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Surprise Vacation to Seattle and San Francisco

Last week my husband, Food-C (I told him I couldn’t handle his former name, honey buns), took me on a SURPRISE trip to celebrate our anniversary, the big 03.  (No, I’m not dyslexic, we’ve only been married 3 years, but when you have divorced parents, you tend to celebrate the smaller marriage victories…especially if you had your first kid since the big 02…and were pregnant on your last anniversary so you couldn’t even celebrate properly with champagne…I digress.)  No, ladies, this was not Food-C’s independent idea.  I hinted pretty hard (beginning last October) that I wanted HIM to plan a trip that I took NO part in.  Usually, I’m the one that plans our family vacations (unless my step-sister, “Julie McCoy the cruise director” is joining, then she does everything…it’s awesome) and I wanted Food-C to plan an entire vacation as my birthday/Christmas/anniversary gift.

I guess the not-so-subtle hinting paid off because he planned the most fantastic trip!  He spent about three weeks in February researching the location, deciding where we should eat and what we should do.  He tells me he had 7 or 8 different versions of the itinerary before he finally settled on our perfect trip.

Things weren’t always so organized in Food-C’s trip planning.  When we were in law school, we spent a summer in Oxford as part of an exchange program offered through our college.  One weekend, Food-C planned a trip to Marrakech, Morocco.  Actually, I booked the tickets.  Food-C just arranged the lodging.  In Marrakech, most people stay in  a bed and breakfast/hostel hybrid called a Riad.  Chris booked us a room at the Riad Messin, and even sprung for the airport transfer since the Riads are notoriously difficult to find and the cab drivers typically speak only French and Arabic, the native languages of Morocco.  We were greeted in Marrakech on a steamy June morning by the Marrakech militia, armed with what appeared to be very well used machine guns.

As we exited the airport, I asked Food-C, “How will we know where to meet the driver for Riad Messin?”  “Easy” said Food-C, “he will be holding a blue Moroccan view”.  You might be wondering  (as I was) what exactly does a blue Morroccan view look like?  Good effing question!  I wish I could answer that, but we never saw anything in the transport area besides pieces of paper with other people’s names on them.  No blue.  No Moroccan views.  Only well used artillery and tears.  Okay, I’m exaggerating now, but I WAS more than a little freaked out at the airport.  Everything turned out just fine: I called my mom (at 3am Oklahoma time) and she found us a hotel with a name we could pronounce (The Golden Tulip!)  But needless to say, Food-C’s trip planning privileges were suspended for the next 5 years.  And I tell that story any time I am afforded the opportunity as additional punishment.  Luckily, Food-C is a very good sport.

Food-C told me I could ask exactly one question about the trip, on or after May 1.  After careful consideration, I asked, “will the weather be nice?” and received “yes” as an answer.  When I pressed, Food-C lawyered me, telling me I should have asked a more specific question if I wanted a more specific answer.  A few weeks later, he told me I needed a puffy jacket and a bathing suit which sent me into a fit of hysterics trying to figure out what ELSE I needed to pack.  The night before we left, Food-C read me the entire itinerary which he typed and printed at work, along with confirmation codes, contact names, departure/arrival times and “free time activity options”!  He did such a great job; I may never plan a vacation again!

We spent 4 days in Seattle and 3 days in San Francisco, just the two of us!  Foodie Baby stayed with his grandparents, and we were alone and childless for eight entire days!  Was it difficult? YES!  Especially after the first few days, we missed our little dude a lot!  But we also enjoyed the hell out of getting to reconnect with each other, drink an ENTIRE cup of coffee while it was still warm, and reading the paper cover to cover.  So many people act shocked when I tell them we left for 8 days, but I have to tell you, everything I read about child development says the absolute BEST thing you can do to raise a happy, curious, intelligent child is have a healthy marriage.  And sometimes to have a happy marriage, you have to spend time ALONE.  It doesn’t mean you don’t love your kid, it just means that you are also making your marriage a priority.  Take that, haters!

I’m going to post about each of our adventures so stay tuned…Until then, if you’re a woman, start dropping not-so-subtle hints to your man! (Maybe direct him to this blog!) If you’re a man, plan a trip for your lady.  I guarantee it will be worth your while!

