Our king suite featured a 42-inch flat screen TV in the bedroom and a 32-in flat screen TV in the sitting room. We used them both. The hotel has a constant cookies feature. You can always get cookies and coffee in the lobby. Peg ate two during our three day stay and I ate four . . . or was it five? They were good.
The hotel let us check into our room a half hour early. We took our suitcases up to the third floor where I placed them on the suitcase racks and then Peg and I headed to downtown Puyallup. The city of Puyallup has always been on the floor of the Puyallup Valley. South Hill, where we stayed, has been the home of the Greater Puyallup expansion. The main street in downtown Puyallup is Meridian and while it is one-way heading south in the downtown area as soon as you approach the Western Washington Fairgrounds it becomes two-way and climbs up to the ungodly congestion of South Hill.
Peg visited a consignment store she found several years ago when we stayed at the Tayberry Inn, a very nice Bed & Breakfast near DeCoursey Park. We had a very nice time on that Puyallup Adventure, also. Peg also stopped in at the Pioneer Bakery and ordered two kinds of rolls (our Easter dinner assignment), which we were to pick up the following day. Peg also found some antique China plates at Victoria Sells that she wanted to purchase and give as gifts. She had a very productive walk even if it only took her a few hundred yards away from where I sat and enjoyed the passing parade.
The motif of the deli is fire house or fire station or firemen. There are fire helmets and fire fighting gear everywhere. We were there on a beautiful spring afternoon, so many of the patrons chose to eat outside. Designating the bar area is a fire hose that stretches to form the drinking boundary.
The sauce was heavy, sticky, and salty. The ribs were a little tough as well. We prefer ribs where the meat just falls off the bone. It's less work for us, and it seems like we get more meat that way. Before writing Sparks completely off, I would like to try their BBQ sauce. There were plenty of customers, so the deli must have something going for it besides being close to the stadium and just two blocks from the fairgrounds.
The Holiday Inn Express has no in-room movie channel, however they do have DVD players (we had two) and a free lending library of DVDs to choose from. Peg and I stopped in at the desk after dinner and looked over their selection. They had many of the same films we had seen at other hotels with the movie channel. We chose Due Date and Pirate Radio. However, once we got to our room we both read instead. Peg had read several pages aloud as we traveled from Tacoma to Puyallup. Her book was The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark (obviously we had sparks flying during this adventure). Mine was The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba. The Spark book is the next book in Peg's book group and the Kamkwamba book is the next book in my book group (suggested by Peg from a Seattle Times book review). I read until I drifted off. Peg finished her book and then went to sleep.
I'm an early riser. I was up and on my computer at 4:00 and then went back to bed. I got up for good at 6:00 . . . well for good means until I took a nap after breakfast. I got dressed and went downstairs to the dining room for breakfast. Breakfast was interesting. I had been initially disappointed to find out that there was no waffle machine, but . . . Here was the good news:
the bacon was thin . . . very thin . . . but plentiful and tasty
You never know what to expect at continental or breakfast buffets at hotels.
I walked into the dining room, saw only one patron, picked up my copy of USA Today and looked around to find the best seat in the house. I took a four topper with my back to the food but facing the TV on the far wall and a nearer TV off to my right. The female patron left immediately.
I walked the length of the food counter scouting out and planning my attack. I took a Styrofoam place and placed a biscuit on it. With the tongs in my right hand my left broke open the small biscuit. It felt home-made: soft in the middle and a little crunchy on the outside. I then ladled on serving spoonful of sausage gravy over the two halves of biscuit. I chose a half-moon shaped and fairly flat omelet and bacon. I took that plate to the table and went back to look at the pancake offering. It was a little machine with a push button for two pancakes. I pushed the button and then stood around in fascination. I should have done this first and then prepared my biscuit plate, but you live and learn . . . even with a continental breakfast.
To the right of the pancake machine was a little pile of substantial paper plates and soon the assembly line pancake machine was rolling out the first pancake. I quickly grabbed four containers of whipped butter plus one packet of syrup in time to pick up my pancake plate of two griddlecakes and take them to my table. I buttered the pancake and then poured the syrup over the top with a little left over for the bottom cake.
I knew my biscuits were getting cold along with my omelet, so I took one last pat of whipped butter and placed it on top of the omelet after I turned it over looking for a little warmth to melt the butter.
I first tried cutting the pancake with my plastic fork and then switched to plastic knife and fork. They were a little tough, but not bad. They would lose in comparison to a fresh waffle and my favorite breakfast places in Tacoma would not be shaking in their boots worrying about pancake competition, but on the whole . . . not bad.
