On a weekend where I traveled to Seattle, Washington for the 5th Annual International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC), I felt vastly overwhelmed by traveling to another city for the first time. Prior to this trip, I had done extensive research on Seattle, looking up various towns & cities in the area, sights to see, locations to visit, restaurants to dine at, breweries to drink at, etc. I arrived in Seattle with an already-full list of places to go to, and I would continue to add to that list as the weekend progressed, meaning that I could not visit every place I wanted to in this short weekend. In order to cover all of the places to go and things to do, I would very well have to return again sometime in the future. With minimal free time available this weekend due to the conference, I knew that I had to settle in right away in order to make the most out of this weekend getaway.
As mentioned during my recap of the 2013 IFBC, my plane got delayed three hours, so I arrived in Downtown in the early evening, meaning I could not attend any of the optional conference sessions taking place that day. As I rode to downtown on the Link Light Rail, I passed by the Old Rainier Brewery Complex and Safeco Field, pictured above. Once I reached my hotel, I had plans to meet with Meagan Davenport and Gary House to share a drink locally before venturing off to explore the nightlife of Seattle. Following that Happy Hour break, I returned to my hotel room to decide which restaurant to have dinner at.
My decision landed me at Local 360, a gastropub in Belltown that fully utilizes locally grown ingredients in their food and drinks. I fully support restaurants using sustainable ingredients, and Local 360 lives up to its name with their mission statement. For dinner, I ordered the unoriginally named Fried Chicken. Where its name lacks creativity, this dish more than makes up for it with bursts of flavor in every ingredient. Unlike normal fried chicken, this one gets stuffed with a bacon mousse chicken roulade, so you have the sauce inside the chicken, which then gets deep fried. Add on top of that a sunny-side up egg, then place it all on a bed of cheesy grits and collard greens. This dish not only satisfies your savory taste bud, but it hits every single taste bud in your mouth. Surprisingly, the collard greens tasted tangy and slightly sweet, so I ate that up like a salad soaked in chicken and cheese drippings. For dessert, I went with their S’More Sundae – vanilla ice cream with graham cracker brownie (more a blondie than brownie), salted chocolate sauce, and bourbon marshmallows. On its own, the bourbon marshmallows tasted strongly of bourbon, but together with the rest of the bowl, it adds a nice hint at the finish. If I did not get full so fast, I would have stayed here longer for more food and drinks.
In order to walk off all this food, I took a bus down to the Seattle Space Needle in an attempt to visit the top for a bird’s eye view of Seattle. Unfortunately, the Space Needle had closed earlier that day at 3:30 pm for a private party, so I could only just walk around the immediate area.
Friday morning started with a visit to the historic Pike Place Market. An open market unlike any other, Pike Place Market combines the concepts of a farmer’s market with a swap meet, then escalates it to a brand new level. For breakfast, I visited The Crumpet Shop, an old shop making fresh crumpets daily for over 36 years. Craving something more savory than sweet, I ordered a ricotta, pesto, and ham crumpet.
The open market contains dozens of diversified shops and stands, selling many different products from prepared hot food to fresh seafood to fresh flowers to fresh produce and more. Technically, a person can find every item necessary for living all in this market, due to the great variety of goods & services offered here.
Across the street from the open market, plenty of historic shops called this busy street their home. A local Seattle staple, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, caught my attention with not just the giant cheese-making contraption visible through the window, but with the scent of fresh cheese wafting from their storefront. Beecher’s sampled a variety of their cheeses, but nothing compares to their Flagship cheese. A cheese unlike any other, this unique blend tastes much better cold than cooked, and if you try it with their cheese crackers, you have an irresistible snacks that you cannot simply put down. Wanting something to munch on in my hotel room, I bought a small wedge of their Flagship cheese, as well as a bag of their cheese crackers.
On the next block, I visited the Le Panier Boulangerie Française French Bakery, which had a huge crowd of people inside already on a Friday morning. I strolled inside to behold a wide arrangement of pastries and treats, a lot of which I would normally have to hold myself back on. However, as a vacation, I opted to order a few items to try out, so I obtained a Normandie Feuilleté, a puff pastry with chicken and cream sauce, and a mille-feuille bar.
Continuing down this road, I stumbled upon the first Starbucks ever opened. With a line this long for a Friday morning, I opted not to attempt to enter the store. Just a few spaces down from Starbucks, I discovered Pear Delicatessen & Shoppe, a quaint deli & market that sold mainly products of higher quality. I saw that they sold Beecher’s Cheese here for about the same price – not surprising, as any customer could visit the actual Beecher’s just down the road. Pear Deli not only sold, prepped, and cooked food of substantial quality, but they sold craft beer as well, carrying a handful of California beers in their cooler. I appreciate seeing California beers make their way to other states, as that shows the prowess and impact of craft beer in today’s market.
