Took Friday off, since it was a half-day anyway and my birthday is coming up next week (Wednesday, for those of you sending cards). Kate and I were originally thinking of hitting the local water park, but as it was overcast and cool, instead we headed for Seattle's zoo.
The Woodland Park Zoo is located north of the city and west of the University District, and is a medium-sized zoo, a little smaller (I'd guess) than with the Pittsburgh or Milwaukee Zoos. It has made the transfer in the past couple decades from buildings-with-cages to more naturalistic enclosures, so the animals are in more natural environs, and people can view them more naturally. This is good when you're watching a grizzly bear swimming on the other side of gee-I-hope-its-really-thick plexiglass. It is less good when you're at a similar distance from a gorilla that is hocking up, examining, and re-consuming its lunch. Its Savanah is nice, its Northern Forest displays are great, and its orangutan exhibits are excellent.
The zoo is still in the process of making the switch over to the new digs, such that they have a jaguar in its new enclosure, complete with a pool and waterfall. The bad news is this jaguar is unaware that jaquars are supposed to like water, and now must be re-enticed to swim (they are doing with with a watermelon floating in the middle of the pool to attract its interest).
The zoo could be larger but the northern half, the meadow, was traditionally an open mall, and now is used for corporate and local celebrations, helping the bottom line. As a result, there are always tents on the meadow, food servers, and as was the case yesterday, a steel band playing happy birthday.
In addition to hosting local parties, the zoo is in the business of baby animals. Hansa the elephant is the most recent notable of this lot, but there are number young gorillas and monkeys as well. A personal favorite was a young tiger cub, easily as heavy as myself (but all muscle) that was almost kittenish, stalking its elders with its ears down and its belly flat against the ground. (OK, so I'm as suceptable to cute animals as anyone else, OK?)
The grounds themselves were overloaded with strollers and families, but not horribly so. Indeed, one of the Zoo's problems is a lack of parking in a now-built-up area, but if they get more parking, the Zoo itself would be more crowded, so right now its a good bulwark against this. If you choose to go (and its worth going), go early - the animals are livelier (particularly on temperate days) and the parking lot is emptier.
In the evening, Kate took me to the second most expensive place in Seattle for dinner (the most expensive place was a fundraiser for President Bush over in Bellevue - we got the better deal). Canlis is perched, literally, at the south end of the Aurora Street Bridge, with an incredible view Lake Union, Gas Works Park, the U district, and points East. It is, to my mind, the best resturant in Seattle, both in food and in service. It is a delightful experience, and well worth the price.
The location is amazing, and the view is wonderful. And the service is expert, friendly, and knowledgeable. They are smooth and professional, from the parking valets up to the servers up to the sommeliers (Uh, the wine-guys). And the food is Seattle's best - I have yet to be disappointed with a meal there, such that I am willing to take more risks than otherwise.
Case in point - they were offering a Chef's Tasting menu - a four-course meal with local delicacies. Since everything on that menu was in Kate's "safe zone" (she is allergic to chicken, eggs, and yoghurt), we opted for this menu, along with a flight (uh, a bunch) of wines. Here's the menu (which I pulled from the Canlis Web Site- The wines are in italics
Baby greens, Romano cheese, and extra virgin olive oil
2001 Foris Pinot Gris, Rogue Valley, Oregon
[Jeff's notes - Actually, we started with a small ball of mozzarella in basilic vinegar, wich was perfect. The sweetness of the melon and the saltiness of the ham was perfect, and the pinot gris (a white wine) was ideal - this is the first time I've had the wines lined up for the meal itself, and the blending was fantastic]
With pea vines, hazelnuts, and blackberries
2000 Lemelson Pinot Noir, Williamette Valley, Oregon
[Jeff's notes - The salmon itself was cooked to perfection, the berries as large and as sweet as those in the Sarr Cemetary. Pinot Noir is a red wine, which in the elder days was kept far from the fish, but it worked perfectly with the salmon. I'm not a fan of red wine, having drunk too many that tasted like furniture polish, but while still having a bite, this was mild and pleasant. Also, the pea vines prove you can serve anything if you bring enough butter to the sauce (they were tender beyond all belief - now Kate want to harvest them from the garden before they get all dry).]
[Jeff's notes - a single small scoop of flavored ice that was like frozen watermelon itself. Kate noted that it only needed a single seed on top to complete the illusion.]
Heirloom tomatoes, sweet onions, and summer greens
2000 Rockblock Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Oregon
[Jeff's Notes - Succulent beef, seasoned and salted before laid on the grill, melted in the mouth. This was my first experience with heirloom tomatoes, which Kate tells me is a variety of organically grown (and multi-colored) tomatoes. The wine itself was even milded than the pinot noir, and at this point I became seriously concerned about my driving home that evening]
Slices of local peaches with sweetened cream and a hazelnut tuile
1996 Elk Cov "Ultima" Gewurztraminer, Williamette Valley, Oregon
[Jeff's Notes - A tuile is a cookie. More importantly, Kate's encountered so many bad local peaches that she was sceptical, but these were wonderful, truly first rate. The Gewurz was an "ice wine", which gave me pause, since the previous ones I've encountere were thick syrups. This one, made of the last of the fruit on the vines, was delightful, and I have to find some locally]
This last was our addition, otherwise I would have fallen asleep on the Alaskan Viaduct on the way home. The meal was fantastic, such that it was well worth telling others about (one of the good things about this Blogging thing).
In short - Expensive and worth every penny, Canlis is a perfect place for that personal celebration. Go try it out.