Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Victoria, British Columbia

A couple years ago, I asked for my birthday gift
to be a weekend in the "City of Gardens".

Getting to Victoria: We took the COHO foot ferry which leaves from
Port Angeles, this is the cheapest, quickest route and arrives at the 
downtown harbor.  A lot of travelers prefer the convenience 
of the Victoria Clipper leaving from the Seattle waterfront, 
their package rates that include a hotel can be worthwhile.

The not so impressive, but prettily pink view from our room.
Ocean Island Inn was a memorable experience. Our first impression
was that by the end of the weekend, we would contract a foreign disease
and with awkwardly thin walls, whispering would be required. In the end,
not having a TV, we talked more and played tons of gin rummy. 

We decided our vacation budget would be spent on the ferry, 
lodging and dining, so we filled our itenerary with free things, hence: 
touring the Capitol Building.  It was pretty fascinating and educational.  
If you have the funds, Victoria has a lot of great museums. 

Everyone wants to have tea at the Empress, but $51 per person wasn't
for us. We really enjoyed our tea and scones at Murchies on Government
St. They bring you a tray with your own individual pot and the 
scones sprinkled with powdered sugar come with whipped cream and jam.

 We got some delicious rich lattes here a couple times, 
their beans roasted by Chicago roaster Intelligentsia
Sleek decor, you just feel cool being there.

 Old architecture

 Maybe the only two story McDonalds in the world, 
and probably the only one with a chandalier.

We rode the bus to the Oak Bay neighborhood, which tour guides
claim to be "more English than England itself". We got an AERO bar 
at the drug store and relaxed a few minutes in the park, 
I admired the Tudor homes surrounding us.

 Always interesting live entertainment at the waterfront.

 Love this guy.

This alleyway was so romantic.

 According to Wikipedia, the city's Chinatown is the second
oldest in North America after San Francisco.  They had a great 
farmer's market, I think it was on Sunday afternoon. 

 Bastion Square was probably my favorite filled with restaurants 
and outdoor seating. We ate at Irish Times on the corner--so much fun.

And of course, it's always good to get home.

Other stuff we learned:
  • The Blue Fox Cafe, recommended by locals, on Fort Street is worth the walk.
  • Don't get up early for breakfast, the entire town sleeps in.
  • Be prepared for panhandlers to approach you on every street corner, actually everywhere.
Victoria is a unique corner of the world filled with beauty and culture, I hope you'll get a chance to go!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

Several years ago, I began a short lived quest to find the best recipe for my favorite cookie: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut.  After a couple tries, I found this one on  I love the minced coconut which makes them extra chewy.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut flakes, finely minced
1 egg
1 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup macadamia nuts, chopped (these are so expensive, I use 1/2- 3/4 cup)
8 oz. white chocolate chips or bar cut into chunks ( I used 6 oz.)

Cream butter and sugar in mixer on high speed.  Add coconut, egg, milk and vanilla; mix well.  Combine dry ingredients, including nuts and chocolate.  Add to wet mixture until dough forms.

Let dough rest 30-60 minutes in refrigerator.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

For regular sized cookies: drop onto ungreased cookie sheets, 2 inches apart. Press to flatten slightly.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.
For giant sized cookies: measure out 2 1/2 Tbsp. of dough and form into a ball.  Drop onto ungreased cookie sheets, 3 inches apart. Press to flatten slightly.  Bake for 12-14 minutes.

Cookies should come out of oven appearing slightly browned, yet undercooked.  When cooled, cookies will be soft and chewy. Let cool a few minutes on cookie sheets, remove to rack.

Yields: About 3 dozen regular or 16-18 giant cookies.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fettuccine with Bacon and Peas

I got this recipe from an Everyday Food issue a few years ago which has become part of my repertoire.  I've made a few changes here and there, this is my version:

Serves 2 plus leftovers for lunch

Salt and pepper
4-6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4-1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion (the original recipe calls for a shallot)
5 oz frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup half-and-half
9 oz fresh or dried fettuccine
Parmesan cheese

Set a large pot of salted water to boil.  In large skillet, cook bacon over medium until crisp. Remove to paper towel to drain (leave fat in skillet for making sauce).

