12 May 2009

Seattle Bites Again

As you know from my previous posts here I was lucky enough to join Jan Marie Johnson on her Seattle Bites Food Tours of Pike Place Market. Like myself when travelling Jan wants the opportunity to meet locals and experience the culture and food sensations of a country first hand. Jan Marie took us on a 3 hour tour of "discovery" of the market that gives out-of-towners as well as locals a taste of market cuisine and a glimpse into Seattle’s storied past. With customary pluck, the founders of Pike Market try to stay true to it's agricultural roots and maintain its integrity. The result is a jubilant, open-air celebration of fresh regional fruits and vegetables, seasonal flowers, herbs, seafood, spices, cheeses, hand-crafted work by artisans, eclectic shops, and fine restaurants and eateries (many with views of ferry and freighter traffic on Elliott Bay). Here in this revered nine-acre community with its cracked walkways and uneven but original cobblestone streets, the scent of tulips mingle with Dungeness crabs and spicy teas and the street musicians or "buskers" compete with "the vendors. The Market is a nine-acre National Historic District, and home to more than 100 farmers, 200 artists and craftspeople, 600 small businesses, 500 residents and 306 street performers (who may perform anywhere there is a musical note painted on the sidewalk). From Jan Marie we learned the history of the market and walked away with not only enhanced knowledge, but also full tummies. The tour makes about about 10 tasting stops, where merchants share their own stories, as well as generous samples of their menus.

In my last post I took you to Taste at the Seattle Museum, Crepes de France, and one of the many produce stands. Let's continue on our journey........

Next Jan Marie directed us to Pike Place Chowder which is the home of Americas Best Chowder. They were eventually banned from competition and put in the Chowder Hall of Fame being unbeatable. Their clam chowder has won first-place awards everywhere in the country and may be the only chowder to have accomplished this fete on both coasts. This place does chowder, pure and simple. And while their great New England-style clam chowder has national awards, they also do Manhattan clam chowder, smoked salmon chowder, mixed seafood chowder, and even a Southwestern-style chowder with chicken and corn. We were lucky to sample 3 of their chowders including a Charred Scallop which was my personal favourite woth a "nutty" flavour. This tiny place is tucked away in Pike Place Market's Post Alley.

Next on the stop was Roses Chocolate Treasures. At Roses chocolate is a passion where they believe chocolate nourishes the body as well as the soul. The shelves are stocked with lots of chocolaty treats, including containers of cocoa and chocolate tea (who knew there was such a thing...right up there with chocolate beer for me). Rose's is great for something different. I was able to try the sea salt chocolate (which was to die for!!) but how's about rose, earl grey, nori, wasabi or cardamon truffles? Everyone really enjoyed trying such different flavor combinations and they really opened our eyes to what chocolate can be.

One of the interesting attractions we saw at Pike Market is the gum wall at the Market Theater in Post Alley. This Gum Wall, also known as the Wall of Gum, is one of the least known (attractions of the historic Pike Place Market which is usually known internationally for its fish throwers and as the location of the original Starbucks logo. This gum wall began with theater patrons waiting outside, placing a blob of chewing gum on the wall and sticking a penny or other coin in it. The coins would be picked off by other people, and the wall was cleaned of gum two or three times before the powers that be gave up and the wall became an interactive work of art. Now people chew wads of gum and shape letters and figures from it, as well as adding the conventional blobs. Yes that is gum all over the wall below. You can see other photos here and here....

Jon Jacobs, owner of I Love New York Deli, passed around sandwiches and Jan Marie described what makes his pastrami so moist. The sandwiches are the "real deal" with corned beef or pastrami sliced to order and piled high on homemade rye or wheat bread. I am told that native New Yorkers get choked up at the sight of the classic sandwiches turned out here. Must be because this deli is "richtiker chaifetz", which, according to the menu, is Yiddish for "the real McCoy." Much on this meaty menu is sourced from purveyors in Jon's old New York neighborhood, from the brisket and pastrami to the kosher salami and corned beef. He also has stocked his teeny space with Wise chips and Drake's cakes along with a selection of homemade knishes for some hand-held comfort food. This is a New Yorker's dream!!!

