For a great adventure you follow the planned pathway, but look for the little trails that can lead off to fun and unexpected results. Such was our adventure to Seattle in November of 2014 just days before Thanksgiving. Peg and I were still celebrating our wedding anniversary with a nice dinner planned at Maximilien and the play Pride and Prejudice at Book-It Repertory Theatre. Because I was walking with a cane and had my right foot in a compression boot for an Achilles tendon injury I wasn't looking for too many pathways to walk down. We got so much more.
We were trying out a new hotel to us, but one that has been around for a while, La Quinta Inn and Suites. The reviews I read sounded perfect, but you never know about reality.
The small driveway had only a few parking places, so we grabbed one where our car would stay until we left. In Seattle we rely heavily on taxi service. That way we can be dropped off right by the front door of wherever we're going and we don't have to search or pay for parking. Most cab drivers, however didn't know where our hotel was even though it was right in Belltown and close to the Seattle Center, but then a Seattle Taxi now depends more on GPS than hometown knowledge.
The front counter people were always helpful. As we took our luggage cart of gear up to the seventh floor we passed a little courtesy station offering lemon flavored ice water as well as a dispenser of hot apple cider. The dispenser was about ten feet from a guest computer station, which I used several time. Nice.
Our King Suite featured two areas: living and bath. The living room area had a King bed, an easy chair, and a desk and adjustable office chair. There were table lamps on end tables for both sides of the bed. This is a feature we love. Peg and I both read and the table lamps although a little less bright than we prefer, were so much better than most hotels provide.
The room and the lobby area are decorated with black and white images of Seattle. A nice trendy and friendly touch.
The bath area contained a long counter with coffee maker, a mirror and sink. The bathroom had a low to the ground tub and toilet. A major drawback for tall people.
The view was limited. It looked out onto an office building that was probably forty-fifty feet away. At first glance you think, "Boring," but as I relaxed on the bed I realized that the reflections on the widows showed off the construction work cranes of downtown Seattle and they were almost always in motion.
Our dinner reservation wasn't until 6:45. We had time to kill. The drive to Seattle was an easy commute. We only slowed a mite and we approached downtown. We took the Seneca exit, turned right on 6th, drove several blocks and turn right on Blanchard, two more blocks and then a right onto 8th. There is nothing like an afternoon nap. Peg woke me at 6:39 PM, which meant we had to hustle.
In the lobby we asked for a cab as Peg called our granddaughter Vanessa who was going to meet us at the Belltown Pub for dinner after she got off work. She was already there.
Vanessa is now twenty-five and completely grown up. She graduated from Seattle Pacific and decided to stay in Seattle rather than return to Tacoma. We've enjoyed seeing her transition from a picky-food person to one who is more open to flavors and cuisine. Sometimes we meet her for dinner and sometimes we take her to a play. We always enjoy chatting about her future and gossiping about the rest of the family.
Vanessa ordered a pork sandwich, while Peg and I ordered some German food to get the poor Oktoberfest dinner food taste out of our mouths that we had from just a few weeks before in Tacoma. We loved the red cabbage. Belltown serves some good pub food. I really enjoyed the appetizer which had included candied sweet potatoes, sour cream, bacon, and pulled pork. What's not to like?
Tuesday Vanessa's boyfriend, William was returning from Taiwan, where he had just spent a month with his parents. I'm sure they will enjoy their own private celebration for Thanksgiving.
On Tuesday while Peg slept in I had the breakfast at La Quinta, read USA Today, and accessed my emails. I then stepped out onto the small balcony and looked down, left and right, there wasn't much to see. From the balcony I had a view of the back end of a restaurant, Shilla as well as Denny Park.
Back at my laptop I looked up Shilla and read their lunch menu. Since we were eating dinner at Maximilien in the late afternoon, I certainly didn't want to dine on French food with a full stomach, but I thought perhaps on our way home on Wednesday we could have lunch before leaving Seattle. When Peg smiled herself awake I shared the idea. She looked over the menu and gave her approval.
