SkyCity Restaurant at the Space Needle – WFLBC in Seattle

First things first, park your preconceptions about this restaurant and everything you may have heard about it. Granted most “Revolving Restaurant” tourist traps are all flash and no substance. I could forgive your preconceptions about SkyCIty. I had those very same thoughts when I found out that I’d be spending my Saturday night in Seattle 500 feet above the ground with a bunch of people I didn’t know. It turns out SkyCity is very, VERY good and my dinner companions were fantastic company.

Saturday night at the Space Needle
Saturday night at the Space Needle

The ride up takes just over a minute and the views from SkyCity are amazing. One revolution takes 47 minutes which means you’ll see the whole view at least one time and when your finished your meal you can access the observation deck which is 20 feet above and offers windowless views of Seattle and its surroundings. Try and plan your visit around sunset so you see daytime views as well as night.

Sunset from SkyCity
Sunset from SkyCity

Executive Chef Jeff Maxfield has created a menu featuring world class ingredients that is influenced heavily by Seattle and the Pacific Ocean. Is SkyCity expensive? Yup, very. You do get the amazing view along with access to the observation deck but it’s a pricey meal for sure. Is it worth it? Let’s find out.

Hokkaido Scallops with cippolini agrodolce, celery root purée, white sturgeon caviar
Hokkaido Scallops with cippolini agrodolce, celery root purée, white sturgeon caviar

The Hokkaido Scallops ($49) are big, perfectly seared and seasoned and the little dab of caviar on top is perfect. Did I mention it was perfect? For $49 the plate could’ve been wiped down a little better but I’m grasping a straws to find something negative about this plate. The celery root purée and the cippolini agrodolce (basically sweet and sour onions) matched up well with the scallops and the roasted veg was top shelf.

Pacific Halibut with oregon shrimp and pork dumpling, porchetta, parsley root, english pea broth, flageolet beans
Pacific Halibut with Oregon shrimp and pork dumpling, porchetta, parsley root, English pea broth, flageolet beans

The Pacific Halibut ($47) (flown in from Alaska that day) was super fresh, seared and seasoned just right and was moist and… Ok the superlatives are getting to be a bit much. This is a solid dish with some interesting twists, like the shrimp and pork dumplings that had an Asian character. Again, $47 is a lot but you’re paying for an experience and it just happens to come with great food.

After dinner we wandered upstairs to check out the open air views, have a look.

The Seattle skyline at sunset
The Seattle skyline at sunset
Elliot Bay at night
Elliot Bay at night
Downtown Seattle, the was a Mariners game going on hence the SUPER bright lights to the right
Downtown Seattle, the was a Mariners game going on hence the SUPER bright lights to the right

So is SkyCity worth the money? Yes, yes it is. There’s a $35 minimum per guest but that’s pretty easy to get to given the menu prices. The bill for me and a guest was just under $140 before tip and that included drinks of the adult variety. The wine list is nicely varied and they even have a few tasty local beers in bottles.

Web – spaceneedle.com

Twitter – @space_needle

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WFLBC does America! Rob visits The Salton Sea

Say hello to Rob Wheeler, one of the awesome folks that make up the South Fraser Beer Club. Rob has been writing a beer tourism series for SFBC’s website but this isn’t about beer and it’s too cool not to share. Check it out! – Scott.

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Alright, something a little different today: The Salton Sea and Slab City. No beer review in this post, sorry. I wasn’t actually even planning on writing a post on this topic, we were just going on a sight-seeing drive, but once I saw these places, I knew I had to write about it. I was fascinated by what I saw, and while you may not agree, I thought it was amazingly interesting.

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Let me give you a little background first. The Salton Sea is the largest lake in California, and is also a salt water lake. It is located in the Coachella & Imperial Valleys of Southern California, and lies directly on top of the San Andreas fault. It currently sits 226ft BELOW sea level, and has a maximum depth of 52ft. But that’s the least interesting part about the Salton Sea.

