Finding the EAT in S*eat*tle

When JJ turned 6, we began to ask him to weigh in on a decision that affects our budget, vacation plans and scheduling.  I know, that’s a lot to put on a six-year old.

“Would you rather have a birthday party or take a vacation?”

Every year the answer is the same: “Both.”

When asked to reign in his greed and to choose only one, he always picks vacation.  As he got older, he got more specific.  “I’d like to take a vacation in New York for one week.”  I finally asked him last year about the consistency of his answers and he simply said, “A party is only for a few hours.  A vacation lasts a long time…”

So this year, we chose Seattle as our destination based mostly on its proximity and that we’ve always wanted to see for ourselves the mythical stories about fish throwing and Starbucks and the year round rains experienced by our neighbors to the north.  We soon discovered that much like our other vacations, this one was going to be about the food.

Breakfast was at Biscuit Bitch, this awesome and unapologetically profane purveyor of greasy, fatty comforting foods where biscuits are not only the vehicle for salty, crispy fried bacon and spicy hot links–biscuits in these parts reigned queen.   As evidenced by his facial expressions, JJ admitted to “having problems with the inappropriate language” and I struggled with having to explain why this word is only OK inside this place.  But somehow, his 9-year old mind could not fathom the importance of reappropriating words and symbols.  So we stuck to talking about how crispy the bacon was on his Bitchwitch (actual menu item) and how garlicky the grits were on my Hot Mess Bitch (same).  And their awesome playlist rotation that included 90s hits from Lauryn Hill and the Fugees, SWV, KD Lang, Dionne Farris–seeing a pattern yet?

We visited Pike Place Market everyday during our visit and after our initial excitement with the fish throwing at the fish market, we moved on to other more practical eateries which were easier on the wallet.

We found ourselves returning to Piroshky Piroshky again and again because it was filling and good.  Both sweet and savory kinds ran you about 5-6$ and so lunch for our little family of 3 was less than 20$.  But we always wound up spending twice that because we had to sample different varieties–they weren’t bad cold either as we snacked on them in our hotel room.



The signs are what drew us to this Filipino eatery, Oriental Mart.  We never sampled the food but the lines at the counter and the multiple to go orders we saw were enough to convince us that this was a legit place.  I read all the signs and kept hearing my Tita Precy’s voice, the requisite Filipino accent with passive aggressive undertones and just a hint of hostile paranoia.  But Tita Precy also made really awesome pancit canton so the funky attitude was forgivable.  Almost.


I loved these signs


The Pike Place Chowder lines were long, so long that they had to separate them in two and put a line monitor out there to keep unobservant patrons from ignoring line #2, lining up in the back of  line #1 and thereby inciting a riot.  They moved that line fast though and within about 15-20 minutes we were seated and enjoying steaming bowls of hot chowder.


We opted for their 8-variety 5-oz sampler because we are an indecisive, greedy lot.  The chowders were creamy and thick with the salty, briny taste of the ocean.  The clams were perfectly cooked with just the right amount of give.  Admittedly, I didn’t have a favorite  because my palate isn’t evolved enough to distinguish between each chowder but they were all delicious.  My only regret was not coming back for their seafood rolls.


Nothing like chowder on a cold and rainy Seattle day

Beecher’s Handmade cheese was probably our most disappointing find.  It was only OK and didn’t quite live up to the Yelp hype.  The ‘World’s Best’ Mac and Cheese was definitely sharp and very cheesy but the bechamel sauce was a little gritty and had a slightly pebbly texture which suggests that the cheese may have been melted too quickly causing the protein to clump up.

Pro tip: Come at opening, 9am for shorter crowds and a front row seat to their cheesemaking action.




