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July 22, 2002
a year ago
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The Athenian, the Dilettante, and CDs

8:19 pm: John and I ran around Seattle today. Jet had a great morning, and I slept in again as I wanted to take advantage of being able to do. By the time I'd finished breakfast Jet wanted to nurse. So I let him and he went right to sleep, at about 10:15. Which is a little early, but not a bad thing.

John and I went off as soon as Jet got settled. Isabel asked for some decaf Market Spice Tea, so we had a mission. On the way there, I lamented that we'd done so few of the things we'd talked about doing. We weren't going to be able to get to a Mariner's game. We hadn't eaten at nearly a dozen places I'd thought about. There were a lot of places that I'd wanted to go and after talking it through we realized that to do it all, we'd have to... well... live here.

One of the things we'd missed doing was having pho for lunch from New Saigon in Bellevue. On the way in we saw a Miss Saigon on the corner of Union and 3rd that looked good, and we thought about going there for lunch. After doing all the walking, shopping, and looking we wanted to do. There was a nice little lot under the Market, that didn't cost a lot, and we parked there.

There was a tall stairway that went up to the Market, and it was keen to climb up where we could see the Sound and the Olympic Mountains. There was a neat platform up there that we hit and then we entered the busy mix of the Market.

There were far more people there than I'd thought there would be on a Monday morning. I guess that it was getting close to lunch time, and it's also tourist season. The booths were out, all the tiny arts and crafts booths that always crowd the non-powered end of the Market, with thousands of things that I couldn't figure out what to do with. I always wander through, attracted by the color, glitter, and movement. I always think, "What am I going to do with this stuff?" and realize that it would just go into the closet or a drawer and I refrain from buying anything.

At the end of the covered area, there was a guy selling fish print t-shirts. They actually took a fish, inked it and pressed it against a silk screen. They cut out where the ink hit, and used that to print all the shirts. The white shirts also get hand colored, and they sell them for about four dollars a shirt! That's pretty good. They're pretty, too, and name the Pike Place Market as their origin. They attracted John, and I liked one of the hand colored ones so much I bought it and he got one as well. More matching shirts!

One of our quest items was a chunk of smoked salmon. We wanted to do some research on the way through, one way, and then buy some on the way back. There was a smokehouse across the road, and we wandered through the bakeries, the tamale kitchen, and other things to peer in the smokehouse outlet. There was a lot of smoked salmon in there, mostly boxed and nearly two dollars an ounce! Ouch.

We got out of there in a hurry. We then wandered down where the fish markets, organic produce stands, and restaurants were. The Flying Fish Company was mobbed. There was a crowd about three or four thick around the fish stand. They were, as usual, throwing fish around. I don't really think much of bruised fish, but it certainly entertains a lot of people.

We went through it all and checked out their smoked salmon, at a much higher price, before heading into Market Spice. There is a wall of jars with spices, and a wall of jars with coffee and teas. I think it's better known for its spice tea than for the spices themselves. We found Isabel's tea bags quickly. They had a whole shelf of Yixing style pots, and what surprised me was that there was a bunch of the same kind of unfinished clay cups as well. I like the pots for brewing in, as the insulation helps keep them especially hot; but the clay absorbs whatever it is in contact with, so it seems odd to have cups made out of them, though I guess it would keep the tea hot just as well as the pots do. It's just that you'd have to have a cup for each kind of tea you drank, as well as a pot just for that type.

From there we headed down the newer portion of the Market, studying one restaurant and an Asian herbal store. It was just fun to look in on all the restaurants, shops, and snack stands. The far end came out at Union, and as we stood there, thinking about going to the pho shop, I said, "We can get pho in Denver. We can't get seafood there the way we can get it here. Let's eat seafood, instead."

So we went back.

There was one fish shop that we'd gone into to look at the smoked fish which had given us a sizable sample of their alder smoked salmon. It was smoky, juicy, and wonderful.

Right next to that shop was the Athenian Seafood Restaurant. It looked decrepit, tiny, and crowded. There was even a line of half a dozen people out in front. But when we got into the line and looked at the menu we decided we had to eat there. There were three different preparations just of mackerel, eight to ten of salmon and halibut including halibut cheeks on the regular menu, plus an entire page of shellfish. It amazed me. What was even more amazing was the prices, which were, on the most part, less than ten dollars an entree. Steamer clams, Dungeness crab, oysters, black cod, and salmon all for less than ten bucks, with fries, and sometimes a salad and bread. Simple preparations, on the most part, but they sounded really good.

So we stood in line for, maybe, five minutes, before we were pulled inside. The restaurant is about four times longer than the front. It runs its length in the back of the market, along the windows that face the Sound. We got to sit at the counter, and were handed a six page menu, a one page Market Price reference, a one page snack menu, and a whole page of draught beers. Yow.

John got two different, local, draught beers in frosted mugs. I just got soda water in a glass. Then we studied the menus in earnest. There was so much to choose from. A lot of it old stand-bys like fish and chips, fried seafood, and various seafood cakes. There were also some unusual and interesting preparations like singang, which is a fish broth with a bunch of shellfish and more fish poached in it and served with bread.

