Yesterday we went to Seattle for the Annual WBBG meeting. Since Nathan is the President he pretty much doesn’t have a choice, so as is par for our course we all went. In the future though we should remember that I don’t really get to sit in on much of the meeting as Lauren is far too vocal and mobile at this point in her life. She isn’t by any means out of control, she is just one and prefers not to listen but to be listened to. So after trying to placate her with grapes, animal crackers, silicone baking cups (these work for an extremely long time, fyi), I decided to leave the meeting in peace and take Lauren for a walk.
The meeting was being held at the Shafer Baillie Mansion. This place is HUMONGOUS! Yes that big. All caps are in order. We could fit two and probably close to three of our house inside this true mansion. The owners have done a great job of restoring the grandeur of this historic home, the woodwork is breathtakingly beautiful. The meeting was being held in the basement (downstairs) speakeasy. Yes really! Complete with the bar and everything. It is very cool. You can just imagine the neighborhood millionaires gathering there imbibing on illegal liquids with a cloud of cigar smoke lingering above.
Anyhow back to the walk. It was a beautiful fall day. A little crisp but not freezing. The sun was shining and lighting up the fall foliage like a light behind a stained glass window. Magic. As Lauren and I strolled along the street I kept pausing the admire the beautiful homes. Each one had such great architecture. They are all large homes on Millionaire’s row, each one with something different to offer. This one had fantastic eaves, they extended further out, great for a NW home, that one had interesting trimwork around the windows really making each one a piece of art. One’s paint scheme, another one’s landscaping, or hardscaping, or stairs, or fence, or porch, or columns. Really each one was individual and unique, giving me ideas and inspiration for lots of projects. At the end of the street was a sign for Volunteer Park. I had no idea it was so close. Just behind the sign on a hill was a large brick tower. I assumed it was a water tower (I assumed correctly). I decided to continue walking into the park to explore. The water tower was open. There is a steep winding staircase that leads to a observation deck at or near the top of the tower with a display on the Olmsteads who were responsible for many of Seattle’s parks and boulevards. The view was spectacular. Clear view of the Space Needle with a ferry leaving the terminal, downtown Seattle, the 520 floating bridge, Bellevue, and everything in between. It wasn’t a perfectly clear day, there was still a bit of marine layer otherwise I bet the Cascades, Olympics, and Mt Rainier would have been out in all their glory too!
After leaving the tower I continued along the path into the park, Lauren babbling to me, and saying, "Hi!" to every man, woman, child, dog, squirrel, bird or other living creature she saw and getting annoyed if they didn’t say, "Hi!" back. We came upon another building, it looked older and Art Deco in nature and I was surprised to find it was the Asian Art Museum. Unfortunately I decided against bringing the diaper bag with my wallet in it. I was already carrying Lauren and the camera and didn’t want the extra weight of the diaper bag as well. Shoot! Oh well. Perhaps we will have to come another time. Truth be told it was much too nice a day to go inside. Lauren and I continued past the museum and I spotted what at first appeared to be a rose garden in the distance full of blooms. I turned and started down a narrow path across the lawn in that direction.
What appeared in the distance to be roses was actually dahlias. A small dahlia garden planted and maintained by the Seattle Dahlia Society. The were beautiful. I know some people think roses are high maintenance plants, but anything I have to dig up and store properly and then replant the next year is a bit too much maintenance for me. I don’t have to do much to my roses but trim them back. That is pretty good for me. The dahlias though were like multi-hued jewels. Large ones, small ones, variegated ones, solid ones, dense petals, loose petals, even one I thought at first glance was a rose. So much variation in one plant species.
Continuing on from the dahlia garden we headed toward the conservatory. A beautiful structure, again looks historic, more Victorian, all the glass glistening in the sun, and it was packed full of plants. Only flaw? Not open on a Monday. We weren’t having much luck with things today. I really enjoyed admiring the building though. Again it gave me ideas, a nice light but protected area outdoors so you could see the surrounding gardens, what a lovely spot for a wedding…hmmmm. Well I don’t see that happening until our apple trees fall over and I sincerely hope they don’t.
At this point I heard church bells (not sure from where) signaling it was noon. At least I assumed it was noon. Since lunch was being served at 12:30, or most likely 1:00pm because the meetings never seem to run on time, I decided I should head back. I walked back along another path and went past two koi ponds, those were some big carp in there! And beautiful. One of them was nearly leopard spotted, scales alternating gold and black, with long flowing fins. Lauren at this point is singing the sleeping song. Yes she sings herself to sleep in the stroller or hip carrier, a monotonous chanting sort of sound, like a car that just doesn’t quite start. Ahhh ahhh ahhh ahhh. So in a matter of moments she is sound asleep snuggling into my armpit. I stroll back along the leaf covered sidewalks and decide to look at the houses on the other side of Aloha, especially since one is for sale. You never know when you might come into a spare 4.5 million! It is another mansion, brick with a stunning front window. Actually the house that stopped me on that section was a Tudor style house with a large turret out the front. Not sure what it was exactly but I stopped to admire it both on the way down and the way back up the street. The front sidewalk stairs leading to the front porch with the looming turret overhead, it was a perfect photo, but I didn’t want to take a photo of a stranger’s house. Especially since it bothers me when random people stop their cars out the front of our house to take photos. But those people also ignore us when we wave or ask them if they want to see the inside, I would have said, "Hi, beautiful house. Why, yes I would love to see the inside. Do you mind that I took a photo? I just couldn’t help myself"
After tearing myself away from the house, I made my way back to the meeting, lunch, and then decided that since Lauren only napped for about 10 minutes she really really should have a nap or dinner tonight was going to be really noisy and unpleasant. Since I knew she wouldn’t fall asleep with me holding her (unless I was walking again and I would have to keep walking for two hours), I went out to the car, strapped her into her carseat and I sat in the car listening to the radio and watching the traffic (both foot and vehicle) go by. The more I watched the more I realized that city life is not for me. There were so many people. I really enjoy our neighborhood. It is close enough that I can walk just about anywhere, I know many of our neighbors and wouldn’t hesitate to knock on a door if I needed help, but the traffic isn’t bad either that I could ride my bike or drive and not stress out about it.