I don't know how many times we've driven past Denny Park. Heading east on Denny takes us to I-5. There are usually a few people there . . . sometimes playing guitar. Denny Park is Seattle's oldest park and possibly the smallest. In 1861 pioneer David Denny donated the land to the city as Seattle Cemetery. About twenty years later the graves were removed and the cemetery was converted to a park. By 1904, the surrounding area had become residential, and the park was improved with formally designed planting beds, swings and other play equipment, a sand lot and a play field. Children were, from the earliest, regular users of the park, now I'm guessing not.
Denny Park, even in the late fall in the rain, is still a beautiful setting.
Standing outside the hotel, I watched the construction cranes as they alter the skyline of Seattle one more time. Our hotel view is probably the worst we've ever had in Seattle, but I didn't mind it. The reflections from the office building windows brought me out to the front of the hotel to appreciate the view from a brisk viewpoint.
I love seeing cranes. They stand for change and business, and hopefully improved economy. When we visited the eastern coast of Spain several years ago construction cranes seemed to be the national bird of Spain. From the latest information I've seen, they may now be extinct. That's never good. We must protect these purveyors of progress.
Our reservations for Maximilien were at 5:15. As the afternoon wore on I thought that perhaps I should have moved them up. I thought 5:00 would have allowed more time. We went down to the lobby by 4:30 and our desk clerk called a cab, which didn't show up until after five. During rush hour the minutes clicked on our fare meter. We arrived fifteen minutes late for our original reservation. Not good.
Luckily, our anniversary table was all set up with rose petals and chocolates. We were welcomed and shown to our table. As we looked over the menu our fluted glasses were filled with sparking wine. We had an absolutely perfect view of Seattle's Big Wheel, which turned just for us. Our waiter, Ali saw to our every need.
Peg ordered the French onion soup, while I ordered the "Duo de Foie Gras" which was a house cured and seared Hudson Valley foie gras with bing cherry, pear chutney, butter brioche and balsamic reduction. While the chutney was outstanding, I preferred the house made pâté along with the excellent French bread served with dinner. The brioche was a little dry for my taste, but I managed to eat it all of course.
I also ordered the cheese appetizer. The winner there was the Camembert, which is a soft, creamy, surface-ripened cow's milk cheese. It was first made in the late 18th century at Camembert, Normandy. The piece served was less creamy than most I've eaten. I liked it more. Grapes and Spanish almonds were excellent accompaniments, but the stand out was the fig jam. I could make a meal out of the house made pâté, the French bread, and the fig jam. If I did that I would miss out on something else. You've got to try it all to find out what you like.
For dinner Peg and I both selected Coquilles Saint-Jacques Amandine - Pan seared diver scallops, sunchoke purée, green gem, sautéed chanterelles, lettuce and almond brown butter.
Dining at a French restaurant anywhere in the world is a lot like dining at an Italian restaurant in Tuscany. They know how to cook what they want to present to you. Tastes differ a little bit though. I would never ask for ketchup, but for me a simple wedge of fresh lemon would have sent those scallops to the top of my best scallops list . . . ever.
The mixture of mushrooms was simply wonderful. The blend of texture and taste was perfect. I would order the scallops again . . . and again.
For dessert we chose a clafoutis of grapes. Clafoutis is a type of tart with pockets of fruit in a baked pudding-type base. The fruit is covered with a thick batter and baked until puffy. The texture is almost like a bread pudding. This was an ideal dessert to end the evening meal with. While waiting for dessert Peg stepped out for the telephone. I chatted with a fellow diner whose wife was also gone for a few minutes. He had the snails, which we almost always enjoy. He asked if I had ever been in Ft. Lauderdale, and I replied, "Not since my body building days." We laughed, but when I mentioned that my last time in Florida had been the Huskies victory over the Hurricanes, he nodded his head in appreciation and approval.