My eye was caught by the two smelt entries. There was a Columbia River smelt, which was just grilled and another smelt which was butterflied and deep fried. Both were only available for part of the year, so I asked the waitress and she said that they had the Columbia River smelt for $6.45 for a plate with fries. Yum. So that's what I got.

John decided to go for the special, a Copper River Salmon plate, with grilled Copper River Salmon, a salad, vegetables, potatoes, and bread. A full dinner. When it came there was a good-sized chunk of the reddest salmon that seems to exist. The Copper River is in Alaska and the salmon from that river always seems to be the reddest, brightest, firmest salmon available. It's wonderful stuff, and the chunk John had was a delicious representative of its kind. Fresh and firm and marvelous.

My smelt had been dredged in flour and thrown on the same grill/griddle that had done the hash browns for the breakfasts. There were a few potato shreds sticking to some of the slender fish. The fins and bones were still in them, but it was a very simple process to split them along their bellies and pull the spine and all the little bones right out. They were crisp on the outside, tender and flavorful on the inside. Excellent with a bit of malt vinegar and lemon. They were served with a slice of bacon and a slice of grilled tomato and were delicious. I had never eaten smelt before, and I was very glad of the chance with that superlatively extensive menu.

It reminded me, a little, of the fish that I used to catch as a kid at Chinese Family camp. The adults would take all the fish that the kids caught and they'd cut 'em, fin 'em, scale 'em and then flour and fry them for the parents' midnight snack. I remembered that from our summers. I always wondered what my tiny perches tasted like, and now I think I know.

I was very glad we found that place. If anyone wants a recommendation for a seafood restaurant at the Market, that's the one I'd recommend, highly. Avoid the chowders, through. They're very much flour thickened, and not particularly tasty.

After lunch, we went and bought smoked salmon from the shop that had given us samples. The guy who had given us the sample recognized us, so it was pretty clear that we were back to buy what we'd sampled. I was glad to prove their marketing technique.

We also hit some fruit stands on the way out, getting two plums for Jet, for when he flies tomorrow. Something he can eat that he loves. We also got some dried apple for me. At one stand they had lychee fruit, and I asked the lady at the stand for a handful, and that turned out to be a dollar's worth. I peeled the pebbly skin off and ate one as we waded through more stands and people. The fruit was juicy, sweet, and chewy around the perfectly smooth stone. That I found them simply at the Market was one of those things that I love about this place.

We headed out. We also hit the World Spice market below the main market, and I debated getting some licorice root. Finally, I just settled for some sweet chai spices. I'll have to brew it when I get home, and I like their suggestion of brewing the spices, first, and then adding some black tea, though I was especially amused when the proprietor asked me if I had any black tea at home. I didn't even start.

By the time we got back to the car we were just over the two hours of parking we'd put into it. We got our parking money's worth.

From there we headed to the Seattle Center, looking for Pacific Desserts. The store there, however, was gone. I remembered that there was one up near the Broadway district, and John found a way up there along Denny, which was where the shop was supposed to be. But that one was closed, too. Fearing the worst, we decided to just stop at the Dilettante up on Broadway.

There was no one in there. It was 90 degrees out, just barely uncomfortable for us, as we were used to the mid-90's at home. We went in and ordered. John got an Ephemeral raspberry truffle cake. I got a Japonaise Daquois. John got coffee. I ordered a Mexicano, which is basically cocoa, a little sugar, and water. I like my cocoa with just water, where I can taste the chocolate without milk in the way. It felt like it might be a bit too warm to drink hot cocoa, but just barely. It would have been unthinkable in Denver.

Here it worked. John's cake had a solid chocolate shell, a layer of raspberry and then was solid, flourless chocolate 'cake' underneath, more of the consistency of cheesecake, but without the cheese. It was beautifully rich, and a perfect compliment to his black coffee. My cake was simple almond buttercake filled and frosted with Japonaise, which is an almond-based cream. It had a base of almond flour meringue, crisp and wonderful and another triangle of the almond dequoise on top as well. There was nothing chocolate in it, but the subtle but pervasive almond flavors mixed well with the cocoa I had.

It was a perfect dessert. I loved it and was glad we went. There aren't places like that in all of Boulder. There are also no places quite like that in Denver, either. Nothing with that kind of single-minded style and focus. I miss that.

We enjoyed our desserts. I also managed to call William and find him at home, working frantically. He has a deadline tomorrow. He also helped a friend move in all of yesterday. We're definitely not going to see him this trip and we resigned ourselves to that fact. Sniff. But we also decided that we had to talk sometime, and I may well call him sometime in the next week or so.

That would be good.

From there we headed south on I-5, and hit Renton and the Great Wall of China shopping mall, intending to buy some tea from the Imperial Tea Court. Sadly, when we got to the store, it was empty. Oops. They were gone. While we were there I thought it would be nice to see if they had any lychees as well, as the season is short and if one place had it, it was likely to also be at Asian markets.

