Places We Love: Seattle

Places we Love: By no means an extensive guide, but a quick compilation of some of the things we’ve done that we would highly recommend. 

We spent a little under three days in Seattle, and to cover it in any justice would have required far more days and a far larger budget. But we did and ate and experienced plenty of things that we highly enjoyed, and here those are:

Delancey Ballard (Ballard? North Ballard? Not sure what this area is, technically.) If you’ve followed my site, you know that I’m quite a fan of this lady. She and her husband started this wood-fired brick oven pizza restaurant about three years back, and I’ve been anxiously awaiting a trip to Seattle so I could go. We heard that waits on the weekends can be lengthy, so we ate here on Thursday, our first night in town, and were absolutely not disappointed. Sparking wine with aperol as a special cocktail! Be still, my classy-boozy heart! Along with one of those for me (a beer for Brett), we had a special starter of oven-roasted fennel, goat cheese, preserved lemon, and elderflower, then shared a pizza with housemade fennel sausage and mushrooms, and finished with a housemade pavlova with fresh local raspberries and whipped Greek yogurt. Everything was fantastic, particularly the flavor pairings in the starter and the incredible crust on the pizza. Most of the pizzas on the menu focus on one or two toppings, but the ingredients are high-quality and mostly (if not entirely) local, and there’s a good list of additional interesting toppings you can add if you like (e.g. garlic scapes, roasted corn, preserved lemon). We sat at the five-seat counter facing the oven, and enjoyed watching the crew push pizzas in and out of the oven while we ate. In the next few weeks they’re opening up a new “craft cocktail bar” next door (you can see construction activity in the photo below) that will feature a variety of homemade liquors and other drink elements, and we witnessed some of the crew making something with alcohol and crushed stone fruit pits while we were there. Can’t wait to go there the next time we’re in town! Website

Theo Chocolate Factory tour Fremont Almost everyone we talked to about Seattle told us to make sure we take the Theo factory tour, and now we’ll tell anyone else the same thing. Theo was the first organic, fair trade-certified bean-to-bar chocolate factory in the United States, and their passion, commitment, and pride is apparent in everything from their packaging to their partnerships with NGOs and other organizations, to most especially their increasingly popular tours. They’ve added a number of new tours each day (7 days/week) and do accept walk-ins, but we got two of the last spots available during the entire time we were there when we signed up a day ahead of time.  In the hour-long tour ($6/person) we spent about 30 minutes learning about chocolate and about Theo’s various environmental/social/economic commitments and about 30 minutes in the factory and kitchen seeing how bars and confections (e.g. truffles) go from raw cacao beans to finished product. We also tasted a dozen or so different products, including a variety of bars and truffles and raw cacao nibs, and everything was incredibly delicious. Theo was originally famous for their unique flavor combinations – like milk chocolate with curry and coconut or dark with buttered and salted toast crumbs – but now produces a variety of conventional and innovative flavors. The tour ended in their public factory store, crowded with tour participants and other visitors going gaga over the offerings (most of which are also available for sample in the store). We left with two bars for us (forgetting dessert in our food crate – solved) and two of their smaller limited release bars for our Couchsurfing hosts in Penticton later this week. Website

Mischief distillery tasting room Fremont We found this spot on a free map we picked up in the awesome Fremont neighborhood, and since we’re not one to pass up a tasting room we made sure to stop by after a lunch to fill our bellies with more than just chocolate (see above). It’s a tiny tasting room, but with a window into the distillery that shows off their gorgeous trio of copper stills. We tasted vodka, gin, and two whiskeys, and walked away with an incredibly aromatic and flavorful gin that will be perfect for martinis. We loved the vodka and the John Jacob whiskey as well – both of which were slighty sweet and almost caramely-tasting (but not sugary at all), a product of their ingredients (over half of which must be Washington-produced, according to state law) and their distilling and/or aging processes. Website

