Archive for the ‘Seattle Date Night Ideas’ Category

Date Night #19: Ha! Is Seriously Good Food, Drink, Company

September 26th, 2014 by Shelley Goulding

HaWe did rock, paper, scissors to decide whether to dine out or in, so you know we weren’t going far if “out” won. It did. We should’ve walked, but it was the end of a busy week, I’d already clocked my official exercise for the day, and the rain was intermittent.

So we drove just 1.1 miles to the south of us, to upper Fremont, home of a tight little block of eateries, drinkeries, and the Fremont Abbey (a funky arts center hosting concerts, education, and other events). The bar/restaurant Ha! is on Fremont at 43rd Street. Now I could spend some time here describing the feel, the philosophy, and the food sourcing, but Ha!’s website does a really nice job of that.

As its name implies, Ha! is casual and friendly. And the food is definitely comfort food, but not the boring kind. My Dungeness crab melt (with Gruyere) was so decadent that my choosing greens (a hefty side of nicely dressed salad) over fries registered pretty low on the virtue scale when all was said and eaten. I can only assume that Mike’s Brioche burger was good enough because it disappeared before I could spread my napkin on my lap.

As for drinks, I was going low-key and low volume, so I nursed a pint of Elysian Men’s Room Red. Mike enjoyed his standard martini (or two), delighted to find that the rail gin is Bombay. Sitting at the bar, we discovered that we were in the right place at the right time when Eric the bartender had us sample a Smoking Gun – basically a Negroni made with smoky scotch instead of gin (add Compari and sweet vermouth). Yum! And this from a woman who doesn’t care for Negronis or scotch.

We were full before we were ready to be full, so had to commit to returning soon. Maybe we’ll sit at a table next time, or hire the intimate back room for a private party. I don’t know, this bar has huge appeal – not only for the friendly regulars, one of whom gave up his seat for us, but also for the inspirational exchange of cocktail recipes flying about. Oh, and need a phone charge? They probably have the charger you need and will plug you in while you drink or dine. We’ll be back soon, but next time we’ll walk.

Date Night #18: There’s a New Kid in Town and We Want to Be Good Friends

March 31st, 2014 by Shelley Goulding

IMG_5040

Almost forgot to take the photo before we scarfed down all of the plump, juicy prawns!

It was Sunday night and I’d been working inside all day. Somewhat out of character, Mike agreed to a walk without a destination. Took one of our usual routes along Phinney Avenue North – the main artery of our Seattle neighborhood.

Long story short: We didn’t make it far enough to call it exercise. Just as Mike was trying to remember whether there was an appealing Mexican place en route, I looked across the street to check on the progress of a soon-to-be eatery, HECHO, at 74th and Greenwood. Were those people in there? Sitting down at tables? It was open! And nearly packed at 5:15 on a Sunday.

We skirted the lively bar (What’s up with that? We usually sit at the bar) and adjoining dining area to a booth for two around the back. Much better for conversation. But first, our drinks. Presented with a menu offering 85 tequilas and 25 Mezcals, Mike took the bait, selecting Milagro, which he reported was smooth and smoky. I went for the house margarita – a good drink, if non-traditional. I think it was the addition of orange syrup, which I worried would make the drink sweeter. In fact, the result was dryer and sharper, not as much like candy as most margaritas.

Large plates, small plates, and “street food” were our options. Everything looked so good that we over-ordered. Thick, house-made chips and delicious guacamole. Honey-habanero-glazed prawns with enough sauce and frisee to call it a salad. Alaskan cod for Mike’s tacos and crispy mushrooms in mine made us both very happy…and very full.

We were so impressed that when our friends called to see what we were doing, we invited them to join us. Our server Jen graciously moved us to a four-top, where we easily convinced the newbies (we were now “regulars”) to order the guac and the prawns. They branched out on their own with yellow rice (cilantro, lime, and lentils) and sea scallops. I think they liked it rather a lot because we never got to sample the stuff we hadn’t ordered!  Their joining us gave me time to consider another tequila-based cocktail. The Paloma fizz was my choice; the grapefruit and lime juices in it made this one my favorite.

For drinks, snacks, or all-out dinner, we’re excited about this addition to the Phinney Ridge/ Greenwood neighborhood and very glad that HECHO is only 15 short blocks away from the inn. We have much more sampling to do…..telling ourselves that the walk home helps burn off some of the calories consumed. I couldn’t find a website as of this writing, but HECHO has a Facebook page.

Date Night #17: Brisk Stroll + Happy Hour = Fun Evening

March 22nd, 2014 by Shelley Goulding

This Greenwood bar has good cocktails, tasty nibbles, and great atmosphere.

This Greenwood bar has good cocktails, tasty nibbles, and great atmosphere.

Wanting to stretch our legs but not wanting to face a hill on the way home (we do live on a ridge, you know), we set out on a familiar path along Phinney Avenue, heading north from 9 Cranes Inn. We weren’t starving yet, but knew that we would eventually find ourselves eating dinner at one of the many establishments that line the main drag through our Phinney Ridge/Greenwood neighborhood of north Seattle.

The challenge for us is always choosing between old favorites – where everybody knows your name – and places that have opened recently that we really should try out, if only to determine whether we should recommend them to our guests. On this chilly but dry spring (that’s what the calendar says, anyway), evening, we set a brisk pace for about 20 minutes, bypassing several places that we could’ve stopped, but held out for a little spot we know about but hadn’t yet tried: Teacher’s Lounge – on Greenwood Avenue just north of 85th Street.

You could miss it if you’re engaged in conversation – yeah, we did. After doubling back we double checked the menu outside to make sure that we could make a dinner out of the trip if we so chose. Nothing fancy or screaming, “date-night dinner,” but certainly enough variety and sustenance. It didn’t hurt that we had arrived while happy hour was in full force, and would be until 6:37 (every night). Besides, we’re in it first and foremost for the cocktails – at least the innkeeper’s husband is, as the innkeeper reserves the right to keep a clear head in anticipation of preparing breakfast at zero dark thirty the next day.

So Teachers Lounge – get it? Chalkboards and lockers and paraphernalia from your junior high days. Just enough to set the mood but not so much that you’re like, “okay, nice place to visit, but….” Let’s get to the point. There are five fabulous things about this place:

1. Cocktails – Stop in for just a drink and or a snack. The drinks are tasty and well thought-out. Clearly craft cocktails, as is the fashion, but fun and creative, not pretentious or pricey.