We were in great luck. The Pike Place fruit stand was selling lychees for four dollars a pound. 99 Market had them for just $2.29 a pound! They only came in two and a half pound bags, but that was okay. We could now, easily, share a lot of them with John's Mom and Dad, as they'd never had them fresh, before.

From there we got to Target, and picked up the CD. They'd gone to the extra work of only digitizing the pictures we really wanted, as they were low on CD's. So we only had to buy one CD with just the stuff we wanted on it. That was very nice indeed. When we got back to the house, we found a note saying that they'd all gone to Newcastle beach, but they came home soon after we got home.

Jet came in the door happily chewing on a Dairy Queen ice cream cone. Isabel said that Grandpa had spoiled the child by giving him an afternoon treat after swimming. They'd gone to Dairy Queen and gotten two large cones, and Isabel had shared one with Jet while George had eaten the other. Jet really enjoyed his cone.

Jet had had a marvelous time. He'd gone into the water with George, and had actually made his own way back out towards the shore in his float. So he'd actually swum himself in. He played on the beach, after that, perfectly happy for a good hour. He was digging, throwing sand, making a pool to let the lake waves give him some water, and he mostly sat just within reach of the waves. He seemed to like playing with what water the lake gave him and didn't look for more than that. He did get upset when the took him away from the sand, though.

They took him swinging, so he didn't mind too much, and after a while doing that, he was ready to go. He walked with Isabel back to the car, holding her hand whenever they got to a part of the parking lot with traffic, and he seemed to understand when he had to hold someone's hand and when he didn't.

We spent the afternoon making CD's for everyone that had been on the trip. Jet showed us a new trick, as he saw something he wanted on a table in the office. There was a knee chair under the table. Jet pulled the chair out from under the table, climbed the knee rest, climbed onto the seat, and was on the table before anyone had seen what he was up to. So Jet's far more coordinated and he's figuring out problems that are far more complex than what he'd been doing before this trip.

It's going to be very interesting seeing how he does when we get home.

Isabel made a wonderful artichoke heart casserole for dinner, and we ate it happily. Jet didn't eat much. He also ate part of a half of a plum and then threw the rest away. When the lychee came out he wasn't that interested in the peeled fruit. He popped the pit out of one of those and was more interested in the pit than the fruit. Then John gave him one that hadn't been peeled, yet, and Jet had a wonderful time peeling it with his teeth and fingers. He was much happier peeling it than eating it, but I was happy to eat anything he peeled.

That was fun to watch, as Jet really seemed to understand what the problem was and he just went at it.

He was pretty tired, as he hadn't had an afternoon nap. He was too interested in everything that was going on. So at 7, Isabel and John gave Jet a bath. It woke him up enough for him to last to his usual bedtime. When I took him downstairs, he went right to sleep, it seemed, until I took him off the second breast and he got upset. So I put him back on and, of course, that's when it finally let down. I guess even while mostly asleep, he'd known he hadn't gotten two let downs. After he finished that off, he went to sleep, no problem.

Someday, before my parents take him for that week next year, we'll have to see if someone can put Jet to sleep without nursing him.

Isabel, George, John and I spent a big chunk of the evening talking. Both George and Isabel fell asleep during some portions of it, but they were glad to participate in the parts that they were awake for. It was interesting having the in depth conversations at the very end of the trip, but I guess it's our last chance to really talk for a while, so we took advantage of it. I'm glad.

One of the more amusing things was hearing from George about when he's eaten smelt. When he was a kid, they could get smelt by the bucketful for five cents, as when the smelt were running, one could scoop entire nets' worth out at a time. So they were relatively cheap and very plentiful. They're still that way. George found that the 99 Market was selling them by the block while Isabel was away, and he bought a block of them and cooked them in a bit of oil in a pan. He ate them with a bit of ketchup. That sounded really good.

George said that they run in the spring, and he had always wanted to see that, out on the coast. We might have to come to Seattle some spring and take him up on that. It would be nice to be out on the coast to see how the smelt run. They seem such common food, and they're so small and so unprofitable that they can't be shipped out for other folks to eat. So they're only available locally. I'm very glad that I tried them. The stories were even better than the food itself.

I'm glad we did this trip. With all the trepidation that I had about having so much time with so many people, it was good to do it anyway. I learned a lot. Jet's learning like crazy, and soaking up stuff still. He now, occasionally, grins at us and says, "Nine!" at us instead of, "No!" Sometimes, while looking for someone or something he starts to yell, "B. B.! Bee Bee!" which is what Simon yelled whenever he was trying to find his uncle, it's their pet name for him.

Jet's now said a number of new words. Just once. He may say them again later. We'll see. And with the climb he's shown that he's far more coordinated than when we left.

He was even using two spools as stepping stones between the table and the desk, and while he was careful not to fall, he was also less careful than he would have been beforehand. And he stayed on both of them pretty easily.

It's going to be interesting to see how Joan sees him when we get back.

I haven't gone insane. I've learned and experienced more about this side of my family. That's been very good indeed. Best of all Jet has had more experiences with this side of his family and that is something that will probably stay with him as he gets older.

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