Sunday, September 23, 2012

Great Wallingford Wurst Festival

The days are getting shorter and a little chillier here in Seattle, but the outdoor festivals are still going on. Before we hole up in our homes avoiding the rain, we try to wrest every second of warm, sunny daylight out of the calendar. There's a big school fundraiser in my neighborhood that happens every fall, The Great Wallingford Wurst Festival. This benefit for St. Benedict Catholic School has been held annually for the past 30 years, and according to the school website, it attracts 10,000 visitors.

There's a lot more than wurst there, but that's what Chris and Oscar started their fair experience eating, while I opted for a grilled salmon sandwich. There are also burgers, hot dogs, ceasar salad, corn on the cob, pasta, Filipino food and a seriously giant bake sale that even includes soft serve ice cream.
It was so hard to choose what to get at the bake sale, but this cookie's packaging won me over. It tasted as good as it looks!
There are lots of jumpy-house type things and games for the kiddies, which sadly, Oscar's now too old for.

There were many, many crafts for sale. I love these dragons!
The Uncle Stinky's booth was mobbed!
Merchandise like this is obviously irresistible!
We spent a lot of money at the book sales. You can find terrific bargains in the used book room (there was a hardcover set of Collier's Children's Classics for $15), while new Scholastic books are sold in another room.

We arrived as Green Floyd, a Pink Floyd tribute band made up of the school's faculty and staff, including a priest, played selections from Dark Side of the Moon. I remember all the words to everything! I'm also a fan of the Portage Bay Big Band. There were 16 bands on the schedule for Friday and Saturday (Dudley Manlove Quartet played inside at the biergarten from 9 to midnight both nights).
This event is pretty much the best school fundraiser ever. See you next year, Wurst Festival!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Memphis (the musical) returns to Seattle

If you've never heard of Memphis the musical, you're not alone. I hadn't either, but savvy musical-theater types probably know that it won the Tony award for Best Musical in 2010, and had 1,166 Broadway shows, ending its run this August. In terms of story, it reminds me of both Dreamgirls and Hairspray, tracing the injection of 1950s soul music into mainstream cognizance. Memphis also has a mixed-race romance between Felicia, a black singer, and Huey, a white exuberant hillbilly DJ who brings her talent to the Memphis radio airwaves.

Memphis was at the 5th Avenue Theater in 2009, before it hit Broadway, and returns tweaked and presumably improved. The vocal talent in the show blew me away--the quality by far is the best I've seen in Seattle to date. I was enamored of deep-voiced Horace Rogers, who plays Felicia's protective brother, Delray, and of Julie Johnson, who plays Huey's cantankerous racist mother.

For me, the writing and music didn't shine as much as the performers. The songs didn't stick with me, and the story felt derivative, even though it's based loosely on a real Memphis DJ. I mean, if you're making a musical it totally makes sense to base it on music history, but because Dreamgirls and Hairspray are so entrenched in my musical consciousness, it can't help but pale in comparison. The romance part of the story, which should have brought me to tears, amazingly didn't. I tried to figure out why, and it might just come down to the fact that I really didn't like Huey's hick-like accent. It didn't sound like the people I know from Tennessee; I don't know if it was authentic to his uneducated, mid-century lower-class character or not. Either way, I felt cheated out of what should have been some cathartic heart-wrenching drama.

That said, I highly, highly recommend this show! It's well-staged and the singing and dancing are exceptional. Catch it in Seattle through October 7. A nationwide tour is underway, so you can see it in other cities as well; check the schedule here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dining atop the Space Needle

You don't go to a rotating restaurant for the food, right? People will come to enjoy the city view whether the food's good or not. So I had very low expectations a year ago, the first time I ate at the Sky City Restaurant, located atop Seattle's most iconic landmark. Soon after I moved here, my neighbor recommended that I eat lunch there if I wanted to go up to Space Needle's observation deck, because admission is included with a meal, and the price to get to the observation deck alone was a steep $19. It was good advice, and my lunch was great. But since Chris was working, he missed out, and he's the biggest Space Needle fan in the family.

So last weekend we returned for brunch to celebrate Chris's birthday, and it was fantastic. It's $49.95 per adult ($15.95 for kids), so not cheap, but then again, I wasn't hungry for the rest of the day. Also, Chris had joined the restaurant's Celebration Club, and received a certificate for a free brunch, so it ended up being merely expensive instead of ridiculous.

And anyway, the food was fantastic. The veggies in my scrambled egg were amazingly flavorful. The orange juice is fresh squeezed. The silver is replaced as you use it. Lovely!

Brunch includes a starter, a main course, and a dessert, as well as juice, coffee, and an assortment of breads. Unlike at some fancy restaurants, portions are generous, so beware. Here's our food.

