Saturday, June 30, 2012

Restaurant Review: Sazerac

Before we went to Les Misérables on Thursday night we grabbed dinner at Sazerac because it's right around the corner from the theater. Stew and Erin hadn't been there before but it's one of my favorites because the food is delicious and the happy hour menu is available in both the bar and the restaurant daily from 4pm to 8pm. It's also usually relatively easy to get a table without much of a wait.

Erin arrived early and got us a table by the window so we could people watch and chat while we waited for Stew to arrive. Our waitress was incredibly nice and accomodating about the fact that our party kept arriving at different times.

Stew found the menu to be a little "fancy" for his taste and instead of ordering small bites from the happy hour menu decided on a burger and fries.  

Special Grind Burger with cheddar and crispy bacon,
cabernet onions, housemade pickles, and hand-cut fries: $16

Erin and I opted to share a few things from the happy hour menu... 

Deviled Eggs with smoked ham and jalapeno: $4

Crispy "Truffles" with yukon potato, truffle cheese and truffle aioli: $7

Little Cheese Burgers "Deluxe" with cheddar, lettuce,
tomato and garlic aioli: $5

I really liked sharing the small plates because it left just enough room for dessert...

Watermelon blackberry house-churned sorbet: $6

Ooey gooey chocolate cake with pouring cream: $8.

We really went all out with drinks, food and dessert so we ended up spending about $75 before tip for three people. Not the cheapest happy hour in the city but the food is so delicious, happy hour goes late, and you never have to wait for a table, which keeps Sazerac pretty high up on my list of favorite Seattle happy hour locations. Yum.

Friday, June 29, 2012

I Dreamed A Dream

Our 5th Avenue Theatre subscriber package this year didn't include tickets to Les Misérables, so we decided to buy some with my sister, Erin. It holds a special place in her heart as the first musical she ever saw, and Stew remembers the music because his mom had the soundtrack growing up. As for me, I enjoyed the movie almost as much as I loved the moment when Susan Boyle sang "I Dreamed A Dream" on Britain's Got Talent. (Seriously, it still makes me tear up a little when I watch it.)

I'm familiar with a lot of the music from Les Misérables and I saw the movie years ago, but I couldn't quite remember the story so I was really looking forward to the show. We had purchased fairly good orchestra level seats about 20 rows back from the stage and couldn't wait for the curtain to go up. As soon as it did I realized my mistake... we probably should have sprung for front row seats. I need glasses so badly! It's really pathetic. I could see the blobs of people and sets on the stage, and I could vaguely make out the difference between men and women, but beyond that I was resigned to just listening in order to put the plot together.

The story is quite complicated with lots of characters spanning several different time periods, and I although I was thoroughly enjoying the music I found myself becoming quite lost. Was that vaguely male-shaped blob Jean Valjean or Inspector Javert? Was that little kid Cosette or Gavroche? I had no idea. That woman looks like Fantine, but I thought she died? Oh wait, we've actually gone several years forward and it's actually Cosette all grown up. And Madame Thénardier... I thought she was the innkeeper's wife in a small village, but now she's on the streets of Paris? My head was spinning.

When I checked in with Erin and intermission she actually confirmed that I had the gist of the story correct, so I sat back to enjoy the second act. It started out with one of my favorite Les Mis songs, On My Own, which was so good it gave me chills and also had me daydreaming about one of my favorite Dawson's Creek moments. But following that there were a lot of French Revolution scenes and battles which I also found myself daydreaming through.

I wished I had done a little more Wikipedia research before going to the show (or at least gotten myself to the eye doctor), but overall we absolutely loved Les Misérables and were so happy to enjoy a fun evening at the theater together.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Book Review: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

I read Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson for my office book club and enjoyed it so much! The plot itself may seem somewhat boring... A story about the residents of Edgecombe St. Mary, a small village in the English countryside, including Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired).

The unlikely hero, Major Pettigrew, is an incredibly lovable character from the very first page. He lives a quiet life and values all the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. I found Major Pettigrew to be incredibly endearing and I loved how his opinionated personality changed over the course of the novel.

His brother's death sparks a family feud over a set of expensive shotguns, and in the meantime he kindles a friendship with the Pakistani village shop keeper, Mrs. Jasmina Ali. Both of their spouses are deceased and their bond over a love of literature quickly grows into more. But the villiage "society" regards Mrs. Ali as a foreigner, and some go out of their way to make the relationship difficult for Mrs. Ali and the Major. But in the end Major Pettigrew discovers that "life [is], after all, more simple than he had ever imagined."

