When we started planning this adventure to Olympia we had no idea it was on the Lakefair weekend. We chose the date because it was the last weekend of the Harlequin Theatre summer musical revue. We've been attending their rock and roll summer revues for half a dozen years and enjoyed each and every one. We get to hear great music by a great band of musicians and listen to excellent singers. This revue, Summer Session: Set in the 70's was no exception.
Peg and I left Tacoma early Friday afternoon, not early enough however. I hit I-5 about 1:30 at the 38th Street exit. It took us an hour to travel from Tacoma to Olympia, a distance of roughly 30 miles. We jumped off the freeway at Lacey and drove the old highway to downtown Olympia and there we found the road up from Budd Inlet to the Red Lion Hotel blocked off for the Lakefair Car Show, so we had to detour around again until we stumbled on the hotel.
After checking in and unpacking we headed back downtown for dinner at the Budd Bay Café. We were afraid parking would be an issue, but the restaurant had parking available. We arrive about fifteen minutes early for our reservations, so we looked around the boardwalk admiring the art (See the White Trash Venus metal sculpture above) and the boats and enjoying the people along the waterfront.
Peg found a spoon in one of the flower boxes and kept it as a treasure.
Like many of our northwest cities, Olympia has many hanging baskets along its streets. By the entrance to the restaurant is a beautiful double basket and separating the boardwalk from the café’s outside eating area are planter boxes of nicely kept flowers and small lace-leaf maple trees.
We entered the restaurant about five minutes early. We were able to choose our seats by the windows for a nice view. The wait staff were very friendly and accommodating. The decor is interesting. Above the windows and spaced about every ten or twelve feet are carved fish. The fish motif is repeated in the wallpaper as well. A forest of Douglas fir is captured with fish swimming between the standing tree trunks. Some of the fish are tropical and some are our native salmon.
Our server was Debbie, who helped us with our selections. To start off with Peg had a glass of a great pino grigio, while I had a Disaronno Sour, my new favorite drink but one is enough, thank you.
The bread was sourdough buns with a nice crusty exterior. Peg had the Caesar salad, while I had the clam chowder. We shared, of course. I really liked the salad, but there was a little too much dressing for Peg. This was as bad as the comments got for the Budd Bay Café. The chowder was creamy and excellent. I could have eaten a bowl or two, but one cup was enough to hold me until dinner arrived.
Peg had the salmon, which was wonderful. It had a delicate crispness with moist meat inside. The green beans that accompanied the salmon and my oysters were crunchy and perfect.
My oysters were beautiful and like the salmon, they were fried crisp on the outside, but left the oyster body to remain delectable. We don't like our salmon nor our oysters overcooked. We had given no instructions, and had both served just exactly as we like them.
I splurged and ordered a Maine lobster tail to share as well. Peg thought it was just a tiny but overcooked. It may have been a couple ticks over-done, but I had no problem eating it. The little bowl of clarified butter gave off a nice golden yellow glow. Debbie the waitress brought me extra lemon wedges, so I was in heaven. Our friend Sue, whom we were dining with on Saturday night says that she has never ordered lobster, because she’d be afraid that she might not like it after spending big money. Actually, if she ordered and decided she didn't like it, I would be happy to take one for the team.
I know how Sue feels, however. Every time I think I should order lobster thermidore, I back off and choose steamed or broiled lobster. Lobster Thermidor is a French dish consisting of a creamy mixture of cooked lobster meat, egg yolks, powdered mustard, and cognac or brandy. It's all stuffed into a lobster shell, and served with an oven-browned cheese crust. I just don't see how anything could be better than straight lobster.
As we sat and looked out at the marina and ate a fantastic dinner, I noticed the Moon Glow, a boat with a "for rent" sign in the window. Back at my computer I found out that the boat could be chartered (the owner travels from Olympia to Alaska in the boat and I think it is fairly fast . . . for a boat that is) or rented as a Bed and Boat. For $125 a night or $195 for two nights, one can stay on board and use the boat as a hotel room.
Peg and I have already planned on renting a sailboat in Poulsbo and using it as a hotel, but finding the Moon Glow in Olympia opens all kinds of possibilities for future fun in Olympia. We'll have to find out about parking and if it will accommodate two couples. It just screams adventure.
Debbie tried to sell us dessert, but we were stuffed. Peg wanted to visit the Thriftway at the end of the bay for gelato, but I knew I couldn't eat anything more. I tried selling Peg on Sunday brunch, but she doesn't like to eat too much processed meat, which breakfast almost always includes. Debbie explained that their brunch has a great seafood selection.
A plan is already starting to form in my mind. We could stay on board the Moon Glow, eat gourmet cheese and wine from the Thriftway along with baked chicken, good artisan bread, and have gelato for dessert for two days and then finish the adventure off with Sunday brunch at the Budd Bay Café. It sounds perfect to me. I might just have a one person adventure . . .
As we left the restaurant, we saw a man and his dog playing. He was a beautiful chocolate lab, the dog, not the man. We said hello and began talking to Greg, the man, not the dog. The dog was Trevor.
