Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Longer Commute

This weekend was brimming with my favorite things: family (including not just an Annie sighting, but a whole MEAL with my elusive little sister!). Seattle.  Cake.  Birthday presents!  Pulitzer-winning theater.  Uwajimaya.  Halloweeniness. 

It had been a while since I'd driven all the way up to my parents' house.  I tried one time this summer, but a 12-vehicle pileup in Centralia sent me back to Hubbard.  I did try to wait it out a couple hours in Kelso, but as anyone who has tried to kill a couple hours in Kelso knows, this will drive you pretty much to the brink.  This time I was able to duck out of the office at noon, and made it up to Seattle  Buckley in 2.5 hours.  We had plans packed together for the two-ish days: my friend Brynne's production of Doubt in Edmonds Friday night, afternoon Seattle Sounders game with Dad on Saturday, Sumner's Autumn Fest in the evening with dinner at my favorite greasy-spoon Chinese place in Enumclaw, and finally breakfast on my way out Sunday with Brianna.  We set out right away for the show up north, taking a detour in Sumner for dinner at The Buttered Biscuit.  I've heard this place mentioned gratuitously during my visit sabbatical this year: taking grandma to The Buttered Biscuit.  Zach wants to go to The Buttered Biscuit.  We met the Herrs at The Buttered Biscuit on Saturday.  Rumors swirled over epic portions and comfort-rich flavors.  Luckily, my visit was another excuse to go. 

As I was reading through the menu, a waitress passed by with orders bound for another table - yep, no one's been pulling my leg.  These portions could feed Chewbacca.

I ordered the Chicken & Artichoke sandwich, and my mom got the turkey dinner special.  We each got salads, me with a garden salad and her with a warm bacon and spinach salad.  I was instantly jealous.  The simple romaine, crisp thick-cut bacon and tangy vinaigrette was like first-course candy.  Although the garden salad was much more substantial than most restaurants.  Some shredded cheddar, onions, cucumbers, leafy greens, tomatoes - none of that sad iceberg on a saucer garbage.

My sandwich was messy, but huge and delicious.  There was something about the bread that I couldn't quite pinpoint, but that made it irresistible.  A little sweet, toasted and spread with a nice garlic-chive cream cheese.  I could've just eaten a basket of that, but the artichokes, onions, chicken and Swiss cheese were welcome to the party.

Doubt was fast-paced and provocative, filled with important debates and lessons to learn.  Including the fact that when you give a friend a bath-bomb cupcake with vanilla cake scent and sprinkles, you need to TELL THEM that it is a bath product and not a cupcake.  Overlooking technicalities in these cases can only lead to disaster.

The next morning, Dad and I left for Qwest Field.  It's so funny to think back on the old Seattle Sounders games he would take me to in the 90's at Memorial Stadium: paltry attendance, no sponsors, no suites... just some guys, a ball and a few bleachers.  Now, selling out a stadium built for the NFL and commanding international attention... wow.  We've come a long way, baby.  Dad, a die-hard since the team formed in the 70's, wears his original championship scarf to every one of his all-inclusive season ticketholder games.  Keepin' it REAL!!

As soon as we stepped off the Sounder train at King Street Station, my Sailor Moon sense started tingling.  "Hey, we're next to Uwajimaya, aren't we?"

"Yep," said Dad.

"OMG can we go!?" 

Seattle Uwajimaya makes the one in Beaverton look like a Plaid Pantry.  It sports a tour-of-Asia food court, two-story mangatropolis bookstore, and a Fred Meyer expanse of grocery aisles.  It even has its own apartment complex on top, which I vowed all through high school I would absolutely someday live in.  Well, I guess I haven't exhausted all somedays, but the possibility of relocating our lives on top of a specialty grocery store in a different state is growing increasingly slim.

As hard as it was to pass on the geoducks (We'll Clean For You!) and $28 bunny-encrusted bento lunchbox ("but Matt, it had BUNNIES ON IT!!"), I didn't feel like hauling souvenirs all over the stadium and back onto the train.  Just a refresher that yes, it's still there and yes, it's still awesome is enough to keep me going until next time.   

With the supertickets my parents own, you have special access to the VIP Snack Stand.  Anyone who's ever been to a Seahawks game knows what you usually meet at the stadium: $4 sodas, $10 burgers, $6 peanuts.  They've carefully cultivated their wallet-raping skills under the Regal Cinema/Disneyland school of pricing.  But flash your all-inclusive ticket to the watchful gate guards and you are treated to this rare sight:

NO PRICES!!  Whatever you want, handed over without a single debit swipe.  And you know what this means.  Bottomless Diet Coke.  200+ mile drive now = totally worth it. 

