Taste of Seattle

I know this blog is mainly about food, but I'd also like to talk about something else that I enjoy very much which is traveling. I've always thought that you can experience a new city through food. A couple of weeks ago, I went to Seattle, WA for vacation. Why? Mainly because I've never been to Seattle, and the Pacific Northwest seemed close enough to me here in the California Bay Area that I made it into an extended weekend stay instead of a week long vacation and it was a very affordable vacation.

The Space Needle in Seattle Center
The Symbol of Seattle: the Very Iconic Space Needle
I stayed for 3 full days, but you can cover the best parts of the city in 2 days: 1 day of walking around and 1 day with a car. On the day I had the car, I went to Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (pretty cool to see a ship go through a lock), visited Bruce Lee's grave, and The Museum of History and Industry. On the other 2 days when I was on foot I, of course, did the touristy thing and went to the Seattle Center where the Seattle's iconic Space Needle is located (there is a restaurant at the top or you can just go there to grab a drink in the bar), the EMP, and Chihuly Gardens. I also went to Pioneer Square and took the Underground Tour (I highly recommend!) and then Pike Place Market.
Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA
Seattle's Famous Pike Place Market
This is the part where this post turns back to food. Pike Place Market is a public market with various stalls where you can go and experience all kinds of foods - jams, nuts, seafood, breads, smoked salmon, etc. It's very similar to The Ferry Building in San Francisco and Quincy Market in Boston (coming soon: my Taste of Boston post from last Spring). It's the market that you see on tv where fishmongers throw fish, but when I was there I unfortunately didn't see any fish flying anywhere. I think they only do that when there are tv cameras around.

Pike Place Fish Co.
Pike Place Fish Co. known for hurling fish
I like how the various vendors at Pike Place Market sometimes give out samples to try also. I had a small cup of (blueberry flavored) Greek Yogurt which was quite good. Being in Seattle, I absolutely had to order some seafood since Seattle is known for having some fresh fish. I ordered a bowl of cioppino which I've never had before. The cioppino definitely hit the spot on that particular day since it rained and it was cold throughout the 3 days I was there. I guess it's true what they say about Seattle - that it's always raining. If you're in the mood for chowder, try Pike Place Chowder which is obviously at Pike's. They've won the best clam chowder award so many times, that they were told that they were indeed the best and to stop participating in these chowder competitions to allow others to have a chance at winning. A good recommendation for a good Seattle restaurant is Ray's Boathouse & Cafe which is a waterfront restaurant that serves the freshest Dungeness crab, oysters, and wild salmon from Alaska. This particular restaurant was recommended by a coworker of mine who happened to go to Seattle a week before me and it was mentioned in my Top 10 Seattle guidebook. Other restaurants in Seattle include Umi Sake House (sushi), Wild Ginger (Asian fusion), Ivar's on Waterfront for seafood, Kedai Makan (hole in the wall Malaysian take out - it's literally just a walk-up window) and Chihuly Center Cafe (bistro). You can't go wrong with any of these good options.

Pike Place Market Sign
Pike Place Market in Seattle
Around the Pike's Market area, you may see a Sur La Table which is a kitchen store that I love going to here in the CA Bay Area. I didn't know this, but Sur La Table is based in Seattle. At Pike's Market, not only did I want to try some Seattle food, but I also wanted to buy food from Seattle to take back home. I was at DeLaurenti, a Mediterranean gourmet grocery store at Pike's Market, buying some local Focaccia Bread (Essential Baking Company based in Seattle), and if you've read my blog, you'd know that I'm a big fan of focaccia bread. This focaccia was quite good: it was soft and moist. The focaccia I make tends to have a crunchy exterior whereas this Seattle focaccia was soft and sponge-like. When I was purchasing this bread, I asked the cashier what he recommended I buy to take back home for the rest of my family. He recommended buying some smoked salmon which is typical Seattle. The smoked salmon comes sealed in a box, so it's easy to carry back inside your carry-on luggage. I had already planned to buy some smoked salmon since my family already requested it, but he also said I can bring back some chocolates. He then directed me to some chocolates that are made in Seattle (Theo Chocolate), so I bought a couple bars of 85% cocao dark chocolate. My family absolutely love the dark and bitter chocolates as opposed to milk chocolate.

Pike Place Market closed during the Ghost Tour
The Ghost Tour takes you through Pike Place Market after closing.
Now that I've tried some Seattle seafood and bought some Seattle food to bring back home to my family, what else can I do to further experience Seattle? Well, other than food, do you know what else Seattle is known for? Coffee! Yes, there are cafes virtually everywhere, but I found it kind of strange that although there seemed to be 3 Starbucks within a 1 block radius anywhere you go in Seattle, I did not see one Seattle's Best Coffee. But going back to Starbucks, I made it a point to go to the very first Starbucks. I went there, and there was a line literally out the door so there was definitely a wait to get a cup of coffee.

The Very First Starbucks in Seattle
The very first Starbucks in Seattle. Note the different logo of the mermaid.

Inside of the original Starbucks
The inside of the original Starbucks that started it all.
I went with my "go to" coffee when going to Starbucks which was a white chocolate mocha. Even though I was there as a tourist just like everyone else, it's quite a shame that the very first Starbucks is more of a tourist spot than a place where you can go to get a coffee. I'm sure 99% of their customers are people from out of town and those from Seattle just go to the next closest Starbucks which is probably a block away and you probably don't have to wait very long. As a tourist, you kind of want to go where the locals go and hangout.

receipt from the first Starbucks
sign from the first Starbucks at Museum of History and Industry
A souvenir from the first Starbucks.A sign from when the first Starbucks opened (Museum of History and Industry)
I wasn't aware of this, but if you're into beer, Seattle is also known for its breweries. Seattle is home to common beers that you see at bars and restaurants like Pyramid and Redhook beer. In fact you can visit the Pyramid Brewery in Seattle which is located close to CenturyLink Field where the Seattle Seahawks play. There's also a beer there called Rainier beer which is to Seattle as Anchor Steam is to San Francisco and Sam Adams is to Boston. Rainier beer is a light beer which is equivalent to Pabst Blue Ribbon which could be a good thing or a bad thing. It's a bad thing if you don't like diluted, watered-down beers, but a good thing if you're yuppie and you find it hip to be drinking PBR which leads to the question: since when was drinking PBR ever that cool?

Fans walking to CenturyLink Field to watch the Seahawks play the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.
Fans walking to CenturyLink Field to watch the Seahawks play the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.
Lastly, this is for those who have a sweet tooth for candy and in particular gum. In an alley below Pike's market, there is what is aptly called the Gum Wall. I had no idea what it was when I first heard of it, and for some reason it just didn't occur to me that it was just a wall of gum. People would discard their gum after chewing and stick it on this wall and hence the name Gum Wall.

Seattle's Monorail built in 1962 for the World's Fair
Seattle's Monorail built in 1962 for the World's Fair
If you want to know more about Seattle or are planning a visit and you'd like to know more about the things to do, let me know. I felt like I saw a lot of Seattle and covered a lot of ground in my 3 days there. Seattle is a nice city to visit if you've never been. The one thing I would do differently is to not visit during the middle of winter. The reason why I went earlier this month was because it was my friend's spur of the moment idea to go, so he was the one to set the date. Ideally, you'd like to go when it's a bit warmer even though it wasn't that much colder than what we would normally get here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I did, however, experience the real Seattle in the form of constant rain. I would also recommend staying in downtown Seattle, so that you're walking distance from Pike's Market and close to the light rail to go to and from the airport (otherwise it's a $40 cab ride) or Monorail to go to Seattle Center.


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