A Few Days Away In Redmond, WA

Full disclosure: We did this few days away in Redmond last year and I didn’t write it up…our little secret. But this time we went again because we knew it would be a great short stay and a good one to share. So there ya have it…as a lapsed Catholic confessions still come easily for me! Another thing, more truth: I was really ready for a few days away in Palm Desert or Mexico because the weather here has been so darn rainy and dark…not enough dollars (or dineros)! This trip did the trick for a lot less money, travel time, packing and planning!

Redmond TownCenter at night.

We are members of two hotel brands Best Western (as you know by our Bainbridge stays) and Marriot. We sometimes use Marriot in Portland when we visit our son (The Marriot Residence Inn Downtown/RiverPlace ). We also stay at The Marriot Residence Inn Seattle East/Redmond. Both are the Residence Inn brands which means the rooms are more like a small apartment rather than a hotel – a nice sitting room, dining area, alcove bedroom, bathroom alcove plus bathroom and full kitchens that are so darn cute and practical (two burners, a dishwasher and a tiny little bottle of dish soap!)

Everything you could want in a room!

We get good rates because of AAA or the government rate because of Jon’s job. But you can get a great last minute rate, $119-$169 a night including a great breakfast, usually on a weekend since this brand caters to business travelers. Weekday stays (higher rates) have Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon mixers with free food and beverages called The Mix as an added value.

This Redmond location has so much to recommend it, especially in the spring and summer (you should do it now!) when the great Redmond’s Saturday Market is steps away (here is what I wrote about it when we visited last summer), the pool is open and Cars and Coffee (Exotics and Redmond Square) has begun. Plus on site: a nice exercise room, warm cookies every day in the afternoon (big, chewy, gooey ones!), a coffee and tea bar (with good coffee, Jon reports!) and 3 complimentary newspapers: Seattle Times, WSJ (Wall Street Journal) and USA Today. The town is upscale because of the presence of Microsoft and its business travelers.

There is a great morning breakfast with lots of choices (you can make sweet or savory waffles), fresh fruit (pineapple, melons and grapes) and they often have special things like brie and fresh spinach for your eggs. The Redmond TownCenter with the wonderful iPIC Theater, restaurants with good happy hours, The Second Story Repertory Theater and upscale shops (only window shopping for us!) Nearby in the many strip malls…some other fun shops: a huge Value Village (we buy stuff there!), Half Price Books (real books!), a Western Work and Wear store (interesting!), and all the usual big box stores in a short radius from the hotel.

Lots of the regular breakfast bar things and special items daily…lox and cucumbers for bagels this day.

The location is good for several side trips: Snoqualmie Falls and the Salish Lodge and Spa plus restaurant. Maltby Café is known for its terrific breakfasts and Flower World with its acres of plants and fun and little touches is worth a visit. Lots of scenic views and drives to other small towns (this is a neat web-site for drives and exploration anywhere).

Day One of Away: We left Saturday at 3pm on a really, really dreary drippy day. Drove 405 from Seattle, which is now a toll road. (Good to Go Pass is $2 less than auto toll…they take your license picture and bill you.) Here is what you need to know about tolls on that road. The road was clear and wet, so we made great time and got to the hotel in 25 minutes. As I have said before: always check road conditions before you leave to save yourself time and frustration.

We arrived to warm white chocolate chip cookies, hot coffee and tea, and our complimentary papers. They now have mobile check in but we did traditional and it was very smooth. We were in our very lovely room in minutes. The people who work here are happy to give directions or make suggestions.

Our strategy was to get a great dinner out and relax that evening in the room reading and watching TV. Rain = reading and relaxing for me!

We got settled in and headed out to Tropea Restuaranti Italiano for Italian food that is much raved about (and we had immensely enjoyed on our last visit). We were looking forward to going back for more. This is a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives experience as it is located in a strip mall. Newly settled from its longtime spot in another mall now being turned into apartments, this newly designed and nicely done space at 16156 NE 87th Street is only blocks away from the hotel.

