Recently, after a visit with out-of-town guests, I realized that we don’t always take advantage of the opportunities available to us in the area we live in. I love finding a boutique that can show me the way to great style for myself and my home. So I decided it was time to expand my horizons and explore the South Sound area like a newcomer, looking for opportunities for interesting and hip shopping. Who would have imagined that the South Sound would offer so many choices!
In Tacoma, one of the areas I explored was the Proctor neighborhood. Located in the north end, this is a great little area with plenty of places to browse. Two standout women’s boutiques right next door to each other kept me busy for over an hour…. Envy, and Julia Ellen. It was interesting to find these shops next door to each other could both have a great, hand-picked selection of season-appropriate unique and colorful tops, dresses, and an amazing selection of high-end
jeans but still be so different. Envy also has a great sale rack out front and Julia Ellen also carries some shoes and a great variety of Brighton accessories and handbags. I was surprised at how much I wanted to take home from both of these shops… self control was necessary.
Other Proctor highlights included Choye Boutique. This boutique made me crave a whole new wardrobe for my daughter. Choye offers many of the upscale European children’s clothing lines that previously I thought I couldn’t find anywhere but online, such as Catimini™ and 3 Pommes™. Many other items caught my eye, such as stylish raincoats for kiddos and “accessory” slings for mom. The prints are all unusual and the colors pop. Great design is for kids too!
Next in Tacoma I headed to Rocky & Coco’s. From the moment you walk into this sleek store you get a sexy, contemporary vibe. They have a wide range of the most cutting edge jeans, tops, dresses and a few shoes. Labels include Joe’s, Seven for all Mankind, Julie King, and New Collective. I was even able to turn up my husband’s hip factor here with some good help from the sales staff. I felt an intense desire to go dancing after leaving this shop – I felt really hip and glamorous!
I will definitely be back to Dame Lola. You will also find edgy, sexy design at this well-appointed new shop. Rebecca, the owner, (very sweet) focuses on green and independent labels such as Prairie Underground, Tibby, AG and 18th Amendment. She also hand-picks local fair trade jewelry, unusual shoes by Brazilian makers, and of course the great music that gets you moving.
Further South, I decided to visit Cake in University Place. It’s more a girly-girl department store than a boutique, and that’s a good thing. This shopping adventure left me wanting to re-do my house to match my new Cake outfit, sparkly chandelier earrings included. There’s so much to see here, it’s a great place to spend an afternoon.
In Olympia, I found The Archibald Sisters. Archibald Sisters is a wonderful choice for personal care products of all kinds, and a great place for gifts. I was amazed by the staggering array of fragranced body care products, and with the great customer service and the cool fragrance “bar” I am sure I will be back again.
Right nearby, Hot Toddy is another great place to spend your time (and money) in Olympia. I was so sad while shopping at Hot Toddy because I didn’t bring a shopping buddy. I sounded a little silly squealing “ooh” and “look at that” to myself at all of the interesting clothes and other unique items such as paper products, jewelry and even some adorable baby clothes. Hot Toddy really had my number.
Other great shopping in Olympia was to be had at Hoopla, a great place for hip, sexy clothes and accessories. Denim labels include William Rast and True Religion with tops from Ella Moss and Butterfly Dropout. Bella Boutique has a great selection of clothes for “real” women, which meant that I found a LOT of things that fit, that were really interesting to boot. But what really impressed me about Bella was the customer service. Oh, and the handbags. And the jewelry…
Yes, I do like to shop. And it turns out the South Sound has much more to offer than I imagined, I just had to see it all again for the first time!
In harmony with its Northwest surroundings, the Salish Lodge & Spa sits in the foothills of the Cascades. Embraced by Douglas fir, western hemlock, Sitka spruce and the steep slope of Little Si Mountain (popular with local hikers), it is best known for its proximity to the 268-foot Snoqualmie Falls. More than just a natural wonder, the falls are the site of the Snoqualmie Tribe’s creation myth, as well as a source of the mood that permeates the area. The lodge perches at the edge; and rooms gazing over the tumbling water are restorative, especially if you leave your balcony door open to listen to its thunder at night.
