Sunday, February 25, 2007

Eating out. Maximillian's.

During our early years in Seattle, we would go to Maximillian's for brunch whenever we went to the Pike Place Market on weekends. It was like a hidden treasure, tucked away at the end of a winding corridor. Touch the gleaming bronze statue of a pig as you walk into the shelter of the market, watch the fishmongers throw fresh fish at each other while tourists laugh and take pictures. A very tiny, very expensive flower shop sells perfect roses and lilies and luridly dyed carnations to your left; if you keep going you pass stalls selling fresh donuts and magazines and newspapers, or you could walk into DeLaurenti, and lose yourself amongst the aisles of imported chocolates and olive oils and pastas, stand transfixed before the glass counters with cheeses and hams and salamis.

Past the shop selling spices, which smells of herbs and spices and teas from all corners of the world, a heady sensation, the shelves behind the counter piled high with glass jars, then there was that narrow hallway with a painted hand directing to towards Maxmillian's. When I was very small I would run ahead, slip through the glass door, bounce impatiently until the grownups finally joined me. There would be baguettes with sweet butter and jam, glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice, hot coffee for the parents. And there would be omelets and eggs Benedict and bowls of steamed mussels.

Later we would try other restaurants for brunch, Etta's Seafood, for, well, seafood, just past the end of the market. Or perhaps we would go to Café Campagne, opening off an alleyway beneath the Inn at the Market, for scrambled eggs and sausages and the most perfect quiche and the best salad I have ever eaten. Sometimes we would head up to First Avenue, to a narrow little French café called Le Pichet, for hot onion soup and open-faced sandwiches. It has been a long time since we went to Maxmillian's, with its mirrored walls and tiny bud vases and views of the water. But we are here again, just my father and I - my mother has left again for Taipei - and the time slides away.

The menu is a little different, but otherwise the restaurant doesn't look any different from what I remember. Or perhaps it just looks like a place that has looked the same for the past hundred years, like any little café in a small provincial town in the French countryside. (Not that I've every been to a little café in a small provincial town in the French countryside). I order orange juice and eat my bread and butter; my father orders moules marinières, as he has done for the past twenty years, joking a little to the waiter as he does so. The waiter is French, and therefore humorless, so my father's conversation fails to engage him. My crêpes arrive, filled with fruit and drizzled with chocolate sauce, and the moules are as we remember them, garlicky and buttery and heady with white wine and parsley. A week from now my father will have gone back to Taipei, and my life will return to normal. But for now there is bread and butter and moules marinière, and Sunday lunch at the market.

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