Lark, Seattle

Located in the Capitol Hill area, Lark is primarily a walk-in restaurant but they do take a FEW nightly reservations which you must make the day you would like to dine.  When our flight from Denver to Seattle (or SEA-TAC as the locals call it) was delayed, we had just enough time at the Denver airport to grab our first vacation beer and make a 7:30 reservation at Lark.

The Capitol Hill area in Seattle seems to be the hip place to live and eat.  There are about 1 million coffee houses (What else do you expect in Seattle? It’s the birthplace of Starbucks!) as well as restaurants, bars and clubs.  Apparently Capitol Hill was the neighborhood most associated with the Grunge movement in the 1990s, and it’s currently the “it” place for the counterculture scene (which appeared to be mainly hipsters) and the gay and lesbian population.  It’s somewhat surprising that it’s such a popular place for the counterculture scene because it’s also the most expensive place to live in Seattle.

After a drink at a Capitol Hill speakeasy, Needle & Thread (which is located above Tavern Law on 12th street) we arrived at Lark for our 7:30 reservation.  

The restaurant is warm and cozy with only about 30 seats, and the woman who greeted us at the door was incredibly friendly.  Our table was not yet ready, but there were two seats at the bar so we decided  eat there.  (That’s two seats total.  It was the cutest little two seat bar)

I knew this place was going to be good when I noticed that the first page of the menu consisted entirely of cheeses. Oh Jesus, all the Cheesses!  We decided to reserve the cheeses for dessert and move straight into the “meat and potatoes” of the menu (so to speak).  The menu consists of small plates, and our waiter recommended we choose 2-3 dishes per person and share them.  The hostess felt bad about our seating (which we were delighted with) so she brought us a small plate from the charcuterie section of the menu.  It was La Quercia prosciutto with truffled green peach and Parmigiano Reggiano.  I don’t usually like prosciutto, but this dish was so delicious, we didn’t even remember to take a picture of it until we’d polished off the last bite!  The sweetness of the peach mixed with the saltiness of the pig really worked well, and the parmesean gave the dish a little bit of a firmer texture which I appreciated.

Next we shared the Carpaccio of Yellowtail with lemon oil, fennel and green olives.  When I was in Paris a few years ago, I ate a fish crudo at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon that was truly the most wonderful fish I’ve ever eaten.  After extremely careful consideration, I’ve decided that it was not only the high quality, VERY thinly sliced fish, but the perfect marriage of olive oil and lemon juice mixed with salt that made this raw fish dish so amazing.   I had high hopes for Lark’s fish Carpaccio, but it didn’t quite make the Joel Robuchon mark.  I did, however, think they used high quality fish with a good balance of acid and salt.  I wish they had sliced the fish thinner, and perhaps used a bit more oil, but the green olives were a nice touch.

Our next course was the all star of the night.  It was Penn cove mussels with chorizo, piquillo pepper broth and a garlic crouton.  It was so good, I wanted to drink the broth from the pot when the mussels were gone, and we fought over who got the last delicious, butter soaked garlic crouton! 

I am NOT a huge chorizo fan, and it often overpowers a dish, but it was perfectly used in the mussels.  It added a smoky spice, but didn’t make the shellfish taste like sausage (which I appreciated).   The broth was comforting with a kick of spice, just as I like it!

 The fourth course had two of my favorite foods in it: mushrooms and eggs!  The eggs were from a duck, which was a new variety for me, and the mushrooms were baked with onion, bacon and red wine, which really accentuated their earthiness.  My husband ADORED this dish.  He is still talking about it.  Again, the bacon didn’t overpower the mushrooms, but just added a hint of smoke.

The red wine and egg made the dish so rich and hearty it was something I would want to eat after being outside building a snowman!  And since Seattle was pretty chilly and wet, it was the perfect dish to warm us up…and make me feel ready to crawl into bed!





We ended the meal with the Mishima Ranch waygu hanger steak with gnocchi and veggies and a side of

Robuchon potatoes.  This was my least favorite dish of the night, though the meat was perfectly cooked.

The gnocchi seemed more like a polenta cake, and the Robuchon potatoes, though delicious, were really just mashed potatoes with a butter to potato to cream ratio of about 1:1:1.  Good, but not worth ordering again.

Unfortunately, we had to forego the cheese course because, seriously, I was so full I couldn’t breathe.  If I had 3 meals in Seattle, I would definitely eat at Lark again.   The food was thoughtful and delicious, the staff was friendly, and the wine was unique and well priced.