extremely long post about seattle
i lived in seattle from September 1999 to July 2000. i think it's safe to say that my departure, to Michigan for grad school, was something of a fleeing of the pacific northwest. this past weekend was my first time back since leaving. i'd been invited up to see my friend perform in A Tap Dance Christmas Carol and, well, what better way could a Jew possibly spend the weekend before Christmas?
so, i got in on Saturday afternoon, after a lovely sunny drive up I-5 that offered me views of Mts. Bachelor, Adams, St. Helens and Rainier. though i hadn't eaten much of anything all day, the initial wave of anxious nausea that swept over me pretty much killed my appetite until about 3pm. by 3pm, i'd stopped at the homestead, dropped off my stuff, met all four cats, reunited with a grad school friend and followed him to a very busy whole foods, assembled my bike and gone off to explore all the old haunts, as it were. once on my own and somewhat more emotionally settled, i realized i was actually quite hungry. i was in the U-District, my first home in Seattle, and stopped at the cheap-o teriyaki joint down the street from my old house. i used to eat there all the time. got the same chicken teriyaki with rice and iceberg lettuce, and a water, and settled down to eat. it was exactly the same, although $1 more expensive, which i'll accept with with the 4-year passage of time. cheap, smothered in fantastically sweet teriyaki sauce, mostly if not entirely dark meat, and a ginger sesame creamy dressing for the lettuce. oh bliss!
after lunch, walked across the street to my bike, parked in front of the Safeway, with the same guy sitting in the same chair, selling RealChange and repeating his offer over and over like a record: "Real Change? Thank you, have a nice day ma'am/sir." he's been saying the same thing to every single person who exits that grocery store for at least four years and probably more. it occurred to me that i couldn't decide if it was the stuff that had changed that weirded me out (giant new QFCs, closed used book store, etc.) or the stuff that was exactly the same (Real Change guy, my old house, still painted red-orange, etc.) that i found to be disturbing.
anyways, i hauled myself to Capitol Hill (and, wow, i had no recollection of how hilly that town is!), met up with the tap dancing friend and went to get coffee at Espresso Vivace, on Denny. i ordered a latte that looked exactly like this:
it was so good that i all but burst into tears. Vivace is to most seattle-ites (or was, when i lived there) as one of the best places in town for coffee drinks; it is known to me as the place where a friend witnessed a barista throw a finished latte across the work area because she was so unhappy with how it looked -- now that's dedication to your art!
after coffee, my tap dancing friend had to go back to the theater, so i spent a few hours wandering around before meeting up with a rugby friend for dinner at the Red Line, a restaurant owned by a woman who i might have played rugby with. it's unclear. at any rate, the restaurant is a super cute, brightly lighted place (with wi-fi) that offers an array of sandwiches, hot and cold. even though i have major major guilt whenever i eat meat in front of vegan friends, i just had to order the prosciutto fig panini...with a side of tomato basil soup. the soup i ordered, and order whenever i see it on a menu, because when i was in high school, i used to live and die for the tomato rosemary soup at Scenes, a coffee shop in chicago that lost it's lease when starbucks opened down the street. needless to say, nothing has come close to measuring up. so, this soup was pretty good but not great. the sandwich was, well, interesting. the prosciutto wasn't quite salty enough to balance out the sweetness of the fig spread. and the cheese, which was, i don't know, maybe brie? but i did like it. and in just attempting to research the sandwich, i found that the owner not only played rugby with me but gave me free pizza when i lived in town and she worked at paggliaci's.
by the time i'd finished the sandwich, the cream from the latte had taken over and i was feeling very, very tired. i dragged (dragged because tired, not because lack of interest in performance) myself over to the theater and watched the very cute (much cuter than i expected, as i am prone to outbreaks of bitter Jew-ness during the christmas season) Tap Dance Christmas Carol, which i'd detail if it had anything to do with food. but it doesn't, so i'll move on. after the show, we went to 611 Supreme for drinks with Tap Dancing Friend's friends; we parted ways and I dragged Tap Dancing Friend to the WildRose, Seattle's premier lesbian bar. this is the kind of place that is often blaring Melissa Etheridge or Indigo Girls. it's classy. and the same people were working at the bar! wow! after a drink there, we head home and crashed. a succesful and only temporarily traumatic day, with a pleasant (if late) ending.