The Chukar Cherries origin story I imagine is a lot like the story of the first person who ever tried to eat an oyster.  Company founder Pam Montgomery one day basically decided to try some shriveled up, going bad cherries on her family’s cherry tree orchard and luckily found that the cherries had become chewy over time and had sweetened in their own natural juices.  Many innovations later, Chukar Cherries was born.  On the main floor of the market, we returned to their stand twice twice and wound up getting 10 bags of varying flavors with intentions to give them away as souvenirs.  We’ll see.


JJ loved the smell of sweet chocolate covered cherries


Ellenos Yogurt was our final find. Their yogurt is so creamy and tasted so decadent that you’ll swear you were eating melted ice cream.  We sampled the passion fruit, mango and lemon meringue before finally settling on the marionberry with pie crust crumbles to give it that extra crunch and a touch of sweetness to balance out that tart flavor.


As you can see, we did most of our eating in Pike Place Market.  It was convenient, fast and cheap.  For families the variety makes it possible to sample different things while remaining budget conscious.

Oh, and we saw a bunch of awesome things too like the Space Needle (undergoing renovations til summer, I would skip this until June as most of the areas were closed off and boarded up ), the Bill Speidel Underground Tour (go for the history and the interesting background on what happens when city planning decisions aren’t well thought out).  The Pacific Science Center will entertain your kid for hours with the many interactive exhibits and displays and the enclosed butterfly house.   The infamous gum Wall was gross but it’s part of the eclectic weirdness that is Seattle so you can’t miss it.  Most of all, don’t miss the Chihuly Gardens and the glass blowing demo.  You’ll be awed and amazed by the works of art lovingly curated in this space.


Flagship Starbucks: long lines that moved fast


Chihuly Garden glass sculpture


From JJs perspective, one of the most beautiful displays in Chihuly Garden


Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour


En route to the top of the Space Needle (which was meh in its current state)


“I dare you to stick me to the gum wall!”



Pescadero Day Trip


We returned this weekend to my favorite town Pescadero, located about 1 1/2 hours south of San Francisco on Highway 1.  Pescadero reminds me a bit of upcountry Maui with its quaint shops, artistic vibe and idyllic coastal views but colder and foggier.  In fact, when we visit Maui, we return time and again to Surfing Goat Dairy which is Kula’s equivalent of Harley Farms.   We were hoping for some good weather, a bit of sun since everywhere else away from the coast was baking in 80+degree weather.  No dice on the sun but Pescadero never disappoints.

We started at Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport with some hot strawberry cider and strawberry scones and ollalieberry cobbler with some strawberry rhubarb jam.  They were all berry, berry good!  (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)

Swanton Berry Farm is a farm stand overflowing with all things strawberry with baked goods, chocolate covered strawberries, strawberry apply cider, an assortment of strawberry jams.  You can buy flats of strawberries or pick your own at their adjoining farm.  We chose to start our day by hanging out in their common seating area to enjoy our baked goods and cider along with a nostalgic throwback to this right here:


The last time I held a Viewmaster, Ronald Reagan was in office.  It occurs to me as I write this that I am suddenly nostalgic for Ronald Reagan’s presidency–which is a little like saying that you wish you only looked as old and wrinkly as you did last year because you now realize that you’ve aged exponentially since then.

I was most impressed by the farmstand’s honor till.  The concept is simple: the farm relies on your honesty, integrity and ability to make change.  There are no salespeople to police you, no cameras to record your shortcomings.

There are no cashiers, just you and your conscience.

Still intrigued by the concept of trusting strangers I interviewed the guy walking around the store who was mostly there to help earnest patrons do basic math.  They have not lost money and in fact they make more money than they anticipate as people tended to pay more than the listed price; most errors result from bad calculations but 99% of people they’ve encountered are honest and generous.

After Swanton fed us tasty eats and restored our faith in humanity, on we went to strawberry picking.  We walked a few hundred yards, and though it was a nippy and windy 52 degrees, we were rewarded by an ample bounty of vine ripened, sweet red strawberries.

