Monday, April 20, 2009

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Week in Seattle (Part two)

Red Robin and Northgate Mall. I love Red Robin...I miss Red Robin. One of my favorite family style chain restaurant. Great menu, atmosphere. Love (and miss) their Banzai Burger is great. (teriyaki, pineapple...and for those interested cheese, lettuce etc...i just love the teriyaki sauce and pineapple...yum). There Asian chicken salad...also really great. Fabulous shakes...and a tower of great onion rings...literally...they stacked them on a vertical stick...making a they don't stick all together while you are waiting to eat them. Had a great time with the family...10 of us. Afterwards I went with Laurie and Aaron into the mall because Laurie needed to return something to the Kitchen store. And lo and behold...a Sees Candy store...sigh...another thing I miss in the east. Had to go in for molasses candy, a bordeaux, and a mocha. heaven in a tiny white bag with brown print.

Gilman Village, White Horse Toys. When we were in Issaquah we stopped by Gilman Village for a walk around. It seems sad and lonely at the moment. STores have always come and gone but with the economy as it is...they seem more gone than usual. Couldn't believe the Sweet Addition Candy store was gone. But one of our old favorites from when jason was little is still there (but in a different location)...White Horse Toys. The quintensential old-fashioned toy store. Big sprawling with all kinds of toys for all ages. A wonderful spot. Jason and I looked for treats for Laurel, Will and James. Had a lot of fun.

Capitol Hill Earlier in the week, the boys and I drove up to the Capitol Hill area of Seattle and walked a bit on Broadway. Ate Dick's (okay...not as good as Kidd Valley, In-n-Out (in CA), or Five Guys (on eastcoast/south)...but good meat and good shake. Had excellent latte, mocha, and espresso at Vivace (bought beans for friend Verna). And visited a wild store: Metro Clothing Co offering clothes and accessories: fetish, gothic, military, subculture, and industrial..something for everybody no? Jason found a size 13 pair of white shoes with pointed toes (kind of pimp shoes if you ask me) for 20 bucks...I admit...they look great.

Steelhead Diner We had one of our best meals at lunch (late breakfast) on Saturday at the Steelhead Diner near Pike's Public Market. Steelhead is located at 95 Pine Street (at Post Alley). Tall ceilings, big windows, and outside terrace (overlooking Post Alley). Eclectic food heavily influence by NOLA (new orleans cuisine). I had absolutely fabulous fried eggs on grits...fantastic grits...with sausage. Jason had the "Rich Boy" sandwich with Uli's hot sausage. Yaric had the Flash Fried Oyster Loaf on a big roll. The oyster were perfect lightly breaded and crispy on the outside and still succulent on the inside. Jason also had the chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo...perfectly spiced. And we shared the fried chicken spring roll. A wonderful combination of crispy and fresh, sweet and spicy...lovely and delicious. We all highly recommend this place!

Byrnie Utz Hats and Wild Ginger One afternoon we drove downtown and parked around 5th and Pike/Pine for a bit of an explore. The parking lot under the Red Lion isn't cheap but its extremely convenient for the area. In walking down to Wild Ginger for lunch we passed Byrnie Utz Hats (since 1934). Located at 310 Union STreet (between 4th and 3rd) this is a real, quality (mostly men's) hat shop (although they had some fine sun hats and "go to meeting" hats for women. Stetson, Borsalino, Kangool. Big old oak cabinets. And both the boys found a hat. Jason finally found the top hat he's been searching for. He's been looking for at least 3 or 4 years for reasons that escape me...but he's been on a mission. But with top hats not exactly being in style and with him having a nearly size 8 head...its been a challenge. I fits him (in style and in size).

So with hat on head, we strolled down Union Street to Wild Ginger (1401 3rd St). Delightful lunch. Fabulous mango mojito...I'm really picking about mojitos, like them refreshing and not too sweet and the mint needs to NOT get stuck in your teeth. This was perfect. Food portions were very large so we ended up with way too much food. Phad Thai very good...nicely spicey. Spring rolls very good. Jason had a noodle soup (that I don't remember the name of)...he loved it. Nice room with big windows...good service.

Seattle Aquarium Had a great afternoon with Jennie and her 3 kids at the Seattle Aquarium. There is nothing like seeing the aquarium through the eyes of children...their wide eyed enthusiam for the octupus at feeding time, the "nemo" fish, the little sea horses (auntie annette, did you know that the daddy has the babies???). My favorites are the otters, sea and river. love them, love them.

