Category Archives: Restaurants

The Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver, British Columbia

Last week I had the pleasure of spending a night (hosted) at this luxury hotel. From my window I had a beautiful view of the harbor where the cruise ships dock. In fact the hotel even has an underground walkway that connects to the Cruise Ship Terminal. The room spelled comfort and caring from top to bottom.

I later learned that a recent $12 million renovation resulted in the hotel’s fresh, contemporary look. Besides going the extra mile to create 368 guestrooms fit for royalty, their eatery and lounge also benefitted from those dollars. Their buffet breakfast offers every item you’ve ever thought of eating in the morning. Look for honey and herbs that come from right on the property.

Vancouver’s Mayor, Gregor Robertson, is on a quest to make his city the “greenest” by the year 2020. The Fairmont Waterfront already has a head start with their organic rooftop herb garden and apiaries. The honey makes its way into chocolate desserts and cocktails. A Bee Butler provides complimentary tours of the bee activity and the gardens everyday. The hotel’s chef, Dana Hauser, shares a passion for sustainable culinary practices and has developed close relationships with local farmers and purveyors who support her views.

One of my all time favorites, Dungeness crab plays a signature role at the ARC restaurant. Hormone-free meat, artisan cheeses and free range eggs also appear on the menu. Kids five and under eat free, while those six to 12 are half price.

For a great central location and a pampered experience I highly recommend the Fairmont Waterfront.

My Favorite Trips of 2013

My friend and fellow travel writer, Sue Frause, wrote a summary of where she went in 2013 and what she recommended for the Examiner.com. I thought it was such a good idea that I’m doing it, too. All these trips came about because of writing assignments so most of my lodging and meals were complimentary, but that has not influenced my opinion. Here are some of the places I visited this year:

Alderbrook Resort & Spa (www.alderbrookresort.com)
Union, Washington

As I sat in the lobby by the blazing fire, I couldn’t help but think “what a great place to set a murder mystery.” Probably because I have read ones that have similar scenes. The setting in Union, Washington, is rural, yet serene. The lodge snuggles up against Hood Canal and the experience was almost surreal, it was so pleasant.

An Oregon reporter called Alderbrook the best lodge on the west side of Puget Sound. It’s outfitted with a wonderful spa, a gourmet restaurant and even has its own boat. If you want to rent a cottage, you can. They also have pet-friendly rooms. Whatever you choose to do, I hope you’ll have as memorable a time as I did.

White Pass
Washington

White Pass is one of our smaller places to engage in snow sports, but still beautiful with that crisp, clear mountain air and lots of snow. I attended the White Pass Winter Carnival with two other travel writers and wrote about it here for Northwest Travel Magazine. This event has been going on for years and even though I’m a native Washingtonian, I’d never heard of it before. The centerpiece of the event is a life-sized snow castle you can tour. At night a torchlight parade and fireworks light up the sky.

I also got to snowshoe for the first time on this trip. That’s now my new favorite snow sport. I’m not a skier or a snowboarder, but I do love just being in the mountains.

Sun Valley
Idaho

I had no idea what I’d been missing until this first visit. Sun Valley encompasses all my favorites in a compact little bundle – Lots of boutiques, many of which fall into the thrift category like the Gold Mine; all kinds of restaurants, snow and a Film Festival. Most of it is walkable, but if you’re tired or your destination seems a little far, the bus service is all free. Benches line the streets so you can sit and rest whenever you like.

I got to stay in the beautiful boutique hotel, Knob Hill Inn, a great location just on the edge of town. I woke up each morning to a panoramic view of the mountains. It was also next door to a cemetery, but Ernest Hemingway was buried there making that parcel of land another highlight of the trip.
Vancouver Island
British Columbia

Oh my gosh, I had no idea how gorgeous this locale could be. I’d only set foot in Victoria, the capitol, previously. This time, an individual press trip for a couple of stories I’d been assigned for Northwest Travel, had me taking the B.C. Ferry from Tsawwassen to Nanaimo. Those vessels don’t have far to go to become cruise-ship size. They even have a gift shop onboard.

