Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Seattle, part I

We just got in from one of the most lovely vacations I can recall having in a long time. Wonderful food, gorgeous weather, the company of terrific friends, and a nice mix of scheduled vs. not-scheduled-what-do-we-feel-like-doing-this-very-moment? time (with apologies to our dear friends in Portland and our friend Eugene for not sharing the unscheduled portions of our trip).

I've said many times that I think Austin is a fabulous city for eating...for its size. But I'll be honest; going somewhere like Seattle, a city that is very into food and has the larger population to support more variety/diversity does remind me that we don't have it all.

We landed in Seattle on Saturday afternoon, drove downtown and checked into our hotel, and decided we'd head over to check out the Space Needle before dinner. We rode up to the Observation Deck (520 feet up in 41 seconds!), wandered about there for a while, then snapped a few shots around the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame (we didn't have time to go in, though).


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The Space Needle

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One of the many beautiful views from the Space Needle Observation Deck - we lucked out on the weather!

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Funky building that houses the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame

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Reflection

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Cool sculpture near the EMP/SFM

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the hotel and get ready for dinner. When we arrived back in our room, we discovered that the concierge had heard us telling the woman who checked us in that we were celebrating an anniversary and had left us some chilled sparkling wine and two ah-MA-zing truffles (which, thanks to a very industrious front desk employee, I've now learned were made by Zambers Confections). Now that's service!

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After a sip or two downing the sparkling wine and a quick change of clothes, we were off to dinner. I was super excited for dinner, as we were getting to dine with an incredibly talented photographer and blogger whose work really inspires me, Jackie Donnelly Baisa. I was fortunate enough to meet Jackie online through our mutual friend Marc, who introduced us through Facebook so that Jackie could give me a few restaurant recommendations for our trip. Well, one thing led to another, and before I knew it, Jackie had very graciously agreed to give up her Saturday night, drive down from her home in the mountains, and join us for dinner at one of Tom Douglas' restaurants, Lola.

My two new friends - Jackie and Lola - were both fabulous, yet delightfully unpretentious. I love people and places that make you feel right at home, and both Jackie and Lola did just that.

Unfortunately, I failed miserably as a blogger and didn't get any good shots of Jackie. However, here are a few of Lola:

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Main dining room.

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The bar area. I love those flame lamps!

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We lucked out and were seated right near the kitchen, which is pretty much in open view of anyone who cares to look. I took this photo from my seat in our booth.

We started out ordering a couple of appetizers, Lola's version of manti (lamb ravioli, yogurt, aleppo pepper, and toasted pine nuts) and an order of lamb meatballs (it was a lamb kind of evening). The manti was one of my favorite dishes of the evening - tender, with layers of interesting flavor, and the pine nuts were toasted to perfection.

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Mmmmmmanti ($12)

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Mmmmeatballs

After we'd already ordered the appetizers, we decided to go with Lola's "Big Dinner," a multi-course extravaganza served family-style for $45 per person. It was the perfect way to sample a large cross-section of the menu - and for Jackie and me to have lots of "models" to photograph!

First up was a six-spread sampler, served with fresh, house-made pita bread. It is a testament to these spreads that all three of us had a different favorite - they were all delicious!

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Six-spread sampler, which included hummus with smoked paprika; a red pepper harissa; a cucumber/yogurt tzatziki; a cauliflower/anchovy spread; a kalamata olive/Turkish fig spread; and a garlic skordalia.

The next course was a plate of kebabs - three made with Washington chicken in a yogurt-dill sauce, and three made with Pacific prawns with a muscat glaze. I'm usually not one to fawn over chicken, but the chicken on these skewers was so ridiculously tender that I momentarily wondered whether it was cooked through. The prawns were good, too, but a bit more pedestrian; the sauce was a little too sweet for me, and tasted faintly barbecue-ish.

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The next course was Jackie's Greek salad - obviously named for our new friend, although we weren't nice enough to let her have it all to herself. I often turn up my nose at restaurant tomatoes (they're so often flavorless), but these were fresh and juicy.

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Our entrée was a sliced leg of lamb, served with garlic smashed potatoes and asparagus (usually comes with horta, but we saw another table getting a plate of this gorgeous asparagus, and our server graciously offered to let us substitute).

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Leg of lamb: tasty, although maybe the teeniest bit on the chewy side.

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Asparagus: also good, but nothing out of the ordinary.

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Garlic smashed potatoes: revolutionary. The combination of the wonderful garlicky flavor and the perrrfectly roasted skins had me swooning. Every bite was cooked just right and chock full of flavor, both of which can be so difficult to do with potatoes.

For dessert, we indulged in a plate of goat cheese turnovers garnished with pistachios, mint and honey. This would make a great dish for a person who dislikes overly sweet desserts; it just barely skirted the line between sweet and savory, and the warm meltiness of the slightly sour goat cheese had a comforting feel to it.

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A great meal overall, and a lovely way to wrap up our first day in Seattle. I can't wait to go back to try another Tom Douglas spot (he has six different restaurants all within a few-block area). I hope we're lucky enough to have Jackie's wonderful company when we do.

(Be sure to check out Jackie's post about our evening for some utterly gorgeous shots of our meal!)

14 comments:

  1. So fun! And you definitely did luck out on the weather. I love the flame lamps, too!

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  2. wow!!

    i'm dreaming of going to seattle (again) this year. thanks for another push :)

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  3. The food looks wonderful! I love Seattle, just a great place.

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  4. I heart Seattle, big time. If I were single I would move there in a heart beat... then invite you to visit. :)

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  5. OMG that food looks amazing. And, tell me more about champagne in a CAN? That's new, right?!

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  6. Jodi, I've been schooled since posting this...apparently, it's at least not new to @amberdemure. Check out her Yelp list for where to buy Sofia, the delicious canned sparkling wine we had in Seattle: http://tinyurl.com/2dazopk

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  7. Wow! Looks like an amazing trip. Can't wait to read the next installment...

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  8. OOOOh. Love all the photos. I am soo glad you went to Lola. I never went when I lived in Seattle and your photos make me regret that. I showed the garlic smashed potatoes to Josh and we are definitely going to attempt those soon. Everything looks so delicious!

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  9. Those smashed potatoes look awesome! I've been collecting potato recipes; sweet berry farm is expecting pick-your-own potatoes in the next week.

    I was *so* into those pink cans of Sofia when they first came out - Central Market had 'em.

    And the flame neon: killer!

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  10. Man, that was a fabulous night! It was so amazing meeting the both of you, and enjoying such great flavors and textures of food.

    I *LOVE* your Seattle photos. OMG. Those were taken with your tiny camera? They are AMAZING, plus you have a wonderful "eye" for what makes a great shot. I'm totally impressed with those EMP building reflections. In all the years I've lived here, I've never managed to quite get the really cool EMP reflection shots other people get. HAH!

    So glad that I could share part of your trip with you. I will come down your way someday, as well. I just HAVE to! ;-)

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  11. Mmmm the food looks delicious. Makes me miss Seattle. I love your blog, you're an interesting writer :) Nice to meet you today! My family says hi.

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  12. Jackie, you are too sweet. I was just over on your blog, all agog over the absolutely stunning shots that you got! And yes, you HAVE to come see us sometime soon! Maybe when it gets really cold up there, you can head on down here for a little respite. :)

    Natalia, thank you so much for visiting my blog! I loved meeting you and your family - you guys are so fun. We should all visit Gourdough's or the Alamo Drafthouse together sometime!

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  13. I was just at Lola the week before last! It was tres tres yummy!!
    Except they ran out of potatos ??? when we were there.

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