The Dray Ballard? North Ballard? We came here twice, which says a LOT for two people would almost always rather spend an evening at home than go to a bar.  This might actually be the best bar atmosphere I’ve ever experienced – great but quiet music, not too crowded, good community atmosphere, awesome interior design. Their selection of only beer and wine was pretty small, but it was a tiny place and we certainly enjoyed the beers we had. We came both evenings after dinner to have a beer and watch some Olympics coverage, and would probably be there tonight as well if we weren’t in a different city. (Also: renting a room in someone else’s house is handy, but it often means you need to find other places to be until you want to go to sleep.) Website (which has an awesome series of photos on how they completely gutted and remodeled their space when they started the bar)

Caffe Vita Various locations We knew Vita was good because a Seattle friend of ours brought us some coffee when he visited Claremont this spring, but we were even more pleased by the great atmosphere and food offerings of the coffee shops – a great place to do work and grab a quick breakfast or snack (particularly the High 5 Pies, both savory and sweet). The company also emphasizes environmentally and socially sustainable coffee practices, and partners with a variety of organizations and businesses around the city (including Theo chocolate – see above – for coffee-flavored chocolate bars and truffles and for coffee perfect for pairing with chocolate) to encourage community and economic development. Website

Maritime Pacific Brewery Ballard We stopped here wanting to taste some locally brewed beer and because a colleague of Brett’s told us it had a great floor (yes, really).  It’s a small, local, family-owned brewery with a variety of brews on tap in its “Jolly Rodger Taproom,” with a slight pirate theme and a great pirate map painted floor. We definitely enjoyed the beers we tried – the Imperial Pale Ale, the Islander Pale Ale, and the Flagship Red Alt Ale – and definitely the oyster sliders we snacked on before we headed a few blocks north to El Camión for dinner (see below). Website

El Camión Ballard (and other locations) Always on the lookout for good Mexican food (and a good, cheap meal), a recommendation for a taco truck was a must-do on our list – and we were not disappointed! Well, to be honest the veggie taco was not the best choice – “veggies” apparently means green peppers – but we’re sure it would make a better burrito, and the adobada (pork) burrito was superb. Tasty beans, fantastic meat, excellent sauces, super chewy tortilla. And the other things we saw people eating around us also looked excellent, so we’ll try to make a return visit next time we’re in town. Website

Book Larder Fremont A store of cookbooks, cookbooks, and nothing but cookbooks was obviously high on my list of things to visit, even though I made Brett force me to promise that we couldn’t buy a single thing (and I followed through with that, even though I experienced many, many moments of weakness while in the store). This bright, cheery-feeling store has almost any sort of cookbook you could ever imagine, along with a lovely kitchen setup for demonstrations and classes. They also have food-related book reading groups, which will obviously be an activity of choice if we end up in Seattle next year. Website

Ballard Farmers Market Ballard This was actually one of the more overwhelming farmers markets I’ve ever experienced. It had an amazing selection of offerings, from produce and flowers to meats and seafood to breads and other prepared foods, which is likely why it has earned itself a variety of “Best of Seattle” awards. But it was crowded and jostling and organized in a way that meant we had to circle three times to get a sense of what we wanted and where to buy it. (We also saw five separate people crying while we were there, but I highly suspect that was a normal occurrence.) I would still suggest it, but don’t go hungry or in a rush or on even the edge of the start of a bad mood. We walked away with a still-warm baguette, a wedge of aged gouda, a perfect peach, a pint of pillow-soft marionberries, a hunk of smoked salmon, and a pint of super-sweet cherry tomatoes, all of which made for a perfect travel lunch. Website

A few amongst the many places we still need to check out:
The Walrus and the Carpenter
The Pantry at Delancey (cooking school and community kitchen partnered with the Delancey folks)
El Paseo
La Carta de Oaxaca
Sitka and Spruce and Melrose Market
Gasworks Park
Olympic Sculpture Park

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