Saturday, April 6, 2019

The Pacific Seas Aquarium, Point Defiance Park

The Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium
If you are a water nut like I am, you're going to love a visit to the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium's new underwater playground, Pacific Seas Aquarium. 

Recently opened last fall on Sept. 7, 2018, this long-awaited addition to the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium is a thing of beauty and a treat for all ages.

The Pacific Seas Aquarium is one of two aquariums in the Point Defiance Zoo in Point Defiance Park, in the North End of Tacoma, WA. 

The South Pacific Aquarium, also on the Zoo grounds, is home to 16 sharks, stingrays you can cuddle, and a tropical lagoon. 

If you are a shark fan, this 225,000 gallon exhibit filled with sandbar sharks, blacktop reef sharks, nurse sharks, a sand tiger shark and a Japanese wobbegong is definitely the place to be.  The South Pacific  Aquarium has always been a favorite of mine, so I was anxious to see the new Pacific Seas Aquarium.

Pacific Seas Aquarium, Point Defiance Zoo
The Pacific Seas Aquarium has been thoughtfully designed to bring the viewer up-close and personal with many species of underwater dwellers, including a plethora of jelly fish displayed in an eye-popping display, turtles and sharks that float overhead in a water tunnel and floor to ceiling glass structures that give the natives plenty of room to roam. 

There's even a glass bubble filled with glowing, 
floating jellyfish. 

The Pacific Seas Aquarium was designed with a nod toward ocean conservation. Water in the aquarium is pumped directly up the hill from the Puget Sound, 
which is not all that far away. 

Through a complex system of pipes, the water is warmed and filtered. It flows nutrients over the animals, is treated, then flows back into the Sound with no pollution and no waste. Pretty awesome, right? 

And it wouldn't be a Point Defiance Aquarium if there wasn't space for a little human-fish interaction. The Pacific Seas Aquarium offers a hands-on, up-close experience for those brave souls who desire to stroke a bumpy sea star or the spiky skin of a sea urchin. 

The tidal pools are backed by a giant map of the Puget Sound and there's a comfy bench for weary parents. Children and adults alike will delight in this sensory experience and there's always a knowledgable staff person nearby to fill you in on the secret tidbits of tidal life.

Don't miss the fantastic sand sculpture on the zoo grounds designed and carved by sand artist, Jeff Strong. It is breath-taking!

Looking for a nice bite to eat nearby? My favorite is Anthony's which at the bottom of the hill at the Point Defiance Park entrance. Great fish and chowder. Just follow the ferry traffic and stay to the left. 

Oh, and one more thing, don't miss the multiple, beautiful  gardens when you visit Point Defiance Park! You'd better make a day of it!

April is Tulip Time at RoozenGaarde!

The Gardens at RoozenGaarde
If it's April in the Northwest, 
it's time to celebrate spring with a spectacular explosion of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and multitudinous flowering bulbs. 

You're in for a visual feast!

Just a quick trip north of Seattle 
on I-5 will bring you to the fertile farmlands of the Skagit Valley and nearby La Conner, where flowering bulbs are the stars of spring.

I visited the first week of April when the weather was beautiful and the bulbs were blooming at about 10%. Some varieties were in full bloom and others were holding out for a little more sunshine. The skies were clear and we had a full-on view of beautiful, snow-covered Mount Baker.

Hyacinth Bulbs
Sweet Hyacinths
One of the perks of visiting early in the festival was that the fields are blanketed in yellow and white from the gorgeous daffodils. So, you may not get the amazing array of colors that tulips famously give, but the sweetness in the air from hyacinths, daffodils and tiny muscari flowers (grape hyacinths) is heavenly!

After driving around the well-marked tulip route to take in the fields of daffodils, we headed for our favorite display gardens at RoozenGaarde

Fields of Daffodils at RoozenGaarde
RoozenGaarde is the grand dame of the tulip world. Established in 1985 by the Roozen family and the Washington Bulb Company, RoozenGaarde stands as the largest bulb company in the world, blanketing the fertile Skagit Valley with more than 1000 acres of field blooms and 16 acres of greenhouses. That's a lot of blooms! Flower varieties are labeled throughout the garden for easy ordering. Bulb catalogs are available throughout the garden. A discount is offered for orders placed at the gardens. RoozenGaarde is open from 9:00 am - 7:00 pm everyday throughout the Tulip Festival. there is an admission during the bloom period - $10.00 on weekends and $7.00 on weekdays ($1.00 off with Military ID) and did I mention that parking is FREE?

