Today is my fellow blogger's birthday (and also my half birthday, heehee!)! Wish her a happy week of getting older, eating cake and having fun!
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I think the initial idea to go to the International District was based on a desire for Dim Sum. I mean, there are a lot of really fun reasons to go to the ID, but Dim Sum ranks up there at number one for me. Many carts full of food being offered nonstop? YUM.
I had an errand to run in Belltown on the Sunday morning that we went, so Pana picked Boyfriend and I up there. She was not in the Watchmobile (tm) that morning, but had borrowed the Mrs's car for the day, which I must say is slightly more comfortable for 3 people. We were all hungry, so our first mission was to find a place to eat. My first instinct was to go to Jade Garden, a frequent stop of my coworkers and I when we are not too busy to hop on a bus in the tunnel for lunch. Driving by Jade Garden we realized that this might be a futile effort since it was already so crowded at 11:30 AM, so we drove around the corner to check out House of Hong. House of Hong is bigger, so we figured we'd get a table, and we did immediately. Turns out we got there right at the perfect time because there was a huge rush right after we got there.
So, did I mention that I love carts full of food? SO MUCH FOOD. And they aren't shy at House of Hong about offering you everything. I was trying to hold out for this particular item that I've had at Jade Garden, meat stuffed sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves and steamed. They didn't seem to have this going around at House of Hong, though, which was slightly disappointing. What we did have was delicious, though. Shumai might be my second favorite item, which are dumplings filled with meat (pork I think) and vegetables and steamed...actually, isn't that the way you describe a lot of the food? According to an old friend's little sister, shumai look like brains. Delicious, delicious brains. I don't know what anything else we had was called except for the humbow, which wasn't really all that great. I've had much better. I liked the food very much, and ate it up, but I think next time I'd rather go to Jade Garden because I like it just a little better. We still stuffed ourselves silly, though! I seriously think restaurants with other types of cuisine should consider the cart method. Also, Boyfriend got a very strange and slightly off putting fortune in his cookie, so he did not eat it. He kept the fortune though.
Next we decided to walk around a bit and just look at what the ID has to offer. We went into a toy store full of too many awesome things I wanted to buy, but didn't need. Boyfriend and I went into a really cool exotic fish pet store called Liem's Aquarium and Bird Shop, but Pana has a fear of fish and even though she tried to come in at first she had to wait outside instead. The shop is very small and crammed full of fish. I didn't see any birds, though.
While we were walking around taking in all the interesting shops and buildings, we noticed some beautiful ornate looking balconies on a few buildings and I had to stop and take a picture. It seems that these balconies signify that there is a "tong" which is some sort of Chinese association. Upon looking these up further, they are explained as Chinese secret societies that were created for immigrant support and protection. Looking into it even further it seems in the past that there was some illegal activity going on in these organizations, much like the mob! Intriguing! Also, the Bing Kung Tong was the first one we saw and this particular tong's members are mentioned in articles about the Wah Mee Massacre in 1983, which I did some reading on a few years ago. I'm certainly not the right person to tell you about this, though. Look it up! There is so much history here.
Next stop was the Grand Pavillion which was designed and constructed in Taipei and brought to Seattle in 1975. It was a nice place to stop and rest. We were still too full to do anything more food-wise, which was slightly disappointing because I wanted bubble tea and I didn't really have room for it. Pana and I wandered around the little park a bit and Boyfriend found one of those new weird self cleaning public toilets and tried to figure out how to get in. Someone was in it, though and it didn't seem like anyone was coming out for quite a while.
At this point we started to continue on our journey, but then Pana cried out in terror as a bird shat on her! EW! It was a very traumatic experience, let me tell you. Poor Pana!! And it was more disgusting than regular bird poo, but I should probably spare you the details (you're lucky I didn't take pictures...bleeeehhh). I helped her take her sweater off, but it was cold and she didn't have another one. So we decided it was best to walk back in the direction of the car and then drive to Uwajimaya. We stopped by Wing Luke Asian Museum, but it was closed which was disappointing.
Next stop: Uwajimaya. This place goes down in history as one of Pana and my favorite stops. And we're super bad influences on each other when we go there and want to buy as much random stuff as possible. My coworker likes to call it "why'd you buy it" and she's right. You can, however, do all of your regular grocery shopping here, too. But Pana and I would rather buy things with labels we can't read and be surprised later. This might seem pretty white-bread of us, but seriously, asian snacks are delicious and fun and I love them. Obviously the usual stuff isn't "weird", like Pocky, Pretz, wasabi peas, Yan Yan, etc. This stuff I know you can buy at Safeway, but they don't nearly have the great selection Uwaj has. What I wish I would have bought is the sake in a carton...the Japanese version of boxed wine! (You'll come to know my fondness for alcohol in a box) I also wanted to buy some frozen items for future dinners such as pork, cabbage and corn dumplings and lumpia. I made the dumplings with a few meals over the next week and they were delicious. I need to go back and buy them and try the other varieties, as they were very reasonably priced and easy to make. I also now have a vast selection of different cookies to snack on. I made the mistake of buying some packages of shrimp udon soup that I did not inspect well enough and it turns out that there is seaweed in it that makes it far too fishy tasting for me. I also bought canned lemon jelly that I haven't had the guts to open and try yet. Pana and I both spent a ton of money, and probably could have spent more but we were starting to get tired and had to wrap up the day. We did a quick run through the home section and I realized that I need to go back for a lot of decorative stuff that I want next time I am in the area. I probably should have spent money on that instead of a bunch of snack food!