A few tips to enjoy you strawberry picking experience:

  • Dress in layers; you would be lucky to see a high of 60 degrees in these parts.
  • Wear close toed shoes for walking those muddy fields.
  • Bring a cardboard flat and a couple of those pint sized baskets (provided by Swanton Farm) with you so you can have a large container while the kids fill their small container.
  • The port-o-potties are extremely funky.  You’ve been warned.

Our next stop was lunch at Arcangeli Deli/Norm’s Market, home of the Godfather sandwich, an insanely delicious herbed focaccia that served as the vehicle for some tasty salami, mortadella and prosciutto all slathered with a garlic herb spread.  The lines are long but be patient because your sandwich will be lovingly prepared.

No photos of said sandwich due to hunger.  We did however manage to catch this beautiful sentiment on the wall outside the Slowcoast Shop next door:


The final stop on our road trip was Harley Farms.   We skipped the tour as we had done this previously and by the way, pro tip: tours are booked two months in advance.  Without a tour, you can still pet the kids while you and your human kid stand outside their enclosed fence.  With the tour, you get the privilege of going inside the fence and possibly being peed on by said goats.  At the very least, they will chew on your backpack straps, try to sniff you in your privates and gently ram you in the rear to get out of their way–all this without buying you dinner first.

Harley Farms also hosts a monthly dinner with seasonal offerings at their hay loft or the upper barn pictured above.  It is a beautiful setting overlooking the goats and fields below.  You would be wise to make reservations.

Thank you for a wonderful day, Pescadero and for giving us a little bit of Maui on the mainland!


Maui, The Valley Isle


We started to discuss vacation in June as soon as the kid finished first grade because, you know, first grade is such a harrowing experience to endure so you get rewarded with an all-expenses-paid vacation.  When we initially checked out Disneyland as a possible destination, we did in fact cost it out and a 3-night stay at the Grand Californian, 4-day park hopper passes, food and gas would come out to about as much as a weeklong vacation in Maui.  So yeah, you do the math.

We just got back last week and I’m still jonesing for that aloha spirit.  So I’m going to spend some time on this post telling you about our favorite tours, accommodations and restaurants and include links.  Support these local island businesses!

Star Noodle: When I was dating Pru, I thought no one can be that awesome past the first date.  Like baked cookies, fed me french toast while I was so sick that I managed to infect him with pinkeye–awesome.  Here we are together more than 20 years and still awesome… solid, consistent performance with bold flavors and great service that never disappoints.  Wait, I switched to Star Noodle just then–but yes, perfect analogy for this eatery with very reasonable prices–I keep waiting for them to stop living up to the hype and still they do.  Try the Vietnamese crepe and the deconstructed sisig. Thanks Rose for the pro tip!


Malasadas with trio of dipping sauces/nuts at Star Noodle

Hali’imaile General Store: Bev Gannon’s restaurant is elegant yet still manages to be homey at the same time.  I think they do it with the well executed food and fantastic service that makes you feel like you’re the only one in the joint.  The sashimi napoleon is truly one of my favorite things on earth and I found myself eating slowly on purpose so that I can savor every bite and enjoy all the textures that explode in your mouth–the crackle of the fried wonton, the creaminess of the wasabi dressing, the salty bite of the smoked salmon, the spiciness of the ahi tuna tartare.  It’s too much.  But then it isn’t.


Sashimi Napoleon at Hali’imaile General Store

Sansei Sushi: If you haven’t found religion, you’ll find the next best thing in the panko crusted ahi.  When you take the first bite, your eyes will momentarily roll back in your head and you might even utter “God is good,” when really you meant, “God, this is good.”  The sushi is wrapped in arugula and spinach and served on a bed of soy butter sauce.  Pru and I share less important things like mortgage payments, debt and raising our son.  We do not share the panko crusted ahi.  I even tried to recreate it once but sadly, I overcooked the fish.  There are lines out the door which sometimes results in an hourlong wait when they first open because of their 25% off early bird special.  Time is at a premium while I’m on vacation so I don’t waste mine with meager discounts.  Call for reservations.


