Try to think of a food that isn’t grown, raised or harvested in the Pacific Northwest, and you’ll realize why in-the-know foodies have been putting down roots in the region for decades.
Outsiders, who have been slower to discover the abundance, now flock here for the food, seeking a taste of Northwest cuisine prepared by talented chefs who cook local, seasonal foods with an alluring simplicity. Seattle is a great starting point to taste the bounty of this region.
To an outsider the term Northwest cuisine, the obscure, all-encompassing term doesn’t really mean much. But, try asking a local, ‘What exactly is Northwest cuisine?’ and you might experience an uncomfortable pause followed by, ‘local, seasonal and fresh,’ or ‘organic and sustainable.’ While those words won’t conjure up an image of a specific dish or narrow to a section of the spice rack, they hint at what truly defines the regional fare – simplicity. I'm starting to think that the farm-to-table and locavore trend started here.
To eat in and around Seattle, which Gregg and I did recently (and recommend heartily), isn’t merely to eat well. It is to experience something that even many larger, more gastronomically celebrated cities and regions can’t offer, not to this degree: a profound and exhilarating, somewhat life changing experience. (Yes, life changing.)
What sorts of regional foods is Seattle known for? Oysters, razor clams, Dungeness crab, king cod, salmon; Morel and Chanterelle mushrooms, huckleberries, to name a few. It is no wonder my four days in Seattle were spent noshing away, wondering where and what to try next. Anthony Bourdain and Eater have become my new TripAdvisor when it comes to eating well. Their recommendations never fail, always spot on, and leaving my tummy and tastebuds happy.
Pikes Place Market Pikes Place Market is great starting point to get a good sampling of the regions best. The whole of Pike Place Market qualifies as unique to Seattle, especially as it is a municipally preserved 100-year-old genuine farmer's market, with a fierce rejection of chain-stores. Starbuck's #1 is the exception and is grandfathered-in, but even they can't sell anything they weren't selling when they opened on Pike Place.
The Calf and The Kid The Calf & Kid is located in Melrose Market. After seeing this spot on Anthony Bourdain's show 'The Layover' I had to go because we were in the area. It was like a dairy heaven. The staff here really know their cheeses and can make recommendations based on your palette and preferences. Here, we picked up Saratoga Passage, a sheep cheese. While you're at Melrose Market, pick up some cured meat and/or pate at Rain Shadow Meats, a bottle of wine from Bar Ferd'nand to pair with your cheeses. And on your way out, pick up a bag of homemade caramels from Sitka and Spruce. Head to Kerry Park and enjoy.
Americana Great small space, great service excellent food. Perfect for brunch with plenty of gluten-free options (gluten-free bread, granola, and buns). Creative quality food at a decent price, and interesting concoction of mixology cocktails. A narrow, casually romantic room with dark walls, muted lighting, small tables, a stamped tin ceiling and a compact bar. The place is inviting and unpretentiously hip.
American, 219 Broadway E., Seattle; www.americanseattle.com
Remedy Teas Remedy Teas looks very modern, and an innovative successful independent business. There is more of an emphasis for tea compared to coffee, and a comprehensive set of tea possibilities. The restaurant meals compliment well with the scene. This hipster cool, independent and contemporary organic tea retailer and tea cafe in Capitol Hill features more than 150 organic teas, gluten-free baked goods, and other snacks to munch on. This is ultimate tea lover's cafe. And, for those out-of-towners not from the States, this place has free WiFi.
Pikes Place Chowder If you are a chowder lover you must visit Pike Place Chowder. A bustling, stand in line to order then find some where to sit, with creamy clam and other chowders. Not a formal place at all, cardboard bowls and plastic spoons, but the food is excellent. A wide range, too, including a vegetarian and gluten-free options (The Manhattan Clam Chowder is gluten-free). Many awards are on display and they deserve the all. From what I can tell no matter what you order you will not be disappointed. The lines move rather fast so don't let them scare you. Trust me it is worth the wait! (We noshed here three times during our 4 day stay.) Pikes Place Chowder, 1530 Post Alley, Seattle, WA 98101 (Downtown); www.pikesplacechowder.com
Sitka and Spruce Innovative and hearty with great fresh ingredients.More like a non-red-meat restaurant than a vegetarian restaurant--though vegetarians can eat very very well here indeed--the Sitka and Spruces menu emphasizes fresh and local in a way you might call sophisticated and yet holistic: unbelievably good local cheeses, olives, and bread (Gregg tried these); fermented pickled vegetables; kale with toasted hazelnuts, ash-roasted shallots and bosc pear; wild juniper cured king salmon with kohlrabi slaw; braised lamb shoulde, red potatoes, brussel sprouts and aoili--these are the foods we ordered.
Sitka and Spruce, 531 Melrose Ave, Ste. 6, Seattle, WA 98102 (Broadway / Capitol Hill); www.sitkaandspruce.com
Elliot's Oyster House Located on one of the piers over looking Elliot's Bay, which makes an incredible atmosphere. Their selection of oysters is why we came here. Somewhere in between the two dozen oysters and Oysters Rockefeller, we tried the Grilled Salmon--perfectly grilled, tender and tasty. The menu is pricey but this is a great area with very good atmosphere.
Elliot's Oyster House, 1201 Alaskan Way, Pier 56, Seattle, WA 98101 (Downtown)
The Walrus and the Carpenter Fascinating, beautiful and imaginative with great fresh ingredients; and, an equally outstanding wine list. You will eat very well here. Oysters are the reason to visit. But, don't be too greedy, save room for other items on the menu. The Walrus and the Carpenter menu emphasizes fresh and local, some might say life changing: Fried Brussels Sprouts; oysters, oysters and more oysters; grilled sardines with walnut, parsley and shallots; roasted medjool dates with sea salt , --these are the foods we ordered. This place does not take reservations. Expect a 45 minute wait--long but well worth it. Fortunately for us, we got there are the right time during the dinner rush, and we were sat with in minutes. (No "magic" time...We got lucky..very lucky.)
The Walrus and the Carpenter, 4743 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle, WA (Downtown)
Thirsty? Grab a drink at Sun Liquors An intimate neighborhood cocktail lounge that uses fresh squeezed juices, syrups & bitters made in-house, whose menu is updated seasonally. Sun Liquor, 607 Summit Ave E, Seattle , WA
Next up...Seattle in 3 Days, an itinerary with tips and recommendations on what to do and where to eat with the above mentioned.
Have you been to Seattle? Share your favorite places to eat.