By 4:50 parking was already at a premium (we found parking on the street). There was no line to get in (a bonus and inevitability if you are dining later!) It has a fairly extensive wine selection and the “wine cellar look” as you enter is nice and sets the mood. The main dining room is nicely decorated with tables fairly close together. The soft terra cotta coloring and sparkling chandeliers, walls with grapevines painted on them with art and artistic touches are pleasing and relaxing. Since the wine list is extensive, spend some time pondering it if you want a special bottle with dinner. If owner Lorenzo Scordamaglia is on hand he will happily help you decide.

The menu is extensive as are the nightly specials. Again, ask questions of your helpful and earnest servers (all in white shirts, cheery ties and black pants…all well trained by Lorenzo.) And you can always ask Lorenzo! He is often wandering the tables checking up on your food and dining experience, telling you of his city and country of origin and the sadness he feels because his second generation sons do not speak Italian! (Sì, sì…I sadly shook my head and uttered one of the few Italian words I know!)

The restaurant is named after his home town in ltaly. Tropea is a small seaside town in Calabria, Italy the same region from which my mother’s family, the Romeo’s, immigrated…another reason why this restaurant is one we like. Seafood is highlighted in many of the dishes.

We had the prosciutto and melon with cheese for the appetizer. Perfect. Refreshing, ripe sweet cantaloupe, salty, aged well-marbled prosciutto and the various cheeses in little cubes provided quite a variety of interesting sweet/sharp flavors. 4 large slices of melon were enough to take us through the meal for refreshing our pallets.

The generous basket of bread is good and their signature, pungent garlicky olive oil is strong and delicious. It is made better if you ask for some balsamic on the side to drizzle on top. The soups were fresh tasting tomato broths with delicious fresh vegetables, al dente pasta and beans. The minestrone was a bit more hearty and flavorful than the pasta fagioli, but both were nice and in generous bowls. We enjoyed them immensely!

For dinner we wanted to revisit the risotto, the stand out of our last visit, and try a pasta. Again the menu is extensive as are the specials. You will have a hard time choosing, I warn you. And, alas, the dessert menu is the same!

We selected the Risotto Zafferano with scallops and prawns and the Penne Gorgonzola.

The scallops and prawns were outstanding – sweet and succulent, and lots of them. The risotto was done perfectly but the flavor was mild and not anything special and in need of a little salt which improved the dish. The pasta was rich and done perfectly al dente. The sauce finished with a bitter taste which was odd for gorgonzola. This night both main dishes were a bit hit and miss for us. We had the wonderful company of Lorenzo and enjoyed our visit with him hearing of his philosophy of large servings and our take out boxes proved him true to his word.

The tiramisu is outstanding here: light, creamy, dripping with espresso – delicioso! We shared bites. And I love zabaglione which comes foaming and warm, heavy with strong sweet Marsala…I spooned it slowly and lingered over each smooth silky spoonful trying not to share! Jon enjoyed a duppio (double espresso) and I, tea.

The food is fairly priced and the restaurant is filled with the happy noise of children and adults laughing, enjoying good food and drinking good wine. It has very good service and that Lorenzo – he is an added attraction!

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So after we had enjoyed it all and had a quick lesson on how to make zabaglione at home from Lorenzo… (“make it one serving at a time, not in a double boiler on the fire, do not whip it mercilessly, gentle whisking will produce a fine foam…”) we finally elbowed our way out the now very busy entry. We looked at each other and said: “Good thing we came early!” And then “Jinx, you owe me a coke!

The evening was spent back in our comfy, clean room relaxing and reading…so much news to catch up on…weekend editions bring art and entertainment sections and book reviews. I never relax over a newspaper at home.

Day Two of Away: The next morning began fairly late with breakfast at 9:30. They let you sleep in! Lots of healthy and more risqué choices if you are into biscuits and sausage gravy. The folks working the breakfast room are happy and helpful.

Our plan was to head out to Value Village for a shopping spree. We were looking for summer clothes for our Panama Trip in April and to see what we could see. It is a huge, well organized and clean store with lots to make second hand shoppers get excited about! We spent an hour and a half finding little treasures and great bargains. The music was a blast from the past and made shopping fun.