I relished the enjoyment of our room’s mood dimming lights, jet soaking tub, big TV, complimentary pillows, soft bathrobes, comfy king-size bed, and breakfast in bed! The service was impeccable. For instance, whenever we asked for complimentary pillows and extra firewood, someone would be knocking at our door within a matter of minutes with our request.
Our dining experience at The Dining Room was divine; it would be great for either a one-off for a special occasion or a favorite haunt for gourmet nights out. We liked the way the market fresh, seasonal menu relied on the bounty of the region, incorporating Pacific Coast seafood, Olympic range huckleberries, produce from Full Circle organic farm and wines from the Okanogan and Willamette Valleys. The comfortable room is simultaneously rustic and elegant, providing a lovely contrast to the sophistication of the cuisine—although we know we aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, we can’t help ourselves. We recommend reserving a table in one of the private alcoves for added ambiance.
The presentation of the dishes is eloquent; that the food itself is so expressive it makes the experience complete. The cuisine is a tribute to the executive chef, who incorporates French techniques, a commitment to sustainable agriculture, and local produce from organic sources such as Full Circle Farm. We are particularly smitten by the Snoqualmie River Hot Rocks—scallops, ahi and yellowtail cooked on flat rocks in salt.
While there’s a heavy emphasis on seafood, the landlubbers are well looked after with Kobe beef short ribs and beef cheeks with Yukon Gold potato purée, organic
root vegetables, and Olympic range huckleberries; and pasture-raised chicken with caramelized Belgian endive, apples, white figs and Calvados sauce. The attention to detail by the dining room staff is perfect. From the water service, rose petals on the table, and food presentation, to the knowledgeable, friendly service made for the most memorable dining I’ve ever encountered.
The next day I arrived at the spa, I was politely informed that you are now entering a silent sanctuary. This edict applies to more than just the treatment spaces. There is a gorgeous soaking pool area. One pool is tiered above the other, with a cascading waterfall flowing into the lower, and from both you can gaze through floor-to-ceiling windows across the road to Mount Si. Although the flow of the water is melodic, it is the hush that you notice. The silence in this spa is so profound that you can actually hear it, much like the silence you hear when you venture into the woods. This kind of quiet isn’t about a lack of noise, but rather the lack of the kind of noise—cars, loud voices and the like—that is associated with civilization.
The spa isn’t physically large, and its layout adds to the feeling of intimacy. This is why its impressive range of spaces comes as such a surprise. Hidden away are three Japanese-style massage rooms, a tatami Thai massage mat room, skincare rooms, a hydrotherapy rain room and more.
This was our third trip to the lodge and we have found that Snoqualmie is a great place to explore. The Salish Lodge is perfect if you want to celebrate or just unwind from a stressful week.
The Harmon Hub
203 Tacoma Ave S, Tacoma
Northwest outdoor, microbrews, and local: these are the three things owners Pat Nagle and Carol Holder want visitors to think when they walk into the Harmon Hub. Emphasis on local. When I sat down with them recently (over an amazing blue cheese salad) Pat described visits to Ireland, where every neighborhood has a “local” – a pub where the whole neighborhood goes for everyday food and socializing. He’d like the Hub to become that kind of neighborhood place, a gathering spot where patrons can bring their kids or enjoy a few pints with a big group of friends.
The Hub is a comfortable, welcoming space that is already well on its way to becoming the local gathering place Pat and Carol imagine.
The name “Hub” comes from the restaurant’s bicycle theme, a natural offshoot of the original outdoor-themed Harmon Brewery of the UWT area, and a reference to the Harmon’s bike club benefiting Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. The spacious interior is broken up into a large dining room, a few small nooks arranged around couches, and a bar. Mismatched chairs surround large wooden tables with plenty of room for large groups, as well as tables for two with a view of the waterway.
The Hub almost never happened. Nagle and Holder were about to undertake an extensive renovation of a portion of the nearby Mecca condominium project. They had
planned to turn it into the “Broadway Speakeasy,” a pub and small movie theatre. At the last minute, they learned that the St. Helens Café – the former occupant of the Hub’s space – would be closing. If they were ready to move on it right away they’d be able to take over the space. Within a matter of weeks they had completely changed gears, and found themselves re-imagining a cavernous, modern building. The space became available in January of 2008 and by March they were preparing to open their doors for St. Patrick’s Day.