Lauren slept in her carseat for a solid two hours, although she did talk in her sleep, she was yelling at the dog. "Bad dog, out out, blah blah blah, dog woof." I thought she was waking up and commenting on the dog that was walking past, but when I leaned back to look at her she was still fast asleep. It was pretty cute. My guess is she was dreaming the dog was barking at the back door to get let back in.
The meeting ended shortly after Lauren woke up and after saying good-byes to several innkeepers we headed off to dinner at Olivar, just down the hill on E Roy. I looked at the directions and saw it was about half a mile away and thought that perhaps we should just walk, but since we didn’t think we would need our coats (Lauren had one, but neither Nathan or I did) and it was now spitting with rain, we drove. And drove, and drove and drove in circles looking for a parking spot. Finally we found one, it was adjacent to a no parking red curb, but Sandy was short enough to JUST fit. Our other innkeepers driving larger vehicles drove even more than we did. Upon entering the restaurant I really was struck with the feeling I had been in the restaurant before. I think I had coffee there with an old friend from high school many years ago, the murals were very familiar. According to one of the waitresses they were hand painted in the 30′s, it is a story about a Russian Czar. I love stuff like that. She said another restauranteur wanted to occupy the space but wanted to paint over the murals, but there was an outcry and the city protected the murals. I assumed that meant they are on the historical registry in some fashion but I am not sure.
The chef had created a family style menu for our group. All the food was very well done. How many ways can you say it? Amazing, flavorful, expertly done. We started off with an arugula salad with blue cheese, roasted beets and balsamic vinegar. Crisp greens with the slightly peppery flavor arugula is known for, the beets a touch of sweetness, the cheese a nice earthy flavor with cream and the vinegar was just enough to bring it all together. Next was a portabello mushroom tart with a PX vinegar reduction. Now I could have eaten about three of those. Crispy, flaky, buttery, rich flavorful mushroom flavor with the vinegar adding a touch of sweetness. The tart was followed by sea scallops atop a parsnip puree and an herb salad. The scallops were cooked to perfection, they were sweet and tender, flavorful, and creamy. The salad, I am not sure exactly what herbs were in it but it was wonderful. Out of the kitchen next was Nathan’s favorite, potato gnocchi with roasted red peppers and crispy Parmesan topping. The gnocchi was fresh, melt in your mouth tender and buttery. Yum. And no dinner didn’t stop there. Following the gnocchi was my favorite which surprised me. Seared duck breast with pickled green tomatoes and grilled polenta. The duck had such a great flavor, I am not sure what I expected but between the flavor of the duck, the tomatoes and the awesome polenta, I would have had two of these following the three mushroom tarts. The last main dish to come out was ground lamb meatballs with Nicoise olive and artichoke puree. They were a lovely red color inside from a Moroccan spice (similar to paprika the waitress told us). So flavorful, and still moist even though they were lamb and well done.
Of course no meal is complete without dessert. After all the food we had enjoyed so far we still had one more to finish our meal, an apple tart tatin with a cinnamon creme brulee. I honestly didn’t get much between Nathan and Lauren. Lauren’s comments upon devouring the creme brulee were "Yummm, yumm, yumm." And then she reached over and stole the apple out of the tart. I did have a couple of tastes of the creme brulee and it was rich and creamy, the sugar crust on the top was a lovely crispy caramel but no trace of burnt flavor some have. The tart had that lovely flaky buttery crust. The combination of the two were like an upscale version of apple pie with ice cream.
After all the time being restrained, contained and reigned in, Lauren had had enough, she wanted out, down and away. She was really good for the majority of the day, but at the end of the day she just wanted to crawl and explore and be heard. As the restaurant got busier our group started to disperse and Lauren was more entertained by the burst of movement and conversation. By the time we left, and got on I-5 headed south and home she was fast asleep. So yet another great meal at a fantastic restaurant made even better with conversation with friends and fellow innkeepers. What a long but lovely day.
Oh and thank you to the chef who sent out a special slice of pumpkin bread for Lauren! She wasn’t as patient as the rest of us for each flight to come out of the kitchen. I would like to say it was just as wonderful as the rest of the food, but she didn’t share a single crumb with anyone.