Saturday, July 2, 2011

Busy Bees....

I totally slacked on the blogging thing.  We were just so busy each day that by the time night came, when I would usually work on the blog, I was spent.  So, for the next few days I will try to catch up on the blogging.  We left Medford, making stops along the way until we got to Pinetop, Arizona yesterday afternoon.  My folks bought a cabin a few months ago and we will be spending 4th of July up here.  More on that later......

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Issaquah: A Hike and a Beer

We then checked out a hike I’d read about on Tiger Mountain, just east of downtown Issaquah. It’s supposed to be a beginner hike, but although the terrain was easy to walk, it was pretty much straight uphill the entire time. On the hike (5 miles roundtrip) you climb from an elevation of 500 to 2500 feet. We were shaded by the canopy of trees for most of the hike and ran into several friendly off-leash dogs and their owners along the way. After walking uphill for 25 minutes, we turned around and headed back. It’s definitely a hike we would do again.

After the hike, we headed into Issaquah for a visit to the Issaquah Brewhouse, which we fell in love with on the last visit.

I remember telling Nate, “I want to live here.”
Nate: “You mean in Issaquah?”
Me: “No, right here, on this barstool.”

They are a Rogue brewhouse, and feature something like 25 Rogue beers on tap. Besides having a great selection of beers, they have OUTSTANDING food! Imagine this: Kobe meatballs stuffed with Rogue Creamy blue cheese, smothered in rich marinara, nestled on a homemade soft hogie roll. Yup, that was our lunch yesterday. Compliment that with a mixed green salad with roasted hazelnuts, dried cranberries, and blue cheese, served with toasted beer bread, and you have a memorable meal.  Oh, and the Rogue Hazelnut Brown Ale is a must! The last visit, we were served by a knowledgeable, laid-back, yet attentive guy. The bartender that served us this time was kind of a tool, but we enjoyed each other’s company nonetheless.

Visit #1: 5 stars
Visit # 2: 3 ½ stars (the food was equally good as last time)

It really goes to show how much the service can impact your experience.
We headed back home for a much needed rest. Toady, we are on our way to Salem to hang out with Noah and his lovely new (yea!) wife, Kim.

Apple Fritters and the Locks

Yesterday, since the weather has been not-so-pretty at the coast, we decided to spend one more night in Bellevue before heading south. We hit up Top Pot Doughnuts to start the day. I’ve been on an unofficial quest to find the BEST apple fritter for about 2 years now. An apple fritter must, first and foremost, have chunks of, wait for it, APPLES! I’m not sure how some places think they can call it an apple fritter when their sad attempt is devoid of apples. An apple fritter must also have the right amount of doughiness, and should never, ever, be dry (uck!) It should also have just enough cinnamon to accent, not overpower, the apples. The outside of the perfect apple fritter is crisp, and you should be able to tell it’s fried, but it shouldn’t be greasy. Last, the perfect apple fritter should have a glaze that seeps into the nooks and crannies, but does not steal the show. Alas, the apple fritter at Top Pot was good, but my search continues.

Here’s my list of the BEST apple fritters I’ve daintily (yeah right!) devoured:
1. Bashas’* (see note below)
2. 19th Donut Hole
3. Top Pot Donuts (Seattle-area)

*note: it has to be from the McKellips and Gilbert location. Other locations can’t compare)

Worst Offenders Dunkin Donuts
Walmart (don’t ever buy donuts here)
Food 4 Less (Medford, Oregon- hey, I was desperate!)

After we got our fill of sugar and caffeine, we ventured over to the Ballard Locks. I’ll be honest (to this Nate would reply, I hope you’re honest!), I had no clue what locks were before yesterday. The Ballard Locks are officially called the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, and were built in 1911. Basically, boats pass through the locks to get from fresh water (Lake Washington or Lake Union) to salt water (the Puget Sound), or vice versa. The water, which is kept at two different levels, is adjusted as boats pass through. It’s not as dramatic as I’d expected, but still, was interesting to watch. We were hoping a big vessel would come through the big lock when we were there, but we only saw boats come through the small lock.

Next to the locks is a fish ladder (I didn’t have a clue what this was either….). It helps the salmon swim from fresh to salt water. They have a very neat glass viewing area below, where you can see the salmon swim by. I think this would be very cool, but we only saw one lonely fish (and it wasn’t a salmon).

Sunny Sunday on Alki Beach

Sunday, we went for an early lunch on Alki Beach with Margaret and Tom.  I don't remember the name of the cafe we ate at, but they had the best chocolate chip macaroons (my mom would say they tasted like a Mounds bar!).  Nate and I split a turkey cranberry sandwich on focaccia bread.  After lunch, we walked along the boardwalk for about an hour.  It was a beautiful and sunny morning, so the beach was packed with people. 