This is a great Value Village. They have a great way to hang pants!

We headed over to Redmond Town Center and wandered in and out of upscale stores. This is one of the few places that still has an Anne Taylor store. See’s Candy (cute store, fun website!) is always a good place to stop and get a free chocolate as well as buy a few for the road…I am crazy for their dark chocolate raspberry filled ones and many of their fruit filled truffles…an handpicked box is fun in person or on-line! Charming Charlie’s is full of sparkle and great accessories. Matt’s Rotisserie and Oyster Lounge is a great place for happy hour and oysters.

After a few hours of shopping (still with dark weather brooding over us) we decided we would use our kitchen and eat in. That brought us to one of our favorite haunts at home, Freddie’s. Fred Meyer’s are everywhere – few are as big and full of merchandise as this one. It was fun to see their rather enormous selection of wares. They had sweet dried cherries which our local one has stopped carrying recently so 3 lbs. was a no-brainer. We found sofa cushions for $7 and bought four. For dinner we decided on toasted everything bagels, ham, cream cheese, cucumber and tomato…ambrosia (fruity) and lady alice (spicy) apples, hot coffee and tea from our room, and four chocolate chip cookies from the lobby which we rewarmed in the microwave. The deli “super salad” with kale, mango and barley made us feel like we were being good! I loved it…Jon not so much.

We had dinner in, read, I took a long bath and we watched Jimmy Fallon’s Valentine Special.

Third Day Away: The next morning we woke late (again!) and wandered down for breakfast. After enjoying several of the options offered –oatmeal with cranberries and nuts for me – we went back up to our room and packed. Grabbed some coffee and tea for the road and headed for a 20 minute ride to Pacific Place in Downtown Seattle. Brooklyn sounded like a great Valentine’s movie to us (it was not playing in Redmond). We grabbed AMC Pacific Place Theater matinee tickets before 12 noon under $7 bucks each. Brooklyn is a wonderful immigrant story of the 1950’s about an Irish girl and Italian fellow. It is beautifully directed and photographed. The acting is wonderful. Every dinner table scene from the Brooklyn boarding house to the Christmas church dinner provided for the men down on their luck (the foreign laborers who built America, now out of work) to the Italian family dinner scene are charming, hilarious, realistic and touching! We loved it. We were home by 2:30 and felt like we had had a great few days away!

Final Word: This is a great get away! Remember spring and summer bring the Saturday Market and Cars and Coffee mentioned above! Good weather also brings more activity at the Redmond TownCenter and exploration on foot. We spent under $400 for three days of away resting, relaxation fun. We had a great meal out, saw a great movie, and brought bargains, food and good memories home with us.

Added bonus: There is a lot more in the area you can do to create your own adventure here and not raise the price of the trip!

There are great parks, good museums and with good weather coming scenic drives in the country. This is an excellent few days away with lots to do and minimal muss and fuss! The location of Microsoft in this town makes everything more upscale than usual and there are free tours of the Microsoft campus as well. Sometimes it is fun to do some of your grocery shopping in a new town, visit a good restaurant or a book store and upscale shops up the street that have plenty of free parking! Redmond is one of those places!

A Short Foray Away: George Bernard Shaw play makes good points about a woman’s worth.

Mrs. Warren’s Profession, now playing at Seattle Shakespeare Theater through April 10th highlights George Bernard Shaw’s talent to expose outdated beliefs and uncover hypocrisies using humor and shocking statements to preach his philosophies. Shaw, 1856-1950, an author, playwright, critic and socialist, was intrigued and often outraged with classism, sexism and cultural stereotyping in England during his lifetime. He devoted his pointed, witty plays and his life to such themes.

Program cover with Emily Chisholm as Vivie Warren.

This play also continues in the vein of the Theater’s 25th season theme, “bloodlines”. It is the relationship tale of a daughter and mother whose very different upbringing highlights a rocky getting to know each other; and ends in a severed relationship with an unenlightened conclusion.