Every fall, the gardens at RoozenGaarde are planted with
RoozenGaarde Windmill, Skagit Valley
around 300,000 flowering bulbs in preparation for the spectacular early spring display. Visitors from all over the country and around the world visit these beautiful gardens to take in the flowers and gift shop. There is a convenient snack shop with espresso, fudge and ice cream, as well as tables and grassy lawns for a do-it-yourself picnic. 

Fields of Daffodils at RoozenGaarde, Skagit Valley
Guests are also welcome to stroll through the nearby flowering fields (it was all about daffodils when we visited) for a spectacular view of the acres of blooms. Make your plans for an overnight spring jaunt to the Skagit Valley during tulip time in April and you will have a lasting, colorful memory for a lifetime. 

RoozenGaarde is handicapped accessible and offers plenty of free parking. Flower varieties are labeled throughout the garden for easy ordering. Bulb catalogs are readily available and a discount is offered for orders placed at the gardens. 

RoozenGaarde is open from 9:00 am-7:00 pm everyday throughout the Tulip Festival. There is an admission during the bloom period - $10.00 on weekends and $7.00 on weekdays ($1.00 off with Military ID) and did I mention that parking is FREE? Nearby lodging and restaurants can be found in Mount Vernon and in the picturesque town of La Conner, WA. TIP - Beat the crowds and visit during the week!

Find more information about the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival on this link to their website.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Coastal Kitchen Restaurant on Capitol Hill

Try the Coastal Kitchen for Fresh Oysters or "Blunch" on Capitol Hill…

The Coastal Kitchen in Capitol Hill East.
When you think of inland 
Seattle restaurants, your first thought may not be 
fresh, local seafood, but the 
Coastal Kitchen at 429 15th Ave. East 
is sure to surprise you. 
This popular restaurant is dedicated to 
serving our favorite local cuisine. 
The Coastal Kitchen describes itself 
as having a 
attitude and is committed to 
sustainably-raised and wild-caught fish. 

That’s what we like to hear around the Northwest. We’ll go out of our way for conscientious purveyors of deliciously fresh seafood. 
And the Coastal Kitchen delivers on our lust for everything sea-related.

The Oyster Bar at The Coastal Kitchen.
 The newest addition to this comfortable restaurant is the stunning Oyster Bar with its distinctive menu items featuring fresh seafood sourced from local waters and around the country, prepared right in front of you, at the bar.
On a recent visit to this popular 
Capitol Hill restaurant, my friend and I found ourselves in the 
“Blunch” mood. 

Served from 8 am – 3 pm, Coastal Kitchen’s Blunch menu offers 
creative breakfast favorites from Gingerbread Pancakes 
to the Dungeness Crab Cakes Breakfast. 
There are so many tempting choices that one visit will definitely not satisfy your culinary curiosity.

The scramble was served with spicy hash browns – an interesting twist on a traditional comfort food. The spicy hash browns offered a very good combination of flavors with the eggs, ham and cheese.

My dining partner ordered a dish we only dream about - Croque-Madame. A griddled brioche with shaved Vande Rose Farms ham and gruyere cheese, topped with two over-easy eggs and citrus-b├ęchamel. 

Croque Madame at the Coastal Kitchen.
If you have ever had the chance to try the original French comfort foods – Croque-Madame and Croque Monsieur – you will know what I mean when I describe these simple, cheesy sandwiches as a taste of pure heaven. The Croque-Madame is a slightly hardier version of the basically cheesy Croque-Monsieur as it is topped 
with two over easy eggs.

My dining friend and I were fortunate enough to enjoy many of these simple, scrumptious sandwiches on a recent gastronomic tour of France. So we were thrilled to see Croque-Madame on the Coastal Kitchen menu and ordered it without hesitation. But that’s where the excitement stopped. 
The Coastal Kitchen version of this dish was a pale impersonator of the original. 

The bar at the Coastal Kitchen in Capitol Hill East.

A Little Disappointing...

We were disappointed that this version had little of the cheesy goodness we longed for. It primarily consisted of griddled brioche with thin layers of gruyere cheese and a citrus-bechamel sauce that was tangier than usual, infusing the dish with a tart lemon flavor that was distracting. 

My advice – steer clear of the Croque-Madame. Try it when you get to France and choose one of the other delicious dishes.

The Coastal Kitchen also has a great Happy Hour from 3pm to 6pm, and 10pm to midnight everyday featuring oysters for $1.25 a shot.

So, don’t hesitate to enjoy the coastal cuisine of this popular inland restaurant. Whether you stop in for their popular Blunch offerings or enjoy their sumptuous dinner menu, the Coastal Kitchen is sure to please your fresh and local palette.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Visit the New Seattle Center Armory -- Fresh, Local, Delicious Cuisine...

