Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Seattle Spots in Good Company

Somehow I have made it into December without simmering a pot of cloves, anise, citrus peels, and bay leaves down into a sweet syrup and adding a few bottles of red wine to the pot until the liquid is steaming and aromatic, and there is mulled wine for all. It's such a lovely drink to gather around when in the kitchen on a cold evening, and everyone wants a hot mug to hold and a gentle warmth in their bellies. To me, it is the color and the smell of autumn and the Christmas season, and after writing these sentences, I'm quite ready to close my computer and go find myself some wine and spices.


Before I completely open the subject of holiday cookies, puddings, and pies, though, my mind is still on a few memorable restaurant experiences shared with a friend just a month ago.

Seattle is just far enough away to feel like a treat, and any sort of trip down there merits a good meal, but being in the big city and having a friend visiting from out of town, it can become quite hard to select just one (or two) good restaurants to dine at. We managed to eat at four different places in the course of two meals, and I think we were quite wisely restrained in this selection.

We hit our favorite spots, discovered one new one on our way back down to Seattle at the end of her visit, and garnered a lovely collection of photographs and memories our palates will remember for years to come.

First up: An early lunch at 11:30am at Oddfellow's Cafe. I ordered the grilled cheese sandwich with Manchego and a Tomato Onion Jam, and Lauren got the biscuit with scrambled eggs, Gruyere, and ham. Oh yes, and a bottle of Rachel's Ginger Beer to share.

manchego and tomato-onion jam grilled cheese sandwich

more oddfellows loveliness.

oddfellows' lovely sights.

Pre-dinner: This was actually unplanned, but while poking our heads into The Walrus and the Carpenter (just to let Lauren have a peek), we inquired on how long of a wait for two, mostly out of curiosity. When we found out there wasn't one, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to share some cozy space along the wall with a group of men slurping down oysters and tall glasses of beer. We ordered bread and butter, three oysters each, and a fruity but not-too-sweet cocktail to share (the Avenue West, I believe).

cocktail and bread + butter at The Walrus

oyster trio

At The Walrus and the Carpenter!

Aperitif: Wanting to save plenty of room for the dinner our mouths were already watering for next door, we put our names in at Delancey and then pulled ourselves up to the bar at Essex for Lauren to have her first experience in the whale-wallpaper bar sipping its exquisite cocktails. I had The Flaneur, which had Campari in it and was available on tap, and Lauren had their Autumn Sweater. Both very repeatable (as is the 70th Street Sour, as I know from my last visit, but you simply cannot go wrong with anything created by Essex's bartenders.)

The Flaneur + Autumn Sweater. so delicious.

Essex details

Dinner: By the time dinner came, I was working with incredibly low light in their dining room, so I set aside my camera, and we simply sighed and savored every bite of the white pie we shared (and had topped with roasted delicata squash).

After getting in a lot of walking and a good hike in the following days, we were ready for a few more Seattle treats on the way back to SeaTac airport.

Thanks to Sara and Hugh's recommendation on their blog, The Sprouted Kitchen, we stopped at Revel in Fremont for lunch. My albacore tuna rice bowl with fennel kim chi was utterly satisfying, and I intend to drag my next willing companion there as soon as possible.

Tuna and fennel kimchi rice bowl at Revel

And since we hadn't squeezed in Molly Moon's yet, we simply had to make an ice cream stop for Salted Caramel before saying our farewells.

Salted Caramel ice cream at Molly Moon's in Wallingford.

It's times like these that I am so grateful for the means to have these sweet occasions, for my tastebuds and the senses of sight and smell, and for the friends who so greatly enjoy good food, too.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Out of the Studio

I remember the thrill and ache of walking through my university’s art buildings before I had the gumption to declare myself an artist and actually join the fine arts department. During that time as a freshman, I found reasons to walk through their halls and wish they were my own, longing to move on from chemistry labs to charcoal-smeared fingers and fat textbooks full of old buildings and paintings by Caravaggio.