The first night I had the rare and unique pleasure of staying in one of the Free Spirit Spheres in Qualicum Beach. These spheres, suspended between trees, literally give you a taste of heaven because you’re right up there next to it. The next day I fell in love with the small seaside town of Cowichan Bay and returned there two more times on this trip.

On my last night I got to sleep in a very well furnished yurt at Merridale Ciderworks. It had a large clawfoot tub not that far from the bed. And the restaurant at Merridale had fantastic food and of course, very tasty cider. I’d return in a heartbeat.

More on my 2013 trips next time.

Dinner and a Movie at the Tin Room, Tin Theatre

This month my son and his wife took my out for an experience like no other. We ate dinner at the Tin Room in Burien, just outside of Seattle. It’s called the Tin Room because in the past a tin smith owned the space and crafted works of tin there. You can read about the building’s history on their website. But the website doesn’t begin to describe the experience you’ll have there today.

 

The food is cooked to perfection, which has drawn many hungry people from near and far to the eatery. Entrees include shrimp scampi, cod tacos, “Olde Burien” grilled meatloaf, salads and small plates. I ordered the Greek salad and it was topnotch – filled with feta, crisp crunchy lettuce and just the right amount of dressing. The Tin Room offers specialty cocktails according to the season, so right now you can order a pumpkin pie martini or a poinsettia (not sure what’s in that). Spring brings am entirely new menu of crafted cocktails.

So what was so unique about this experience apart from the yummy entrees? My son bought movie tickets for the film “It’s a Wonderful Life” from our server in the restaurant. Then he took napkins into the theater, which you access through the bar, to save our seats for the movie in the Tin Theater. We didn’t have to drive to the multiplex and wait in line in the rain to buy tickets for a movie. It was all done so slick.

The theater seats less than 50, so it’s very intimate and cozy and the perfect way to see the holiday classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” They show a different movie every week, not first run films mind you, but the atmosphere is so much fun I don’t think it would matter much what was playing.

After we found our seats, a woman took our order for snacks and drinks for the movie. You can order popcorn, candy, soda and also alcoholic drinks and there’s no waiting in a long concession line. That same woman delivers the orders before the film begins. This was definitely my kind of “dinner and a movie.” I’ve heard about the luxury theatres where you can eat meals during a movie, but I have trouble with spilling my food when the lights are on. Total darkness would not be good for me.

You do have to be 21 years of age to attend a movie here.

“Ted” starts its run today. Watch the Tin Theatre website for what plays next. I highly recommend this as a very entertaining night out for a very small cost. You can also attend the movie without eating in the Tin Room, but why not try both?

Get Into Soap Lake

As you might imagine, Soap Lake is a body of water, but it is also a town of 1,500 in Eastern Washington. I’m pretty sure they all know each other, because while we enjoyed a tasty restaurant dinner there at Don’s everybody else in the eatery recognized each other and chatted with them.

Soap Lake and the newly installed sun dial sculpture.

 

Soap Lake was formed by a mammoth waterfall that eroded basalt rock into what is now Dry Falls. When the waters of the last big flood receded, it left the mineral-rich lake. More than 15 minerals fill the lake, some say giving it extraordinary healing powers. Soaking in the lake water and spreading the lake mud over hands, arms and faces to facilitate healing was done by indigenous people, settlers and is still done today.

A list of all the mineral Soap Lake contains.

The name, Soap Lake, seemed appropriate because of the foamy ridges that formed on the beach on windy days. Besides the lake itself, local spas offer a Soap Lake experience where you can soak in lake-filled tubs. (Although a broken pipe has stopped that temporarily, it will soon be fixed.)

From www.soaplakewa.com:  Some day, Soap Lake will be discovered by the rich and famous. They’ll build a fabulous resort and take advantage of this absolutely one-of-a-kind mineral lake. They’ll hear about Soap Lake and its remarkable history. They’ll swim in the water and lie in the sun and know they have found a place that nourishes their soul as well as their bodies. They’ll be drawn back year-after-year until they decide to stay for the rest of their lives.

