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