A Week in Seattle (Part one)

Can hardly believe we've been here almost a week. Have had a great time. Don't even know where to start...let's see...let's start with food...since we've eaten many great meals with good friends.
Jak's Grill with Jim and Lynne Zeller: Drove out to Issaquah on Sunday night with the idea of having dinner with Jim and Lynne at Sushiman on Gilman Blvd (more on Sushiman later in the post). But they were closed for Easter, so we met at Jak's on Front Street instead, which turned out to be a great choice. Started in Issaquah in 1996 they now have 3 locations (Laurelhurst and West Seattle). They serve wet or dry aged beef at reasonable prices. They have a good wine list with excellent wines by the glass. The room has a good buzz/hum without being impossible to have a conversation with the person across the table from you. We had a great dinner (I had the steak salad which was very good) with good conversations getting caught up on the news of mutual friends and offspring. As much as storefronts on Front Street in Issaquah have turned over in the last 10 years it was great to see a survivor doing well (or as well as can be in this economic climate)

Las Margaritas with Jim and Sharon Hoel: Another Front Street survivor, our old favorite for Mexican food in the area. They've spruced up the interior, put in a "cantina" side, installed some great murals, and expanded their menu with good results. As always very good food with good portion sizes (speaking of portion sizes, my margarita was HUGE).

12th Avenue Cafe

Had breakfast/lunch at the 12th Avenue Cafe a long standing favorite for Issaquah diners seeking a great breakfast for a reasonable price and good comfort food for lunch and dinner. We originally went to the 12th Avenue cafe when it was actually on 12th Avenue in a peculiar round building with a pointy top. Its decor (then and now) was accented with photos and memorabilia of aviation, a nod to the time when there was an airport in old Issaquah at 148th street. Their pancakes and bacon are divine. Yaric's clam chowder was very good and his chili hamburger was...well...he had to eat it with a fork and knife...excellent. The 12th Avenue Cafe is now located in the shopping center off of Gilman that houses the Target.

Sushiman with Randy Holeman

We finally got to Sushiman (on Gilman in Issaquah) when we had lunch with Sensei Randy Holeman (our karate instructor when we attended the Karate West school of Shudokan style karate). We had a delightful time with Randy getting caught up on news from the dojo and his families life. The sushi was good but not as good as we remembered from our years in Issaquah. The California Roll was excellent. But the crunch roll was way to0 salty. The eel was a little over cooked. The yellowtail was tasty but bizarrely cut. And there was virtually no one there for one. I know times are hard and sushi is expensive but I was surprised.

Back in Time (for School) - Arbor

We drove out on Friday to visit Jason's elementary school (Arbor Montessori Schools) which he attended from 1st to through 4th grades. We met with mary o'brien who started the school and although semi-retired is still quite a presence there. Evan Flay (one of Jason's classmates) joined us too. It was quite the walk down memory lane as they've made many improvements and expansions over the years. But the core and the spirit of the place remains the same. Such lovely memories. Mary's oldest son Sean (who was a few years ahead of Jason) is back doing his student teaching. That was an amazing experience...we hadn't seen Sean in 10 probably...he was 15 he's teaching!

Walk around Mirror Lakes

Drove out one day to Tiger Mountain and Maple Valley to drive by our old houses and visit neighbors and our very favorite dentist of all times (Dr. Danny Rude, Maple Valley). We were in luck and both Peggy W and Mo R (some of our old neighbors were home). We visited and once again admired the beauty of the MirrorLake Pond. Took a walk around the pond and went by our old house (where once again more trees have gotten taken down, must admit it does let in more sun...but I loved those trees by the lake).

Black Diamond Bakery (donuts and other good stuff)

When we discovered that the old bakery and donut shop in Maple Valley is no more, we drove out to Black Diamond to the Black Diamond Bakery for donuts, muffins, and cookies. The historic bakery (established in 1902 in a building that is still part of the modern day bakery/restaurant) was and is famous for its bread baked in a brick kiln. We often went there for breakfasts (which they are famous for and has caused more than one expansion over the years). The donuts are still perfection...truly homemade...cake (not raised) with delicious rich frostings (not too sweet).