I pushed a half eaten plate of pancakes aside and pulled up the biscuit plate. I cut into the gravy covered biscuit. I was impressed. The biscuit and gravy were better than many breakfast restaurants I've eaten at. I ate both halves and all of the gravy and then cut into the omelet. After lambasting the Phoenix Inn in Olympia as having the worst tasting scrambled eggs I've ever tasted, I was prepared to deliver a second worst egg dish award to the Holiday Inn. Although the omelet was a little tough (there were quite a pile of them in the warming tray), it was okay. If some green onions had been thrown on top of the Velveeta before cooking it would have been very good. Of course it was a little cool, so it actually may have been better than I suggest.
I had two plastic glasses of orange juice, one of grapefruit juice, and one of coffee with a little Carnation Coffee-mate. The cinnamon roll would wait for another day. I was pleased. I was full. I was ready for my nap.
On the weekends breakfast is served from 6:00 to 10:00 am. I laid down and read a little of my book and then dropped off to sleep awakening a little after nine. I awoke Peg and we both went down to the dining room for her simple breakfast of peach yogurt, banana, and granola. I left her with a copy of USA Today and I left for grandson Riley's baseball game on Shaw Road. I've been to both baseball games and soccer matches on Shaw Road. Both Riley and his older sister Bailee play soccer and now little sister Laci will start playing as well. She's been kicking a ball almost all her life. The play fields are bordered on the north side by Shaw Elementary and on the south by a wetland. The Puyallup Valley is fertile. Almost anything will grow in the rich dirt even cattails.
Although I went to the ballgame to watch my Riley play, I watched the players on both sides. Riley had played with a couple ball players from the other team the year before and I have watched his current team play as well, so I can appreciate effort and skill. The nine and ten-year-olds are coming along nicely.
Riley's team, the Rays, were 4-1 after this game. Watching Riley play is almost surreal. He plays well. He moves like an athlete but without his uniform he's still just a little boy. His father, Patrick (our youngest child) was always a good athlete playing soccer and basketball. Riley's mother, Wendy was a high-jumper in high school, so it's not surprising that both Bailee and Riley move well and are great competitors.
My favorite play of the day was when Riley, playing catcher, bobbled and infield fly and dropped the ball. Going down to his knees he picked it up and threw the runner out at first . . . while still on his knees.
Near the end of the game, Brent Kirkpatrick, Riley's other grandfather asked me if I had taken any good photographs. I replied, "Well, on his home run, I got the hit, got him running towards first, got him rounding first, got him rounding second, got him rounding third, got him running home, and then got him sliding home . . . but other than that . . ." We laughed. Brent and Nancy Kirkpatrick live within half a mile of Patrick and Wendy as well as Wendy's sister Christi and her husband Scott. They see more Doman games than we do, but then we have more grandkids than they do, so it all equals out . . . somewhere . . . I think.
I left the game early, but with a substantial lead. Returning to the hotel I picked up Peg and we drove back downtown. We flirted with the idea of visiting the Farmers Market, but Peg was already having trouble breathing and the flowers at the market would have only aggravated her condition. Instead we went to pick up the rolls for the Easter Dinner at the Pioneer Bakery.
The pies and everything else at the bakery looked delicious. I didn't know when or where I would eat it, but I had Peg buy me an apple fritter as big as my head . . . and I have an awfully big head. Later when I opened the bag in our hotel room I noticed a cinnamon twist as big as Peg's head . . . but then her head is much smaller than mine.
While Peg was buying the rolls and snack items in the bakery, I went out onto the street to appreciate the art. There is art on almost every street corner in downtown Puyallup and some really beautiful pieces on the side streets as well, including murals. I looked at several pieces as I window shopped at the local pawn shop and smiled at people as they passed by on the street. Downtown Puyallup really feels like a small town.
Amtrak and The Sounder as well as numerous freight trains barrel through the town at high speed. The tracks cut the downtown area pretty much in half. The northern half is where all of the car lots are, and the southern half is where the restaurants and shops are. I get a kick out of one statue of a race car driver. He faces oncoming traffic as he's headed north towards the car lots.
The downtown area of Puyallup is very compact. When Peg came out of the bakery, we crossed the street to the antique store where she had seen several plates she was interested in. She pulled me around to several areas in the store showing me her found treasures. All were quite nice. I gave her my opinion of each one and then left her alone to make her purchases.
