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! 

Tuesday, October 7, 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."

Monday, October 6, 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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Seattle: Fancy Starbucks and Bacon Wrapped Dates

I must say that I love the living-room inspired Starbucks that I have seen out in Washington. This particular location is on NW Gilman Blvd in Issaquah and I call it the fancy Starbucks.

In addition to the drinks you love, they serve wine and small plates appetizers. They have live music on the weekends and an overall family room feel, like having coffee or drinks at Pottery Barn. The floorplan is spacious and I really enjoy stopping in.
Their bacon-wrapped dates are all you will ever need. Yum yum yum. Starbuck's can roll this menu out nationwide any time they want - I'm ready.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Seattle:Drygood Designs: Lunchtime Embroidery Class

This is exactly how I should be spending my time in Seattle. I signed up for a 2-session class to learn the basics of hand embroidery at a darling shop called Drygoods Design, in downtown Seattle.
The shop is gorgeous - a light filled dream sewing studio in a brand new location across from The London Plane, a cafe/specialty food store/floral workshop, that has been receiving a lot of press lately. The increased foot traffic for them can only bring new customers to Drygoods Design. Hip hip hooray!

Another plus? They brought in bread, cheese and spreads for our class to snack on during our Lunchtime Lesson. Isn't that so nice? We were grateful for the sustenance and it was nice to be spoiled with some fresh and healthy choices.
Margaret was the instructor for our 4-person beginning embroidery class as she was as kind and patient as can be. We learned enough for beginners and all felt good about our progress. Drygoods Designs offers far more than embroidery too. They have fabric and notions for sale, and classes on a myriad of sewing subjects. There selection of goods felt like a personal collection of treasures.
We practiced and experimented and were encourage all the while. It was a nice way to spend an hour and I highly recommend it. We were trying the Needle Arts.  Thread. Color. Pattern. Purely creative and very nice. We were discussing whether or not we thought we'd use a hoop and Margaret said her years of needlework were done without a form.  I chimed in that I loved to embroider when the fabric was stretched taut and my seatmate happily agreed. She said that stitching on hooped fabric was satisfying. I was with kindred spirits, there was no doubt about it. I told you that this was exactly what I should be doing on my stay in Seattle.
If you live in Seattle, you're lucky. You have a little piece of maker-heaven right on Occidental Street. Take a class. Make some friends. It's all here for the making.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Heather Bailey Dishtowels

I was so very fortunate to run across some Heather Bailey dishtowels at Homegoods. I had no idea that she had expanded from fabric design into housewares, but I am so glad that she did! The colors of these dishtowels were so beautiful and bright (same pattern in a different colorway) that they fairly leapt off the shelves and into my cart. Can you see that each one has a ruffle trim? I intend to use them as large napkins in my aqua and white kitchen. Can't wait!

Heather is a fabric and embroidery designer, as well as a blogger with an enormous following at HelloMyNameIsHeather. I met her back in 2008 at the Country Living magazine Women Entrepreneur conference in Chicago. She is a delight. Warm, interesting and wholly supportive of women expressing their creativity. I found her blog tips and tricks to be very helpful and thought that she was a great addition to the panel.

I was returning as a Country Living Pitch Your Product winner for my subscription gift service and Heather was on the Women Entrepreneur panel discussing her tips and philosophy for writing a successful blog. You can see Heather on the Country Living stage (below), she is second from the left.
This must be Heather Bailey week. I came across some of her embroidery patterns at another shop here in Seattle. I bought them on the spot - I can't wait to show you.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Seattle: University of Washington Medicinal Garden

When I heard that the University of Washington had its own Medicinal Garden managed by the biology department, I couldn't wait to visit. I love the idea of utilizing the properties of plants to aid the human body. Ginger for inflammation. Aloe to soothe the skin. I have quite an herb garden and I started imagining what I could teach the neighbor girls if I did a little more research.
I stopped by the campus on the beautiful spring day and enjoyed wandering the paths, trying to "name the plant" and then check my answer on the plaques that identify each species. 
The university offers tours of the Medicinal Garden and Greenhouse for groups of all ages from school age children to garden clubs. I think this is a wonderful way to welcome the community to campus.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

My Wilder Side: Small Batch Pickles on the Road:

Sometimes I get a bee in my bonnet and I can't let it go.  Each fall season for the past few years, I've made a small batch of homemade pickles. It's very easy and it helps me to acknowledge my Laura Ingalls Wilder-side.

This year, I was in Seattle living in a hotel with a kitchenette. No pickle making for me, or so it seemed.  Then I was at the farmer's market, saw these beautiful pickle-size cucumbers and thought to myself, "Why exactly am I not making pickles this year?"
I decided that at small batch would make 4 jars. I bought what I thought would be enough cucumbers and the total cost of my bag of cucumbers was a whopping $1.00. I guess I needed .35 cents more worth of cucumbers, because I only came up with enough slices to make 3 jars, which in my case, is even better. How many pickles can one couple eat?