Pat had already obtained a pizza oven, around which they built a Mediterranean-influenced menu of fresh Northwest ingredients to offset their collection of microbrews – some of which are brewed right downtown at the Hub’s other location near the University of Washington, Tacoma. Fresh cut sweet potato/russet fries and quality wood oven pizzas stand out amongst the selection of salads, burgers, pastas and appetizers.
Before sitting down with Pat and Carol, I had lunch at the Hub with a friend. She’s been a long-time fan of their fries, and between the two of us we managed to devour several baskets. Sweet potato fries are addictive, and I’ve never seen them made quite so thin and crispy. My blue cheese, mushroom and bacon
burger was done to perfection, and the bacon flavorful and crisp. My friend ordered a Caesar Salad to go with her fries, which arrived as a beautiful fan of romaine hearts studded with croutons and parmesan.
Originally a lunch and dinner place, the Hub began serving weekend breakfasts on August 2nd. In keeping with their reputation for fresh, chef-created food, the breakfast menu includes specialties like 12-grain pecan waffles, apple dumplings, organic eggs Benedict, and breakfast pizza. We’ll have to stop in
soon and give it a try.
Finding truly great Chinese food in the Pacific Northwest can be difficult, outside of a few major cities. In the South Sound, we are fortunate to have found outstanding Szechuan.
Tacoma Szechuan is the type of place that is best enjoyed with a group, at one of their large round tables with rotating platters. When you go, bring enough people to justify gluttony, and order as many different things as you can. A glance at their extensive menu leads to browsing, which leads to a 20 minute decision-making process ending in surrender. Here’s how the process went on our three visits: Should we try the cold Szechuan jelly noodles, the spicy chicken with rice cakes, or go for something more familiar like Kung Pao? Oh, forget it, let’s just order everything.
“This is like – Thanksgiving dinner” my friend pronounced, putting down a fork recently filled with Kung Pao Chicken. That is a strange thing to say about Chinese food, but I knew exactly what he meant. I hadn’t even wanted to order Kung Pao, thinking that it wouldn’t be all that special. I was wrong. Just the right amount of spice teamed up with ginger and a hint of sweetness to create a complexity I’d never experienced before in that particular dish.
Another familiar item we were happy to see on the menu was chow fun. At Tacoma Szechuan, this wide rice noodle dish is made with hand-shaven noodles and just the right amount of gravy. On the two occasions we ordered it, the chow fun vanished quickly.
On our second visit, light, crispy sesame shrimp were the perfect antidote to blazing hot (but good) slippery mung bean noodles, which followed a vegetable-filled hot and sour soup. My children ordered sweet and sour pork which came lightly glazed with sauce and was as delicate as the sesame shrimp.
If you are not a big fan of spicy food, don’t let the Szechuan label put you off. Their extensive menu offers plenty of options for all palates. My husband and I like our food with a little heat, but we’ve brought along a spice-challenged friend and two picky children, and they were more than happy with the milder dishes. Also fun for children: bubble tea (a smoothie like concoction with tapioca pearls at the bottom) and a large fish tank.
The food is not the only thing above average about Tacoma Szechuan. Though located in an unassuming spot on the side of the huge Paldo World Asian shopping mall, the interior is very pleasing. The setting is modern while at the same time warm and comfortable. After your meal, take some time to browse through Paldo World, a foodie paradise. Paldo World is a massive Asian grocery store with some of the best deals in the South Sound on produce, seasonings and specialty cuts of meat. Fortified with a meal from Tacoma Szechuan, you will be in the perfect frame of mind to explore acres of fresh rice cakes, sauces and brightly-packaged snacks. When you go, plan to spend an afternoon, and know that you’ll be coming back soon.
407 Columbia Street SW, Olympia
Longfellow once wrote, “In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.” A fitting example of this philosophy is Olympia’s The Mark restaurant, where the fare is sophisticated in its simplicity, and refreshingly pure in the absence of extraneous distractions.