Tempura fried ice cream at Sansei because we polished off the ahi before we were able to take a picture

Ululani Shave Ice: OK, li hing powder is a little weird.  It’s like eating tamarind for the first time but in powder form.  It’s salty, sweet and sour and it makes you pucker partly from shock of all those flavors at once and then the realization that you just put all that in your mouth.  But sprinkle it on one quadrant of your shave ice so that way, you only have a small area on which to ponder your regret.  But you won’t because it’s goo-ood.  There are 6 branches on Maui…Front St is the busiest and Dairy Road is the least.


No li hing powder on this shave ice, Ululani’s in Kahului

Trilogy Excursions: Twice we’ve gone sailing with them and again an amazing experience from the crew to the breathtaking sights and great apps served on board.  Go for the sunset sail and be amazed by the sights and sounds of the open ocean and the sun setting in the horizon.  The crew serves mai tais, beers, pineapple juice as well as heavy apps like purple taro rolls with shredded pork, shrimp rolls, chicken satay skewers.  You will enjoy all this with a gentle rocking of the boat and background of soft Hawaiian music.  The cruise is about two hours long and yes, you’ll get a little wet, kissed really, by the gentle ocean breeze and splashing waves below the hammock.  Heed Captain Kevin’s advice: fix your eyes on the horizon and you will not get seasick.


Laying on the hammock gives you a new perspective

Kapalua Golf Villas: Hotels and I have a very important relationship.  People say that you won’t spend much time in a hotel room anyway, why bother spending inordinate amounts of money on something you’ll see for no more than 8-10 hours a day.  I don’t buy this rationale because 1) that’s at least 1/3 of my vacation 2) this is the place I lay my head on, cleanse in and 3) entrust with my family’s safety and shelter in an unfamiliar place.  So yeah, this is arguably the most important expense of my vacation and therefore bear no shame in saying I spare no expense on my living quarters–within reason.  Enter: VRBO.  When using VRBO, look at not only the home/condo but also the neighborhood in which said house/condo is situated.  If there’s video and most reputable places do, even better.  We were not disappointed in this beautifully appointed 1 br/1.5 ba condo that overlooks the 10th hole on a world class golf course in Kapalua, home of the Ritz Carlton and 1700$/night Montage Resort.  And by the way, I won’t be staying at the Montage; I do draw the line somewhere.


The views, walking along the paths at Kapalua Golf Villas


Breakfast at our lanai every morning was a treat with this view

Surfing Goat Dairy: If you have small kids, immediately take them to feed goats, milk goats and do goat cheese tastings.  Located in upcountry Kula, the drive from Lahaina is about an hour and you’ll think you’re lost about 2/3 of the way in because you’re looking at nothing but open fields and dirt country roads.  It also seems hotter and drier on this part of the island but when you hear the story of how German expats–former computer programmer and teacher–moved here after falling in love with Maui you’ll start to envision doing the same thing.  Then you’ll brush away that thought, distracted by the fantastic varieties of goat cheese you’ll eventually sample and bring home with you.


Goat milk?  Then love each udder.

Kapalua Coastal Trail: Best thing I did on this vacation was hiking this trail almost everyday.  When I researched this on Yelp and Tripadvisor, some reviewers said this isn’t really a trail.  To those buzzkilling naysayers, I argue that just because you didn’t almost die or get bit by a snake or wore flip flops while hiking it–get over your Patagonia-loving, Teva-wearing, granola-eating selves and just appreciate its many sights and wonders.  It’s a TRAIL that takes you along some fantastic views of the ocean, horizon and remnants of a land born from volcanoes.  It is mostly paved paths but also some gravelly and rocky terrain that my Merrells can handle (see, I can be granola too) and what rewards you at the end will be some misty rain that will gently hit you while you stand in awe of the waves crashing against the rocks below.  Kapalua is the wetter side of Maui so be prepared to wear close toed shoes when you hike this TRAIL.


