Cafe Nico drinks at Espresso Vivace

Cafe Nico drinks at Espresso Vivace

Each year Seattle’s alternative newspaper, The Seattle Weekly, sponsors a “Best of Seattle” contest, and readers vote for their best experiences across a broad list of categories.  This year the Cafe Nico drink at Espresso Vivace won the “Best Coffee Drink” category.  This is how the drink was described in the Weekly:

“The expertly made espresso, just four dainty ounces, carries an ethereal spritz of orange and vanilla syrups, and is buoyed by a splash of steamed half-and-half, topped with a shake of cinnamon, and finished with a fragrant garnish of orange peel.  It’s a tiny cup of perfection, one that should be sipped slowly and with eyes closed.”

Okay, I was sold.  I had to try it.  My friend Carol and I made a date for morning coffee at the Espresso Vivace on Broadway Avenue.  She ordered the Cafe Nico, and I asked for a latte version of the same drink.  Mine was larger and a bit milder than hers.  And yes, it was indeed the best coffee drink I’ve ever had in my life.  I am usually not a fan of flavored or sweet coffee drinks, but the Cafe Nico’s orange flavor was subtle.  The froth was silky smooth and lush.  What a treat it was, both visually and on the tongue.


Later Carol told me that Espresso Vivace had made the super-exclusive list of “Top Ten City Cafes” in National Geographic’s Secret Journeys of a Lifetime:  500 of the World’s Best Hidden Travel Gems.  This was a compilation of the world’s best travel experiences, and destinations in the United States made the lists very rarely.  So how fortunate we are in Seattle to have one of our coffeeshops featured as one of the best in the world.  So run, don’t walk, to Espresso Vivace for an extra special treat.




New York City Eateries

February 1, 2013

Cafe, Greenwich Village

Cafe, Greenwich Village

Quite a few things on my New York “To-Do” List involved food — tasting hot dogs from a street stand, eating a bagel for breakfast, finding the best pizza slice and an authentic New York cheesecake.  My husband and I gleefully worked our way down the list, and sampled more than a few hot dogs and pizza slices.

New York City has an overwhelming number of eateries.  I was thankful that my niece, who lives in the East Village, knew some terrific ethnic places just steps away from her apartment.  We ate one dinner at the Hummus Place and another at a Japanese curry shop.  The curry shop was a narrow space, with just room for one long counter.  Patrons hung their coats and bags on hooks on the wall behind them or on hooks under the counter.  You had to squeeze behind a long line of seated customers to get to thee bathroom at the back.  And the place was hopping!  We had the best bagel I’ve ever eaten at another East Village spot.

Here in Seattle I prepare and eat most of my meals at home.  If I lived in New York, the temptation to eat out all the time would be irresistible.

Papaya dog, the first NY hot dog we sampled

Papaya dog, the first NY hot dog we sampled

Tompkins Square Bagels in the East Village -- yummy bagels and toppings

Tompkins Square Bagels in the East Village — yummy bagels and toppings

Eating at the counter at Curry-Ya in the East Village

Eating at the counter at Curry-Ya in the East Village

Tempting sweets

Tempting sweets

Hummus Place, a ground floor restaurant in the East Village

Hummus Place, a ground floor restaurant in the East Village

Our dinner at Hummus Place

Our dinner at Hummus Place










Bellingham waterfront

Bellingham is about 90 minutes north of Seattle, and it makes a nice destination for a day trip.  I left the I-5 freeway just north of the Anacortes exit and drove leisurely through the countryside and along Chuckanut Drive.

Old barn on Hwy 11 near Bow, WA

Self-service farmer’s stand on Hwy 11 near Bow

The curvy Chuckanut Drive along Puget Sound

View of the sound from Chuckanut Drive

Bellingham itself has a welcoming, small-town feel.  I like the look of the weathered, old buildings near the waterfront and the small, independent cafes and coffeeshops.  I strolled along the waterfront paths of Boulevard Park, and  because I like to check out libraries on my travels, I stopped by the Bellingham Library.  Serendipitously, the library was hosting its Friends of the Library booksale.  I couldn’t resist buying five books from the gardening table at $1 each.  I will get far more than $1 worth of pleasure from each of these books.

Tansy (I think) — a spot of yellow along the path at Boulevard Park

Mural in downtown Bellingham

Sculpture outside Whatcom Museum

Old weathered building along waterfront

Table on the sidewalk outside the Mount Bakery Cafe, Bellingham

The five books I bought at the Friends of the Bellingham Library sale — a bargain at $1 each

The art alone will give me far more than $1 worth of pleasure.

Pages from My Garden by Mary Russell Mitford

Book with quilts from the exhibit

I made a day trip to Bellingham last week to see a quilt exhibit at the Whatcom Museum — American Quilts: The Democratic Art 1780 – 2007.  The exhibit, which runs through October 28, 2012, displays about 30 quilts from Robert Shaw’s book of the same title.  I wasn’t allowed to photograph the quilts in the exhibit, but you can see a few of them at this link.

