A Leaf, Stanley Island, and C
During our walks, yesterday, there were several interesting things that we saw. One of them was a Paramount Pictures crew filming a scene across the street from the hotel. Crowds of people behind the camera, the rest of the city carrying on as if nothing were happening. There were trucks and busses, and tons of electrical equipment all along a street down the side of the small park. Across the street from that was a small cafe.
I'm not sure why it caught my eye. The city is filled with coffee shops, tons of Starbucks, including two Starbucks kitty corner to each other on one busy intersection. Both of them were filled with people. The local competition seems to be a place called Blenz and they were everywhere, too. The hotels each had their own coffee shops, the one in the Georgia was called Sen5es, which seemed a mite pretentious to me.
When we walked by the pendulum building, there was a crew of about a dozen messenger bicyclists camped out on the ledge by the windows. Their bikes were in a bike rack right there and all t heir radios were vying with each other for attention. One biker popped out of the building next door to that with a coffee cup, so I went to peek at that, but it turned out to just be another hotel/business building coffee shop, independent, but I wasn't much impressed by the pastries.
So we went to the cafe that had caught my interest last night, the Caffe Artigiano: Latte Art practiced daily. It turns out that the cafe's signature is a leaf pattern in the foam on top of a latte. The barista pours back and forth, creating waves in the foam against the espresso/milk, and then pulls a line through it to make a leaf. It's very pretty.
But what was more impressive is that they only had lattes, mochas, and Americanos on the menu, with option to add ones syrups or whatever, and the mochas came with no whipped cream but with foam. This is a combination that is provably impossible to get at a Starbucks without going through contortions of asking. Plus, since they do the foam art on every drink, they only heat the milk for that one drink at any one time. So the small amount of milk gets perfectly hot every time. The espresso itself was perfectly smooth and delicious, the chocolate didn't overwhelm it with sweetness or chocolateness. The balance was perfect.
We lucked out.
What was funnier was that as John got his espresso, a guy that obviously managed the place, if not owned it outright, asked John where Victor's coffee was and how long had he been roasting? John boggled at how the guy knew to ask him about Victor's until he realized that he was wearing his Victor's t-shirt. So he answered that it was in Redmond and that his friend had been roasting for about fifteen years. The guy asked how we'd found this place, and we honestly said that we'd walked in from off the street.
I wish that there was some way to know the truly great coffeehouses of each city before visiting there. In this case, though, we'd lucked out beautifully. Though there might have been a combination of factors that had brought us there. But none of them seem all the over tot me. It was late enough in the morning that there wouldn't be lines out the door, but they were busier than either Sen5es or the other lobby shop, and the pastry selection showed some discrimination and care in the selection. I'm not sure how or why it stuck for me, but I may have to figure that out, someday.
From there we headed to Stanley Park. It's a huge forest on an island next to the city. It's beautiful. It provides great views of the city itself, and has all kinds of things hidden away in the trees. Stuff like a lighthouse, a set of totem poles, a navy base, a miniature railroad, two beaches, a play park, three restaurants, and an aquarium with a working salmon hatchery. As I said, it's huge. And we walked around to the totem poles.
The paths there are flat. Everything is nearly at sea level. So it's excellent for bikes, walking, and the omni-present rollerblades. You could tell the tourists, taking tiny steps on unfamiliar contraptions from the locals smoothly sailing through flashing sweat sleeked muscles covered by helmets, elbow pads, and knee protection. Only tourists like us were tanned. Hee. There were trolleys, horse-drawn and motorized, tour busses, and lots of cars zooming about as well. The totem pole park was filled with flashbulbs and backpacks.
One thing about being a tourist in the city is that it's easy to be spotted. Anyone in shorts with a camera was a likely tourist, obvious among suits and working dresses.
The tourist paths, though were very easy to follow. The waterfront walkways were clearly marked, cleanly paved, and beautiful. I really enjoyed walking along them. We came across Cardero's by Cardero park, and the menu was for a full meal for lunch and we turned around, at the front door and found BoJangle's bakery, sandwiches, and espresso drinks right across the street. So we went there.
It was a good choice. I got a malted chocolate milk, cold, while John got a beer, and both of us ordered sandwiches. John got the smoked salmon, and I bought a crab melt. Both were grilled in Panini presses, with the characteristic, narrow bars across them, flattened and compressed. The smoked salmon sandwich was redolent with smoke, crisp with red onions, and rich with ripe tomatoes. My crab sandwich had less character, in that the crab was less spectacular, but it was a good sandwich. The bread was multi-grain with seeds in it and an excellent, chewy texture and a long risen complexity to the flavors. Yum.
From there we walked to Canada Place and saw the Cirque du Soliel movie, Journey of Man. It was a fun sort of parable, not a history or anything more than a frame for some of the more popular/famous acts from the Cirque. Entertaining and the one IMAX movie we wanted to see of all the ones they had in the theater, so we got lucky. In Seattle, they're advertising a Stomp! IMAX movie, that would be fun to see before we leave.