The Seattle Center House has received a much-needed facelift and you will hardly recognize her…

The New Seattle Center Armory

As a kid, in the years following the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle, the Center House was one of my favorite places to visit. The original food court was filled with exciting temptations from the cutting edge Orange Julius to the ever-popular MacDonald’s.

But over the past 50 years, time had taken its toll on the good, old Food Circus. The choices had become flat and predictable. It was uninspiring to wander through the food court and see that the once original and vibrant heart of the Seattle Center  had become a pale version of its former self.

The Food Circus is now The Seattle Center Armory...

I was thrilled to hear that the Center House Food Circus was getting a facelift. Not only a facelift, but a name change as well. The first floor of the Seattle Center House – the former Food Circus -- is now called the “Seattle Center Armory” after its origins as the Seattle Field Artillery Armory, built in 1939. 

The layout is much the same as the former Food Circus but the focus is now on fresh, local, healthy cuisine. I would describe the new style is “contemporary industrial chic”, if there is such a category. The Armory features warm, neutral colors with sleek stainless steel and light wood accents. And you can now enjoy your meal and view the Seattle Center from the new 60-foot outdoor deck.

The Plum Pantry at the Seattle Center Armory

A Delicious Lunch Venue...

On a recent visit, my friend and I chose to have our lunch at the vegan restaurant, Plum Pantry, a more portable version of the popular and delicious Plum Bistro in the Capitol Hill district on 12th Avenue. 

We found a Groupon offering a 2 for 1 meal deal at this popular vegan restaurant and that was enough to convince us to try the healthy cuisine.

Even if you do not adhere to a strictly vegan diet, (I lasted one week) at the several Plum restaurants you will find deliciously tempting offerings to satisfy even the most non-vegan palette. My lunch partner and I tried two of the “box lunches” – perfectly designed for eating in or taking out to a nice grassy spot on the Center grounds. 

Baked Tempeh Sandwich and Quinoa Wrap - Yummy!
I ordered the baked Tempeh Sandwich with grilled onions, avocado, tomato, cilantro and chipotle aioli on gluten free bread. I must tell you, it was delicious. 
The sandwich came with a mixed greens salad and choice of vegan dessert. My eating partner tried the Quinoa Wrap with Mama Africa mix, coriander pesto, fresh orange slices, avocado, mixed greens and grilled onions – yummy and satisfying.  I would highly recommend giving Plum Pantry at the Armory a try.

There are several other delicious-looking restaurants I want to experience on my next visits, such as Big Food Barbeque, Blue Water Taco Grill, Quincy’s and the Skillet Counter…. 

Bean Sprouts at the Seattle Center Armory
There’s even an adorable restaurant called “bean sprouts” that caters to the uniquely specialized tastes of children in highly creative ways that are sure to delight even your pickiest eaters.

The Armory Still Plays Host to Cultural and Special Events...

The Chinese Art and Culture Festival
Over 3000 free public performances occur in the 
Center House each year. 

We were fortunate enough to stop in while the Chinese Art and Culture Festival was underway.

Dancers getting ready to perform at the
Chinese Art and Culture Festival.
We enjoyed colorful dance performances on the central stage accompanied by authentic instrumentation. The event was certainly well received. There was standing room only.

Many local interests will be moving into the refurbished Center House in the near future, including a new home for Seattle’s progressive radio station, K-EXP.

Seattle's Best Damn Happy Hour
So, if you haven’t been interested in visiting the old Food Circus lately, you might be delightfully surprised at the results of this newest makeover. 

• Grab a healthy picnic lunch and enjoy the new deck. 

• Experience the multi-cultural festivities.

• Stop in for Seattle’s Best Damn Happy Hour. 

• Or just grab your favorite cup of coffee. 

We can all safely return to our beloved icon now, and enjoy a deliciously progressive future.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Spectacular Gardens of Point Defiance Park

A Diverse and Plentiful Garden Experience 

When you think of Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, you probably picture elephants, sharks and polar bears -- and for good reason. Point Defiance boasts a world-class zoo and aquarium that are well worth a good long visit. The 29-acre zoological park is the number 2 tourist destination in Pierce County, Washington, second only to Mount Rainier, and attracts over 700,000 visitors a year. (We’ll save a more detailed look at the wonderful zoo and aquarium for another post.) 

This post will introduce you to Point Defiance Park's magnificent display of gardens. 

The Iris Garden at Point Defiance Park

Welcome to Eight Unique and Beautifully Designed Gardens...

