Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Cactus - Bellevue, WA

We visited Cactus in Bellevue on a rainy Saturday afternoon and it was packed. We had to wait about 30 minutes for a seat. It has a nice atmosphere and our waiter was friendly and treated us well. 

We started out with some nice guacamole. Their salsa is very mild and I had to ask them for some pepper sauce to knock up the heat level. Judy ordered a mint cooler that was fantastic. I ordered a Mexican lemonade with jalapeno and that was a mistake. It was seriously hot, unlike the salsa, and I've decided I'll stick to sweet lemonade.
We had a roasted cauliflower appetizer with cotija cheese, aioli and serrano chiles, a tremendous vegetarian dish, lots of flavor. 
Judy's poblano chile relleno was housed inside a fried shell that was kind of hard. The hard shell really lowered the enjoyment of it. The inside poblano, itself, along with lots of goat cheese, was great. However, it also came with a sweet sauce that I felt did not go well with the dish. So overall, it was okay.

I got seafood enchiladas and would get them again. Nice flavor. 
Our waiter brought us a complimentary flan dessert which was a nice surprise. The flan had the typical burnt caramel flavor and was nice. I enjoy the creaminess of flan. 
If they could get the heat out of the lemonade and into the salsa it would make it better in my estimation, but it was still an enjoyable meal on a miserable rainy day. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Pike Place Market - Seattle

Pike Place Market is the most popular tourist destination in Seattle and the 33rd most visited tourist destination in the world with 10 million visitors annually. It opened in 1907 and is one of the longest continuing operated farmers' markets in the U.S. It overlooks the Elliott Bay waterfront and is named after Pike Place, the central street. However, it is quite large. It consists of much more than the Main Arcade, covering many blocks and 8 different buildings. It has all kinds of shops, but what drew me in is the fish mongers and fish restaurants. 
The Main Arcade on Pike Place.

The Pike Place Market District from Wikipedia.
We visited in 1995 when our children were young and I still remember them displaying a monk fish at what is now Pike Place Fish Co. They still have a monk fish on display, but with a twist. One of the men behind the counter had it attached to a line and when customers would get close he would yank the line and cause the monk fish to move, startling the customers.  
Pike Place Fish Co.
On our recent trip I visited three times, twice with Judy and once on my own as it was only about a five block walk down Pike Street from our hotel, the Sheraton Seattle on 6th Avenue. 
The Main Arcade is straight ahead, viewed from Pike Street and 1st Avenue. 
Looking back in the opposite direction, from Pike Place. 
I spent most of my time in the Main Arcade which had a number of fish mongers. 

Pure Food Fish (rated no. 27 out of 168 places to shop in Seattle on Trip Advisor) had an extensive selection of smoked salmon and they were great about giving free samples. I ended up buying a quarter pound of each of alderwood smoked salmon; garlic pepper smoked salmon; cold smoked salmon, which was kind of like lox, but much thicker; and smoked scallops which were a little sweet and smoky. and exceedingly good. I took it back to our hotel where we ate it while we watched t.v. that night and then had the rest for breakfast. It was delicious. 
Pure Food Fish 
King salmon on ice.
Various varieties of smoked salmon.

The cold smoked salmon was like very thick lox. It had the same texture and a similar taste. 
The garlic pepper smoked salmon was moist and had amazing flavor. 
Pike Place Chowder, on Post Ally, a block up from Pike Place, is rated as the no. 4 restaurant out of 3,047 in Seattle on Trip Advisor. I was really excited to visit and try their various chowders. It was raining hard and we were in a line that stretched around several shops. Fortunately the line went fast and we were able to get a seat at the counter inside the restaurant. I really wanted to try their oyster Po Boy and was disappointed to learn that they don't sell them at this location. They sell them at their Pine Street location about six blocks away. So I got a lobster roll which cost $23.00 and it was horrible, the worst I've ever eaten. The lobster in it was mushy, like it had previously been frozen, and it was quite cold. The bread was also cold and it did not have any condiments on it like mayonnaise. I had a lobster roll at the airport in Manchester, NH that tasted better than this thing and it was cheaper too. I also got a cup of smoked salmon chowder which was decent. Judy got a sampler with three kinds of soups: seafood bisque, New England clam chowder and the smoked salmon chowder. The New England clam chowder was by far the best. 
Pike Place Chowder - photo taken some time later when it was not raining. 

