Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Tale of (Eating in) Two Cities -- Seattle and Paris. Part I, Seattle. . .

It's a bit tough, this promising of future posts on vacations, those getaways receding too quickly behind a screen of daily activities. All the more reason, though, for pausing to remember, to gather back the pleasures . . .
Seattle's Pioneer Square -- in case you're thinking my linkage of Seattle and Paris is preposterous.  Doesn't that ironwork have a hint of Paris Metro about it. And the tree-shaded square with that ironwork evokes, if not Paris, certainly many European cities. . . .(of course, this photo didn't catch the wonderful totem pole that's just to the left of this scene)

So.

First, a few recommendations of places we really enjoyed discovering in Seattle, should you be lucky enough to get there anytime soon.
I've already mentioned Blueacre Seafood, where Sue's husband had made us reservations for the very European dining time of 8:30 p.m. (their flight having arrived from LA not much earlier). Splendid seafood there -- my Black Alaska Cod (generally rebranded as Sablefish up here lately, and one of my favourite fish for its buttery, delicate flavour and texture) on a bed of perfectly complementary vegetables (subtle Asian seasoning, not distractingly so, just the right amount of crunch, i.e. not much). . . Honestly, we chatted far too much to pay much attention to each other's plates, but everyone seemed very pleased, particularly Sue's Monsieur, who'd ordered the Copper River Sockeye. Service was friendly, knowledgeable, and even though the restaurant was obviously closing down around us (we left about 10:30, but it was a Wednesday evening), we didn't feel obliged to leave earlier than when we were ready.

Wandering around the next morning (after a very decent Continental Buffet breakfast at the Best Western Pioneer Square -- hard-boiled eggs, choice of cereals, hot breakfast sandwiches, a waffle-making machine, various baked good, yogurts, fruit), we were tempted by all the goodies at Pike Place Market, so tempted that Pater had to pick up a half-dozen warm doughnut holes. Okay, and I might have eaten one of those. . . Perhaps two. . .

We'd spotted a great neon sign (a chef, holding a fish by its tail) while walking to dinner the evening before, and stopped by Thursday morning to admire the lively mosaic work at Dahlia's, take a quick photo, and check out the menu. It was promising enough that we headed straight back here with very healthy appetites after our roundabout tour to the Space Needle and Gehry's EMP. . .

Highly recommended. Besides the charming, mainly whimsical art that delights throughout (yes! I should have taken photos! but you know how irritating that can be at a nearby table, never mind for one's dining companion), the food was beautifully fresh (the tobiko reminded me of why I love these tiny fish eggs -- so often lately, I've been tolerating tired facsimiles) and inventive. There was only a single crabcake atop the Thai-fusion rice salad, but it was all meat, the thready pieces clearly discernible, the rich, buttery taste not hidden behind binder (not sure what the binder was -- it stayed out of the way although it did its job).  And if you go, you should definitely share the appetizer platter. Also, take advantage of the extensive beer menu and knowledgeable servers to try a new brew. We sampled a few bitters.

And then our server, clearing the table of our mains, asked if we wanted dessert. Noticing the weakness lurking behind our not-so-firm "Oh, No, we've had enough"s., she cunningly mentioned that Dahlia's is known for their beignets (made and sold, in fact, in Dahlia Bakery right next door). Can you believe that even though beignets are doughnut holes with a fancier name, and Paul had already polished off half a dozen doughnut holes at Pike Place Market, we were soon sitting with a small plate of these powdered beauties between us, a small bowl of housemade blackberry jam, another small bowl of mascarpone on either side of that plate? I know. If you've been reading here for a while, you believed that all too easily.

And yes, I ate one (at least) of these warm clouds of flour, sugar, and, okay perhaps a little oil. . . .totally worth it! I was most impressed that the accompanying pot of tea I'd asked for, having little hope for anything beyond the all-too-common "tepid water and a teabag," arrived AS a pot of tea -- a cheery red pot in which very good loose black tea was steeping in water that had obviously hit the tea while still boiling. My shibboleth for a restaurant that knows what's what.

You'd hardly think we had room for much dinner after that lunch, but you'd be dead wrong. We went back to a spot we'd gone to for a snack and a beer the previous afternoon -- the spicy watermelon salad, housemade nachos with a variety of salsas and a bowl of beautiful guacamole were very convincing. Casco Antiguo was just around the corner from our hotel, and after our long day walking, that proximity was very welcome. As it was the night before, the cantina was busy but not too noisy, just lively enough. Lots of movement: cooks working in the open kitchen and diners leaning animatedly into conversations, and servers weaving around the table (friendly servers, but not too, and genuinely so -- in fact, part of why we came back the second night was a delightful conversation that first evening about our Canadian difference and the joy of knowing more than one language). We got to try another beer or two (Seattle is a great city for artisan beer!), the guacamole, salsas, and nachos all over again, and then I had a plate of really good fish tacos and Paul had something I can't even remember because I was enjoying the freshness of my fish so much -- and all this goodness was at crazily generous Happy Hour prices. That should have been enough, but I was determined to try the Chicken Molé, so we ordered an Enchilada filled with same and split it. Then lurched home on happy, full bellies, feeling that we had made a very good start at checking out Seattle's food scene.

