Last week, I headed west for the International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle. While the conference was my primary purpose for making the journey, I had my mind set on doing some big eating and on spending some quality time at Pike Place Market. So, the moment I arrived at my hotel after twelve hours of travel, I threw my bags in the room, and walked as fast as my tired legs could carry me, down the hill to see the sun setting over Elliot Bay. It was magical.
As the sun melted away, I strolled over to the market. Most of the shops and vendors were closed, and the place felt peaceful, like the calm before a massive storm. I savored every moment of this trip, the first of seven I made to the market during my three-and-a-half-day stay.
At the recommendation of a friend (and former Seattleite), I dined at the Pink Door, in the Post Alley near the market. Even with the restaurant name and address in hand, I was confused when I finally stumbled upon this simple, nondescript door in the subtlest of pink hues. No sign to confirm your destination, no windows or lights to verify the place was open for business.
I timidly pushed on the door, and found that behind the facade the restaurant buzzed with the energy of chatting diners, fast-moving servers, and live music. My friend raved about the Pink Door’s bechamel lasagna, but for my first meal in the city I was set on some Seattle-sourced seafood. At the bartender’s recommendation, I ordered the Cioppino: prawns, mussels, clams and calamari in a spicy tomato and white wine broth. As I sat at the bar, a solo traveler on the prelude of her first-ever cross-country expedition, sipping wine and dunking the crusty house bread into that delicate broth, I felt immensely satisfied both with the meal and with my first night in Seattle.
I’d been warned of the hills in Seattle, but their presence didn’t register with me until I made the trek from the Pink Door up to the hotel. My calf muscles were on fire, and I couldn’t catch my breath at the top. I wonder how often drunk people trip and fall and wind up tumbling head over heels all four blocks down to the water. They really should install some sort of a safety net system at each intersection. Letter to the mayor, perhaps? Or just a cheesy selfie as proof that I made it back to room unscathed.
Early the next morning, I took a run along the waterfront. It was sunny in Seattle that day, as it was for most of the trip, and I could not take my eyes off the hills on the opposite side of the bay. I wondered if this bank looked as beautiful to them as theirs did to me, and if their hills were as steep as those downtown, and I hoped, for the sake of their drunks, that they had some sidewalk safety nets installed.
After my run, I walked my sweaty self over to the market, just as the shops were opening.
The market was full of energy and movement: vendors unpacking, employees offering free samples of their produce, and shoppers hoping to witness a legendary monger fish toss.
Of all the food I ate in Seattle (and there was an abundance of eating), Piroshky, Piroshky, a Russian Bakery located at the market, was a hot contender for my favorite. A piroshky is a handheld pie of sorts, with either sweet or savory filling, and a delicious soft yeasty dough. I went there twice, emerging both times with a piroshky in each hand. My top picks were the potato and cheese, rhubarb, and the marzipan (with almond paste).
After eating my weight in piroshky, I spent a lot of time walking around the market area, which, just like the buttery crumpet I had at the Crumpet Shop, is full of delightful nooks and crannies.
I wasn’t happy about it, but I snapped a few shots of the legendary gum wall. My stomach clenched as I thought of all the dried saliva just inches from my face. I gagged as I snapped photos and my mind attempted to quantify the number of dislodged food particles stuck in those colorful gobs of gum.
Seattle is known for its coffee, and I drank my fair share while there, including a tall Pike from the original Starbucks, which somehow tasted smoother and less bitter than any I’d drank before, and a foamy cappuccino from the swanky, soon-to-be opened Storyville Coffee.
Saturday night, Urbanspoon hosted a dinner for all 300+ IFBC bloggers, which were divided into groups and sent to mystery dinner locations. There was quite the build up! Where would you go? Who would you dine with? What would you eat??
My group traveled to Bellevue, a city that sits next to Seattle, for a five-course dinner at John Howie Steak.
It was an extensive meal, my favorites of which were the scallops with pickled chanterelles (I’d never eaten pickled mushrooms before!) and the lobster mashed potatoes… and dessert, of course.
The next day, I went to Fremont with a few friends to try Paseo’s a small shop I’d heard had legendary Cuban sandwiches. When we arrived, the place was CLOSED, and I nearly cried. Luckily my foodie friends Suki, Ryan, and Johnny, rallied and we set off on a mini tasting of Fremont, including ice cream, dumplings, burgers, and booze.
Later that evening, I headed to dinner at Delancey, which is owned Molly Wizenberg (of the Orangette blog) and her husband. Molly is also one half of the Spilled Milk Podcast, which I love (LOVE!). I’ve heard Molly talk about Delancey on the podcast so many times, it was sort of surreal to dine there. My favorite item was the super simple tomato toast with anchovy aioli. Get this: the tomato actually tasted like a tomato!
Stay tuned for a post about the IFBC conference sessions!
I would like to send a HUGE thank you to Truly Good Foods for sponsoring my attendance at the IFBC! Truly Good Foods specializes in premium snack mixes, raw and freshly roasted nuts and seeds, dried fruit, and hundreds of bulk and packaged candies, spices, grains and specialty foods. Truly Good Foods has an extensive line of retail branded products, including Grabeez®, Buffalo Nuts® and Dip & Devour Dipping Chocolates.