Start your hike by 8am to get the trail to yourself; about 3.5 miles round trip

Maui Zipline: When I was younger I thought I wanted to go skydiving.  Then I had a kid.  That and Pru once said “I’ll need to explain to your parents how you talked me into letting you do this asinine thing.”  Picturing such a conversation taking place at the morgue, I reconsidered this poorly hatched idea and opted for the zipline.  Kainoa, Miles, Eddie and Jessie were our very chill guides–deceptively chill because they are also very safety conscious, did harness checks with every zipline–there are 5–all the while sporting that aloha vibe throughout our experience.  I suppose it doesn’t inspire much confidence if your guide is more nervous than you so the chill factor is very important.  We zipped through a tropical plantation amidst fields of pineapple, coconut trees, starfruit and despite the 7-year old getting stuck halfway through on 3 out of the 5 ziplines, he maintained a cheery optimism after the initial reaction that hovered near panic.


Safety first; Maui Ziplines is good for kids under 10


Nearing the end of this particular zipline, he stuck the landing on that platform


Mahalo, Maui for your gracious hospitality, unrivaled beauty and for letting us share in your aloha each time we visit.




Je suis Paris


I haven’t been moved by anything worthwhile to write about.  Until yesterday.  It is 4:58 AM and as I write this, I am heartbroken about Parisians and the recent turn of events that has once again reminded us of the fragility and sanctity of life.  It is 4:58 AM and today, I am joining the countless broken hearts who cry and pray for Paris and her people.  Today, I am a Parisian.

I was lucky enough to visit Paris with Pru 7 years ago and I still remember slowly enjoying a buttery, flaky croissant the likes of which I’ve never had before nor since–and watching Pru take pictures along one of the many foot bridges we walked along the Seine during our trip.  I was sitting on a bench with my journal and my croissant, silently wondering  what it would be like to live here one day.

I found an email I wrote to friends in 2008 back when the only social media option was Friendster.  It dawns on me as I write this that FitBit, Facebook and Instagram were not around then.  I was more aware of my surroundings rather than my steps, what I saw and not what I wanted to share and the flavors I tasted, not what filters would look best on Instagram.  This email captures that awareness that sometimes escapes me today in the midst of the world we live in.

Hi Peeps,

We’re on Day 4 in Paris and I have to say that this is the first time I’ve gone on vacation where I haven’t missed home at all.  Sure our hotel room is only slightly bigger than a thimble, but who stays in their hotel room in Paris?  Here are some learnings and observations:
  • The first day we got here, I collapsed–and a nap that I intended to be 2 hours turned into 7.  One of my most favorite things about Paris is how nocturnal the city is—at midnight, locals and jetlagged tourists alike are walking around, eating 3-course meals, and having coffee while they linger over dinner!
  • Two weeks here is minimal, a month is better.  We’re not going to be able to fit everything in the 8 days we’re here, so we’re mixing planning with a good amount of spontaneity.
  • Get lost.  Pru and I have been going off the beaten path for food and drink.  We’ve found really good croque monsieur, fondue made of beer and Roquefort cheese and quite possibly the best crème brulee I’ve ever had (not too sweet, not too runny).  Restaurants away from the main drag are cheaper and perhaps better because it’s more about the food and not so much the people watching.
  • Paris is a city of juxtapositions. Where else can you find a place of worship like Sacre Coeur near a bunch of sex shops and the Musée de l’Art Erotique, all of which are located in Montmartre.  I guess Vegas, but I digress.
  • It’s also no accident that  the best hot chocolate in Paris (Angelina) is located down the street from a cigar shop (A la Civette) that houses an extensive selection of Cubans.
  • It pays to travel with a boyscout who suffers from OCD (read: compulsively prepared).  Pru packed–not one but two–umbrellas.  It’s rained everyday we’ve been here and hailed once.  Pru even managed to pun “Oh hail no”.
  • The French are undeserving of their reputation as being rude to tourists.  I went to the restroom on top of the Eiffel Tower (yes, there is one) and I had TP stuck to the bottom of my shoe.  The restroom attendant politely pointed it out to me right before she scolded me and told me to go throw it away instead of leaving it on the floor waiting to stick to the bottom of the shoe of another hapless tourist.  She said all that in French so I’m not really sure what she meant, but I got the gist.  Seriously though, we’ve encountered nothing but friendly Parisians.
-We ate at a Moroccan restaurant tonight (great couscous!) and seated at the table behind us were two dogs–one wearing a scarf and the other an olive colored hoodie with “Paris” embroidered on it.  Pru mused  “That’s how stupid Taiko must look.”
Tomorrow, we’re off to Giverny and Versailles.  See you guys soon.