We began our dining experience with cocktails. I enjoyed a “Clean Cosmo” while my husband sipped a “Forbidden,” an original creation developed by chef/owner Lisa Owen. No triple sec, sweet and sour mix, or sugary simple syrup is used in the bar, and the difference was immediately apparent. The flavors were crisp and the drinks were light and refreshing.
Next was an appetizer of zesty Manchego cheese, accompanied by thick slices of rustic bread and olive oil. We then feasted on tiny, slightly bitter Arbequina olives. Like all of the dishes we sampled at The Mark, the first course was unadorned by garnishes; The Mark’s emphasis is on the food.
Our salads were unassuming yet satisfying – earthy mixed greens lightly dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette and coarsely shredded Reggiano cheese.
We shared two entrees. Tender tagliatelli was tossed with olive oil, diced roasted red bell peppers, and buttery pine nuts. All of the pasta served at The Mark is fresh and made with organic ingredients. Wild Alaskan sockeye salmon was simply seasoned and grilled. The absence of distracting sauces and seasonings allowed the rich taste of the salmon to shine. The accompanying sliced zucchini squash was sautéed and its flavor accentuated by aromatic, slightly pungent fennel seed. The humble vegetable had been organically grown; The Mark uses organic meats and produce whenever available.
Dessert was a flourless chocolate cake, served with a side of sweet Bing cherries. The Mark’s version of this classic is unique in that it is made with sweet milk chocolate rather than the conventional dark chocolate. No crème anglaise, raspberry puree or whipped cream diverted our senses from the decadent treat. With dessert we savored coffee along with glasses of smooth Amaretto liqueur.
A minimalist approach makes The Mark stand out from other eateries. Simple preparation and presentation make for culinary excellence, allowing the senses to fully experience fresh, high quality food.
For as long as Megan can remember she wanted to open a spa. “I used to read about how to do home spa treatments in magazines, and then have my friends come over to get wrapped in oatmeal and whatever else I could find around the house“, says Megan. I always loved the idea of creating a sanctuary for people to come and step away from daily life and find their serenity within. Serenity spa is the fulfillment of this life long dream, and Tacoma’s first eco-friendly and organic day spa. The spa combines the idea of relaxation for mind, body and spirit. For more information check them out at www.serenityspatacoma.com.
How do you measure success?
I measure success based on how much I can contribute light and love to the world. I feel as though I have had a successful day when someone tells me that I have helped them to see themselves and the world in a new way.
Who did you admire most as a child?
As a child I most admired my mom. She had such a free spirit, and always remained playful even in the toughest of times.
Who do you admire most now?
My father. He was so content in just the journey of life, even if he never made it to what he thought was his destination. He went back to college at age 40 to become an oceanographer. He died of cancer in his junior year of college, but while he was fighting for his life he was so happy just to be learning. His last wish for me was “never allow yourself to be unhappy”. At age fifteen that didn’t mean much, but over the years its meaning has become my deepest belief, that I have the power to choose and to create my life.
What is the most memorable compliment you have received?
The most memorable compliments I’ve ever received were from patients and yoga students that told me that I somehow touched their lives.
If you could have any super power what would it be?
Well, I think we all have a lot more power than we realize. But if I could enhance my super power I would be able to heal anyone; mind, body and spirit.
Who do you think most deserves the spotlight?
People that aren’t afraid to go for their dreams. Everyone should know that they can create their own destiny.
Director—KJM Center for the Arts at South Puget Sound Community College. Red hair is the first thing that you notice about Cassie Welliver upon meeting her. Her warmth and depth of character are also obvious. She is an artist, a mother and the director of the Kenneth J. Minnert Center in Olympia. Cassie tells us that her love for the arts started when she was ten, “a friend invited me to tag along as he stage managed a production of Last of the Red Hot Lovers at the Players Guild in Canton, OH. At the end of the night, I was allowed on stage under the lights, and that was it… I was hooked!” Her love for art on the cutting edge is apparent. “It doesn’t really matter to me what form it takes—music, visual arts, dance, theater—so long as it fires new synapses and challenges the way I view the world. In recent years, it seems to come in the form of outsider art and modern dance, so I watch those genres most closely. If the work incorporates humor, so much the better!”.