If you aren’t rich or famous, visit soon, before the price goes up. If you are rich and famous, we’ve been waiting for you.

Besides relaxing in the sun, Soap Lake has lots of activities throughout the year like Winterfest, the second weekend of December, with a juried art show, art sale, crafts and music. Lava Run to the Sun is a motorcycle rally in late July and the Soap Lake Box Derby takes place over Memorial Day Weekend.

Don’t Overlook Salem

Last week at this time I was touring Oregon’s state capital, Salem. Oftentimes, travelers concentrate on the big city of Portland, the coastal towns or the wine country of Willamette Valley when they consider Oregon as a destination. Consider Salem, also. Here’s why:

 

Just a few miles outside of town sits the lovely Bavarian town of Mount Angel. At the Glockenspiel Restaurant, local ingredients from less than a mile away, are the emphasis. That makes the entrees served taste a lot fresher and really brings something special to the table. Besides the tried and true German recipes like wienerschnitzel, I urge you to try their special cabbage, which takes the chef five hours to make. It will tantalize your palate. Then at the appointed time, go outside and watch the performance of the wooden dolls in the Glockenspiel tower alongside the restaurant.

For a healthy walk after dinner, head up to Mount Angel Abbey. Enjoy the gardens and the peacefulness.

Mount Angel’s largest claim to fame and what the townspeople put the most energy into is their Oktoberfest. This year is the 45th annual and runs from September 13-16. With all kinds of fun for the whole family, Oktoberfest celebrates the harvest and the bounty of the earth through live music, street dancing, a car show and more.

Gallon House Covered Bridge

On the way back to Salem, visit the Gallon House Covered Bridge, Oregon’s oldest covered bridge. It was named for the days when liquor was sold by the gallon or quart in a nearby house.

Gerry Frank’s Konditorei, with more than 40 flavors of cake and pastries, is a must-stop for dessert in Salem. Local favorite cakes include Barney’s Blackout, Chocolate Raspberry and Lemon Cream. I savored the seasonal Marionberry and highly recommend it.

Then for $1.50 you can’t beat the price for a ride on the old world-style carousel housed in a stately building on the banks of the Willamette River.

Salem makes a fabulous family vacation and every year right around this time it hosts the Oregon State Fair. Scones, funnel cakes, food on a stick…

In Cashmere: Mission Square is a Must-Stop

Tucked in between the tourist Mecca of Bavarian-themed Leavenworth and Wenatchee, which boasts a myriad of outdoor recreational opportunities, Cashmere has long been known as the home of the jellied candies, Aplets and Cotlets. Lots of folks frequently stopped at Liberty Orchards to take a tour and buy candy to take home, but then returned to their cars and raced down the freeway leaving the rest of Cashmere unexplored.

Now a variety of tourist-friendly businesses have taken up residence in Mission Square, an old pear packing warehouse in the Mission District.

It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere is an artisan craft distillery with a tasting room in Mission Square. They produce 30 gallons of spirits a day. Their spirits are all made by hand using fruits and grains grown in Washington. Their offerings include Moonshine, Sunshine, Wheat Whiskey, Grappa and Brandy. But their most renowned product has got to be their Northwest Dry Gin with a range of botanicals not found in any other gin — star anise, juniper, orange, lemon, coriander and others.

 

Wine Design showcases and sells clocks and tables all made from old wine barrels. Owner and craftsman, Brian Ropp will build anything you like from signs to tables to chairs and more to your specifications.

Besides wine barrels, four wine tasting rooms grace the Square so there are plenty of opportunities to try local wines.

Snapdragon Coffee Café should not be missed whether you stop at the beginning or the end of your visit to the Square. They serve coffee drinks to warm you up and really good, authentic Italian gelato that can be consumed in any weather.

The day I was there, the flavors on tap for both gelato and sorbet included chocolate, chocolate cabernet, blackberry cider, white chocolate raspberry, mango, raspberry cider, lavender, old world cider with Aplets and Cotlets and salted caramel. The cider in the frozen confections is made by the owners of the café who also own the Cashmere Cider Mill. The Greens also have lodging available at the Cider Mill property.

