Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Eastside extravaganza -- Garlic City Grocery

I had coffee with the lovely Traci Kelly the other day (the music Traci, not the art Traci, in case you were confused). We chitted and chatted and caught up -- and she let me know about a new East Tacoma grocery biz that just opened its young doors and seems to have so many good qualities you just want to pinch its cheeks with glee.

At the intersection of 56th & Pacific Avenue, the border between East and South (behind the Shucks and across from Jack in the Box), a plucky business endeavor mixes it up a bit with:

  • a lunch counter with BBQ, Indian food, Mexican, deli counter, desserts and so much more
  • an ice cream counter -- complete with giant bins of (I think I saw) Dryers (tacomamama, I better see you there)
  • luscious looking fresh fruit and veggies ... and plenty of eclectic options (beyond your apples, lettuce, tomato and other basics)
  • an espresso bar (they wanted to do a drive-thru, but ran into road blocks)
  • organic options (we hear veggies are coming, but we saw lots of organic "other" items, including a few wine options)
  • decent wine corner with decent prices (I nabbed a bottle of Ribbet Red by "Arrogant Frog" of France in honor of my visiting father-in-law, who all kidding aside seemed to get a kick out of it)
  • eclectic grocery mix -- enough to get the staples if you're in the neighborhood, plus some "extras", I honestly don't know how they get all the great options ... and more coming ... into the place, but they do. And I guess Stadium Thriftway does it, so I look forward to seeing what happens over the coming months.
A little disclaimer ... this place is lovely, with intensely wonderful potential, and the fact that it's there is HUGE for the neighborhood, especially since it's open until 10 p.m. (I think). However, it's very, very new. They're still working out some quirks. They're still looking for input. So I highly encourage heading over for the lunch special, a coffee drink, an ice cream cone, some grocery items, a good bottle of wine, a mop if you're so in the need, or so much more. Just remember, look with appreciative eyes. The flowers and cards are coming, new tables are coming, and so much more. And they want to hear what their customers want. This is local folks ... so go buy, tell them what you'd like to buy, and watch this place bloom into the place you know it could be ... and will be.

Incredible, Edible ... Infinite Soups!

Typically, I think of soup as a thing to be had with sandwiches. However, while wandering through the Farmer's Market last week, my mind was changed.

There, toward the end of my meandering early-lunch walk through the recently opened Farmer's Market was an unassuming stand. No pushing. No shoving. A steady stream of people wandering over to sample warm and yummy soups on a lovely spring day. I was short on cash. But ran into Morgan who was sampling a mushroomy nummy taste sensation. Well, my buddy and I decided we should sample the wares as well. My lovely pal got a scrumptious bite of baked potato soup, complete with sour cream on top. Heaven. I said "surprise me" and I believe got some chicken curry. Super heaven.

While my buddy and I had already collected our lunch moments earlier, we knew we'd be back. I felt guilty at first, but not when I sent my coworker back a little later and she came back sadly saying they were all sold out. I figure my neglect that day allowed someone else a little bliss.

The next day, I decided it was time to actually hand them some money. I couldn't wait a week. So I trekked up to 445 Tacoma Avenue to Infinite Soups, located next door to City Lights, a little NW of downtown. This time, I ordered the chicken and artichoke -- near heaven. This particular dish was a little salty for my taste, but artichoke things seem to be on the salty side -- at least for me. And I know what I had at Farmer's Market wasn't too salty, so perhaps it was a fluke. No matter, it was still tasty. And for $3.50 for the medium to-go box, plus $0.40 for a roll -- I was good to go, and full, for under $5. Now that's what I call lunch.

I hear the way to go is to get two $2 soups so that you get to try two different ones. Which sounds like a good idea, because the menu was dizzying. There's meat and nonmeat, vegan and vegetarian, hot and cold (probably see more of those as the weather heats up I'm guessing) options. And several options under each of those categories. And those options shift from day to day. Who knew soup could be so diverse -- and filling -- and economical.

Here's to Infinite Soups having some infinite success.

Friday, May 18, 2007

They got obliterated, but won us over ...

We went to our first Tacoma Rainiers game tonight. We witnessed the slaughter -- and walked away with the grand slam ball the other team sent over the fence to kick off the eventual 12-o defeat of our local Rainiers baseball team.