Later that afternoon, we met up with my aunt and uncle for dinner.  The last time we visited, they were excited about this new dumpling place that opened up in Bellevue.  They know good food, and haven't steered us towards anything less than delicious, so we were excited to say the least.  Nate and I love trying new places although my mom would describe me as picky at times, I'm willing to try new things most of the time.  (Nate's not picky- AT ALL!)  There are some things I just won't eat, like lamb and veal.  Anyway, back to the dumplings.  Din Tai Fung is a popular chain in Taiwan.  Evidently, they are as common there, as say, McDonalds are here in the states.  It would have been intimidating had we been there for the first time by ourselves, but since my aunt and uncle were not new to this (they ate there like 3 times in one week when it first opened) they helped us out.  They have things on the menu that were familiar, like fried rice and noodle dishes.  What I wasn't familiar with was all the types of dumplings.  At the suggestion from my uncle, we ordered the juicy pork xiao long bao.  What's xiao long bao, you ask?  It's a burst of flavors and textures.  It's warm and comforting. It's, yummmmm!  Really though, it's a soup dumpling.  And, a soup dumpling is like any other dumpling, except for it has broth sealed inside the dumpling.  Like you might be, I wondered how they got the soup in the dumpling and managed to seal it up nice and neatly before steaming it.  Well, I googled it.  Apparently, they mix broth with gelatin, let it set up, and cut the gelatin into small cubes which they mix with the filling.  The gelatin melts when heated, which makes the "soup" inside the dumpling.  Careful, these suckers get hot!  You have to poke a hole in the top of the dumpling to let the steam escape before you eat it.  Also, there is a technique to devouring these little savory purses. 

Steps to eating
1. With your soup spoon, scoop up some of the vinegar/soy sauce mixture
2. Place a dumpling on your spoon using chopsticks (or your fingers!)
3. Poke a hole in the top of the dumpling so as to not scald your mouth
4. Top the dumpling with shreds of fresh ginger and slurp up dumpling

I'm not sure how these measure up to dumplings elsewhere, but if you're in Seattle or Bellevue, I would recommend you check out Din Tai Fung.  Be advised though, this place is hoppin'.  We went on a Sunday at 5 o'clock in the afternoon and were seated right away.  By the time we left, though, the placed was packed. 

The dumplings were served in bamboo steamers, and we happen to have one at home.  After my last dumpling, I was already craving more.  Nate volunteered to break out our bamboo steamer and make soup dumplings when we get home.  Score one, Katy!

Image courtesy of

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Farmer's Market/Flight Museum

I'm playing catch-up.  We've had a couple of days when we weren't feeling our best, and by the end of the day, I'm ready to get some rest.  I just asked Nate, "What the heck did we do on Thursday?  I know we did something, we had to have done something, didn't we.......?"  Yes, we did.  After sleeping in, we finally got around to leaving the house at a super early (not!) 12:30 pm.  We had lunch at Panera (yum!) and stopped by the outlets at Issaquah.  Nothing struck our fancy, and we headed back to Bellevue so I could get a massage (my neck totally went spastic on me).  After my massage, we headed to the Bellevue Farmer's Market to check it out.  There were some great vendors to check out, and since it was around dinner time, we split a plate of yummy nachos and had some local ice cream.  After that, we headed to The Museum of Flight in Seattle.  Nate's Uncle, Tom, being a retired pilot, both commercial and Air Force, volunteers at the museum.  The first Thursday of the month, from 5 pm until close, you can visit for free.  We took advantage of this, meeting up with Tom after his shift in the space exhibit.  He gave us a personal tour of the museum, or as much as we could see in 2 hours.  You need much more time to fully explore the museum.  We spent most of our time checking out the WWI and WWII planes and exhibits.  Tom knows so much about the history of aviation.  I'm sure I didn't retain a quarter of what he told us.  I did learn, however, that though war is an ugly monster, it breeds innovation.  I am not forgetting, or making light of the estimated 8-10 million military that died and the 12 million + civilians who lost their lives.  I'm simply saying that the drive to have planes that could wipe out the enemy and their planes resulted in a huge jump in technology.  The planes came a long ways from the Wright Brother's first successful flight in 1903.  Improvement on top of improvement led to planes like the Fokker D.VIII (Germany: 1918- A later and greater greater version of the Red Baron's Fokker Dr. 1 Triplane) and the British S.E. 5a (1917).  I also realized, not only do I need to brush up on my knowledge of the first and second world wars, but also that I find the subject matter intriguing.

Whidbey Island and more.....