the next morning, i insisted (not that it took too much convincing) that we head to Mae's Phinney Ridge Cafe, home of the pancake sandwich, an item that i've consistently craved for the past four years. it did not disappoint. granted, you can order two pancakes, two eggs and a side of sausage at most breakfast places and assemble the sandwich yourself (which you have to do at mae's, anyways) but there's something about ordering a "pancake sandwich" off the menu that really brings it together. we both ordered the sandwich, mine with turkey sausage, Tap Dancing Friends with bacon, and we both managed to finish half of our breakfasts. i'd forgotten that monstrousity of the pancake sandwich. in hindsight, i usually ate half at breakfast and then half for lunch the next day (soggy pancake sandwich is it's own unique culinary experience). i thought our server was Mae in the flesh but just realized that the restaurant has been "a seattle institution since the 30s." maybe she's aged well?
Tap Dancing Friend and i travelled back to Capitol Hill, where we split up, she going to her matinee, I setting off on my epic waterlogged tour of the city. did i mention that it was cloudy? and rainy. and i was without raincoat (stupid!). that i was immediately plunged into the depths of sadness and desperation that i'd endured through much of my stay in seattle? i was stuffed but couldn't think of anything i wanted to do except eat. oh, and go sit in the hot tup at Hot House. but I rallied, and kept on walking, down capital hill to first hill, stopping to check out the new café where Four Angels, home of the best latte in town, used to be located, past Seattle University, my former place of (half-hearted) employment, over to the former site of No Way Café, where I dined almost daily. I magically ended up in the International District. After a failed frantic phone call to Cindy, from whom I’d hoped to get some restaurant recommendations, I headed to An Thinh, a Vietnamese and Thai restaurant selected on the basis of the number of people dining inside (and the fact that I was sick of getting wet). I ordered something I’d never had before and the only identifier I can remember is that it was #52 on the menu. It had several small rice pancakes wrapped and filled with some sort of pork and scallion thing, topped with deepfried shrimpcakes (deepfried shrimp heads included), chicken or shrimp patties (steamed, I think), cilantro and bean sprouts. It was delicious! And I enjoyed listening the servers, all teenage girls speaking half the time in English, the other half in (I think) Vietnamese about boys. The conversation went something like this:
Girl A: “Oh my gosh, I have to tell you what he did! [long explanation in non-English language]!”
Girl B: “Wow! I can’t believe that! That’s crazy! Did he [long story in non-English language]?”
Girl A: “Yeah, totally. Isn’t that tacky!”
Can you believe it?! I came close to asking them to fill me in but that seemed rude. My sense of being left out was alleviated by the fact that the sun had started to come out. My mood instantly shifted and I decided that Seattle was actually quite beautiful and fun and I should maybe move back there. Yikes, moodswings. What an idea!
Eventually, I met back up with Tap Dancing Friend, and we went to Rosebud to get a drink. I had a $2 manhattan (happy hour surprise!) and she had a mediocre (lacking in whip cream until she requested some) coffee drink. Dinner that night was the cast party potluck. Everyone was very nice and someone had brought a pesto-goat cheese-diced sundried tomato mold that was fantastic. Oh, we also at some point ate at Jitterbug in Wallingford after a failed attempt to eat in Ballard. We both got the gingerbread waffles with eggs and sausage. Tasty!
And that was Seattle. Full of good eats at reasonable prices. Next time I get up there, maybe I’ll splurge and go to the Brooklyn (where I went with my mom and friends for my 22nd (?) birthday) or the Flying Fish. And I’ll be sure to get a crumpet at Pike Place and a piroshky on Broadway.