Back in my softball days, they would have stopped the game at inning 7 if one team was 10 runs ahead of the other.

However, as insane as the score was -- it was still a fabulous time. As someone who had never been to Cheney Stadium, never been to Giant Insurance Company field -- I really enjoyed myself.

Anyhow, I'm happy to report that there's no bad seat in the house at Cheney, so even my 2-year-old daughter was boogeying her butt off like a wannabe cheerleader and yelling "hit!" "throw the ball!"

My 4-year-old son spent the whole game in bliss that we had a game ball in hand before we even got to our seats (it landed in front of us on our way in -- I'm thinking I'm glad we got a little lost finding parking after running into a full parking lot). He even got it signed by two Rainiers -- but didn't bother to mention which ball it was. My son is just thrilled to have a ball -- and is currently dreaming of someday being a batter baseball player. (Yes, I said BATTER ...)

My 6-year-old daughter, whose elementary school we were there with, was pretty quiet throughout the whole thing, but definitely concentrating, and pleased when her principal came by taking pictures of all the kids. And LOVED the fireworks. And the cotton candy. And then chatted our ears off on the way back to the car.

They all loved watching Rhubarb's antics.

Did I mention the fireworks? The fireworks were all the splendor and spectacle that the game was not tonight -- though on that side of things, I figure this means that future games we go to can't get any worse! I was assured by our seat mates that the lackluster performance was not the norm. But there was plenty of fire and pep in the fireworks!

In the end, the score didn't matter so much. We all walked away happy -- and pledging to come back time and time again. Which, in our playbook, is a big win for the Rainiers.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

So full ...

I was tempted to cancel our reservations. Half our dining party changed their minds, the kids have been sick all week, we day-tripped to Oregon yesterday, even Grandma was too sick to go, it was the afternoon and the kids were cranky -- but I'm oh so glad we actually drug ourselves out of the house and over to Stadium Bistro's special Mother's Day feast. To say the least, it was divine. And I say that having brought three children with him (all 6 & under) who managed to behave even when admittedly a little bored at times as there weren't any crayons or coloring paper or balloons or other affectations that make them beg and plead to go to the Ram or Red Robin or McDonald's. But that's kind of why we were there. It was Mother's Day, not Tiny Children Day. And despite having missed naps and performed their hearts out in the spring play at church that morning, the kids were fabulous. And I have to say, for a restaurant that has white linen on the tables ("that's why we have a linen service" said the kind waitress as my 2-year-old dripped tomato bisque all over the crisp whiteness), there was some fabulously kid-friendly menu items. The bumpkins, even my picky diva 6-year-old, were quite satisfied with the grilled cheese sandwiches (artisan bread and Irish cheddar, I believe) and GIANT (and cool-shaped) bowls of tomato soup followed by some nice kid AND adult friendly prawns. (Lots of flavor and much to be appreciated in the nuances, but not so much to turn off the kiddie taste buds, if you know what I mean.) One of the adults joined in on the grilled cheese and tomato (the rest of us sampled from the kids') while the rest of us enjoyed spectacular goat cheese salads, or my yummy delight -- the scallops with artichokes and some sort of thinly-sliced yummy ham-like meat underneath. For the main course, the grownups oohed and aaahed over hearty servings of steak, lamb, prawns (same dude who ordered the grilled cheese and tomato, me thinks he'll always be a kid at heart), and a taste-bud-sensation ham entree for yours truly. The side dishes were served family style, with the thinnest of asparagus cooked in fabulous stuff, mashed potatoes that made everyone very very happy, and some baby carrots and leeks to round out the dining experience. (Some folks eyed the brussel sprouts on the menu, as the way they were prepared did sound delightful to even cabbage-haters like me, but we decided to be more group friendly.) Desserts -- oh, shall we just say divine. The do spectacular work with their desserts. I had the strawberry chocolate cake, something I hesitated at because I'm used to chocolate cake not being good -- too, well, blah. It's usually some tasteless airy thing. But this, this was a piece of heaven. Closer to a dense brownie, but that doesn't even justifiably describe it. My kids kept begging for the "frosting," but were quite happy with their little papaya and ice-cream mix that the folks in the kitchen whipped together to keep the youngun's happy. And the other three grownups went ga-ga over the tiny tarts that were backed with plenty of taste. My the end of the 2-plus-hour meal, the 4-year-old was asleep on me, the 2-year-old was trying to run out the front door but was soon distracted by a 1-1/2-year-old at another table, and the 6-year-old was drawing pictures and surprisingly still awake considering we gave her Benadryl right before we left (a wasp stung her just as we were walking out the door -- did I mention I was tempted to cancel?) Oh, and the kids were really excited to see their dentist there. (I consider that a good sign -- they were really excited, not running in fear.)