Although allergic to dogs, cats, birds, beavers, and almost every other pet known to man, Peg loves nice dogs and Trevor was nice. She petted him and he was sooooo friendly. After a day at work, Greg was relaxing with his dog. He looked like a contractor, and contractors always have dogs riding in their pick-up trucks. I asked about the saddle-like affair on Trevor's back. It was all part of a very sturdy harness.
Greg had a baseball that Trevor would retrieve, catch, pitch, bunt and do almost whatever he wanted to within the reach of his leash. He had boundless energy and seemed well pleased with life. I'm like that most of the time, except for the leash part . . . and the baseball.
Back in the room, Peg and I read, dozed and talked. Our last adventure had us on the go quite a bit, but this one was more relaxing.
On Saturday morning we were up and looking for a mom and pop diner. Our friends Nita and Robert Sell live on Black Lake a few miles from the hotel. I remembered seeing some small businesses along the road around the lake, so I hoped that perhaps one of them would be a restaurant. Not so. Finally we had breakfast at the Black Bear Dinner on Black Lake Boulevard.
The bear himself sat with us; he wasn't big on conversation. We tried out several names on him: Blackie, Brer Bear and finally Brer Noir, which he seemed to like. He wasn't dark and moody, but rather friendly, and we all three thought the name just fit him. If he had a beret on his head, I bet he would get more dates. As we left the diner we drove by him on the road. He was standing on the sidewalk and waving with a "je ne sais quoi" flare and panache.
What did we order at the diner? A bearclaw of course. It was huge and filled an entire plate.
We enjoyed the drive around Black Lake even though we didn't find the restaurant we were hoping for. The lake was calm and people were out fishing. That evening, our friends Nita and Robert found the road closed and had to detour. The road must have been used as a staging area for the Lakefair parade which was scheduled to start at the exact time we had reservations for at the Aqua Via.
Peg's sister, Pat joined us at the hotel and the three of us left for the restaurant only to find more roads closed for the parade. I circled, tried little shortcuts, and finally was able to drop the two of them off with only a block to walk as I drove closer to the theatre. I lucked out and got the last open parking spot in a paid lot and then hoofed it back to the restaurant, only to find Peg and Pat not there.
Our friends began arriving and then Peg and Pat joined us. In the short block they had to walk they found an open door to the Whodoneit? bookstore, which features mystery stories. Pat found the latest M.C. Beaton, ©2012, featuring Hamish Macbeth, a Scottish policeman in a small highland village. The mystery novel gene is prominently featured in the Harrington girls.
I think the parade began on time. It was a little strange with huge gaps between floats, bands, horse units, and official cars. Lakefair is a big deal and, as far as I could see, hundreds of people lined the streets. There may have been thousands. From all the parked cars and people filling the the sidewalks and streets, this was probably the case.
I recognized some of the same bands and floats that we had seen in April at the Daffodil Parade in Puyallup. The Puyallup High School band and the Daffodil Court were there, too. I think the Sumner Rhubarb Festival people were there, too. The parade felt hometownish. I loved it. I saw rather than heard the bagpipers marching past. It was fun seeing kids, parents, and grandparents all grouped together.
Last to arrive were our friends Nita and Robert. They of course live the closest.
The food at the Acqua Via Restaurant is exceptional. It's well known for their "small plates."
Eleven of us sat down for dinner. Peg sat at one end of the table, while the other end sat empty. I sat near the other end. We had a nice mix of our friends. Perhaps half of us had eaten there before. We ordered and then chatted for quite some time. The restaurant was initially empty except for our group when we sat down. Later as the parade finished people began to filter in. By the time we paid our bills, most of the empty tables we occupied.
It was quite pleasant just talking. As the food began arriving, people looked at what their neighbors had and sometimes sampled. We were a very friendly group.
Most people had appetizers and shared a dinner, while Peg and I ordered a series of the appetizer small plates. The cured pork belly was excellent. It was served with a wine reduction, figs, roasted garlic, and green onions.
As Peg and I had our plates delivered I would take mine down to her and give her a sample, and then return with something new on my plate to my seat. One of Peg's dishes was a butternut squash ravioli with pork roast and collard greens. The pork was perfect.
We both ordered the roasted beets salad. Beets may be a misnomer. I think it was onesmallish beet cut into five parts, but the salad was excellent. Pieces of walnuts and Gorgonzola and slivers of carrot joined the greens and a balsamic reduction dressing. I also had a smoked salmon belly served on cucumber rounds, which I ate most of before giving a piece to Peg. We also sampled a three cheese fondue from friends. Peg and I have got to make our own! Peg and Pat shared a goat cheese cake with a raspberry coulis. One bite of it and I left the rest of my dessert uneaten.
