Friday, October 17, 2014

Seattle: Magnolia Park has a Magnificent View

When I talked to my friends back home, I had a lot of questions about how I handled all the rain in Seattle.  This photo (above) sums up the weather I experienced while in the Pacific Northwest. I was there between April - October and it was magnificent. I've heard that the traditional rainy season is October-March and it definitely rains then, so our timing was lucky. 
We spent a beautiful Sunday exploring Seattle and found Magnolia Park on top of the Magnolia Bluff. A million dollar view that you can enjoy any time you want. The sparkling water is Puget Sound and depending on the direction you looked, you could see sailboats or freighters. We relaxed on a bench and wished we had brought along a picnic.
What a view. You can see why I loved every minute of my time in Seattle.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Seattle: Salmon Days in Issaquah...or rather, Fishaquah

It was a beautiful Friday evening (Oct 3, 2014) at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery in Issaquah, Washington, just West of Seattle. It was the night that "Issaquah Salmon Days" festival begins and many many townspeople had come to the hatchery to see the salmon run.
We hung over the railing and took photos as fish after fish flung himself up barrier trying to get back home.
This is a map at the hatchery showing the lifespan and route of the salmon.

You can see the tank full of salmon (above). There is a wonderful video somewhere on the site that shows the purpose and practices of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery. It is really well done and explains the life cycle of the salmon and how they aid in fertilizing the salmon eggs and raising the baby salmon (all the correct terms are escaping me) and releasing them into the wild to help protect and propagate the species.
You can see that the river is full of salmon, waiting for a chance to fling themselves up the river.

The entire town of Issaquah celebrates the return of the salmon with a 3-day festival (parade, fair, art show) and during the festival each year, the area is affectionately known as "Fish-aquah," which I think is adorable. That is town spirit.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Leavenworth: Washington Apples at Prey's Fruit Barn

This time of year, Prey's Fruit Barn looks ready for a magazine shoot for Washington apples. Aren't they gorgeous? On our drive back toward Seattle from the Leavenworth Oktoberfest, we saw Prey's Fruit Barn.
Cezanne would swoon. Look at this basket of "Brooks Plums." This farm stand remind me of the paintings by Cezanne!
We bought two apples from several varieties and I baked them in my little convection toaster oven. The secret to easy baked apples is wash them and run a sharp knife around the equator, about a half inch deep.  Place them in a baking dish and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes. The apples will bake and relax, but maintain their shape. No coring necessary! Place each apple on your guest's dinner plate and they can just slide the skin up and eat the flesh, avoiding the core.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Seattle: Date Night at Salty's on Alki Beach

Salty's on Alki Beach is my favorite date night restaurant in Seattle. The food is delicious and the staff seems genuinely happy for customers who are "visiting Seattle" and get to experience dinner with this spectacular view. 
Dan and I drove over to Alki Beach to find a casual restaurant that I had read a lot about. When we arrived, it was a little too casual, primarily take out and we decided that we'd rather have more of a Sunday Dinner.  A long quiet meal with a chance to soak up the view from Alki Beach.
We were able to get right in (it was 6 o'clock) and were seated at a table with a view. I ordered the True Cod and Prawn Picatta, which is finished with caper berries, artichoke hearts, baby heirloom tomatoes and italian parsley. It was delicious. The cod took on the bright flavors of the sauce and I ate every bite.
This view is a wider shot of the city - the buildings aren't as clear, but you can see the distinct skyline that Dr. Fraser Crane made so famous. If you are planning a visit to Seattle, you must include one lovely meal at Salty's on Alki Beach. During warm weather, you can request a table out on the deck.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Seattle Day Trip: Oktoberfest in Leavenworth, Washington

Oktoberfest awaits! And this is the last weekend to celebrate in 2014! Get thee to Leavenworth, Washington.
I had heard that Leavenworth was a "charming Alpine-inspired" town and since it is located about 2 hours East of Seattle, I thought that it could be a fun day trip for us.

Then I read an article by Fodor's Travel choosing Leavenworth's Oktoberfest as one of America's best Oktoberfests. Some of my ancestors are from Germany and the thought of real potato pancakes sealed the deal. Oktoberfest is celebrated the first 3 weekends in October and we were able to visit on opening weekend.
So cute! You can ride in a horse drawn carriage around town. Or...
Have a carb-laden German meal at The Tumwater Restaurant. This is chicken schnitzel with mashed potatoes, vegetables and a side potato pancake. It was satisfying and delicious.
The town itself is beautiful. I read that the town reinvented itself in the 1960's as a way to bring tourists to a struggling town surrounded by mountains. The goal was to rebrand itself into a "bavarian village." What I imagined a pre-planned town to look like is far from the charming area I visited.

From the design of the buildings to the colors of the paint, the town looks like a real alpine village. There are hand-painted murals on the buildings as well as "picture frame" paint around the windows and the flower boxes are brimming with color and texture. Leavenworth, Washington would make any bavarian village proud.
This was one of the large gathering places, a biergarten with long outdoor tables and ping pong. Many of the visitors come to Oktoberfest dressed in German clothing and  I saw at least 75 men (of all ages), proudly wearing Tyrolean hats, complete with pins and feathers. Some of the hats looked as if they had been passed down from their grandfathers.
I didn't go shopping while I was in Leavenworth. The fresh air and beautiful mountains, live music and happy citizens made me want to stay outside.

A final note is this: visit Leavenworth no matter the season. It is a lovely town in a beautiful setting. I only wish I would be in the area a Christmastime. I would like nothing better than to walk around town with a mug of hot cranberry Gluhwein, admiring the lights and decorations. Think of the advent calendars, ornaments and wooden Christmas pyramids...then I would shop! 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Seattle: Volunteer Park Cafe and Cold Brew Coffee by Slate Coffee Roasters

I was looking for any port in a storm. Not really, but I had been at Volunteer Park looking at the dahlia garden for ages and I was desperate for a coffee and a snack.

