It was a nice Memorial Day. Peg and I worked around the house until mid-afternoon. As we drove away we started making plans. We checked out Point Ruston . . . lots and lots of people, not surprising on a warm, very sunny day. The movie we wanted to see started in ten minutes or again in the late afternoon. We decided to just drive. A few weeks earlier we had seen a community garden located about two blocks east of the University of Puget Sound. Actually, the lawn outside the fenced off garden had been the site of a bloody battle at the end of the staging of Macbeth by a friend and his wife, their friends and assorted kids. One of the three hags, witches, was their beautiful daughter, although you wouldn’t have known it with the green face makeup!
We drove past Junett Garden, one of the neighborhood gardens in Tacoma, located at North 16th and Junett, circled the block and came back to park. Until we saw Macbeth and, carrying twigs (the Birnham woods ), went down the alley to the Garden, we didn't know it existed. Our first home purchase was just blocks away as well, as were our second and third homes. Peg and I met while attending U.P.S. and we stayed in the area for quite some time. It's a comfortable neighborhood. There are lots of craftsman style homes in the area that feels so like a small town. We've been in our present home well over thirty years and it's also just minutes away from U.P.S. but more minutes. We have pots on our sunny deck for growing tomatoes, assorted herbs and flowers.
Tacoma has more community gardens than Seattle. Peg grows tomatoes every year along with strawberries, rosemary, chives and flowers on our deck. But our crops would be unable to feed us for more than a few handfuls at a time. We admire other's gardens, especially if they’re so tidy and pretty.
We let ourselves in the latched gate and talked to an actual gardener. Her light peach T-shirt played nicely against the background of flowers and vegetables. She was a bundle of information. The city provides the space, hoses and raised beds, as well as the dirt and Tacoma’s homegrown TAGRO, the fertilizer. The beds were without water for a few weeks when the city’s water workers were called away from fixing a leak to test for lead in the local schools’ pipes. The flowers and vegetables only recently had access to water, except for those hardy gardeners who were bringing in their own water.
We lucked out. Our friendly gardener shares a raised bed with three other gardeners. They take care of their own plants by regulating the heat via opening and closing the greenhouse plastic covers that protect their beds. The four gardeners (and another four beds in the garden that are similarly worked by friends) bought and installed the hoops and plastic covers and put in drip lines. The local gardeners also bought and spread gravel between the beds to make it easier to work in wet weather. Some beds are just two in a row and aren’t covered. Some people grow flowers, vegetables, fruits, and berries. We saw a couple huge strawberries still on the vine. They looked tasty but they weren’t ours so we resisted the impulse to taste. Our friendly grower gave us fat pea pods that she grew too many of and didn’t see the pods until the peas were full grown. They were sweet and crisp and we were grateful.
When I asked our guide about what I thought were leeks (the stems were really thick), she replied that they were a variety of onions that weigh in at around a pound each. Those could spark some serious Western Washington Fair Burgers. Fair Burgers are greasy and smothered in grilled onions. People form long lines to buy them.
I think Peg and I will return for our own little picnic at Junett Garden. We could bring our own chairs and sandwiches, perhaps sharing some, and dine in the shade of the gazebo. I’d have no problem working in the garden and weeding. I could watch others do that all day, especially if I'm comfortable.
The garden is strictly a "look but don't touch affair"; however, we appreciated the by invitation only snap peas while we were guests.
Next door to the garden is a pathway that leads to the Buckley Gulch. Our new friend even told us all about that. Over the years parts of the gulch have been filled in and bridges removed; sometimes people build on areas of fill, which doesn't always work well and homes need to be made stable with under pinning.
As we drove away we tried different alleys and streets to see how much of the Gulch still existed. We soon found ourselves on North Oakes and 21st. Our first house was at 1422 North Oakes, just a few blocks from the gulch. We were on familiar ground . . . so to speak.
