Friday, April 18, 2014

Seattle: Agua Verde Cafe and Paddle Club - Great Mexican Food with a View

It's not every day that your burrito comes with a side of tranquility.  Yes, there was music and a happy crowd lining up and filling up Aqua Verde on Friday night, but all the while the view stayed the same.  Look at these gorgeous shades of gray/green on Portage Bay.
When we arrived we put our name on the list, ordered chips and margaritas and made our way to the self-serve salsa cart (see below) and then walked out onto the back deck and found a place to lean and have our drink and chips.

Salsa Verde: "Fresh and Mild"; tomatillo, cilantro, avocado and onion 
Chipotle: "Smokey and Sweet"; chipotle chile, tomatillo, cilantro and onion
Diablito: "Hot and Spicy"; roasted jalapeño and tomato 

Over the course of the meal, I feel like I personally ate a cup of the Salsa Verde - I just couldn't get enough of it. We sat on the open deck, looked at the marina and enjoyed the fresh air.  It wasn't long before we were buzzed and we were happy to get a table on the semi-enclosed deck overlooking the water.
We split the  Camarones (sautéed shrimp, cabbage, pinto beans, rice, avocado sauce in a flour tortilla) and the Mariscos (Alaskan cod & shrimp wrapped in flour tortillas with a creamy chipotle sauce & topped with green onions).  Both were delicious and quite rich.  I know that we will come back again and again. It won't be long before I am craving that salsa verde!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Seattle: Chism Beach Park in Bellevue:

This lovely little waterfront park is just 4 minutes from the bustling shopping area of Bellevue, Washington.  I was determined to find some large trees in bloom and I thought that a little waterfront park would be a good bet.  No such luck on this particular day at Chism Beach Park, but the sun was so beautiful I didn't mind.
I love seeing huge evergreen trees all over the Seattle area.  They always remind me of mascara wands.  Don't they look like that to you?
When I drove through Bellevue (looking for a park) I noticed some wonderful stores along Bellevue Way that will serve as a magnet to draw me back - I saw a Container Store, Nordstrom, Paper Source, Cost Plus World Market and Apple.  I can definitely have fun - this will be a perfect area to explore on a rainy day.  As for flowering trees, I did find this magnificent magnolia at Denny Blaine Park - the petals had just opened!
Here it is in the distance, to show some perspective. This is the very small park called Denny Blaine.  I can't say that this park has much to offer (it seemed to be a hangout place for kids skipping school) except for this magnificent magnolia and a "mountains in the distance" view.
The magnolia is in full bloom just above this garden door into private property. It reminds me of the magic of The Secret Garden and Julie Andrews' book, Mandy.  Have you read both?  They are wonderful and spring makes me want to be a little girl tending her first garden all over again.
I am constantly in awe of the mountain views that can be seen from so many everyday places.  I am not used to seeing mountains in my daily life.  I like it!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Seattle: Belle Epicurean in Madison Park

A table on the sidewalk, fresh air, blooming trees and a Pear Almond Brioche from Belle Epicurean in Madison Park. Everything about this was just what the (jet lag) doctor ordered.

I was trying to convince myself that I was raring to go, so I drove over to Madison Park to visit my friend's favorite haunts.  The only thing I hadn't counted on was the fact that it was Monday.  Small shopping streets often keep hours on the weekend and use Monday as their day of rest.  Yep.  Each shop I checked in on was locked up tight.  Except her favorite French pastry shop, Belle Epicurean!  
I admired their gorgeous honey display (I love knowing a place I get can get bottles of Savannah Bee Company honey) and contemplated which pastry I should order.
They warmed up a Pear Almond Brioche and the scent alone was worth the price.  It smelled good enough to dab behind my ears.

When I sat down at a small table on the front walk, I realized just how tired I really was.  A latte and a snack was just what I needed.  I called my friend with the proclamation, "Guess where I'm sitting!"  We talked for a half an hour about her wonderful memories of living in Seattle.  It was the perfect way to spend my first afternoon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Seattle: Snoqualmie Falls: A Natural Wonder Minutes from Civilization

Are you kidding me?  After work, Dan said he wanted to surprise me by taking a short drive out to "see something" before we had dinner.  20 minutes after leaving his office we were at the magnificent Snoqualmie Falls.  

