As longtime readers may have noticed from past posts about our Baltic cruise and our trip to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, Mike and I travel at a hectic pace. Our philosophy is that since vacations are short, cram in as many experiences and as much local food as possible--you can relax back at home.
On my recent solo trip to Seattle for the International Food Blogger Conference, my handy downtown hotel enabled me to make the Pike Place Market my home away from home, and I took advantage of the sunny, unseasonably warm days with several walks around the city. Here are some of my discoveries:
- The Russian pastries at Piroshky Piroshky (Pike Place Market, 1908 Pike Place) are a carbohydrate addict's fantasy fulfilled: flaky puff pastry or hearty bread encasing savory or sweet fillings. The savory piroshkies include many vegetarian options; although I loved the soft, freshly baked exterior of my mushroom, onion, and celery piroshky, the celery-heavy filling was overwhelming bitter. I had better luck with the sweet piroshkies: the cinnamon cardamon braid is a dessert for people who love bread, with a doughy pastry flavored throughout with cinnamon and cardamon and brushed with a citrus glaze (I was initially hesitant to try the braid since raisins were listed as an ingredient, but I found exactly one). Also recommended is the chocolate cream hazelnut roll featuring a springy housemade filling studded with bits of hazelnut.
- If you can find a seat, the cheery Le Panier (Pike Place Market, 1902 Pike Place) is the perfect place to rest your feet and appreciate the art of French baking. If the bakery is full, you still need to try the pastries—just get them to go. I enjoyed the croissant la framboise, each bite through its seemingly infinite airy layers revealing a filling that tastes exactly like my mother’s homemade raspberry jam, made lovingly in small batches; and the épinard feuilletés, a puff pastry with a liberally salted and cream-enriched spinach filling that actually left me disappointed that my final bite consisted only of pastry. Although I’ve never been to France, I suspect that the offerings are up to French standards: the dignified gentleman seated next to me was reading Le Monde and tucking into an éclair with gusto.
- I expected Seattle in September to be cloudy and cool, but instead I got a sunburn and was in need of something cold after a sweat-inducing trek along the waterfront. The tart marionberry frozen yogurt at Shy Giant Frozen Yogurt (Pike Place Market, 1500 Pike Place, No. 16) fit the bill: briskly tart, the only sweetness coming from the berries. The other daily frozen yogurt selections were traditionally sweet vanilla and chocolate. In addition to their housemade frozen yogurt, Shy Giant also serves locally made Snoqualmie gourmet ice cream.
- In a city defined by coffee, The Crumpet Shop (Pike Place Market, 1503 First Avenue) is filled with the aroma of tea, with employees madly toasting crumpet after crumpet beneath an Alice in Wonderland mural. You can get a bag of six crumpets to go, or you can order a toasted crumpet with sweet or savory toppings like lemon curd, chocolate hazelnut spread, pesto, or English cheese. I opted for a crumpet spread with a pale pink smoked salmon cream cheese and topped with cucumbers. The thick crumpet’s crisp toasted exterior yielded to a spongy interior, while the smoked salmon spread melted into the crannies. If you enter the shop through the back door, be sure to leave through the front--you can see crumpet making in progress from the sidewalk-facing window.
- The pumpkin old-fashioned doughnuts advertised on a sidewalk placard drew me through the door of Seattle-based Top Pot Doughnuts (flagship cafe at 2124 Fifth Avenue, plus other locations), but when I came face to face with the glass case of doughnuts I couldn’t bring myself to just buy one. The lemon old-fashioned and cinnamon sugar-dusted sandcastle chocolate cake doughnuts were tempting, but when I noticed that the raspberry glazed raised doughnut had flecks of raspberry puree in its brilliant pink glaze, my decision was made. The orange-tinged pumpkin old fashioned doughnut had a pleasingly crusty texture and tasted like the familiar pumpkin pie spice blend of cinnamon and nutmeg. Since I ordered the unglazed version, it had only a hint of sweetness. The raised doughnut, on the other hand, was a billowy serving of dessert for breakfast, with lots of sugar and a bit of fruit. It’s larger than a lesser doughnut would have any right to be—a cup of black coffee to balance the sweetness is a must. As an added bonus, the Fifth Avenue location is a nice hangout, with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a loft.
- Chukar Cherries (Pike Place Market, Main Arcade, 1529-B Pike Place) has a slew of delectable chocolate-covered dried fruit and other goodies. I'm partial to the Black Forest cherries, dried Bing cherries covered with bittersweet cocoa. The helpful people behind the counter are happy to let you sample the different varieties before you buy.
- If you prefer a healthier treat, the dried apple chips at Simply the Best (Pike Place Market, 88 Pike Street) are made without any added sugar or preservatives. I have been happily munching my way through a giant bag of the Golden Delicious chips; they also offer Granny Smith, Fuji, and Honeycrisp apple chips in addition to a wide range of other dried fruits.
- An entire wall of Market Spice (Pike Place Market, 85 Pike Street) is filled with canisters of every spice you’ve ever heard of, and lots that you haven’t, in addition to colored sugar, spice blends, and hot chocolate mix. Since the spices are sold by the ounce, you can buy as much or as little as you want. The shop also sells coffee beans and their own signature tea blends.
- For those who prefer paper over a GPS, Metsker Maps (Pike Place Market, 1511 First Avenue) has every map imaginable, as well as guidebooks, globes, and other geographical merchandise.
What to See:
- The Seattle Aquarium (1483 Alaskan Way) was one of the highlights of my trip. The aquarium is focused on the animals and ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest, and its open-air bird and mammal exhibits and pier location integrate you into the environment you're learning about.
- The iconic panorama of the Seattle skyline from the Kerry Viewpoint (211 W Highland Drive) makes it well worth the uphill climb from downtown.
- Olympic Sculpture Park (2901 Western Avenue) and the adjacent Myrtle Edwards Park (3130 Alaskan Way) are a half hour waterfront stroll from the Pike Place Market. Myrtle Edwards Park in particular is a relaxing escape from the crowds, with a rocky shoreline that reminded me of Lake Superior's North Shore, plus mountains.
- I took a brief walk through Pioneer Square, Seattle's original downtown, and would love to spend more time exploring the neighborhood on a future trip.
- It may be obvious, but I'll mention it anyway: although it's a bit of a tourist trap, the view of Mt. Rainer from the top of the Space Needle (400 Broad Street) on a clear day is still amazing.