Think Happy Thoughts

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I love when small things can overwhelm you with happiness. The kind of happiness that makes you talk in a high pitched squeaky voice, “OhmyGodIloveit!”–like these peonies my friend gave me from her yard in my jadeite vase. Peonies smell amazing and for days I smiled when ever I saw these.

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Seattle is pretty coffee crazy. I hear some obnoxious over-the-top coffee orders on a regular basis. A slightly wet cappuccino…really?!  Latte art is typical and some baristas are quite talented at this.  The Moore Coffee Shop puts a smile on your face with its non hipster cartoonish latte art.  There’s a dog smiling in my coffee!

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I spy something orange. Look there, right there in the middle of my photo….a little to the left….see the orange giraffes? When I lived in West Seattle, everyday on my drive home from work the orange “giraffes” that line the shipping yards would point me home to West Seattle. Want to get this bird’s eye view of all of Seattle? Head up the Columbia Tower, Seattle’s tallest building, to the 73rd floor Sky View Observatory. This 360 degree panoramic view is stunning and on a clear day you can see the Cascade Mountains, the Olympics, and Mount Rainier.

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Bourbon makes me happy lately. (Not in a I drink bourbon alone in a dark room to be happy way.) An old fashioned is my favorite drink to savor on a night out with friends. The chunky ice cubes at The Gerald in Ballard make this the best old fashioned in Seattle. Actually, The Gerald produces some of the best cocktails in Seattle.

How to Do Portland

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SLEEP:  Most of my Portland trips have been rather last minute. My best trick up my sleeve is Priceline. We have always been able to get a great 4 star hotel at a reasonable price through the name your own price option. We’ve stayed at the Vintage Plaza, River’s Edge Hotel and Spa, and my favorite The Westin. Oh those heavenly Westin beds.

EAT:

Portland is land of hipsters. Fittingly, it has a diverse food scene to satisfy the demands of all its hip foodies. Brunch is fo’ real in Portland. Plan on it taking up at least 2 hours of your day. My favorite spot is the Scandanavian cafe Broder. Since you’re going to have to endure the wait, Broder came up with a brilliant plan to occupy the bar next store for you to sip coffee while you wait. Oh, and it’s worth the wait.

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If you don’t wanna make that kind of time commitment, head on over to the Waffle Window and try a plain pearl sugar Belgian waffle or if you’re adventurous go for the Bacon, Basil, Brie with peach jam. Honorable mention for brunch goes to Pine State Biscuits.

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If you’re ready for happy hour, head on down to Andina in the Pearl District.

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MORE EATS: Another great place to grab a drink is Teardrop Cocktail Lounge. Check out that hipster bartender, excuse me, mixologist! Yes, that’s my giant punch bowl…in Grandma’s china…to not be confused with those fish bowl drinking days of college. We are classy now.

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If you need to fill up on more grub head to Toro Bravo for tapas, Pambiche for Cuban food, or Pok Pok for authentic Thai.

One of my favorite restaurants is Laurelhurst Market, sad I have no photos to share due to dim lighting and my inability to make a slab of meat look appetizing. The best steaks for the most reasonable prices can be found here.

Or you can forget all those and focus on Salt & Straw!!! Mmm, olive oil ice cream…want!

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THINGS TO DO IN BETWEEN EATING:

Portland has a lot of great neighborhoods, do explore outside the downtown core. However, if you are starting downtown, don’t miss wandering around the Pearl District. I love perusing every inch of Cargo, a giant warehouse of Asian imports. I love Kokeshi dolls!

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One of my favorite shops on the planet, Porch Light is also in the Pearl. I hate to say it is not as quaint as their old location; however, it still is very well done and I haven’t ever escaped empty handed.

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FYI- Those rugs are Dash and Albert–so great and reasonably priced.

I would be a complete bozo if I didn’t recommend any visitor to scope out Powell’s Books. This is Mecca for book lovers. I love that used books are mixed right in with the new. The cookbook section is amazing. I have purchased several niche cookbooks, as well as my current obsession, junior league recipe books.

The Japanese Garden is another downtown sight that doesn’t disappoint. You feel like you’ve stepped into a hidden world in the middle of downtown. Don’t expect a massive garden; do look forward to a tranquil garden to sit and relax with company, or your own thoughts, and take in the beauty.

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If you have the means to venture out into the surrounding neighborhoods, I recommend checking out Vintage Pink.

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 If you want to venture further out and take a break on your wallet and stomach, Multnomah Falls is a 30 minute drive that has options for hiking. The Willamette Valley is also easily combined with a Portland visit. Check out Erath winery. Pinot noirs are the THANG in the Valley and Erath’s is superb.

