Thursday, May 6, 2010

Treasure In My Backyard

I have an embarrassing confession to make. I have a something amazing that's just a 15 minute drive from my house and I almost never go there. It's downtown Seattle. There is soooo much to see, do, and eat there, but I just don't go there. When out of town visitors come, I'm pretty clueless about advising them where to go and what to see.

Well, I used to be clueless, now I'm totally up on what's the best thing to do in Seattle. When in Seattle you must take the Seattle Bites Food Tour of the Pike Place Market. The lovely and gracious Val of More Than Burnt Toast arranged a tour for a group of Seattle area and Canadian food bloggers and we had such fun!

Our tour guide was Jan Marie Johnson, an amazing bundle of energy, knowledge, and fun. She had a huge smile on her face and a cheerful word of greeting for everyone in the market. No wonder she recently was voted #1 Food Tour Guide in the Northwest! Plus, she brought along her kind husband, Mark, who also worked hard to make sure everyone had a good time. They moved to Seattle when they fell in love with the city and Jan Marie is enthusiastic about the history, the culture, and the people of Seattle.

We started our tour at TASTE restaurant, located inside the Seattle Art Museum. Alex, the general manager, told us about the focus of the restaurant, the passion for local sourcing of all the ingredients (well, not the olive oil, salt, or capers), and using fresh, seasonal ingredients with a respect for their source.

While we tasted flatbread made from Eastern Washington wheat, topped with creme fraiche from a local dairy, locally grown herbs, and hand-netted salmon, he talked passionately about the food, the art, and the experience that is available at TASTE.

A quick trot up the street took us to Pike Place Market. Jan Marie's tour weaves in a lot of local history, so as we walked, she talked to us through headsets about the people and events that shaped this area. I won't bother to try and tell you everything I learned because the tour was over three hours, but this was one of my favorite parts of the tour.

We tasted all along the tour. Nutella crepes with bananas (Crepe de France),

Pastrami on Rye with dill pickles (all but the bread flown in from New York by I Love New York Deli) - it's so funny to watch food bloggers do sample tastings. We all had our cameras out taking pictures of the food before we could eat.

Gourmet sausages from Uli's Famous Sausage, Inc

Salmon from Pure Food Fish Market. They have beautiful fish and they will ship it for a small charge. Fresh salmon for Mother's Day?

And then we hit Pike Place Chowder. They won the Chowder competition at Newport, Rhode Island for 3 years running before being inducted into the hall of fame. It is seriously the best chowder I've ever tasted. I'm taking my husband there for a date night.

A quick stop at Corner Produce to ogle the produce and sample the wares.

Then on to a coffee tasting at Seattle Coffee Works. If you're into coffee, this is a must-see destination in Seattle. They roast their own beans in house. They have about a dozen different coffee extraction methods. And they have super nice, knowledgeable staff.

This lovely lady educated us about the terroirs of the various coffee-growing region and demonstrated the vacuum-extraction method of making coffee. We called it the coffee bong. It was pretty cool to watch the water burble up into the coffee grounds, then get sucked back into the bottom beaker.

Jan Marie gave us each a stick of gum to cleanse our palette's for our next stop, then showed us where we could put it. On the gum wall. Artfully disgusting.

Our final stop was La Buona Tavola where we were plied with Prosecco and tempted with pictures of the tours they offer to Italy to sample the local wines. Our host's enthusiasm for Italy was contagious. I want to go!

I apologize if this post is a bit of gushing overload, but there was so much to see and learn on this tour that I really wanted to share it with you. When I got home form the tour I was buzzing till dinnertime, talking non-stop about all the amazing things I'd learned and the wonderful food I'd tasted. I think my husband was looking for the off switch after about an hour.

If you're in the Seattle area, whether you live here or are just visiting, I highly recommend that you go on theSeattle Bites Food Tour. Call 425-888-8837. You'll love it!


Melinda said...

I am an ex Seattle resident and miss it. I loved living there, even though I know it has changed so much since I left.
I would love this tour. What an excellent tour to go on. I miss that creative streak that is so... so Seattle!
Thanks for sharing this with me.

Dolce said...

This is a great idea indeed. I have never taken a food tour in NY but maybe I should as well !

Unknown said...

Great stuff Lynn, and excellent photos. Let's do it again some time!

Julie said...

Looks like so much fun!! Love your photos!! Thanks for sharing the tour with us!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

There but for one day and the flu, I'd have been there. I need a beer ... to cry in ... booho me ...

hobby baker Kelly said...

Oh, too cool. I found my next date with hubby. It's terrible, we've been near Seattle for 11 years now and I can count on one hand the times I've been to Pike Place. And it's such an awesome place to go! Thanks for the link to the food bites tour. Now to find a baby sitter...

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I still talk about the tour endlessly to anyone who will listen Lynn...and this was my second time with Jan Marie:D I am so glad you enjoyed it. Seattle has a real treasure in both Pike Place Market and its enthusiastic host Jan Marie.

Jennifer Jo said...

I've never been West, but Seattle strikes me as such a classy, cultured place. I'd love to visit.


After we save money to go to Nicaragua (not classy, but most definitely loaded with culture).

Elle said...

Oooohhhh, wish I'd been there with you! Yum!!

Elle said...

Are you doing the Chocolate Salon again?
There is an award for you at my bread blog:
Also, another High Five! Not sure why I was scared of making a savarin, but now I'm not!

Kristen - Dine & Dish said...

Oh my gosh - what a treasure and what a fun way to spend a day with other foodies! I'm jealous!

It never hurts to be a tourist in your own city... you'll discover some wonderful treasures, for sure.

Hope you are doing well, Lynn! See you at BlogHer food again?

Marysol said...

What a gastronomic delight! From the fresh fish to the Nutella Crepes!

Although the chewing gum wall also left an indelible mark in my brain. Was that really necessary, Lynn?

Anyway, if I lived in Seattle, the purveyors of this culinary mecca and I, would be on a first-name basis.

Peabody said...

So bummed I didn't get to go. :(