Did you know that the 700-acre Point Defiance Park, which offers spectacular views of Mount Rainier, the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound, is also the home of eight beautifully designed gardens that will be at the height of their blooming season throughout the next few months?

So, if you need a peaceful afternoon soaking in a little natural magnificence, I suggest you take a leisurely stroll through a few of the Point Defiance Gardens.

Here's What You Can See in the Point Defiance Gardens...

One of the beautiful varieties of Iris in the Iris Garden.
The Iris Garden -
 If you find the sweet scent of iris as delightful as I do, you will love sniffing your way through this lovely display of assorted and unique varieties. The Iris Garden contains 101 tall bearded iris, 80 Pacific Coast iris hybrids and 26 iris tectorum, all in assorted colors. 

During construction in 1992, cobblestones from old Tacoma streets were used for the garden walls. 

The garden site is comprised of five sections - one bed is dedicated to tall bearded iris, two beds to various median irises, one bed to beardless iris (Siberian and Pacific Coast iris), and there is also a Louisiana section. I had never seen so many varieties of iris in one place.

A Heavily Laden Wisteria adds to the Local Landscape

The Herb Garden - Become culinarily inspired in the Herb Garden. Established by the Herb Gardeners of Tacoma and maintained primarily by their members, the Herb Garden has two beds containing more than 150 perennial herb plants that love the Puget Sound region as much as we do.

The arbored path to the herbs and fuchsias.

The Fuchsia Garden -
 Between June and October you can enjoy the lavish fuchsia garden and see an explosion of blooms. Colorful, delicately-dangling flowers attract visitors, butterflies and hummingbirds alike. The Fuchsia Garden contains 125 different varieties of upright fuchsias.

This garden was constructed to test which varieties of fuchsias can be grown in the ground and will come back year after year.

The Rhododendron Garden - Designed in a 5-acre stand of old growth forest as a striking natural display, the rhododendron garden is spectacular in it's natural setting. 
This garden is just past the zoo at the beginning of 5 Mile Drive. 

Trails wind through the forest creating a natural exhibit of these huge and boisterous blooms. The garden contains more than 500 plants, including 198 cultivated varieties and 75 species of rhododendrons. 

Rose buds by the thousands in the Rose Garden.

This natural rhododendron garden was created in 1968 in cooperation with the Tacoma Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society.

The Dahlia Trial Garden -- You will have to visit in late summer to see these beauties in their full glory. The dahlia trial garden is one of the largest official trial gardens in the U.S. and Canada and is maintained in cooperation with the Washington Dahlia Society. The Dahlia Trial Garden is comprised of plants grown from tubers sent by dahlia growers from throughout America, Canada, England, New Zealand and Australia.

Iridescent Early blooms in the Rose Garden.

The Japanese Garden -- 
This inspiring site is a long time favorite of Point
Defiance Park. Built in 1914, the Pagoda, inspired
by Japanese architechture, is the focal point of this beautiful and peaceful garden.

The garden features an authentic Shinto shrine and Tori Gate presented by Tacoma’s Sister City in Kitakyushu Japan.Here youwill see azaleas, rhododendrons, Japanese cherry trees and crabapples. 

Large and small pines flourish as an oriental footbridge, waterfall, Japanese lanterns and a small "tea house" also compliment the grounds.

It's May and the Roses are Just Starting to Bloom!
The garden provides a peaceful setting to experience a bit of solitude and is especially  enchanting in early spring.

The Spectacular Rose Garden -This spectacular garden is the focal point of Point Defiance Park and has more than an acre of rose beds, the oldest of which was established in 1895. The site includes a garden of delicate miniature roses, arbors of graceful climbing roses, a picturesque wishing well and a restful gazebo.

From June through September more than 1,500 rose bushes provide a full spectrum of colors including many variegated combinations. The garden is accredited by the American Rose Society as an All American Rose selection display garden.

A waterfall at the Northwest Native Gardens

The Northwest Native Plants Garden -

This garden displays and celebrates the native flora of the Pacific Northwest. There are winding paths that lace through the one-and-one-half-acre garden.

You will pass a lovely little waterfall, pond and a welcoming wooden gazebo. This comprehensive garden in itself includes a forest garden, dry garden, alpine garden, meadow garden, woodland garden, pond and waterfall garden.

So, whether you are a garden master or would merely love to take a day to meander through a truly transcendent natural environment, the Point Defiance Gardens offer an extensive opportunity to cultivate your love of all things beautiful.

                          Click here for more information on the gardens and how you can volunteer. 

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