June 27, 2010

Image Courtesy of Roz Savage

Earlier this week I tweeted this, after hearing an interview on CBC radio:

Heard a story on the radio about woman who wrote two obituaries for herself. She changed her life to make it like the more exciting one.

I wanted to tweet it so I would remember it for later, but really that tweet barely summed up anything, which is the problem with 140 characters, I guess. So here's the full story.

The woman is Roz Savage, and at the age of 34, she was a management consultant and an investment banker. While on a train that year, she wrote two obituaries for herself. One was a reflection of the life she was currently headed for, and the other was her dream obituary. She realized that while she really wanted to fulfil the dream obituary, her current life was headed in the opposite direction. So she made a drastic change.

And now, almost 10 years later, she has become the first woman to row solo across both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans with plans to row the Indian Ocean next year. She has written books about her adventures, and is also in demand as a motivational speaker. She's also taken up running, and has run both the London and New York marathons, placing in the top 2%.

You can read more about Roz and her incredible story here.

June 26, 2010

These are some links I've found over the last couple of weeks that I kept meaning to share, but somehow forgot about.

A photo journal by a man about his elderly father. Very beautiful. via @lushpad.

Levi's Jeans have invited several artists to record some of the music that inspires them. This is my favourite, but all of the recordings are great.

Sophia Coppola's new film, Somewhere
I love the direction of Sophia Coppola's films, and this one is no different. I love the soft etherial quality they all have. Plus, she does killer soundtracks. Can't wait to see this.

by Gordon Ramsey of course. I've had the tandoori paste in the fridge for weeks now, and we are still using it for different things. So good and easy for a summer evening meal.

June 23, 2010

I didn't document our Portland food adventure as well as I did in Seattle, so I'm just going to focus on the highlights. Prior to our holiday, we did a bit of research into places to eat. We went to the James Beard Foundation website, who give out the most prestigious culinary awards in the US, in search of some chefs that might interest us.

The first restaurant the intrigued us was Beast, namely because 'beast' is actually one of our pet names for each other. awww.

Beast is run by chef Naomi Pomeroy, who was nominated for Best Chef in the Northwest in this past years James Beard Awards. Each week, Beast prepares a new six course prix-fixe menu, so each time you go, you will have a truly unique experience. The restaurant only seats about 30 people, so the reservations are set for two times during the evening, with everyone seating at two large farm tables, all being served at the same time. It felt like a simple and exquisite dinner party.

We can brag and say that we had the best seats in the house, sitting at a large table facing the open kitchen and plating area, with no one sitting across from us to obscure the view. It was fabulous. Here you can see Naomi preparing for the next service.

It was really great to get to watch the team prepare and assemble all the food and makes you appreciate how much work goes into some of the plates. The courses consisted of a soup, charcuterie, meat, salad, cheese, and desert. The charcuterie was easily one of the most impressive things I have ever seen and eaten. As they were doing the plating, we were mesmerized watching them keep adding all the little details. It made the actual eating part so exciting and memorable, as we were filled with so much curiosity and wonder watching them assemble it all.

Overall, it was an amazing meal and an amazing experience, and I was so happy we made the effort to seek out such a great place. And the best part? It cost only $60 a person for the food. For six courses. Correction. Six of the most amazing and decadent courses that I will remember for a long time. Loads of admiration to Naomi for what she has done and continues to do. So many restaurants could learn so much from her simple appreciation and love for food.

So while at Beast, we got to chatting with the party next to us, who eventually asked why we had chosen to eat there. When we mentioned James Beard, he told us about another Portland treasure that we had to try, which was the onion rings at the Ringside. Apparently James Beard himself said they were the best onion rings in the US. So we indulged. And they were delicious.

And that brings us to another great restaurant. Le Pigeon was actually right next to our hotel, which was funny, because a friend had recommended it to us. The name also sounded familiar to me, and that's because it's chef, Gabriel Rucker, was also nominated for a James Beard award for Best Chef in the Northwest.