John refilled the water bottle there, and that sustained us back to the hotel, where we ended up in the Casa Blanca again, which time with drinks. It turned out that the bartender also had an evening job at a restaurant, so John asked her what restaurants she would recommend for our last evening in the city. She asked if money was an object, and we said no, so she told us two restaurants, one of which we'd seen yesterday on our wanderings and decided was too rich for our shorts and T's. It was the C. We found a review of it in one of the magazines in the hotel, and it sounded like the chef was very passionate about using local ingredients, so we decided to go there.
John made reservations. We'd been planning on going to the French restaurant by the Lush shop and finishing my Lush shopping then; but with this change in plans, we went there immediately. I bought soap, tried a few of the moisturizers that I'd been curious about. I have, however, a ton of lotion, Origins face moisturizers and toners, and other creams for winter. But I wanted to try a few things so that I'd know what I could buy when the time came to restock. Back to the room with the booty, a quick shower to wash all the walking sweat off and we put on our good clothing.
I had my electric blue, marbled, velvet tights along with my blue silk jacket. On the very light black turtleneck, short sleeved, it was a cool enough ensemble for the cooling evening. I was glad of it as we had to run to make our reservation after we'd wrangled our way through rush hour traffic to the waterfront and the streetside parking available around there. It was a godsend that the parking meters also accepted American quarters.
We got a shaded patio table, which was wonderful, and then enjoyed a great restaurant experience. It was wonderful, expensive, yes, but well worth the money for the experience. They really took good care of everything they made and did a great job of making us feel very comfortable, eventhough most of the other folks eating there seemed a few decades older than us. It is something of a wonder to me, that even after a decade of eating at places where people seem to, on the whole, be much older than us, that they are *still* that much older than us. The waitress, however, was a beautifully severe woman with her hair in a tight bun, and she was nothing if not polite, impeccibly correct, and still managed to make us feel comfortable. She practiced the beautiful art of making us feel that our choices and desires mattered and that what we desired was what we should have. That was wonderful.
John got the scallop ceviche and I got maple-glazed sardines for our appetizers. The ceviche was refreshing, brightly citrus, tender, and even fruitier with a zest garnish. My sardines were sweet and salt and distinctly oily and fishy, delicious as that's exactly what I wanted. The boneless fillets were bright silver with the skins still attached, resting on a bed of gently cooked whole grains with bits of bacon and onion and plenty of the same teriyaki like sweet-salty sauce all over them. Distinct and delicious.
Both John and I ordered the same main course. The wild Skeet River sockeye in a veal broth with arugula gnocchi, vegetables, and Dungeness crab. The salmon was done medium rare, tender and wonderful, with that buttery smoothness of great salmon sushi. The flesh was deep red and sweet. The veal broth only highlighted the sweetness with lots of shallot, carrot and celery. There were good-sized chunks of crab. the gnocchi were wonderful, tender pillows of mashed potatoes given body and toothiness and just a bit of the bit of arugula. And portions small enough to have dessert.
John got the Valhrona bittersweet torte topped with coffee ice cream and a chocolate sauce. I got the Okanagan cherry custard topped with mascarpone ice cream and more cherries and sauce. I also asked for a decaf, dry cappuccino, and it came first, perfectly, elegantly, and completely dry. Wow. The busboy even came by asking me if it was too dry and I had to grin at that and say, "No, it's absolutely perfect, exactly what I wanted."
It was so beautifully dry that I could put half a spoonful of raw sugar on the foam and fold it gently into the foam while bringing up some of the espresso. Folding it in, the foam and the coffee became sweet, and the foam got coffee flavored, but not flattened, and I could drink the sweet foam over a thin thread of perfectly dark, perfectly intense espresso.
I love truly dry cappuccinos.
It went well with my dessert, and the bill pleasantly surprised both John and I. We then took the car and drove all the way around Stanley Park. It was well worth doing, as we got to see parts of it I was just too tired to try and see when we were walking. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a Safeway and bought Hob Nobs and Cadbury chocolate, both of which are difficult to get in the States and night impossible to get in Colorado. A nice, big bag of them, and we went back according to the original driving directions John was given by the hotel.
On the way we spotted a Tim Horton's, the 24-hour donut shop that's uniquely Canadian. So when we were parked, we both thought about it and had to go there.
Yeah. It was an amusing contrast to C. College kids and homeless people, security guards and crumpled tourists in shorts. We each got a donut and John got black coffee and I got a chamomile tea. He'd kind of wanted coffee at the end of dessert as he'd had port with his dessert, but had decided not to, so he made up for it with a fresh, big mug of Tim Horton's coffee, guaranteed fresh. He liked it.
It was fun to read the paper there, that John had gotten elsewhere, and see the difference between Canadian newspaper reporting and American. I didn't know that Manchester U was playing in Seattle tonight, with the hopes of a four city, four game tour bringing them some good money compared to what they can get in the U.K. It's interesting thinking of how Americans would react to seeing European league soccer and Manchester U is the best of the best, even without Beckham.
From there we walked back to the hotel and I got to have another wonderful bath before bed. Bathes make it so that I don't have to have a pump, so I got to get around the problem that way, which was good. I think I'll be okay when we get back. I'm glad