Time it just right in the afternoon and you can imbibe in Snappy Hour at the Snapdragon Café and savor an exotic drink (alcoholic-free) with either a juice base or a coffee base. I highly recommend the piña colada. Very refreshing on a hot day and I’m sure it’s just as tasty on a cool one.

I love it when first-rate businesses band together in one structure.

Do you have a place like this that you love?

Heather Larson writes about the Pacific Northwest from her office in Tacoma, Washington hoping she can entice you to visit or share your own memories of the region. You can reach her at writemix@harbornet.com.

Two Restaurants You Should Try

There’s nothing I enjoy more than good food and this week I had two outstanding meals at two different restaurants.

 

Tuesday I had the chance to dine on some tasty crab dishes at Duke’s on the Tacoma waterfront. Seven Slanted High Balls and Seven Savory Sliders make their Happy Hour happy. The drinks are served in slanted, slightly off-kilter glasses. I’m not sure whether the glasses straighten out after you’ve had a few high balls or not, but I highly recommend the crab slider appetizer served during Happy Hour. It’s a little taste of heaven and goes well with Lulu’s Margarita. Happy hour runs 3 p.m.-6 p.m. and 9 p.m.-close everyday, weekends included.

 

Another palate pleaser has to be the Dungeness Crab “Un” Cakes served with lime aioli, organic field greens and a citrus vinaigrette. The powers that be at Duke’s searched the Northwest for the best crab cakes they could find and after two full days of eating nothing but crab cakes determined that the worst part was the “cake” so they left it out.  The “Un” Cake is an outstanding dish.

Today I wound up at a YMCA orientation in Seattle right next to the Lunchbox Laboratory, a restaurant I’ve wanted to try for months. So, even though we’d just eaten, I insisted we at least try one menu item and since I was the oldest in the group, the rest relented. And they were happy they did.

The Mexican Cokes on the beverage list turned out to be a big hit as was the Chips and Dip Classique appetizer of handmade potato chips dusted with a rosemary-romano sea salt and served with a chunky mixture of garlic, onion and bacon for dipping.

Since I don’t know when I might return to this area of Seattle, I opted to share a Native New Yorker Burger with my grandson. Burgers are the specialty at this restaurant.

Their beef patties come from American Kobe-style beef, which tastes so much better than ground beef from the grocery store. The New Yorker lived up to its name complete with Monterrey Jack cheese, thinly sliced onions and sides of ranch and buffalo ketchup. Handcrafted smoked salts are delivered to your table and you’re told they can be added to the sides, like the skinny fries. I put bacon salt on my burger and it added just the right touch of flavor enhancement.

 

For a treat you can dine outside around a fire pit, which you’ll most likely need to keep warm about eleven months out of the year.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Seattle or Tacoma?

Heather Larson writes about the Pacific Northwest from her office in Tacoma, Washington, hoping she can entice you to visit and/or share your own memories of the region.

Port Ludlow’s Fireside Restaurant Does the Kid’s Menu Right

What do you do when the kid’s menu at your restaurant just isn’t cutting it with the children you’re serving?

You could change the offerings to what you think kids would like, but how accurate will that be? Or you could create an event where children actually choose what they want on the menu. That’s precisely what happened at The Fireside at The Resort at Port Ludlow in Port Ludlow, Wash.

A plea was sent out to find children interested in taking part in a “Tasting Event” just for them. The judging panel was made up of five children representing ages 5-10. Each judge donned an authentic chef jacket, which they were allowed to keep, before embarking on their tastings.

Rose Peterson showing off the new kid's menu she helped create.

Rose Peterson, who was seven years old when she participated, and the other judges tasted and critiqued a variety of menu items and voted for their favorites. Each child then selected one menu item that would be named after him or her.

