Saturday, May 27, 2006

Isn't It Romantic?

Last night we went to Volterra, a wonderful Italian restaurant in Ballard. We've been there twice before and always have a great time, and last night was no exception. We arrived at 6:30 on a Friday night, without reservations, and they managed to seat us right away. Not only that, but the couple before us (who had a reservation) turned down their table and opted for one in the bar, so we got their table in the dining room. The dining room is set up with long banquettes on two walls and tables in the middle. I think ours was the best table in the house--situated in the corner, where the banquettes meet, it's the only table where both diners have a perfect view of the entire restaurant. I couldn't believe our luck! I have no idea why they didn't want that table, but I'm glad we got it.

It seemed like there were a lot of romantic dinners going on; a young married couple 3 tables down raised a toast, and 2 tables over a teenage couple (when did they start looking SO young?) looked like they were out for prom. The older couple next to us was celebrating 6 months of dating. Volterra's tables are quite close together, so it's hard not to overhear; that combined with my curiosity meant that we learned a lot about their relationship. At first, it was hard not to laugh--the gentleman gave his date a full-page, typed letter to read at the table that he had composed " my basement, thinking of you." I know computers are great because you can edit while you type, but come on! It's a love letter--it should be handwritten! (yes, I know that my paper addiction makes me less than objective on this matter...) The woman finished reading, and we overheard,"It's interesting, the different details we remember. For instance, I don't remember touching your arm that night." OUCH. I thought he might be in for a rough night, but then she gave him a couple of notes of her own, and you could see they definitely had a spark. In the end it was pretty cute, actually, and it's nice to know that you can find romance at any age. Cue schmaltzy music...

Back at our table, dinner was amazing. Our server, Steven, was so great; he was super friendly, and Larry liked how he was so excited that we were enjoying our food. When the sommelier came with our wine, he gave Larry the last of the bottle, which made for a very generous pour. When he saw the difference between our glasses, he topped mine up too. It was pretty funny how full our glasses were, and yet somehow we managed to drink it all...

We probably should have skipped dessert, or split one between us, but we decided to go all out and we each got our own, plus a cup of tea (served with yummy candied lemon rind and a pistachio biscuit, which we could barely finish). By the time we left I was so stuffed that I could barely walk to the car. But it was worth it, and I'm sure the next time we go I'll have forgotten this incident and opt for my own dessert again.


What we ate.
House Salad--Baby arugula, shaved fennel and parmigiano reggiano tossed in Chianti vinaigrette and sprinkled with fresh chives
Panzanella--Vine ripened tomatoes, English cucumbers, red onions, kalamata olives, white beans, Tuscan bread, house vinaigrette and shaved ricotta salata cheese
Farro Fettucine with Prawns and Porcini--Homemade farro pasta tossed with shrimp, porcini mushrooms, basil pesto, fresh arugula and a splash of cream
Papardelle with Lamb Ragu--wide egg noodles tossed in lamb ragu and topped with black pepper studded Sicilian pecorino
Strawberry Rhubarb Tart--handmade tart topped with acacia honey zabaglione
Braeburn Apple Pie--Homemade apple pie with warm brandy sauce and vanilla gelato

Monday, May 22, 2006

Sports Night(s)

Last night we went to the Storm season opener against the LA Sparks. It was pretty much the perfect game: we won 90-67 and Lisa Leslie fouled out in the fourth quarter. Brilliant! The only downer was the guy sitting behind us, who I think is trying to outdo me as the Storm super fan. He was yelling so loud that I could barely hear myself, and when Doppler the mascot was throwing t-shirts into the crowd, Larry and I both had to duck as he reached into the row IN FRONT of us to grab at a shirt. I know they're free, but come on--he was duking it out with a couple of kids and their grandma!

Another highlight of the game is always the Storm dancers. Instead of girls in skimpy cheerleader outfits, the Storm has two kids' dance squads, one with teenagers and one with younger kids. In the young group, there is the cutest, tiniest little girl--she can't be more than 5 or 6--with hair down to her waist and some major attitude. She can do all the dance moves as well as anyone else, and of course she's a crowd favorite. This season she has a partner, another little girl who is just a hair taller. They're so cute when they dance together! The rest of the kids are great too--they just have so much fun out there that they always make me smile.

Tonight we went to the Mariners game against Baltimore, which was another great game--we won 8-6, with Richie Sexson hitting a grand slam in the fifth inning. Yuniesky Betancourt (my favorite player) got a run right before that, thanks to his super speedy running skills. And his hitting has really improved lately, so now all those people who mocked me for liking him so much are starting to like him too. It cracks me up that I'm such a sports fan these days, but what can I say? I'm a convert. I even listen to M's games on AM radio now. But as my friend Heidi says, at least I don't listen to sports radio talk shows...yet...