I brought my watercolor collection to New Zealand after college because it was lightweight and collected a few old books in used bookshops to sketch in. My dreams of a studio space were held loosely and patiently, and then my fellow house-seekers and I found a quirky but idillic rental in the next place I called home, the town I still find myself in. Apart from a spacious kitchen and buttery cream-colored walls, the home I have now lived in for more than two years has a spare room with plenty of space for an easel, drop cloths, and lots and lots of art supplies.

I spent a lot of time in this space in the beautiful, sunny months of July and August, trying to create some paintings worth calling honest and my own as well as relatable for others. These are the pieces that came about and were featured in my first solo show...


The next series of three I had printed at a large scale of 3' x 5' and were part of my Wanderlust Film project in college.


Also from college, this "RGB" trio was from my final painting class and completed the show:

IMG_5002 copy
IMG_5001 copy
IMG_4999 copy

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Walrus Bar and A Lemon Tart


I am sorely out of the habit of bringing my camera places, so not too surprisingly, I didn't even think about stowing it in my car as I left my house for the day early Saturday morning. While we were waiting for our names to be called at The Walrus and The Carpenter in Ballard, Seattle, the thought occurred to me, but it didn't take too much to shrug it off, enjoy the lesser weight in my purse, and simply enjoy the sensory experience of my meal sans camera lens.

Four oysters each; grilled sardines with walnuts, parsley; and shallots, steak tartare with a farm egg yolk and rye toast. My old friend and I sidled up to the bar and partook of this lovely fare with Campari and gin cocktails (Le Perroquet for me and Guiding Light for her).

It was crowded and noisy, but we leaned in close and caught each other's thoughts about family, jobs, and love in the past few months that had flown since seeing each other. Velvety, briny oysters slipped down our throats, and we laughed with our dreadlocked oyster shucker behind the bar at the couple obliviously making out over their tray of half-shells just a few bar stools away.

When Brenna had to dash and there was still half a glass left in our pichet of pouilly fume, I stuck around to get the check. It took very little self-convincing, however, to keep my prized seat at this popular little spot a bit longer and prolong my departure back north. So, I ordered a chevre with cantaloupe jam to nibble while finishing the wine.

The pair next to me was visiting Seattle from Dallas, so we got talking about Texas and all the delicious places they'd been eating around Seattle. Then their drinks arrived in these beautiful frosted copper mugs, and having just heard about this superior Moscow Mule experience, I ordered one too. I sipped my Moscow Mule while sharing a small bowl of spicy toasted almonds with my bar companion on the other side, a professor of business law and singer/songwriter. An hour and a half swiftly and enjoyably passed by, and I would love a return to The Walrus Bar very soon.

I would also love a small collection of copper mugs and to perfect the ways of a Moscow Mule simply for the excuse to grasp that pretty handle and sip on something so gingery and refreshing with a group of friends. (I have yet to find convincing information online that the copper mug is really anything more than an old marketing gimmick for this drink, but please share if you know more.)

{Because I forgot my camera, I decided to sketch my moscow mule based on a photo I snapped on my humble little phone, if you're wondering about the little doodle above. It seemed quite appropriate to the place, too, which had darling little sketches of a walrus and a carpenter, inspired by the Lewis Carroll poem.}

And while we're on the topic of essential restaurants to visit, one of my most admired Bellingham businesses just opened up a cafe, which means I get to appreciate their amazing attentiveness to quality ingredients, fresh flavors, and beautiful aesthetic without saving up the money for a class. Their hours are presently lunch-focused and only weekdays, but if you are able, definitely go visit Ciao Thyme's On The Side. My sister brought me a lemon tart she picked up today, and it was perfection.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Collected Cookbooks // Collected Seasons


I have decided not to feel guilty about collecting cookbooks over other books. They are my book of preference, and I read them cover to cover, as novels, so while my library grows I accept (and rejoice in) being able to finger more bindings printed with Waters, Slater, and Swanson than Hemingway or Victor Hugo, as much as I enjoy them too.

