10 May 2009

Seattle Bites Food Tours

Pike Place Market is a public market overlooking the Elliott Bay waterfront in Seattle, Washington. It is just a hop skip and a jump from the border to this amazing experience from my home town. The Market opened 101 years ago in August 17, 1907, and is one of the oldest continually operated public farmers' markets in the United States. In 2007 the market celebrated it's 100 year anniversary and is intenationally recognized as America's best farmers' market and the epicenter of Seattle's lively food culture. It is a place of business for many small farmers, artisans, antique dealers, theatres, small family-owned restaurants, fish mongers, fresh produce stands and merchants and remains one of Seattle's most popular tourist destinations.

The Market is built on the edge of a steep hill where they have made good use of every inch of space. Local farmers and craftspeople sell year-round in the arcades from tables they rent from the Market on a daily basis.

Pike Place Market is also home to nearly 500 low income residents who live in 8 different buildings throughout the Market. The Market sees 10 million visitors annually along with these local residents.

As you know from my previous post I was lucky enough to join Jan Marie Johnson on her Seattle Bites Food Tours 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. While on vacation in Italy she searched for fellow foodies to give her tours of the bustling markets of Venice, Florence and Rome but cookng schools were more the norm. Once she arrived back home, she thought about Seattle’s Pike Place Market, where she had often shopped while attending culinary school at South Seattle Community College, and realized there could be a niche for food-oriented tours of the iconic nine-acre marketplace. She did some research, and was moved by Pike Place’s rich and colorful 101-year history. Jan says, “There’s more to the market than just food, fish and flowers,” she said. “It’s not only the culinary heartbeat, but it’s really the soul of what makes Seattle a great city.”

Combining her experience in sales and marketing for the Disney Company and directing special events for Universal Studios Hollywood with her culinary background, Johnson decided to venture into personal group tours and created Seattle Bites Food Tours.” Jan Marie took us on a 3 hour tour of "discovery" of the market that gives out-of-towners and as well as locals a taste of market cuisine and a glimpse into Seattle’s storied past. It is interesting to hear snippets of history about the market and the buildings you are surrounded by as well as about the vendors and mom-and-pop operations contained within this diverse area. We learned the history of the market, including its populist founding, the internment of Japanese vendors following Pearl Harbor, and its hard-won achievement as a historical landmark in the 1970s after some city officials proposed its demolition. We 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.

We started our tour at the Seattle Art Museum where we were given a tour of TASTE which features simple yet upscale, reasonably priced foods created with “fresh from the market” ingredients. We sampled "Artworthy" Smoked Salmon Flatbread with Creme Fraiche. The salmon was even caught by one of the chefs for a true taste experience. The artwork above in the foyer of the museum is Inopportune: Stage One by Cai Guo-Qiangfrom which is a large-scale installation work consisting of a meticulous arrangement of life-size cars and multichannel tubes that seem to blow up in sequence, symbolizing a series of car explosions.

Before the creation of the Pike Place Market in 1907, local Seattle area farmers sold their goods to the public in a three-square block area area called The Lots. Most farmers, due to the amount of time required to work their farms, were forced to sell their produce on consignment through the wholesalers . The farmers typically received a percentage of the final sale price for their goods. They would sell to the middleman on commission, as most farmers would often have no time to sell directly to the public, and their earnings would be on marked up prices and expected sales. We were able to sample produce from one of the local vendors Corner Produce. This is Adam and Jan Marie. It is early May so most of the produce is not local this time of year, but we were able to sample Grapples which are a Washington State apple with the sweet distinctive flavor of Concord grapes combined with the crispness of a fresh, juicy Washington Gala apple, Taylor Gold Pears, ripe juicy strawberries and grapes.

We sampled Paris inspired crepes from a small mom-and pop restaurant Crepes de France. In 1991, Nany Price knew the Pike Place Market would be the perfect place to open a specialty shop that would reflect her passion for cooking. It started as a small stall with four stools and a stand-up counter. Today, Crêpe de France is enjoying a much larger space in the south end of the Market. Originally from Indonesia, Nany's love of travel has taken her to many places. It was in Paris that she learned to make crêpes. The café features 15 different types of crêpes that are filled with only the freshest Market ingredients such as mozzarella or ricotta cheese, ham, egg, and fresh fruits and vegetables. The most popular crêpe on the menu is filled with salmon, cream cheese, onion and dill with Bechamel sauce. Nany's sone Rony served us her personal favorite which is a sweet crêpe filled with fresh strawberries (in season), Nutella and whipped cream. Operating the café is a family affair, and the new location is a labor of love for the entire family.

Throughout the tour we tried sodas from the Dry Soda Co. such as lemongrass, rhubarb, juniper berry, and vanilla to name a few. The lavender with its floral tones paired nicely with the chocolate of the crepes. The Seattle-based DRY Soda Co. offers today’s consumer a modern alternative in refreshment... a line of all-natural, lightly sweet sodas, flavored with fruit, flower or herb extracts, and sweetened with a small amount of pure cane sugar.

Stay tuned for more on Pike Market in the next post.
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  1. What a great place! thanks for sharing your impressions with us!



  2. I absolutely LOVE Pike Place Market! I haven't been there in a few years, but every time I go, I never want to leave.

  3. Val-how fun is this. I love visiting Pike's, you captured the beauty of Seattle in this post!

    Happy Mother's Day!

  4. Looks like a really driech day! I liked the look of those installations, they must have been something to see first hand.

  5. When I was in highschool my dad and I did a college trip and spent a night in Seattle, but we didn't do any of the cool stuff you did.

  6. Love those Seattle bites. Will be very helpful when I go visite.

    Happy Mother's Day Val!

  7. I have already had the desire to go to Pikes Place after watching a video on teamwork. Your post makes it even more appealing!

  8. I love the pictures of the market, there's just something about all those fresh veggies and fruit!!

  9. Very interesting Val, I would love to visit some day!!! Those artichokes are just amazing!!!

  10. We went in what looked like a hotel and found out about the low income housing. Pikes Market is full of fun surprises.

  11. I would visit Seattle just to see the market. What a fun review. Thanks for taking us along.
    I remember the Frugal Gourmet talking about this market years ago on his show.

  12. Beautiful scenery, and what a great market! I would love to go one day. Just look at those globe artichokes!

  13. This looks like such a great place! I love the 'exploding cars'!

  14. AnonymousMay 11, 2009

    What a fun visit to Seattle! Thank you for sharing the pictures! The Pike Place Market is just fabulous! I always love to see how they throw the fish around :)


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