Seattle (2015)

October 4, 2015

Last month, I spent a whirlwind weekend in Seattle for the 2015 International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC).  In addition to nibbling on samples and attending sessions on social media and freelance pitching, I snuck away from the conference for pastries at the Pike Place Market, walks along the waterfront, and a tour of Seattle's underground.    

Crumpet Shop and Top Pot Doughnuts
From left: toasted crumpet with blackberry preserves from The Crumpet Shop; Top Pot Doughnuts sign in the early morning hours; glazed pumpkin old-fashioned and Sandcastle doughnuts from Top Pot Doughnuts

Food

  • I started my first day in Seattle with a dose of sugar and caffeine at Top Pot Doughnuts (flagship cafe at 2124 5th Ave, plus other locations).  The seasonal glazed pumpkin old-fashioned was my favorite, with a wholesome spiced flavor and crusty nooks for the glaze to seep into.  The Sandcastle, a chocolate cake doughnut with cinnamon, was tasty but a bit too dense.
  • The Crumpet Shop (Pike Place Market, 1503 1st Ave) serves toasted crumpets topped with everything from pesto to lemon curd.  The small shop can get crowded, so go first thing in the morning.  Try the crumpet with blackberry preserves: the textural combination of the crumpet's crunchy toasted exterior and spongy interior is set off perfectly by the thick fruit spread.
  • Calling your product "the world's best" sets a high bar, but the macaroni and cheese at Beecher's Handmade Cheese (Pike Place Market, 1600 Pike Pl) doesn't disappoint.  It tastes homemade in the best possible way, with a mild cheese sauce made from Flagship and Just Jack clinging tightly to the ridges of each penne noodle.
  • On my last Seattle trip, I tried the namesake frozen treat at Shy Giant Frozen Yogurt (Pike Place Market, 1500 Pike Pl, No. 16); this time around, I opted for a cup of huckleberry ice cream.  It was a refreshing treat, loaded with berries and not too sweet.
  • Although most people gravitate toward the giant croissants or elegant cakes, my favorite pastries at Le Panier (Pike Place Market, 1902 Pike Pl) are the feuilletes.  These puff pastry tarts with a savory filling are perfect for a light lunch, especially when paired with a piece of fruit from a nearby vendor.  There are usually a few vegetarian feuilletes available, my favorite of which is the epinard: spinach with a hint of cream.
  • If you're a vegetarian who's tired of the standard margherita pizza, Pizzeria Gabbiano (240 2nd Ave S) is the place for you.  On the day I visited there were four vegetarian options: padron pepper and roasted red pepper with Hatch chile bechamel; pear, blue cheese, walnut, and radicchio; heirloom tomato with mozzarella and marjoram pesto; and yes, margherita (there were also four meaty choices).  The pizzas are baked in long, skinny rectangles and sold by weight, so you can sample slivers of each variety.  The crust varied by pie, from cracker-thin to a puffy bread-like texture.  I sampled all four vegetarian options, and my favorites were the pear/blue cheese/walnut and pepper with bechamel.
Le Panier, Gabbiano's Pizza, and Beecher's Homemade Cheese
From left: epinard feuillete from Le Panier; vegetarian pizza options from Pizzeria Gabbiano; World's Best Macaroni and Cheese from Beecher's Handmade Cheese

Sightseeing

  • Waterfall Garden Park (219 2nd Ave S) is one of the oddest parks I've come across--it's a  small corner lot with water cascading down the side of a building.  Artificial as the waterfall may be, it lends a genuine tranquility to the tastefully landscaped space.  There are little bistro tables for al fresco dining, and the park is conveniently located across the street from Pizzeria Gabbiano (mentioned above).
  • Seattle's historic district is home to a non-traditional national park, the Seattle Unit of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (319 2nd Ave S).  The "park" is actually a visitor's center that interprets the 1897 Klondike Gold Rush with a focus on Seattle, a way point for many of the 100,000 hopeful prospectors.  Enterprising merchants supplied the miners with food, clothing, and other equipment, and the influx of cash helped transform Seattle into a major U.S. city.  My favorite exhibit was a giant wheel of fortune illustrating the odds of striking it rich in the Klondike (very slim).  I also enjoyed a series of signs that highlighted the experiences of five individuals who were a part of the Gold Rush, including a savvy farmer who sold greenhouse-raised vegetables to miners.
  • The street level of Seattle was raised in the early 20th century, and as a result the ground levels of the existing buildings became Seattle's Underground.  Bill Speidel's Underground Tour offers a peek at some of these abandoned subterranean spaces, along with many groan-inducing jokes and some historical information.  The tour isn't a must-see, but it's worth checking out if you have some extra time.
  • Pike Place Market is my favorite place in Seattle.  I love browsing the stalls of fresh fish, glistening produce, and fresh floral bouquets, and eating my way through the offerings from restaurants, bakeries, and artisan food producers.  My favorite places to eat are mentioned above--The Crumpet Shop, Le Panier, and Shy Giant Frozen Yogurt--and I also picked up a bag of Black Forest cherries from Chukar Cherries.  For more of my market picks, see this post
  • Myrtle Edwards Park (3130 Alaskan Way) is another favorite from my last trip, since the rocky beach at the south end of the park was the only place I found near downtown where I could poke my finger into the Pacific Ocean.  The park is a half hour walk north along the waterfront from the Pike Place Market. 
Waterfall Garden Park, Rachel the Pig, and Myrtle Edwards Park
From left: Waterfall Garden Park; Rachel the Pig at the Pike Place Market; Myrtle Edwards Park

Accommodations
My conference was held at the Sheraton, but I opted for a more budget-friendly Airbnb rental.  My one-bedroom apartment was a ten minute walk from the Sheraton, and since there were several restaurants along the route I felt comfortable walking alone after dark.  The apartment was clean and comfortable, and I recommend it with one major caveat: the street in front of the apartment is a major thoroughfare, so it's not ideal for light sleepers.

Seattle is becoming one of my favorite U.S. cities, and at some point I'd like to plan a longer trip.  Any tips for what I should eat and places to see next time?