July 8, 2020

The gifting of wine

I don’t know if anyone else caught this little tidbit in a recent edition of Daily Candy, but these funky, sticky wine bottle labels certainly put to rest the question of where that fabulous Malbec came from. The Toast-its website describes them as “greeting cards that wrap around wine bottles,” giving you a way to write a pithy little note on the bottle you’re gifting. After a quick scan of the label options it looks as though there are a few cool designs available. Though doesn’t this lovely little greeting card cover up the label the wine came with, the one that, um, tells you what kind of wine it is?

Private event locales

Dear Alix,

I’m planning to throw a 40th birthday party for my husband and need some inspiration. Do you have any suggestions for interesting Seattle party venues?

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Dear Party Planner,

Ah, the age-old question of location… It all depends, doesn’t it, on what kind of vibe you’re looking for, how big or small the party might be and in what part of town you want to throw this shindig. I’m not suggesting that the list below is a comprehensive one, not by a long shot; there are a gazillion restaurants and bars not to mention dedicated event spaces that are vying for your business. Instead, this is a short list of venues that I think are interesting or well laid out or geographically desirable or all of the above. And I’m thinking somewhere in the 25-40 guest range for the most part, a nice party size.

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Some of the restaurants and bars I like that also happen to have private spaces:

Chez Shea (Pike Place Market)
94 Pike St, Ste 34
(206) 467-9990

Soul Repair (the back room at Quinn’s on Capitol Hill)
1001 E Pike St
(206) 979-SHOP

Chapel (Capitol Hill)
1600 Melrose Ave
(206) 447-4180

BalMar (Ballard)
5449 Ballard Ave NW
(206) 297-0500

Volterra (Ballard)
5411 Ballard Ave NW
(206) 789-5100

Or in the case of one of my favorite little spots, they don’t have a private space because it’s so small but they do rent out the whole place:

Licorous (Capitol Hill)
928 12th Ave
(206) 325-6947

If your guest of honor — or maybe just the bulk of your guests — are more beer-oriented, you might consider either one of these:

Elysian (SoDo)
542 1st Ave S, Ste B
(206) 382-4498

Hale’s Ales (Fremont/Ballard)
4301 Leary Way NW
(206) 706-1544

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And if by chance I have it all wrong and you’re interested in throwing a bigger party:

Palace Ballroom (Downtown)
2030 5th Ave
(206) 441-5542

Pravda (Capitol Hill)
1406 10th Ave, Ste 200
(206) 728-1177

Given my recent affection for Georgetown, it’s not too terribly surprising that I would recommend two in that neighborhood, both very different spaces:

Georgetown Ballroom (Georgetown)
5623 Airport Way S
(206) 763-4999

Georgetown Studios (Georgetown)
5890 Airport Way S
(800) 517-1052

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Or if we’re talking blowout and you need a space that’s ballroom-sized, The Dome Room at the Arctic Club Hotel is a little something different. With rococo gilt and a stained glass dome ceiling, as well as the Polar Bar in the hotel lobby when you want to slip away for a game of pool, it’s very throwback in all the right ways. Though it was sold to Hilton and added to the Doubletree brand last year; hopefully they maintain all that is good in this unique hotel.

Arctic Club Hotel (Downtown)
700 3rd Ave
(206) 340-0340

Unanticipated dinner guests

Dear Alix,

What to do if you’ve planned a casual dinner for six, the table is set, the dinner is made. But then neighbors drop off their daughter for the Halloween party in progress and end up staying a while and chatting, totally oblivious to the fact that dinner service is imminent… and they’re not on the guest list. How to resolve a situation like this without making anyone feel bad, or ruining the dinner I’ve worked hard to prepare?