Starter: Tomato bisque:

Chris and Oscar got house-made bacon, served over brioche toast:

Wild mountain huckleberry pancakes:

Kurabuta ham and cheese omelet:

Spring garden scramble:

Huckleberry cheesecake:

Blueberry cobbler with Snoqualmie gourmet vanilla bean ice cream:

In short, I would happily visit Sky City Restaurant without the view. But the view is, of course, spectacular. And since it's the Space Needle's 50th birthday, it's a great time to visit. There's some very cool memorabilia on display in the observation deck lobby, and retro tchotchkes for sale in the gift shop.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

'Zaw Artisan Pizza

I had surgery yesterday and can't eat solid food for a while. But that didn't stop me from buying today's Seattle Groupon deal: $15 for $30 worth of of 'Zaw pizza. When you cash in your Groupon, you get a punch card for $10 off on three pizzas, and you have to use it on three visits.

Of the pizza I've tasted in Seattle over the past year, 'Zaw is my favorite. Here's how much I love 'Zaw: My oven was broken for the entire summer, and the only reason this irritated me is that I couldn't get 'Zaw pizza, because you have to bake it at home. I recently had the oven repaired and got two 'Zaw pizzas that week.

What makes 'Zaw so good? First off, you can order it on the Internet and choose a pick-up time. Second, you could also have it delivered (they use bikes or scooters to have less negative environmental impact). Third, their produce and tomato sauce is organic, and they use local suppliers. But most importantly, their pizzas are interesting and delicious. There are so many combinations I'd like to try: Farmstand Veggie with oven-roasted summer squash, walla walla onions, large summer tomato slices, and mozzarella on ruby red sauce, finished with parmesan, basil, and fresh ground pepper; Cowardly Apricot with chicken breast, two styles of apricots, basil, and caramelized onion, with gorgonzola and mozzarella on an olive oil-painted crust; Shroom Fest with gently sautéed portabella, button, and crimini mushrooms, roasted red onion, fresh thyme, garlic, and asiago and mozzarella. But I love the Big Fat Greek (spinach, sundried tomatoes, roasted garlic, kalamata olives and free-range marinated chicken served on a base of housemade pesto, feta and mozzarella, with fresh oregano on top) so much that I keep ordering that one. And in case you were wondering, there are lots of meaty options as well.

I can't wait until I can eat 'Zaw pizza again. If you're not suffering from dietary restrictions, I urge you to order a high-end pizza today so I can eat it vicariously. And get the Groupon, because they're not cheap!

Friday, August 24, 2012


If the idea of seeing a cat walk while balanced on a ball makes you giddy, I highly recommend the Acro-cats show now playing at Stone Soup Theatre. What about a cat standing on its hind legs, holding up one paw next to a sign that says "Who's Number One?" Yep, these are the kind of insanely cute tricks performed by owner Samantha Martin's troupe of cats, ranging from adoptable kittens to old hands.

Samantha is a cat-lover turned trainer, and if you're all up in arms about cats being forced to perform, you should know that she rescues and fosters cats, and finds "forever" homes for them. She uses the clicker/treat reward system of training, and the "tricks" are based on normal cat behaviors. The Stone Soup Theater is quite small, so it really does feel like you're watching the show in Samantha's living room. (In fact, she told the audience that all the props and gear in the show are actually her living room furnishings.) Anyway, it's pretty hard to get a cat to do anything it doesn't want to do, so I didn't feel bad at all for them--and I hate zoos and circuses that keep animals in captivity. These domestic cats seem happy.

Back to the show: Along with the cats, there are a few rats, a couple of chickens, and a groundhog(?!) who rides in a wagon pulled by an RC car. There's also a cacophonous music segment, with cats playing guitar, keyboard, drums, chimes, cowbell, and a chicken playing tambourine and cymbals. The show's in Seattle until September 1, so go see it! A couple of insider tips: You can buy tickets at at the door no problem (at least last night), but I recommend getting there early so you can get a front-row, center seat AND so you can listen to the cat-themed music before the show ("Stray Cat Strut" by The Stray Cats, "Year of the Cat" by Al Stewart, and so on). Also, this is one place you won't be out of place wearing that cat sweatshirt your grandma gave you, or your Halloween cat ears (but if you forget them, you can buy some at the show!)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Outdoor concerts--Trombone Shorty

Last year I went to a couple of outdoor music festivals in my neighborhood, where I saw some local bands I never heard of. This year I went to a better-publicized ZooTunes concert: Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue. It was sold out, and the lawn at the Woodland Park Zoo was packed with picnic blankets and folding chairs. You can bring a kid, free, with each paid ticket, and it's an early show (doors open at 5; concert starts at 6), so it's very family-friendly, if not job-friendly.