2. Owners – Perryn and Desiree Wright do it all – concocting tasty bites that really do suffice for dinner if you like (I enjoyed my “Sanitary Joe,” a neater version of the sloppy kind. Mike leaped at the chance for an upscale grilled baloney sandwich, since he never gets them at home); mixing drinks; and chatting up patrons. They know every bartender in town and can tell you the best places to visit in other Seattle neighborhoods.

3. The Vibe – Urban cool meets neighborhood hangout. This is not a sports bar. Mercifully, there’s not a TV in sight. The feel is simple-stylish but not fancy. The music is energetic and eclectic and adjusted to the evening’s mood – lower volume for low-key evenings of meeting the person on the next barstool; higher on a Friday night when everyone is ready to let off a little steam.

4. Food – Nibble on fresh veggies and homemade onion/fennel dip, or make a meal on “Crack & Cheese” or the multi-cultural special of the day. We really, really loved the sound of the bacon-bourbon bread pudding dessert, but were too full and too far gone into cocktail land to give that course its due.

5. Proximity – 25 blocks from the inn sounds far, but most of the trek is flat and for an evening stroll, it’s great. Lots to see along the way, working the calories off before and after….you can stop for coffee at several places on the way back…. We set out at 5 p.m. and were home before 9 – a great date night that allows your innkeeper to rise and shine in time to make breakfast….or you to enjoy a full day of Seattle sights.

Date Night #16: As Local as it Gets

May 31st, 2013 by Shelley Goulding

Ridge MeatballSometimes you don’t feel like a full-fledged date night – maybe you just got to town after a long drive or flight; perhaps you have to get up early (story of my life as an innkeeper); or suppose the day has slipped away but you want to stretch your legs on a temperate, dry evening.

Still, you have to eat, and you know that dinner won’t be found at this Seattle B&B (if you’re new to the blog, you may not know that the innkeeper rarely cooks dinner for herself or her long-suffering husband). Lucky for all of us that food is not far away. Two blocks from the inn turn left on Phinney Avenue North and for the next 30 blocks you’ll find restaurants, pubs, shops – simply local life in one of Seattle’s walkable neighborhoods.

We thought we were headed to our favorite dive, but sometimes we ingest too many bad calories there, so we found ourselves at yet another much loved spot: The Ridge. Located a few blocks after the main drag jogs over to become Greenwood Avenue, this casual, family-friendly place not only is named for the neighborhood, but it also names its menu items after local businesses. Some of the best pizza we’ve ever had includes Prost! (sliced Bavarian bratwurst, sauerkraut, green peppers, and Mama Lil’s peppers); and Two Birds (chicken breast, Gorgonzola, spinach, and artichoke hearts on a pesto base). Don’t worry, though, you can get more “traditional” pizza as well as create your own.

We like the pizza so much that we have never been able to resist ordering it, despite the fact that I’d been eyeing other peoples’ meatball sandwiches on several previous visits. Tonight, though, I vowed to branch out. Meatball sandwich it was. Mike followed suit by getting The Herkimer (mozzarella, salami, pepperoni, Mamma Lil’s Peppers). He proclaimed it delicious. Mine was good too – and will be even better next time when I ask for more sauce on the side. I think the fresh, beautiful, sub roll encasing the meatballs soaks up the sauce…plus I like my food extra wet. I think I can get just meatballs at happy hour. Anyway, for someone who doesn’t usually care for ground turkey, I didn’t leave a speck of meatball on the plate.

We had sat at the bar as we often do, but instead of trying one of their tempting cocktails or local brews, I was on Diet Coke tonight (saving calories, you know). Mike’s martini, however, was predictably good, meaning that he has never had a bad – or even mediocre – cocktail there.

Friendly service; casual vibe; and even an opportunity to support the local community center, firefighters, or Woodland Park Zoo by ordering up a “charity case” pizza, personify The Ridge as being truly by, for, and of the Phinney Ridge neighborhood. Now if I could just decide which of my own concoctions to submit for consideration so our neighbors could enjoy a 9 Cranes Inn pizza….

Date Night #15: Wooded Trails to Wallingford – Seattle City Hike

April 27th, 2013 by Shelley Goulding

Blooming Seattle

Blooming Seattle

Where can you get a woodsy hike and an urban stroll in the same afternoon? Let’s call it the Woodland Park to Wallingford hike. Mike and I walk the 1.5 miles (each way) to the Wallingford neighborhood fairly often; there’s a drugstore and grocery store, various shops of both practical and whimsical natures, and plenty of eateries.

The simplest route is via local streets bordering the west and south sides of the Woodland Park Zoo, down the N. 50th St. hill, turn south (right) until you hit 45th St. – Wallingford’s main drag. That’s the neighborhood/urban stroll.

But today, we navigated one of the paths of lower Woodland Park, a surprisingly forested oasis between the zoo and south end of Green Lake. This trip is a bit longer than the normal half an hour, but it makes for a fun – and only very slight – detour. The trick to getting from our Phinney Ridge neighborhood to any point east – Wallingford, Green Lake, and beyond – is knowing where you can cross Aurora Ave. (Hwy 99). This would be true whether you’re driving or walking, because the road is 1) a real highway with fast-moving cars, and 2) divided by Jersey wall in stretches.

On foot, you can go under Aurora Ave. by heading east on N. 50th St. and dipping beneath the Hwy 99 overpass (stay to the left-hand side of 50th). If you want the woodsy hike, however, you have to find one of the two pedestrian overpasses. There’s one at roughly N. 55th St. and another at roughly N. 52nd.  In the Wallingford direction, you’ll want the one at 52nd. Get there by taking Phinney past 52nd and looking for a little trail to one of the zoo parking lots. Skirt the zoo’s perimeter fence and cross the lawn then zoo’s south entrance, head toward the rose garden (a pretty, free park at which you might want to stop). Then it’s through the woods and over the highway – meander downhill and to the right and you’ll re-connect with N. 50th St. After crossing Green Lake Drive/Stone Way, you can take a right at any street and go a few more blocks to the heart of Wallingford.