Peg returned to our table and dessert. I think we would order this again, but not for sharing. I could have eaten one just by myself and Peg could have taken any leftovers back to the hotel room.
The appearance of the dessert was fantastic with the fan of sliced strawberry and the swirly of ice cream. It was beautiful.
Throughout the evening Ali did a great job for us. Excellent food doesn't taste as well when it is served by lack-luster waiters. This is not a problem at Maximilien. Ali was helpful and beyond. Peg had stepped outside the restaurant to call a cab, but no one answered. Ali and the maître d'hôtel (head waiter, host or maître d who manages the "front of the house", of a formal restaurant saved the day. Ali told the maître d' and the problem ceased to exist. After dinner the maître d' saw us out and walked with us to Pike and Pine, where he made sure we waited under cover in the slight rain, while he stepped off the curb and hailed a cab for us. I think he took pity on me for my cane and compression boot.
The cab delivered us within a hundred yards of the old Seattle Center House, where Book-It Theatre produces its plays. We were anxious to watch the play, Pride and Prejudice, a favorite book, mini-series, and several feature film versions. This was actually the second time we would see the Book-It Repertory Theatre version and the third time we would see a play version of the novel by Jane Austin.
This production was being directed by the director who originally directed the Book-It version almost ten years ago. This was a pre-press night presentation labeled as Pay-What-You-Can. Really, what Book-It is doing is having a final dress rehearsal before the play is ready to be shown to everyone in the world.
The story was faithfully told. It ran a little long, but will sharpen up nicely. Mr and Mrs Bennett entertained with her birdbrained antics to get her daughters married off and his exasperation of her less than subtle machinations. Drawing room comedies delight with sub-plots and ploys all designed to make sure than no gentleman of means lacks a wife. We love it.
By the time we got back to the hotel we were exhausted. Peg slept in until mid-morning. I was up early and then napped several times myself. We packed up and drove about fifty yards to the Shilla Korean Restaurant.
What a gem Shilla is. They feature Japanese and Korean food. Peg searched through the sushi rolls. She settled on the Dragon Roll, which features "unagi" or eel. This is our favorite sushi. Quite often at many sushi restaurants the amount of eel or unagi is minimal. Not so at Shilla's and their Dragon Roll. The rice is formed around panko deep-fried prawns and then layered with avocado and eel. The roll stayed in front of Peg and she doled out slices to me. I'm not saying she was stingy . . . and I was never in danger of starving, but . . .
Shilla is located on 8th and Denny, directly across from Denny Park. There is both street parking, a small parking lot on 8th and another parking lot beneath the restaurant. They cater to predominantly Asian customers. That's always a good sign. For example if you wanted good German food, would you go to a restaurant that no Germans visited? Nein!
The miso soup was good. I would have like a few more pieces of tofu (and larger) in the soup. Peg's green tea was perfect and I settled for orange juice with my lunch. I did notice a sign in the window that mentions "free delivery." This pretty much sealed in La Quinta, located really, really, close by as a frequent stop for Doman adventures in Seattle.
I ordered the deluxe bento package. It was perfect! It was like roll-your-own sushi. There were two excellent slices of salmon and three of tuna. Peg and I shared back and forth of course. The bento package also contained panko deep-fried veggies and a prawn. The green bean and sweet potato were my favorites . . . the prawn is a given.
The glass noodles were tasty. I can't say enough about the barbecue pork, well, actually three pieces were not enough. I suppose I could have told Peg that it was too spicey and hogged down all of it, but Peg sees through me, and often lets me delude myself. The only problem with the Dragon Roll and the Deluxe Bento is that next time we might not try anything new . . . and that would be a shame. We may have to take Vanessa with us to both Maximilien and Shilla for some cross plate sharing. That sounds like a plan.
When we hit the freeway I was a little worried, but traffic quickly thinned out and we didn't have any problem until we hit Fife, where we almost always get off I-5 and hit the back roads to avoid the bumper to bumper. Peg took the best alternatives and we were home in almost no time. What a great adventure.