Yes, Seattle. I was wracking my brain so hard trying to think of where we could be traveling to that I ignored the destination right next door. Now, I've lived in this area all of my life, and spent a lot of time downtown, but I've never done a lot of the tourist-y things to do in the city simply because they were, well, tourist-y! It ended up being the perfect trip - not so far away that I was stressed about being too far from the bun-bun, but possibly more fun than another city that we don't know because we were comfortable finding our way around, and we knew what to expect. The whole thing was lovely, and very relaxing. Read on if you'd like to hear the details!
Our mini-vacation started by pulling up to the trendy W Hotel and making our way upstairs to check out our room. We stayed in the corner suite on the 19th floor with so many windows that the gorgeous views of the city were inescapable.
After we were satisfied by seeing how many peoples' windows we could peer into we headed down to kill some time with a little wandering. We meandered through the Pike
Place market, stopping at Crêpe de France where we noshed on a Goat's cheese special (crêpe filled with goat's cheese, spinach, tomatoes and green onions) and a crêpe aux fraises chocolat (filled with strawberries, nutella and whipped cream). Afterward we walked over to Westlake Center to buy me a few pretty birthday presents (I love getting to pick my own gifts!) and kill time before our late dinner. This time killing resulted in another snack - one of the most delicious things I've ever gotten from a mall food court. Potato and pea stuffed paratha bread with a side of spinach dal.
The destination of the evening - Seattle Center via the monorail. I can't remember if I've ever ridden the monorail before, but if I ever did it was before E.M.P. was built which it runs straight through. Pretty cool. It was interesting to see the city from a different angle. Speaking of seeing the city, dinner was at the Space Needle, another thing I've never experienced. My expectations of the most recognizable icon in Seattle, visited by more than 1 million people yearly, were that the food would be overpriced and over-hyped, with a nod to the decade in which it was built (it opened in 1962) in the form of fat Filet Mignon topped with curly parsley, and scant vegetarian fare. The gift shop at the bottom welcomed us with exactly what I expected - T-shirts emblazoned with "Space Needle" in every possible font, and chintzy gifts ranging from keychains to shotglasses to stopwatches to pasta shaped like the Needle itself (space noodles of course!). However, I was wrong about the restaurant.
People are shuffled into a small elevator - crammed in until noses are practically squished against the glass, and a woman's hairspray mingles with a man's bad cologne as the little glass box turns into a stinking rainforest. An elevator operator squeezes in, occupying the last foot of space, and presses the button to go, and suddenly the walls around the box fall away to reveal buildings, streets, and a dusky blue-pink skyline above. Zoning out watching the ascent - it feels like an airplane take-off - or maybe a space shuttle as I believe it's supposed to be simulating. The view is brief, but breathtaking. The doors ding open and you are ushered out by a woman with a fake smile as large as her head who reminds you of a certain airplane steward (uh buh-bye). As you wait for your table you are given a few minutes to wrap your mind around the fact that while the elevator, waiting room and windows of the circular building are stationary, the entire outer ring of the room is moving, slowly, steadily, just sliding along like a giant moving sidewalk. "Watch your step", says the host as she walks you over to a small banquet facing the enormous windows. You scoot across the cushion and take your seat, trying to get over the momentary motion sickness while simultaneously taking in the fact that you're 500 feet off the ground looking at an amazing landscape of glittering lights and water engulfed in pale dusk.
The restaurant still has a 1960's vibe. I can imagine sitting here witnessing a room crowded with women - big blonde hair and cat's eyes, and men - big lapels and thick glasses, while crunching on my requisite sprig of parsley. But the servers, the menu, the view are distinctively modern. We are greeted by a knowledgeable waiter with a charming Germanic accent who brings us a bottle of Basel Cellars Forget-Me-Not Sauvignon Blanc and takes our order. Of course our vegetarian options are limited, but we are easily accommodated right off the menu. To start - pecan crusted goat's cheese with a spinach salad and Cabernet-blackberry vinaigrette, and bread with maple lavender infused butter. Then a main course of a crisp and flaky on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside spring vegetable gatêau, perfectly steamed asparagus, and more veggies roasted on a thin plank of cedar. The food was delicious and well-prepared using seasonal ingredients. By the time we are done we have made a rotation and a half view of the city, and we are too full to even consider dessert. We waddle downstairs with our fat bellies and suffer through the hike back to the hotel.
