The Great Northwestern Adventure! – Part 5 Of Many

11 January 2012 in Memories, Reviews, Traveling

 

SeattleFor the first time in a long while we enjoyed the early morning hours just before sunrise and slept through those dull hours between five and eleven in the morning. Awaking late Lindsay and I had intended to make breakfast/brunch for our hosts, but found we did not have enough flour. Or so we thought. Later Bunny would point out some additional flour hidden high beyond Lindsay’s view. So after milling around the apartment for twenty or thirty minutes to see if Aaron would wake up we wrote a note to him and wandered out on our own.

We had gotten an idea of the layout of our immediate area and felt we could navigate our way as long as we were careful to keep our bearings. We took random turns here and there, often returning to the main street we knew. Eventually we found ourselves in an area that looked vaguely familiar to me. Before my mind could figure it out my mouth began to salivate. As we walked down past a small cluster of shops I began studying each building until there it was, my mecca, In The Bowl. A small choir began to sing inside my head and glorious rays of light radiated through the picture windows. This was not just another vegetarian restaurant this was hands down one of the best. Maybe THE best. I had eaten here two years ago while visiting Aaron. Inside this small and unassuming building there is a large menu offering asian fare of all sorts: curries, stir fries, fried rice, wontons, spring rolls, and soups. All of which is completely vegan. The last time I was here there were actually signs on the wall that stated “Animal products or byproducts are not allowed within this establishment.” If it weren’t for this sign I’m sure they would have been questioned frequently as to the legitimacy of their vegan food. The fake beef, chicken, fish, duck, and prawn served here is without a doubt some of the best imitations I’ve ever tasted. Especially the beef.

The Public MarketBut we weren’t quite ready for lunch yet so we continued our aimless walk. We soon found ourselves on a street that lead down to Pike’s Market—one of the famous places a lot of us think of when we picture Seattle. Until you actually go you might think only of men throwing large fish back and forth, but when you actually go there’s a whole lot more. It’s filled with not only flying fish markets—of which there are actually only a few—but also fresh produce, all sorts of specialty pastas, oils, etc. There are delis, and cafes, and shops offering just about everything from windup toys to books. There is also a long stretch of artisan work and folksy art. From hand made hats to cigar box guitars. There’s almost too much to look at. Especially when you’re little country mice like Lindsay and I with little expendable money. After having a decent look around and some free samples we were on our way back up the hill towards Bunny’s with a stop planned at In The Bowl.

Aaron met us at In The Bowl as we were waiting for our food. Lindsay had Spicy Coconut Noodles and I had Spicy Noodles. While the names might feel a little lacking, the food was extraordinary! Our dishes were served in deep, wide bowls filled almost to the brim with an array of fake beef, carrots, pineapple (just in Lindsay’s), broccoli, asian eggplant, peppers, onion, straw mushrooms, and big, flat and wide rice noodles. I just conferred with Lindsay I think we have a winner for the best meal of our trip. While the portions would have been too much had the food been lacking in flavor, the flavor was so good we polished our bowls clean.

Marilyn the BanditAfter such a large meal another long walk was in order. Aaron took us on a short walking tour of some of the highlights of his neighborhood. He pointed out cool record shops and restaurants and gave us some historical and contemporary information on some of these places and the area in general. He was very knowledgable and would make an excellent tour guide for Seattle visitors. Eventually we made our way to his favorite park, Volunteer Park. As we approached it there was a large brick and concrete reservoir filled with water and surrounded by a fence. This was part of the water supply for Seattle. Behind it sat, what Aaron told us was the first water tower built in Seattle. Aaron had to go work for a few hours so he left us pointing out that there was a conservatory filled with an abundance of plant life and the water tower also served as a viewpoint which you could ascend and get a wonderful 360 degree view of the area.

