Although we pride ourselves on a little adventures and get-a-ways, this one was more get-a-way than adventure. Following a two-day sleep-over by a five year old granddaughter both Peg and I were ready to just relax and veg out . . . well, as much as we could anyway. We traveled to Seattle for the opening night of 9 to 5: The Musical at the 5th Avenue Theatre.
For the trip, I tried my luck booking a hotel with Hotwire.com. My luck held. We ended up with a two-queen room at the Hotel Monaco in downtown Seattle, we would have prefered one king, but for the price we made do. The Monaco had no view, but the room was really nice and the staff were great.
We were in a quandary whether to dine at Benihana, which is just across the street from the 5th Avenue Theatre or Sazerac's, which is the restaurant inside the Hotel Monaco and one of Seattle best places to dine. We had eaten there before with friends and the New Orleans styled menu was and still is very popular. Our minds were made up for us by taking a nap after checking in and entering a completely full bar and restaurant at six. We didn't figure on that happening on a Thursday evening. We turned around and walked outside and grabbed a cab for the block and a half uphill trip to Benihana's.
I paid the cabbie (and tipped him) for the trip, which took us a few blocks out of our way. As we stepped into the restaurant, we by-passed the patrons on the waiting list for dinner and walked directly into the bar and straight up to the counter and sat down right by the sushi chef. This was not our first time in the big city.
We looked over the menu and the pictures of the different sushi possibilities. We know what we like, but even so, it's good to try something new and we haven't tried everything. We ordered a dragon roll and a roll. The dragon roll has unagi or fresh water eel draped across the body of the roll, while the caterpillar has chevrons of avocado forming and covering the rice body.
Peg had a Sapporo beer, while I drank pineapple juice. We then ordered a spicy tuna roll and a salmon caviar roll. All were delicious. We had kept up a banter with the chef and as we finished he presented us with a nicely sliced orange segment refreshment for dessert. This was a perfect end to a lovely meal.
After sushi Peg and I left for the play. We had great seats (main floor - Row P just off the aisle). Once the curtain lifted the audience had a great time. The original movie came out over thirty years ago, but there were some funny comments based on our own knowledge of history. Dolly Parton, who starred in the feature film along with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin wrote the music. I love Dolly's music, but felt country western was an odd choice for the entire play. However, she had me at the forth song, I Just Might. This song was a powerful trio featuring the three principals. It was so stirring that it felt like something out of Les Miz with a country beat.
The touring company was excellent. Playing the Dolly Parton role of Doralee was Diana DeGarmo, who was a runner-up on American Idol at age 16. She's charted on Billboard and has been on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and toured nationally. Playing the Lily Tomlin role of Violet was Dee Hoty, who has two Tony nominations. Playing the Jan Fonda role of Judy was Mamie Parris who was just nominated for a Tony with Ragtime and was a five-time Tony winner with The Drowsy Chaperone.
At the intermission as I stood in line for the men's room, the guy behind me talked to his son on cell phone giving a review, "Wonderful. Spectacular. Fantastic." However, two women who had been sitting on my right didn't return from the break. Perhaps, they found other seats (there weren't many empty). The original 9 to 5 had been an anthem for women's rights in a fight against bias and prejudice, so it was a little strange to read Dolly's credits in the playbill that included a quote from Newsweek, "The woman is one of our national treasures, so let's cherish her for as long as we've got her . . ." That seemed to smack of ageism. Peg said she felt the same when she read that quotation.
Peg and I walked back to Hotel Monaco noting a bakery just a block away from the hotel. Looking around I glanced down Seneca and wondered about a sign I saw that read Bernard's. Across the street from the hotel I spied what I thought was a café and entered that information into my mental journal along with the other two bits of information.
Back in our room, we pretty much called it a night. Friday morning I awoke, checked email on my laptop and went downstairs. Picking up a copy of USA Today from the lobby table to accompany a copy of Redmond I went for a morning stroll . . . okay, so it was maybe two hundred yards.
The week before I had lost ten pounds. Friday morning I found a couple of them at Carolyn Ferguson's Belle Epicurean, which is also known as "Seattle's best Parisian Bakery and Café." Carolyn earned the extremely difficult and much-coveted “Le Grand Diplome” with degrees in both French cuisine and Patisserie from the renowned Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. I ordered a ham and cheese bun along with a pear and almond bun. They were bon buns. I returned to the counter to order a shortbread cookie for me and a citrus sugar cookie for Peg. Peg was lucky, it actually made it back to the room.
Knowing that Peg would still be sleeping, I grabbed a copy of the Seattle Times and the New York Times from the lobby table, poured myself a cup of ambition (a term from the song 9 to 5) and sat by the front window reading, thinking, and watching people both inside and outside the hotel. The Hotel Monaco also provides copies of the Wall Street Journal. Obviously, their clientèle is well read. The hotel also provides coffee and tea each morning in the lobby along with wine tasting each evening. We always skip the evening wine tasting, otherwise we would be in bed by six.