Even though we didn't hit a lot of places like I had planned and hoped and only ended up in the Chinese section mostly, we really had a great time. But there is a lot more to explore on another day, so we'll definitely go back. It is a place full of beautiful buildings and interesting history, plus a lot of great places to eat and shop. I wish I could say more, but I think it would be best for you to just go and spend the day there. It really is a lot of fun!
Overall Grade: A-
Friday, April 11, 2008
This weekend will feature a blog by ME on our trip to the International District last weekend. Sorry for the wait, it has been a hectic week for me. Last night would have been my only time to do it, except instead I got some work done on a tattoo I have! Just so you know that it was worth it, I'm including a photo.
Also, we have no current plan for our next trip so I would like to request recommendations now and we will pick where we go next based on them. Remember, we like food! And beer stores! And other stores with weird things! So let us know what you think.
Friday, April 4, 2008
When I picked J.See up in the Watchmobile for our Alki-venture I wasn’t really in the mood. I was tired, grumpy, and had consumed too much wine from a box the night before. The fact that we were visiting Alki at all felt like we were cheating – if there ever was a neighborhood in Seattle I considered my own, it would be Alki. If Alki can even be considered a neighborhood – it’s really more of a faction of a larger neighborhood (West Seattle), but they do have their own paper (the Alki News Beacon) and their own community council, plus what is a neighborhood? It’s all semantics.
I preface this round up with a bit of “important” info about myself (Pana):
a) My family moved to Seattle in 1988, whilst I was in the third grade and, like the Denny party, all settled in Alki-- my father in a house near the south end of Rocky Beach, my mother half of a block in from the middle of the sandy portion of Alki Beach proper. I’ve had more adventures on and around Alki than any other location and even returned as an adult and in the Best Apartment EverTM for a few years (Oh Bonair Place HOW I MISS YOU) until moving (gasp!) up the hill to North Admiral last March. It’s possible I still work on Alki, but if I told you that I’d have to kill you.
b) I blame most things on the weather. My moods, for example. Sickness, too. It’s something I got from my mom. Even though I often understand that the weather doesn’t actually control me, I like to pass off any responsibility on the actions of our tumultuous atmosphere.
So here’s the deal, I was in a lousy mood and blamed it on the fact that even though it was technically spring it had snowed the night before. Even though J.See and I had been lazy enough to choose Alki, I felt even lazier than that and didn’t want to do anything. But I did it anyway! For you, dear readers. And ended up having a pretty good time.
Because! Because the sun came out, it’s true. Although it had been grey, as soon as we pulled up and parked on Alki Ave SW the sunshine was breaking through the clouds. Magically, my mood lifted.
I felt funny about researching a location I am so intimately familiar with, so our first stop was a good choice: The Log House Museum. I can’t tell you the number of times in my life I caught the #56 bus right outside of there, but don’t think I’d ever been inside. J.See even lived in the apartment building across the street for a few years and hadn’t been in since elementary school times.
Some of the people on Alki seem to always be bitching about all the changes going on in the area. And it’s true that over the past twenty years there have been a lot of them, but wouldn’t it be creepier if there hadn’t been any in twenty years? Still, both J.See and I, past Alki residents, were sad to see townhouses in the place of a couple of kooky cool beach houses we used to admire (P.S. I’m over townhouses in any location).
The Log House Museum is really one room filled with glass cases that showcase artifacts and information about the area’s past. I’d thought the focus was on the landing party that is considered to have more or less started the city of Seattle, but there was a lot more than that, including signs for and against the building of the West Seattle Bridge (without which my life would be exponentially different). One of the craziest things I can’t get over about Alki is the fact that Luna Park(the “Coney Island of the West” from the early 1900s, not the cafe in its location now) existed at all and how much I wish it still did.
While we were there we met Andrea Mercado, the museum’s director, and she was warm, welcoming, friendly and knowledgeable. She is truly what made the visit awesome. We chatted with her for a little while: about Alki now and then, about the museum, about the landing party. She had a few videos and we opted for the award winning selection focusing on the plight of the Duwamish tribe (Seattle’s main tribe, though they are nationally unrecognized).