All of the plates either had hand-painted flowers or fruit. Each was probably eighty to one hundred years old. They were all quite beautiful. She saw them as gifts to friends and relatives. I think she will fall in love with them and they will become her's. The bowl/plate to the left was hand-painted in Japan (Nippon). Unlike some other antiques the plates were quite affordable.
I left the antique store and went further north up the street looking for Charlie's Restaurant, where we wanted to look over the menu and see if it was a suitable place for dinner. We had directions from the baker at the Pioneer Bakery. It was just a block away. Compact, indeed.
Peg and I had been discussing dining options for the evening: Sushi Town on South Hill, Mama Stortini's between Puyallup and Sumner, Mid-town Station in Sumner, and Charlie's Restaurant in downtown Puyallup. The town of Sumner is just a few miles up the valley from Puyallup, so distance was not a problem. Peg was leaning towards Sushi Town, but any city could have a Sushi Town. Charlie's is iconic Puyallup. The dining room features sepia tone photographs of the Puyallup Fair (actually the Western Washington Fair) from fifty or sixty years ago. It's very nostalgic.
Peg soon joined me with a bag of treasures. She was in a quandary. The plates she bought she now didn't want to give away. Oh, well. It's her decision.
We looked over the menu, ordered and then looked at the photographs from the fair. We talked about visiting the fair when we were children. I liked the rides, but loved the games and usually returned home with Chinese handcuffs (woven tubes in which you insert a finger into either end and then have to struggle to get your fingers out), plaster animals, and Kewpie dolls.
We decided since we liked the interior of Charlie's we should try the food. We ordered the fried prawns and oysters. The prawns were huge. They were excellent with cocktail or tarter sauce. Of course, we dribbled lemon juice on both the prawns and the oysters. The oysters were served with excellent French fries (you know you don't have to eat them all). The oysters were deep fried and crunchy as were the prawns. They were great appetizers. They filled us up and we decided we would come back for dinner that evening. They were advertising their Easter Brunch and if we hadn't picked up an invitation for the family dinner on Sunday, the Charlie's Easter Brunch would have been an excellent option to consider.
After lunch we continued shopping up on South Hill and then returned to our room for reading and napping . . . and computering.
After a hard afternoon of shopping and reading, we returned to Charlie's for dinner. The mural on the outside wall is just one of many other murals in the downtown area. We enjoy murals and almost all artwork.
Inside we looked over the menu, which was slightly different from the ones we had seen at lunch. For dinner they offered pan fried oysters, which is always a top choice for me. I finally got it down to either the Chicken Fried Steak or the Prime Rib Stroganoff. Peg ordered the broiled pork chops. I went for the Stroganoff and after perusing the dessert menu we elected to share a bread pudding. The dessert menu was printed on a card. What worried me was that the words Food Services of America were printed at the bottom. I chose to believe that the bread pudding was home made . . . it was very good.
The clam chowder was my appetizer. It has some nice pieces of clams. Peg's salad was a little blah. Peg's pork chops were almost overdone. They were still moist, but the meat was served white, where a little pink would have been perfect. The mushrooms were good. My Stroganoff looked like noodles and gravy. the chunks of prime rib were good, but the fettuccine and sauce left a bit to be desired. I gave Peg part of my Texas toast and it soaked up the pork chop juices nicely. We asked for boxes. The waitress kindly put the dinners in separate boxes for us. The bread pudding was served with both aerosol whipped cream and ice cream. I'm guessing that the dessert wasn't really home made.
Saturday night dinner was a disappointment, but when we had the leftovers for lunch on Monday I improved their taste exponentially. I sautéed more mushrooms in olive oil with Mrs Dash and ground pepper along with garlic powder. I cut up the pork chops into good size pieces so they wouldn't cook too much and three them into the cast iron frying pan. I then added a few squirts of ketchup and pinot noir. After a reduction of the wine, I added some more pinot and then added the leftover Stroganoff and some freshly boiled egg noodles. After everything was warmed through, I poured it all into a large bowl and added a couple good sized dollops of sour cream, three good cranks of cracked pepper (perhaps I should have added a couple shakes of paprika) and finished it off with some grated Parmesan cheese. Served with green peas the Stroganoff tasted more like it should have in the first place. I really should have eaten the pan fried oysters. I'll go back for those. And, I bet the chicken fried steak is exceptional.
After dinner Peg and I returned to our hotel room to watch Due Date starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis. For some reason this film had high ratings, but as we all know, there is no accounting for tastes . . . or their lack. Some films used to claim "a laugh a minute." For Due Date that more like their hourly rate.
