we had planned to go shopping at one of Peg's favorite stores, The Watermark, but naps were calling. We left the option open, but the option was never picked up.
While Peg unpacked and then sacked out, I watched football. I cheered on the Washington State University Cougars. When Mike Leach was named head coach for the 2012 season I was excited. I thought his passing attack would liven up the team and pay off in victories and bowl games. Didn't happen last year, but 2013 was a great improvement, not stellar, but well on the way. I watched the game as the Cougs defeated Utah and became bowl eligible for the first time since 2006. They didn't go to a game in 2006 and probably won't go this year, but there is still hope.
Last year the Cougs beat my dear Huskies. I don't think that will happen this year, but I would guess that the winner of the Apple Cup will be invited to a bowl game. My third favorite Pac-12 team is the Oregon State Beavers. My favorite (and only) son-in-law, Rich Neill, graduated from OSU. My next game on TV was the Dawgs vs. the Beavers.
The game didn't start until 7:30, and I dropped off early in the third quarter. I was afraid that the Beavers would stomp the Huskies in Corvallis. Whoa. In freezing weather the University of Washington handed Oregon State one of the worst beatings I've seen. OSU's premier quarterback who was sky-high in September and October was thrown back to the Earth time after time after time. I think the Huskies even took volunteers from their fans to play in the last quarter. The score was 69-27. All 27 points from Oregon State were scored in the fourth quarter and well beyond any meaning in the competition.
Before I drug myself to bed, when we were ahead about 47-0, Peg and I snacked on a fruit cup (mellon, cantalope, and red grapes) from the snack area just off the main lobby and the leftovers from Salty's.
The bread, the prawn, and the crab cake were just as good as they were earlier in the day. The calamari had even improved. It had thinly sliced peppers and I ate every crumb and nugget. The crab cake also had thinly sliced celery, which added color, substance, crunch and flavor.
This was a perfect dinner for a great football evening . . . I mean anniversary evening.
I'm an early riser, but when we go away for a weekend, I do my best to let her let her sleep as much as I can. She needs more sleep.
Up early I checked my emails and planned out a new marketing campaign for a client before heading downstairs to breakfast. I grabbed the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal and the Sunday News Tribune and was escorted to a window table in the Courtyard restaurant.
In the buffet alcove I passed on the egg dishes (complete with chef-ready assistance) and chose grapefruit sections, cantelope pieces, a half-slice of banana bread, sausage and bacon. When Peg saw my photo she was please that it had some healthy selections. I didn't tell her that I had already eaten one of the sausage patties and several pieces of bacon before I took the photo.
I don't know if the Marriott tries for an international feel with their staff, but it sure looks it. I appreciate it. I also appreciate the excellent service. Matt (Asian heritage) welcomed me an served me coffee and juice. Kelsea (African-American heritage) served me more coffee and cleared away plates. A kitchen helper (Hispanic heritage) nodded to me and wished me a good morning and even patted me on the shoulder.
There was nothing forced about any of the smiles and service. Everyone seemed genuinely happy to be doing their work AND wanted to make sure that their guest (me) was enjoying my stay at the Marriott. I was.
I returned to the room for a combination shower and bath and then sat down at the computer. I woke Peg around 8:30. After her shower we returned to the restaurant for her breakfast. Afterwards we visited the computer/reading room just off the lobby, where we sat side by side sharing articles and comments from the news. I made myself a green tea and lemon beverage, while Peg had more coffee. We read about the latest books and conquered all of the trivia questions in the Tribune. We usually do.
I read a review of a book about the plains tribe chieftain Red Cloud: Bob Drury and Tom Clavin's "The Heart of Everything That Is" and I’lll propose it to my book group next week. We generally read non-fiction. This month's selection is a science fiction novel by a local author that takes place in Seattle, "The Target" by Ed Hayes and Kathie Hayes - a mother and son writing team.
(PEG) This weekend was the end of my two-month long birthday celebration. It starts on September 11 and ends at our anniversary and Don found notices of things that I like to do. He noticed a few weeks earlier that King's Books was sponsoring a two-day event spotlighting authors and artists. I took a cab there and enjoyed the creatively designed artist’s products. There were many “steampunk” jewelry pieces that I liked. I bought a set of six beautiful letter press thank you cards with a gorgeous mottled green fern graphic made by Katie at Little Green Cards.
Of course, I had to look at books, even though the artists’ display tables blocked some aisles. But I’m resourceful and worked my way around. I bought a nutrition book called “The End of Overeating” by Dr. David Kessler, about how food manufacturers process healthy and non-healthy ingredients into non healthy food that appeals to every person who likes fat, sugar, and salt. I also bought a book with photos of Cezanne’s paintings and “The Orchardist” by Amanda Coplin, a really good book about abandonment, isolation, resilience and hope; so far that is I’m not far in. I look forward to evenings sitting in a my-sized chair with a good lamp and a cup of ginger-lemon tea on the small table.