The museum is housed in a building that was once a carriage house to what is now the Homestead restaurant that sits about half a block away. The Homestead is something about Alki that hasn’t appeared to change in the twenty years since I’ve been around the area. It’s changed ownership a few times, but I am pretty sure they are best known for their all-you-can-eat fried chicken dinner (which I partook in as recently as this past January). Inside the Homestead is like a trip back in time – I always equate it to the dining room at a resort sort of like in Dirty Dancing (for this reason alone I highly recommend it). It’s true regality, though, lies in the building itself. It’s old, yo. And is charm-tastic.
When we finally walked out I was feeling rejuvenated about the whole day, and the sun was shining bright! It couldn’t have been described as warm, but it smelled like spring nonetheless. Armed with our new Alki History Trail pamphlet we went in search of lunch.
There are a ton of restaurant choices along Alki Avenue – in fact, that’s more or less all there is in terms of retail. There are a few oldies but goodies I can vouch for heartily: Pepperdock’s (a great burger place that’s even open on Christmas – get the salmon burger, it’s a huge delicious fillet of salmon on a bun and worth way more than the $6 or so it costs), the Alki Bakery (for baked goods I recommend the chocolate dipped macaroons—zomg, love—or the fruit flan, and the sandwiches are no frills but addictively delicious), and Pegasus Pizza (who just moved into the location next door which had been a revolving door for random restaurants in recent years).
Today, though, we decided on the Celtic Swell, an Irish pub-style place opposite the water. The Celtic Swell is lined in dark wood with tables in the front against the large windows facing the beach. There was some sort of sports game on the TVs when we came in, so we headed to one of the bench booths towards the back. The place has a laid back atmosphere, and the waitress was casual and friendly. Neither of us were up for beer or cocktails (though there seemed to be a fun and full menu of both) but I ordered a ginger ale because I love ginger ale and any place with a full bar always has it. Randomly, this ginger ale was really good. I can’t stop thinking about it, actually. It wasn’t too sweet and the ginger-y flavor was extra strong. It was fantastic, seriously.
We ordered a few things off of the appetizer menu to share: griddled potato bread, mini-swell burgers, and sausage rolls. While we waited we ruminated on the past life of the space, back when it held a sandwich shop called the Liberty Deli. They used to have dinner theater there (I saw a fantastic version of Sartre’s No Exit) and J.See used to spend time in there after hours with an old roommate who made great sandwiches.
Our food was delicious. The mini-swell burgers in particular are deceptive – yes, it’s true, they’re just tiny cheeseburgers, but there is something about them that tastes like so much more. I think it’s the buns. Each little patty is covered with cheese (they’re probably about a sand dollar’s width) and put onto these pale colored buns that are soft and light. YUM. The sausage rolls were also good (meat in a pastry, how can you go wrong?) but their best element was the hot and sweet mustard they came with. The griddled potato cakes were dense and moist and incredibly buttery. They were actually served with butter, too, but I can’t imagine a universe in which they would need any added, they were practically dripping.
Overall the meal was very enjoyable. The sun was still shining when we left and proceeded to do the single most enjoyable activity available in this neighborhood – walking along the beach and enjoying the view. Looking out you can see the Olympic Peninsula to the east and the Space Needle peaking out from the west, and ferries going across the water. Along the way we stopped at Seattle’s own miniature Statue of Liberty. The plaque says the robed lady was donated by the Boy Scouts and proudly marks the Birthplace of Seattle.
We headed west from there. Quite a few people were out enjoying the weather. We passed the Bathhouse, a building that sometimes hosts art classes and sometimes appears to be rented out for weddings or parties, though nothing was going on at that time.
The main part of the beach on this spread is separated into what I consider two distinct sections – the paved area that is home to the Statue of Liberty and the Bathhouse, perfect for a walk with a dog or a picnic and barbecue at one of the designated (some covered) areas. Where that ends, the sandy fun begins. The sandy beach area (though still plenty rocky down by the water) can be more of a beach-lovers beach and will be swarmed come summer time with bikini babes on towels and volleyball games. Today wasn’t quite nice enough for that much action, so we mostly saw some kids playing in the sand and folks strolling along.
We wandered a block in from the water over to ‘Whale Tail’ park, the main feature of which is a large whale tail kids can climb on. Parts of the ground at the park were covered with the coolest bouncy and soft material apparently to keep kids who fall down from getting very hurt. It was weird to walk on; it felt very alien.
We left the park and that part of the beach and headed over to the appropriately called “Rocky Beach” along the west flank of Alki Point. Rocky Beach is actually called the Charles Richey Senior Viewpoint, but I’ve never heard anyone refer to it as such and I think if I started no one would know what I was talking about.