I stood in the vendor's booth at the farmer's market and went through a check list in my head. To make Refrigerator Bread and Butter Pickles, I would need Ball jars, vinegar, white sugar, pickling spice mix, salt, turmeric and cucumbers. Easy peasy. 

Do you know what was the hardest part of this little endeavor? Finding Pickling Spice. I know!  While there is a Canning Department in every store from Target, Supermarket and Hardware Store, I had a really hard time finding pickling spice here in Seattle.  My husband mentioned this to a co-worker and she said that, Yes, it indeed does sell out around here.  Fascinating.  

Are the stores under buying?  Has all the small batch and home canning articles finally reached a point where pickling has moved to main stream? I think it is a great evolution, though I wish I had known and could have included it in my Spice Stash.

You have a Spice Stash with you in Seattle. Oh yes. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Floral Storytelling: Let Reinhardt Blooms Craft An Unforgettable Floral Story

Pinch me. Katie Wachowiak of Reinhardt Blooms, gave me a private tour of her family's flower farm. Can you think of anything more wonderful? Rows and rows of my heart's delight.

I tried to be respectful of the time, talent and toll that farming can take on a person during the summer months.  I can't imagine the hours required to tend 30 acres of Michigan farmland, knowing that Katie and her parents grow over 100 different varieties that they provide to florists and farmers markets, as well as creating custom arrangements through their floral design service. I envy the beauty they have at their fingertips each day.
(My version of Where Women Create - this is an inspiring wall inside
 Katie's Floral Design Studio.)

It was my new friend, Karen, that led me to Reinhardt Blooms. Remember when I was driving up north and got caught in a tornado? It was in the basement of Karen's house that she showed me photos of her friend's floral bouquets. Katie's formal floral arrangements were worthy of being painted by the Dutch masters and I asked Karen to tell her I said so.
Fast forward to another trip past Kawkawlin on my way home from the cottage a few weeks ago, when Karen had arranged for me to meet Katie and see Reinhardt Blooms. The photos and arrangements are Katie's, so I insist you click over to her webpage and see some of her work. This is Floral Storytelling at its best.

I know that Reinhardt Blooms designs for clients all over Southeastern Michigan, so please don't hesitate to contact Katie for a consultation. I've seen many photos of her arrangements and love everything that she does.

In other happy news, during the summer months, Reinhardt Blooms sells at the Port Austin, Rochester, Royal Oak, and Birmingham farmers markets on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. I can't wait to visit Katie at the Birmingham farmers market on Sundays and buy armloads of flowers from her.

Meet me there?

Sno Valley Mushrooms: Beauty Sold at the Issaquah Farmers Market

I love going to farmer's markets, don't you? I see beauty everywhere and I take a lot of pictures. A basket of apple are pretty. Sunflowers are commanding. Tiny potatoes are charming. I could go on and on. Yet sometimes I see a display and stop in my tracks. 

Color (gray, khaki, stone and cream), Texture (smooth as silk) and Topic (mushrooms grown in a sawdust substrate without fertilizer, pesticides, manure or synthetic chemicals = amazing), rule when I am deciding what to write about. Something this beautiful and interesting, deserves the spotlight. No big farmers market post here, this is all about the mushroom.

I bought a carton of shiitake mushroom and I can't wait to cook them as the mushroom man suggested, sauteed with butter and fresh basil. They don't need to be washed or brushed because they are grown out of a block of sawdust substrate, which means no dirt. He told me to tear them from the middle of the cap down, no need to trim the ends either, it is all prime mushroom. 

Take a moment and look at this picture.  Silky smooth mushrooms that grow in a gorgeous natural palette.  Abby Tabak at House Beautiful magazine creates paint palettes that pull from nature. I couldn't help but think of her piece on mushrooms when I saw these fresh mushrooms at the market. I could decorate my entire living room in these shades. 

#housebeautiful #mushrooms #designideas

Seattle: Tallulah's Neighborhood Cafe in Capitol Hill

Talluhlah's is a great spot for a date. It is on the corner of Mercer and 19th Ave in Capitol Hill, just down from the Hello Robin cookies/Molly Moon ice cream dessert shop. The decor is black and white and has a Pottery Barn-meets-Great Gatsby feel to it. They have a large beautiful bar and an upscale menu, but the mood is relaxed enough to let the fresh air in, with walls that open up to the patio tables and beyond. The white twinkle lights remind you how close you are to dining under the stars.

We enjoyed their Three Dips with Crudités & Lavash Crackers, which includes a castelvetrano olive tapenade, walnut muhammara and a red pepper hummus (above). Nice sharp flavors that could stand up to the fizz of my sparkling water and the bite of Dan's ginger beer.
I ordered the Hanger Steak with fingerling potatoes, with a side of beets and goat yogurt. Dan had the Neah Bay King Salmon with corn and edamame and added a twice baked sweet potato with maple. We shared back and forth and everything was good, but my favorite dish was the sweet potato, which was whipped and almost souffle like. Note to self, this Thanksgiving, figure out how to make a sweet potato souffle! 
After dinner, hold hands and wander a few doors down for a sweet treat. It will be a lovely evening, I promise.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Seattle: Unexpected Farmers Market in Bellevue

There's nothing like driving to Joann Fabrics for inspiration and finding an active farmer's market in the parking lot! I bought  myself a Whidbey Island ice cream bar (butterscotch) and set out to choose a bouquet of dahlias. 