Normally, I would have been up in my room on the computer, but I have stepped up and purchased a Smartphone, so I can check my Facebook status, email and the latest news almost any time. The purchase was a business decision. I am pushing the use of QR Codes and Microsoft Tags as I get ready for the big wave of mobile surfing. After jotting down notes to myself, reading the papers, and drinking several cups of coffee I scooted up one floor to my room, where I deposited Peg's cookie on the dresser top a few inches from her head.
Peg rolled out of bed and wolfed down her cookie, but grimaced at the cold coffee I had left for her along with the sugar cookie. Peg took a shower and extolled the shower head force of water delivery. I had snuck out quietly that morning, but grabbed a wonderful shower later that afternoon. The shower was great and felt good on my body.
By the time Peg was dressed, it was time for lunch. This was a relaxing get-a-way remember! We wondered across the street only to find out that what I thought was a café, was a Seattle's Best Coffee shop. However, next door was Jasmine and we were welcomed in by Hai. We had excellent BBQ pork, ton katsu, and pad thai. The BBQ pork was thinly sliced and came with a plum sauce and a only slightly hot mustard. I could have eaten more, but probably didn't need it. The ton katsu we crispy and possibly the best Peg had ever been served. The pad thai could only have been improved by adding more bean sprouts, fresh basil and additional lime wedges. Hai was a great waitress and we left with a smile on our faces.
The two of us walked down to Belle Epicurean, where I bought some buns and returned with them to the room. Peg continued on up the hill to the public library.
Once in my room, I flipped through the list of feature films available via the hotel cable system and chose Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll, which is the biography of Ian Dury of Ian Dury and The Blockheads. If you have never heard of Ian Dury or never seen him perform, you need to check out his YouTube classic. He was one of a kind and one of the founders of Punk Rock. The film reminds me of Fillini. With the addition of English accents it was unwatchable. I watched as much as I could as I ate my pastries and flipped through Facebook on my Smartphone before turning the TV off and taking a shower. If closed captioning had worked, I would have watched the entire movie.
Dury was always a lot to take in. He either disappointed or insulted most of his friends and relatives as he consumed sex, drugs, and rock and roll. He was not easy to live or work with, but could he rock and roll. He was fairly short and had polio as a teenager. He wore a leg-brace and walked with a cane, so he always seemed to be a little bit different. While everyone else in his band The Blockheads looked like rock and rollers, Dury would sometimes appear in white face like a mime or wear a topcoat and bowler like the character Wimpy from Popeye cartoons. Strange indeed, but could he perform on stage. Besides the anthem of Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll, my favorite songs of his are Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick and his absolute, all-time, best song ever, Reasons to Be Cheerful - Part Three, which is part jazz, part Broadway musical, and part rock and roll. Who could ask for anything more?
Peg arrived back in the room in time for a nap. We decided that we would go to Sazarac's at 4:00. While she slept I read a few pages from The Big Burn.
The nap went a little longer and we didn't get down to the bar until 4:30. I used the time to read more of The Big Burn, which is the latest selection in my book club reading group. The book seems overly long and repetitive. Discussion of the book will come on Tuesday evening. I will not finish the book. Peg's sister Pat is reading the same book and having some of the same issues, while fellow members of my book club love it. The non-fiction book tells of the 1910 forest fire that raged over Washington, Idaho, and Montana. It's a hot topic. Although the book is about the forest fire, it really is telling the story of how our national parks became a reality.
When we got to the bar it was already full with a waiting list. We left our name and took the elevator back to our room. They called about twenty minutes later (our only phone call in two days). The place is always jumping. They have great happy hour prices, so we should have known enough to ask about the best time to dine.
Like we had done at Benihana's we chose our seats at the counter adjacent to the food preparation area. Our waiter was Derek. He was helpful and friendly. Derek answered questions and brought our snacks in record time.
One of my favorite cable-TV shows is Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares in which chef Gordon visits failing restaurants and tries to show the restaurant owners what they are doing wrong. He would have been proud of the staff at Sazarac. Top quality people. As orders were placed the chef would call them out. The rest of the crew listened and everyone worked as a team. Peg had a beer and then a glass of wine, while I had a Margarita followed by a 7Up (I did have to drive the elevator up a flight after all). The appetizers have great happy hour pricing. I ordered dates filled with goat cheese and wrapped in bacon, sweet potato fries, and pulled pork sliders. Peg ordered mushrooms and a pizza. Pieces of the pizza crust were a treat dipped into the wine/broth of the mushrooms.