We turned on Woodlawn, the street closest to our lunch spot: The Golden Olive. Small and friendly, this Greek restaurant serves up tasty avgolemeno and other traditional dishes. We ordered pita sandwiches; Mike’s with large grilled tiger prawns, spring mix, tomatoes, onions and tzatziki. Mine had balsamic glazed veggies with fresh basil and goat cheese. It was nice to be able to choose soup, salad, or Greek fries with our sandwiches, and to specify white or whole-wheat pita. Double hits of Greek coffee finished off the delicious meal for both of us…well, Mike took one for the team and tried dessert: Galactobourieko – citrus infused farina custard with phyllo, honey-lemon syrup, and cinnamon. It was so tasty that it disappeared before I could get a photo!

After running our errands at the drugstore and family-owned lighting store (where I ordered a cool new LED light track for the kitchen – the better to cook breakfast under), we took the more direct route (N. 50th to Phinney) home so I could get back in time to check in arriving guests.

Click here for a map of the routes (enlarge to see pedestrian overpasses).

Date Night #14: Low-Key Outing Yields Pleasant Surprises

August 20th, 2012 by Shelley Goulding

During Seattle’s busy summer tourist season, Mike has learned that I’m highly unlikely to be preparing dinner after spending much of the day in the kitchen. His options: bring it home, make it here, or take me out. Odds are he’ll choose what’s behind door #3.

Since this happens so often right now, our outings are leaning toward low-key, neighborhood spots that don’t make Trip Advisor’s Top Ten lists. So if that’s what you want, stop reading. If, however, you sometimes need a quiet evening of casual chilling, read on.

Setting off on foot, we decided to zigzag – left on 58th, right on 1st Ave NW, left on 60th, then another block to what looks like a dead end. Dare to step through a break in the guardrail and behold a unique thoroughfare. There’s sidewalk all the way, but in place of a road is a series of terraced community gardens displaying flowers, vegetables, and other well tended flora. Oh, and it’s steep enough that there are pedestrian speed bumps in the cement (to keep you from slipping in the rain and help you grip on the way up?).

A right on 3rd Ave NW, a few more blocks to 65th, and there we were – not quite Ballard, not quite Phinney Ridge – back to the little strip of commerce that we visited on Date Night #3 (The Walk Home Will Do You Good).  This, time, we wanted to poke around a handful of pubs to check out the food (and it would be rude not to check out the drink, don’t you think?).

The first place that we hadn’t yet tried was 418 Public House. From the outside, you know it’s a bar, but it’s not clear what for food it offers. I’ll tell you: surprisingly fresh, fabulous Mexican. You order at the bar from a simple menu with clear choices that include shrimp, chicken, pork, and vegetarian dishes. Mike got the mahi tacos while I went shrimp. We shared a bowl of the prawn soup from the specials board. The portions looked deceptively small – two pairs of soft, mini taco shells with the filling spooned onto the top two, and a modest side of tortilla chips with individual dish of fresh salsa. But the toppings easily filled all four mini shells and were simply delicious. We didn’t really need the soup, which came with rice, but there it was, so… My mouth is watering so much as I write this that I don’t even need to talk about the beer, although now I will – very tasty Pike Kilt Lifter for me; my cocktail-loving husband had a Manhattan.

Our original intention of hitting at least one other place was less appealing with our appetites sated, yet we wandered another block or so to The Dray. We’d heard it had a good beer selection but its food offerings were a mystery to us. It turned out to be a funny, friendly place – narrow yet comfortable, with medium-high tables in one section and cushioned lounge area in another. Very straightforward menu – beer, wine, espresso, and sandwiches. Creative sandwiches from the look of things, though, and we’ll have to go back and try them.

But it was time to tackle the hill – we were glad it was cooler than a couple of hours ago and even gladder that we turned around to walk up backwards….the sunset over the Olympic Mountains was pink and misty and picture-perfect. Unfortunately my iPhone couldn’t do it justice, so no photo for the blog.

Date Night #13: Not Exactly a Pub Crawl in Ballard

August 8th, 2012 by Shelley Goulding

We crawled…we hit several spots…only one of which was an actual pub. Whatever….when Mike says, “let’s go out on a date” after a busy day at the inn, I jump at the chance to not cook dinner.

A warm summer evening made heading down the hill to Ballard an appealing option. It’s about a fifteen-minute walk to the heart of this area that sits between our Phinney Ridge neighborhood and Puget Sound. Tree-lined residential streets morph into a busier commercial district sporting a restaurant in every other storefront.

On a quest to explore unchartered territory, we headed to Old Ballard Avenue where there’s always a new restaurant. We considered a few on our way toward the end of the road to see if we could get into one of two places that have been open for about two years, but which we hadn’t visited: The Walrus and The Carpenter and Staple & Fancy Mercantile. The former doesn’t take reservations and there was a half-hour wait; we were hungry and parched, so we sat ourselves at Staple & Fancy’s bar (they do take reservations and their dinner tables were awaiting those who had planned ahead).

Mike quizzed the bartender about her most common cocktail requests as of late, and ended up ordering an “old pal,” their spin on a Manhattan. I tried a dry rosé, which went well with the two small plates we shared: fresh figs with arugula, shaved pecorino toscano, and Italian chestnut honey; and the seared scallops with seabeans, beets, and chive aioli. As a rule I don’t stalk famous local chefs, but Ethan Stowell happens to be a favorite (we like his place, How to Cook a Wolf, on Queen Anne). So, we expected to like Staple & Fancy. We did.

But we had places to go, even if we didn’t know where yet. Didn’t have to go far – we popped into Dutch Bike Co. right next door. Yes, it’s a bike shop and a café, serving coffee and baked goods. And beer. And wine. Believe it or not, we took a coffee break. Very, very good coffee – best in Seattle by some standards. My Americano with a little cream complemented my half of the salted chocolate chip cookie that begged us to buy it.

Coffee break over, we got serious and found McCleod’s Scottish Pub a few blocks back toward Market Street. The huge selection of Scotches, organized by place of origin, almost requires you to try one. Mike asked for the smoothest one for me, while he got something more peaty (that’s Scotch-talk for “tastes like peat”). An order of haggis crisps found its way to our table, and we sat back to watch a woman try to hook a metal ring by swinging it from a string (you gotta see it to believe that it can be slightly entertaining). This was another place we could’ve hung out longer – if only to peruse the long menu of whiskey cocktails, beers, and Scottish flavors.