It was later I realized that I was at the Volunteer Park Cafe - a little restaurant in Capitol Hill that several people had recommended I visit. Win-win. I was checking things off my list and I didn't even know it.  
The Volunteer Park Cafe was closing to regroup between their lunch and dinner hours but I arrived just in time to order a fresh pear cake and a bottle of cold brew coffee (who knew you could buy bottled unsweetened cold brew coffee?) by Slate Coffee Roasters at a table out front. I am the latest big fan of cold brew coffee. It is strong, but not bitter and has even more kick than a regular iced coffee. Where do I sign?

I would love to go back to the Volunteer Park Cafe and have a meal and really get to know the place. I'm putting it on the running list I have called "Seattle."

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Seattle: Fans can Boat Gate at the University of Washington Huskies' football games

Seattle, Washington has more spectacular views than I can count. I've been telling people that the area is like a national park with a city inside, but even that description pales in comparison. The photo above is a view of Lake Washington from one of the hilltops near Capitol Hill.
This photo is from the same vista, just focusing a little to a left so that you can see the University of Washington ("U-Dub" - "u" for university and "dub" for the sound of the letter "w") Huskies' football stadium.  It is one of the few stadiums in the country where you can boat gate. Picnic on your boat and then ride a shuttle boat over to the campus to watch the game in person. So neat! You can read an article about the stadiums where this is possible here.

I was driving around town exploring on this particular Saturday and was listening to the Huskies' football game on the radio. When I stopped to take this picture, it was fun to see the boats on Lake Washington near the stadium and realize that they were boatgating! 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Seattle: A La Mode Pies Need No Ice Cream

Oh me, oh my, look at all this gorgeous pie. I ordered two slices and asked the nice man behind the counter to cut them in half, so that I could try a little of each on site with a latte and take the other two halves home to Dan.  

These a two halves are: Bourbon Butterscotch pie and Chocolate Caramel Pecan Tart from A la Mode Pies in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood of Seattle. First let me say that the Chocolate Caramel Pecan tart was delicious - exceptional pecans, perfect crust, sticky sweet base - high marks all around. 

The only problem was that I tried the Bourbon Butterscotch pie first and I wanted nothing else from then on. Maybe ever. It was cold and sweet with bourbon undertones and creamy overtones. It is the kind of pie I want to rub on my face. I didn't, of course. It's just my mind trying to think of something dramatic to do to make the magic last. This is how A la Mode describes my new favorite pie:

"This New Orleans-inspired delight starts with a delicate crust of vanilla wafers, brown sugar and toasted pecans. We then pour in sweet, smooth homemade pudding infused with caramelized sugar, vanilla, butter and a splash of bourbon whiskey - all topped with freshly whipped cream and toasted pecan pieces" - 

You'd dive right in too, right? This sweet little pie shop was a great place to take a break on a rainy afternoon. Want to hear a coincidence? The nice man behind the counter was from Michigan and grew up spending his summers in Glen Arbor, the little town next to my little town up north! We both go back every year and joked that we might run into each other next August "in town." Small world indeed. 

If you get a chance, stop into A la Mode Pies and indulge in something wonderful. These pies are fantastic. A la mode or not.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Seattle: The Dahlia Barn has Every Dahlia Tuber I Want

I absolutely adore dahlias and was so excited when I found out there was a dahlia farm "within reach" of where I was staying in Seattle. Dahlias start blooming in August and are prolific through October. I love them because so many of the petal styles look as if they are carved from wax.
I was able to meet the owners of The Dahlia Barn, Aimee and Jerry and see for myself how passionate they are about these magnificent plants. In my opinion, The Dahlia Barn is THE source for dahlia tubers and I encourage you to order some for your garden. I am impressed with their entire operation, including the detailed care and planting instructions they offer online. 
As someone who grows and cares for roses (which has its challenges), I am comfortable with the "plant in Spring; dig up in Fall" instructions that will keep my dahlia plants performing at their best. I can't wait to order a bevy of beauties this Winter, anticipating their shipment in the Spring. If you are in the Seattle (North Bend, Washington area) you can visit The Dahlia Barn beginning in May to shop for and buy your tubers in person.
It is wonderful to see a family farm thriving.
When dahlias are in season (mid August - mid October), The Dahlia Barn offers the heart-stopping choice of bulk cut flowers for weddings or events. I insist that you click here and see what a car full of dahlia bouquets looks like (scroll down the page). Dahlias are reason enough to plan a Fall wedding. Take a look at this 5-minute bouquet of red dahlias.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Seattle: Bellevue's Crab Pot Serves Up Fresh Seafood

It was a seafood spectacle! We went to The Crab Pot in Bellevue with mallets in mind. We were in the mood for the best of the Pacific Northwest. It was a calm 70 degree night - perfect for dinner by the lake.

We donned our bibs and dug into "The Westport" Seafest (King crab, Dungeness crab, Snow crab, shrimp in the shell, steamed clams, Pacific mussels, andouille sausage, corn on the cob & red potatoes in their jackets).

Everything tastes better outside and we really enjoyed The Crab Pots take on fresh seafood. Word to the wise, "shrimp in the shell" means that the head is on and all the legs too. Dan had to intercept the shrimp and take care of a few things for me, but once he did, they were delicious.

Have you ever taken a mallet to a crab leg? It had been a while for me but it was like riding a bike. I had that gorgeous meat freed in no time. Messy but fun, I highly recommend an outdoor table at The Crab Pot.