Anyhow, a highly recommended locale. And as they like to say, don't let the white tablecloths scare you. Though probably a great place for adults only, the kids can handle it, too ... though I recommend bringing paper and crayons just in case.

And while I was dreading what the afternoon could have wrought (remember, three tired recently sick kids in a restaurant that has more than one fork) -- it was a great meal, and great family time. I should have guessed that any day would be great that begins with my son running down the stairs exclaiming "I can't believe it's already Mother's Day" as he rushes to get the Mother's Day present he's been hiding, and all the children pile onto the couch with me to open them.

It was a lovely day.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Glad it's there when we need it

Tacoma is a great place to live. Great parks, great shops, great schools -- and great hospitals. Thanks to a 4-year-old who apparently inherited my asthma but to a boy (worse) degree (apparently boys' respiratory pieces -- don't ask me terminology -- are narrower than girls', so they are more likely to be more affected by a predisposition to asthma). Twice last year the brave boy spent multiple nights at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital. Including one stay that began during the big fall rains that closed Highway 16 for part of a day, stranding a very worried mommy in Bremerton. (Goes to show I just shouldn't leave Tacoma, eh? I know all the alternate routes around here ...) And while I wish we didn't know this so well, the folks at Mary Bridge are wonderful. Tonight my son got to venture to another cadre of talent, Group Health headquarters, for what we thought was another asthma attack. But, no, it's croup. Croup? I thought that was something you only read about in old novels, like Anne of Green Gables. But no. He has croup. And the youngest girlie-girl might have it too. But little guy and his daddy are at the hospital -- thankfully only a short breathless drive away. The girls and I are getting ready for bed. And as I cross my fingers and pray that this isn't an overnight stay for the missing munchkin, I'm also relieved that he's near by and under the care of some talented folks. And so a shout out to our local health care providers -- thanks for all you do.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Broadway (street) bound! But are we ready?

Looks like the recently empty space on Broadway, a couple doors down from Tully's, won't be empty for long. A South Sound native son has big ideas for that site -- and hopes we're ready for them. I hope we are, too.

The plan is for a gallery. And yes, we are lucky to have several running through downtown and throughout the city. But this young man has set his sights high and wants to rival New York or San Francisco galleries with big names, big opportunities and eclectic sensibilities. And he'd be in good company. At this pace, I won't have to wonder much longer what's going to happen when the antiques on Antique Row are a thing of the past ... it's quickly turning into a neighborhood of quality, yet accessible boutique shops -- and galleries.

This local boy is making good.

Will we do right by him?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Is it Greek to you?

I've been wandering Tacoma for more than a decade, driving up and down 6th Ave perhaps gabillions of times, and only this week did I stop at the little white and blue drive-thru at the horrid 5-way Sprague intersection. I'm happy to report that "It's Greek to Me" is no longer Greek to me. If you haven't yet tried it, go. Inexpensive, fast, really yummy and way outside the burger-box fast food is to be had within these walls. Dine in, dine outside, head through the drive through (it's fast), call ahead ... whatever suits your boot. I stuck with just a chicken gyro, as I was on a get-as-close-to-$5 budget as I could, and it definitely rang in at under $6. And was sooooo yummy. And was not McDonald's. I love seeing that you can get fries, OR roasted potatoes, OR rice as a side. How phenomenal! How somewhat healthy! They claim their pizza is the best in town ... I think I'll have to take them up on that challenge sometime this year.

I gotta say, I have no idea what stopped me from stopping here before. I'm guessing fear of the unknown. I don't know what I thought ... I'd heard good things, I was intrigued, and yet I never stopped.

In all honesty, I think I was afraid that it was just too good to be true.