Visitors can park along the roadside and this waterfall is just a short walk away.  There are several viewing platforms, which provide a lot of different angles for photographing the waterfall.  
This is one of my favorite photos - the sun illuminating the forest in the distance at the sightseers are mesmerized by the roar of the falling water. It was 7:30 pm and the light was perfect.
I also wanted to show you these beautiful pine trees growing straight and strong on the edge of the rocky cliff.  Majestic.

I found a selection of videos on the Snoqualmie Falls website, if you want to see the waterfall in action. (*Note: The first video in the list is dated October 22, 2013. It shows the walk to the lower falls.  It is long and not worth it. Move on to some of the other choices.)

You can see the Salish Lodge and Spa peeking out in the top left corner of this photograph.  My good friend used to live in Seattle and she recommended that we come back to the Salish Lodge and Inn for brunch.  Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Seattle: Seafood Dinner at Chinook's at Salmon Bay

You can imagine how happy I was to sit down to fresh seafood at a great local place. Chinook's at Salmon Bay is part of the family of Anthony's Restaurants and I have come across recommendations for many of their restaurants as I read up on Seattle.  When I looked up Chinook's online to provide a link, I wasn't surprised to see that it was part of this beloved group of restaurants in the Pacific Northwest.  The food was delicious.

I wisely chose the tempura seafood platter (Alaska true cod, calamari, salmon and prawns with onion rings and zucchini slices) so that I could try a little of everything.  I had never heard of cooking salmon in tempura and it is a bit like "fish and chips" in that you can dip your fish in the sauce of your choice. I dipped my salmon in the teriyaki sauce and it has been on my mind ever since.  I loved it.  The cod was delicious dipped in their homemade tartar sauce and the shrimp was, of course, perfect in the cocktail sauce.  How soon can I go back and eat another plate of fried food?  The first chance I get!
Chinook's at Salmon Bay is located in Seattle's Fisherman's Terminal, which, by location alone, puts the fresh in fish.  The large glass windows of the restaurant overlook the marina and it is the perfect setting to enjoy a lively casual meal.
I was encouraged to order the clam chowder and I am so glad that I did.  It was perfect - plenty of clams, tender potato cubes and a delicious soup base. I didn't leave a drop.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Seattle: Kerry Park shows off the Seattle Skyline

What a view! I have been in Seattle for almost a week now and it is mind-boggling how much I still have on my "must see" list.  I haven't been to an area this chock full of fun in a long time.

I owe my first successful week to an old friend who used to live here (her list of recommendations has my head swimming...and I intend to do it all!) and a new friend (who heard through a mutual friend that I was visiting Seattle and generously offered to meet up with me) - these two women have made a huge difference in my acclimation. 

I normally blog daily, but I have been doing so much in a day that I haven't had time to write as things happen and now I don't know where to begin!  I've seen so much already that I could sit down this Monday and write posts all the way to April 30th.  I will do my best to keep a consistent schedule, but you might just see 3 posts go up in one day!  Palm Sunday (13th) will be spent at a local Tulip Festival (I know!), so look forward to some flower-filled posts next week.

Now back to that VIEW!  My new friend, Kathy was sure that I should see this view in the daylight before we made our way to the wharf for dinner.  The vantage point is a place called Kerry Park on Highland Drive.  There is parking on both sides of this residential street and though limited, there seemed to be a yin yang to the pace of sightseers coming and going. You must fit this into your trip - how often can you take a postcard-worthy shot?  Many of you will recognize this vista from the television show, Grey's Anatomy.

I felt lucky that I could capture Mount Rainier in this landscape the first time I tried.  I am told that cloud cover keeps her hidden much of the time and Dan swears he has only seen it a handful of times in the rain-filled weeks he traveled out here before I arrived.  It was definitely the night to capture the skyline.