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Kind Hostess:

I’m a fan of giving people a chance to catch on, thinking surely they will see the table set and just waiting to have dinner placed upon it. How long must you wait? As long as what you’ve prepared can bear it, assuming that your other guests are sufficiently supplied with drinks and snacks. If the lasagna is drying out in the oven and still no light bulb has appeared over the heads of your drop-ins, try something like “Ah, there goes the timer! We’re just about to sit down for dinner and would love it if you would join us.” Likely they will refuse, but your gracious invitation — issued with real sincerity, one hopes — will leave your excellent neighborly relations intact. And if they accept, squeeze in two more place settings, cut the pieces of lasagna a little smaller, open another bottle of wine and it will be as though the meal was always meant for eight.

Eat, drink, and be merry: Phinney, Ravenna, Ballard

Welcome to another installment in my occasional series on interesting neighborhoods to check out, and my recommendations on where to sample the local food and drink.


  • Plan your tour of Phinney for a Thursday night so that you can start at Picnic’s (pictured above) weekly wine tasting. For a mere $8 you’ll get the chance to sample some terrific wine as well as a selection of the meats, cheeses and other nibbles straight from the pantry of this fantastic eat in/take out neighborhood spot.
  • Continue on to Oliver’s Twist for a Parish Boy (cognac, St. Germain, fernet-branca and lemon bitters ) and small plates like the Mt. Townsend Seastack cheese, bacon compote, brioche crouton and orange marmalade.
  • Take a u-turn from the upscale and march down the block to El Chupacabra. Go for the kitschy “Mexican baroque” décor (as I’ve heard it described) and stay for margaritas in tall tumblers and several rounds of pool.
  • Ravenna

  • Frank’s Oyster House & Champagne Parlor is the sort of place where you want to settle in and stay for a while, and I encourage you to do just that. Maybe it’s the small scale of the bar, all of the warm wood or the excellent service, but I can’t think of a better place to start your night.
  • I feel a little like I’m cheating as Frank’s and Pair are owned by the same couple, but it’s such a great combination that I couldn’t resist. Pair is a sweet little neighborhood restaurant that happens to have fantastic food like the smoked pork belly with a farro and spring onion salad, wilted chard and ginger-mustard gastrique. I mean, come on!
  • For dessert check out Peaks Frozen Custard, working hard to teach Seattleites the joys of this Midwest staple.
  • Ballard

  • Start your evening with drinks in the bar at Volterra, with a White Peach Thyme Bellini or maybe the Nocciola Manhattan if you’re feeling a little sturdier.
  • Just up the street from Volterra is La Carta de Oaxaca, with to-die-for black chile mole and my favorite, molotes (potatoes and beef sausage wrapped in fried homemade tortillas with guacamole, hot sauce and Oaxaqueno cheese). No matter that the line is always out the door; just order up a margarita and settle in for the wait.
  • Another small plate option, though likely to be just as busy, is Ocho. Come here for fantastic Spanish tapas like seared sea scallops with an English pea purée, Serrano ham and lemon vinaigrette, and stay for a very well-poured San Miguel (gin, St. Germain and rhubarb bitters). Can you tell? I love the St. Germain.
  • If you’re still standing after all of this good food and drink, make your way to King’s Hardware and play a few games of skee ball while you ponder the use of taxidermy as décor.
  • [Photo of Picnic courtesy of BUILD LLC]

    The transferable skill of fitted sheet folding

    A funny thing happened to me this weekend. I was working an event in Federal Way for Friends of the Hylebos and we were using three of those pop-up canopies with detachable covers. (You know, like the kind used by all of your favorite vendors at the farmers market.) After two days and a couple of set-ups and tear-downs of the canopies I came to an interesting realization about folding the covers, once detached. I picked one up and realized that it had shaped corners, exactly like a fitted sheet. With the help of another pair of hands -– it’s bigger than your average sheet, after all –- we were able to fold the cover lickety split. The peaked shape of the canopy makes for a funny pokey-out bit when you’re trying to wrangle it, so the sail folding skills learned in childhood came in handy with evening out the uneven shape.

    All in all, I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that the skills used in folding a fitted sheet can be applied to other aspects of one’s life. If you too would like to become a folding wizard, check out my previous post and how-to video.