The Tidbit Memoirs:
Brief Recollections from the Early Days of the Northwest's Food Revolution
Here’s a taste of some of the more memorable Northwest dining moments in no particular order other than chronologically from memory…
Having sukiyaki prepared table side by a geisha waitress in our own private tatami room on my 12th birthday at the Bush Gardens in Portland’s Chinatown.
Having fried won ton for the first time at the Jade West in Portland.
My parents ordering me a “Volcano” mocktail with dry ice at the Sheraton’s Kon-Tiki near the
Lloyd Center (the competition in the day to Trader Vic’s at the Benson Hotel downtown).
Having spaghetti with clam sauce among all the exposed brick at the first Old Spaghetti Factory located in Portland and thinking how hip and sophisticated it seemed, like something out of San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square.
Having coconut crusted chicken served by kimono-clad waitresses at the Polynesian restaurant, located at the end of Seattle’s Pier 51 where you could watch the ferries coming in at night, lit up like floating birthday cakes.
Having my first escargot downstairs at the Brasserie Pittsbourg restaurant after doing the Underground Tour, when Pioneer Square seemed both sophisticated and exotic.
Dining on chicken ala king when Sunday brunch was still a formal affair in Seattle and the high court was the dining room at Frederick & Nelson, with acres of ‘blue hairs’ slowly getting high on bottomless glasses of champagne.
Having chicken teriyaki for the first time at Toshi’s while visiting my older brother at Seattle University.
Ordering poached baby trout from the ‘live tank’ in the kitchen at Robert Rossellini’s restaurant, The Other Place on my high school prom night in ‘78 (we drove from Olympia to Seattle and back just to have the experience and were late to the prom but who cares).
Having my first fresh spinach salad at Terry Avenue Freight House near the tracks down in the Lake Union warehouse district.
Having my first taste of roasted parsnips and rutabagas served on ‘The Farmer’s Plank’ at the Cascade Room in the Tacoma Mall, when you still got dressed up to go shopping and fine dining was still an option at the mall.
Having burnt cream for the first time at Clinkerdagger, Bickerstaff and Pett’s on Ruston Way in Tacoma where the wait staff wore period garb including knickerbockers to complete the old English motif.
Eating duck a l’ orange at Le Tastevin in Lower Queen Anne before walking a few blocks to the Seattle Opera when Glynn Ross still ran the show.
Talking the owner of a restaurant in Vancouver BC’s china town into feeding us all for $5 a head (Canadian!) the night our punk band played the Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret and ending up with chicken neck soup.
Having lemon chicken at the Russian Samovar restaurant in the Loveless Building on Capitol Hill, behind the leaded-glass windows and beneath the 1930’s hand painted murals adapted from illustrations of a Pushkin fairy tale.
Celebrating Thanksgiving in the Emerald Room atop the Space Needle of all places.
Dining at the original Red Robin at the south end of University Bridge, when a ‘gourmet burger’ was actually a unique concept.
Having warm sourdough bread served on a hot marble brick at Jake O'Shaughnesseys in the Hansen Baking Co. complex before catching a Tony Award winning play across the street at the Seattle Rep’s old digs (now The Intiman).
Dining on trout almondine at the Manresa Castle in Port Townsend while the family vacationed at the officer’s quarters at Fort Worden State Park during the filming of a low budget movie called “An Officer and a Gentlemen”.
Dining on Long Beach at “The Ark” and “The Shelburne Inn” when they first opened and something interesting culinary-wise had finally made it to the Washington coast.
Having a square crepe as big as your head at Crepe de Paris at the base of the Rainier Square building.
Sipping warm brandy in the Loft Bar at the Ocean Crest Resort in Moclips, watching through the skylights a winter storm crashing overhead.
Watching my brother get ‘the look’ from Dad after ordering a pricey drink at the Attic Lounge at the Salishan Lodge on the Oregon coast.