Many of us recognize Shaw’s most famous play, Pygmalionthe popular musical play (1956) and movie (1964), My Fair Lady , made shortly after his death. The poor, uneducated street person Eliza Doolittle is rescued by the pompous professor Henry Higgins and through social engineering made/turned into a grand dame introduced and accepted into high society illustrating many points about hypocrisy, class systems, social judgments and expectations.

Mrs. Warren’s Profession does all that but tackles another interesting social issue: the worth of women and their work. Both mother and daughter each insist at some point in the play they: ‘Like working…for money!” Their shared common point of view derived from different life perspectives on the subject in a society that does not respect or support this for women is interesting in juxtaposition…then and now!

Using the life of prostitution and livelihood of a successful madam, Mrs. Kitty Warren (using the Mrs. as a cover for her life and the out-of-wedlock mothering of a child) has high expectations of an eventual loving relationship with her daughter and harsh judgments about a society that shackles a woman’s worth to a man. Her daughter, Vivie Warren, raised well on her mother’s earnings but in absentia (the best caregivers, clothes, and education) has found success without her mother or men in mathematics and has expectations of making it on her own despite how hard and lonely that might be. She has judgments of society as well and finds herself living in a similar but different reality than her mother still with inequality all around. And like Pygmalion this is a sort of rags to riches story with some interesting twists and turns.

Victor Pappas, an award winning director, directs this show with a steady hand seemingly concentrating on good acting to showcase Shaw’s script as the star of the show. There are many fun lines like from Vivie: “All I need is a comfortable chair, a cigar, a shot of whiskey and a novel with a good detective story in it.” Proclaiming her independence, unconventionality, and blurring the lines between women and men. There are many more.

The acting is quite good on all counts. Emily Chisholm as Vivie plays her character with energy, strength, thoughtfulness. Many of those thoughts, expressed in a well-done English accent, often in contradiction of her life experience and idealism, show the puzzling results on her very expressive face. Sure of everything in one moment and wonderingly confused in the next, she plays out the contradictions earnestly and convincingly.

Bobbi Kotula and Emily Chisholm in Mrs. Warren’s Profession. Photo by John Ulman.

Bobbi Kotula as Mrs. Kitty Warren is also very good in her role as the unconventional “successful” women who defines success in her own way and views society in a way that justifies her existence and that success. In many ways she is right! The first scene where the two meet alone and Mrs. Warren reveals to her daughter the details of their lives is a particularly good one. It highlights both actors’ skills and Shaw’s script and philosophies.

The men in the show are really stereotypes: the boyfriend looking for a fortune (Trevor Young Marston); the spineless and in the end of questionable ethics cleric (Todd Jefferson Moore); the idealistic, innocent elder unknowingly used to further Mrs. Warren’s hopes for her daughter (Robert Shampain); and the man behind the success of Mrs. Warren (ah, the irony!), the sleazy, corpulent titled investor in the prostitution enterprise, Sir George Crofts (Richard Ziman). All do their part in making the show interesting and developing the plot and their characters well.

The play is fun to watch and many of Shaw’s points are well taken and articulated in humorous ways. The end, for me, fell short of summing anything up in a truly meaningful way and was disappointing.

The well-done set by Martin Christoffel and lights by Jessica Trundy move from open, summery lightness to cooped-up darkness imitating the turn of the plot with some cleaver touches, scenery and scene changes.

The Final Word: I enjoyed the production, its comedy and tragedy of errors was entertaining and enlightening. Many of the points about convention and non-convention, sexism and a woman’s inability to get paid what she is worth still hit home. This is an intimate house and watching theater here is fun. (The new seats have arrived!) This is a very good production that is well acted, funny, ironic and meaningful on many levels in Shaw’s times and ours! I enjoyed myself all the way up to the ending, but found that it did not completely satisfy as much as the rest of the play. Tickets for the run through April 10th.

Added Bonus: The First Folio event at the Seattle Public Library is going on March 21st – April 17th with lots of Shakespeare events surrounding it. Seattle Shakespeare Theatre will be participating in the celebration. Information and calendar of events included here.

Bill’s Bash, the 25th Anniversary edition fundraiser for The Seattle Shakespeare Theater, is coming up April 24th and promises to be lots of fun for a great cause.