Here’s a classic Seattle photo. The neon coffee cup outside of Seattle’s Best Coffee on Post Alley and the Public Market sign for Pike Market looming in the background.
Now, whenever I go to a new city, I sign up for a tour of sorts. That’s why you saw me sitting in the top of a double decker bus in Rome. And on a walking tour in Florence, and a harbour tour in Gibson’s.
It is a goofy thing to do, and I feel a bit silly about it. But, on day one or two of a trip, it is a great way to get oriented to the surroundings. It is better than a map.
So when Ella and I were in Seattle this weekend, we registered for a Savour Seattle food tour of the market. Our motley crew, led by Tim, the tour guide and grad student, assembled early Saturday morning, and walked about the market looking like a clump of secret service agents with audio pieces stuck in our ears. We blocked aisles and made a bit of a production. But we got the lay of the land around the massive market (over 150 stores and stalls) and had many samples along the way.
Pike Market is like Vancouver’s Granville Island Market gone wild. It is loud and stinky and there are fishmongers standing in the bar of Lowell’s Diner at 9 am in their rubber pants and boots, having their first beer of the day. The fish guys do a show of throwing fish, much to the delight of us tourists, who are standing nearby with our cameras ready.
Our group consisted of two couples from Nashville and a vegetarian prof from Berkeley. The tour guide found out we were Canadian and we morphed into minor celebrities. That part was awkward.
Along the way, we consumed: a mini donut, tea, smoked salmon, fish chowder, an apple, a plum, cheese, chocolate covered cherries, cherry salsa, russian bun things and more coconut cream pie.
I say MORE coconut cream pie because I had already trekked to Tom Douglas’s Dahlia Bakery for a mini pie the night before. Ella and I were soooo full after our Salumi sandwich that we had a piece of pie for dinner on our hotel bed while watching Bride Wars. It was a true chick moment.
The tour was pleasant, but not really a foodie tour. It was more like a market tour with food samples. Which is fine. It was a nice way to spend a morning. Ella did a great job of taking a bounty of photos.
We got up very very early on Friday morning to go to the airport. So we arrived in Seattle at 7 am EST. This was grand because we had the entire day in Seattle. AND, our fabulous hotel, Inn at the Market, let us check in at a ridiculously early 800 am.
Our first stop was to grab sustenance at a generic diner at Pike Market. Those raisins and yogurt that Horizon Air gave us just didn’t cut it. Then we just HAD to go to the original Starbucks, where we stood in line sheepishly with the other tourists. This Starbucks is under renovations and has no sit-down seating. I grabbed my regular Americano Misto, and Ella got a hot chocolate, and we were off.
Here comes the good part. I had a tourist map clutched in my hand, and I figured we could navigate from downtown to Pioneer Square, where the streets get all crazy and diagonal until we found Salumi, the artisan meat market owned by Mario Batali’s dad. It was about a 20 minute hike away, and situated on a funny little side street. Ella kept asking me – when will we be there? And I said (a la Mr. Incredible): We will get there when we get there.
I sighted this copper sign first. There it is, I shouted. Finally! said Ella.
It was 2 pm, so there was a line up of only about 8 people out the door. We amused ourselves by taking photos. Note the hours of operation. Do not mess around with the Salumi – the storefront is barely open and you should be happy it is open at all.
Salumi reminded me of many places in Italy. You have to have balls to even be there. If you hesitate even for a moment, you will lose your place in line and it is OVER. I was helping Ella order, and being much too Canadian-polite, and missed my turn, and had to plead for a chance to place my sandwich order. If you don’t speak up in the exact right place in line, you might as well turn around and walk back out again. The staff alternates between jovial and cranky, and the place has a couple of large family-style tables crammed in the back if you are lucky enough to snag a chair.
Since Salumi is about the sandwiches, that’s what Ella and I ordered. She got the prosciutto and provolone and I got the Salumi salami and gorgonzola. Ella’s was all soft and buttery. Mine was fatty and spicy. These sandwiches did indeed compete with the ones I’ve had in Florence. Fresh, simple and damn good. The whole Salumi experience was a bit of a hoot. It is definitely worth the walk to the other side of downtown. On the way back, you can stop at Zeitgeist for a cappuccino (Salumi has canned drinks only) and Elliot Bay Books for hours of browsing.
Here I am eating my sandwich. It took about 5 hours to digest the thing.
309 – 3rd Avenue S.
The reason we chose Seattle to go on our trip is because I used the magic Google and typed in: kids’ cooking classes. Up popped Blue Ribbon Cooking, offering a parent-kid class on March 8th. That’s exactly what I wanted – to head somewhere without snow – coupled with a direct flight, and the lure of Pike Market, we were sold on Seattle.
I have never taken a cooking class before. The closest I have is home ec classes in junior high. And believe me, that was a very long time ago.
The setting for Blue Ribbon is gorgeous – in the Eastlake neighbourhood, right on Lake Union. The cab driver told us the houseboat from Sleepless in Seattlewas on the other side of the lake. We were warmly greeted by our host Bryce, put on our aprons, and were ushered into the huge professional gleaming kitchen. Right then, Ella and I decided to pretend we were on Top Chef.
There were 24 students in total – a combination of entire families, moms and kids, dads and kids, ranging in age from 8 to late teens. The class was led by Chef Julia and her assistant (whose name escapes me, but it said ‘Ingrid’ on her chef’s whites), and was hands on. Everybody made homemade pasta and then we split up and took a menu item. Ella and I held back volunteering so we could do Ella’s favourite – dessert. We made the liquid chocolate cake.
I’ve never made homemade pasta. I’ve been frankly terrified of it. People say it is simple to make pasta. I’ve never believed them. Until now.
It was easy – to knead the dough, let it rest, roll it out, and then cut it with pasta wheels. Voila! I’m happy to cross this off my things to do before I dielist…
The entire kitchen was controlled chaos. The blender was whirring and people were chatting and taking pictures and there was a mess everywhere – a comfortable kitchen scene. The chefs wandered about, patiently helping various stations. Ella did a crackerjack job of making the batter for the cakes – I made a mess of the ramekins and shyed away from making the caramel sauce, which I’ve only ever burned. It is cool to see the kids so excited to be in the kitchen – a domain where usually the parents rule.
We got this weird celebrity status because we were from Canada, which has never happened – Edmonton is hardly exotic, so that was a bit of a hoot. We shared the whole meal (pesto chicken, carrots, peas in tomato cups, caesar salad, two kinds of pasta and our chocolate cake and creme brulee) with a table of dads and daughters and talked housing prices and the job market in Seattle. Food really is more than just eating – breaking bread with other families is deeply satisfying.
I know for a fact that I embarrassed Ella by talking too much. But I also know that she had fun, even if her mom is mortifying.
Blue Ribbon Cooking
2501 Fairview Ave. E
Seattle, WA 98102