Saturday, 23 July 2011

Pacific North West Trip: on to Seattle

We arrived in Seattle on the train from Portland at noon on Monday 6th June, absolutely famished. Seattle, like Portland, isn't exactly known for its weather, but it was a beautiful sunny day with clear blue skies. I felt like I was living a charmed life, since the last time I'd been in Seattle, some 9 or so years ago, it had been cold and drizzly. After settling ourselves in at the Alexis Hotel we walked up to Pike Place Market. It was teeming with tourists, way too many to get any good photos, so after 30minutes of so we gave up and headed to Matt's In The Market for some lunch. Unfortunately since we didn't arrive until 1.30pm they were already out of the special I liked the sound of, halibut fillet served with salad on a brioche bun, so instead I decided to go for the pork belly confit "banh mi" served on a baguette, which was delicious, but way heavier and greasier than my health food accustomed stomach could deal with so sadly I could only manage half of it.

We walked off our lunch with a trip down to the Olympic Sculpture Park, passing this sculpture of 'Angie's Umbrella' by Jim Pridgeon and Benson Shaw.

The Olympic Sculpture Park spans 9 acres of what was previously a contaminated brownfield until the Seattle Art Museum proposed transforming the area into green space and includes sculpture by the likes of Richard Serra, Tony Smith,...

...Alexander Calder

...and my personal favourite, Roxy Paine.

Afterwards we walked the few blocks up hill to the space needle where $18 got us a ticket to the observation deck.

And then took the monorail back to downtown to check out the Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Ramus designed Seattle Central Library. The library is breathtaking, I think if I lived in Seattle I'd spend a good deal of my time there.

Although leaning over the balcony of the top floor to take this photo made me feel very peculiar. Heights are not my thing.

We got back to the hotel just in time for the complimentary happy hour and enjoyed a glass of wine while flipping through our guidebooks for dinner recommendations, finally deciding on Quinn's Gastropub on Capitol Hill. Unfortunately we never made it there as en route I came over all queasy and had to make an emergency dash into the bathrooms of the Hilton Hotel and the wine made a repeat appearance, although I'm not sure why, since I had by no means over indulged. Feeling sorry for myself I shuffled slowly back to the hotel where I had some tea and pita breads in the library bar instead. Pah!!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Fun Friday Tune

Well I'm feeling better than I've any right to feel after a large night out at the farewell party for one of my account leaders who has quit to take a job as my client. Yup, there was no getting out of this party, I had to go since he'll be the one signing off scopes for my team going forward, but thankfully it was a party I was happy to be at despite being at a terrace bar in the sweltering heat. We have a heat advisory across much of the US at the moment and it's 86F outside right now and not even 7am!!! Ugh!!

Anyway I plan to hunker down for the day with some programming and a few chair dancing tunes and chat on Radio1!!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Morgan, Online Dates & Maverick Sabre

Ohhhh I am so very lazy when it comes to posting about my recent vacation - recent my arse. I'm just so busy and tired from work and working out all the time. I did have a nice weekend though, I met my friend Melissa for brunch at Riverpark on Saturday - deeee-licious smoked trout cake - and then after wards we headed to the Morgan Library to check out the Xu Bing exhibit, the living world, which the artist is currently installing.

Here's a photo from the Morgan Library website of how the piece will look once the installation is complete.

We also came across a gem of an exhibit on lists, which is much more interesting than it probably sounds. It's basically a collection of different lists: to do lists, shopping lists, lists of people, wish lists, any kind of list you can imagine, created by a whole bunch of different artists including a list of artists recommended by Picasso for inclusion in the 1913 Armory art show. My favourite though was the illustrated list by Adolf Konrad of the clothing he packed for his trips.

I am a woman after Adolph's heart in that I write lists of the clothing I plan to pack. I probably shouldn't admit to this, but before I pack I write lists of outfits I think are good to take and then I find I can switch out clothing items so as to maximize total outfits while minimizing the amount of clothing I need to take with me. Essentially I create a vacation capsule wardrobe for each trip, but I mine aren't represented as beautifully as Mr. Konrad's, since I tend to write descriptions like "lilac Anthropologie top, AG Jeans, Blue J Crew cardi."

Anywayyyyy on Sunday I had a date. How was it you say? Why thank you for asking, it was memorable for all the wrong reasons to be honest. We'd planned to meet at 6pm for a coffee at Once Upon A Tart on Sullivan St in SoHo, a cafe I've been to many many times - fantastic buttermilk scones - and so since we both knew the place we hadn't discussed the address in any of our email exchanges, however it occurred to me on Sunday to look it up, just in case, to make sure there weren't 2 branches. As I thought there was only one branch, but I happened to check the opening hours and noted that the place closed at 6pm on Sundays. Okay, no big deal, but I sent my date a text message to give him a heads up and said lets just meet outside the place anyway and we can go on somewhere else. After checking the MTA website to see how the subway trains were running I found out the 6 trains were running express between 14th street and Brooklyn Bridge, so at 5.10pm I summoned up the requisite enthusiasm to leave my apartment - I rarely look forward to dates, which I suppose is a good thing as that way I tend not to be too disappointed if they don't go well, but on Sunday I was feeling less thrilled than usual having only managed 4 hours of sleep the night before - my brain wouldn't switch off - and also being in the throes of the first day of woman's week which had left me with an aching lower back and a sore stomach - with the intention of taking the 6 to 14th street and then taking a slow walk - too too hot to walk fast this Sunday - down to Sullivan St instead of taking the express train to Brooklyn Bridge and then a local train back up town for a few stops.