The thing about Rocky Beach is that it’s just beautiful. When I think about what I’d do if I won the Mega Millions (which is something I do regularly – not win the Mega Millions, but plan how I’d spend the money if I did) I often imagine buying a house with this view. The view from the main area of Alki beach, with all the restaurants and bars, is gorgeous, too, but it’s facing north and the view is more developed. You can see Magnolia, the edges of downtown Seattle, and a fair amount more boat traffic. There is something infinity more pure about the west view of Alki. It’s so peaceful: rocks, water, islands, birds, sometimes seals, and the Olympic Mountains. I love it, I could just sit there staring out at the view for hours. Well, for one hour anyway. If I had some coffee.
We left Rocky Beach and tried to go to the lighthouse at the tip of Alki Point, which you may remember from the Temple of the Dog video “Hunger Strike”. The lighthouse is run by the Coast Guard, and next to it is a sweet old looking house that I believe is for the person running the lighthouse to live. The area surrounding the lighthouse is all fenced off. I know there are tours available, but we aren’t that kind of prepared. I remember being able to walk around to the other side of it via the sand, but when J.See and I tried to explore for a way to cut through we were stopped short not only by fence but by many signs from the neighbors advising us to turn around and head back where we came from, as their property was no shortcut. For some reason we found this entertaining, and I’ll admit I got a little criminal thrill. Still, we didn’t pursue very far, because we’re lazy.
There is a residential building blocking the view of the lighthouse from the street. This building used to be apartments but was converted into condos and is being sold now for, as the sign screams, “Under 200K!” Both J.See and I had looked at renting these apartments at different times in our life and, while I still sort of wished it had worked out for me (they didn’t take cats – this was in my pre-weiner dog days) I can’t imagine buying one of the tiny units. They were so small! And the kitchen was in a hallway! J.See says it was once a hotel and to make it a rentable entity they had to shove those kitchens in there.
The truth is there aren’t any hotels on Alki, but I’ve heard Salty’s plans to expand their location and add one. I’ve always had a dream of turning the apartment building on the corner of 63rd and Alki Ave SW (across from Cactus) into a smallish hotel. If someone rich is out there reading this, let’s do it! I have some experience in the hospitality industry. I think it’s a great idea, and I know the neighbors would complain, but like I said, people on Alki are always complaining anyway. I don’t really blame them, if I owned a piece of paradise I wouldn’t want it to change either.
Anyway, J.See and I hopped back into the Watchmobile for one more stop before leaving the Alki neighborhood. And it was something we found on our Alki History pamphlet from the Log House Museum!
Seaview Hall was built in 1902 as a summer lodging house and it looks impeccable today, 100+ years later (of course, it’s been restored). It’s amazing to see this house sitting on a residential street, on 59th Ave SW, just in from Beach Drive, looking so much like the original pictures in the pamphlet from the turn of the century.
Andrea Mercado from the lighthouse museum said that the second floor was a big room used probably for dances, and just standing outside of the property imagining that was surreal. The place is beautiful by any years’ standards, and it’s for sale! I can barely imagine living in a place literally filled with such history, and not just knowing that, but being able to see it in the details of your home every day. If I win the Mega Millions soon, maybe this’ll be the place I’ll buy.
Seaview Hall was the perfect stopping place for our Alki blogventure. It left us filled with wonder (sounds corny, but is true! It was magical to look at old pictures in the pamphlet and then look up and see it staring back at you) and renewed affection for the area.
Overall Grade: A
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
I've been wanting to go to Wallingford since Pana first mentioned the idea of this blog to me. A coworker of mine basically said that it was probably only because of Trophy Cupcakes. Guilty! Another reason, though, was that it was mostly unexplored territory for me. I have been there numerous times for very specific reasons, such as my friend who lives there, the fancy Taco Time (of which I meant to take a picture of but didn't for some dumb reason!), the theatres and Dick's Drive-In after a night of drinking in the U-District. It just seemed like a fun area that I had not had a chance to really get to know, even though I've been there so many times.
We got off to a bit of a late start and I didn't really get do a lot of prior research since I was too busy lying around all morning nursing a whole-bottle-of-wine-last-night headache. Boyfriend was joining us, so he, Pana and I all crammed into her tiny 1974 BMW 2002 (aka the Watchmobile) and hit the road to another adventure. I want to add that we had to take I-5 due to the Viaduct closure, which was a slightly harrowing experience since Pana's car doesn't have functional signal lights. Actually, Pana seemed quite fine with it, I am perhaps just a wuss?