The day was warm, so I decided to take the flowers into Joann's with me, rather than leave them in the car to wither. I received a lot of compliments on the bouquet in my basket and I'm sure that it inspired others to go out outside and choose some flowers for themselves! It's not everyday that fresh flowers are brought to your doorstep. Take advantage of it when it happens. 
Tah-dah! Here they are on display in my room. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tiny Baked Goods: Me and My Toaster Oven

Ok, how do I really use my Hamilton Beach Set and Forget Convection Toaster Oven?  Baking! 

I believe that food is love and that the effort you make in creating sweets for someone speaks volumes.  My husband is working very hard on this project and he needs cookies, I'm sure of it.  

Because I am in a new city, it is tempting to drive all over the area exploring, taking photographs, trying the local ice cream.  Day after day, I am out and about.  So when I specifically plan to be "home" all day, I do a baking blitz.

On this particular day, I made Blueberry Gateau, Baked Washington Peaches (I bought a bag of fresh frozen sliced peaches and they were delicious!) topped with a Granola Crumble and a batch of classic Chocolate Chip cookies. The room smelled heavenly and we had lovely treats to choose from the rest of the week. Win-win.

Can you really bake in a little Toaster Convection Oven? Absolutely. I really didn't see much difference in the baking time either. I kept an eye on things, but the gateau was ready in the expected amount time and the cookies took a minute longer. 

It was easy and it made me oh-so-happy to be mixing flour, sugar, salt again.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tiny Oven, Big Flavor: Salmon with Apricot Mustard Glaze

The key word that was missing was oven.  This year, I was planning on living in Seattle with my husband for the months of April and June, and the Residence Inn we would be staying at sounded perfect: it was clean and comfortable, was in a great location and we'd have a nice room with a kitchen (full refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave and a 2-burner cooktop).  Bueller? Bueller?  No one said anything about an oven.  As an enthusiastic home baker, a kitchen without an oven was something I had a hard time imagining.

It was around the planning stages for this trip that a friend got married and I was looking at her registry online.  Hmmm...she wanted a toaster oven. Would a toaster oven do me any good in Seattle? I knew it was used for more than toast, but I wasn't sure for what.

I'd never had even the most basic toaster oven, so when I began researching them online I was surprised to see the features that were possible and the praise they could inspire.  Convection cooking?  Meat Probes? When I saw that this Hamilton Beach "Set and Forget" Toaster Oven with Convection Cooking was $99 and would ship free with Amazon Prime, I couldn't resist. I looked up the address for the hotel and had it sent there, along with a set of toaster oven-size pans. Ha! 

No oven my foot.
And I love it! I call it my Easy Bake Oven in jest, but it works like a dream. In honor of being in the Pacific Northwest, the first thing I cooked in it was:

Broiled Salmon with Apricot Mustard Glaze 

Place salmon skin side down on cookie sheet.  Broil under high heat until fish is partially cooked, then spoon a apricot mustard sauce (1/3 dijon mustard to 2/3 apricot preserves) over the fish and return to broiler. Sauce with warm and bubble, browning slightly. Remove from heat when salmon is cooked to your preference. Serve with boiled new potatoes or sticky rice.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Seattle: The Pink Door is a Hidden Treasure near Pikes Place Market

I love whenever I see "The Pink Door" on a Seattle Favorites list.  I think to myself how lucky we were to find it on our own.

My dinner at The Pink Door was purely by accident. It was my first-ever night in Seattle and while heading to Pikes Place Market right from the airport was what I wanted to do, I also wanted to eat.  We didn't see any sit down restaurants in our jet lag haze and while pizza at DeLaurenti is delicious, it just wasn't going to cut it.

We were in the heart of Pikes Place Market area and my husband walked into a 2-story open mall area (across from the flower stalls) and noticed people dining at tables at a second-story restaurant . We climbed the stairs (indoors) and came in the back door of The Pink Door. Thankfully, they had a table available in the dining room and suddenly we were sitting down to a romantic dinner for two.

It was spring and I ordered a dish that was celebrating the season: Lemon Asparagus risotto with a side of grilled shrimp. It was creamy and rich and citrusy and perfect. Dan loves lasagna and was very happy with their recipe. The ate every bite kind of happy.  The restaurant is cozy, has a wonderful menu and offers a lovely respite from the bustle of the market. We will be back.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Small But Mighty: The Charm of a Teacup Bouquet

With a sudden chill in the air in Michigan, everyone's garden is winding down. Don't forget that you can still coax a few bouquets out of the garden, you just have to think smaller. 

I selected this antique teacup from china hutch. This was my maternal grandmother's and the cup and saucer are candlelight white with lace detail. I only needed a few small roses from the garden to make a lovely teacup bouquet for the front table. It may be small, but it has big impact.

Have you ever made a tiny flower arrangement? I bet your grandmother would approve of a teacup bouquet.