Anyway transportationally speaking all went as planned and by 5.55pm
I was on the corner of Mercer and Houston in good time to be outside the coffee shop as arranged when my phone rang.

"Hi, it's D__, I just saw your text, that's a shame the coffee shop is closed, I'm actually just about to get on a C-train at 96th...."


Seriously he's supposed to be meeting me in SoHo in 5-minutes and he calls to tell me he's still at 96th street - 5miles away for the uninitiated - not really offering an apology or a valid reason for being late.

"Okayyyyyy," I responded

"I don't supposed there's any chance you live on the upper west side?" he asked.

"No, I don't and I'm already downtown," I responded in a somewhat cool tone.

"Okay, I'll be there as soon as I can"

I was too shocked to tell him to stuff his date - which is pretty much what I thought when I hung up the call - and instead told him to call me when he arrived and I would meet him somewhere and headed off to see my one true love, Anthropologie, which thankfully doesn't close until 8pm on Sundays. I never knew that. Anyway I killed a good 20minutes in there and tried on a few bits, although amazingly I didn't buy so much as a sausage, so I patted myself on the back for that, but the whole time I was consumed with thoughts about how I just didn't want to bother with the date after all and was tempted to leave him a voicemail letting him know that I'd headed home. I didn't, but I was very tempted.

At 6.30pm he called and we met on the corner of Sullivan and Prince and ended up going for a drink at Red Bench where we were the only customers and our very pleasant bartender was celebrating her birthday. Anyway he did apologise for being late and for suggesting a place that happened to be closed, but he didn't really offer me a valid explanation for being late beyond admitting to being a bit crap generally at being on time for social appointments and then added that he needed to head back to the UWS to meet friends for dinner at 8pm.


Anyway had he won me over with his sparkling repartee I may have given him a second chance, but he didn't really, so it's a definitive no from me I'm afraid.

Between this and the pervy middle of the night texts and emails I was getting from a pedicab fleet owning bloke - seriously I was getting "I want to $%&# you" texts at 3am before we'd even met!!! - I'm wondering how much longer I'll stick out online dating.

I love this song, although there's something about his singing style that really reminds me of Finlay Quaye

And now take it away Finlay...

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Pacific North West Trip June 2011 - Portland and...

Ugh, it's weeks like this one that make me think that 3 day weekends are really not worth it. So much for achieving my ambition of being one of those 9.30am - or gasp, maybe even 10am - arrival people, it's been a full week of arriving at 7.30am and leaving at 7pm/8pm and being thankful if I get so much as a sniff of a lunch hour in between. At least my new team member started this week and although I am spending a lot of time training her my gut tells me that she will be a good fit. Fingers crossed my gut is not confused by all that fiber I've been eating.

One positive aspect of this week was, not one, but two spots of the Creative Cutie!!! Yay!! Our paths rarely cross so if I see him more than once a month it's a bonus, so twice in a week, on consecutive days at that, the sighting totally brightens my day even though I've long since given up on him as a romantic prospect - I have a couple of people I'm emailing with via OKCupid, although prospect#1 (26 - that's quite young isn't it, I feel a bit weird about someone that young approaching me, but I'm trying to keep an open mind) is bogged down with law school - school? Ugh, just call me Mrs. Robinson - at the moment and prospect#2 (51 - much more respectable age, a surfing real estate agent) is on an extended visit to see family in San Diego and has expressed interest in meeting, but won't be back NYC way until late July, just in time to coincide with my departure to LA/Vegas, so it will be August before we have an opportunity to meet - since while Creative Cutie used to stare at me a lot - initially making me completely paranoid about having missed a button, or having a big bogie on the end of my nose or something - he never DID anything, not so much as a smile, so I finally came to the conclusion that even if he was interested he wasn't interested enough to do anything about it. Anyway he looked good as always, but was dressed very casually in shorts and a t-shirt - it's amazing the outfits people get away with in the ad agency during summer - when I ran into him the first time outside the cafeteria after lunch with my new team member on Thursday, and whereas I was looking pretty good - not to sound conceited, but I got a LOT of compliments on my outfit that day including a "wow, you look CUTE" from Megan who didn't even like the dress I was wearing when I initially showed it to her online. For the record it was the blue sheath dress in the photo below - Anthropologie of course - I replaced the ribbon with a thick black leather belt - $9.99 from Daffy's natch - a black lightweight cotton cardigan and low peep toe wedge pumps - it was a very 1950s inspired look, which I wore with lightly padded underpinnings which put the girls very front and center a la Joan Holloway. Shove it Creative Cutie, see what you are missing!! I noted I didn't feel the usual lurch in my stomach that often accompanies seeing him, "maybe my crush is on the wane," I thought.