This was the first of many good moments in Seattle - stay tuned.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Delight in Seattle: First Stop, Buying Flowers for the Room

I made it to Seattle, Washington! And by the looks of the flowers for sale at Pike Place Market, I may never leave.  Can you believe the bouquet I'm holding?  It cost $15 and it brought me delight for days. Whenever I am going to be in a city at least a week, I buy a bouquet of flowers for the room.  It makes me happy every time I see it.

When did Moments of Delight become a travel blog??  I know, it feels a little crazy for me too.  Since January, I have been in Michigan, Texas, Florida, Minnesota and now Washington State.  This is my life and I am happy to share it with you - I write about the beauty of everyday life, as I see it.

Of course when I am traveling, delight becomes "site specific."  I hope you enjoy my photos and commentary about my visit to the Pacific Northwest (I've never been here before!) and take note of places you would like to visit in the future.  I will be in Seattle for several weeks, so my adventure will include making a hotel room a little more like "home" and my attempts at cooking in a McKitchen.  Wish me luck.
When Dan and I flew into Seattle, we checked into our hotel and then immediately went to Pike Place Market to stretch our legs, get some fresh air and look for dinner. Unfortunately, the market was closing for the day, so we didn't really get to see it in action.  Look for a post in the future when I visit the market and can take my time exploring.
I could have swooned.  Imagine standing in front of these fresh tulips with a sign that says $1 each. I wanted so many of them; I actually stood there imagining different combinations in my mind (*with the same contemplative expression I get when I am in the fabric section of Joann Fabric!).

I resisted only because I had already bought the large bouquet (above) and my hotel room can only support one arrangement.  And I kept telling myself that I can come back.  And I will!

*Note: A noteworthy bonus to buying flowers at Pike Place Market is that the bouquet was magically wrapped with a plastic bag containing water, rubber bands and paper to keep your bouquet fresh and happy as you stroll the market.  I was very impressed when I unwrapped my flowers and saw the infrastructure created to keep my bouquet at its best. Magnifique!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Baja Fish Tacos at BoneFish Restaurant

I don't normally review food at chain restaurants because while they are filling and perfect for a weeknight, they aren't necessarily worthy of a designation of delight.

However, I have had "Baja Fish Tacos" twice at Bonefish Grill lately and they were exceptional.  Beautiful grilled fish, fresh mango salsa and a sour cream crema.  Yum yum yum.  A little spicy and a lot delicious. If you have a chance, be sure to try this light and delicious meal, preferably at a table in the sun!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Dunn Brothers Coffee: When Coffee Equipment Catches Your Eye

I can't be the first person who photographed this magnificent yellow coffee roaster/grinder at Dunn Brothers Coffee in Rochester, Minnesota.  You see the beauty in it too, right?

I told my dad that the brightly colored specialty coffee equipment reminded me of when I toured a coffee bean shop in Paris with Patricia Wells when I was in her cooking class a few years ago.  This red beauty dominated the small Parisian shop, where even the air felt caffeinated. 
While other students bought coffee beans, I bought a coffee bean sack to make into a pillow for my living room.  You can see my masterpiece, a khaki and black graphic pillow on display below.
When a salesperson at Dunn Brothers Coffee saw my interest in the machine he came over to answer any of my questions.  What I wondered was if they had any empty coffee bean sacks that I could make into another pillow. Raw materials with a story behind it are always so much more interesting.

Lo and behold, he had one that I could have! I expressed my gratitude and told him to look in the blog this summer to see my creation.  The coffee bean sack is light brown with red lettering - I can't wait to get home and sew!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Paper Flower Dress

The Macy Department Store at The Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens (and maybe all Macy locations?) is celebrating spring with mannequins dressed in gorgeous dresses made of paper flowers.  I saw at least 5 different styles and colors.

Bravo!  We all need some whimsy after such a long winter and this coral frock made me smile.  Have you seen any "touch of spring" out in the world that made you particularly happy?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Strawberry Fields...or possibly the less romantic Lettuce Fields

I like to be as specific and informative as I can when I write.  I am sharing what I see with the world and I want to help you to locate everyday beauty too.  However sometimes I just don't know what I'm talking about but share it anyway.