Our final stop was a place we’ve hit several times and will again and again: Paratii, a craft bar with tasty Brazilian-influenced appetizers and dinners. Michael the bartender always enlightens us with his knowledge of cocktails, modern and ancient. This time I tried and loved the London Sunrise: Cumari pepper infused gin, lime juice, and tonic water. Definitely kicky. I forget what Mike had, but by then it was time to head home. Good thing we were walking, not driving.

Date Night #12: Sunny Saturday in Fremont

August 4th, 2012 by Shelley Goulding

The first decision was whether to take the dogs or not.  They’d be cooler in the house, but a half-day outing would keep them awake and thus increase the chances that my hairy little alarm clock (Phillip) would let me eke out a few minutes of sleep past 6 a.m. the next day. Done – we grabbed their leashes, slathered on the sunscreen, and set out on what I think was our warmest day of the year to date – 80 degrees.

Destination: Fremont – Center of the Universe (according to its denizens), which lucky for us is just 1.5 miles to the south of our Seattle B&B. In my crusade to finish the day’s work early, I had missed both breakfast and lunch, so food was the first order of business. A tiny Caribbean restaurant, Paseo, is supposedly home to the world’s best sandwich, which we had never tried. It was time. Even if we had to wait in line, as you almost always do at this place.  But we had entertainment, in the form of Terrance and Phillip, by now comfortably ensconced in their stroller. Yeah, they have a stroller. And I’m not going to make any excuses for it.

After a 20- to 30-minute wait, we had sandwiches in hand and searched for a place to picnic. A few blocks south of Paseo at 41st and Fremont, we found a shaded stone wall on which we could perch. Messy sandwiches, but well worth the mess. Mike had the “fish of the day” creation, while I went with the Paseo Press – roasted pork, banana peppers, smoked ham, swiss cheese, and carmelized onions, all melted together. Mmmmmmmmm. On par, but different of course, with the best Philly Cheesesteaks I’ve ever had. Phillip feasted on the juices and other droppings that escaped our takeout wrappers.

Southward we continued down Fremont Avenue, eventually veering off to wander the streets and shops of this funky little neighborhood, as well as posing the dogs with some of the public art. We skimmed the waterfront, glimpsing Mount Rainier through the supports of the Aurora Avenue Bridge and getting an eyeful of boats on Lake Union, as it’s Seafair weekend and everyone is out.

Eventually we got parched, and just in time found another shady spot conveniently beckoning us to “enjoy happy hour on our charming patio.” The 35th Street Bistro serves brunch on the weekend, dinner the rest of the week (not Monday), and happy hour every day. We parked the stroller outside the patio fence and snagged a table just on the other side of it. Quick refreshers of a Gimlet (for me) and Sazerac (for Mike) fortified us for the hike back up the hill. My hope was that the combination of pushing the stroller and walking most of the afternoon had gone a long way toward burning off the Caribbean sandwich that was so filling we wouldn’t need dinner.

Terrance and Phillip on the outside looking in at 35th Street Bistro

Date Night #11: Day Off as a Downtown Seattle Tourist

July 17th, 2012 by Shelley Goulding

New waterfront attraction:                            Seattle Great Wheel

Okay, not really a whole day off, but my friend Sally whisked me away after I served breakfast, leaving Tina and Ashley to get ready for the guests checking in later. A perfect Seattle summer day awaited: sunny-ish skies and temps in the 70s (did I mention the main reason we moved from Washington, DC ten years ago was the hot, humid summers?).

Two short blocks from the bed & breakfast, the #5 bus picked us up and made record time (10 minutes or so) down to Aurora and Mercer, where we disembarked near our first destination: the new Chihuly Garden and Glass gallery on the grounds of the Seattle Center (where the Space Needle is). Very cool inside and out, offering just enough beautiful glassworks to satisfy, but not too many to overwhelm.

It was enough to make us hungry, though, so we strolled into the Queen Anne neighborhood in search of lunch. In a festive mood, we aptly chose a place oozing New Orleans spirit: Toulouse Petit, named by CNBC as one of the ten best happy hours in the United States. Of course we needed to verify this claim by ordering a Cajun Bloody Mary and a Red Snapper (Bloody Mary with gin not vodka). Best Bloody Mary I’ve had in a long, long time. The spicy dust rimming the glass sealed the deal. The tempting menu made it difficult to narrow down our food order; the waiter had to help. We shared Dungeness crab over fried green tomatoes with a tarragon-chive sauce and a hot Cajun roast beef sandwich with Provolone, caramelized onions, and Mama Lil’s peppers. Out of this world.

We would’ve been totally content hanging at Toulouse Petit the whole afternoon, but we thought it best to burn some calories. Off we trotted to the Olympic Sculpture Park, about a mile or so south. The larger-than-life art is a treat on any day, but this day offered clear sweeping views of Elliot Bay and beyond, and more immediate views of men (oh, and probably some women too) taking a free Zumba class held Saturdays in July.

Our tasty lunch fueled us to go still further – south along the waterfront where we spotted the newest Seattle attraction: the Seattle Great Wheel. Now I’m sorry, but I’m forever going to call it the Seattle Eye, for this huge Ferris wheel with enclosed cars reminds me of the London Eye. Alas, one of us – I won’t say who – wasn’t too keen on riding it, so we enjoyed a refreshing beverage from an indoor perch below. Good timing on our part, as it had started to sprinkle.

Figuring we had had enough fun for an afternoon, we hoofed it up to 3rd Avenue to catch the #5 straight back to 9 Cranes Inn’s Phinney Ridge neighborhood. Oh wait, on the way to the bus we made a quick stop at the Pike Place Market’s Gum Wall because Sally had never seen it. Would you believe we made it home not only in time to take in the Ballard Seafood Fest but also with room to sample the wares there?

Date Night #10: Revisiting a Re-Make Just Blocks Away

June 16th, 2012 by Shelley Goulding

The fab slaw has horseradish and apples in it — very sassy!