When I got tired, I went next door to Doyle’s Public House (just across the small parking lot), an Irish pub with numerous specialty beers and hearty food selections, such as their house specialty, Shepherds Pie. They have a beautifully decorated chalk board with the daily specials. I had a cup of the lobster bisque. It was very good but really tasted like a thick white bean soup, one of my favorites.
I read, watched the people and did a little art as I relaxed and enjoyed myself. I also had a nice cup of green tea. After refresing my energy I went back to King's for more art and more books.
(Don again) I had sent Peg by taxi to King's Books, but picked her up at the end of her shopping spree. We wanted to see the film, About Time at the Grand Cinema. The film had been there for some time, so this weekend was our last chance to see the romantic comedy. The film reminds me so much of Groundhog Day, which has the main character going back in time to the same day and learning to appreciate life and the people in it. About Time stars Bill Nighy, Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams. Cute, good actors, especially Bill NIghy, make a huge difference in a light romance-comedy
. It was written by and directed by Richard Curtis. I don't think I've ever been disappointed by anything that Richard Curtis has been involved with, from Bernard and the Genie, to Black Adder, from Warhorse and Love Actually, to The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. I sometimes laugh until I cry. I couldn't find a Bernard character in About Time, but almost always there is a character in his screenplays named Bernard who is disliked. In college Richard was dumped by a girl friend for someone named Bernard. I like people who can hold a grudge.
While Peg and I were watching the previews before the movie, friends Brien and Kathy Elvins sat across the aisle from us. After the film we were chatting in the lobby and our friends Jan Runbeck and Mike Mowat who join joined us. They had been in the back of the theater. It's rare we go to the Grand and don’t see friends.
Jan and Mike were looking for dinner, so they also joined us at the Pacific Grill where we had reservations. Last March they had been our guests at Pacific Grill along with two other couples. Our server had been Diane who did a fantastic job of commanding the service for our party. This time at the Grill Diane had the night off, but Danielle, who has waited on us before stepped in and also did a fantastic job. The only time I've been disappointed with the food at the Pacific Grill is when they no longer offer something on the menu that I loved. For example, their bisque-like parsnip soup was absolutely wonderful, but possibly they didn't get enough people to try it. Otherwise, the filet mignon (larger portion) and their weathervane scallops are always perfect.
Jan ordered Dirty Rice. She has been monitoring Mike's diet lately. He has gone gluten free, which paid off in almost instant pain relief. Gluten free did nothing for me, but I'm glad it works for Mike. Jan's been supporting Mike in his food choices and rice is gluten free. Pacific Grill has notations on their menu about gluten free selections. Not every restaurant is as forward thinking.
I think what bothers Mike most on his limited diet is the loss of beer. It's a good thing that he likes red wine, as does Jan. I like an occasional beer or a glass of wine, but not usually if it's at night and I'm driving. This particular evening I was home free. The Pacific Grill is THE dining restaurant for the Courtyard Marriott. Peg and I both had a glass of Prosecco, a sparkling white wine from Italy. It's festive and has such a clean and refreshing taste without being too sweet or acidic.
I always look over the selections, but usually order the same basic dinner. I had the 8 ounce filet mignon, medium rare. It was spot on and served with a red wine reduction. Don't worry, the Prosecco didn't interfere with the taste. I shared bites with both Peg and Mike. The filet came with potato gratin with kale, sweet potatoes, gruyère and vintage white cheddar, along with sautéed broccoli and sauce bordelaise.
In addition I ordered a split lobster tail and two weathervane scallops. With scallops I always encourage Peg to order however many scallops she wants. I order two for me and I do not want to share. I love her, but there are limits. The scallops were roll-your-eyes delicious. Perhaps, I should have ordered three for myself. Oh, well.
Peg ordered a cauliflower and Gouda soup with bacon shards and ground black pepper on top. Very good.
For dinner, Peg had two scallops and a side dish of creamy polenta (charred rosemary + Laura Chenel’s goat cheese). The polenta was a great addition. It went well with the scallops. I traded a bite of lobster to her and was paid off with more than half the shallow bowl of polenta. In the south this would just be grits and cheese, but no matter what you call it, it's a treat.
I've enjoyed grits at Denny's and Alfred's for years, but it took a trip to Italy a few years ago to open my eyes about the possibilities of ground corn. Polenta with Parmesan cheese and a hearty marinara sauce makes my mouth water, perhaps, not after a full meal at Pacific Grill, but most times.
Mike had the roasted half-chicken with roasted root vegetables and duck fat croutons with natural jus. I don't know that the croutons were gluten free. I think Jan had one. He may have left one . . . and it was calling to me.
