I just returned from a 4 day trip exploring the Pacific Northwest city of Seattle – and what trip would be complete without a visit to the World Famous Pike Place Market?
In case you didn’t know, Pike Place Market was opened in 1907 as a way for people to cut out the middle man and avoid high prices for their food and produce. This way, people could “Meet the Producer” (Their slogan to this day) of what they were buying. Every space is rented out on a daily basis, sometimes with vendors rotating if they can’t get there early enough to get their usual spot. They offer everything from fresh fish, to fruit, to flowers, to honey, cherries, beef jerky, t-shirts, wood carvings, calligraphy, bracelets and more.
And of course, there’s the fish throwing.
My first morning in town, I went to a delightful little restaurant near my hotel called Toulouse Petit, which offers an awesome breakfast happy hour with most dishes for a mere $7.50 from 8-11 AM, Monday through Friday. I’m a total sucker for some eggs benedict with avocado, so I ordered up their Avocado & Roma Tomato eggs benedict. My food seriously came out so fast, I wasn’t even sure it was mine – not to mention, I hadn’t even gotten served my morning cocktail from the bar yet. The menu touted the dish as being served in a Creole-style hollandaise sauce, but I could barely taste it. The avocado melted in my mouth though and the potatoes were crispy and delicious. I can’t wait to go back and try their beignets and creme caramel french toast!
That afternoon, I walked around the International District, hitting up Uwajimaya, a Japanese/Asian supermarket akin to Mitsuwa here on the East Coast in Edgewater, NJ. I pretty much died and went to heaven. If I ever moved to Seattle, this would be my mecca. I got melon pan and a chocolate stuffed bread for snacks (which were my favorite when I visited Japan). My sole purpose of this visit was to get some fresh, delicious sushi. So I walked a few blocks over to J-Sushi. When I first walked in, I was a little put off because the staff were sitting at a back table all eating lunch. Having worked in the restaurant business before, I just think it’s bad form to be eating in front of your customers – especially if it’s food from another restaurant. So of course I was skeptical about the food and didn’t really want to leave and find another place to go because I was in the mood for sushi, so I took my chances (even when the waitress took my order with a piece of rice stuck to the side of her mouth). I ordered the J-Combo, which included miso soup, 5 nigiri, 4 sashimi, a roll, 2 gyoza and a little bit of seaweed salad. Well, appearances can be deceiving because the food was fantastic! The soup hit the spot on a cold, misty day. The sushi was very fresh and delicious. The spicy tuna roll was especially spicy; I had to keep eating ginger to cool my mouth down. The gyoza were warm and plump. Definitely worth the $18.95 (as opposed to a lot of place that will overcharge you for a minimal amount of food.)
Later that night, I tried Dick’s Drive In – a local fast food burger place – on the recommendation of a friend who told me that if I did nothing else on my Seattle trip, I must visit Dick’s Drive-In for great post-drunkenness food. Well, I wasn’t drunk but I was hungry and didn’t feel like eating at a sit down because it was pretty late, so I headed over to Dick’s. There was a line but it moves pretty fast because most of their burgers are pre-packaged and ready for the crowds. Had to pay for ketchup which is like UGH for a severe ketchup addict like me, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. The fries were delicious; greasy and fresh hand-cut shoestrings. The burger was better then McDonald’s/BK/Wendy’s quality and definitely hit the spot as far as a quick burger goes.And it was cheaper for a whole meal too! Came to under $6 for fries, burger & small drink. (Obviously, I’m not going to go as far as saying it was the best or worst burger in Seattle; We’ll wait until I go back to visit again to try a whole Seattle Burger Quest.)
The next day, I snacked on one of my Japanese breads for breakfast because I was saving my appetite for that afternoon’s Savor Seattle Gourmet Food Tour, which promised 3 hours of food and booze filled enjoyment while walking around downtown Seattle. The tour started at The Yellow Leaf Cupcake Company, where we met our tour guide Eric (aka the guy in the Kilt) and got to have a little chat with the owner of the cupcake shop while sampling 2 of their most popular cupcakes:
chocolate with sprinkles (top) & pancakes and bacon (bottom)
The pancakes & bacon one was out of this world. Tony & Michael, the owners, rotate 220 different flavors of cupcakes at the shop throughout the year. (They also shared some tricks of the trade that are going to come in mighty handy whenever I decide to move my ass and start my own cupcake business.)