How do you measure success?
By levels of inspiration. I do look at the finances too, but I feel personally and professionally successful when audiences, especially kids, come out of an experience really excited… really amazed by what they just saw or heard.
Who do you admire most?
Hands down it’s Wangari Maathai, the woman who was awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize for her initiative to plant trees. She started out with a lot of education (one of the first African women to earn a doctorate) and a grass roots organization in Kenya, and from that there has grown a Pan African Greenbelt Network that plants millions of trees that make a major impact on the environment and the lives of people all over Africa.
What is the biggest challenge you have overcome?
The birth of my son. After wanting a baby so much, and a natural birth, he was two weeks late when the water broke and still no labor. My husband and I worked for four days, and with a lot of difficult medical interventions, to birth him conventionally, but ended up with a caesarian delivery. I couldn’t even be awake
for it as I had to be put under general anesthesia, during which I developed a respiratory problem. He’s now seven years old, and I love him more than anything in the world.
If you could have any super power what would it be?
The ability to control time. There are so many maintenance activities you need to do as an adult that take up all but maybe two hours of each day: work, eat, sleep, exercise, clean house, send birthday cards, etc. What if you could do all of that really well, and then stop time and spend as long as you wanted on creating an artwork, or wandering an Asian forest, or scuba diving in Hawaii?
The treacherous Lady Macbeth. The incurably green Nellie Forbush. The sinister Mack the Knife. Not one, but two Ebeneezer Scrooges, one singing and dancing, one not. The imperiled Susy Hendrix. The boisterous Max Bialystock. The rambling Sissy Hankshaw. These memorable characters, and dozens more will take the stages of the South Sound’s rather impressive roster of theaters this fall. From the Lakewood Playhouse to Washington Center, from the professional to the amateur and all in-between, theatergoers will find themselves a thrill.
The season kicks off at the Lakewood Playhouse, celebrating their 70th anniversary. The anniversary presents go to the audience though, in the form of a brand new air conditioning unit and the presentation of the musical Lucky Stiff. This farcical show follows the adventures of the unassuming Harry Witherspoon, an English shoe salesman set to inherit a fortune, providing he survives his week-long vacation in Monte Carlo with his uncle’s corpse. Yes, you read that right. Don’t ask, it’s a farce.
After the inspired lunacy of Lucky Stiff, the Playhouse season takes a dark turn, presenting Shakespeare’s Macbeth. This tale of megalomania and betrayal gave the world one of the great characters in the English language, the conniving Lady Macbeth. The South Sound and its surroundings are blessed with a group of fine Shakespearean actors, many of whom summer at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. Shakespeare plays are a rare thing in our area, and you can bet that the actors will be chomping at the bit for a part in the supposedly-cursed “Scottish Play”.
The Lakewood Playhouse will close 2009 with a production of A Christmas Carol. The Playhouse is keeping the wraps on this one, as it promises an original adaptation of Dickens’ classic staged with the Playhouse in mind. Another surprise for Lakewood Playhouse fans comes hard after the New Year, as Managing Artistic Director Marcus Walker and Associate Managing Artistic Director Scott Campbell, better known as the brains behind the Playhouse, will direct and star in a a production of Greater Tuna, both an affectionate look at Southern culture and an attack on the same. The trick is that Campbell and Walker will – as is the standard for the Tuna Trilogy – will play all 20 characters themselves. This production will be a treat, as both men are accomplished performers, but typically seen more behind the scenes.
The Tacoma Musical Playhouse is celebrating an anniversary as well, as this is the 15th year for the South Sound’s only fulltime musical theater. TMP will kick off the season in October with a production of the Rogers and Hammerstien classic South Pacific. This musical warhorse is a true masterpiece of craft, thrilling audiences for half a century. Songs such as “Some Enchanted Evening” and “There is Nothing Like a Dame” have become standards, and the TMP excels at the classic musical form.