The two cookbooks I presently desire to crawl into bed and thumb through on a cold winter night with some hot tea or warming whiskey are Rose Bakery and Polpo.

But it’s not winter yet, and I don’t even mean to rush autumn along. But here we are, and it has been almost a year since this one hungry soul breathed a written word.

[I didn’t mean for it to go this way, but I’ve also found life quite full without tending to this space. I’m not getting the sense that it will necessarily ease up soon, but I need to gather up the beauty around me and therefore brim with more hope and praise, and this space helps me do that.]


My confirmed craving of the Rose Bakery cookbook came three nights ago, as I sat at a bar stool at one of my favorite Bellingham spots, Cheese Meat(s) Beer, thumbing through it. I had finished work early and wanted to spend just a bit more time downtown before rushing off to a full, albeit wonderful, evening with family.

Cheese Meat(s) Beer has a long shelf as you enter with a whole treasury of cookbooks, and selecting Rose's bright green cover, a Northwest Pilsner, and a seat that faced out to a grey muggy sky, I was content to linger quietly for just under an hour.

I've been heavily in reflection mode, which works out quite well for revisiting a blog that's sat dormant for almost a year. It is not that the year's been dull or I've been entirely distracted from potential snapshots or kitchen creations. Rather, in certain ways my senses have been heightened in the last twelve months, and that's required putting down my camera -- removing the space of a lens between me and life -- and taking full, deep breaths of the present.

My camera was never entirely tucked away. I reached for it in moments of great significance and those where significance was intangible until seen through a viewfinder, and it needed to be given…like a pie awaiting a single crust over its cinnamon-sprinkled plums and apples, plums gathered from my own fence-lining tree. Or friends gathering around a crowded table. Or scones being mixed by hand in the early morning.




The holidays came and went and were accompanied by the visit of a college roommate from across the Pacific. January swept into February and I was signed up for a French language class at the local community college, trying my best to balance work, study, and the dream of moving to a chateau in Burgundy that had gotten me in the class in the first place. (I realized my attentiveness to French cookbooks is presently much sharper than to flashcards or nuanced pronunciations.)

France as a new home shifted to the outskirts of my vision, however, and I settled into the goodness of this present season. When my twenty-sixth birthday came in April, I marveled that I was celebrating my third consecutive birthday in this city to which I had resisted any sort of extended return.


At the time I could tally up the joys of being right where I was at with ease. I opened my well-guarded heart to a person and to love. Though a girl could torture herself with whether such love was in fact expressed well, I did indeed love in a way I have not before, and in both knowing someone and losing him, I learned a whole lot. I will also readily admit that, though it's already October and our relationship was brief, there is more for me to learn from having looked that man in the eyes for four months.

Right now I'm surprised to find myself still feeling the degree of emotion I do, which is a humbling place for a normally composed and verbally-articulate girl to be. It's also an undeniably ideal place for an artist to find herself, especially at a time when much creativity is being demanded of me…

I had my first individual art show throughout the month of September! The opening reception was a sweet experience, and I hung onto all that physical touch and generous verbal praise as long as it could be stretched.



Lael's Art Reception 014-001

Lael's Art Reception 008-001


I had precious family time through two other weekends in September, one with my father and the other with my brother, his wife, and their fourteen-month-old son. They just boarded a plan to head home after a five-day stay, and I'm still reveling in that reunion (especially kissing my absolutely adorable nephew countless times, and tickling the places under his knees and chin that set off a deep belly laugh, so wonderfully hearty for such a little man).

This week I’m returning to my studio and blank canvases because I have more artwork to create for another salon space, but I have no intention of neglecting the kitchen and the creativity and beauty I discover there. All the more, when I am heavily creating art, turning to my oven or stovetop is a simplified creative distraction and release, which inspires perseverance in a more thorough, less-explored medium.

I will post more of my completed artwork soon, and if you made it through all that, friend, bravo! (Confessions of scanning are allowed and forgiven.) I'm off to The Walrus and The Carpenter for oysters and drinks on Saturday. Be seeing you with some photos after that.