Wednesday, June 29, 2011
I woke up early in a room that was balls hot and smelled like the inside of a sweaty ear. A quick websearch the night before for the best breakfast in the area gave me a few suggestions, but one stood out more than the others; Lowell’s is located inside of the Pike Market itself, and if you sit on the third floor, it offers you a view of the Puget Sound. The food was supposed to be excellent, too, with the Crab Cake Benedict getting special attention. I showered and tried to grab my belongings as quietly as possible, then grabbed a quick bite at the Hostel, because I figured I owed it to myself as well as you, dear readers, to sample any breakfast available. It was very DIY, with a couple dozen eggs in the kitchen, and fruit, bread, and jam set up on the table. Knowing I was on my way to a meal, and being fairly lazy, I had a couple bits of fruit and some toast.
Then I made my way across the street to a Starbucks. I mistook the Starbucks across the street for the First Starbucks, about two blocks down, and made myself a promise that it would be the only Starbucks I visit on this trip. Having a fresh cup of coffee to consume before I got breakfast, I explored the Market and the Waterfront a little bit. I discovered the Market is a little tricky in that there doesn’t seem to be a way through it to the other side, so if you end up behind it, then you must circumvent it entirely to get around to the front. It also sits on a steep hill, so getting back around to the front involves a lot of stairs. My calves are now full grown bulls. The Market itself is fun and beautiful, very busy with singing, fish tossing, workers; lots of local and tourist customers; tons of enormous seafood; and lots of fun, hanging neon signs.
Lowell’s is funny in that it looks like a free-standing restaurant that the Market has grown up around, with its own distinct façade. Despite the recommendation of the internet to get the Crab Cake Benedict, I decided on the Hangtown Scramble which sold me on being local, and even more than that, a little weird; fried Northwest oysters, green onion, parmesan cheese,and hickory smoked bacon all scrambled up. Having had my coffee fix, I topped it off with an orange juice. A tiny, tiny orange juice. (to be fair, it turned out to be a completely sufficient amount of juice). The view was gorgeous, and I was asked by a couple from Texas if I knew “what the Sound (was),” as they read they would have a view of it, but apparently had no idea what they were looking for. I got to play a little tour guide and historian, regurgitating the history of the Sound I’d heard on the train ride up, and pointing out the Starbucks Headquarters.
It was a fun, sort of touristy way to start the vacation, and a good way to fuel up for a huge, rampagin’ day ahead. The décor was a fairly quaint, Wharf-y, Fish Market feel (surprise!), not unlike 60% of the restaurants along the San Francisco waterfront. Paintings of the Market itself, chalk drawings on the menu, etc. The real décor is the windows, and the city itself. The service was nice enough, and obviously used to dealing with tourists, as they were quick to explain exactly how the service works; the second floor is table service, whereas the first and third floors you order at the register, and find your own table.
Food: 7/9 pts
Bathroom: 2/5 pts.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
This morning found me in a train, tracing the Sacramento River north towards Mt. Shasta. After boarding the train at around 1 AM, it had been a very cold and fitful night of trying to sleep on the floor of the Sightseer car. I’m not built for travel (or rather, travel isn't built for me; it's built for people seven inches shorter than me), exactly, and although I was fortunately placed behind whatever the train equivalent of a bulkhead is, sleeping near vertical next to a stranger was a pretty unlikely scenario.
5 AM brought the first slivers of daylight, illuminating a beautiful forest, the first shadows of Shasta, and the ice cold Sacramento, Six AM brought sweet, sweet coffee. Still a little groggy from the melatonin I’d taken to ward off restlessness, I picked up a coffee, a sausage sandwich, and a cinnamon bun. None of the food was sensational, but the view made up for it. The Sightseer car reminds me of the vehicles of Jurassic Park; automated with large viewing glass.
Almost immediately after finishing this little breakfast and stowing most of my belongings, I stumbled into the dining car, and sat down for a real breakfast. I sat by myself at the first table I came to, then was admonished that it was communal seating, and was sat next to a pair of elderly Roberts. The man to my right was a pungent 82 year old, a former teacher at the University of Washington and halfway houses. He was quick to inform you that he was not judgmental, not anymore, although he didn’t understand how men he admired (a category which seemed to include me, and, indeed, most other men) for their physical advantages in our society would end up in jail. He also mentioned a number of times that he’d had a hard life.
Well, I ordered the Rail Way French Toast, forgoing the additional three dollar “breakfast meat,” despite how tasty that phrasing sounded (does that read sarcastically? Because it should). The other Robert takes twenty-day train trips once every couple of years, and seemed to be well versed in the schedule. He was very sharp, and definitely seemed like the type of guy I wouldn’t mind sharing a train ride with. He also ordered the French Toast, so he obviously was of substantial merit. We briefly discussed a number of things, that sort of “light conversation” that so rarely seems to exist nowadays unless it’s the person ringing you up, and I enjoyed my French Toast. Again, it’s a meal that’s obviously not worth the ticket price alone, but given that it’s essentially lower-altitude airplane food, it was pretty darn good.