While we waited for our orders and while we ate our orders and even after we ordered and ate, Peg asked questions of the chef and the cooks. Directly in front of us was German (spelled with a "G" but pronounced with an "H"), who made one pizza after another. (Like so many restaurant cooks, German is Hispanic.) On a good night German will make and bake 180 pizzas. He bakes them in a wood fired oven, which he stokes. He pops two pizzas in singly to the right of the fire. After about two minutes, he moves them to the left of the fire and after another two minutes he takes them out and places them on the working counter. There the chef finishes them with additional cheese and garnish and slices them with three cuts. He then wedges a plate between the counter and his belly and in one smooth motion slides the cut up pizza slices as a whole onto the plate. If the chef isn't there, German without missing a beat takes the time to grab the knife and cut the pizzas so it's one less step for the chef when he returns. With as many orders as there were, the chef and the cooks were in constant motion. They were a pleasure to watch.
While Derek was about to take away Peg's mushrooms and box them up for us to take to our room, we made the mistake of asking about dessert. What could we do? Mango puree with sugar cookies, lemon sauce, strawberries and blackberries and mint (oh, my), sprinkled with powdered sugar . . . had to be ordered. This last ordered proved to be the only problem order we saw all night. The chef came over and apologized because it was delayed because of a mix-up. Peg and I had enjoyed the show, and at the first bite we forgave all. The puree was sweet and tart, while the blackberries were tart and sweet and the entire combination was worth the entire evening. We enjoyed all of the food, but the mango special dessert was the topper.
Back in our room, Peg made herself at home in an easy chair with a great floor lamp. She began reading all of the papers I had amassed. I searched one more time through the movies and first watched a preview of The Company Men starring Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones, and Kevin Costner, and then we ordered it and watched it. Excellent movie with academy award possibilities for the stars.
After the movie, Peg made ready to watch something on PBS, while I dropped off and out for the next five and a half hours. I woke up a few times to play with my Smartphone and then got up about seven.
After picking up a copy of the Wall Street Journal and the Seattle Times in the lobby, I stopped at the registration desk and asked for the nearest diner. I wanted some plain, everyday American cooking. The desk clerk suggested Bernard's and a waffle bar where you could choose almost any kind of waffle you wanted. Waffles are very tempting, but Bernard's somehow had my interest.
As soon as the clerk mentioned the name I knew exactly where it was. Our first night at the hotel as Peg and I returned from the theatre I had seen the sign. I thanked the clerk for the recommendation and walked to the end of the block and turned down Seneca and in about fifty steps found myself facing a door out of the middle ages . . . a beaten up and weathered abbey door.
I opened the door and entered onto a dimly lit landing with stairs that took me down into what first appeared to be a pool hall with brown wooden walls. What reminded me of pool tables was the green from the seats in the booths and chairs. At least one of the booth seats was worn and ripped. I mentally asked, "What have I gotten myself into?' A waitress walked out from behind a small counter and greeted me, "May I help you?" She asked if I wanted to sit in a booth.
I looked around and chose an area a little better lighted, and sat facing the TV. I then turned my head to the right and found a mural of pink horned goat and symbols of peace.
Just days before coming to Seattle, I had written a review of breakfast places in Tacoma. Many places I shun because they don't have decent biscuits, or they produce white, flabby hashbrowns, which I refuse to eat.
I looked over the menu, noting that they even had grits and a smile came over my face. Although I declined to order the grits, a personal favorite, I did order biscuits and gravy, hashbrowns, fried eggs, and country ham. I found the gravy a little thin, but tasty. The biscuits had soaked up some of the gravy. Only rarely do I find restaurant biscuits that are edible. I ate every bit of my biscuits. The sausage gravy was as good as it was thin. The hashbrowns were brown and crispy without having to ask for them with my standard phrase of "burnt, burnt, burnt" and the eggs were perfectly fried and over-medium. Maybe this restaurant was a gift from god. Or maybe it was just St. Bernard coming to rescue me from bad breakfasts.
I ate almost everything, drank my coffee, read my papers and then went back to the hotel room to find Peg ready for breakfast. I told her I had just the right place.
Peg had a little less luck that I did. She wanted a German sausage omelet. The German sausage was sold out. She then ordered the special German pork loin breakfast only to find out moments later that the pork loin too was sold out. (Perhaps, she should have ordered the Herman sausage and the Herman pork loin.) We shared a glass of juice and read articles from the papers to each other. Peg had to settle for excellent bacon and perfect hashbrowns and eggs. Too bad, too bad. She enjoyed the breakfast but I think deep down inside she was licking her lips for some pastry.
We had a relaxing two days, found a hotel we were very happy with, visited our favorite Seattle sushi place, saw a fun musical, ate at a Parisian bakery, and found several good places to dine. Now, that is a great get-a-way and an adequate adventure.