There’s something to be said for facelifts. Not the literal kind – I’ve no experience with those yet – but the figurative kind. In this case, we’re talking vibe and menu makeover. One of our Phinney Ridge neighborhood pubs is relaunching itself this week, and we got a preview tonight. Not because we’re special – simply because I never feel like cooking dinner anymore and because Mike had just returned from another business trip to a dark, cold, kitchen. And because we got lucky – The Park Pub’s new menu hit the streets just 10 minutes before we sauntered by on a balmy evening.

We took advantage of the 70-degree weather to sit outside and peruse the menu – four or five pages served up on mini clipboard. There were Little Bites; Big Bites; Park Plates; Burgers, Sandwiches, and Dogs; and Sweets. Little Bites range from basic to epicurean: Hot pretzel on one end; gourmet meats with pear mustard, caper berries, and bread crisps on the other. The chef hung on to tater tots (from the old menu) as one of the three spuds options because of popular demand. Big Bites and Plates are meals – Fish & Chips (yum), baked mac N cheese, and pork sliders, to name a few – then a handful of salads and nearly 10 burgers (veggie too). We didn’t do sweets tonight, but a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich sure sounded good, as did a piece of pie from A La Mode, the tasty joint down the street that you can read about in Date Night # 7.

We had snagged one of the few seats in the narrow sidewalk space out front and did some people watching. This was especially entertaining because today was one of the first days of summer-like weather we’ve had and people were OUT. Waitstaff were attentive but not intrusive; not to be overlooked is Jesh, the bartender who extended the pub’s usual range of microbrews and token wine pours to include some serious cocktails. So serious, in fact, that we’re planning another date to try out the other establishment he bartends at in Ballard. But that’s a blog for another day.

Date Night #9: Gauguin and Good Food at the Seattle Art Museum

February 22nd, 2012 by Shelley Goulding

I don’t know if the company that used to say “membership has its privileges” still uses that line, but it certainly applies to tonight’s date. As a member of the Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau, 9 Cranes Inn staff – that would be me and my trusty technical consultant  (husband) – attended a special reception and viewing of the Seattle Art Museum’s Gauguin & Polynesia: An Elusive Paradise exhibit.

Truth be told, I’m not a huge Gauguin fan, but this exhibit is a pretty big deal, with the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) being the only U.S. venue for the show. It’s nicely done – there are the expected paintings of course, but who knew that the man did block prints and wood carvings as well? (Okay, probably lots of people know that, but I didn’t.) Anyway, the exhibit tells a coherent and captivating story about why the artist went to Polynesia in the first (and second) place and what he was trying to accomplish with his art during that time.

It took us just under an hour to go through the exhibit. Better students of art than I could spend more time, but hey, I did listen to every entry on the audio tour. Plus, we were hungry. With a 9 p.m. parking lot closure looming (more on that in a minute), we chose not to wander too far in search of food, and ended up at the museum’s own restaurant, Taste.

They could call it Tasty, for everything we had was excellent, if served ultra efficiently. Cocktails to start were imaginative and flavorful. Mike got the BLT, served in a martini glass and tasting exactly like its namesake, albeit puréed. I celebrated the reason for our visit to SAM with “Paull’s Voyage,” a refreshing martini made with cilantro-infused gin, dry vermouth, and lime. Mike’s red beet and pomegranate soup was a vibrant crimson and disappeared before I could take a photo. My simple green salad was sprinkled with a bright grapefruit vinaigrette that I’m going to try to reproduce at home. We shared two main dishes that weren’t huge but certainly enough to eat: scallops on mashed potatoes and a mushroom risotto.

It was fun to run into our friend and fellow innkeeper Korby from The Sleeping Bulldog B&B (who enjoyed his Alsatian pizza by the way), but it was all too brief a visit because of our parking curfew. Had we only done our homework, we could have taken advantage of the Gauguin parking special at the 3rd & Stewart Garage, where you get up to 4 hours for $6. Or, just take the #5 bus from our Seattle Bed & Breakfast to and from downtown for no more than $5 per person roundtrip.

We check these details out so you don’t have to. But you say you don’t have an invitation to a special showing of Gauguin? Just because we were special doesn’t mean you can’t be as well. At least if you get your discounted VIP tickets while staying at 9 Cranes Inn, you can show up at the museum and get the next earliest available time, rather than waiting in line with the masses. The Gauguin show runs at the Seattle Art Museum through April 29.

Date Night #8: One-Minute History Lesson

November 29th, 2011 by Shelley Goulding

When Scandinavians thronged to the once-independent town of Ballard in the early 1900s, they shared their strong cultural identity with a community that eventually voted to join the city of Seattle. These days, Ballard is hip, hoppin’, and seems to be where every second new restaurant in town opens.

There remains, though, a flavor of Finnish, Swedish, and Norwegian cultures in several neighborhood spots, including the Nordic Heritage Museum and the fishing fleets along the Washington Ship Canal. On this date night, Mike and I returned to a restaurant that meshes the old and the new Ballard, with a firm nod to its Nordic traditions.

Copper Gate is located pretty much due west of our Seattle bed & breakfast – the easiest route is NW 65th Street to 24th Ave NW, hang a left, and park. You might miss the low-key (read: plain) façade – just a brownish building with an authentically retro neon sign from the joint’s pure tavern days. Once inside, you can’t miss the huge Viking ship/bar sailing through the center of the room.

Friendly staff help you ascertain your readiness for fish cakes, Scandinavian-style. (Unlike crispy crab cakes, these are moist and slightly rubbery, but not in a bad way.) While Mike enjoys everything fishy, he opted for Swedish meatballs because he had a hankering for the Lingonberry preserves served with them. Our server talked me into the coriander honey pork skewers as I debated the merits of those vs. Aquavit-coffee braised short ribs. Good choice.

What I really liked about our meal is that the portions were as reasonable as the prices. Our dinners were satisfying and not at all skimpy; yet our plates weren’t heaped with a quantity of food you either feel obligated to eat (if you’re a member of the clean-plate club, as I am), or have boxed up to take home (then accidentally leave behind when you leave). We got out of there for something like $35, which included our dinners, a shared cheese and fruit plate, glass of wine for me, and cocktail for Mike.