I'm happy to report that it's good. It's true.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


While today's adventurous weren't as rambunctious as I'd hoped due to sick and tired (literally) munchkins, I did made it to the Proctor Farmers Market where I found some lovely apples, asparagus, rhubarb, flowers and -- BREAD! Says Upper Crust Bistro folks, "We do more than pizza." Normally found at 2714 N. 21st St., Upper Crust had a stand at the farmer's market where they were peddling their wares, specifically sandwiches and goodies and BREAD. It was toward the end of the market hours and there wasn't a ton left, but I made off with a scrumptious looking green olive and feta focaccia loaf. Other folk walked by telling them that they'd be back with more money next week for some more of the yummy sandwiches they had on hand. It was a nice sight, especially since the blogs and coffee shops have been full of people bemoaning the lack of fresh bread locations within the city limits aside from Safeway. And according to Upper Crust's card, they do dine in, take out, catering and the whole bakery thing. Now, if only they had a website, I'd so link to it ...

Friday, May 04, 2007

What a burger, what a price

I'd heard rumors of one of Tacoma's best burgers being sold for a near McDonald's price, and WAY less than a Red Robin tab. So last week when I realized I needed to grab dinner downtown, I decided it was time to see for myself and headed down the block to Paddy Coyne's for one of their well-reviewed cheese burgers, and all I can say is -- wow.

Strangely, they're somewhat similar to the burgers my fabulous husbands creates. The secret? Good stuff. From bun to meat to trimmings. Great stuff, actually.

I'll start with the bun. A square, kind of rustic roll. Thinner than what you'll find in Metropolitan Market's bread department, but definitely thick enough. Not too squishy, not too crusty. Lightly toasted and (I think) lightly spread with butter ... and a moderate amount of spread that I think is Thousand Island dressing. Enough to taste; but not so much it's swimming and dripping on your shirt.

Then there's the meat. A nice-sized patty that's juicy and greasy enough that you know you're eating a scrumptious burger, without swimming in it. The cheese on top -- choose from swiss, white cheddar or pepper corn -- adds to the ooey, gooey goodness.

And between meat and bun of perfection is a generous amount of lettuce and tomato. I'm not sure if the lettuce was iceberg ... it didn't look like it, but if it was, it was impressive iceberg. It looked too green for iceberg though.

Why is it the perfect burger? Because it's not overdone. It's simple, and thus perfect. In fact, it's a burger you can moan and groan over, but not feel overly guilty. You feel like you're eating real food, not just grease and fat. It's a true great hamburger that is sustenance in addition to a taste-bud sensation.

Oh, and if you eat it during happy hour (4-6 and 10-midnight) it's just $4.50. Add an extra buck if you want fries. (Haven't tried those, but I hear the fries, potato skins and and steak-night specials -- on Mondays -- are also phenomenal.)

Basically, if you're in the mood for a hamburger that's worth it -- head to Paddy's. And if you hit happy hour, you'll be even happier still.

Thanks, Paddy. You make me proud to claim Irish in my ancestry.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Things are hopping in Tacoma, and near-Tacoma

I am pleased to report that the Presidents of the United States of America are headed to near-T-town, performing live at Pacific Lutheran University's Olson Auditorium this Friday. I'm sad to report that I've used up my fun-without-kids time for a few weeks, so I will be lusting after that concert as I did the David Sedaris appearance at the University of Puget Sound last night -- from afar.

Oh the memories.

While a student at PLU, working for the student paper, we cranked up PUSA songs to get us through a night of no sleep. OK, at times, three nights of no sleep in a row. (By the way, to all my one-time professors, I do apologize for any crossing-eyes, random crying in the back row or otherwise passing out in class. I've since learned that sleep is a very, very good thing.) ... Then there was a Seattle appearance by Bill Clinton, introduced by the Posies and backed by PUSA. ... There was that internship where one of the newbie reporters was running out that day to buy a newly released PUSA album, and I was able to toss him enough money to snag me one, too. In a bad mood? Feeling a little sluggish? A bit bored? The Presidents can snap you out of that funk.

Me thinks I know the next "my day" album I'll be introducing the kiddos to. And me thinks they'll be boogie-ing in no time flat.

So while this Friday might be movie night in the basement for the family, followed by a day of native plant shopping, heading to the Proctor Farmer's Market on foot/bike and trying to hit the safety fair at Foss High School -- I think we'll be cranking up some PUSA music in honor of memories.

I'll honor lessons learned by getting some sleep.