The game was amazing.  Hearing those same chants from fifteen years ago in a crowd of 20ish now roared by a mob of over 36,000... pretty surreal.  Just watching those athletes makes me exhausted.  They are running up and down that field NON-STOP for 45 minutes each half.  And not just running.  Kicking.  Jumping.  Hurling balls with their heads!  Maybe I should take a walk or something.  Apparently the human body is made for more than inhaling free hot dogs.  Hmm.  I have not considered this much.

After triumphing over Toronto, we headed back to meet Mom in Sumner.  It's the cute artsy, folksy, antiquey small town downtown street that I've yet to find an Oregon equivalent for.  To celebrate wonderful Halloween decorations, they have a harvest event with dancing scarecrows and free apple cider, which seemed reason enough to come down.  I wasn't too floored by the Halloween decor (what is with this year?!  Target sucks, Cost Plus sucks, even Crate & Barrel's seasonal stuff blows).  But I did spot the most unique kitchen decoration I've ever seen, which I'm currently obsessively in love with. 

It's a vintage cafe pie display. Complete with little pie tins.  I stared at it.  I drooled.  I thought about the pie candles I currently have underneath a cloche at home, which would fit absolutely perfectly inside.  I snapped and sent the phone pic to Matt, angling away from the $220 price tag (marked down from $300!).

"What is that?"

"A vintage pie display?"

"What are you supposed to do with it?"

"Put it in the kitchen!"


"No one else would have one!!"

I'll let him think about it a minute.

We left Sumner pie turnerless, but it was okay.  Because it was time for Enumclaw Chinese!  I don't know why I love it so much; it's just the stuff I grew up on.  Before I was introduced to SinJu sushi and Pok Pok Thai, this was eating out Asian.  All the old-school favorites, like technicolor Sweet and Sour Chicken and fat, flaky egg rolls.  But it's also home to an almost-extinct dish that we'd always get: Almond Chicken.  A katsu-style fried chicken with a sort-of peanut sauce gravy and little chopped almonds. Why is it so good?  I have no idea.  But that's kind of the whole thing about coming home, anyway.  Buckley isn't exactly the most amazing destination, but with my favorite people in the world and reveling in the past and present good times we've had together, there's nothing I crave more.

I'm pretty sure the place used to be a Polynesian restaurant, because it's done in 50's Enchanted Tiki Room decor with a couple of Chinese lanterns thrown in to remind us that we'll be eating chow mein.  The totem lamps remind me of Disneyland which is, of course, a whole other trove of personal nostalgia. 

For my early-birthday, which is the best of both worlds because I get to eat and open presents without actually being 20-fucking-6 yet, we ordered the sprawling family meal with egg drop soup, barbecued pork, fried prawns, chow mein, fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, and the obligatory almond chicken.  This was also a great treat for Matt, since there is no way 3 people could EVER polish this all off and he got a bag stuffed with leftovers.  Being able to order and enjoy these edible memories makes me feel closer to the home I'm almost constantly away from.  It's still up the road, I can still get in my car and, with enough time and patience, be enjoying dinner in Enumclaw with my mom and dad.

In my absence from Washington state, my mom has become a cake sensei.  She's always made fabulous desserts, but now her cakes are growing to the stuff of extended-family-and-friend legend.  For me, she baked a scratch Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Icing.  I could barely eat half a piece after gorging my way across the table, but the light cake, echoing notes of cocoa, danced off the tangy icing like a 50's fairy tale.  I brought home 2 pieces along with the Chinese for Matt, which was absolutely not enough.  Oh!  And I made a wish and got to open presents, just like I was 5.  Being 5 is fun.  Although 26 was calling, and I had to go back to Portland, work, chores, obligations, homework, bills and general sad times after breakfast on Sunday with my little sister. 

The truth is, I could have been up there eating a Ziploc full of Cheerios and been having the best weekend ever.  That's the thing about food - it's not really the thing, is it?


  1. When did you become so wise? "Thats the thing about food-its not really the thing, is it?" We loved having you home, as always. Glad you had fun too.

  2. I'm Sounders 'til I die
    I'm Sounders 'til I die
    I know I am, I'm sure I am
    I'm Sounders 'til I die

    Next year we can visit and watch the Sounders crush the Portland Timbers!

  3. I love the Four Seasons in Enumclaw, too!