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The last few weeks have thrown me for a loop. My boyfriend, SeattleFlyerGuy, accepted a job offer in the San Francisco area. Later this summer I will pack my things as well. Alas, I’m already feeling saddened about leaving Seattle after over 5 years here. So, I better get to work on sharing some of my secret Seattle spots.

Hidden in the Rainier Beach neighborhood, the Kubota Garden is an impressive twenty acre park that has been thoughtfully cultivated by Japanese gardener Fujitaro Kubota and his family since the 1920s.  The Garden is just the right amount of everything–not too crowded and a balance of areas of simple natural beauty with areas of manmade awe.

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My next secret spot involves a bit of driving. Near Tacoma, Washington is the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. It’s about an hour drive from Seattle but the quiet, contemplative magic it offers is worth the trip. Walking the trails offers a glimpse at a this unique estuary ecosystem. The Nisqually Wildlife Refuge hosts over 200 species of birds each year. You will often see herons in the river delta. Wander further out from the visitor center and you will find two striking white barns on your way to an immense boardwalk.  So immense I actually have never made it to the end! I almost made it once but was stopped by a bee hive that had been disturbed and was swarming.

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My last secret spot to reveal, for now, is a diner in Seattle, just near Boeing airfield. Randy’s diner hasn’t changed a bit since the 60s (I presume). It is like stepping into a Twilight Zone. It’s no 5 star dining experience, but you can order classic diner pancakes, bacon, and toast a la carte to your hearts content. The waitresses will never let you see the bottom of your black coffee mug. And you can’t beat the wine…its 2.75 and your choice between red or white. If I ever had to hold a secret meeting Randy’s would be the spot.

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Just Saying

I’m no genius or great innovator. But these two ideas popped into my brain, who knows from where, and I’m liking them. They are small but mighty.

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I don’t think I need to give the recipe for this. We’ve all made rice krispie treats, some of us more often than we’d like to admit. Just put in whatever ratio of fruit loops (or other cereal you want) in your standard rice krispie treat recipe.

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These Joia sodas are a perfect mixer for your alcohol of choice. Take a few sips, add a slug of dark rum (my choice), and enjoy. Fancy straw optional.

 

Pretzel, Madame?

It’s not quite spring yet, so comforting meals are still an option! Sometimes you need a hearty sandwich. Hearty sandwiches are best achieved by adding an egg. An egg sandwich makes me think of a croque madame. Et voilà …my idea for a pretzel croque madame.

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Trader Joe’s now carries soft pretzel buns! These looked so delicious we had to plan our dinner around these pretzels.  Trader Joe’s carries a cheddar gruyere blend that was a perfect fit. I’m sure a ham and cheese sandwich would have been enough, but my brain and belly wanted more! Luckily I had all the fixins for a croque madame of sorts.

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Make a béchamel sauce. Much easier than its fancy name! I only had fat free milk but it still turned out rich enough. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a saucepan. Stir in 1 tablespoon of flour until it forms a paste. Whisk in 6 ounces of milk. Add 1/2 teaspoon of dijon mustard and 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg. Stir often over medium heat until the sauce thickens. Grate the cheese to your liking! I liked the cheese a lot! Add about an ounce to the sauce and turn the heat off.  Toast up your pretzel buns under the broiler. Assemble your sandwich as follows: add a little extra mustard to the buns, a couple slices of black forest ham, a sprinkle of more grated cheese, and spoon on the béchamel sauce. I snuck the sandwiches back under the broiler so the cheese would melt.

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Don’t forget the best part, the fried egg! Season your fried egg and place it on top of the sauce. Enjoy!

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Westward Ho!

It’s acknowledged in my Top 5, so I suppose I can’t keep it a complete secret. Errr, alright, you can take a peek. I’ve been hoarding this photo because, well, for no good reason. I walk past canned clams in the grocery lately and give them a second look wondering if they could ever transform into this smoked manila clam dip creation from Westward:

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Oh and those potato chips!

I’ve been to Westward a couple times now, once for dinner and then recently for lunch. (I enjoyed my clammy dip on both occasions.)  Westward has elevated mediterranean seafood not without a Pacific Northwest feel.  The atmosphere is great. Think modern Jacques Cousteau.

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My recent lunch there introduced me to my new crustacean craving the Dungeness crab tartine.  This was perfection. The toast was crisp, the seaweed added a salty umami flavor, it was not too heavy on the aioli, but thankfully heavy on the crab! Even the side salad with fresh herbs and pickled veggies was amazing and balanced out the creaminess of the crab.

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When we enjoyed dinner there a few months back, we thought about their winter squash soup for weeks. And their milk braised pork papardelle with hazelnuts was a hit. Check out their website for current seasonal offerings.