Tray of soups.
Lobster roll. It looks pretty good, but the taste was otherwise. 
Side view of the lobster roll.
When I was out on my own I visited the Pike Place Chowder on Pine Street, which is not in the Pike Place Market. This time I had a cup of New England clam chowder, an oyster slider (not available in the other store) and the oyster Po Boy (not available in the other store). The oysters were breaded and fried, still juicy inside, and miles ahead of the lobster roll from the other store. It did have some condiments on the bread, but could have used more. Not the best oyster Po Boy I've had, but good. Overall I liked this store much more. It was less crowded, had nicer seating and a more expanded menu. However, I'm still aghast that either one could be listed as the no. 4 restaurant in Seattle. 
Pike Place Chowder in the Pacific Place mall on Pine Street and 6th Avenue. 
Oyster shooter
Oyster Po Boy
Cross section of oyster Po Boy
Jack's Fish Spot is on Pikes Place across the street from the Main Arcade. It was doing a brisk business, lots of people ordering, so I figured it must be good and stopped. It is rated the no. 228 restaurant in Seattle on Trip Advisor. The seating is very limited and what seating there is is not very nice. It was raining outside and cold, and the place is open to the outside air. I was not able to find a seat, so I ate two raw oysters with cocktail sauce standing up and most of the salty oyster juice, my favorite part, sloshed out before I could eat them. I also got fried oysters with french fries. The oysters were moist inside, but had an off-putting taste, something you don't get with raw oysters. The fries were thin and got cold quickly. They came with a small tear-open catsup packet. I eventually found a seat and some nearby Tabasco sauce, but the cold french fries and lack of condiments doomed them and I dumped much of them in the trash. The conditions were just not conducive to a good meal. 
Jack's Fish Spot
Raw oysters
Fried oysters, cocktail sauce and french fries.
The inside of the fried oyster was kind of a weird combination of cooked and raw. It had an off-putting flavor and I generally love oysters. 
City Fish Co. is in the Main Arcade and I bought some smoked Alaskan scallops and smoked king salmon which came in the form of a popsicle. The sea scallops were a little smaller than the other scallops we had, but tasted about the same, and were great. The smoked king salmon on a stick also tasted nice. The portions here were not as flexible as at Pure Food Fish and they did not have as many varieties of smoked salmon or other fish. 
City Fish Co.

Smoked king salmon on a stick/
There were lots of other shops that I ignored for the most part. I did take a photo of one of the fruit and vegetable stands. 
No store could offer the variety of fresh fish available at Pike Place Market. It is certainly worth a stop when in Seattle. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Riverwalk Cafe - Chelan, WA

I drove out to the Leavenworth area to visit Sam while Judy was attending a conference in Seattle. Sam is always a good driving companion, so I suggested that I would like to see the Columbia River, not too far from there, and drive along it for a ways. We got as far as Chelan before he decided we needed to turn around so he could get to work on time. He located Riverwalk Cafe on Yelp, part of the Riverwalk Inn, as a place to eat lunch, a place that would support his vegetarian eating style. 
Riverwalk Cafe in Chelan.
It  has a nice menu for those who are trying to eat more healthily and is located across the street from a nice park at the end of Lake Chelan, right about where it turns into the Chelan River, before emptying into the Columbia River. 

I had a breakfast burrito with egg, spinach, tomato, red salsa and sour cream which was okay. Their salsa was extremely mild. 
Their hot chocolate was too healthy for me. It was not very sweet or chocolaty and I did not finish it. 
My side of roasted potatoes was very good
as was the toasted raisin walnut bread. That bread is worth going there for. 
The best part was being with Sam. On the way back to the Leavenworth area Sam spotted some  bighorn sheep off the side of the road near Lake Entiat on the Columbia River. We ended up seeing more bighorn sheep there than I've ever seen before. A wonderful end to a great day with Sam.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Peggy Sue's Diner - Yermo, CA

I've been driving between Utah and California at least several times a year for 33 years. I've looked at Peggy Sue's Diner virtually every time and wondered what it was all about. But it was not until late last year that I actually visited and ate there, twice in a period of two weeks. 

Peggy Sue's is located in Yermo, a few miles west of the agriculture station that checks cars for fruits and vegetables coming into California. It is also near the Yermo Annex of the Marine Corps Logistics Base, Calico Ghost Town and the Fort Irwin Army National Training Center. But most of that stuff is all but invisible. Peggy Sue's looks like it is situated a few miles from nowhere. 

I must admit I've become a fan. It sits along a horrible long stretch of stressful road, where cars drive 90 miles an hour, bumper to bumper, and cut in and out of heavy traffic in an effort to get to Las Vegas, or Los Angeles in the opposite direction. And it is so much easier then battling the traffic and horrible food in Barstow and Baker, which bookend it, albeit quite a few miles in opposite directions.  

The food is kind of breakfast focused, very reasonably priced and not bad, not bad at all. My first visit I tried a New York steak, hash browns, two eggs over-easy and biscuits and gravy. It is better than Denney's and the atmosphere is much more fun. 

On my second visit I tried the chicken-fried steak, hash browns and eggs. That was kind of the reason I came back. The waitress the first time said that chicken-fried steak was their specialty. I've never been interested in even trying chicken-fried steak. I had a mental image of a very dull and very dry breaded piece of chicken. I was surprised to learn that it is actually steak, pounded out, coated in seasoned flour and pan-fried. Because of that image, I ordered it medium rare. I don't think I ever need to have another one, but it was much better than I envisioned. It actually had a little pink in it and it was thicker and more steaky than I thought it would be. But it is still no match for a New York or a ribeye. 

A view inside the chicken-fried steak.
The other thing that really makes Peggy Sue's is the themed store and the pond and dinosaur exhibit out back. A great place to stretch-out the legs. I suspect I'll be back.