Unfortunately today my crush on him ramped right back up when I bumped into him in the lift and he looked unbelievably HOT in a pale pink shirt - yes, pink, who'd have thought? - and pale gray cotton pants. Damn him!!

Anyway I digress, on with the trip....

So we continued our 2 days in Portland the way we had begun, with amazing food. I have to confess I am something of an avid viewer of the Top Chef series on Bravo and so when self taught Portland chef Naomi Pomeroy started kicking arse on Top Chef Masters I fired up Google and started to do some research into her restaurant, Beast.

Now Beast differs from your standard restaurant experience in that they only offer a six course fixed price dinner 4 nights a week for $68 + $35 for a wine pairing - bargain - and a 4 course $35 fixed priced brunch - +$20 for the wine pairing -
on Sundays with communal seating across 2 large tables. I love love love the idea of a multi-course communal dinner, but in reality 6 courses is just too much food for me as I am typically a little and often eater - seriously this is why I need a boyfriend with a larger appetite who is more than happy to scoop up my leftovers - but I thought I'd be able to force down a 4 course brunch, so I took the liberty of assuming Megan would be okay with it and booked us a brunch reservation through Open Table - thankfully Megan was more than up for it.

Anyway, should you be in Portland I more than recommend Beast, even if you are dining alone since the communal table and open kitchen leads to a very social experience and our fellow diners were very chatty without the benefit of the social grease of alcohol. Business cards were exchanged, friends were made and I imagine that dinner is even more social than brunch since I assume more people would order the wine pairing.

Watching the chef's prepare for service...

One wall at Beast is full of food related quotes...this was a favourite of mine. Creative Cutie can quiche me ANYTIME ;-)

Our 4 course brunch menu on Sunday June 5th began with...

...Rhubarb Clafoutis, served with soft whipped cream and maple glazed bacon. Mmmm mmm mmm mmm mmmm and I don't even like rhubarb. Plus let's just say it out loud...DESSERT FIRST!!!! Breaking all the rules ;-)

I'll admit to pilfering this photo from this blog which also has a great review of Beast, because I was initially a little shy of whipping out my camera and acting like a foodiot!! The maple bacon tasted like candy!!

Our second course was Beast Hash, butter braised lamb, market potatoes, Maitake mushrooms, rapini, walla walla onions (never heard of those before, or maitake mushrooms for that matter) & English peas, a poached duck egg and Hollandaise, a sauce I am not the biggest fan of as I am over faced by it's richness, but the second dish was amazing and probably my favourite.

Next up was a cheese course which I didn't take a photo of because we all know what cheese looks like right, but the selection included a goat cheese, I didn't note where from but it had a bitter taste that I didn't particularly enjoy, a raw sheep's milk cheese from Idaho which was delicious and a raw cow's milk cheese from Switzerland. Anyway in lieu of a photo of cheese here's a bonus photo of my fellow diners enjoying their brunch.

The final course was a muscovado and goat's milk panna cotta with macerated strawberries. Heavenly!!

We left Beast feeling full, but not disgustingly so after our 4 courses, and took a bus followed by the MAX to Washington Park to see the International Rose Test Garden. Unfortunately there was a barely a rose in bloom when we visited, but it was still very pretty.

We walked back to downtown Portland after checking out the rose garden, passing this creepy sculpture outside of Jeld Wen Field along the way!!

We spent a few hours wandering around town working off our brunch and taking in some J Crew sale shopping and the riverside.

The oddly beautiful Steel bridge. It's lower deck transports rail and pedestrian/cyclist traffic while the upper deck ferries vehicular traffic and the MAX light rail. Apparently it's the only double deck bridge in the world with independent lifts. I'm not entirely sure what that means, but I'm impressed.

Cyclists on the Steel bridge walkway waiting for the midsection to lower after being raised for river traffic

Having worked up an appetite we ended up at Brix Tavern in the Pearl District for dinner where we both plumped for the rotisserie chicken salad – hold the dressing – hoping to counteract the impact of our 4 course brunch, although perhaps the 2 glasses of Sokol Blossom Pinot Gris we washed it down with negated any positive benefits of the vegetables.

After dinner we stopped off at the Heathman Hotel Bar for a cocktail, as recommended by our Fodor’s guide, but meh the place was lacking in atmosphere, so we didn't stay too long before heading back to the Modera Hotel to pack for our early morning train journey to Seattle. We were tucked up in bed snoozing by 9.30pm!! Party on!!