I love the sound of horns, so I was excited to listen to Trombone Shorty. Since they're from New Orleans, I was expecting more of a New Orleans jazz sound, but they had a much more modern vibe; there was even a Nirvana song in their set (in honor of Seattle, maybe?). Since I was sitting in the back with friends and kids, it was much more like being at a picnic than at a concert, but it was fun nonetheless! We brought food, but there are also concessions, and the carousel is running to entertain the kiddies. Parking is an issue, though, so be forewarned. We had a three-block walk back to the car, which might be an issue if you're carrying a toddler, chair, and picnic basket.

ZooTunes has some great concerts--I would have loved to have seen Pink Martini, which played two shows earlier this summer. But there's still one show left this season: Rosanne Cash on August 29. As of today, there are still tickets!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Outdoor movies

After months of rainy weather, Seattleites don't like to waste a minute of summer weather. So all summer long there are movies playing at outdoor venues all over town--today's version of drive-in movies. This past weekend, we finally checked one out--and brought an elaborate picnic of fried chicken, watermelon, bean salad, grilled green beans, and sangria, as well as blankets and chairs. The movie I chose was "It Happened at the World's Fair" because of its retro aspect. I was hoping to see old footage of the 1962 World's Fair, which took place here in Seattle!

The movie's plot was pretty amazing from a 21st-century parent's point of view. The guardian of a little girl leaves her in the care of two broke, homeless guys that he just met. Elvis, the lecherous one, takes the girl to the World's Fair, and feeds her so much junk food that she gets a stomach ache. He then immediately falls for a nurse he meets in the health clinic there.

Movie quality aside, it was cool to see the Space Needle in the movie alongside the actual Space Needle! Our venue was Lake Union Park (on the lawn in front of the Museum of History and Industry). It's a lovely setting, but there's limited parking on site, and beware of goose poo on the lawn! Also, it gets nippy after sunset, so bundle up if you go.

There's still time to catch an outdoor movie before summer ends. Here's a list of stuff playing in Seattle; there are also movies in outlying cities including Redmond, Woodinville, and Edmonds.

Fremont Outdoor Movies

Saturday-night movies, most of them preceded by afternoon festivities, Fremont Studios, 3501 Phinney Ave. N., Seattle; $5 suggested donation (

Aug. 25: "The Big Lebowski" (R)

MOHAI's Movies at Lake Union Park

Movies begin 30 minutes after sunset (approximately 8:30 p.m.) Lake Union Park, 860 Terry Ave. N., Seattle (206-342-1126 or

Aug. 25: "Sleepless in Seattle" (PG)

Movies at the Mural

9 p.m. Mural Amphitheatre, Seattle Center, Seattle; free (206-684-7200 or; cancellation information/updates, call or visit website after 2 p.m. day of show).

Aug. 25: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" (PG-13)

Aug. 26: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" (PG-13)

Outdoor Movies at Magnuson Park

Thursdays, admission at 7 p.m., followed by circus acts, food trucks, costume contests and film at dusk, Magnuson Park, athletic fields, 7400 Sand Point Way N.E., Seattle; $5 (

Aug. 23: "Monty Python & the Holy Grail" (PG)

Aug. 30: "The Goonies" (PG)

West Seattle Outdoor Movies

Saturday nights, 4410 California Ave. S.W. (the courtyard by Hotwire Online Coffee House), Seattle.

Aug. 25: "Top Gun" (PG)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Cinderella at Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theater

It's almost shocking to me--SHOCKING!--that Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella is so little known. I saw the 1965 movie starring Lesley Ann Warren and ultra-handsome Stuart Damon on TV when I was a kid and loved it. I think I only got to see it once or twice, but one of those times I tape-recorded it (yes, on cassette tape) so I got to listen to the music repeatedly. Why this movie wasn't in more frequent rotation is a mystery to me, because it's got great music and lyrics and wonderful comedic twists to make it more entertaining than sappy. Just check out this clip of the stepsisters on YouTube! (This movie was remade with Whitney Houston and Brandy in 1997, but I never saw that one.)

I got to relive this childhood memory yesterday with my nearly 4-year-old friend and princess-lover Isla yesterday (and her mom!) at Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theater. Like the Kitsap Forest Theater, it's a tiny outdoor amphitheater--which stayed a perfectly comfortable temperature on a sweltering day yesterday. It has a nice intimate feel, and holds only about 275 people. This is great for kids since it's not as overwhelming as a large theater can be, and the actors can interact with the audience. When the prince and his pages were looking for the owner of the glass slipper, they tried it on some audience members before they found Cinderella's home!

I loved the updated stepsister banter and the perfectly lovely Cinderella, played by Justine Stillwell. The fairy godmother is played by Buddy Todd in drag, who I also loved, but at least one little girl found it confusing. She yelled, "That's a clown!" during his performance--and I could certainly see her point. This godmother had overly rouged cheeks, pink hair, and spoke like a Jewish grandmother. I'm not sure if it's part of the original script, but this godmother encourages Cinderella to make "impossible" things happen for herself. It's a small way to update the girl-needing-rescuing theme, but I like it.