In keeping with tradition our first stop was to another beer store, Bottleworks. I hope that there is a fine beer selection in every neighborhood we visit (hey, a girl can dream, can't she?) Bottleworks is a small dark store lined with refrigerators filled with a very nice selection of imported and domestic microbrew beers. I believe Pana has mentioned this previously, but we are big fans of buying random food and drink from other countries or things with weird labels. You should see the selection we come home with when we go to Uwajimaya. Anyhoo, Bottleworks – very cute and stocked full of fun things with funny labels that all scream to be bought and downed immediately. Pana ended up with a beer with what looked like Russian or Czech on the label and said Kanar Beer and also with Bernardus Prior 8 beer due to the religious man on the label. I bought what I think was a raspberry lambic ale that said Oud Beersel on it, which I proceeded to say about 50 times. Oud Beersel! The Framboise Oud Beersel was delicious, but pricey. Why do I have such weird and expensive beer tastes? Boyfriend bought a wheat/hefeweizen type beer because it had the Grolsch style cap and he also loves the wheat beers. Grolsh is also fun to say. Grolsh. The staff was very nice about letting us be weird and take photos at the counter of our purchases. I got a very good vibe off of this place. I think if I lived here I'd know each of the employees and come in regularly; it just felt so comfortable and inviting. Or maybe I just really like beer. Oud Beersel!
Bottleworks is located right next to the QFC with the blue neon Wallingford sign, so we stopped for a quick photo-op. The letters from the sign are from the former Food Giant sign, which was red. I found only one picture of the old sign, and it isn't great, but you get the idea. In my search for a picture I found out that the Wallingford sign was in response to the locals that were up in arms about the Food Giant sign coming down when QFC took over in the nineties. I also found a random article about neon signs that used the color change from red to blue as an example for how neon works, but um, it was tl;dr. I have a short attention span, dude. Good thing you don't, I'm long winded.
Next stop: Wallingford Center (aka the place Trophy Cupcakes lives!) which is in the old Interlake Public School building. It is a very cute building with nice little shops inside…that are EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE. I'm sorry, I know that there will be some people who defend this place, but they have more money than I do. I saw a lot of things I wanted, but nothing I wanted to pay that much for. I think the main draw to this place is Trophy Cupcakes and Chutney's. We stopped in a shop that had many cute trinkets, cards and jewelry. It also happened to have a very large selection of Tin Tin memorabilia, which Boyfriend went gaga over. He particularly fell in love with a cool t-shirt that clocked in at $52! WHAT? This was not a fancy t-shirt, this was a plain old cotton t with a screen print. The other Tin Tin stuff wasn't all that different. Boyfriend was sad. Um, sorry Boyfriend, maybe we can find some stuff online for cheaper.
We briefly wandered through a place called Pharmaca (which is apparently coming to our side of town in the West Seattle Junction) and it seemed to be a mix of natural and over-the-counter medications along with an actual pharmacy. The one in West Seattle should be interesting since it is across the street from a Super Supplements, which might be hard to compete with. But they will have a pharmacy, so who knows. The only interesting thing that happened here was Boyfriend asked "Isn't that what they gave to Jesus?":
We gave up exploring the shopping center and decided to head right on to the main event: Trophy Cupcakes. We decided that each of us wanted two cupcakes each, and Pana had promised 6 to her lady, so we needed a dozen ($33). We each tried to choose wisely, but apparently not wisely enough because there was some crazy trading going on after our purchase. I ended up with a triple coconut and a snickerdoodle and decided to eat the coconut first. Seriously, nothing short of AMAZING. My happy place is inside of this cupcake. Forget the other Seattle cupcake chains, this is the place to go for moist delicious cake and perfect buttercream frosting. Pana had the popular red velvet, which I had traded her for the snickerdoodle, which she enjoyed very much. Boyfriend loves carrot cake, so he had a carrot walnut which he is still talking about. It was a true zen-dessert moment. Basically I want to lay in a fluffy bed of trophy cupcakes.
So now that we were all full of sugar and happy, we figured we needed to eat lunch. Because it is always a good idea to stuff yourself until you can't move, right? Well, I guess you would consider it linner since it was almost 4 pm. This was when we realized that we hadn't done enough research. Basically, none of us really had much of an idea where to go after we had cupcakes, which were obviously going to be one of the highlights. We walked by the Rusty Pelican, which I only knew about because our high school friend, let's call her Preggy, had a shirt that said "I ate it raw at the Rusty Pelican". We weren't overly wowed by the sign, plus I had it in my head that there were restaurants in houses that needed to be visited, so we hopped in the Watchmobile and drove in the direction of Stone Way. After a few telephone calls and some driving around we decided on Bizarro Italian Café, but unfortunately they didn't open for an hour. We walked around the corner to Blue Star, but unfortunately I was being difficult and decided I wanted to go back to the little orange house with a Mexican restaurant in it.