So, to recap: Blueacre, Dahlia's, and Casco Antiguo, good places to eat if you get to Seattle. All kinds of others we want to try next time -- I've heard several times since we got back that Wild Ginger is a must. Barely scratched the surface, I know, and I'm hardly one to tell you the good places to eat in Seattle. But these were three places we got to and thought were good.

I'm done telling you about our Seattle visit, although I still have a thing or two still to share about Paris last month. Meanwhile, one of our daughters arrives today with her two little ones. We've had temperatures in the 20s all week (a drought situation here on the Coast, actually, with the watering restrictions kicked up another level yesterday), so we've got the wading pool set up in the backyard, and we're looking forward to giggles and cuddles and splashes and pretty constant feeding and lifting and fetching and wiping. They're here for a few days, so I'm not sure how much you'll hear from me. But I'll be reading comments when I get a minute, and I might even post a grandbaby photo or two. . . .

16 comments:

  1. I love to visit Seattle! I know that we can experience some of the same things in Vancouver but Seattle is also a fun getaway. I might try a trip with M. this summer for a baseball game. I'm not a sporty girl but it would be a couple experience. Have fun with the little ones!

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    1. Making the baseball game your starting point is a smart plan -- and you'd probably have fun at it even if you're not the ideal sports spectator. Cultural anthropology!

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  2. We have dined at several of Tom Douglas's eateries in Seattle and they have never been disappointing....those wee tasty treats would go nicely with a morning coffee!
    Enjoy your houseguests!

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    1. Had no idea who was the big name behind the restaurant although I did hear there were other enterprises in the family. We'll have to try more in future.

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  3. I lived in Seattle twice and loved it both times. I would still be there if my daughter had not called almost fourteen years ago and asked me to move to Colorado as she was expecting my first grandchild. However, at the moment I am singing the praises of Canada. My partner and I were planning a trip to Newfoundland when he got a job offer for a more promising job. He had been wanting a job change for some time so we were pleased but it meant our Canadian trip was placed on hold. I was really pleased for him but sad that we would not be taking our long planned trip when into the breach stepped my Seattle sister who offered to take me across Canada via the train from Vancouver to Toronto. What a wonderful trip! My sister had obtained a cabin with shower and toilet for us and we traveled in wonderful comfort. Also, in addition to seeing the geography of Canada which I had wanted to see, we met wonderful people. I swear, the bar car became a salon with about fifteen of us, young and old, from many places having wonderful discussions of globalization, neoliberalism, climate change, and books. How books unite. I thought of you when a woman approached me to ask if I had read "H is for Hawk." A shy, young Tufts student who must have been reading my book titles surreptitiously (aren't we all interested in what others are reading?) came up to me and gave me a title of a book he thought I would enjoy. The young bar attendant and I shared a laugh after meeting an old man with the most beatific smile who turned out of be a Salvation Army minister from Australia with a young wife who we both thought looked like what we thought "Major Barbara" would have looked like. Such fun.

    From Toronto we traveled to first Montreal and then to Quebec City. Both cities exceeded my expectations. I really do not know how the food could have been any better and, yes, I have dined in Paris. In Montreal, we returned several times to the young chef at our hotel because the food was just so good and the young wait staff the most professional I have ever encountered. In Quebec City, we took the advise of the young people at the desk of our hotel and went to small, quaint restaurants where we had the best food and met wonderful people. Years ago I studied American history (U.S. and Canadian) and was pleased to finally walk on the Plains of Abraham. I am sure you must have a course in "niceness" that you teach in your schools. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, we met was wonderful.' I can hardly wait to go back.

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    1. I love how family and place and travel are so bound up in your comment. . . Grandchildren, I must say, are worth moving for, although I don't think I really understood that before mine.
      I love your vision of Canada -- we've only taken the train for small-ish sections (once from Prince Rupert to Edmonton and several times between Ottawa and Montreal). That's a wonderfully extravagant trip and I can imagine how you must bond with the other travellers, but I wouldn't have imagined such elevated conversations!
      Newfoundland is the only province I haven't been to yet, although my husband has spent a fair bit of time there for work. Someday, and perhaps you'll still make it there someday as well.

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  4. Can second that recommendation for Wild Ginger. Had a lovely happy meal there back on 2011 so hope that it has continued unchanged.

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  5. That pic of Seattle really does look French! And I love vacation because you simply walk from meal to meal. It's perfect :-)

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    1. Right? Right? Calories out, calories in, there's a perfect rhythm. . .

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  6. Seattle sounds fun, it's going on my list of places to visit if we ever get to North America.
    We are off to visit Paris next week so I'm also interested to hear about the places you like to eat at there.
    Lilibet

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    1. Not sure I'll get that post done in time for you, Lilibet, but I'm sure you'll make your own wonderful discoveries. And we'll be able to compare notes. Have a wonderful trip!

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  7. It sounds like such a fun visit. I have loved visiting Seattle and it was one of our potential retirement options, but of course that worked out differently. And your meals sound fabulous. The thought of Black Alaska Cod and spicy watermelon salad (not together) has me wishing it were lunchtime.

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    1. Actually, they wouldn't be too bad together, would they? It's coming up to dinnertime here and I can't help tasting the two again via memory and imagination.
      Just thinking of you in Seattle -- we could have visited! ;-)

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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