When in Portland (more on that in the next few weeks), do as the Oregonians do and take a city trip to Seattle. Better still, drive up the Oregon coast and stop off at the beaches and forests to take in some Pacific air en route. We had only 24 hours in Seattle, but we made the most of them the only way we know how – by eating! If you want to follow our itinerary, you’ll need to arrive by lunchtime on day 1 and leave after brunch on day 2. Just enough time to catch a few restaurants, a market and some Seattle coffee houses. Enjoy!
12:30-2:30 pm: Lunch at Pike Place Market
Split across multiple levels and spilling out into the street as well as indoors, the Pike Place Market is a feast for the senses – especially of the gustatory variety. Walk past vibrant flower stalls on the upper level until you reach Pacific-fresh fish mongers and patchworks of colourful fresh produce. We stopped at a bagel stall for a just-baked sesame bagel with cream cheese and lox (I believe it was made from chinook, the local northwest salmon). We also headed inside for a pasta-and-wine stop at Casalinga. What’s the one thing I wish I’d had room for? Typical Northwest clam chowder from Pike Place Chowder!
For more information, visit: pikeplacemarket.org
5 pm: Coffee (snobbery) at Starbucks Reserve Roastery
I expect Portland and Seattle have an ongoing feud about which is the capital of coffee in America. But one thing Portland can’t lay claim to (and they’re probably not too upset about this) is the invention of Starbucks. Now, I don’t like Starbucks any more than the next coffee snob, but arguably we have quite a lot of thank them for. In England, at least, we’d all still be drinking Nescafé if it wasn’t for the purveyors of the Frappuccino. So no trip to Seattle would be complete without a visit to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, with its Willy Wonka copper-tastic interior and truckloads of expensive coffee paraphernalia. Just be careful as you walk outside that you don’t hit some poor tourist in the face – we watched several people attempting to have their photo taken outside the iconic star-studded doors and getting repeatedly knocked over. (If I were in Amsterdam, I’d say more fool the tourist – but since I was on holiday I’m feeling a little more charitable…)
For more information, visit: starbucksreserve.com/roasteries/seattle
6 pm: Wine, oysters and geoduck at Taylor’s Shellfish, Capitol Hill
One of the coolest things we uncovered in our research about Seattle is that it’s home to the biggest clam in the world: the geoduck (pronounced “gooey-duck” for some mysterious reason). Or, as we like to call it: the penis clam. Because, well – just take a look.
It’s not that widely available in the city (we didn’t see any at Pike Place Market, for instance), but there are a couple of places selling it – including the wonderful Taylor’s Shellfish. It’s not hard to guess what their specialism is, and in addition to the native geoduck they’re also serving better known shellfish like oysters and clams. We tried a few different varieties of local oyster (the Shigoku were my favourites, but all were superb) and made short work of a bottle of Oregon Pinot Gris at the same time. When the infamous geoduck finally arrived, it was thinly sliced and raw (like sashimi), served with a cold harissa and almond sauce and preserved lemons. We loved the texture of the clam – the siphon crunchy like seaweed, the body soft like scallop – paired with the North African flavours. In fact, we were so impressed, we vowed to try and recreate it at home, even if we don’t have access to phallic clams!
For more information and locations, visit: taylorshellfishfarms.com/location/capitol-hill-melrose
8 pm: Dinner at Sitka & Spruce, Melrose Market
Right next door to Taylor’s Shellfish (Capitol Hill branch) is Melrose Market – a small indoor haven not only of food and drinks but also crafts and gifts. Take a wander around before heading to Sitka & Spruce for dinner, where you’ll be treated to seasonal sharing plates that are big on flavour. We tried the rapini – a local green – with a bright dressing and lots of tangy cheese. It sounds simple, but it went fabulously with S&S’s excellent sourdough bread and whipped butter and a glass of Northwest Pinot Noir. We also shared a dish of halibut with seasonal asparagus and peas, cubes of pork, and a rich pea sauce. We’d have loved to try more, but were running out of space after our shellfish starter!
For more information, visit: sitkaandspruce.com
Next day, 9 am: Coffee at Victrola
Still full from the night before and saving room for brunch, we stopped for an excellent artisanal brew from Victrola on our way down from Capitol Hill. But be warned: a $3.85 cappuccino will end up costing you five bucks by the time you’ve added sales tax (it’s not included in the price but is added everywhere in Washington) and a tip!
For more information and locations, visit: victrolacoffee.com
11 am: Brunch at Din Tai Fung
Seattle is home to two branches of the famous international Chinese dumpling house Din Tai Fung. The downtown location might have been more atmospheric, but we were looking for free parking by this point (two hours in Seattle will set you back $10!) so we headed to the mall near the university. Din Tai Fung is upstairs from yet another Starbucks, and is easy to miss from the outside but huge when you get inside. We ordered two varieties of dumplings – their classic soup dumplings plus some spicy wontons – as well as some soup, Chinese greens and Jasmine tea. The perfect start to the day. Arrive early (it opens at 10 am) to avoid having to wait in line!
For more information and locations, visit: dintaifungusa.com