Fischer Bros Meats in Issaquah. Established in 1910 and owned and operated by experienced butchers this has always been the best place for quality meats. They have, hands down/no questions asked, THE BEST jerky (beef and turkey) anywhere on the planet. We always have to go by and get some when we are in town. Our friend Kim, swears by the bacon burger meat (with the bacon ground up in the ground round) yummm... We went by and got jerky enjoying the smoky wonderful smell of the shop and grateful to see "bear" still sitting on a seat near the window where it has sat for at least 15 years...Jason used to love to play with bear whenever we visit when he was younger.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sunday in Seattle

Sunday dawned gray and drizzly. I let the boys sleep in recuperating from travel the day before. Around noon we ventured out and headed down towards Elliott Bay in search of Easter lunch. Jason remembered Cutter's a fabulous seafood restaurant down by Pike's Market. Fortunately for us Cutter's is still in business, still fabulous and had room for us. We ate oysters (yaric and i loved them, Jason gamely tried one and didn't gag but that's the best he'll say about it), wild coho salmon, macadamia nut covered tilapia, an apple cobbler, and great wine. It was wonderful to sit in the festive room overlooking Elliott Bay watching the ferries crisscross the bay. It brought back memories of many other sunday lunches at Cutters during our years here including their fantastic garlic rosemary focaccia that you can smell the minute you walk in the door.

After lunch we walked through Pike's Public Market which was largely open for business. It was wondeful: interesting crafts, wonderful flowers, chukar cherries, art, views across the rainy Elliott Bay to the harbor, buskers playing guitar and singing. Again, we were walking in memories through the market of so many weekend visits in search of vegies, fruits, fish, "teeny" donuts, coffee, and flowers...always the flowers.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lunch at Cave Man Kitchens

When we lived in the Seattle area in the 90s one of our regular "funky" places for lunch (or dinner) was the Cave Man Kitchen at 807 W Valley Hwy in Kent (a suburb south of Seattle, WA). Cave Man is a motley collection of single story ramshackle buildings housing a series of "smokers" where they smoke a variety of meat to perfections. There is a "order" counter where you can order sandwiches, hams, turkeys, dinners, sides, etc. Fabulous pork BBQ sandwiches are my favorites. I had a few hours to kill so went in search of the Cave Man to see if it was still in operation. It was...EXACTLY the same. All food is "to go" and since it was drizzling the picnic tables weren't particularly inviting. So armed with a dozen paper napkins I ate, very happily, in my car. yummmmy! They also do catering and custom smoking (bring in your own they say on their website "you choke 'em, we'll smoke 'em).

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A visit to the Left Coast

Landed at SeaTac airport in Seattle last night. My first trip back in 3 years and my first long visit in...probably 8 years. Meeting Jason and Yaric today when they fly in from Florida. Really looking forward to our time here.

Stayed near the airport last night at a La Quinta on 188th and Hwy 99. Walked in around 10 pm and realized that I had landed in the land of Gnomes. At first I thought it was an anime thing...until I saw the sign...this way to GnomeStock. Capes, leather, pointy hats, more leather, wild hair, forest accoutrements. Of course, this morning the "gnomes" look like...well techie geeks (said with a full measure of affection for techie geeks) they could attend Full Sail. Jason would fit right in. Having done some research...there is something called is a search engine. maybe the staff? I googled Gnome Stock and only came up with "Gnome Stock ticker applet"...which does not sound like a party invite. And BTW none of these people are short and least not in morning light!

Other odd and interesting things this morning. Saw on KOMO news, that a farm out east of Seattle, called Friendly Haven, is renting out Easter Chicks. You get a small batch of them for 30 bucks for the week with a 25 deposit. They say no one actually wants the chicks for longer than a week. no kidding. I wonder what the loss rate is? Boy I bet those little chicks have stories to tell back at the barnyard.

This La Quinta is a bit worse for the wear...old building. there wasn't enough room in the eating area so I ate on a couch holding my cereal bowl in my lap (and they were out of hard-boiled eggs). My toilet was running occasionally...but I met the handyman in the hall and he fixed it right away...very pleasant chap. Parking is horrible..they had to give me a parking pass so I could park behind the Denny's next door...sigh. However, it was a reasonable price, clean, and convenient location. Also, pretty well sound window faces out towards the airport and the jet noise did not bother me at all.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Manatees at Play

Our house, once its finished, is located one short block from Coffee Pot Bayou in St. Petersburg, Florida. Where 23rd Avenue deadends into Coffee Pot Bayou is a favorite hangout for manatees especially during the “winter” months. They like the warmer waters (because its shallow), the supply of vegetation growing in the bottom of the channel, and the fresh water that discharges out of the storm drain (they like to drink it!). There are often one or two manatees that will lay just below the surface and will very slowly raise to the surface, snuff and snort, and they lower themselves smoothly back down below the surface. This morning there were 2 (we think maybe 3) manatees located just a little further out than we normally see them and they were much more active. They were rolling around, “waving” their tails and little fins, and of course, snorting and snuffing. Playing? Mating? Young un’s. Don’t know…but it was sure a great way to start off the morning