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In 1900 the California Development Company started diverting water from the Colorado River into the Salton Sink (the area that is now the Salton Sea) in order to provide irrigation. However, within 2 years, the irrigation canals where clogged with silt, and despite attempts to clear them, they were unsuccessful at keeping them clear. In 1905, heavy rainfall and snow melts caused a flood which over-ran the canals and flood gates, creating the New River to the west, and the Alamo River to the east. Over the next couple years, the waters of the Colorado River flowed into the Salton Sink, creating the Salton Sea. As a result of its creation, the town of Salton (a Southern Pacific Railway town) and the Torres-Martinez Native American lands were submerged. The lake has higher salinity than the ocean, and it increases annually due to agriculture run off, which includes pesticides. As a result, the only thing that is able to live in the lake is Talapia. But you can stand on the shores and smell the rot and sulfur, and wonder how ANYTHING can live in there. It’s pretty gross.

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In the 1950s, land developers from LA decided to turn the area into a resort destination with the creation of Salton City, Salton Sea Beach and Desert Shores on the West Side of the lake, and Desert Beach, North Shore and Bombay Beach on the east shore. While large amounts of land were developed with roadways, very little was every actually built, and in the 1970s, most of it was abandoned. The west side of the lake is apparently still relatively “alive” as far as population goes, but the east side, where we visited, is nearly all abandoned.

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We started at the site of the North Shore Yacht Club, which was to be the highlight of the north shores “resort” area. Built in 1962, it was to be California’s largest marina, and during it’s heyday, it saw guest such as The Beach Boys, Jerry Lewis, and the Marx Brothers dock their boats there. Due to the increasing salinity of the lake, and the resulting loss of interest in the area, the yacht clubs grandure slowly diminished until in 1981 a major flood destroyed the docks. The club was completely closed and abandoned in 1984. It has since been restored by the State Government and turned into a community center, but for who, I have no idea. There are still some of the original buildings along the shore, and you can see the roads laid out for what was to have been a pretty prestigious neighborhood, but on which very few homes were built. It was actually quite eerie driving on streets overgrown with shrubs and covered in sand, seeing the curbs and lots were houses were supposed to be built. There are even a few abandoned buildings and an abandoned tennis court we found! Kinda felt like the world had ended. In fact, the Salton Sea area was used on the History Channels TV show, Life After People, as an example of what would happen to Palm Springs were people to leave it.

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There is also an area called Bombay Beach, which we did not drive through, but drove past, that is basically the only “major” population center left from the original Salton Sea resort developments. It’s basically the same as the other areas; abandoned buildings, dead fish, boat hulls dumped in random areas, etc. But the difference with this area is that there is still a decent sized population living there, intermixed with the abandoned buildings and burnt out hulks. It’s quite weird.
Our last stop was “Slab City”, which is located further south of the Salton Sea, about 4miles east of the City of Niland, CA. This is quite the area, but as with the Salton Sea, I’ll give you a little background first.

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Slab City is located on the grounds of the now closed WWII Marine training camp, Camp Dunlap. Camp Dunlap was opened in 1942 to prepare Marines for combat, and by 1949 operations were so reduced that only a skeleton crew remained. In 1956 the camp was closed and dismantled, leaving only the concrete slabs were the barracks and other buildings had been. In 1961 the land was conveyed back to the State of California. At some point between 1962 and 1965, a chemical company hired 20 men to harvest creosote leaves in the area. Some of these workers moved to trailers they parked on the concrete slabs in the now defunct base, and this was the start of “Slab City”.