Next stop was Serious Pie, owned by restauranteur Tom Douglas – aka Seattle’s answer to Stephen Starr here in Philadelphia. (Which I guess makes Serious Pie the West Coast version of Pizzeria Stella…) We tried 2 different pizzas: roasted chanterelle mushrooms & truffle cheeseand yukon gold potato, rosemary & pecorino. I’m not a big fan of mushrooms, so I tried to take a slice with the smallest one I could find. The truffle cheese was amazing. On the potato pie, the pecorino is shaved onto the pizza when it comes out of the oven, making it delicate and flaky and delicious.
Third stop was Icon Grill, where we tried a succulent, well prepared tenderloin topped with blue cheese, an Orange Drop martini (their take on a traditional Lemon Drop), and a side they dub “Ultimate Mac n Cheese”, which contains 4 cheeses and is topped with bread crumbs – to which they add more cheese sauce on top when it comes out of the oven. (HINT! The secret ingredient is Velveeta!)
We then walked over to the Pike Place Market, stopping into La Buona Tavola for a little bit of potato leek soup with truffle oil and some samples of aged balsamic vinegars. Next in the market, we went downstairs into Il Bistro, for their seafood risotto with clams and tomatoes, as well as a rich, Sangiovese red wine.
Oh, but we’re not done yet, friends! Next, we got a private tour of the Pike Place Brewing Company – getting to see how they store their grains and brews and how they bottle and fill the kegs. After that, we went upstairs for a beer and cheese pairing. I bet you never though of pairing beer with anything other then the cheese on your nachos, but these were pretty great. We tried an Ale and an IPA with an aged cheddar and a blue cheese, the brewery’s own house made spent grain bread on the side. (Because who doesn’t love carbs with their carbs??)
Second to last stop was Thoa’s Vietnamese restaurant where we ate Vietnamese Pad Thai served with Nuoc Cham – or fish sauce – as opposed to the more gooey, peanut infused style Pad Thai you’re probably familiar with. I really enjoyed this dish because I love Nuoc Cham, especially over Bun (Vermicelli). It was just really light and flavorful. I’ll probably start making my pad thai more like this at home.
Finally – Dessert time! Gelatiamo, serving up delicious, homestyle gelato and sorbetto. We sampled the Caramel gelato and Fragola (Strawberry) sorbetto.
The next day was my very last day in Seattle. I got up early, went back down to Pike Place Market to stand on line for my signature favorite drink: Skinny Caramel Macchiato, at the Original Starbucks.
The line moves pretty quickly and there’s a gift shop as well. The staff are fun and fast (unlike some Starbucks I know – cough18thandMarketcough). They even still use an original hand pressed espresso machine!
I really wanted Fish & Chips – had been craving them for weeks and decided to save the craving for Seattle. I popped into the Athenian Inn in Pike Place, which apparently was where they filmed a scene from Sleepless in Seattle (never saw it so I couldn’t tell you). I got a nice window seat to watch the ferry boats come in and ordered a Pike Brewery Auld Acquaintance, one of their seasonal beers, in a nice, frosty mug.
I’m not sure what they used to batter my fish in, but when they came out, they were neon orange. I was a little skeptical, but I still ate them because I was starving. I’ve definitely had better fish & chips from the freezer section at the supermarket, but I guess you’re paying for the ‘experience’ of eating here.
And that was it! I ate some amazing things and some mediocre things and some kind of questionable things, but I guess that’s true of pretty much any place that you go. I definitely had a lot of other places on my list where I would have liked to eat, plus suggestions that were given to me by friends I made along my journey. I just didn’t have time or the stomach capacity to fit it all in!
So consider this the first installment of S-EAT-tle, for now. I promised I’d be back soon.