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Bring it!

Tonight was the first Storm game of the season!!! (Well, actually, it was a preseason game but let's not be too picky.) It was a great game against the New York Liberty, and I don't think it would be unfair to say that we stomped them--the Storm won 71-43! As an added bonus, when the players threw free t-shirts to the crowd after the game, Larry helped me catch one. It literally came straight to us, then Larry directed it to me (more specifically, at my face since it hit me in the nose). I never try to catch t-shirts anymore, because last year I reached for one and a lady behind me snatched it away, jamming my finger. I'm not kidding--I couldn't bend it for 3 days! So it was a pleasant surprise, and a great way to start the season. The first game will be May 21 against the LA Sparks, our archrivals. I can't wait!

The great grease fire clean-up continues, although we're almost done. We had tickets to Sigur Ros Wednesday, so we took the night off from cleaning to listen to experimental Icelandic music. The opener was a group of 4 girls called Amina, and they were AMAZING. They all played strings, and also took turns playing a variety of other instruments like the xylophone, harmonium, handbells, glasses, and the saw. Seriously, I can't remember the last time I saw someone play a saw, and I'm pretty sure it was at some weird country music festival my parents took me to. Amina's saw playing was much different than I remembered, and very cool. Their EP is called Animamina, and if you can get your hands on it you won't be disappointed.

Sigur Ros left me a little cold, to be honest. I think their concept is cool: the male lead singer bows his electric guitar like a violin, and sings with this really high, ethereal voice. A lot of their music is based on sustained pitches and phrases, and some songs are in a made-up language that lets you imagine your own words. The lead singer used a distortion box on his guitar quite a lot, and the Amina gals played background strings for much of the show, kind of like a drone.

Intellectually, I appreciated that they were pushing the boundaries of what is typically considered music (vs. noise) and how we are used to hearing it. Aesthetically, it just wasn't my thing. Part of it could be that they were overamplified for the space, but the distortion and extended high pitches made my head hurt. And I don't know how else to explain it, but almost all of their songs sound like the bridge of a song to me. There's no build-up or resolution--it's just THAT INTENSE ALL THE TIME. I think I just had different expectations for what they would sound like.

What I liked about the performance is that it got me thinking about music in a way that I haven't for a while (and maybe that's part of their goal--who knows?). At any rate, it was at Benaroya Hall, which is beautiful--the lobby has two amazing glass sculptures by Dave Chihuly that I never get tired of looking at. Plus, it's always nice to see a show in a venue with assigned seating and clean bathrooms!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Ring of Fire

I haven't had a true "Monday" in a while, so I guess I was due...

Yesterday morning I was trying to boil some water to make oatmeal, but I turned on the wrong burner. Normally there's nothing else on the stove, so while it would still be bad, it wouldn't actually cause a problem. But since it was a Monday, there was a cast-iron pan with bacon grease on the other burner, which after a few minutes on high heat, caught on fire. Yes, that's right--I started a grease fire in the kitchen a mere 15 minutes after waking up. (And what did YOU do this morning?)

I was checking my trashy gossip websites when I realized that I hadn't heard the teakettle whistle yet, so I went into the kitchen. There was this acrid black smoke filling up the whole kitchen and flames leaping from the bacon greas-y pan. It was at this point that the smoke alarms started going off--a little late in my opinion. Like a complete idiot I started screaming for Larry, who fortunately had the good sense to get the fire extinguisher and put it out. He was also VERY gracious about the whole thing, more so than I think I would have been in the same situation; I mean, really, what a stupid thing to do. But on with the fun!

You may be asking, how long does it take to clean up a small kitchen grease fire? I now know the answer, and it is 2 days and counting. I can't imagine what people do when their whole house catches fire, or even one room. In addition to the pan catching fire, 2 spatulas and a non-stick pan were also ruined, sending little bits of melted plastic into the air along with the smoke, ash, and fire extinguisher powder. This awesome mixture is now on approximately every surface in the entire house. To make it even better, a couple of cupboard doors were open at the time of the fire, so we have had to wash every dish in the kitchen--and by wash I mean scrub, then wash, then scrub again--and wipe out the cupboards. By the time we're done, I think the kitchen will be cleaner than it was when we moved in. (And in a really sick way, I'm kind of excited about it.)

One bonus of setting your kitchen on fire? You get to eat out a lot! But seriously, I have definitely learned my lesson. And we're turning in that renters' insurance application ASAP.