Our Valentine's Day celebration in Seattle was pretty much catching an afternoon nap, going to dinner and getting to bed early. Oh, but we deserved it. As we drove from Tacoma to Seattle Peg read the first couple of chapters of The Dog of the South written by Charles Portis, the author of True Grit. Having Peg read to me as I drive is one of the joys of life. It relaxes me and I slip into vacation mode.
We checked into our new favorite hotel the La Quinta in downtown Seattle near Denny Park. Once we park our car, we pretty much take taxi cabs everywhere until we leave town for home.
After we unpacked we both laid down with books. I'm not sure who passed out first, but I woke up first. I continued reading Dog and waited for Peg to wake so we could go to dinner, which she did around five. We needed the exercise so we walked less than a hundred yards to Shilla, a Korean/Japanese restaurant directly across from Denny Park.
We had a very nice dinner. The miso soup was excellent and I loved the little plate of appetizers including the Korean version of potato salad. I ordered the Ox Tail Stew, which was good but not as good as Peggy's. I pulled out four hunks of ox tail and nibbled the meat off the bone. The meat would have fallen off Peg's oxtail. Peg had one bite, but she found the stew a little more spicey than she likes.
Peg ordered the Rice Bowl with Eel. It was fantastic. The piece of eel was about four inches wide by six inches long. It was a deep golden brown. I would order that next trip to Shilla. Eel is our favorite and this fatty, tasty selection was excellent.
As a family of diners left their booth, the mother stopped at our table and asked what was in the rice bowl. She had never had eel before, but I'm willing to bet the next time she dines there, she'll have the eel. Even at $23 it was a bargain. Most "unagi" sushi has just a small sliver of eel. This rice bowl was worth every penny.
The food at Shilla is not the only reason we dine there. The service is also excellent. They also deliver, but so far we've been able to walk the distance from the hotel. Perhaps, when we are really tired, we'll order out and have our meal come to our room.
Sunday morning I was up at five. I washed my face, combed my hair, got dressed and went downstairs. Normally there is no one on the two lobby computers and bright and early I had them to myself. With a cup of reduced hot apple cider I checked my emails, did some other marketing work for clients and then headed towards Capitol Hill to meet a friend for breakfast.
I figured that Sunday morning traffic shouldn't be a problem and was hoping that parking wouldn't either. I found the Manhattan Steakhouse, right next to the Pacific Supply Company hardware store. I loved their display of the 12th tin man . . . or 12th tin men? I circled the block a few times and then parked about a block away and walked in the brisk morning air to the restaurant.
My long time friend Al Burrage of West Seattle joined a few minutes after I ordered coffee and my selections. Quite often Al joins Peg and I for a meal and sometimes the theater. We've been friends for about forty years. Saturday evening Peg announced she would join us. Sunday morning she announced she would not.
We talked about old friends and such, but mostly about Al's latest project a back-up generator. Al has two side by side refrigerators/freezers. I would need both frozen food and frozen assets to pay what he paid for the wiring and the generator. I think perhaps his circuit breakers are broken or at least tripped. But he's happy.
I had invited Al for breakfast or dinner, but he was having a delayed family Christmas dinner. The explanation of the delayed family Christmas dinner got lost somewhere in the generator story. Maybe my wires are crossed.
When I suggested the Manhattan to Al, I mentioned that they offered four different versions of eggs Benedict, his favorite breakfast. They have a pulled pork version, a salmon lox version, a veggie version (which I knew Al would not order - his first wife would have) and the Manhattan (standard) version. Al choose the Manhattan.
Actually, the only drawback I could find with the food at the Manhattan is their "breakfast potatoes." I prefer hashbrowns. Al, also. The breakfast potatoes were served nicely colored, but with three or four chunks of red bell pepper. They were also served to a lesser degree than they should have been. However, Al left nothing to the imagination and left nothing on his plate, except perhaps some DNA. I'm pretty sure he didn't like his plate, while I was looking at him, but . . .