Liza’s house noodles with garlic bread, Taylor’s tenderloin steak, Journey’s banana split, Megan’s chocolate mousse and Rose’s sliders became permanent menu items. But the judge’s responsibilities didn’t end there. They also had a week to create art that illustrated their chosen menu item.

Now when a child receives their own menu at The Fireside, it is illustrated with authentic children’s art and the items listed have a real kid’s seal of approval.

Rose enjoyed her judging and never orders anything but her sliders when dining at The Fireside. She also helps out by watering the herbs whenever she’s in the neighborhood.

Bellevue Hilton Highly Recommended

Little things mean a lot — like when the hotel staff remembers your name and uses it or offers you a bottle of water while you’re waiting for someone. Excellent customer service will keep me coming back to any business.

That’s what I got at the Bellevue Hilton last week. A newspaper was at my door each morning, I was offered turn down service and everyday when I got back to my room it was clean and tidy.

This hotel offers the largest guest rooms in Bellevue and my suite was surely an example of that. The living room contained a sofa, chair, desk and widescreen TV and another TV was in the bedroom which was more than ample. A huge tub dominated the dressing room and the smaller bath revealed a shower and toilet.

 

Amenities included a fitness center with chilled towels and fresh fruit, an outdoor swimming pool and a complimentary shuttle that drove you anywhere within a mile of the hotel. A beauty salon, coin laundry for guests and 700 parking spaces also graced the property.

Tully’s Coffee Shop was located in the lobby as was a bar and Basil’s Restaurant, which serves a yummy breakfast buffet.

Although, I didn’t get to see him, I was told an otter lived in the pond outside. I’ll have to go back in warmer weather and see if he’s sunning himself.

To top it all off, the Bellevue Hilton is pet-friendly. What more could you ask for?

Snow White and a Milk Flight

As a child I always wanted to be a ballerina and dance on my toes. Instead my parents signed me up for accordion lessons. If I’d known how hard toe dancing was then, I probably wouldn’t have minded the accordion. The special pointe shoes help keep your toes together, but the dancers still have to have tremendous strength in their feet and legs.

Courtesy of Pacific Northwest Ballet

While watching the Pacific Northwest Ballet School’s production of “Snow White” in Seattle this past weekend, I marveled at how many of the dancers spent prolonged periods of time on their toes. What a feat.

All the footwork looked clean and crisp. The 70+ students performing showed extreme flexibility and graceful movements at every turn. This was the opening performance of “Snow White” yet everyone seemed well-rehearsed.

I went to see this ballet with my daughter and three-year-old granddaughter, Kita. I thought Kita might fidget or even have a full-blown melt down having to sit still for awhile, but she never once took her eyes off the dancers. Upon arrival we were given a booster cushion for her to sit on so she could easily see the stage. Of course, there was a lot of movement on stage, brightly colored costumes and a King who narrated the action.

As you probably remember, in the story the Evil Queen, Snow White’s stepmother, wants to be “the fairest of all.” Every time she asks her mirror who is the fairest, it replies, “Snow White.” In order to get rid of her competition, the Queen tries to harm Snow White in a number of ways. Finally, disguised as a beggar woman, the Queen tempts the fair young maiden with a poison apple. Snow White can’t resist, takes a bite and falls into a deep slumber. It’s not long before a handsome young Prince happens by (after all it’s a fairy tale), falls in love and wakes Snow White.

When the Evil Queen discovers her nemesis is still alive, she tries to put a curse on the mirror and becomes caught in her own image for all eternity.

The entire ballet lasts an hour, which is just perfect for young children. At the end, the dancers were met with some well-deserved, thunderous applause.

There are only two performances left:  Noon and 3:30 p.m. on March 25 at Seattle Center’s Marion Oliver McCaw Hall. For tickets, visit www.pnb.org or call (206) 441-2424.

Kita trying to decide which flavor of milk to try next at the Purple Cafe.

We stopped for lunch at the Purple Café and Wine Bar in downtown Seattle prior to the ballet. There Kita was served a milk flight – glasses of white, chocolate, strawberry and caramel milk, which kept her entertained until her food arrived. All in all it was a totally kid-friendly outing.