The exhibit showcased mostly traditional pieced or appliqued quilts, such as the log cabin, grandmother’s flower garden, flying geese, whole cloth, Hawaiian quilts, etc. I was most struck by two things — first, how many of these cherished quilts were labelled “unknown quilter” — prized by collectors, but makers unknown.  And second, the quality of the hand-stitching — so small and regular.  These days, so many quilts are machine-quilted.  I still do hand-quilting, but I don’t take the time to make my lines of quilting so close together.  These quilts must have had five- or ten-times as many quilting stitches as any one of mine.  Impressive!

I very much enjoyed my first visit to the Lightcatcher Museum, one of three buildings that comprise the Whatcom Museum.  Its most striking feature is a curved translucent wall, which creates a radiant and luminous atmosphere in the building.

The Whatcom Museum, Bellingham, WA

Lightcatcher Museum, the venue for the American Quilts exhibit

Entering the exhibit space

Courtyard in the Lightcatcher Museum

Courtyard bounded by curved, translucent wall

The next time I come I will be sure to eat lunch at the museum cafe.

My day of quilts was just half over.  One of my new friends, Bonnie, arranged for a small group to see some Joan Colvin quilts at the private home of Colvin’s son and daughter-in-law on Samish Island.  Joan created “art” quilts.  She had a painterly eye, using fabric to evoke a Northwest color palette in the scenes she created from Nature:  “What is joyful, what delights me about fabric composition is that colored and textured fabrics have their own symbolism.  Though they may speak in different contexts, they lie in wait for me to find their meaning and voice through juxtaposition.” — from Nature’s Studio by Joan Colvin

Here are the Joan Colvin quilts from her family’s private collection:

This abstract quilt was highly textured.

One of Joan Colvin’s signature Nature quilts

Detail, heron

“Sea Blooms” by Joan Colvin

Detail, free-form machine quilting

Joan Colvin quilt with koi

Joan Colvin quilted wall hanging

Trees were another of Joan Colvin’s motifs

One of Joan’s earlier pieced quilts, hand-quilted

My favorite of all — Joan Colvin’s crab quilt made for her son

Colvin created texture and depth by layering sheer fabrics over cottons, and she embellished this quilt with pearl seeds

“Choice is the holy-making stuff of life.”
— Joan Chittister, Following the Path: The Search for a Life of Passion, Purpose, and Joy

“In a way, anyone who collects things in the privacy of his own home is a curator.  Simply choosing how to display your things, what pictures to hang where, and in which order your books belong, places you in the same category as a museum curator.”
— Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck

Accordions from Dale Chihuly’s personal collection hang from the ceiling in the cafe at Chihuly Garden and Glass.

Accordions and Chihuly’s paintings

The Cafe at Chihuly Garden and Glass holds its own as a place of interest.  Called the “Collections Cafe,” it showcases 28 of Dale Chihuly’s personal collections.  And what a varied array of collections it holds — accordions, clocks, lemon juicers, and more.  We had already seen parts of Chihuly’s personal collections of Native trade blankets, Native baskets, and Edward Curtis photographs in the Northwest Room of the glass exhibits.  But the collections in the cafe show another side of Chihuly — one wonders what the appeal of the objects had to Chihuly’s artistic eye.

I find it fascinating that Chihuly, a prolific and accomplished glass artist, is also an avid collector of — in many cases — quite ordinary, inexpensive objects.  Every collector is a curator, too, and his collections are another aspect of self-expression.  You can read more about Chihuly’s personal collections in this Seattle Times article.

In the Collections Cafe, most of Chihuly’s collections are cunningly displayed under glass table tops.  Quite ingenious!

Cafe table showcasing a collection of wooden toy furniture

This table displays an assortment of lemon juicers.

Cafe table with clock collection





Outdoor dining in Post Alley at the Pike Place Market

After enjoying lunch at Maximus-Minimus in downtown Seattle, I took a stroll through the Pike Place Market.  Here are some photos of my visit:

Vendor selling mini- Tom Thumb donuts

Flower stall with many varieties of vibrantly colored tulips

Flower vendor making up a bouquet

Painted table outside Three Sisters in Post Alley

Chef at Piroshky, Piroshky preparing a new batch for the oven.

Breakfast at the Bay Cafe

December 30, 2010

Early morning at the Bay Cafe in Ballard

One of my husband’s and my favorite breakfast places in Seattle is the Bay Cafe in Fishermen’s Terminal.  We both woke up early this morning and decided to treat ourselves to breakfast.  The crescent moon shown brightly in the clear dawn.  The Olympic Mountains glowed white on the horizon.  Few people were stirring.  Our table at the Bay Cafe overlooked the moorage full of commercial fishing boats.  It’s always fun to be by the water.

Crescent moon in the dawn sky

The Bay Cafe ready for the breakfast rush

Seafood omelette and hash browns

The moorage at Fishermen's Terminal

Coiled nets

Water line

Weathered flag

Memorial for fishermen most at sea

Memorial for fishermen lost at sea

Olympic Mountains from Shilshole Bay Marina, Ballard

Seagulls at Golden Gardens, Ballard