Add onion to skillet; season with salt and pepper.  Cook over medium, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 1-2 minutes.  Add peas and half-and-half; season with salt and pepper. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.

Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain and return to pot.  Pour sauce over pasta; toss to combine.  Sprinkle with bacon and parmesan; serve immediately with a side salad or artisan bread.

 This is a great springtime dish. I like the simple flavors
of just a few ingredients; it takes Italian to a more
authentic level than your basic Spaghetti and Lasagna. 

I use these noodles which are cheaper than fresh and 
much easier than making myself. They really soak up the sauce, 
unlike other dried pastas. You can buy a big bag of these at Costco.
I buy this more suitable size for our family at Wal-Mart.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Queen Anne Neighborhood

Yesterday took us Downtown to meet with our mortgage stuff, so already being in the city, and the kiddo at Grammy's, we decided to make a day of it. Just a few miles NW of Pike's, a couple turns here and there, up a giant hill sits the regal neighborhood of miss Queen Anne.  

I think this picture sums up Queen Anne Ave.,
probably more bistro tables and chairs per capita 
than any other neighborhood in Seattle. Love it.

 Wink cupcakes, the recent addition to the neighborhood.

 The one we decided on--really delicious frosting, and I am not a frosting girl. 
Other temptuous offerings: When Peanut Butter Met Chocolate 
and Cookies and Cream with an entire OREO on top!

 Blue Highway Games for the gamer in most of us, 
"specialty board and card games for kids, families and enthusiasts"
that you can't buy at Target.

 They have a lot of sample games out to try before buying.

 Nancy's Sewing  Basket, where my Mom comes for specialty fabrics. 
I like to see the latest in the Amy Butler collection.

 An entire Ribbon Room!

 The 5 spot, "offers big flavored food and kitsch from all points of the 
continental US".  We have only eaten at their sister restaurant, 
but friends tell me it's pretty great.

 Pasta & Co, exactly what it sounds like, 
offers a variety of fresh take home pastas.

 There it is, Thursdays 3-7pm--be there.

 So many coffee shops to choose from, 
but this is where we decided to split a tall vanilla latte.
Jeremy described it as strong, but not bitter.
Ya, that's right Starbucks, it is possible.

 Stuhlbergs, a European influenced collection of home, bath, baby and stationary goods.

 Too many shops and cafes to write about, but have to give a shout out to
Macrina Bakery located a few blocks NW of the main strip, 
and Queen Anne Dispatch, a clothing boutique that gets raves from my fashionista sister.

 Queen Anne's Eiffel Tower...or how about KIRO's TV Tower.

The original Caffe Ladro, holds sentimental value for us, 
voted #1 Coffee Shop by Seattle Magazine, 
in the coziest little shop with window seats.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Old Town Gig Harbor

Sometimes you just need to get away for the day. We recently had one of those days and decided to spend it in one of our favorite close-to-home spots. I always feel like the world is a better place after spending a few hours in Old Town Gig Harbor, where friends are out for their morning walk and the shops make you think you're on vacation, yes, it's a good place.

 Just happened to be here when the cherry blossoms were in bloom.

 Architecture of Old Town

 Red Rooster Cafe, located in the coolest building 
with a patio full of tables and chairs overlooking the harbor.

Morning sunshine

Such cute decor

 We had a sandwich at Susanne's Bakery a couple years ago, 
I mostly remember the classy side of orzo pesto salad. 
They are most known for their pastries: 
cakes, eclairs and my personal favorite, chocolate dipped macaroons.

 Kelly's, a local favorite for breakfast and lunch. 
I like that their burgers and fries include a coke,
I mean, who does that-- except for every fast food value meal.
It's very hard to narrow down what to order for breakfast, 
while every towering plate passes by.

 Java and Clay Cafe, I love that they serve 
"for here" drinks in their own hand-painted mugs.

Even the paint brushes are artistic

So many colors... 

Lots of piers and parks along the way

For more information than I cared to post click here.