John’s Birthday

For John’s birthday I gave him dinner and two tickets to see Candide at the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle. We parked at our office and took the monorail into downtown. (Good thing, too, as the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure was taking place and everything was crowded with women in various stages of pink obsession.)

The 5th Ave is a gorgeous jewel box of a theater. Built in 1926, it’s modeled after Imperial China’s Forbidden City, Temple of Heavenly Peace, and the Summer Palace. There are coffered ceilings, intricately carved balconies, and detailed grill work.

One of the most stunning features is the auditorium’s center dome, a replica of the one from the palace’s throne room (only twice the size). The “Pearl of Perfection” chandelier is held in the teeth of a great coiling dragon, which has five toes—each toe representing an evil spirit that must be vanquished. The elaborate proscenium arch that frames the stage features a myriad of Chinese design motifs, including bas-reliefs of the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. The theatre’s constant residents are a pair of Fu Dogs, which have traditionally stood guard in front of China’s imperial palaces (from

Even the exit signs have an oriental cast to them.

Candide was fun. I’m not a musical theater fan, but even I appreciated the humor in this witty, satirical tale of a young man’s journey from innocent naivete to rational exuberance. The signing was excellent and the acting even better.

For dinner we went to Tilikum Place Cafe, which is right around the corner from our office. This was a VERY good idea as we had an absolutely delightful dinner.

We began with appetizers of handcut pasta in brown butter-sage sauce (John) and a savory tart of duck, sour cherries and onions in a delicious pastry (me).  We then had yummy green salads, which were perfect.  For dinner John had the special of true cod over beet-infused Israeli couscous and I had ricotta gnocchi with spring vegetables. His fish was done perfectly, with the couscous bringing out the delicate flavor rather than overwhelming it. My gnocchi was delightful — especially since it wasn’t mushy but fried gently.

For dessert we split a dish of vanilla ice cream-stuffed profiteroles with a delicate caramel sauce. All in all, a very good birthday present.

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