Of course it isn't a trip to Pike Market without some fish slinging at "World Famous" Pure Food Fish Market. There is a lot of hype about the fish market. In fact there are only 3 fish shops here which are like the varsity of the Market. These loud and proud varsity boys are always surrounded by tourists waiting to click on their camera. Wew didn't see a fish toss only because we didn't purchase. I would have loved to take home one of the beautiful salmon or some of those humungous scallops or crab legs. They toss the fish because the shops displays their best seafood at the store front for customers to choose. Once you make your pick, they toss it back to the store for cleaning, packing, and shipping if required.

We also stopped and tried some authentic gourmet sausages and beer from a German sausage master and I bought some Greek yogurt from another stand which is just not available here at home.
Lastly we stopped at La Buona Tavola or the Truffle Cafe. According to their website La Buona Tavola is a phrase used to pay tribute to hosts who joyfully serve their guests the absolute best they have to offer. Whether it’s simple fare prepared with gusto, or more intricately composed menus featuring regional delicacies, when you have a Buona Tavola, your guests will sense that you cherish THEIR enjoyment—and that you haven’t forgotten to join in the pleasure, as well. Their shop carries Truffle products, aged Balsamicos, and carefully selected Italian Wines made from hand-picked grapes by Italian artisan wineries. They will hook you up with one of the small Italian wineries and agritourism venues in Italy to enjoy a one on one unique vacation. Another option is to join one of their groups at Borgo La Torre Agriturism which is a beautifully-restored 14th Century country Inn nestled into the Umbrian hills, overlooking the scenic valley to go truffle hunting.
We tasted several wines and paired them with chocolate, truffle butter adorned popcorn. A perfect ending to our tour.

I hope you have enjoyed taking this series of posts journalling my visit with Jan Marie Johnson on her Seattle Bites Food Tours of Pike Place Market. We all enjoyed a unique perspective of the market!! I hope you did too!!!
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  1. AnonymousMay 12, 2009

    Wow! What a wonderful trip and you describe it so vividly.

  2. ohh..u were in Seattle?? or are u in seattle?? :) ive been thinking of going for one of these for sometime now..these posts are just reinforcing that thought :) looks like you had such a fun time!

  3. AnonymousMay 12, 2009

    On my last visit to Seattle we also visited La Buona Tavola right after the Pike Market!

  4. Hi Val,

    I hope you are doing good. Now I even want to go more to Seattle. I will keep all of this info on file. So sweet of you.



  5. Thanks for the interesting post and great pictures!



  6. Val, that sounds like foodie heaven.

  7. It's been years since I've been to the Pike Market. Looks like you are having a fantastic time!

  8. I'm not sure what the allure is with gum walls, but there's one in San Luis Obispo we usually see every year also.

  9. WOW Val what a great trip and reading your post I felt I was there with you! Looks like you had a great time.

    Apologies for not calling by earlier due to my back circumstances.

    Rosie x

  10. If I had to choose one it'd be La Buona Tavola, I like that spirit.

  11. This looks like so much fun, Val. I went to the Pike Market years ago, but only for a brief look. I was in Seattle on business and didn't have much time for pleasure...gotto go back!

  12. Isn't Rose's great? I would love to try all of the flavors you mentioned, especially the tea and wasabi. Pike Place Market is always an adventure. I need to remember that the next time I am in Seattle.

  13. We hope to head up to Seattle sometime this summer. I forwarded this to my hubby to see if he can include it in our plans!

  14. I wish I could have joined you!

  15. Thoroughly enjoyed the tours.
    I visited Seattle in the 80's - glad to be back!
    Lori Lynn

  16. Looks like a wonderful trip!

  17. Wow, this is crazy. I'm very jealous of you!

    AND I love pastrami! Isn't it the best?

  18. Val-did you catch a fish?

  19. I'm so enjoying the Seattle Bites. The fish is to die for especially that they'll pack it to go for you.

  20. Glad you enjoyed our lovely city.
    Looks like you had a great time.

  21. I would love to go there for a visit, thanks for such great photos!


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