We risked going without a reservation, and they shuffled some space and accommodated us immediately. Off to a great start. I have to say that we sat down here only a couple of hours after we had shared that huge onion ring basket, so we weren't hungry at all, but when in Rome, or Portland in this case...

Again the room was homey and simple, focusing all the attention on the tiny open kitchen and the sumptuous plates of food being passed from it. The food was largely classically inspired, with some twists thrown in, as Rucker is known for taking great risks with his food. Portland is known for so many great restaurants and their commitment to utilizing local and sustainable products, and it has created this amazing creative culinary scene.

The standout from this meal was the Lamb's Tongue, which Dave ordered as his starter. It was easily one of the best things I have ever tasted. I wish I had paid more attention to it when I was eating it, because everyone has asked what the texture was like, or how the meat itself tasted. I just remember wanting to remember that mouth watering morsel forever and being blown away that a tongue could taste like that.

Unfortunately, at the end of the meal we were too stuffed to try their Honey, Bacon and Apricot Cornbread and Maple Ice Cream. I've found a recipe here, but maybe someday I'll get to go back to give it a try. I sure hope so.

June 21, 2010

In between our times in Seattle and Portland, we spent 3 days camping along the Oregon Coast. If you haven't been, please put it on your list of things to do. It is a stunning place to visit. And as my husband would want me to point out, both The Goonies, and Kindergarten Cop were filmed there. So that should definitely encourage you to go.

See. It's great.

And at the outlook at this trip, I looked at my life list and thought of a couple things I could tackle. Sadly, ziplining didn't fit into our schedule. But something equally good did.

Beer Drinking.

I will preface this by saying that I am not a beer drinker in general. And that's kind of why I chose beer for the life list. To try and see if there are any out there that I did like.

Unfortunately, or fortunately for this story, we were tackled by a storm one night. Not wanting to waste the night away shut up in our tiny tent, we drove up to Newport to find a place where we could spend a few hours. And we came upon this little place, Rogue Ales Public House. It has received a lot of awards. We were impressed.

With my list in mind, I ordered a sampler, so I could taste as many of the beers as possible.
We have here (from left to right): St Rogue Red, Dead Guy Ale, Shakespeare Stout, and the Chipotle Ale. The Chipotle was the best from that batch.

Here I am drinking the Shakespeare Stout. It tasted a lot like espresso to me.

Here's the other great thing. When you sit down, they give you a taster beer of their special, so I also tried the Double Dead Guy. And I tried my husband's beer, which was the Golden Belgium Strong. So that's 6 microbrews down!

FYI, I also had a pint of the pear cider, which was sooo good. If you can ever get your hands on a bottle of it, buy a case.

All done.

June 16, 2010

One of the other highlights that drew me to Seattle was the Seattle Central Library.

Photo by Ramon Prat

Designed by OMA and LMN architects, the library opened in 2004 as a stunning addition to Seattle's downtown.

Photo by Philippe Ruault

The exterior of the library is composed of diamonds of glass within a bold steel framework, which is placed at various angles, creating a dynamic shell for the space within.

I really loved how fresh the entire space was, and how the design team really took some great risks within the space. Sometimes you visit these interesting architectural marvels, and inside the space is a little dead. Sure there are amazing windows, but what else?
Here the escalators are punctuated with this amazing saturated yellow colour, taking a typically utilitarian space and making it a focal point. FYI the elevators were this colour inside too.

The meeting room level was this amazing organic space, finished in a bright glossy red, with red lighting. Very cool.

This perforated metal formed a transparent screen where you could view the main floor of the library. This material was also used on the main floor as ceiling panels that were inset into a t-bar grid, with downlights above, which helped to disguise the mechanical systems and less attractive lighting.

Although there were limited finishes used within the space, each choice was very unique and interesting from the rest. Edge grain wood floors, funky carpet patterns, perforated metal, glass, and high gloss coloured lacquer were some of the finishes that were most prominent. Typically interior palettes have some sort of cohesive element, but everything here was so very different and unusual.