The evening was young, so we headed a few blocks south to Aster Coffee Lounge, a comfortable, spacious place that goes way beyond coffee! We could’ve done happy hour there – they serve beer and wine; or lunch – good-looking prepared sandwiches; or breakfast – yummy bakery goods, even hard-boiled eggs. I dipped a tasty orange chocolate chip biscotti in my latte while Mike made a magic bar (chocolate, coconut, and other gooey goodness) disappear like, well, you know…magic. The lounge is open ‘til 10 most nights, making it a great after-dinner destination, unless you’re going for the monthly bizarre movie night. But that’s a date for another day.

Date Night #7: Perfect Night for a Pint and a Pie

November 20th, 2011 by Shelley Goulding

Tried to photograph the pie, but it disappeared too quickly.

Winter seems to have arrived early here in Seattle. No snow, but tonight’s temperature was a slightly nippy 40 degrees. Now I like cool weather, but the sudden chill in the air sent Mike and me in search of toasty comfort for our date this evening.

We didn’t have to venture too far afield. Just up the street – 14 blocks to be exact – is a little place called Prost! As you would expect, it has beer: Spaten, Bitburger, Vetltins, Franziskaner, Maisel’s, Kostritzer, and a rotating German tap. Some wine and liquor as well, but beer is clearly the thing here.

And German munchies. Meat heavy, to be sure, with brats and sauerkraut all over the menu. The servings are restrained, so you don’t walk out of there feeling like you totally pigged out. My regular brat and kraut came with a couple of rye toast points and a small mustard selection. Mike declared his curry wurst to be the best he’s had outside of Berlin. And the pretzel! It was like going home to my Pennsylvania roots – huge, hot, and crusty. Not at all like those chewy, salty, clammy hunks of dough masquerading as soft pretzels at the local sports venues. I must say that it was kind of appropriate that the Philadelphia Eagles were playing football on TV during our meal.

Prost! Is a cozy spot to hang out for longer than we actually did. Because we were sated yet not stuffed, we followed through with our tentative plan to try the new pie place that is literally around the corner from our Seattle bed & breakfast. Called á la mode, this little corner store serves up slices, mini pies, whole pies, and lollipies (think about it, you’ll get it) – ice cream optional.

Mike tried the pie that started it all, according to Chris, the owner: the Blue Hawaiian. Blueberry, crushed pineapple, and coconut. He wasn’t expecting to like it as much as he did, which was a ton. “Original and great,” he says; it spoke to his inner Elvis.  I’m more of a pie traditionalist, so I went for the sour cherry. And I didn’t go wrong. Sweet and sour at the same time, with a fabulous dry and crunchy crust. That both Mike and I liked the coffee as well ensures that we will return probably too many times for our own good. In fact I’m quite worried because I pass this place both coming and going on my daily run.

Date Night #6: Tangletown Tempts the Taste Buds

October 20th, 2011 by Shelley Goulding

Visitors to Seattle are often surprised at how vibrant the city’s residential neighborhoods are. Many of these communities are pretty self-contained; offering access to life’s necessities – or at least a whole bunch of stuff to see and do – within walking distance. It is in one such neighborhood that my friend Jackie and I met for dinner the other night.

The area is called Tangletown, located southeast of Green Lake, north of Wallingford, and 1.5 miles from 9 Cranes Inn. Some Seattleites never pass through this appealing stretch of businesses tucked into about two blocks. Anchoring the main intersection of N. 55th Street and Meridian Avenue North is Elysian Brewery’s Tangletown restaurant (you can’t miss the large Tangletown sign), an expanded sports bar that gives off a real restaurant vibe and serves decent food.

But that’s not where Jackie and I ate. We met across the street at Kisaku, which bills itself as “your neighborhood Sushi restaurant.” Our first impression upon entering remained a lasting one: ahh… a soft, subdued place where we can actually have and hear a conversation. Although a fair number of patrons circulated during our leisurely meal, we hardly noticed them. To make matters even better, our server recognized our desire for a non-stop gab session, and gave us great, efficient service without being intrusive or rushing us. And the gentleman who seated us gave us a lesson on folding napkins a new way!

But what about the food? This being Restaurant Week, during which many Seattle restaurants offer a three-course dinner for $28, we hardly glanced at the real menu, which was extensive (not just sushi) and featured a large sake selection (some wine and beer as well). For starters, my crab/cucumber/seaweed salad was tasty and tangy, while Jackie’s (somewhat) crispy shrimp appetizer combined sweet and chili well. Her sushi selection was fresh and yummy, while my black cod was buttery delicious. A pleasant (yet not terribly memorable) dessert came with the meal, helpfully subduing our unrequited hankering for a Mighty-O donut (the shop is directly across the street but closes at 5 p.m.). As much as I love sweets, I never crave a donut…that is, unless I remember that Mighty-O exists to tempt me.

It looks like my next trip to Tangletown will have to be during the day!

Ideas for Date Night #5: Daylight Date with a Friend from Home

October 15th, 2011 by Shelley Goulding

When a classmate you haven’t seen since high-school graduation comes to town from clear across the country, you want to give her a quintessential Seattle experience. But what if you have only a few hours in which to do it?

Oh, the pressure!

Okay, it was pretty easy, particularly because several such experiences are within a stone’s throw of 9 Cranes Inn. The weather one day this week made it even easier – a crisp, blue-sky afternoon that not only allowed my friend to enjoy the view of the Olympic Mountains from our Ballard View room, but also elicited an enthusiastic “yes,” when I suggested we lunch at a place on the water.

So off we headed to the Ballard neighborhood, which begins just a few blocks west of the bed and breakfast. Driving down Market Street with its plethora of unique, local shops and restaurants, it was difficult not to stop and browse. Alas, we were on a schedule and we had a destination: Ray’s Café. Located at the western end of Ballard near Shilshole Bay, Ray’s Café (second floor) and the more upscale Ray’s Boathouse (first floor) share a maritime setting and a killer view that are Seattle classics.

The chicly rustic atmosphere of the café upstairs practically demands that you eat seafood, although there are other options on the menu. Not for us – we went the seafood route nearly all the way, sharing mussels in a to-die-for red curry and coconut milk broth that we greedily soaked up with the crusty rolls our server hinted we’d need for just that purpose. Then we tackled the quadruple tower of smoked salmon skewers, standing tall in a base of pineapple and cucumber relish of sorts. A small salad with apricots, candied walnuts, and blue cheese helped us meet our “strive-for-five” veggie quota and served as a nice dessert.

