Seattle, day 1

I’m making my first trip to Seattle this week for some vacation away from Cleveland.  The five-hour non-stop from CLE to SEA was uneventful, though packed.  The weather in Seattle is unseasonably warm and sunny (a fact about which I am not complaining), with the high on Monday in the low 80s.  It did necessitate a trip to a very large Old Navy store to buy a couple of t-shirts, since I brought mostly cooler-weather clothes on this trip.

I’m staying at the Hotel Max, a boutique hotel on Stewart Street in downtown Seattle.  It is very chic, with art works lining the hallways.  It is newly decorated.  The rooms and bathrooms are quite small and put me in mind of a ship’s cabin in their compactness and efficiency.  They are beautifully appointed, however, with a “pillow menu” (do you want soft, medium, firm, U-neck, body pillow, etc?) and a “spiritual reading” menu.  No Gideon Bible for this establishment: if you want the Koran you can have it, as well as the bible, the Book of Mormon, the Torah, and a book on Scientology.  There are Aveda cosmetics in the bathroom.  I’m on the second floor, so there is a fair amount of street noise, but the reviews in Expedia had warned me, so I’m prepared with my earplugs.

I spent the afternoon exploring what may be the no. 1 tourist attraction in Seattle, the Pike Place Market, which reminds me in many respects of the West Side Market in Cleveland, but on steroids.  It is huge and on several level.  It is a little seedy (it has “character”), and there are some dodgy characters hanging around, but it is possible to find just about anything there, besides the de rigeur seafood, meat, produce and flowers, dairy and bakery.

My friend Walter Grodzik, originally from Cleveland, now on the faculty of Evergreen State University, picked me up for dinner about 6:30. On the way to dinner, Walter drove us to the Queen Anne area that overlooks Seattle, with a good view of the city.  It was even clear enough that I could see Mt. Ranier faintly in the distance.

We had dinner at Monsoon, in Capital Hill (what used to be Seattle’s main gay neighborhood, but now much more mixed). Monsoon is a “pan-Asian” restaurant.  Asian influence, but not strictly of any one cuisine, with also some French influence.  It was all excellent.  The most unusual thing that we had was fiddlehead ferns cooked in a light sauce with porcini mushrooms.  They were delicious, and the ferns were crispy.  We had a halibut dish and a lamb dish, both of which were beautifully seasoned and presented.

After dinner we went across the street to the Kingfish Cafe, a soul food restaurant, for dessert. I ordered red velvet cake, and Walter ordered peach crisp.  Well, as it turned out, we could almost have made a whole meal from the desserts-they were huge.  I ate less than half of the piece of cake and took the rest of it home with me.

Despite wanting to stay up to watch Conan O’Brien’s first night hosting the Tonight Show, my body was saying it was almost 2:30 AM EDT, so I finally cut my losses, put in the ear plugs and went to sleep.

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