So we drove back to Chile Pepper. As I said, little orange house! More restaurants should be in houses. Plus, every time I've been in the neighborhood I've wondered about the place. We had a little trouble deciding what each person should get, as each of us has a slight issue with getting something the same as someone else. We did agree that we should get guacamole to go with the chips. Their salsa was tasty and spicy, and as always there was not enough of it. We were super excited when the guac came, but it turns out it was pretty enough, but not exactly flavorful. Basically it didn't taste like it had any salt or lime/lemon in it. It was disappointing because usually if guac isn't great it is usually good. This was just blah. But then we were delivered a pleasant surprise, soup! Didn't even know that was coming, but thanks. It was a slightly spicy and super tasty brothy lentil soup with onion and cilantro. Now, I am a BIG fan of soup, but I am also pretty picky. I don't like bland things, and I'm usually not a big fan of boring lentil soup. This stuff was in no way boring. It was delicious. Suddenly I was extremely excited about my main dish. I ordered something called verde mole with pork in it, Boyfriend ordered albondigas (Spanish/Mexican? meatballs) and Pana ordered a red sauced pork dish. I don't know how to be nice about it, my food was bland. The menu promised delicious spices, but mostly it was mushy flavorless green sauce and tender chunks of pork. It wasn't inedible, in fact I ate it all because I was hungry. Pana's and Boyfriend's dishes were certainly better, but not great. It all seemed so disappointing since we had such high hopes. They didn't even have hot sauce on the tables, and I got the distinct impression that the man working there would have been much happier if he never had any patrons at all.
All of that didn't stop us from taking photos, though! Did I mention that it is a restaurant in a little orange house?
Now full, slightly disappointed and pretty tired (wine headache was lingering) we decided scenery would be our best bet. I think I forgot to mention before, but the day we went was unseasonably warm for Seattle, and it has basically been freezing ever since. I literally had shorts and a t-shirt on for most of the day and was totally comfortable. So we walked to the old Lincoln High School building which is currently housing Garfield High School. It was pretty, and pretty boring. It does look much like what you'd imagine a high school on tv would look like, though.
What visit to Wallingford would be complete without going to Gasworks Park? I think my adventure cohorts would agree that this was our best stop of the day. Gasworks has a great set up and a beautiful view. Boyfriend renamed it Danger Park because there are a lot of things to climb on and fall off and basically cause mischief on. I went down a fire pole that seemed extremely high, even for an adult. Pana and I meandered around taking pictures and daydreaming while Boyfriend gallivanted around like a kid. I had memories of being here as a kid and looking at a zodiac thing on the top of a small hill, and somehow the hill has grown and the zodiac thing is also a sundial. Boyfriend wondered when the fence around the large gasworks structure went up. We all wondered about rolling down the hill, but then saw all the dogs and thought better of it. We roamed and played and basically had a great time. We all decided that we should have a picnic or a barbecue here once the weather gets better. I was planning on researching the park and where the gasworks structures came from and the history of the park, but then I realized that I am obviously no good at research and honestly would like to enjoy just for what it is, a beautiful park with a beautiful view of Seattle.
By the time we were done at the park it was starting to cool off and we were all very tired. We did one more drive through to take photos and see if there was anywhere else we wanted to go, and this is when we realized we missed one very important place: The Erotic Bakery!
This place could be great. It could be tasteful and tacky at the same time. It could be a real bakery with yummy treats. It could be many wonderful things…but it's not. I had a bad experience once before when researching a cake option for Boyfriend. The store employee/manager (?) who I spoke with while visiting at the time reeked of alcohol and was obviously put off by visitors. This was when I was told that cake was cake, and that I may as well buy one that day, Tuesday, for a party on Saturday, because it "won't go bad". Hate to be a snob, but I like fresh baked goods (like from Trophy!). Also, it is basically a mini Lover's Package in the front. I realize that all the penis necklaces and boob masks serve a purpose as a one stop shop for bachelorette and bachelor parties, but it would be so much better if it were a real bakery. Also, on our visit on Saturday, there didn't seem to be anyone working, or rather, if they were we didn't see them. This is what allowed me to take photos, which there is a sign posted letting us know that this was not ok. I tried searching for something funny enough to buy, but all of it was just too much for me and I was ready to go home.
All in all, it was not a horrible day. It was not amazing, but it was fun to be with my friends and spend some time doing interesting things. I think I will reserve it for when I go and visit my friend there, see a movie at the Guild 45th Theatres, go to a specific restaurant or get cupcakes. I think part of the reason our day wasn't amazing is because the real wonder of Wallingford isn't in the weird and crazy things to do, but the beautiful houses and nice community feel. I'm sure it would be quite a wonderful neighborhood to live in.
Overall Grade: B-
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
It wasn’t until the day before our adventure that we decided Greenwood would be the first destination for Seattle Neighborhood Watch. J.See had a bit of experience with the area, but I had virtually none (although I did get my driver’s license in
After a little bit of griping about the possibility that it’s not technically in Greenwood (Greenwood is generally thought to begin just west of Aurora), we headed just a few yards east of Aurora for our first stop: Big Star Beer Market.