Much of the gulch along North Oakes is fronted by homes. At North 21st a bridge provides a way around it. We lived at 1921 North Fife while the kids were still young and attending school at Lowell and St. Patrick’s, both of which were just over the hill and two/three blocks away. The corner house on 21st and Fife was owned by Mrs. Pflugmacher, and our kids’ kindergarten teacher, Miss Pflugmacher grew up there. It’s a small town. Our house on North Fife looked out onto the gulch providing a nice green view for our craftsman style home. We never knew the name of the gulch then. It was just The Gulch. Our kids roamed in and around it. One time when Peg was home alone with the kids, our older son rushed home and told her that our daughter couldn’t get out of the gulch. Peg grabbed a broom and rushed across 21st and there she was, about 5 feet down on fill put in to support the new condos. She easily climbed out grasping the broom handle.
While we were in the U.P.S. area, we went to visit a local Tyrannosaurus Rex, miniature or very young dinosaur. We've driven by him every time Peg and I join friends at the Original Pancake House on South Pine for Sunday breakfast. We're always in a hurry to beat the crowds and then usually have something to do afterwards, so we'd never seen it up close and personal. A leisurely holiday drive was a perfect time for a visit.
The dinosaur is welded of various motorcycle and car parts with sheet metal pieces as bridges for the pieces. From the road I thought the plate on its head was his eye, but no, he has a gauge of some sort for either eye and the plate is part of his forehead, well, we couldn’t figure out its anatomical purpose . . . perhaps ornamental in nature to woo a member of the opposite sex. Rust provides the color. In conversation with a friend who grew up in the neighborhood, he said he’d seen it there for years. When he was a kid riding all over the neighborhood, U.P.S. students rented houses all over the area and the art students put exhibits outdoor on the campus and at their own houses. He’d seen many shows.
I love welded art. We see some from time to time on the cable TV show American Pickers. Here in the Pacific Northwest there are pieces along pastures next to the freeway leading to Ocean Shores at Mud Bay. And at Ocean Shores there’s a welded horse . . . I'm not sure if he's gelded and welded or just welded. And if you take the Mountain Highway to Mount Rainier, the last time I was there an artist has a pasture full of welded animals and other constructions, right across the street from the meadow where elk graze.
Since it was a holiday we felt free to park in the one hour parking space behind the UPS Store on North 26th and North Proctor and ignore the time. The space is for the UPS Store and Blue, the Goodwill consignment shop.
Although Blue sells used . . . or rather pre-owned apparel and household goods, they are in excellent condition and fairly upscale. Peg found two nice necklaces and showed them to me. I responded by saying, "It's almost Father's Day, go ahead and buy them."
The necklaces looked perfect on her. One had fused glass and beads in shades of rose and copper with accents of burgundy, so it matched her hair. (My hair is NOT rose and burgundy!) The other had glass and beads of clear and aquamarine blue. That necklace matched her eyes. How could I turn down those eyes? Besides she’d have bought them for herself anyway. She had cash.
After checking out the door to Culpepper's Books and finding it locked (Thank God! – Don’s response to me wandering a book store, new or used) we rounded the corner and went in G. Donnalson's for a late lunch early dinner. We call it lunner.
The restaurant used to be a wine shop, Pour at Four. It could still be owned by the same people - Peg's wine glass was etched with a clock with hands in the fourth hour position. The mural of a giant bottle of wine ready to pour was still on the wall, too. It was virtually empty: three women sat in the front, a man back by the bar, and the two of us in-between. The waitress was really sweet and nice. I could have had three Shirley Temples with "lots of cherries." I didn't even have to mention, "Your tip depends on it."
Donnalson's provides a watering bowl for dogs outside the door. North Proctor is just sooooooo quiet and family oriented. As we sat at our table I saw a multitude of young bike riders with blue and pink helmets pedaling training wheel vehicles along the sidewalk.
Across the street is a hobby shop and a cobbler along with an artsy home decorating store, which is right next to an artist owned and manned gallery and then a place where you can buy gourmet bird seed. Okay, I'm guessing about the gourmet part.