All in all, I think this an ideal production to bring very young children to, even though it's a long time for them to sit still. Cinderella and the prince came out after the performance so you could get your picture with them, and there's a play structure conveniently located at the top of the path to the theater, so kids can burn off pent-up energy. Cushions and bug spray are available for patrons, but if you have a high-quality stadium cushion of your own, I recommend bringing it. Isla found the bathrooms kind of scary: The stalls have curtains rather than doors, but there are flush toilets and real sinks.

This little theater is quite similar to the Kitsap Forest Theater, but it's much more convenient to Seattle. The path to the theater through the woods is much shorter, the hike to the waterfall view is a tiny 100 yards as opposed to the strenuous hike to the giant tree in Kitsap. Overall, it feels much more cozy. There's a covered area with large picnic tables where dinner is served by reservation only: salmon, steak, chicken, vegetarian lasagna, hot dogs, salad bar, etc. We didn't eat there, but it smelled great.

Anyway, Cinderella's playing through August 26, Saturdays at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for students and seniors. Kids under 5 are free! Don't miss the fleeting season for outdoor theater!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Port Townsend's Max Grover Gallery

I've been to a number of beach resort towns, and I almost never go into the art galleries. I used to, but the multitudinous schlocky landscapes and first-year-art-school figure drawings broke me of the habit. However, I accidentally went to a gallery in Port Townsend yesterday that pleasantly surprised me.

Yesterday was our first visit to picturesque Port Townsend, and we started our day there by exploring the main strip of shops on Water Street. A shop called Sideshow Variety, filled with the kinds of novelty items Oscar loves as well as the kitschy and retro-type items I love, drew us in like a magnet, but I was most intrigued by the Max Grover Gallery, located in a separate room in the back of the store. At first glance, I didn't think much of the paintings...but on closer inspection, I really started liking them a lot! The artist incorporates all types of small labels, stamps, and memorabilia into the paintings, so they've got a nostalgic quality that I love while still feeling quite modern, and they've got a very unpolished folk-art look that I also really like. Grover, who was there at the gallery, said he's been collecting the trinkets incorporated into the art for his whole life, and I love the idea of using these collections to create artwork. Check it out!

This is a detail of the painting at the top:
And here are some details from the hula dancer painting:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Kitsap Forest Theater

It's summer! One of my favorite things to do in the summer back in Oakland was to pack a picnic and watch cheesy musicals at the local outdoor amphitheater. I really miss that place! So when I saw a flyer for Kitsap Forest Theater, I knew I had to check it out. This past weekend we made the trip to see my very favorite musical, Fiddler on the Roof.

We had a crazy busy morning and barely caught the ferry to Bremerton, but made it to the Kitsap Forest Theater in plenty of time to buy tickets, snacks, and rent cushions for the terraced earth seats. There were hot dogs, chips, and candy for sale, but we were really jealous of the elaborate picnic lunches some of the other patrons had brought with them. It's a good thing I ate a big breakfast. In short, I think taking the time to pack a nice picnic lunch is definitely mandatory for next time. The trail down to the theater opens at 1 p.m., and the shows start at 2 p.m.

The winding path through the woods to the amphitheater was lovely, and charmingly decorated with vignettes from the play. A men's hat with a bottle on it, a wedding canopy, a set of glasses for toasting l'chaim....

The day was pretty sunny, but the surrounding fir trees provided shade so the temperature was perfect. I imagine it would be pretty miserable in the rain, though!

And the play! Well, the singing and dancing definitely wasn't the best ever, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. I cried when the cast sang "Sunrise, Sunset" during Motel and Tzeitel's wedding. I cried when the Russians disrupted the wedding and ruined their gifts. I cried when Hodel took the train to Siberia to join Perchik. I cried when Tevye says Chava is dead to them because she married outside of the Jewish faith. And of course I cried when the villagers were forced to leave Anatevka. I've seen this movie and play so many times that I can practically recite it word for word. (And I recognized every time the play script deviated from the movie one.) You'd think my familiarity with the plot would make me less sensitive to it, but it actually seems to work the opposite way!

After the play, we hiked down to see the "Big Tree," one of the oldest trees on the Kitsap Peninsula. The hike was fairly strenuous, but just 13 minutes each way. If you've seen a lot of redwood trees, you might not be that impressed, but it is a big, tall tree.

Anyway, after the hike and a stop at Dairy Queen, we caught the ferry back to Seattle. It was well past dinner time when we were back in the city, so seeing a play at the Kitsap Forest Theater is definitely an all-day event for us. Even so, we're going to try to return for the next production there: Footloose, showing on July 28-29 and August 4-5 11-12, and 18-19.