From the outside, this mega beer store looks like any old mini-mart that I’d most likely avoid. Besides the gigantic sign, it seems fairly nondescript. Even inside it looks like the love child of a liquor store and a small urban grocery – which is to say, not very interesting. In fact, I wasn’t really convinced that it was worth visiting until I took a good look at what was lining the shelves.
BEER! BEER EVERYWHERE! And not just regular beer (though there was that, too) but WEIRD BEER! And BEER FROM RANDOM PLACES! BEER WITH WEIRD NAMES! and STRANGE LABELS!
I am a complete sucker for odd merchandise (something perhaps my Britney Spears Viewfinder can attest to), so I was immediately drawn to the weirder looking bottles. Most of the aisles were organized by location—the Japanese bottles were the cutest, and both J.See and I couldn’t resist a gigantic and overpriced bottle of ginger brewed ale decorated with an adorable cartoon owl (we drank them later that night. It wasn’t the worst thing ever – we both finished our bottles – but there was a sort of wet dog after taste).
J.See got a bottle of her favorite and not widely available Duchesse de Bourgogne (that she calls “the Duchess” though it’s pronounced doo-shay and her boyfriend, Tally McTallerton, disdainfully calls “mustard beer” because of its odd vinegary flavor). I wasn’t able to resist a bottle of Salvation, Belgium-style but brewed in Denver, even though I am sure it is just a clever commercial manipulation tool created for suckers for tacky religious things. Who knows? It might be good.
Other highlights we saw but did not purchase included some “milky” sake and pomegranate wine. It’s important to note that the lady running the place (Tally McTallerton has expressed his belief she is the owner) was exceptionally nice. Not only was she friendly to us, but I overheard her offering to help someone out to their car with their heavy twelve packs. I definitely foresee future visits to the beer store (especially because I like to buy things with labels I can’t read and be surprised).
We left the store excited and ramped up for further adventures, but maybe ten minutes later we were stuck in “traffic” (I put quotes only because it was traffic where there shouldn’t be traffic – on random arterial roads with plenty of lights and not really too many cars, just too many cars wanting to turn left at the wrong places) and were only seven blocks away at best.
I started to get a little grumpy about Greenwood, and the drivers especially, even though I am not generally the type of person who gets road rage, or anything like that. It didn’t get better much better when we were almost side swiped by a crazy person in a parking lot and then, as pedestrians crossing a street, another car turned a corner at high speed and nearly hit J.See. To make matter worse, it was raining and neither of us was really dressed for it and I swear to you the raindrops were fatter than in other neighborhoods.
Luckily for us and you, dear reader, the day took a turn for the much better. We ran through the raindrops (the size of quarters!) to Olive You, a Mediterranean restaurant we hoped would satisfy our growling tumms.
As soon as we walked in to Olive You I felt immediately engulfed by a friendly coziness. There was just something warm about the way the place looked. It’s a fairly small place in a rectangle shape, lined in exposed brick, with a full bar set up towards the back left and a deli case full of amazingly delicious looking bites in front. We sat right next to the deli case so we could ogle it at every opportunity. Our waitress was super personable and friendly. She was laid back in the way that we felt comfortable talking and joking with her and asking about things, but not laid back in the way that she neglected us at any time.
It was the greatest meal I’ve had in recent memory. We started with an olive sampler that included what J.See, the most olive obsessed person I’ve ever met, refers to as “crack olives” but were labeled as plum olives (they really were the most delicious, though all the olives were good. The crack olives were really meaty and had a sort of milder flavor). Since we were sitting right by the deli case and staring in at these trays full of stuffed peppers marinating in olive oil, we couldn’t resist getting some feta and olive spread stuffed peppers and some stuffed peppadews as well.
They were all amazingly delicious but the peppadews were TO DIE FOR. After popping one in my mouth I closed my eyes and sank back in my chair and sighed with delight. We both followed the treats with a lamb burger that was just as tasty, cooked crusty delicious and smothered in feta and hummus. Not only was everything we ate incredible, and the atmosphere and service wonderful, but the whole shebang only cost us something like thirty bucks, including tip. By the time we walked out of there I felt like I’d never eat again and that made me sad because I really wanted about a hundred more stuffed peppadews.
The sun was shining by the time we waddled out of Olive You (which had been nearly empty when we went in and was now somewhat bustling). There’s something about post-rain sunshine, and in Greenwood this seemed intensified. Everything smelled fresh and earthy and just seemed welcoming, and all negative thoughts of the neighborhood quickly disappeared and I mentally wondered if I maybe secretly loved juicy raindrops more than their spittle counterparts.
We wandered less than a block away to the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Company something I’d always vaguely wanted to visit because a) it sold space travel supplies, wtf? and b) because all proceeds from the store go to fund the connected 826 Seattle, a free of charge tutoring center that focuses on writing. Seriously, how cool is that?