One of our topics of conversation was drug abuse in the younger generation. Teacher Robert related a story about asking a young man he admired why he turned to drugs; the young man answered that he essentially had no choice, that was the environment he lived in. Teacher Robert didn’t judge this. Other Robert, who it turns out works as a counselor, explained that there is a choice, and that it’s fairly simple; addiction (ie; death) or life. When the train pulled into Klamath Falls (where I write this now), they both hurried off so that they might have their smoke break. Ah, irony.
It seems a little unfair to pit the train against my rating system, since I severely doubt anyone is going to be taking the train simply to eat. If you do, then you're obviously not going to care about my opinion, anyway!
Saturday, June 25, 2011
A garage sale last weekend kept me from my initial plan of a little local coffee shop exploration, but I'm typing this from Naked Lounge, enjoying a much of coffee and a lemon poppyseed muffin. I've previously noted in this blog that Naked Lounge did not have the best facilities for long-term computer work. That's all changed! In this brave new world, they've installed tables that are much easier to work at, a long bench, and lots of outlets. It might be a little less boheme -- although there are still a few comfy old couches -- but it is much easier to hang out for several hours and get some solid work done! I took a Food Handler's Certification test for work, and tried to work out a couple schedule kinks for my upcoming week.
I'm departing at midnight tonight, and then taking the train up to Seattle and Portland for some much needed R&R. It's been a heavy couple of months, and despite some last-minute vacation plan changes, I'm really excited about my Pacific Northwest adventure! I'm looking forward to, among other things, trying breakfast in some new and unusual locations, so please keep those little lookballs peeled for some updates to this page in the coming days as the Morning Constitutional engages in its first trip outside its home city. Gastronomic adventures await!
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
I had this Thursday off, so I sauntered down to Tower for a mid week breakfast. Their weekday breakfast menu isn't nearly as extensive as their weekend brunch menu, but it's still full of delicious selections; I tried a new Baja Crab Omelette that was really good. In all honesty, I wasn't in the best of moods, but sitting outside on the patio helped clear my head a little. After an unseasonably cold and rainy late Spring, it seems June is here with a vengeance!
Then last Saturday, I went back to Tower to fuel up for the Third Annual Hunt the Grid, bicycle-centric scavenger hunt put together by the Sacramento Bike Kitchen. My breakfast buddy John and I had compete its inaugural year, and had an insane amount of fun. We put together a lean, mean, bicyclin' team pulled from some of our compatriots at the CalStage Clubhouse, an improv workshop run by two of the most talented women in Sacramento.
Well, actually, I'm not sorry. Because due to our hard pedallin', fast thinkin', and Grid knowledge, we came in Third Place! It was a lot of fun, and every team member definitely had their shining moment. We even ended with a twenty-block race against the clock at the end, but still came out ahead of most of the thirty other teams! We got a bunch of cool swag, but most importantly, had a ton of fun. It's an interested way to explore the city, and see it in ways you hadn't thought of before!
I'm planning a vacation at the end of the month, so I'll be taking it a little easy on breakfast the next couple of weeks to help save the scratch. So you can look forward to my notes on local coffeeshops as I grab some coffee, a pastry, and blog from the table!
And then; Morning Constitutional's first road trip!
Saturday, June 4, 2011
Ashley and I tried to embark down to Old Town for a Rio City Cafe brunch, after dropping a friend off at work for a little later start than usual. The weather has continued to be "underable," a strangely unpredictable mix of sunshine, rain, and the occasional tornado. What we didn't plan on as we drove down to the Old City was the annual Jazz Festival, jacking parking prices up to $8, and making navigation a pain in the collective arse. We decided to make back the way we came, and head to Orphan House instead for a late, dependably delicious breakfast.
Enjoying some more sunshine, and with the foot-given ability to bypass all that parking nonsense, I trekked back across town to enjoy the final breakfast destination in Old Town, the Rio City Cafe. The Jazz Jubilee was still ongoing, affording some interesting sights; some of Old Town and the Sacramento Historical Society's re-enactors were wandering about, alongside a lot of middle aged men in flag shirts (Jazz = America). There were tents set up everywhere for different stages, and signs hung about delineated the different stages and "backstage" areas, giving the familiar blocks a slightly surreal backlot quality.
Rio City has an awesome patio overlooking the river and bridge, just... upstream(?) from the Delta King. It was really windy, so I had to weight down my menus with the sugar ramekin so it wouldn't fly into the river. This apparently is an ongoing problem there, and I saw one menu fly to freedom over the railing, while another pair seemed to attack their owner in a bid for escape. I noticed that these were special "Jazz Festival" menus, which seem to be essentially the same as the brunch menu posted on the website, except perhaps with a little less selection. I ordered a mocha, and listened the the bros and beezies behind me relive their drunken night before. Some highlights included;
"You were so drunk, you kept slapping me!"
"Yeah, when I get drunk, I tend to set people straight."
"You weren't setting me straight, you were just slapping me for no reason! It started to piss me off!"
Rio City Cafe
Food: 6/9 pts
Bathroom: 2/5 pts.