Look at these gorgeous fields growing in South Florida.  I know! I usually picture a big citrus grove so these beautiful green fields took me by surprise. Are they strawberries? Could be.  Lettuce or green beans? It's possible.  I took this photo flying north out of Palm Beach International airport.  If you know what is growing in that area please let me know.

No matter what crop is growing, the effect is the same.  Natural beauty!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Casual Dinner Party in March

I had so much arranging the dining room for this casual dinner party.  We were having 6 guests for dinner and I decided to serve white bean chicken chili, sugar-topped corn muffins, a big green salad and a chocolate cake.

I wanted the table to look special, but not intimidating, so I nixed the fine china and used a mix-and-match approach by pulling out all of my Spode "Blue Room" plates and cups/saucers.  I bought classic white soup bowls at Crate & Barrel and used our everyday silverware.  A friend had given me a package of Spode's Blue Italia paper napkins and it was fun to have an occasion to finally use them

For a little extra color, I placed a large April Cornell napkin in the middle of the table and set out four small bouquets of yellow roses, evenly spaced down the center.  It looked so pretty!  It was still March and after this year's Polar Vortex, no one could really believe that spring was coming.  I knew that lemon desserts and bright colors would be pushing it.  Shades of blue and yellow were the perfect segue into a spring table.

Friday, April 4, 2014

3 Tier Fruit and Vegetable Display

I really love how this looks in my kitchen and I wanted to share this simple idea with you.  I have seen more and more 3-tier plate racks in stores and catalogs, intended to display sweets and treats (or appetizers) at a party or on a buffet table.

I like to use mine for a daily display of fruits and vegetables.  My 3-tier display is an open rack, so I can use casual blue glass plates (shown), antique china or enamel camping-style dishes depending on the look I want. In this photo, I used casual blue plates and loaded them with fresh fruits and vegetables after a trip to the grocery store.  I find that I "snack" on fruits and vegetables more when I can see them.  A visual reminder similar to "I could have had a V-8!

And when this multi-colored raffia bow came into my life (on a present??), instead of relegating it to the my gift wrap stash, I tied it on top of the rack for a happy touch.  You would not believe how many people have complimented my "display."

A touch of whimsy (and an apple a day) are sure to bring you delight.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Palm Beach, FL: Il Bellagio Restaurant at City Place

What a day! It was hot and sunny in Palm Beach the day we decided to shop at City Place and have lunch at Il Bellagio.  
This photo shows my mom's mixed green salad topped with shrimp and a house-made tomato vinaigrette.  I had an absolutely delicious spring pea risotto with goat cheese, but in terms of being photogenic, the salad won.

We had the perfect table - it was technically inside, so we could benefit from the air conditioner, but was situated close to the open patio so we could feel get some fresh air and hear the music during the water fountain show on the half hour.

We both agreed that Il Bellagio was the perfect place to enjoy a leisurely meal. When you are finished with lunch and ready to explore, all of City Place is at your fingertips.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Singer Island, Florida: John D. MacArthur Beach State Park

For ages I've had "visit MacArthur Park" on my vacation to-do list (which also prompts the Donna Summer's song of the same name to play on repeat in my head).  

I drive past the park daily as I leave Singer Island, and at one particular place on the low bridge I always see unusual birds posing in the sunlight. I've tried twice to pull over with my camera during the afternoon sun to get a photo of some birds, but so far no luck.  I've only gotten shots like this from the condo balcony.
John D. MacArthur Park is "situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Lake Worth Lagoon, the park is 438 acres of natural environments, including seven species of plants and twenty-two species of animals designated as endangered or threatened."

During the last week of my visit, the park hosted a "Moonlight" folk concert in the open air.  Dan and I stopped in for a while, we chose to walk on the boardwalk (above) and listen to the music wafting out of the trees, rather than sitting in the designated area.  It was lovely - relaxing yet a bit too windy for birds.  I took this photo of their information board to show you what I had hoped to see.
In the end, my only sighting was the resident Loggerhead Turtle, whose blurred left flipper suggests that he was waving to me.
I still have "visit MacArthur Park" on my seasonal to-do list.  I must photograph those birds in the setting sun!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Kiteboarder: He Make It Look So Easy

This kiteboarder I photographed on the Atlantic makes it look so easy. His stance could just as easily be superimposed into a scene where he is mowing the lawn or cooking eggs!  How does he do it?  