On Wednesday, we decided to take the Mukilteo ferry to Whidbey Island for the day.  It was such an easy experience taking the ferry.  There weren't many cars going over (probably because it was mid-week and grey outside...) but there was a 1/2 mile of cars lined up to go over.  We were later informed it was a shift at Boeing heading over.

The first place we checked out was Langley.  Since it was before 11 am, most of the shops were still closed.  We checked things out and decided to head to the Whidbey Island Winery for a wine tasting.  They had some great local wines, including a Sangiovese -I had never head of this variety, let alone tried it.  We ended up buying a bottle of Rose to take with us.  It was not as sweet as other Roses we've tried, and will be a great summer wine. After the winery, we headed to north to Coupeville.  By this time, the sun was shinning and we were ready for lunch.  The lady at the winery recommended we check out Christopher's for lunch.  Nate got a grilled chicken pesto sandwich which was served with a huge green salad, and I couldn't resist trying the roasted garlic soup.  It was cream-based, which I usually avoid, but I was not disappointed.  It was so flavorful and even better when sopped up by the hot sourdough bread that came with it.  It's something we will try to recreate at home, minus the cream I'm sure it was made with.  After lunch, we wandered around Coupeville and checked out the unique shops. We made our way to the Lavender Wind Farm, which I have to say was a little disappointing.  The lavender wasn't blooming, so needless to say, it looked nothing like the pictures.  Still, the lady who runs the place, Sarah, was very nice and encouraged us to wander around the property (which is literally like wandering around her backyard, as her house sits right on the property).  There was, however, a spectacular view of the water from the farm. 

Next, we continued on our way to Fort Casey.  It was nothing short of breath-taking.  It's pretty much open for people to explore, like an adult jungle gym.  Construction on Fort Casey started in 1897, as an effort to protect the Pugent Sound.  The huge guns, with their 10 inch openings, were hidden, only coming into view long enough to fire.   There are two guns still at the fort, that you can climb right up to.  I can't imagine what it was like to fire one of those things.  Unfortunately, the guns and Fort Casey were pretty useless by 1903 with the invention of the airplane.  This also made the fort vulnerable to air strikes. 

We also visited the Admiralty Head Lighthouse.  Built in 1861, this lighthouse shepherded ships to Whidbey Island until 1922.  Visitors can climb up to the top, enjoying the view of the Sound. Very cool!

What a day!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Drive to Snohomish

It's nice not to have anywhere we have to be at a certain time.  Yesterday, we took a leisurely drive to the town of Snohomish, "The Antique Capital of the Northwest," which is about 25 miles north of Bellevue.  Over Spring Break, we stumbled across the charming Downtown Snohomish and its plentiful boutiques and antique stores.  We weren't able to spend more than an hour there in March, so we decided to revisit it on this trip.  Most of the stores don't open until 11 am, but if you arrive earlier, there are cute little coffee shops and bakeries to check out.  We wandered through the antique stores, not looking for anything in particular.  My mom collects depression glass, so I'm always on the lookout for something unique to add to her collection.  I found the most precious pink depression glass child's tea set (It was $100+, so I passed).  I did find some old canning jars that I liked, and they happened to be on sale!  I bought both for $10. 
The one on the left is a green Ball jar, while the one on the right is a blue Atlas Strong Shoulder Mason jar.  Both have metal and glass lids I thought were interesting.....

We then headed back towards Bellevue, stopping in Mill Creek at the Central Market for lunch.  It's a grocery store (the best ever!) that has a soup and salad bar you can buy lunch at (like Whole Foods).  Nate got a yummy chicken curry soup, while I tried out several offering at the salad bar.  They have a great selection of items you can buy in bulk as well as fresh produce, beer and wine.  After a late lunch, we ran checked out the UW bookstore next door and headed back to Bellevue, where Nate humored me while I shopped at Nordstrom Rack.  We finished up the day with Tom and Margaret dinner at the Bellevue Club. 

Up for today..........the ferry to Whidbey Island!

Monday, May 30, 2011

On the way to Seattle....

Yesterday, we visited Timberline Lodge, where CJ and Kim will get married in February 2012. It was freezing cold and there was at least three feet of snow. It sure didn't feel like the end of May! On our way back, we visited the town of Government Camp and saw some pretty neat cabin-style houses. We ended the night seeing Kung Fu Panda 2. Yes!

This morning, we left Portland and headed towards Multnomah Falls. The weather is nicer today, but still pretty wet and misty by the falls.  As it's a holiday, it was very busy with all sorts of people. We hiked up to the bridge and got some great shots!

We are now en route to Bellvue, just outside of Seattle, to stay with Nate's Aunt Margaret (actually 3rd cousin, but we call her "Aunt" anyway) and her husband Tom. We always enjoy staying with them when we're in town, and they always like to show us show local gems.