We have been spending the last several days in downtown Seattle and in Olympic National Park on the Peninsula.
Of course, we enjoyed Seattle. It is one of the most beautiful and vibrant of American cities. The water, huge trees, mountains in every direction, and rhododendrons in bloom are gorgeous. But the people and the activity make it very exciting. When one realizes that Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, REI outdoor supplier, Costco, and – yes – Starbucks all call this home or have a major presence, it becomes clear that this is one of the major engines of our current American economy.
Not surprisingly, all of that wealth and activity also mean that Seattle is a place for food. The first night, we ate at the restaurant in our hotel. The name is Tulio, and it definitely does not disappoint. We had drinks at the bar. We ordered the Bees Knees because they donated some of the proceeds to the Save the Bees Foundation fund-raiser. (is that Seattle or what?) The bar tender was very pleasant and clearly an expert mixologist. He said that his particular area of interest and focus was on Old Fashioneds, Manhattans, and their variants. So, of course, we had to try one of each. They were delicious.
Then it was on to the dining room where there were many choices. I selected the gnocchi. I always choose gnocchi when they are on the menu. Sometimes I am pleased. Sometimes I am disappointed. This time I was not disappointed. The little morsels were made of sweet potato, browned to be crispy, and bathed in brown butter. Smoked salmon ravioli were very Northwest, a little too heavy on the smoke, but delicious.
The next day we had a late lunch after strolling around the Pike Place Market, a must-do touristy thing if you are in downtown Seattle. The Sazerac, as you might guess, features food from New Orleans, but we had hamburgers because of the lateness of the lunch.
We saved our big meal for RockCreek in the Fremont neighborhood. Even though you think of Seattle as the epicenter of salmon and halibut, RockCreek makes a point of bringing in fish from all over the country/world. The menu changes daily, so you just have to wait and see what the offerings might be. The chef has been nominated for a James Beard award.
Oysters are local, but there is a good selection by micro-region. Three of us each got two from three different places, and they were outstanding served with a refreshing shallot mignonette.
Rhode Island Dory came with local morels. The Florida Amberjack came with a coulis made of fresh local green peas. Local Neah Bay Black Cod was done in the Provencal style. All were excellent.
The desserts were original and delicious – re-imagined Key lime pie and de-constructed s’mores. They were too sweet for my humble sweet tooth, but not for the dessert junky.
Then it was on to the real purpose of our trip: the Olympic Peninsula. The ferry ride was spectacular with the snow-covered Olympic Mountains looming over the waterway.
Our first stop was Port Townsend. This fascinating little town is filled with four- and five-story granite buildings, a giant courthouse, and many Victorian mansions built when the town was thought to be the impending “New York of the West Coast.” That was not to be; Seattle had other plans.
We made a real find. The Alchemy Bistro and Wine Bar on a side street away from the touristy main street was serving their Sunday brunch. “Bottomless mimosas” attracted a good crowd, but the fairly extensive wine list held our interest. The menu included one whole page of egg dishes and another page of soups, salads, and sandwiches.
Susan got a big bowl of oyster stew along with a plate of freshly baked scones and fresh fruit. I ordered the wild crab hash with poached eggs and Hollandaise. Neither of us went away disappointed or hungry. My hash was filled with huge chunks of fresh crab, so unlike crab dishes in lots of restaurants.
Finally we made it to the lodge where we have stayed for several days, the Lake Quinault Lodge (not to be confused with the Lake Quinault Resort on the other side of the lake where we first went.
The lodge is a classic National Park lodge, built in 1926. It has been modernized but still retains much of the rusticity of ninety years ago.
The big surprise was the Roosevelt Dining Room, named after Franklin D. Roosevelt who visited in 1937 and is credited by many for his support of the conversion of what was then a National Monument into a National Park.
Food in the dining room, whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner, is remarkably sophisticated, well-prepared, and beautifully presented. The wait staff is a bit uneven. Some are real professionals; some are high school students who are struggling – or maybe not – to learn the skills of good wait staff.
When we have not been eating, we have been sight-seeing. The rock formations in the surf of the Pacific Ocean are breathtaking. With modest hikes you can see the world’s largest Douglas Fir, Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock, etc. Though I confess that once I saw one of the world’s largest [fill in the blank] I had had enough. The temperate rain forests were far more interesting. It is amazing to hear rain but for it not to make it to your level yet still have damp ground all around you. The ferns, mosses, and other plants fill the entire landscape. It is totally different from our dry Santa Fe.
This has been a wonderful escape. Now back to Seattle by way of the Bainbridge Island ferry, a good night’s sleep, seafood at the Athenian, made famous in “Sleepless in Seattle”, and then on to the next part of this adventure. The Athenian is a must although the seafood turned out to be a disappointment. Still, the perfect end to the day was a trip back to the wine tasting at our hotel.