It's honestly difficult to explain why I liked this book so much. When I think back on it, the words "delightful" and "charming" come to mind. The characters are warm, funny and surprisingly real. Simonson pays close attention to detail in her descriptions... you can actually see the rolling green English countryside and taste a delicious cup of steaming hot tea. Maybe I just loved how the whole story and all the characters in it were so quintessentially English: "Passion is all very well," says the Major, "but it wouldn't do to spill the tea."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Restaurant Review: Cactus

Patty is spending the week in Seattle for some educational training classes, so last night we got together with her and her sister, Kathleen, for dinner. We decided on Cactus in South Lake Union because I wanted to try out the new location. I have been to both the Madison Park and Kirkland restaurants before and absolutely loved them! The food is incredible, the drinks are delicious, and the atmosphere is bright and fun. Last night was no exception...

Patty and Kathleen arrived early at 6 p.m. and got on the list (they don't take reservations except for parties of 6-8 people), so by the time Stew and I arrived a half hour later we were able to get seated right away. The server brought out chips and fresh salsa right away and I ordered a Mango Fruta Margarita to start, yum!

We also got the Blue Corn Calamari as an appetizer. It has crispy jalapeños, lime chimichurri and smoked Fresno aïoli. Super yummy but VERY spicy... for my first bite I accidentally ate a giant  jalapeño slice and had to guzzle almost my entire drink to put out the fire in my mouth.

I almost always order the Butternut Squash Enchiladas at Cactus (crisp white corn tortillas with Jack and goat cheeses, sautéed spinach, roasted butternut squash, caramelized onions, mole rojo, guacamole... heaven!) but this time I decided to try something new: Cactus Fajitas.

Grilled natural skirt steak served in a sizzling skillet with
Spanish rice, cumin black beans and caramelized onions.
Guacamole, sour cream, Jack cheese, lettuce,
pico de gallo and warm flour tortillas on the side.

My assembled fajita.
Patty ended up trying the enchiladas and she liked them a lot, and Stew loved his House Chimichchanga. Plus he also got to finish the second half of my skirt steak and we still took home a lot of rice and bean leftovers.

Our waitress was incredibly nice and she kept the chips, salsa, sodas, water, etc. filled the whole time we were there. She also gave us a personalized "menu tour" and didn't seem to mind taking our photo at all. We also didn't feel rushed to leave when we were done eating which is something I absolutely can't stand. I was definitely glad I chose Cactus for our dinner date and I'd go back again any time, I just love this place!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Port Townsend Family Camping Trip

I have been going to Port Townsend with my family for weekend trips since before I can even remember. We have lots of history up there on both sides of my family. My Grandma Sally grew up at Fort Worden during WWII while her father was stationed there, and Grandpa on my dad's side also grew up in Port Townsend and went to high school there. My family still has quite a bit of property near North Beach, but it's still undeveloped, so this weekend we were camping at Fort Worden State Park.

The weather forecast looked super dreary and rainy, but the trip was already planned so Stew, my sister Erin, and I caught an early ferry over on Saturday morning to meet up with the rest of the family who had arrived the night before. Ironically, we also ran into some of my aunties on the ferry! They were also heading over to Port Townsend to check the progress on my aunt and uncle's retirement home they are building just outside town.

We arrived just in time for some of my mom's famous biscuits and gravy before we headed downtown for some tourism. I absolutely love wandering around Farmer's Markets, and even though this one was fairly small it was still lots of fun. Stew and I ate some delicious pastries and I got sucked into sampling and purchasing some all-natural hippie skin exfoliant.

My parents are so cute!
From there we decided to wander in and out of the shops downtown, grabbing lunch at one of my favorite pizza places of all time, Waterfront Pizza. This tiny little pizza joint has some of the best slices I have ever eaten. There is a tiny seating area upstairs, but we prefer to just order by the slice from the displays right off the sidewalk and eat them on picnic benches overlooking the water. Yum!

Stew loves bubble gum ice cream; it's a pretty rare find!

The weather on Saturday was absolutely tragic. Cold and gray all morning until the afternoon when it started to absolutely pour down rain for several hours. We did venture up to the old war bunkers where my cousins were playing capture the flag, but standing in the cold looking out at the rain wasn't fun for long so we headed back to camp. Hanging out in the motorhome was equally exciting, even though Stew tried to spice things up by drinking a 40-oz beer. The rain didn't show signs of letting up so we decided that instead of barbecuing we would head into town for dinner.

Extended family on my dad's side.

The Public House on water street is one of my favorite places for a sit down meal in Port Townsend. They always have enough tables to accomodate a large group, everyone is super friendly, and the tables are covered in white butcher paper so you can draw masterpieces in crayon while you wait for your food. The food is also pretty yummy but a little pricey so be prepared.

Branded buns!
That evening the rain let up enough for us to take a walk along the bluff and get a campfire going. There's not much I like more than sitting around a campfire chatting until late into the evening.

Gorgeous views on our little hike up to the bluff.

Gotta love Washington State camping!

All bundled up making the best of it!