The principle I am illustrating is that when you are doing what you love, everything just seems right.  No strain; no worry; just another day at the beach.  

May you find yourself doing what you love this weekend and may you notice how relaxed you feel.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Marshmallow Fluff can be made into Marshmallow Sauce

The clouds look like marshmallow fluff! I was recently given an ice cream sundae tip that I must pass along.  Did you know that you can make "marshmallow sauce" for ice cream by adding a bit of warm water to Marshmallow Fluff and stirring with a fork?

My aunt's sister-in-law passed this tip along one day when we were reminiscing about going to Sanders' ice cream shoppe for chocolate sundaes with marshmallow sauce - my mom's favorite. Now we can have a marshmallow sundae at home with this easy tip.  Thanks, Marty!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Palm Beach Pizza: Where Fancy Meets Familiar

Oh how I love to eat lunch outside! It was a dreamy day at Pizza al Fresco in Palm Beach.  In the midst of some very upscale shopping, this beautiful courtyard restaurant offers a delicious and accessible lunch - pizza! 

I come every year and there is rarely an empty table. We shared a margherita pizza (tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil) and had individual green salads. It was perfect.  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kentucky: Maker's Mark Bourbon: Best Field Trip Ever

I have always loved the taste of bourbon.  My grandmother's "rum balls" were actually made with bourbon.  And when a cookie, cake or pie calls for liquor, I always reach for the bourbon.  

I don't really drink anymore, but at one time I did and it was then that I mentioned to my friend, Beth, that I liked bourbon and ginger ale.  Bourbon fans aren't that common, so she thought I might like to become a "Maker's Mark Ambassador."  It's a fun program where you proclaim your loyalty and vow to speak well of the brand and support its endeavors whenever possible (ha!).  I loved the idea and the fact that my name would be on a barrel in the vast warehouse and that someday I would be given the opportunity to buy a bottle from that barrel after it had ages properly.  The program also sends little gifts and logoed materials to my house every once in a while. It is my kind of "enthusiasm" and I think its fun.  I joined about 7 years ago.

So...it was wonderful luck that Dan (who was working in Cincinnati for the week) and I were able to drive a short distance and spend the weekend with our friends, Beth and Richard in Louisville, Kentucky.  Yes, Kentucky.  Now you see where the bourbon element comes in.  Beth proposed that, as Ambassadors, it was really important that we visit the Makers Mark distillery. It was an hour and a half drive from Louisville, but it was worth it. 
We had so much fun!  The glasses below (I was trying to photograph the subtle change in color between the types of bourbon available) were from the tasting that is offered on the tour.
The tour starts at the very beginning, when the owners started dipping bottles of their small batch bourbon in their kitchen.

And ends with the very modern bottling set up that makes each bottle of Maker's Mark pure and true.
On the tour, thirty of us heard all about the process of making bourbon, saw the foaming vats of liquid in different stages of fermentation and admired the gleaming kettles that brought it up to temperature.  (Clearly I know nothing about making bourbon, so don't rely to heavily on my description.)
Below you can see the barrels aging in orderly fashion.  Doesn't it look beautiful with the light streaming it? My name is engraved on one of those plaques  on a barrel somewhere in the building.
The best part of the day was this tray of bourbon chocolates for us to sample on our way out. Hallelujah. A creamy bourbon center is dipped in chocolate and topped with a fresh roasted pecan.
I bought a box and made it last as long as possible. Yum yum yum.
Inside their beautiful gift shop (see in the first photo above), I also stood in line to dip the bottle of bourbon I purchased in their famous red hot wax to seal it. Silly, but fun and I'm glad I did it.  If you are ever within reach of the Maker's Mark Distillery and share my love of bourbon, be sure to visit this really beautifully designed experience. You may even find yourself signing up to be an ambassador.