I ordered a waffle. The Sweet Potato Bacon Waffle was supposed to come with Nutella whipped cream. Instead it was served with a large helping of soft Nutella (a chocolaty mixture of hazelnuts) that was perfect with the waffle. I used a little of the syrup as well. I would have this again. It would go nicely with a thick slice of ham. But you know, waffles always taste like more. Sweet potato waffles taste like a lot more. I can see a two waffle breakfast with a couple of poached eggs on top somewhere in my future. I love the comment of Donkey in the movie Shrek, when he's inviting himself as an overnight guest, "And in the morning, we'll have waffles!"
Although the waffle was supposed to have bacon in the batter I ordered a side of bacon just make sure I met my pork quota.
In addition to the waffle, The Cajun Shrimp & Grits called to me. The waiter warned me that the shrimp were served with their heads on. I told him that I could certainly pull off the head of a shrimp.
The shrimp were served on a bed of white cheddar grits with ham, tomato, onion, jalapeño, and a poached egg. I don't remember the ham, but the soon headless shrimp were gone almost instantly. When I placed my order I had also asked for butter. I added a hunk of butter to the grits and added a little pepper. With "Cajun" in the name I thought the grits might have been spicey, but they were just tasty. The egg yolk of the poached egg broke nicely and mixed with the grits. For my next brunch I might just select two orders for myself.
Al and I talked for well over an hour. As I left I brought along a "to go" box of bagel and lox for Peg.
It was good seeing Al. After we headed towards our cars I did some window shopping at a Vintage store on East Pike. When I had walked past it on the way to the restaurant I had seen a beautiful necklace that I thought would be perfect for Peg. On the way back to my car, I decided it would be absolutely perfect.
Back at the hotel I searched for the shop online. I had the address, but I didn't see a name. When I searched for the address all I got was headings for "No Parking On Pike." Believe me, I knew that . . . and then I put two and two together. That was the name of the shop. They didn't have a website, but they did have a Facebook page. I dropped them a note asking about the necklace. Turns out it is very collectible, a Selro Sellini. I've made arrangement to purchase and have it mailed. This puts a great ending to our Valentine Weekend.
Sunday afternoon we met life-long Little Rock, Ark., resident Ray Midge, a 26-year old perpetual college student, obsessed with American history. As a measure of his devotion he reads from his collection of heavy tomes every evening after 9 p.m.
Ray only has two rules, no smoking at the table and no music after 9 p.m. His wife Norma is understandedly dissatisfied with Ray’s laws. She eventually runs away with Ray's friend, her first husband.
Midge bides his time as the credit card bills come in so he can see where they are. He carefully maps out their meandering path from Little Rock to Hotel Mogador in San Miquel Allende, Mexico, with his carefully dashed lines delineating their path. This is the story of The Dog of the South by Charles Portis and performed on stage at Book-It Theatre. We had front row seats and laughed and howled through the entire production. It runs through March 8th, 2015. Read Peggy's review here!
Book-It Theatre is found in the basement of the Food Court at Seattle Center. After the play we walked bast the Chihuly Glass Garden and Space Needle and hailed an Orange Cab. After sitting through four lights at Denny, the cabbie jumped behind a bus, spun around and through more traffic until he was in the clear zooming at about warp speed down the streets of Seattle. We arrived at O'Asian Kitchen several minutes before we left the Seattle Center.
Peg and I were quickly seated at O'Asian. She ordered a glass of white wine, and I ordered a Pomegranate Splash, which was both colorful and sweet. So much like me. Soon our family guests appeared. First arriving were granddaughter Caitlin and her boyfriend, Logan. They were so cute. They shared Smartphone images of their newly decorated home. Logan ordered my favorite drink, a Shirley Temple. It just looks so festive and I like eating the cherries. Next came granddaughter Vanessa and her boyfriend, William.
This was our first time meeting William. Vanessa and Caitlin are sisters. Both left Tacoma for Seattle and Seattle Pacific University. When we see them in Tacoma there is usually chaos involved with three more granddaughters, yipping puppies, screeching peacocks, and the insistent bahs of pygmy goats - such is the Doman household of our son Del and his lovely and hardworking wife Johanna who we've known most of her life.
Vanessa remarked that she had made William, Peking Duck before. If it was anything like what was served at O'Asian, I'm irritated that I wasn't invited to dinner. The duck was excellent. When I first looked at the serving I thought that there was only skin, but no, under each crispy morsel of goodness were tender pieces of duck.