Glowing frisbee... great for games in the dark.

Loving my husband.

Cousins! Why am I so short?

On Sunday we awoke to sunlight streaming in the windows! Of course by this point a lot of people in our group had already headed home, but we were still able to get in some beach time with my family before we had to head home and face the upcoming week.

The clouds over the water were absolutely gorgeous.

Teaching Roxy not to fear the ocean.

With my little bro and sis.
It was such a great trip and reminded me so much of my childhood. I loved spending the weekend in this tiny little town and it was so awesome to catch up with my cousins because it's rare that we all get to spend time together in a big group.

How was your weekend?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Restaurant Review: Blue Star Cafe & Pub

We don't get together often enough, so last weekend my sister and I organized brunch with our cousins at Blue Star Cafe & Pub.

We arrived at 11 a.m. and I was shocked to find out there was only a 15 minute wait. I hadn't been to Blue Star in years but it didn't seem like it had changed a bit; I really like the casual, social atmosphere. The huge, plastic, tri-fold menu is full of diner-style food including fresh ingredients and some healthy options. I ordered the Eggs Burrito with fruit on the side instead of potatoes.

Flour tortilla rolled around scrambled eggs, cheddar & jack cheese,
topped with cheddar, sour cream, onion & salsa - $9.75

There was really nothing special about my burrito, but it was tasty and filled me up. The fruit on the side also had a decent variety and was super fresh and yummy. The waitress was very friendly and accommodating about the fact that we wanted to sit for a while after we finished eating to chit chat. It was so great to catch up with my cousins and hear what was going on with everyone. Sometimes brunch and an extra cup of coffee is exactly what you need as a break from the hustle of everyday life.

Cousins! Sarah, Alyson, Erin and Mary.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Restaurant Review: D'Ambrosio Gelateria

After dinner last Friday we weren't quite ready to call it a night, so we wandered down the street to D'Ambrosio Gelateria for some dessert. Stewart absolutely loves gelato, and when he lived in Europe he often used to eat it in large quantities as a meal instead of real food. But apparently there are very few gelato places in Seattle so he was excited to try out this new one in Ballard.

Apparently there are three main differences between gelato and ice cream: Gelato has a warmer serving temperature, lower fat content and creamier texture, which allows it to showcase its flavors much better than traditional ice cream. I was most excited to learn about the lower fat content, and the sorbetto fruit flavors are fat free!

Waiting out front... a line out the door and down the sidewalk!

Matt & Stew enjoying their gelato.

I got a size small with two different flavors.

The gelato is hand made from scratch in the shop from natural ingredients, organic dairy products, organic fruit, and spring mineral water for the sorbetto fruit flavors. Stew and I tried five flavors between us and they were absolutely delicious, cold and creamy. The size small was actually a bit too much for me and Stew ended up eating about half of mine after he finished his own.

The shop itself is small and quaint with large display cases and lots of little seating areas near the windows where you can enjoy your gelato and watch the Ballardites walking by. It was a great way to end the evening and since it's within walking distance of our condo I'm sure we will be back many times this summer.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Restaurant Review: The Sexton

When we were on Stew's birthday pub crawl, my friend Alissa and I noticed a ton of new bars and restaurants up and down Ballard Avenue that we wanted to try. So on Friday night we ventured out on a little walk to check things out.

We ended up at The Sexton for dinner because of the delicious sounding menu and casual patio we could glimpse out back. The Sexton features small plates of Southern Comfort food and lots of bourbon. The atmosphere is very casual and we sat at a picnic table underneath a tree with a bicycle in the branches while drinking out of mason jars. Definitely my kind of place. We weren't quite sure how big the portions would be, so to be on the safe side we decided to order one of almost everything on the menu. This turned out to be a great idea because we got to try almost everything and Stewart didn't go away hungry.

Hand written Southern Comfort food menu in the window.

Old black and white photos decorate the casual interior. 

I loved this mason jar light fixture.

Picnic table seating underneath a bicycle in a tree!

One of the famous Bourbon drinks.

And here are just a few of the yummy dishes we sampled... 

Chicken Pot Pie - $8.

Three Sliders - $7.
(house ground chuck, brioche, scratch made steak sauce)

Sexton Mac - $8.
(bacon roux, five cheese, arugula, balsamic redux)

Boneless Buttermilk Fried Chicken - $11.

Red Beans and Rice - $7.
(andouille sausage)

And a glass of Pinot Noir for me!

Everything was delicious and our server was incredibly nice and personable. She just brought the dishes out as they were ready which gave us time to enjoy the food and drinks and chat in between "courses." The portions were definitely on the small side so I would say order at least 4-5 items for a couple if you're planning on a whole meal. Otherwise The Sexton would be a great place for drinks and apps or happy hour before heading somewhere else for your main meal. We really liked it there and would definitely go back.