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!