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In 1965, Riverside County ordered residents of nearby Painted Canyon to leave their camping area. Most of these people moved to the abandoned marine base, which is now referred to as Slab City. From what I can tell (through word of mouth, so who knows how accurate it is) Slab City is inhabited by mostly hippies, some “not quite right in the head” folks, and people who just want to “get off the grid” for a while. There is no power or running water in the area, so people use generators and/or solar panels for electricity, and water is provided by a weekly water truck which comes through the area. Apparently there is also a weekly “honey wagon” that comes through to pump out the nastier “waste” from peoples motorhomes. The sadest part, however, is that nobody seems willing to pay for garbage removal, so while they have a “dump” in slab city, it’s basically a 2 block area where people throw their trash. No attempt to contain or control it, just dump it in the general area of the dump. Pretty pathetic.

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The weirdest thing of all about Slab City though was the sheer variety of residents. There was the expected hippies and religious wacko’s (one of whom built a massive “mountain” out of Styrofoam and concrete called “Salvation Mountain” or “East Jesus”, depending on who you ask. Apparently there are many rooms within this “mountain”, and one of which is a communal shower/bath area. Yeah, free love man. But in addition to that was the number of half million dollar or more RVs parked there. Clearly well off people who for some reason, wanted to hang out in filth. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, I mean it in a literal way. The area is all dirt and sand, so dust is everywhere, and as I mentioned earlier, trash just gets dumped everywhere. I dunno, maybe they just want to work on their pyramid power or something.

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Anyway, unless you’re into the hippie, off the grid lifestyle, I wouldn’t call either of these areas a “destination”, however, if you’re in the area, take a drive by and check it out. I found it fascinating, and probably could have driven around Slab City all day looking at things.

Till next time,

Rob.

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Booze Reviews – Russell Brewing Company Brewmaster Series

Craft beer, really good craft beer, has been the sole property of the Pacific coast of the good old USA for a few years now. Enough hops to punch you in the face from the inside, Porters darker than night time at Mount St. Helens and every other bizarre infusion your could imagine have become commonplace in Washington. Oregon and Northern California. Canada has been left in the dust by a nation known for Bud Light and spray cheese.

Russel Brewing Company, located in Surrey, has posted a serious challenge to the supremacy of the Pacific North West of America with its Brewmaster Series. The only issue with these wonderfully crafted bottles and kegs filled with liquid gold is that they are limited quantity. From the Blood Alley ESB to the Black Death Porter every beer in this series is outstanding. My personal favorite is the Guuud! Ale designed specifically Kitanoya-Guu Izakaya restaurants as a palate cleanser.

Like I said these beers are limited quantity releases and are available at select private liquor stores including Central City in Surrey and Legacy Liquor Store in the athletes village. Get them before they’re gone, or contact Russell and demand they be put into full production!!!

Cheers

Scott.

Potato Chip Showdown

Is this for real? A blog post about potato chips? It’s as real as a swift kick in the beans, and hopefully will show that while I enjoy writing about (and eating) really fancy things I am not a food snob. The humble potato chip is considered a major food group to those who watch a lot of sports on big screen HDTV’s and pairs well with wonderbread-esque mass produces lagers pumped out of mega factories the world over. The “store brand” chip has always been the ugly duckling of the dog eat dog chip market but Presidents Choice is aiming to crush those stereotypes by introducing bold, out of the box flavors.

The first of these unique flavors is BallPark Hot Dog. A thick cut ripple chip made with “hot dog, mustard and relish seasonings”. The term hot dog seasonings frightens me. These things actually tasted like hot dog. I’m not sure if I liked them though, I like hot dogs and I like chips but a hot dog flavored chip is a stretch. As with most bags of chip left open and unattended around me they did not last long. The actual chip was nice and thick and would have been great for dipping sans wiener flavor.

The second chip sampled, and by sampled I mean devoured and by devoured I mean I ate the whole bag, was Sweet Chili Thai. These were more along the lines of a traditional chip flavor, so much so that they probably should be called BBQ because that’s what they taste like. They were good but the name doesn’t suit the flavor. While I’m on the subject of “Sweet Thai Chili” flavored things…ENOUGH ALREADY!! Every restaurant has something on its menu with these 3 words in the title and quite frankly I’m getting sick of it. Sweet Thai Chili is to the new millennium as cilantro, mango salsa and Wolfgang Puck were to the 90’s.