St Pete Grand Prix - 2009

Spent a few hours wondering around the General Admission area at the Grand Prix (and since it was just Friday and less crowded we also managed to snag a few seats in the grandstand for the Le Mans Series qualifying races.) It was slightly overcast and a bit humid, but not bad. We were grateful for the free earplugs provided by Brighthouse Network in their booth. It was loud that is for sure. Enjoyed watching the people, te cars, but must admit…I’d only spend the whole day if I could sit in the shade and drink cold drinks - preferably something with rum in it and a paper umbrella ! We will have to work on that for next year;

Two Great Locals Spots in One Day

Hungry for a hamburger at lunch time we went to the Dairy Inn on 9th (address). This modest fast food establishment with picnic benches is always busy and sometimes VERY busy. We ordered their “almost famous” burger which was perfect. It was as good as Five Guys (sshhh…don’t tell because we really like Five Guys). And they had shoestring fries(my favorite) and a terrific vanilla shake. They also have soft serve icecream…but we were too full to try one of the sundaes…THIS time. They also have salads, philly cheesesteaks, hot dogs, and numerous other sandwiches…but we will go for the burgers!

This evening we joined our friends Ronnie and Ellen at the Old Northeast Tavern at 201 7th Ave North (on the corner of 7th Ave North and 2nd Street North in the Old Northeast…where else). A locals spot with two rooms: one a large pub bar with a GIGANTIC TV and board games and a quieter but still friendly dining room. Guiness on tap (as well as a slew of other beers). Had an excellent pear and mixed green salad and a think crust garlic shrimp pizza. Not so loud we couldn’t talk…always a bonus. Good service. We will be back…its walking and biking distance from the house.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Twilight Parade (Festival of States) - St. Pete, Florida

For our second year in a row, we went to St. Pete’s (Florida) annual Festival of States parade held each year on a Thursday evening towards the beginning of April. In recent years it has been held the Thursday before the start of the St. Petersburg Grand Prix.

The evening was delightful with temps in the 70s and breezy. The sky’s few clouds turned pink in the setting sun just before the parade reached us on Beach near Grayl’s Hotel. There was a really good turnout of oldsters and youngsters, dogs in strollers (yes, I said dogs), kids in strollers eating foot long corn dogs, and throngs of people in their beach chairs. Parents stood with their infants and toddlers at their first parade. A “first” memory to build upon as they come back year after year until the “little” ones are big enough to run out into the street to claim one of the mardi gras bead necklaces on their own.

Michael Andretti was the Grand Marshal with his racing team in cars following him including Danica Patrick (one of Jerry’s favorites). The Second Time Arounders ( band and drill team performed early in the parade (and in fact was the only band this year…I suspect a time of the economy). Fresh from their Macy Day Parade performance in 2008 the Second Time Arounders boast a rifle corps, baton twirlers, pompom drill team, flagsters, and of course the band…a huge band…there were at least 20 saxophones, 30 trumpets, 8 tubas, etc. etc. And they are good. And it always gives me a lump in my throat to watch them. I don’t know why. I guess because I’m kind of weird about marching bands in the first place and its thrilling to watch a band made up of people who so love band music that despite (or maybe because of) “advanced age” (heehee) they will march, practice, and perform to their hearts content.

Fireworks followed the parade. Parade goers meandered over to the park overlooking the marina and listened to the Second Time Arounders perform while waiting for and then watching the fireworks. Again…I love band music so thought it was a really good addition this year (although listening to Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer played with tubas is a little scary). It was a delightful evening.

Bald Eagles Nesting Pair on Honeymoon Island

Learning to fly — soon (article from April 2, 2009 edition of Tampa Bay Times)

The first documented bald eagle hatched on Honeymoon Island in Dunedin is about 6 weeks old now and should be almost ready to venture from its nest by the end of this month. According to Wilf Yusek, one of the volunteer eagle nest monitors, the eaglet that rangers have dubbed "Cupid" — it hatched after Valentine's Day — is starting to grow flight feathers even now. "They fledge at about 10 to 12 weeks," Yusek says. Sometime late this month or early May it will likely hop up and down testing its wings, then get out onto a nearby branch and try flapping its way back in. Eventually the eaglet will work toward flying tree to tree. The nesting pair enlarged an old osprey nest near the north end of the Osprey Nature Trail and has been raiding ospreys for their fish, said Dan Larremore, the state park's environmental specialist. A barrier, set up 330 feet from the nest per federal guidelines, has been erected, but Yusek, a part-time resident from Canada and a photographer, will periodically add photos of the eaglet to his Web site