Saturday morning began with the walk down to the market again for a stop at Le Panier ("A very French bakery"). They have an expansive menu of pastries, both sweet and savory, and I was glad for my food knowledge to be able to navigate the French names despite not speaking the language. We sampled my first pain au chocolat (it's love), a perfectly crunchy crudités sandwich and two small savory pastries - champignon (mushroom), and dauphinois which had potatoes and ham I didn't notice until I bought it, but was so good I scarfed it down anyway. I will have dreams of those perfect little pastries for years.
After breakfast we had to get away from the crushing Saturday crowds of the farmer's market, so we headed south-east-ish to the International district. It was a long walk, so we stopped at the Seattle Central Library to admire the architecture. The building has a strange and beautiful contrast between the cold architectural re-bar pattern that makes it such a memorable sight in this city, and the warm bright nooks and crannies towards the core of the building.
On to the ID. We strolled around the area for a little while, peeking into small shops boasting Chinese herbal remedies, bonsai supplies, loose leaf tea, etc. We browsed Uwajimaya for bento supplies and books and then decided that in an area of the city with food so steeped in culture that we shouldn't waste space in our tummies at the food stands, and instead headed back out into the streets for dim sum. We stumbled upon the Purple Dot cafe - a slightly dirty hole in the wall that may be trying a little too hard to attract a young crowd, but that had a perfectly decent (and insanely cheap) dim sum cart and a waitstaff that was more than happy to help us pick out some good vegetarian treats. We sampled some steamed buns stuffed with black sesame paste, sesame covered glutinous rice balls filled with lotus paste, some strange soupy dumplings overflowing with enoki, shiitake, and forest mushrooms, and some giant brioche-like buns filled with salty, egg-y, scallion-y goodness. What room we had left in our stomach was filled with free tea and we left with some nice leftovers and only a 12 dollar hole in my wallet.
Realizing that we were too full and too tired to walk all the way back to downtown we went down to the underground station to see if we could catch a bus back, but none of the ticket booths were open. By bothering a security guard we learned that the freaking buses run along 4 major city stops for free that time of day and that we were a mere 5 minutes from napping in our hotel bed. Knowing these things in advance would make navigating Seattle much less stressful! We hopped the next bus and dragged our tired buns (and the dim sum too ^_^) upstairs.
Hubby had another surprise for me that evening so we killed a bit more time, and ended up snacking again on some cheap Gardenburger subs before going back to the hotel to change, and then, me in 5 inch heels, walked 3 blocks to Benaroya Hall for the symphony. I remember going to the Seattle Symphony once in elementary school, but that's the only time I've ever been. It was so thoughtful of hubby to have planned something like that. I loved it! We saw the violin player Midori perform 4 different concertos with the orchestra. Between them we entertained ourselves by scrutinizing the crowd from our balcony high above.
After the symphony it was still early, and our last night in the city, so we trekked east again, this time to the Park Place mall for a grilled cheese with tomato (which won me the waitress as a new "best friend") and fries at some faux retro burger place and then saw Up at the AMC.
The longest walk of our trip was that one - back to the hotel after the movie. We were so exhausted, and barely made it under the sheets to fall asleep.
Father's Day was the next morning and since my plan to go to the Boat Street Cafe failed (all booked!) I left Ryan in bed and fetched brioche from the Belle Epicurean across the street. One pain au raisin, one pear almond brioche and two potato rosemary brioches later and we were ready to pack up and head out.
It was a long weekend, every minute crammed with things to do and food to eat. We visited some of my favorite Seattle landmarks, and some whose merit was unbeknownst to me previously, but now I can say I've experienced. It was simultaneously nice to have some time to ourselves, and also lonely without the bun, but I think we needed it. The best part of the weekend was spending the time with the hubs with no distractions, but I've got to say the food was a close second. Now I have a few new stops to add to my places I have to go when in town for other things list.