Swirly WhirlyFirst we went to the conservatory. Upon entering we were emerged in a lush and slightly humid botanical garden. There were three rooms in all: one which highlighted orchids, one that was tropical, and an arid desert. The rooms weren’t very large, but the variety was unparalleled to anything I had seen. I have been to indoor gardens in Wisconsin, ones which are many times larger, but for some reason this small greenhouse has become my favorite. Aside from the variety I think the way in which the plants were displayed aided in my enjoyment. Instead of carefully landscaped plants set at ground level the outer edges of each room were set at waist level. From here each plant and flower reached for my eyes and grabbed my attention. I found I moved at a slower pace and spent more time admiring the tiny details of each flower, leaf and stem. The colors of the flowers were brilliant and the patterns on the leaves exquisite. There must have been at least fifty different plants in each small room. Cactus PatternsWhile the tropical room was a rainbow of colors and the orchids a rare display of delicate splendor, I think the dessert was my favorite. Again it was the level at which these plants were displayed which increased my awareness and joy. Each tiny cacti, often no bigger than a baseball, had so much character. There were short, squat cacti, tall, narrow cacti, tree like cacti, long, drooping cacti. Then there were long, sharp and threatening prickers and short, abrasive little prickers, and—my favorite—wispy long, white prickers that had the appearance of the fine hair atop some old men’s heads. And each cacti had a unique pattern and aesthetic as well. I trust Lindsay shall share some of the lovely pictures she took.

After leaving the conservatory energized by its wondrous beauty we walked over to the water tower and ascended its spiraling stair case to the top. Here we wandered slowly around to each of over a dozen windows taking in views of the city and at times the far off mountains. It was a great place from which to see Seattle. We haven’t been in the space needle, but we don’t believe it could offer a better view than this, sheerly based on each view’s location. Here we sat high above the city on one of it’s many hills. The needle from our recollection sits down in a valley, closer to the water. While we were taking in the last of the views we heard music coming from below. An accordion was playing somewhere in the park. As we exited the water tower we circled it attempting to locate these enchanting sounds. After circling almost the entire water tower we found a middle aged man, playing in the other entrance. He seemed to be overjoyed playing his whimsical tunes upward into the water tower. It was an enchanting and romantic gesture.

On the way down the stairs my legs had really began to burn, flare, and cramp. Several days of walking on hard concrete was much different than the miles we had accumulated in the desert and the forest. It was beginning to take its toll on me. So we headed back towards a main street just up the hill from Bunny’s apartment. We weren’t really hungry yet, but a beer and some water sounded good. So when we passed a pizza place boasting $1 PBRs it was a sign. Mods, as it was called, was somewhat of a Seattle area chain and at four o’clock in the middle of the week it was a large, empty room. I’m sure late night Friday it’s packed wall to wall, but we were the only customers at this time. So it felt a little weird walking up and just ordering two beers, but we did anyways. Then we chose a table by the window where we could watch people wandering by on the street. Here we sat and talked of the trip so far and our thoughts towards both Portland and Seattle. While sipping our second PBR Bunny happened to walk by and spot us. She had just got off of work and swung in to say hi. She’s so nice.

After finishing our beers we thought we’d grab a quick bite. Something small and light. We were still digesting the heaping bowls of food we had eaten for lunch. Aaron had been telling us about the wonders of Pho (pronounced fuh). It was Vietnamese noodle soup which traditionally was not vegetarian, but several places offered a veggie option. Thinking this would be an inexpensive and light dinner we chose one of the two places nearby, the one that appeared to be cheaper. Than Brothers has the decor and charm of an old Perkins or a small town Chinese buffet. Cheap chairs and tables colored in dull pastels with eighties patterns. Although it was a very large restaurant they felt the need to make it look even bigger by placing gigantic mirrors on all the walls. Being that there’s only a few items on the menu and most of the clientele seems to be repeat customers as you are seated you are immediately asked what you would like to order. We didn’t realize there was only one veggie option on the place mat menu in front of us so we asked for more time. A minute or so later a plate of sprouts, limes, and sliced jalapeno arrived along with two small pastries. Also already at our table was a rotating plate of sauces; chili paste, sriracha, and hoisin sauce, a stack of asian soup spoons—of which Lindsay pocketed two, a stack of spoon rests and napkins. This place had the air of a cafeteria. After ordering two small soups. We waited. Almost instantly our bowls arrived. I’m not sure how anyone could attached the label “small” to these bowls, but maybe things got mixed up in translation because it front of us sat two bowls the size of serving bowls filled to the brim with steamy soup. The bowls had to be twelve inches in diameter and probably four inches deep. And they offer an extra large. I actually heard the lady behind me order one with extra noodles. As we dove in we found the flavor to be good, but a little plain, but with added chili paste and lime, in a few minutes the bowl was infused with tantalizing flavor. In thin broth there was broccoli, tofu, straw mushroom, onion, and tons of thin rice noodles. It was very good and filling. It also warmed our cores and cleared our nasal cavities. After scooping our bowls clean we each took a bite of the pastries they had brought out earlier and were thoroughly impressed with the flavor of the light crust filled with heavy, creamy custard.

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11 January 2012 Memories, Reviews, Traveling

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