Fast-forwarding to Friday evening, I met up with Meagan again, and together with Jonathan Piercy, we took a bus to Elysian Brewing in Capitol Hill for a beer prior to our dinner event. Each of us got to try one beer before the rain starting to just dump it all out on us. We originally had plans to visit Bluebird next door, but decided to push that to another time, due to the rain influencing us to return to the conference.
Moving on to Saturday evening, prior to the Urbanspoon Dine-Around Dinner, I met up with locals Madeline Moy and Bee Tangsurat, and we drove over to Bluebird Microcreamery & Brewery in Capitol Hill. This funky ice cream shop serves ice cream, craft beer, and craft beer ice cream. You do not see this often in Southern California, and if you do, it does not last year-round like this! With craft beer on tap, and some ice cream flavors made with local craft beer, any beer fan would love this place. In fact, I wonder if they will ever open a shop in Southern California, home to hundreds of micro breweries, and home to warmer weather throughout the year? Anyways, I loved coming here, and I loved my Theo Chocolate Milk Stout & Elysian Stout Float even more. Thanks to both the gals for bringing me here to try a Seattle treat.
On Sunday morning, I returned to Pike Place Market in order to meet up with other conference attendees to walk through the market with them. Unable to locate any of them initially, I strolled through the market on my own, observing all the goods available, and watching the workers set up shop for the day.
I eventually discover Storyville Coffee, a hip coffee shop with a steampunk look to the interior. Although still operating under a soft opening, the staff allowed me to enter after I recognized some of the conference attendees here in Storyville. I met up with Dr. Jean M. Layton, Erica Dermer, Kate Neschke, Michael Wangbickler, and more as they discussed the modern culture of food. Storyville allowed each person here to receive a complimentary pastry and drink – I selected their Ham & Cheese Croissant and Café Mocha. I have no idea how they made the croissant, or who made it, because the ham resembled kurobuta pork. They also brewed the mocha to the most perfect temperature I could ask for – not too hot, but still hot enough to enjoy leisurely.
On my way back to the hotel, I stopped by Cupcake Royale, whom I had sampled ice cream from on the first day of the conference. Those who know me personally know how picky I get in regards to cupcakes, as few bakers can get the cake moisture and/or buttercream flavor right. I swear by Suite 106 Cupcakery in Southern California, as they get the moisture right and the cream right. Ordering two cupcakes, I sampled a piece of each to get a feel for the cake and the cream. I shall cut to the chase – you will get your money’s worth or more, since these cupcakes measure wider in girth than other cupcake places. If you seek a quality cupcake, I would still recommend Suite 106 over Cupcake Royale.
Once I conference had ended, I still had the rest of my day to venture out and seek some of the spots that I wanted to visit. I received a reply from Suki that they planned to head to Fremont, where I had five places in mind to visit. Together with Ryan Valentin and Mary Cowx, we drove up to Fremont, unknowing that we would all travel into an afternoon of exploration and excitement. The three planned to have lunch at Paseo; however, they do not open on Sundays. They decided to join me instead as we made our way to Uneeda Burger. As one of the restaurants on my list of places to visit for over a year, I had greatly anticipated this visit ever since I decided to travel to Seattle half a year ago, and boy did they exceed my expectations. Appearing as a shack on the side of the road, Uneeda Burger crafts some of the funkiest tastiest burgers this side of Oregon. In addition, Uneeda Burger pours a great selection of local craft beer, and serves refreshing craft sodas.
The burgers in order: Crispy Emmer Veggie Burger, BBQ Smash, Crimini Mushroom Burger.
Now that we had visited the main place I wanted to seek out, I joined them as they visited a nifty shop called Book Larder. This cookbook store sells a variety of cookbooks, and frequently hosts classes on cooking and food knowledge, similar to Hipcooks. If I had more room in my luggage, I would have bought a grilling cookbook or two. For now, I will have to wait until I can potentially return here again.
The three had the rest of their day open, while I still had a few spots to check here in Fremont, so they decided to stick with me for the meantime. Driving down south through Fremont, we end up in a small neighborhood of local businesses, with the streets full of parked cars, which strongly reminded me of Belmont Shore in Long Beach, CA. Once we parked, we visited a Bluebird Microcreamery location here in Fremont. Unlike the Capitol Hill location, this smaller shop did not serve any beer. They also appeared to carry less items overall than the Capitol Hill branch. The staff mentioned plans to renovate and expand, which relieved me of the no-beer thing.