Watching the sunset and the ferries on Elliott Bay over a Mount Gay rum with OJ at Place Pigalle after its transformation from a gritty Market tavern.
Having sushi for the first time in one of the few places it was available in Seattle, Maneki in the International District (where Shiro Kashiba got his start).
Having tarragon roasted chicken at Mrs. Malias on 2nd Avenue downtown Seattle (now The Met).
Having pressed Peking duck at the venerable Trader Vic’s at the Westin twin towers and being surprised when it closed suddenly.
Having a Maker’s Mark “neat” in the bar at F.X. Mcrory’s, touting “the world’s largest collection of bourbons” underneath the Leroy Neiman paintings of the Seahawks that made the nearby Kingdome seem glamorous.
Riding my bike in the rain to classes at the U of Dub and grabbing some fish cakes at the University Seafood & Poultry and eating them on the spot for a quick protein shot.
Dining on chicken in caper sauce right before Stan Getz took the stage at the old Jazz Alley on “the Ave” in the University District with white linen and exposed pipes; ending the meal with coffee flavored Haagen-Dazs before either fine ice cream or coffee were common place indulgences in Seattle.
Picking remnants off the cookie sheets all night as a dishwasher (unemployed law grad) at the B&O Espresso on Capitol Hill; watching the crowds come in every evening to carefully eye the desserts and coffee options and discuss the movies they’d just seen at the Harvard Exit.
Hosting a really nice wedding ceremony and reception for all my friends and family at Stuart Anderson’s penthouse apartment at his flagship restaurant on Shilshole Bay and spending only $250 on the food bill.
Before air travel became Greyhound with wings, dining at The Carvery at SeaTac with its red velvet walls, punch leather booths and faux British heraldry and spotting Steve Allen across the room, dining alone with a bowl of chowder, sporting a blazer and ascot tie.
Having a midnight omelet at Charlie’s on Broadway after a night of bar hopping.
Having squid ink black pasta in the Pavilion Tent Room at the original Broadway Restaurant when the Broadway district was a destination locale with a number of remarkable restaurants from which to select.
Dining on mussels in heavy cream while the house talent performed spot-on Billy Joel covers at the art deco piano bar at Henry’s Off Broadway’s on Capitol Hill.
Having the Wednesday burger and a beer special at The Deluxe on Broadway before the remodel when it felt like a holdover from the ‘Harvey Milk’ era of Capitol Hill.
Dining with the mafioso types at Franco’s Hidden Harbor on Lake Union.
Having a long dinner in the very quiet dining room served by the very polished, knowledgeable, but somehow unpretentious, staff of Fuller’s located at the downtown Sheraton. Enough said.
Meeting my family for a drink at Canlis (because we couldn’t afford the dining room) and having all three cars we arrived in magically waiting for us at the entrance when we all emerged haphazardly from the bar.
Taking the elevator ride up to the top of ‘the black box the space needle came in’ to have drinks at the Mirabeau before it closed.
Sitting in the Twin Tepees on Aurora watching the First Gulf War break out on the TV’s above the bar.
Pissing off the old waitresses at Vito’s on Capitol Hill when my brother and I were celebrating a good gig for our band by ordering double martini’s when they were already bathtub sized and stiff as hell
Spreading roasted garlic and taramosalata on crostini at The Adriatica on Dexter Avenue overlooking Lake Union before the office buildings got in the way.
Spending one more late night in the bar at the back of The Dog House restaurant listening to Dick Dickerson lead ancient patrons in a singalong to obscure songs from the 1920’s.
Boondock’s, Sundeckers and Greenthumbs on Broadway - can’t remember for the life of me what I had there but it was another one of the silly long-named restaurants of the day and where chef
Douglas got his start to help usher in the next phase of the revolution.
Walking past the original El Gaucho downtown, with its eternal flaming brochette held by one arm hanging above the entrance, and wishing I had ventured in before it closed.