Because we had a number of years to catch up on (I didn’t say how long ago we graduated from high school, did I?), we didn’t have time to visit a hugely worthwhile spot directly on the way back to 9 Cranes Inn: the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, also know as the Ballard Locks.  This free attraction features a beautiful park with rare specimens, a visitors center, a fish ladder, and of course the locks themselves.

Here, water craft of all sizes are lifted or lowered from salt to fresh water (or vice versa) where Puget Sound meets the ship canal leading to Lake Union and Lake Washington. Tourist cruise ships, luxury liners, fishing boats, and even kayakers file into a lock and calmly wait for their water-elevator ride. Cross on foot over the locks to reach the fish ladder and its underwater viewing window, where several types of salmon jump the stairway on their journey back to freshwater spawning grounds. On the return walk to the park’s entrance is a charming visitors center that offers a video viewing room and other information about the construction and history of the locks, as well as a small gift shop. The lush grounds are large enough to get away from it all yet small enough for nearly anyone to enjoy a stroll. In summer, local musical groups perform at outdoor concerts in the park – a perfect opportunity for a rest and a picnic.

You can grab a refreshing drink outside the entrance to the Locks at the Lockspot Café. Its outdoor service counter sells chowder and quick refreshments while indoors is a causal bar/restaurant with a varied and reasonably priced menu. Although the restaurant touts two types of fish and chips, I’m partial to the Philly cheesesteak sandwich – a taste of home nearer another coast.

Ideas for Date Night #4: Culture, Community, and Comfort Food

August 3rd, 2011 by Shelley Goulding

One of the coolest things about the Phinney Ridge/Greenwood neighborhood in which 9 Cranes Inn is located is that you can walk for more than 30 blocks straight and find stuff to do. Eating is one activity, but so is shopping, beer tasting, and on the second Friday of the month, checking out local artists’ work displayed in businesses all along Phinney and Greenwood Avenues.

A bonus about the route any day of the week is that it’s flat. An added bonus is that on a clear day/evening, you get picture-perfect views of the Cascade Mountains to the east and the Olympic Mountains to the west, seeing as you are basically walking along a ridge top.

But back to the art walk. You don’t even have to like museums to enjoy Art Up, the neighborhood’s name for its art walk. While the displays are varied (from paintings to photography to sculpture and more), always interesting, and sometimes weird, at least half of the fun is seeing even more people than usual out and about, and visiting shops that you might not otherwise step foot into. For instance, I’m not in the market for a piano, so last month was my first time in the piano store because they had art….well, and wine and cheese. On the other hand, I didn’t even pretend to look for art at the vegan shoe and chocolate place (yes, these products are sold from the same shop). My foray there resulted in little art browsing but I snagged two terrific pairs of shoes!

All of that walking – not to mention bending over trying on shoes – had given me an appetite, and it was time to meet my husband for dinner. Because it was his night to “cook,” he got to choose, and he wanted meat. Well, he actually said “protein,” which often means following a well worn path to an unassuming little place that serves up plenty of protein. It’s called Ed’s Kort Haus. Described by others as alternately, a tavern, dive bar, and “Gee, I haven’t made it in there, yet (read: I’m kind of afraid to go in),” the place is completely devoid of pretense. Mike calls is “delightfully real.”

You have to look hard to find a real table, but they’re there – sort of. Cozied up against the back wall past the pool tables. We sit at the bar – not, as in other restaurants, so Mike can talk cocktails (although they have a perfectly selected, if not huge, liquor collection) – but to ogle the taps and take our chances on a new brew.  My Gospel IPA from the Skagit River Brewing Company was amber and hoppy enough for summer but not too spritzy. Good choice for me. Mike couldn’t resist Southern Tier’s choklat stout – literally dessert in a pint glass.

So you get beer, darts, sports on TV, and locals. As much or as little conversation as you want with whoever is tending bar – Ed himself, or tonight it was J.J.  Oh, and did I mention exotic meats? No, not exotic dancers, but meat – elk, kangaroo, bear, llama. Mike opted for Yak this evening, while I played it conservatively with the deluxe 1/3-lb hamburger.  Side of chips unless you upgrade to fries or tater tots. Yum. You don’t really need dessert after all of that, but Mike could’ve saved me a sip of his stout to finish off the meal. He didn’t, so I settled for one of the Tootsie Pops I keep stashed back home.

Ideas for Date Night #3: The Climb Home Will Do You Good

July 17th, 2011 by Shelley Goulding

We’re pretty much fair-weather runners, so this evening’s summer drizzle saw the planned run around Green Lake morphing into a much shorter jaunt in the other direction – seven blocks north and seven blocks west of 9 Cranes Inn to a fun little strip of restaurants, bars, and a coffee shop that straddles the Phinney Ridge/Ballard neighborhoods.

Tonight’s destination was The Blue Glass, a restaurant/bar that opened last December – one we’d been meaning to try for a while, but we kept getting distracted by the nearby Ridgeback Café, a great place for crepes and other fun bites.

This time we made it to the corner of NW 7th St. and 65th Avenue NW, where a modern yet approachable space welcomed us in shades of blue. We like to sit at the bar so Mike can swap cocktail recipes with the bartender, so belly on up we did and I ordered one of two featured cocktails off of the large chalkboard on the wall. It was rosé Sangria – light and summery. (On a 62-degree July evening, sometimes you have to force the “summery” thing in Seattle.) Mike’s Vesper martini was spot on, he says – better than he makes at home. The secret, apparently, is all in the garnish – a huge knot of lemon twist. We don’t get much beyond olives at home.

Daniel at the bar and Chelsea handling other serving duties contributed to a friendly and informative visit to a cool, relaxed establishment. The music was eclectic, but skewed toward drum & bass, played at just the right volume.

Once again we ordered too much food, but no sacrifice is too great for 9 Cranes Inn blog readers wanting as much info as possible. Penn Cove mussels, billed as a “small plate,” were plentiful and fabulous. Its sauce of Pernod, cream, shaved fennel, and more capers than I’ve ever seen in one place required us to order even more bread than came with the appetizer so we could scoop up every drop.