Soon we were eating our salads. They were spinach and pear, tossed with dried cranberries, onions, with house balsamic vinaigrette and topped with goat cheese and candied walnuts. We both loved the salad.
It's remarkable when you start having favorite salads at different restaurants. We love the grilled romaine salad at Adriatic Grill and the Signature Salad at the Lobster Shop. They all have green fruit in common. It's pear at Adriatic Grill and Donnalson's and apple at The Lobster Shop. All also have nuts and blue-type cheeses sprinkled on top - all are very good.
At the Adriatic Grill I love their salad in combination with the steelhead and spaghetti squash. At the Lobster Shop I love their Signature Salad with the Ahi nachos. And at Donnalson's we're still trying to decide which entrée will be a favorite. I might have to come back. Their Signature Burger could work better if I order it correctly.
I forgot to order my burger medium rare. The burger is a seasoned 1/3 pound beef and pork patty. It's a hand formed rather than a frozen patty; love that. It's fire grilled and served on a toasted artisan bun. They add lettuce, tomato, pickle, and their special sauce. It was supposedly topped with frizzled onions. I recall seeing a thin little coated onion. I was expecting something like French's Fried Onion Rings. I was disappointed in that one small detail.
I ordered the burger with Stilton cheese and bacon for $1 each. You can also get a fried egg on top for another dollar. If I had ordered the burger medium rare, with a double helping of Stilton, and double bacon . . . and more onions, I think it would be a killer burger. Stilton is a very sharp English cheese, like a combination of Cheddar and bleu cheese - very sharp.
I also forgot to ask for the coleslaw instead of French fries, but the fries were very good. I forced myself not to eat them all. I don't like fancy coleslaw, so I still need to try that out as well. As second choice those fries weren't bad. They were nice and greasy, just like they’re supposed to be.
Flatbread with toppings makes a great pizza-like substitute. Peg ordered the Roasted Mushroom with Brie. The bread was a little too crunchy for me but I did like the taste. Peg loved it; she enjoys lots of veggies, especially mushrooms. They offered three flatbread pizzas - Shrimp and Chimichurri with prawns, cheese, chimichurri, and lemon crema; Roasted Mushroom and Brie with a medley of mushrooms, herbs, mozzarella, and brie; and third one would probably be my favorite - Mushroom and Sweet Italian Sausage with fresh tomato.
I like sweet Italian sausage . . . even for breakfast with country gravy, toast and hashbrowns.
While we waited for dessert, Peg opened her bag of necklaces from Blue and looked at them with a sweet smile on her face. She loved them both. I call it money well spent.
Dessert took forever and we were the only people in the restaurant by that time. One of the items was a chunky chocolate chunk-caramel cookie served right out of the oven. A good idea, but . . . I think it should have been put in the oven as soon as our lunch main course was served. I think they waited until we finished our main meal. As we waited we got restless and bored.
The cookie was good, but it a tad over-done. This doesn't work well for natives of the north end. We know that within a couple hundred yards of the restaurant we can walk up to the counter at Metropolitan Market and get The Cookie, a perfect, warm, thick chocolate chip and nuts cookie for the half the price. To be fair, Donnalson's served their dessert with ice cream, but I know I could get a better cookie served with gelato at MM.
The other dessert was a poached pear with ice cream inside and a side of ice cream with a wine sauce. The problem was that both Peg and I were expecting something different. The first time we had poached pear, it was poached in Champagne and then had a chocolate ganache poured over it and was served warm. This pear was stained wine color and served cold. Ice cream on the inside seemed like an add-on with no wow factor.
Most of the adjustments for better food start with Peg and me. We just had a sampling and for the most part we loved the food. The service, other than the slow cooking time, was excellent. The restaurant is in a great location for us and there are many other items on the menu that still call to us. We give a hearty thumbs up and hope to dine again and give a better review.
It was a lazy day, I was with my wife and we were chatting away, peacefully. We had a wonderful afternoon, so it was a memorable Memorial Day for us.