So the title said showdown and this really wasn’t one. I had to get your attention somehow right? Long live chips and beer.

Scott.

Davidson Pitstop

I promised a while ago that I would try and write about more Fraser Valley restaurants and lately I’ve been to a few good ones. First was Five Doors Down in Whiterock and now after years of living 6 blocks away from it I have finally tried Davidson Pitstop. Located at 16225 Fraser Hwy in Surrey it  is a throwback burger joint with Harley Davidson motorcycle imagery dominating the theme, hence the name.

I’ve been told that the burgers here have been named best in Surrey but I’ve never personally seen that in writing. I asked what the best burger they was and I was told to order the deluxe with cheese and bacon. The burger patty itself was good, nice and juicy and not overcooked with a nice amount of seasoning and good texture. The cheese was of the processed American variety so no fireworks there and the bacon was thick cut and noticeable in both flavour and texture. The veggies were fresh but the bun failed to live up to the rest of the burger. It was a typical sesame burger bun that you can buy at the local grocery store and could have used a little time in a toaster.

The fries were double fried and hand cut and should have been quite good but they were over cooked in old oil causing them to be a dark brown color and quite greasy. Fries need to be cooked in fresh oil where as onion rings and other deep fried goodies actually benefit from used oil. Most restaurants have 2 fryers, one for fries and one for everything else so I’ll assume that Davidson Pit stop only has one.

So the overall verdict is a little mixed. The burger was good but let down by a mediocre, soggy bun and the fries would benefit greatly from some fresh oil. I’ll definitely go back though as this food is 10 times better than any fast food joint. Davidson Pitstop is a small tweak or 2 away from having a destination worthy burger.

Scott.

Alta Bistro Tweetup for Andrew – May 3rd, Whistler

Event number one is booked! Alta Bistro in Whistler and I are having a Tweetup on Tuesday May the 3rd and 5% of sales are going towards getting Andrew his Liberation Treatment in Seattle. Please spread the word to anyone and everyone who can come out!!! Karma Tuesdays is something that Alta Bistro does regularly and I can’t thank them enough for their support!!

Please share this on Twitter and Facebook and whatever other way that you can!! Event number’s 2 and 3 will be announced shortly and promise to be AWESOME!!!

Scott

Helping a friend, Liberation Treatment fundraising

My friend Andrew Kristoff has Multiple Sclerosis. Andrew is 32 years old and has had MS for over 5 years. He is a great guy who, with his wife Theresa, has twin 1 year old boys. Andrew hasn’t been able to work for a few years now, he’s an electrician by trade but MS has made it very difficult for him to live a regular life and enjoy the little things like being able to chase his boys around or mountain bike which is a passion of his.

Liberation Treatment is a new and exciting development in the fight against MS and has shown amazing results in patients living with the disease. You can get the low down on the treatment here. It isn’t available in Canada but it is available in Seattle and I would like to help Andrew get the treatment so he can live the life he so badly wants and deserves to live.

It costs around $7000 and I want to use my social media connections to help him make this happen. I’m asking for your help in whatever way you can. We would love to hold a fundraising event, maybe get some local bands to perform and donate the proceeds from ticket sales, food and drink sales etc to Andrew. We would also need a venue and some auction items or whatever anyone wants to donate. I know everybody says this but Andrew really is one of the greatest guys in the world.

Please feel free to contact me with any ideas/suggestions you have, let’s make a difference for Andrew and his family.

778-808-4928

whatsforlunchbc@rocketmail.com

Scott.

The Truckstop Dog, read if you dare

I should never be left home alone… It can be said that I am officially not a food snob and here’s why.