The movie was directed by Todd Phillips who made The Hangover, which Peg and I really enjoyed. For us Due Date was Doo Doo Date and a bad remake of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Basically, two polar opposites are forced together for a journey. Peg and I watched it through to the end and were thankful that we had not rented to movie for $13.95 at either of the last two hotels we stayed at. Thank you, Holiday Inn for saving us nearly fourteen bucks.
After the movie I snacked on my apple fritter as big as my head. Note: if you look at the fritter closely you can make out my face . . . or is that the Pillsbury Doughboy?
On Easter Sunday I entered the dining room for my continental breakfast. One woman sat eating. She left fairly soon after I walked in. I have a way with women. Two other men eventually took over a table each to watch the news on the 42 incher.
I looked over the breakfast offerings, which were slightly different from the day before. Instead of bacon there were sausage patties and instead of omelets there was scrambled eggs. Once again I chose a plastic glass of grapefruit juice, one of orange juice, and a Styrofoam cup of coffee with hazelnut flavored Coffee-mate. I altered my other food choices, however. I selected two sausage patties, passed on the scrambled eggs but gave in to a biscuit. I added a little sausage gravy for the biscuit to accompany the patties. In addition I chose a cinnamon roll, which felt light and fluffy.
The sausage would have been improved with a little spice, but other than that it was good. Again, the gravy and biscuit was nice. The cinnamon roll was a very pleasant surprise. I ate all of my roll. I looked over the counter to see if there was anything else different and remembered that Peg had mentioned a refrigerator. I looked to the right of the counter and found the cereal dispenser, which I had dismissed and next to it stood the fridge. I opened the door to check out what they had. Different containers of milk, yogurt and HARD-BOILED eggs! The eggs came two to a plastic package, like I've picked up in Safeway. The easy open package gave me two eggs with salt and pepper. I cracked the eggs and peeled them carefully not wanting any little egg shell surprises. I added a sprinkle of salt an pepper and then ate them both.
I cleaned up my mess and then leafed through a magazine I had brought along. A young staff person came out to tidy up and I asked her a question about the biscuits. She confessed this was only her third day, so she retreated and brought out Judy. I had seen the both of them conferring earlier.
Judy Whitaker is the Breakfast Manager for both the Holiday Inn Express AND the Best Western Hotel, which is directly across the parking lot in the South Hill complex. She was pleasant and answered every question I had about the food (most of which comes from Food Services of American).
The biscuits are delivered frozen. They are thawed and then heated by the display itself. Judy is still experimenting with the biscuits. Obviously, she wants them tasting as close to homemade as possible. I'm willing to bet they would be good with butter and jam just as they are.
The pancake machine is something new. Perhaps she can tweak that into something more homemade as well. The cinnamon roll comes from Ne-Mo's Bakery out of California. The rolls thaw in an hour at room temperature.
Judy had an answer for everything. The cookies? A combination of Food Services and Otis Spunkmeyer. No wonder I loved the cookies. I began eating Otis Spunkmeyer cookies when they first appeared at convenience stores in the 80s. My sister Marsha worked for the Frank Russell Company at the time and they started making the frozen cookie dough available to their employees. Frozen Spunkmeyer cookie dough makes wonderful snack treats. Actually, cooked their varieties are still wonderful.
I mentioned to Judy that we had recently gone to the Silver Cloud in Bellevue with three granddaughters, where they were able to use the Bally's pool next door to the hotel. Judy said it was the same in Puyallup for the Holiday Inn and the Best Western. The Holiday Inn has been remodeled and now has its own pool. The Best Western is undergoing remodeling.
After Judy went back to her duties, the young staff member came back into the dining room. She works part time in housekeeping as well. She asked my room number. I answered, "327." "I haven't cleaned that room, yet," she said. She was nice. Having grown up in my parent's motel in Ponder's Corner, I felt a connection. She was so friendly . . . and young. I began cleaning rooms and renting rooms from the seventh grade on into my college days at the University of Puget Sound.
Peg went shopping while I stayed in the hotel room reading. She returned disappointed. The stores she wanted to visit were all closed. It was Easter . . . but I didn't want to bring that up. In the later afternoon we left for Easter dinner, which was on North Hill as opposed to South Hill. This means just across the valley in the home of Scott and Christi Gillette. Christi is the older sister of Wendy. The family is from Van Nuys, California. Christi came north to Pacific Lutheran University, fell in love and got married. Wendy came north to Pacific Lutheran University, fell in love and got married. The parents and grandparents got the message and moved to the Pacific Northwest.
There were about twenty people for dinner. They were either friends or family. All fit in. We had a nice time. The temperature outside was no longer 65 degrees, but there was plenty of warmth inside.