To end the year, Tacoma Musical Playhouse is debuting a brand new show. The Slipper and the Rose: The Story of Cinderella is a retelling of the beloved fairy tale. Based on the British film from 1976, The Slipper and the Rose has been charming English stage audiences for the past few years, and TMP is bringing this lushly romantic musical to the South Sound. Featuring new songs and a fantastical set that brings the faux European land of Euphrania to life this show is a can’t-miss for fans of musical theater.
In Olympia there is a daring, a willingness to push boundaries not found in many small communities. The Olympia Little Theater starts the season with I Hate Hamlet, the story of a young actor named Andrew Rally, who finds himself haunted by the ghost of the great John Barrymore, stymied by his girlfriend, and struggling between the stage and the bright lights of Hollywood. I Hate Hamlet is at times uproariously funny, at times darkly bitter, and a gloriously fun show to start the 69th year of the OLT.
After the bitter tragicomedy of I Hate Hamlet, OLT presents the spine-tingling suspense of Wait Until Dark. The role of Susy Hendrix, the blind housewife who finds herself in the clutches of evil, won Audrey Hepburn the Oscar for the film adaptation. Susy, and the brutal, violent Roat, leader of the gang of criminals tormenting her, are iconic stage characters. The finale, when Susy casts the stage in darkness, is a not-to-be-missed moment.
To end the year, Olympia Little Theater will bring back its beloved WOLT radio play. A distinctly retro show, WOLT mimics the set of an old-time radio show. This year the Christmas classic Yes, Virginia is the show. The response to a little girl’s plaintive question to the New York Sun, the show follows Frank Church, the reporter tasked with answering. OLT does a bang-up job on these radio plays, and they make a wonderful holiday tradition.
Harlequin Productions, just shy of 20 years in existence, does things a bit different from most theaters. Instead of following the Fall-Winter-Spring season, the Harlequin starts in January and pushes on through the year. While most companies are taking the summer off and retooling, this company is in full swing with the dynamic stage show of the cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show. While so popular it is being held over the entire summer, Dr. Frankenfurter and family will be sent off in time for Harlequin’s fall offerings.
Harlequin Productions barely take a break, opening with Stardust for Christmas, a holiday musical show with a twist. Set in the 1940’s, featuring a nightclub, gangsters and a card-game gone wrong, this show is a holiday classic made especially for those with low tolerance for holiday schmaltz.
The Washington Center for Performing Arts offers a wide variety of entertainment this season. Starting in October, the center ushers in the hypnotizing boundless energy of Natalie MacMaster a celtic music fiddler. The following month another female performer takes the stage. Linda Eder vocal talents have packed Carnegie Hall and Broadway’s Gershwin Theater.
The New Year is in full swing at as five-time Grammy winner Billy Joel and legendary director/choreographer Twyla Tharp have joined forces to create the spectacular new musical Time Magazine declares “The #1 show of the year!” The New York Times calls Movin’ Out “a shimmering portrait of an American generation.
The Broadway Center, proprietors of downtown Tacoma’s Pantages and Rialto theaters, always bring strong quality shows to the area. In October, the Center features the Tom Robbin’s counterculture classic Even Cowgirls Get The Blues. Sissy Hankshaw is born with enormous thumbs that she uses to best advantage from a young age: she begins a hitchhiking odyssey across the United States. On her adventures to far-flung places, she accumulates a collection of renegade women—cowgirls—who only want their fair share of the myth that is the Wild West.
While that plays at Theater on the Square, the Tony Award winning The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee comes to the Pantages, plus celebrated humorist David Sedaris does a reading at the Rialto. And that’s just in October! In November, the Center starts the holiday season with a bang, bringing a new telling of the story of Ebenezer Scrooge story, this one based on the hit Bill Murray film Scrooged, to celebrate Tacoma’s tree-lighting ceremony.
Theater in the South Sound is a vital, glorious part of the local culture. There will be a show for everyone this fall and winter, so go out and grab an aisle seat.
Movers and Shakers of the area gathered July 18th for the 19th annual Zoobilee Celebration held at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. Fashion met function as guest strutted their stuff in Black tie and tennis shoes. Patrons mingled while enjoying appetizers and cocktails from over 30 local dining vendors.