Dineout Reviews: Seattle Valentine’s Day Weekend 2011

What a nice weekend we spent in Seattle just before Valentine’s Day! We were a small but fun group consisting of two couples and one more guy and girl. For me, some of the best parts revolved around food and drink. We stayed at the Sheraton downtown which one of our friends so kindly donated his Starwood points to lower the daily rate and we relished the opportunity to stay downtown–we didn’t even (gasp) go to the outlet mall!

Our rooms were on the 33rd floor (a Preferred Guest Level), giving us a two-day preview of the ultra-coolness that the other couple will have living in the sky when they move into the 33rd floor of a condo later this year. Plus, the gym and pool were on the 35th and top floor (I’m so envious) and, being a relaxed getaway trip, we had the time to enjoy those amenity, too.

McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant

We left after work on Friday night and watched the clock a little nervously. Would we make it to M&S for their happy hour which features super-duper prices? We did make it in time, even with a much-needed stretch break at a Walmart along the way; happy hour goes until 12:30 a.m. and we arrived around 11:30. Cari and I enjoyed kiwi refreshers with all-natural (?)  fruit ingredients forming the mixer. It was a tasty way to start the weekend!

In all, we didn’t sample the happy hour menu so widely but we got a good deal nonetheless. NPY found wi-fi (as he always does, it seems) and didn’t bother perusing the menu–he asked if any happy hour items came with fries and ordered the cheeseburger ($2.95) because it did. As it turned out, the three guys ordered burgers while the three girls ordered shrimp quesadilla ($3.95). We also added some orders of Buffalo chicken bites ($3.95) and prawns. NPY laughed because he thought his burger platter was the best deal and he may have been right! Still, variety is the spice of life.

Specialty’s Cafe & Bakery

The girls got ready to head out for a morning stroll while the guys carried out their favourite activity: playing on their smartphones when they got their big plush hotel beds to themselves. We didn’t have to walk far from our centrally-located Sheraton to happen on Specialty’s Cafe. From the outside, we could glimpse the bakery display and we stopped in. At least it wasn’t a Starbucks.

I went for a chocolate cream cheese croissant which combines two of my favourite breakfast pastries: cream cheese danish and chocolate croissant. I told Cari about how I first tasted danish from Silver Spoon (long since closed) in Halifax, how it had the crumbly cheese that is so hard to find these days. I often hopefully sample danishes to seek out the same crumbly cheese. Specialty’s certainly was not, using a custard-like cheese recipe. On top of that, both my cheese and Cari’s breakfast bread were flavoured with almond extract. Not awful, but not necessary. It was still a warm,  yummy flakey, chocolately pastry and it was a really nice breather to hang out with the girls in a European-esque cafe.

Green Leaf Vietnamese Restaurant

We went to Green Leaf in the International District because Olive’s parents recently went to Seattle and handed off their recommendations–they are really helpful! We ordered the Vietnamese pancake on their suggestion and I ended up getting the combination bun (vermicelli) dish. We were served with green leaf lettuce to wrap the omelette but found it awkward and mostly didn’t bother with the greens. After just one bite, I wondered aloud if anyone thought the omelette tasted like a Chinese pastry and soon after, Ed identified the taste like that of the innards of a cocktail bun (雞尾包), that is, there was some coconut paste in the omelette.

I ordered a bun (vermicelli) dish which precludes sharing with NPY who was happy to order pho (noodle soup). Sometimes pho just doesn’t cut it for me and I want dry noodles livened up with their clear sweet and sour fish sauce. I ended up ordering Olive’s mother’s suggestion, the combo dish because I hoped the spring roll indicated was the cha gio. It wasn’t, but the filling was much like it, ground meat and vegetables.

The restaurant is deceptively small-looking but we were lead upstairs to another dining level with cool wooden armchairs and benches with big wheel designs on the seat backs.

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese

What’s a visit to Seattle without a trip to Pike Market? After our Vietnamese lunch and another trip back to the hotel to refresh, we meandered down Pike Street towards the water and braved a snap windstorm that turned my Hong Kong souvenir umbrella inside out to form a stiff tulip. We visited in turn oft-dreamed-of Piroshky Piroshky for my warm onion, mushroom, potato piroshky and to snap a picture a the first Starbucks.

Cari told us about hearing about Beecher’s macaroni and cheese and how Oprah loves it so we were happily helping her look for the shop, about a block away from the Starbucks. We wolfed down a larger container of the most comforting mac ‘n’ cheese and I identified a graininess to the sauce that I was so sure came from butternut squash… except it’s not part of the recipe, which is clearly identified in a recipe book for sale in the shop–the sauce is purely cheesy goodness. While we sighed and enjoyed the pasta, we watched workers in the factory carry out the “cheddaring” process of making cheese–it seemed like the guy in the group most intolerant of cheese was most fascinated with the process of making it!