Je t’aime, Paris

Harley Goat Farm and Swanton Berry Farms


Let’s just get right to it. Mother’s day should be a national holiday. There, I got it out of my system.

My boys treated me to a beautiful day at Pescadero Farms, which by the way, is a great daytrip destination.  This sleepy coastside community is home to my new favorite, Harley Goat Farms and just 15 miles south, Swanton Berry Farms.  Red Tricycle, this cool website that basically curates fun and entertaining activities for parents and kids alike, gave us this idea to do lunch and a tour of Harley Goat Farms.  We feasted on pulled pork sandwiches, lavender lemonade, locally baked sourdough breads and of course goat cheeses.


This guy didn’t even buy Pru dinner


My favorite picture of the day


Lunch is served at the nearby ollalieberry farms, across the road from Harley Goat Farms


Swanton Berry Farms–JJ was heard saying “That’s my jam!” as we drove up


These two are just pure joy


This honor till just restores your faith in humanity. Seriously, don’t steal from them. Otherwise your little black heart will shrivel up and die.


Just go visit Harley Farms already


Mommy! There’s no wi-five here!


I am not a camper.  Never have been.  I did spend the early part of my childhood in a third world country so one would think that I am equipped to handle the rugged outdoors.  I am not.  This past week-end was spent enjoying/tolerating/respecting the awesome that is Yosemite.  We camped for 3 days and 2 nights with limited access to a shower–and by limited I mean–we snuck into the public restroom/semi-private showers in the Wawona Hotel.  And so while you feast your eyes on this incredible sight


woke up to this view every morning

this magnificent find amidst funk, bug bites, sweat and dust was my saving grace.


All told I counted 22 mosquito bites, most of which ballooned to gargantuan hives; no pictures needed to convey the grotesque.

I walked so much that this happened


…ok so they were 18 years old but still…

Despite having been a buffet for the bugs, the trip was well worth it


Pro Yosemite tips:

  • Most reserved campsites are booked 6 months in advance.  Plan ahead.
  • The Wawona Village campsite is pretty awesome.  Bathrooms were pristine and smelled pine fresh.
  • We stayed at spots 90 and 91–steps away from the bathroom, plenty of shade.
  • Park rangers are extremely friendly and accommodating so don’t piss them off by not heeding the bear box laws.
  • Early summer temps: 80s-90s during the day, mid 40s at night.  You’re at 4,000 feet–do the math
  • Don’t miss the Mariposa Grove: tour by tram or do the 4 or 6-mile hike.  We opted for audio guided tram.
  • Have music playing as you drive into the valley.  That majestic view of Bridal Veil and Half Dome deserves a soundtrack.  We chose John Williams and the Boston Pops.  Some choose Enya.  Be creative.
  • Lunch at Wawona Hotel will run you about $25-$30.  For more budgetary options, try the Golf Club with hot dogs, nachos or hamburgers at less than $10