If Danielle was doing her best to make us happy, she achieved her goal. It was nice chatting with her and we certainly had a good time. Mike had ice cream and Peg and I shared a nice Olympic Mountain cranberry sorbet. We took no prisoners. Jan took home part of her dirty rice. Just before we left, the shift manager came over and made sure we had enjoyed ourselves. We assured him we had. Jan and Mike went home and Peg and I took the elevator to the sixth floor for our final night of our anniversary celebration.
Back in our room, we relaxed a little bit. Peg looked over the books and the notecards by Katie at Little Green Cards (see contact info above) she purchased at the special event at King's Books, while I watched a little of Sunday Night Football and then read a little bit before falling asleep. I awoke around midnight. Peg was watching “Hitchcock”, the movie starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren as Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Hitchcock and how they worked together to create the classic film “Psycho”.
I saw the film as a teenager and already read the book by Robert Block and had enjoyed it. I liked the film not so much as a thriller, but because it featured Janet Leigh. She was a heartthrob of mine then . . . and I can still feel the throb, today.
Monday morning I was up early again. I checked my email and sent some messages and posted some thoughts on Facebook as well. I always have something to say.
Next, I hit the lobby and began reading the USA Today, The News Tribune, and the Wall Street Journal. I make notes and add them into my own journal and create a "to do" list for my notebook. Even if I'm tired I still wake up early. I like early mornings and I'm usually anxious to start work. I figure I can always take a nap later if I need it. However, sometimes the needed nap has to wait. I like to strike while I have a clear mind. Reading the papers as well as checking out headlines and articles online are all part of the process.
In the restaurant I was surprised to find biscuits and gravy on the steam tray. One thing you can almost always bet on at a hotel breakfast buffet is that the potatoes won't be worth bothering with and the biscuits and gravy should be passed by. Even at regular restaurants I usually avoid the biscuits and have toast instead. However, I was rewarded this morning.
The biscuits were okay and the gravy passable, which are words of high praise from me. I'm a harsh judge of breakfast foodst. The restaurant greeter was Neal and I asked him about the biscuits. He replied, "Frozen dough, but we bake them." He continued with an interesting note, "They're by Pillsbury, the same biscuits they use at KFC. They brush them with butter before baking them." This was good news. I like the biscuits from KFC, McDonalds, and Popeye's Chicken. I'll sometimes just buy the biscuits. "And the gravy," I asked. Neal gave forth more information, "From a can, but we mix it with half-and-half." Nice to know, I like half-and-half.
As I sat in the nearly empty Courtyard sipping my coffee, the front office manager, Melvin Perez stopped by my table and asked about my camera, a Pentax K100 with an angle arm grip. I asked him to sit down and we had a nice conversation about cameras. I showed him a photo I had taken of the morning sunrise. I praised the people who had delivered the service I had seen over the two days and he recommended a different room for the next time we stayed (end of the building facing Union Station), but I kind of like facing Pacific Avenue.
Peg and I love the Fairfield Inn in Puyallup, which is also a Marriott holding. They are currently trying to build a “residence” hotel on Thea Foss Waterway. If they get it built we’d love to stay there for a longer visit and experience downtown living. With our friends Jan and Mike, along with our friends Donn and Debbie, we stayed several days in an apartment in downtown Barcelona a few years ago. It was so nice being right in the middle of a wonderful city. I would love to try that here in Tacoma.
We checked out and returned home, where we unpacked, fed clothes to the washer, checked phone messages, and sent out some invoices – characteristic of our usual business day activities, almost. We still wanted to hold on the feeling of the weekend celebration. While we had been at the Grand Cinema on Sunday, Brien and Kathy had mentioned Enough Said playing at the Blue Mouse Theater in the Proctor District. I thought that sounded like fun, but as the day wore on, our get up and go got up and went.
We had one more dining experience planned. Our reservations for the Lobster Shop were for 5:30, so we could have made the 7:00 showing of the film, but we knew that was just not going to happen. We ended our little vacation with an excellent steelhead dinner.
We arrived right on time, but found that even though we had reservations, all of the tables were taken. We could have sat at a booth, but they are generally uncomfortable for me. Seating preferences have not been something we usually think of, but that will change. Peg and I decided to take our normal perches in the bar. I face her and the bar, while she faces me and the view. Except of course on a late November date at 5:30 in the evening, there isn’t much of a view except for the sparkling lights.
Our favorite server at the Lobster Shop (South), Diane had the day off. Morgan took her place and did a good job, but we didn't see much of her. The restaurant may have been a server short. Perhaps, filling time slots for the holiday made adjustments difficult. We ordered from both the menu and the happy hour bar menu, which is a nice combination. We paid full price for dinner, but the signature salads were only $4 each instead of $8. The salads were refreshing, the bread toothy, the veggies well seasoned , and the steelhead was not over-cooked. What a great way to end our anniversary celebration.