While most people ordered wine to start off their meal, I asked for a Disaronno sour, but was informed that the restaurant did not have Disaronno. This seemed way out of place for a Mediterranean-based restaurant. Disaronno is an Italian amaretto liqueur. I asked then for just an amaretto sour, and again the answer was no. I settled on a San Pellegrino Aranciata (orange soda). Nita had the same problem when she asked for Tanqueray gin. This made no sense to me. Each turn down means the restaurant is losing money.
When I order a premium drink, I expect to pay a premium price. Nita feels the same. It's not like we were ordering an obscure wine or brandy. I hope the restaurant begins stocking their bar a bit better. They've been around for years, so they should know what people expect and they are owned by the same people that have another upscale restaurant, the Water Way, just a few blocks away . . . and I know they have a well stocked bar.
Ten of us walked a short block and a half to the theatre to find three more friends (Sean, Sue and Darlene) waiting for us. They had dined elsewhere.
It was Darlene's birthday so on State Street in downtown Olympia we embarrassed her and sang happy birthday at top lung power. If you can't embarrass your friends, who can you embarrass?
Nita had walked ahead to pick up the tickets. Each year she plans out and executes our rock and roll adventure. We had the first two rows of seats in the center section. It doesn't get any better than that. Front row center, that's us. We were all anxious and ready to enjoy the show. From the very first song, the cast and band shifted into high and the audience tried to keep up.
The fifth song of the second act was Randy Newman's You Can Leave Your Hat On. As the applause died down from the song, I turn around to my friend Rob and said, "That one song was worth the price of admission." Jesse Smith nailed it and the other actors, did a bang-up job as back-up singers.
A couple of years ago I saw Tom Jones do a simple rendition of the song on an "uplugged" TV show. It was bluesy and absolutely to die for. Earlier this year when Etta James passed away, I heard her version and was blown away. I love her song At Last, which she owns outright and now I have two favorites of You Can Leave Your Hat On . . . actually three if you count Jesse Smith’s rendition.
The amazing part of each of these Harlequin productions is not that the singers can sing, but rather that the actors can sing and perform just as if they are members of an on-the-road rock and roll band earning their chops . . . "Ridin' down the highway . . . Goin' to a show . . . Stop in all the by-ways . . . Playin' rock 'n' roll . . . Gettin' robbed . . . Gettin' stoned . . . Gettin' beat up . . . Broken boned . . . Gettin' had . . . Gettin' took . . . I tell you folks . . . It's harder than it looks . . . It's a long way to the top . . . If you wanna rock 'n' roll" (It's a Long Way to the Top - AC/DC). I would have loved to have seen a performance of It's a Long Way to the Top, but perhaps musical director, Bruce Whitney couldn't get permission to use the 1975 released song . . . or perhaps couldn't find someone to play the rock and roll bagpipes.
Previously at the Harlequin, Christian Doyle resembled a young, haggard Pete Townshend but without the thick beard Pete wore in the seventies. (Christian played Charlie Chaplin in Stardust Serenade.) From that performance Christian switched to the opening number, Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall and then followed it next with a lovely guitar strumming and singing cover of Don McLean's American Pie.
Once again the band was simply outstanding. Daven Tillinghast played a mean rock guitar and looked like a cross between George Harrison and Jackson Brown. The second act featured a great horn section centered by long time member, Brad Schrandt. Joining him were two stand out high school students: Julia Soto on baritone sax, and Alec Taylor on trumpet. They added so much to the rock and roll ambience.
The female singers, Jessica Low and Lindsey Larson were equally entertaining. Jessica (I would have loved to have seen her in Annie Get Your Gun.) also did the choreography for the show. She had the looks, the voice, and the moves. Lindsey didn't quite have the same smooth moves, but she was certainly doing her all for the production. I look forward to seeing her in more of her light opera work. After the show everyone was happy . . . and tired. After hugs, well wishes, and comments about favorite songs and singers, we all began the journey home. Most had car-pooled, either from Tacoma, Lacey or Shelton. Nita and Robert lived the closest, but Peg and I had the least distance to travel to our pillows. There were no late night evening cocktails.
Peg and I got back to our room just after eleven and then sat and talked for about an hour and a half. We discussed music and memories.
Sunday morning we took advantage of the Red Lion's simple breakfast buffet. I went twice, not because I was still hungry, but because I let Peg sleep in and went to keep her company. There were young soccer players galore. Peg made it to the dining room about forty-five minutes before they closed, but there were shortages. Peg’s customary breakfast consists of yoghurt with fresh fruit and granola. Waitress Lynn, retrieved a bowl of blueberries for Peg. We tipped her well . . . both times.
The Red Lion dining room looks out on the south end of Capitol Lake. You get a nice green view of trees, water, and I-5 in the distance. Before joining the throng on the freeway, we went back to the Bay View Thriftway for some Olympic Ice Cream. Peg had a Rhubarb-Strawberry sorbet with a dip of Madagascar Vanilla so small she was only charged for one scoop, while I had my old favorite dip of Lemon Lavender and a new favorite dip of Lemon Ginger. Well pleased, we left Olympia with a great taste in our mouths . . . and familiar tunes playing in our heads.