I only focused on my experience with the interior of the space, but archdaily has an amazing article on this building that explores the entire design of the structure, and how the architects reimagined the organization of the library. It also has plans and sections of the structure to better understand how the whole thing is put together. They say it way better than I could, so I'm just going to direct you over there.

June 15, 2010

One of the reason's I wanted to go to Seattle, was to pay a visit to the Experience Music Project.

photo by EMP

The EMP opened in 2000, in an area known as Seattle Centre, which is a large family entertainment area which is also home to the Space Needle. It was designed by Frank Gehry, whose unique signature style created a great additional to the arts culture of Seattle. The fluidity of the exterior panels, as well as the variety of finishes create a powerful and unique structure that perfectly encapsulate the musical inspiration.

These coppery panels were amazing; each one transitioning from bright magenta to a steely blue as you walked around the structure.

This portion of the museum was my favourite which mixed copper and steel coloured panels. It also seemed to have the most undulations, which I loved.

This isn't the first Gehry structure I've visited. In 2006, we visited Bilbao, Spain to see his Guggenheim there. I think the setting on the river gave the building so many more perspectives to see it from, which was quite magical. We loved walking up and down the banks at sunset to see how the light played off the panels as the light grew darker. All in all, quite a talented man.

June 14, 2010

So my husband and I would consider ourselves foodie types, and that was a big focus of our vacation. I've been telling people that we just wandered around seeing stuff while we waited until we could next eat. And the trip definitely didn't disappoint.

Our first night in Seattle we decided to go down to the pier area, thinking it might be a good place to find a place to eat some dinner, since lots of the restaurants down there would have views of the harbour and water. There were the traditional seafood places, most with big neon signs, advertising their great crab deals or the catch of the day. But after looking at all the options we settled on Elliott's Oyster House, which seemed like a classier option, ie. less touristy.

Obviously we ate some oysters. Our server selected three local types for us to try, and it was interesting to see how different they really tasted. I liked the one with the strongest sea water flavour. Yum! They were served with rye bread to cleanse the palette, and a sorbet mignonette of three types of vinegars.
For the mains, Dave had scallops with risotto, and I had ravioli with fresh crab. So good! The servers even commented on how good our selections were. Two of the house favourites.
I also have to comment on the service, as our waiter was the best waiter I have ever had. So Elliott's is highly recommended.

For breakfast on both days, we stopped in Belle Epicurean, which was right next to our hotel. It is a beautiful patisserie, owned by Carolyn Ferguson who studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She makes all sorts of french pastries and sandwiches, as well as serves local coffee, Caffe Vita. We had the butter croissants and also the ham and gruyere croissants. Delish!

Shortly thereafter, we found ourselves at Pike's Place Market, being tempted by all sorts of good food offerings. We made it all the way through the market, without succumbing, until we saw this place. Piroshky Piroshky is a Russia bakery, offering sweet and savoury pastries with various fillings. We chose the Potato, Onion, & Cheese, and the Smoked Salmon, which had just come out of the oven. These were really tasty, and perfect to eat as we wandered down the street.

Later that afternoon we stopped quickly at Cupcake Royale, for a warm drink, and of course a cupcake! We shared a salted caramel cupcake. I ate it too quickly to get any pictures. It was good, nice crumb to the cake and the icing was the perfect balance of sweetness. It's no surprise they were voted Best Cupcake in Seattle.

Our last stop was at the 35th Street Bistro, in the Fremont area. Lots of restaurants these days are offering prix fixe menu's, and we decided to take that option here. We had a choice of three items for each of our three courses. I had mussels and clams to start, and then beef loin with arugula, farrow, and blue cheese, with a bread pudding for dessert. Wonderful! And it was really awesome how affordable the meal really was. Finished off with a great bottle of wine, and Seattle definitely impressed with it's dining scene.

June 10, 2010

I'm back from my holidays feeling so refreshed and ready to tackle some exciting new prospects that are coming up for me, notably buying a new house!
Over the next little while I will be recapping my trip through the Pacific Northwest, but here are a few of my favourite photo's, as a little teaser.