Let's eat!

Hi. My name's Carol, and I love food. No, you don't understand. I love food. If I were on the Titanic, I'd be in the galley (kitchen) eating up the chocolate pudding and the roasted quail. I go to most events, activities and parties just for the food. The company and the conversation are secondary. Here, I'll try to document everything that goes into my mouth. Aren't we excited? Oh, hey, are you gonna eat that?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Arnie's Mukilteo for Mari-jo

Mari-jo is a friend from way back--as close to a childhood friend as the rest of you non-military have and take for granted. I've known her since Aiea High School, Class of 1982. She and her husband Doug visited me and my family in Seattle last year. We took them to Pike Place Market and the Seattle Waterfront, then Mia Roma's Italian in Bothell for dinner. They paid. They loved the simple, basic Italian fare.

I remember Mari-jo, me, Elaine, Gina, and some others would love to go to Hawaii's Yum Yum Tree or Uncle John's, Zippy's, or any number of those comfort food places. They're a bit too strait-laced and bland for my taste, but they remind us all of home, youth, and friendship: chicken pot pies, meatloaf, pancakes, Portuguese sausage, eggs and rice.

For Mari-jo's second visit (she brought her daughter, Jana, too) last week, I wanted to take her to a place that represented the Northwest more (and treat her this time). She confirmed this by telling me it would be nice if she could have a really nice salmon dinner somewhere. Somewhere, eventually lead me to Arnie's in Mukilteo near the ferry dock. Arnie's is a local seafood chain. There's one in Edmonds too, and it's always crowded.

I was torn between Arnie's and Chandler's Crabhouse on Lake Union, which KIRO-FM radio jockeys were always promoting. Chandler's menu seemed too frou-frou for Mari-jo's basic, down-home taste. We also had my picky eater son James to think about, as well as her seafood-hating, burger-loving daughter Jana. Then, there was the matter of finances. Chandler's was way too expensive. The King Salmon they had was Chipotle-glazed with apple cucumber relish. I know for sure Mari-jo prefers her fish prepared simply, some butter, a little caper. There wasn't a children's menu I could look at and not much of a non-seafood selection.

Arnie's had a children's menu (buttered noodles to the rescue) and a decent burger, plus assorted other simple non-seafood dishes to choose from. Its salmon was prepared with butter and capers. Done.

The late night before, I last-minute thought it best to make an online reservation (which you can do with the best, hippest restaurants nowadays), since it would be a Friday night. I made the reservation for six for 5:30 p.m.

It turned out I made the right decision.

We -- me, Mari-jo, and Jana -- were at the mall and barely made it to Arnie's, with the boys arriving 15 minutes after we did, after the reservation date. We beat the ferry and dinner traffic. The stragglers who arrived before us without reservations had to wait 40 minutes.

Mari-jo took one look at the salmon selection (there were two to choose from) and fell in love with Arnie's Seafood Grill -- char-grilled salmon, sea scallops, prawns. Once she tasted it, she was even more in love.

Her daughter Jana found an Asian-inspired kind of a dish -- herb-Panko breaded, pan-seared Chicken Parmesan -- which she declared was even better than a Macaroni Grill version, her favorite.

Luckily for them, we were in early enough to benefit from Arnie's $19.95 Early Dinner deal, which includes three courses (starter, entree, dessert).

As soon as I saw the Penn Cove Mussels in the starter section of the main non-early dinner menu, everything else faded to black. Mari-jo may love her basic salmon. But I have had a love affair with Penn Cove Mussels ever since I moved up here from Hawaii, and discovered them at Cyclops.

Arnie's offered its Penn Cove Mussels cooked with dill-sorrel pesto, wine reduction and cream. They were tart, tangy, lemony, and fresh--not one shell closed. I ate every last one with lots of light sour dough bread (hot, crispy, doughy) to sop up the creamy tang. The only other thing I had was a small, deeply flavorful Caesar.

I'd go back. I've been to Arnie's before. It was always just okay. I don't know what I was looking for. Something more classic-continental with raw oysters, cracked lobster, and Steak Diane? I don't know. But it's way better than just okay now. No wonder there are always crowds. With a gorgeous view of the ferry on the Sound and the Sounder train going back and forth on the track in front, how can you go wrong?

If any of my other out-of-town friends come in, that's where I'm taking them.

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