Caitlin and Logan chose more everyday Chinese dishes. I think Caitlin enjoyed her Walnut Prawns, but Logan I think didn't liked his General Tso. Peg said she thought it was too spicey for him. If I had noticed I would have insisted on him ordering something else. I had a bite of his chicken and it was excellent, but then I like spicey food.
When we return to O'Asian we'll try more dim sum and consider other dishes as well. I heard a faint echo as we left the restaurant. I think the abalone was calling to me from the menu. "Next time, next time."
Peg ordered the Sea Bass for dinner. We had never had sea bass before. I have seen it prepared numerous times on Top Chef and other culinary TV programs. Usually I see a chef splashing oil on top of a thick piece of fillet as the bottom gets a nice crisp skin underneath. This leaves the middle of the fish just a little underdone.
The sea bass at O'Asian was much thinner than I have seen on TV. Peg gave me a portion, but I was disappointed. It tasted overdone to me. Peg liked the broth. When she ate her left-overs two days later she really, really loved it. The fish had soaked up the broth. We may have to try sea bass again at other restaurants as well.
When dinner was over there were hugs and smiles around. As we walked down the steps towards Fifth Avenue, William apologized for not being able to give us a lift in his two-seater. I told him not to worry. As they turned the corner our cab appeared. I think we walked through the sliding doors at La Quinta well before William and Vanessa opened their gar doors.
Generally no trip to Seattle is complete without a visit to the Frye Art Museum, Twice Sold Tales (a used book store), and Dick Blick. All of these places are in our favorite neighborhood, Capitol Hill. It's the location of our favorite B&B in Seattle, and the Seattle Fringe Festival. There are also lots of small restaurants that we like to frequent and sample from.
This trip to Capitol Hill was a little disappointing. I guess we don't normally wait until Monday to visit the Frye. We didn't realize they are only open Tuesday to Sunday. Twice Sold Tales was open, however. I parked two blocks away and read my book, while I waited. Peg didn't find one book she was looking for, but found another selection for her book group.
Dick Blick is an art supply store on Broadway, the main street on Capitol Hill. I parked in their basement lot and while Peg shopped for the exact pen she wanted, I carried on a conversation with Jimi Hendrix, whom I met on the street in front of Dick Blick. Jimi mumbled something about Catfish Blues and I said, "No, Peg had the sea bass." Sometimes with Jimi you have to fill in the blanks. Then Jimi was humming . . .Dolly Dagger. I made the connection, "Exactly, Jimi. We're going to stop at the Dahlia Bakery after we leave here."
The Dahlia Bakery is adjacent to the Dahlia Lounge, one of the best places to dine in Seattle. It's a Tom Douglas restaurant. Another favorite hotel of our's is the Warwick, which is on the same block as the Dahlia Lounge, Lola's (another Tom Douglas restaurant), and a block and a half away from the Palace Kitchen, yet another Tom Douglas restaurant.
When Peg finished shopping we headed back downtown to the Dahlia Bakery. I parked illegally while Peg bought cookies and a loaf of pecan and flax crusty bread. Peg was looking for something more to eat for dinner or snack, so we drove to the end of the block. I dropped her off at a little deli directly across the street from the Warwick Hotel.
We ended up with a cup of chicken noodle soup and a ham sandwich. We drove back to La Quinta. We don't have to dine at fancy restaurants to be happy in Seattle. Peg and I took a seat in the deserted breakfast area of the hotel. We dunked chunks of pecan and flax bread into the brothy noodle soup and shared a deli ham and cheese sandwich as we stupored out and watched the latest news about blizzards on the east coast while we relaxed and savored our Valentine Weekend Adventure to Seattle.
It's interesting how things connect. I mentioned Top Chef and sea bass. Sea bass was featured by one of the chefs in the latest competition, which had it's final two episodes in San Miquel Allende, Mexico, which I had never heard of. But San Miquel Allende, Mexico is exactly where the road trip in The Dog of the South took our hero, Midge. Tuesday morning we left the streets of Seattle and headed south . . . but stopped short of Mexico.