As we finished our ice cream, we could not help but notice a strangely strategically-placed sign on the sidewalk. Curious as ever, we followed the sign down through an alley, and discovered this Russian Dumpling shop in the bottom of the building we just exited. This hole-in-the-wall restaurant serves dumplings and only dumplings. Customers can order beef, potato, or both in their dumplings. After boiling them for a good five minutes or so, the staff coats it in spicy oil, sprinkles curry powder, dollops a type of cream that resembles either sour cream or yogurt, dashes it with cilantro, and serves it with rye bread. I would not rate the quality that high, but what makes this concept work appears on their sign. They open until super late night, sometimes closing at 4am, so they cater well to late-night crowds. Also, everyone knows this food, so they will not question it, much like how Southern Californians know about tacos.
Across the street, we finally found 9 Million in Unmarked Bills, a whisky bar I had wanted to check out with my prior research. Having just had lunch, we sat at a table here just for drinks. Many people wonder how this place got that name. If I remember the story correctly… Sometime during the prohibition era, a robber made off with a large sum of money during a heist. He attempted to escape via a plane, but the authorities pursued him ruthlessly. Knowing he could knot evade capture, he tossed all the money out of his plane to the world below. These 9 million in unmarked bills would all land near what would turn into the current location of the whisky bar with the namesake here in Fremont. Anyways, Ryan and I had a local beer, while the gals each ordered a Southern Baptist cocktail.
After this stop, we drove back to downtown where I got dropped off back at my hotel, and we all went our own ways. Thanks so much to the three for allowing me to join them on this exciting adventure through Fremont. I appreciate meeting such awesome people whenever I travel, and hope to see them again soon, possibly in Seattle again next year.
I had less than 24 hours left in Seattle, and I still had not gotten the chance to eat foie gras, since we can no longer legally buy it in California. Determined, my research brought me to Capitol Hill to check out two restaurants that served foie gras. First, I visited Tavern Law, a speakeasy-themed pub, from the same chefs over at Spur Gastropub, where I had dinner the night previously. Two items on their menu stood out to me, so I ordered the Foie Gras Terrine and the Natural Beef Burger w/ Pork Belly. The word terrine jumped out at me, as I recognized it and knew immediately how I would receive the foie gras: raw. Much like rillettes, you eat this by spreading the terrine onto the crostini, and taking small bites. The foie gras comes off as so intense that you truly cannot handle eating too much of this delicacy at once. As for the burger, the burger tasted best after removing the top bun and eating it open-faced. The top bun drowned out the flavor of the rest of the burger, so removing the top bun allowed full absorption of the meat.
Recall that I mentioned a speakeasy theme above – this restaurant pays homage to the old times of speakeasies. Visitors may notice an oddly-placed giant door on the wall. This door serves a greater purpose than just decoration! By picking up the phone on the wall by the door, a visitor can ask to come upstairs to a hidden upstairs lounge, as long as a staff member can answer the call from upstairs to buzz the visitor in.
Having just had foie gras in terrine form, I craved something more, as I can have terrine whenever I want. I craved cooked foie gras. I wanted that seared fat tasted to resonate all over my taste buds. Luckily, right around the corner, I would find Quinn’s Pub, a location I had wanted to check out thanks to my research. Without hesitation, I immediately ordered the Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras, an emulsion of foie gras that sits on a plum cake, coated with an Italian plum compote. Finally a foie gras I can feel proud of, this reminds me of what a lot of Southern California chefs used to make prior to the ban of foie gras sales. Every ingredient on this dish works out so well for each other. Nothing else provides a meaty or savory flavor, allowing the foie gras to take center stage. The plum cake adds a smooth texture to each bite, while the plum compote balances the flavor with its sweet and sour flavor.
On Monday morning, before taking the train back to the airport, I made one final trip to Queen Anne to Toulouse Petit, a French restaurant best known for their breakfast Happy Hour. I recently discovered this location this past weekend after receiving a suggestion from another conference attendee, and I could only visit this place for breakfast on the last day here. I got to try both the Duck Confit Hash and the Snake River Farms Kurobuta Ham Benedict, both with unique tastes, and both oh so good.
That concludes my intense weekend in Seattle! I hope you enjoyed my photos, notes, and memories all this past week, and I hope this motivates you to make a difference in either your own life or other people’s lives. Remember that you have the power to make change, and never feel smaller than normal. Want to attend the conference next year? I highly suggest starting a blog, even if you only plan to post pictures. With 50% of Generation Y referring to themselves as “foodies,” the trends in food will shift drastically only a short period of time. For example, remember Cronuts? Everyone raged about them in the early summer, but now everyone has gotten over those in favor of Ramen Burgers. With food trends constantly shifting, having a solid online foundation to keep track of information will not only benefit all of your readers, but yourself as well. The new food movement shifts from bad foods like high fructose corn syrup and GMO’s to safer, healthier alternatives, namely the local and sustainable foods. Look into everything going on in the world of food, and decide for yourself if you will continue to drink the Kool-Aid, or if you will stand up and support local growers.