Cheesecake Factory

Gosh, I think I need a new camera. Not an SLR but something that can handle low-light better than mine (that was good once upon a time).

The Cheesecake Factory is just around the corner from our hotel and taunted us every day so we went there for our splashy pre-Valentine’s Day dinner. No reservations were allowed so a few of us went earlier and hung out in the bar which was a fun reprieve from spending the 40 minutes in the crazy crowd milling around the foyer. Why do so many people (presumably not all tourists) risk waiting an indefinite period of time with their dinner group at a very franchise restaurant? Because the menu is so large everyone can find something.

By this point, NPY and I are feeling the effects of eating out every meal for a day and our strategy that keeps our bodies happy is to order between us one salad and one heartier dish. But Olive mentioned enjoying shrimp scampi the last time and I couldn’t push it out of my head! I tried to talk myself into a salad, or a less pricey pasta dish with similar ingredients (but the helpful nutrition booklet told me the calories were more) and both NPY and I ended up with pasta–I am so susceptible to suggestion! Of course battered shrimp makes me very happy and the sauce was brilliantly tasty and although not a lot, enough to entirely coat the angel hair. NPY’s tomato basil penne with pesto chicken was light and the pasta dishes were complementary in flavour. They were also tasty enough for me to pawn off a good portion of my dish to NPY so I could save room for dessert….

While some people were sold on the special cheesecake containing peanut butter and chocolate cake, I zeroed in on the Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake (what it looks like under normal light, just brilliant) which, despite being vastly full, I couldn’t stop eating. So smooth and slightly tart cheesecake. Such moist cake.

Dahlia Bakery

Olive asks if I’ve heard of Tommy Douglas and like the good little Canadian I am, I have heard of Tommy ‘Father of Medicare’ Douglas. Seattle Tommy Douglas, however, is an entrepreneur and owns a restaurant group. While we waited for a table for brunch at Tommy Douglas’ Lola, we walked by his Dahlia Lounge to check out the goods at his Dahlia Bakery.

We all spotted the chocolate eclairs lined up prettily in the displace case and ribbed NPY, alerting him to the “Long Johns”  he could order. You could say he blushed in protest but he quickly succumbed and got one. He made me have some and the one-quarter I had was delicious–more like a cream puff in pastry texture with vanilla bean custard. Cari ordered made-to-order donuts that came with (apricot?) jam and marscapone cream cheese for spreading. They were dusted with cinnamon-sugar and fresh-made hot and delicious.


If you look at the menu, Lola primarily serves Greek and Mediterranean food but they have a good brunch menu–Olive told us Lola’s appeared amongst the best in Seattle for brunch so I was happy for the continuation of my brunch routine with an expanded circle and in a different city!

I ordered an omelette because it sounded lighter than the Lola breakfast of eggs, sausage, potatoes and toast that–funny enough–all the guys ordered. Garlic smashed potatoes is an interesting and tasty concept with lots of garlic encrusting roasted potatoes. The baguette presumably came from Dahlia Bakery across the street and was really tough! And the omelette was perfect to cap off a weekend of frantic and non-stop dining out!

Olive gave us fair warning about the pork-maple sausage, that it was on the sweet side but I liked it because it really cut through the heaviness, in my opinion. I also glanced over at Ran’s scrambled eggs and although I had a folded egg, I coveted his because they were so fluffy and creamy and tasted every bit as good as it looked–I didn’t get a picture and can only show you NPY’s over-easy eggs.


Going bonkers for Luna and Clif bars

It was a blog post at Lynn Chen’s The Actor’s Diet blog that set me off seeking out Clif bars, after I saw she had a Clif Lemon Bar. I don’t usually buy energy/meal replacement bars because they are horribly marked up sold individually and in Canada so I wouldn’t know the Canadian flavour offerings but $1 per bar was too good to pass up. Cari was also keen on different flavours, having tried all Canada has to offer when London Drugs sells 10 Clif bars for $10. I didn’t find the Clif Lemon Bar as I only got to look for them at Walmart and Bed, Bath & Beyond (falls under the “Beyond” category, I do believe).

So far, I’ve tried the Luna Lemon Zest–my first Luna bar–and found it tasted like a lemon-frosted rice Krispie bar. Unlike any other bar sold in the same section as Luna, I couldn’t stop eating it and there was no weird after taste. However, I was really hungry at the time… still it was good.

On this day..


  1. Su-Lin says:

    Dang – your hotel sounds amazing! We went away that weekend too but stayed at a very cheap place!

    Btw, the Vietnamese pancake thing is a banh xeo and yes there’s coconut milk in it but there are no eggs.
    Su-Lin´s last blog post post ..Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte

  2. wyn says:

    No eggs? It certainly seemed like eggs to me, but the recipes only show rice flour. I should chew and taste more consciously!

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