SEATTLE This is my dream, Rick Prokop said as he piloted the 40-foot Sea Ray through the waters of Lake Washington and Union Lake in Seattle. I wanted to add that being in Seattle is a dream that I like to have because there is always something new to experience, and certainly the boat ride was one of them.
Rick s wife, Kay Prokop, and I have been friends for more than 30 years, ever since we met as food editors; she was with the San Diego Tribune and worked for The Blade.
A retired FBI agent, Mr. Prokop appropriately named his dream ship Incognito and has plans to take it to Alaska next spring. In the meantime, he maneuvers it as far as Friday Harbor and the San Juan Islands and on shorter trips to the lakes close to Seattle. Get out your camera, he said, because we were about to pass the houseboat from Sleepless in Seattle.
Seattle has a large network of houseboat neighborhoods on the shorelines of the city s many harbors, bays, and lakes. The charming green-trimmed cottage, with decks facing the lake and flowers spilling from flower boxes, is typical of others in the area that are anchored as permanent residences. It s a lifestyle that has appeal: no grass to mow, no leaves to rake.
Another celebrity property the captain pointed out was the Bill Gates estate on Lake Washington, or at least he and Mrs. Prokop are quite certain that is where it is. The main house on a hill is barely visible. A smaller house is at the shoreline.
A funicular that runs up and down the hill connects the two. From the water, the funicular looks like a cable car track.
Retired foodies never give up the search for interesting eateries, and I can always depend on Mrs. Prokop for a new experience. This time we chowed down on wonderful take-out fried chicken from Ezell s, 501 23rd St., Seattle. Since Oprah discovered Ezell s and has the chicken over-nighted to Chicago, it has gained a national reputation. Large Oprah posters inside Ezell s show the family is proud of their No. 1 fan.
The chicken s crunchy breading with delicate seasoning was no doubt as high in fat as it was good to eat. I cast that idea aside and reached for another piece.
Seattle is not only a beautiful city from the waterfront and in the suburbs, but downtown is bustling. Although there is no shortage of coffee shops, it always tastes better downtown. I like to get there in the morning before the stores and offices open and be a part of the coffee parade. It seems that no one goes to work without stopping for coffee, espresso, of cappuccino. It s a social thing that brings people together at outside tables, even in the rain.
I was disappointed that it didn t rain during my visit. I was prepared with an umbrella and rain bonnet tucked inside my purse. On the first visit to Seattle several years ago, it was raining when I got out of the cab. I quickly tied on a black rain bonnet that extended over my forehead under my chin. The driver looked at me suspiciously. In Seattle, umbrellas are used in heavy rainfall but please, no midwestern bonnets.
The Pike Market is a wonderful place that stretches through several blocks downtown. It not only is the city s No. 1 tourist attraction, but it is equally important for residents who depend on the market for fresh produce, meats, fish, lunch, and dinner, and handcrafted gift items or to stop on their way home for a bouquet of flowers. Silver jewelry is big and includes drop earrings to simulate Seattle raindrops. Fish and produce mongers are in full voice to tell shoppers theirs is the best and the freshest.
In the small-world department, I learned while looking at silk scarves that Tamma Farra, the designer, attended Adrian College in 1967 and 1968. Slacks weren t permitted on campus then, she recalled, and the dorm curfew was 10 p.m. Here s a tip from the artist: sprinkling salt on the dyed silk sets the color.
I spent more time with Brian Holmquist, who was selling and promoting hazelnuts, which happen to be my favorite nut, even more so than Hawaiian macadamias. Mr. Holmquist is a fifth-generation hazelnut farmer in Lyndon, Wash., with 30,000 trees. Naked hazelnuts may be best for baking, but the Holmquist family is on the added-flavor bandwagon with several varieties, from lemon honey to southwestern. Cherry chocolate covered hazelnuts are too good to believe hazelnuts score high as a mono unsaturated fat.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Sunday, the main street in Ballard is blocked off and a glorious farmer s market is set up. I am sorry now that I didn t get a salmon sandwich, but we did munch on sunflower sprout samples. The sprouts are crisp and bright green and great to toss in a salad.
But the Worm Tea was not being sampled. You never know, in America s quest for health in strange ways, and there is that movie about fried worms. The tea concentrate, made from worm castings, is used to water indoor and outdoor plants and is claimed to build a strong root system. That the worms are fed organic grass is a sales pitch.