But we didn’t stop there. Mike’s arrangement of seared salmon and a small sushi selection was fantastic, as were my grilled prawns with pomegranate, serano chile gastrique, and quinoa salad. The latter was quite complex, but I couldn’t name one ingredient that should’ve been left out. Yum.

Desserts such as chocolate bread pudding and some sort of fig tart were tempting, but we were too full to indulge. Besides, we had enough food to work off and only a short uphill climb in which to do it.

Full disclosure: the rain had pretty much stopped by the time we left the restaurant. Okay, It had stopped before we even went to the restaurant, but so what? We convinced ourselves that the walk home up the hill was nearly as much exercise as a run around the much flatter Green Lake path. It sounded good to us anyway.

Ideas for Date Night #2: Richly Deserved Rewards

July 5th, 2011 by Shelley Goulding

Tonight’s activities were rewarding on so many levels. The cool, clear evening was the perfect backdrop for a little exercise. A little exercise justified a hearty, flavorful dinner out. At least in our minds it did.

It’s just half a mile from 9 Cranes Inn to Seattle’s Green Lake – walk east down the hill from Phinney Avenue North and you’re all warmed up for a run by the time you reach the water. The inner loop – frequented by dog walkers, stroller pushers (watch out for those double-wides), and seemingly everyone in Seattle on sunny days – is 2.8 miles (4.5 km) around the lake. For a lot more elbow room and a softer surface, the outer loop is 3.2 miles (about 5 km). Actually, by going later in the day, both paths are pretty clear, although you do miss the charming rows of turtles sunning themselves on fallen logs in the lake.

Cooling down from the run is somewhat more strenuous than the warm up, seeing as the way back to the inn is uphill. No matter, more calories burned means more calories earned. After a quick shower and pat on the heads for the pooches, we set out to try an Ethiopian restaurant we had recently spotted on Aurora Avenue, incongruously sandwiched between an IHOP and a Starbucks. Normally we tend to avoid strip-mall dining, instead favoring neighborhood places with a bit more, uh, character. But we love Ethiopian food and were eager to see if one so close to our place (okay, about 45 blocks, and yes, we drove) was any good.

It was. It’s name, by the way, is Lucy.

But first, the atmosphere – really different than any other Ethiopian restaurant we’ve visited. Not better or worse – just different. Most of the tables were comfortable booths; the lighting was modern and moody in a good way; the full bar sleek and stylish. The servers were friendly and helpful. In fact, we should’ve listened to ours who told us we were ordering too much food. But we insisted that we wanted all of those different flavors, so she smiled, shrugged, and overfed us.

If you haven’t had Ethiopian cuisine before, here’s the scoop: you scoop your food. Injera, the slightly tangy and spongy bread they serve in abundance, is your utensil. What you’re picking up is usually wet and saucy, be it veggies, lamb, beef, chicken, or fish, the latter which we hadn’t encountered in all of our other Ethiopian dining across the U.S. Yeah, it can get a little messy, and it’s a communal kind of experience, but tasty as all get-out. We like the veggie combo – various lentil concoctions, cabbage, split peas, chickpeas, tomatoes, and spices. So we gorged, noting that each item – though some contained the same base veggie and others looked very similar – had a unique and delicious flavor that we couldn’t stop sampling.

We were too full and not focused on partying to stay at what was turning into a dance club, so we waddled out to the car. Dessert anyone? Simple. We stopped at Safeway and picked up a bag of sweet Washington cherries, which I’m eating as I type. Somehow there’s still room.

Ideas for Date Night #1: A Walk in Wallingford

July 1st, 2011 by Shelley Goulding

This is the first in an occasional series of date stories, told not just to wax poetic about our fun times, but to suggest things you might want to do while staying at 9 Cranes Inn. We see it as our moral obligation to check out local offerings so we can better guide guests who’d like advice on where to eat, play, shop, and such.

A pleasant downhill stroll from 9 Cranes Inn, the neighborhood of Wallingford beckoned. Not just because it was (finally) a lovely but not quite balmy summer night, but also because we had a Groupon for Smash Wine Bar & Bistro.  The sun was still high enough in the sky to warrant sitting outside, so we ordered cocktails to enjoy while taking in the humanity who had been waiting a long time for such an evening to get out and about. Mike’s cucumber Smashtini was just fruity and sweet enough to be summery, yet not so much as to be girly – very important when you’re a guy with a martini reputation to live up to.  Not one for fruity drinks myself, still, I gambled on the pomer Smashtini – vodka, probably pomegranate, lemon maybe, and something else. Anyway, very red and not overly sweet – fine, as long as you don’t spill it on your white denim jacket (I didn’t).

Food followed: an appetizer of deconstructed crostini – chevre, tomatoes, garlic, olive tapenade and related spreads. Simple, pretty, and utterly delicious. I don’t eat a lot of bread and rarely rave about it, but this snack struck just the right note for yours truly, who needed something prior to the entree so the drink wouldn’t go to her head. Then came paella and sablefish, both of which were tasty and not too huge, portion-wise. I mean really, how much do you need to eat, and are you really going to finish it later if you take it home? A nice wine of something or other – they have many options and are happy to suggest – finished the meal for us tonight, but with desserts like peach rhubarb crisp and bacon doughnuts, we’ll be back soon. Oh, and did I mention the very appealing happy hour offerings?

It was early yet, with plenty of daylight left. So we strolled 45th Street, well populated with a mélange of other restaurants, grocery and a drugstore, movie theatre, and coffee shops. We settled on Chocolati, a local chain with stores in Wallingford, nearby Greenwood, Greenlake, and at the downtown public library. Good choice. Not only are they open until 11 p.m. (Wallingford and Greenwood stores), but also they serve Lighthouse Coffee, roasted just down the street from 9 Cranes Inn at 43rd and Phinney Ave.

You shouldn’t have just coffee at Chocolati, though. As the name implies, it’s quite a bit about the chocolate. Handmade chocolates you can buy by the piece – delight in a tasty morsel without overindulging, or collect samples of many kinds because you can’t pick just one. From absolutely apricot, dark chocolate salted pistachio, to fish n’ chips (yes, a chocolate covered potato chip in the shape of a fish!), you can indulge for as little as fifty cents a bite. We toted our treasures up one story to survey the bustle of 45th street below, and agreed from our perch that it was a perfect end to a perfect date with a favorite person.

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