Bacon

Chili

Aged Cheddar

All beef hot dogs in a cast iron grill

Crumbled and smoky bacon added to the dog

Add the chili and and cheese and put in oven at 400 degrees

Done. awesome. I might have a small blockage so tweet me later to make sure I’m still alive.

Scott.

Mi Mexico in Bellingham

Ah Mexican food, for most people it consists of burritos and tacos stuffed with ground beef and dripping with cheese “sauce”. I admit that I am no expert on central american cuisine but I know that what passes for Mexican food in Canada is actually Americanized dishes not typically found in Mexico. Mexican food actually rarely contains beef, instead focusing on pork, chicken and in coastal areas, seafood. Mi Mexico, located at 241 Telegraph Road in Bellingham, Washington right across from Bellis Fair mall, offers a lot of traditional and “Americanized” Mexican dishes for very reasonable prices.

The decor in Mi Mexico is eclectic and very colorful to say the least which was a welcome sight after a long afternoon of outlet mall shopping. The staff are all fantastic, everyone called me amigo and they all smiled or tried to make my 1 year old laugh every time they walked passed, always stopping to see if we needed more chips and salsa or water. The chips and salsa were average, nothing that most Mexican restaurants don’t have, warmed chips and fresh salsa, with a choice between thin or chunky salsa.

For my main I ordered Tacos Al Pastor, Marinated pork loin flame broiled and sliced with onions and cilantro on warm corn tortillas. The pork was very juicy and tasted fresh with a little heat but not as much as I had hoped for. Over all though they were really good and it’s nice to have a GOOD corn tortilla unlike the ones I’ve had in Canada. The sides were rice, beans and coleslaw. The Rice was quite fresh but I’ve heard from others that this varies by what time of day you eat here…The beans were a little runny but tasted good and the coleslaw was crisp and fresh and very mild. The cheese on the beans seemed a little pointless as it didn’t have any taste, the real star was the tacos.

My shopping companion had the Chipotle Chicken Fajitas, it came with the same sides but she chose flour tortillas over corn. These are “build it yourself” fajitas and came on a huge platter, half of which was chicken and mushrooms in chipotle sauce. The sauce was nothing like chipotle I’ve had before, it actually tasted like smoked jalapenos, which is what chipotle peppers are. If that’s what real chipotle tastes like then I will never eat the stuff we have here again, this sauce was so smoky and savory with a nice amount of spice, amazing. She couldn’t finish it so I had the leftovers when we got home.

The Canadian dollar is high, take advantage of it with cheap gas, outlet malls and Mexican food, you know you want to.

Scott.

The Teacup, Moroccan Mint

I received a gift from a friend a little while back from her girls adventure to the good old U.S of A from The Teacup in Centralia, Washington.  Located at 204 North Tower Avenue I don’t actually know much about The Teacup other than what I’ve been told so I’ll just tell you about the tea. My gift was a blend called Moroccan Mint, I love mint tea. I don’t really drink tea other than mint tea and I drink it without any milk or sugar because I enjoy the raw, unsweetened mint flavor which is very uncommon in our sugar sweetened society. The blend is a secret but it smelled mostly peppermint based with a hint of spearmint and variegated ginger mint.

Loose leaf teas are not the norm around my house but I think a shift in tea philosophy is in the works. I can’t help but think about all the teabags we throw away every year and we have two “tea balls” at home so why not? Plus they look cool and fresh tea tastes MUCH better. Water boiled, I hung my tea ball (lol) in my mug for roughly 5 minutes and then had a taste. Like I said, fresh tea is so much better than store bought tea bags. Peppermint was the predominant flavor and I didn’t get the bitter aftertaste that sometimes comes with mint tea. If you read my last post about being alcohol free for the month of April you’ll see where this post is coming from. The Booze Reviews will resume in May (hopefully) but until then I will be exploring alternative beverages in the 0% alcohol category.

There’s lots of places to buy loose leaf tea in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley so ditch the teabag, pick up a tea ball and start enjoying better tea!

Scott.