Saturday, 11 May 2013

A foodie trip to Seattle, Washington, USA

We have a penchant for seeking out extraordinary amounts of food when we are visiting a new place. Ok, we have a penchant for seeking out extraordinary amounts of food full stop. But when we visited Seattle I had our dining itinerary planned months beforehand. Home of Starbucks (yep, I care, even though I am coming from the coffee capital of Melbourne. I LOVE gingerbread lattes. I love them. Enough to make me drink Starbucks coffee), Pike Place Market on the waterfront, excellent seafood chowder, and some of the best milkshakes I have had.

We got into SeaTac just before midnight, and along with a variety of homeless people, travellers with layovers, and people with no good reason to be there except they are cheapskates, slept on a small pocket of carpet in the arrivals hall. We figured by the time we got to the airport hotel, checked in, showered, and got into bed we would have 1-2 hours before we had to get up and leave to go to the ferry (we were heading directly up to Victoria, Canada for an overnight sojourn before starting our 4 day Seattle eating adventure.) So we slept on the floor. It was horrible. I said I'd never do it again, but I just did it again in Kuala Lumpur with around 800 other people. What can I say - I don't like wasting money. Stick in my ear plugs, chain my bag to a chair, roll up all the clothes in my suitcase to make some semblance of a pillow - it's an adventure. I'll probably do it again.

After what was probably one of the worst nights sleep I have ever had due to the security announcements broadcast at 5 minutes intervals all night, at 4AM we donned our backpacks and headed into the city on the train. Luckily I had my bear hat - it sure doesn't get that cold down here in AUS!

We then trekked from the station to the ferry terminal, checked in our bags, and bought a small carton of milk. Here we were, being cheapskates again - we then retrieved plastic packets of cereal that we, well I won't say stole, but graciously accepted from our New Orleans hotel and proceeded to have breakfast at 5AM on an icy Seattle wharf, in the dark. I promise - the rest of our eating was way more exciting.

Quaint, crisp, yet one of the most temperate places in Canada, Victoria, Vancouver Island is studded with a number of delightful tea stores, chocolate shops and restaurants, and the friendliest people I have ever met in my life.

We ate breakfast at the amazing Rebar Modern Food reviewed here. We bought maple teas and Maple girl scout cookies on the main street, and stayed at the gorgeous Empress Hotel.

Victoria Vancouver Island Canada

Market Square Victoria Vancouver Island Canada

Victoria Vancouver Island Canada

 Victoria Vancouver Island Canada

The Empress Hotel Victoria Vancouver Island Canada

Rogers Chocolate Victoria Vancouver Island Canada

For lunch, we went to the awesome West Coast Waffles. With a variety of sweet and savoury waffles, it was very hard to choose. We went for the pizza waffle and the banana choc chip in the end, choosing to miss out on the bacon, chocolate and cheese waffle that I am sure was an experience. The waffles were crispy, big, lots of flavour, and served by super friendly waitstaff.

West Coast Waffles on Urbanspoon

That afternoon, we headed back to Seattle, and stopped in to Lunchbox Laboratory for burgers and shakes for dinner. Excellent decor, the serving cups and dishes fit into the theme with all shakes served in beakers, you know, the kind from high school science?

I ordered Le Truffle Love, a beef, swiss cheese, bacon and onion burger topped with decadent black truffle mayo. It was delicious - but sure to induce a heart attack. Truffles, being meaty and strong tasting, with the rest of the oily, greasy deliciousness was a bit much, even for me. It would be excellent to share however. Along with our Banana Cream Pie and Boston Cream Donut milkshakes, I was surprised I was able to walk home. The shakes were so thick they hardly pass as shakes. They are more of a dessert in a glass, which is fine by me. Any way that I can have a small vat of dessert without the guilt!

Lunchbox Laboratory Milkshakes Boston Donut Banana Cream Pie Seattle Washington

Lunchbox Laboratory Le Truffle Love Burger Seattle Washington

Lunchbox Laboratory on Urbanspoon

The next day, we stopped off at a few tourist sights, the infamous Gum Wall, Pike Place Market and EMP Museum (possibly the coolest museum ever, dedicated to music and pop culture).

Gum wall seattle washington
Gum Wall
EMP Museum Experience Music Project Seattle Washington
EMP Museum
guitars at the EMP Experience Music Project Museum in Seattle Washington
Playing Guitars Sculpture at EMP
Avatar smart computer at EMP Experience Music Project Museum Seattle Washington
Avatar Computer - You put something on the board and boxes popped up with information about it!
Can't Look Away the Lure of the Horror Film Exhibition at EMP Experience Music Project Museum in Seattle Washington
Can't Look Away: The Lure of the Horror Film Exhibition
At Pike Place Market we visited the popular Pike Place Chowder for a couple of tubs of their famous  Chowder. We went for the Seafood Bisque and the Southwestern Chicken & Corn. Both warm and filling on a wet, cold Seattle day, the corn chowder didn't quite stand up to Boudin's in San Francisco, or my grandmothers easy and quick corn chowder, but was still quite tasty. They are known for their New England Clam Chowder, but not being a fan of clams or bacon, the bisque was a better option, crammed with fresh cod, shrimp, salmon and basil in a creamy tomato base. All chowders can be served in a sourdough bread bowl for only $9.95, or can be purchased in 8, 12, 16, or 32oz tubs, ranging in price from $4.95-$13.95 depending upon type and size.

Pike Place Chowder on Urbanspoon

Pike Place market Seattle Washington
Pike Place Market 
Blessed be the cheesemakers.... - Curd Vat at Beechers Handmade Cheese, Pike Place Market
Blessed be the cheesemakers.... - Curd Vat at Beechers Handmade Cheese, Pike Place Market
The Seattle Underground tour was one of the highlights of our trip - a guided journey through the underground tunnels and rooms that made up 'old' Seattle. Basically, in Seattle's seedier days, the whole town operated out of a series of dug-out tunnels, with people climbing up and down ladders all over the shop. After the great fire, they simply built modern day Seattle over the top. The underground tour takes you through brothels, banks, restaurants - all fallen into disrepair. One of the best parts was looking through the small glass tiled squares that are literally all over the city pavement - from underneath! You wonder what they are for when you are up top, and then forget about them and continue about your day. You would never think there are people underneath looking up at you!!

To finish up the trip, we ventured out of downtown Seattle to the quirky neighbourhood of Fremont, where you can find trolls under bridges, quirky cafes, and the first Organic and Fair Trade Bean-to-Bar chocolate factory in North America. They offer tours of their working factory that include tastes of their truly amazing chocolate. As a pastry chef I have eaten a lot of chocolate in my day, and Theo's is some of the best I have ever had. Their flavours and combinations are exquisite - our favourites were the Honey Saffron Caramel and the Gingerbread chocolate. Their factory shop sells large bags of less than perfect (in looks only) chocolate for a discounted price, perfect for melting for flavoured hot chocolates.  We bought some delicious orange spice hot chocolate that was so delicious that I had to make up a recipe of my own once I used up the tub we bought. You can find my recipe for Theo's Orange Spice Hot Chocolate here.

They also offer 10% off anything in their factory store if you take their popular tour (which included lots of free samples) which takes you through all the machines and past the chocolatiers crafting all their delicious chocolate. We had to wear some marvellous hospital caps (and they hilariously had a special beard one for Eric) as you get right up close with all the chocolate being processed.

Theo's Chocolate Factory Tour Fremont Seattle Washington

Theo Chocolate on Urbanspoon