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How could you not want to head Westward after this? Still on the fence? Did I tell you about the view? Well it sits right on the water on north Lake Union.  They have a fire pit for guests to enjoy while lounging in Adirondack chairs.

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Ice Cream, Ice Cream, We All Scream for Ice Cream Muffins!

I didn’t need to read the full recipe. The title alone is enough. Ice cream muffins? Ice cream muffins!! Wha? Yes!! Where have you been ice cream muffins? Hiding in an old Atlanta Junior League cookbook I recently picked up, that’s where.

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This idea is so fun and surprising you’ll want to make it no matter how difficult the recipe. Lo and behold, the recipe is the easiest thing I’ve made in years!

Two ingredients.

Two.

Ice cream + self rising flour =muffins.  See, I no lie:

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Thanks Miss Virginia Carswell of Atlanta.

Pick out your chosen ice cream. Since there’s only two ingredients, I opted to get the good stuff–Haagen Dazs. Let it soften up, not too soupy, but somewhat soupy. I may have sampled a taste…Yep, this will work nicely.

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Self rising flour is more of a staple in the south. I’ve never used it before. Apparently it is  flour that has baking soda and salt evenly distributed throughout.  You could make your own, but come on, then you lose that appeal of two ingredient muffins!

Mix together equal ratios of your somewhat soupy ice cream and flour. Here’s how my dough looked:

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The 1:1 ratio in this recipe makes a smaller batch of muffins–about 8 small muffins. I suggest making more! Maybe 1.5:1.5 cups to get you a nice dozen. In my preheated 425 degree oven, it actually took about 20 minutes to lightly brown the muffins…just keep a close eye on them. Burnt ice cream muffins would be sad.

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I tried some dulce de leche on mine. Nom! Pretty darn good. I can’t wait to try more ice cream flavors!

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Craveable Tofu!?

Is it strange to crave tofu? Well recently, I’ve had tofu on the brain. This has to be my favorite preparation of tofu.

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Not long after I moved to Seattle I discovered a version of this dish at Black Bottle Gastrotavern. I’ve tried many variations of crispy tofu. Frying it myself produced more soggy than crispy results. You can even buy prepackaged fried tofu in many Asian grocery stores…ehhh OK…but doesn’t seem fresh enough. When I came across this idea to bake the tofu that promised crispy pieces with creamy insides, I was forced to try the recipe as soon as possible. A quick search for a peanut sauce…voilà…ginger peanut sauce recipe from the New York Times. Side note: Do make the marinade suggested for the tofu! Worth the extra step.

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So You Came to Seattle for Seafood?

Yes, seafood is abundant here, but I’m not sure I could have recommended a surefire, reasonably priced seafood extravaganza restaurant until my favorite neighborhood West Seattle produced Seattle Fish Company.  Certainly, there is noteworthy seafood to be found at many other restaurants but not all in one spot like Seattle Fish Company!  Since they expanded the storefront into a restaurant as well, it has been a go-to for my clam strip, chowder, and crab cake cravings.  Here’s what I mean:

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Recently a friend of mine from out of town came to visit and he and his guests made the Seattle Fish Company a stop on their short trip. Yes!! I agree, this should be a stop for out-of-towners to experience! This is the quintessential seafood experience you think about when you come to Seattle! Half a crab with drawn butter? Yep. Po’boys? Yep. Grilled salmon? Yep.  And more? For sure.

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Pacific Galleries Antique Mall

Guys! Guys! I’m stopping the presses on some of my other post ideas: I recently discovered the Pacific Galleries Antique Mall and my socks were knocked off. This is a must do shopping experience in Seattle…who knew?! Not even many Seattleites are in the know about this one.  I was fed up with my previous antique mall in Seattle, who shall not be named, and sought out a bigger better experience. Bingo Bango! 30,000 square feet of antique shopping! I poured over hundreds of carefully curated booths for over 2.5 hours.  I had to leave only because I was getting parched and my guy, SeattleFlyerGuy, was starting to zone out.  We didn’t leave empty handed. We scored the complete 8 glass set of Seattle World’s Fair Glasses (like these) for the astonishing low price of $75 bucks or so…I have been coveting these for years. It was a post holiday sale throughout the entire Antique Mall!

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I also was wandering the mall keeping my eyes peeled for some of my antique loves: jadeite or fire king oven ware, antique tv trays, mid-century furniture and home accessories, and anything cow related of course.  Pacific Galleries is a great place to go furniture shopping, gift shopping, or just kill a few hours.  And pricing seems to be more reasonable for most items compared to “Antique Mall Who Shall Not Be Named.” Bonus: no creepy guy who sits at the desk and whistles along to every song on the world’s worst ipod playlist.  Definitely worth checking out this place if you’re from out of town and love treasure hunting!

pacgal