Little did we know that this was where our adventure would truly begin.
We had been in the store no more than two minutes, glancing around at the comical merchandise, when someone asked if we’d like to join their Pluto protest. Um, what? We could see a small crowd of giggly people next door at 826 Seattle holding protest signs and getting ready to march out into the street.
Of course we enthusiastically agreed. Where would our journalistic integrity be if we failed to take part in this obvious display of Greenwood neighborhood culture? We followed the group out the door, were supplied with a sign and tramped along with the group, chanting with them for Pluto’s rights. The whole group was giggling and the signs were hilarious and so creative.
Yes, people were staring, yes, it was a little strange, and yes, it was a thrill a minute, but nothing prepared us for the excitement of what was to come as we reach the mid-way point of the protest parade and came upon… COUNTER PROTESTERS!
There was another group across the street with anti-Pluto-as-a-planet signs, chanting their message of hate and exclusion (hey, I don’t know if I actually care if Pluto is considered a planet or not, but that was the side of the protest I was on). They antagonized us as we continued our march that ended at Neptune Coffee.
The Pluto as a Planet group congregated and there were speeches and hollers of support. I actually learned a fair amount of facts about Pluto that not only would I never have learned if not for this experience (Pluto is actually smaller than our own moon), but were actually pretty interesting – did you know that Pluto was named by an 11 year old school girl? Or that it was discovered and its existence proven by a 22 year old kid from Kansas who had (at that time) no college education? Not only do I find both of those things impressive, but fitting that this was basically a publicity stunt put on by 826 Seattle, a youth writing center.
Things did get exponentially weirder when “Brother P-Touch,” Reverend of the Celestial Church of the Ninth Order (or at least something like that) came out and preached to us about the importance of Pluto as a planet and … well, some other stuff that sometimes made sense and sometimes didn’t, but was always hilarious. He held his Astronomy book high above his head and had us all call out, “Planet Pluto!” instead of “Hallelujah!” I did feel a little like I was taking crazy pills, especially when he performed an exorcism of sorts on a man who wasn’t entirely convinced that Pluto should be considered a full planet. But, you know, that’s Greenwood for you.
The rally came to a close with the performance of a short play written by a young tutee of 826 Seattle, and J.See and I could do barely anything more than stare at one another incredulously, as if to ask, “Did that really just happen?” We can only hope all of our surveys of neighborhoods end up as such full adventures.
The only real course of action we could take at that point was to get a coffee from Neptune, because as we’d been sitting there the delectable aroma had been teasing our senses. The coffee was phenomenal (I noticed they brew Stumptown, which I’ve also admired at other locations. Mmm, delicious). On a different day I would have loved to sit back and spend some time just chillaxing at Neptune, which was big and open, with shiny wood floors and sunlight that streamed through the windows in the best way, but today was Greenwood day and there was a bit more adventuring to do.
So we did a tad more walking around and made a few stops. We went back to Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co. so I could load up on astronaut ice cream (a delicacy at casa de superpana), and made our way into a few other shops. We stopped in at Pema Kharpo Tibetan Treasures whose incense bouquet had enticed me when we had passed quickly by during the protest. The place was small and full of interesting treasures, as well as a number of books and CDs. We talked a little with the man running the place that day. There had been a sign on the door urging human rights in Tibet before the Olympics in Beijing.
J.See found dress that was 50% off on the rack in front of Emma Jean’s Consignments and, though she was first unsure if it was super awesome or just plain old ugly, she tried it on and it was indeed super awesome. The people at Emma Jean’s (one of them maybe Emma Jean herself?) were also really nice and friendly and it made me stop and wonder if maybe Greenwood really was that way all around. It seemed like too many coincidences of good nature to be purely accidental.
We finally decided to wrap up our day, feeling confident that we got a good snapshot of what it means to be in Greenwood, and capped everything off with a trip to Carkeek Park. It was beautiful and looked gorgeous out, the incoming clouds bringing more rain giving the appearance of an early sunset. We didn’t go down to the beach, but did walk over the concrete bridge structure over the train tracks, where J.See had once come at night while a train roared beneath and claimed it was quite the thrilling experience. I thought just being on the seemingly unsteady structure and looking down was excitement enough and couldn’t get down fast enough.
Goodbye, Greenwood! We called as we drove away. We hope the fun here is a sign of things to come as we visit other neighborhoods.
Overall Grade: A+
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Welcome to Seattle Neighborhood Watch!
We aren't in the business of staring behind curtains on the lookout for local crime, but we are interested in observing the atmosphere and goings on in the different neighborhoods in Seattle and reporting back on the vibe.
We are tourists in our own city, PREPARE YOURSELF FOR THE BLOGVENTURE.