***Warning: Lots of photos up ahead***
I have been meaning to document our big vacation of 2012 for some time now, even though its been almost a year since we ventured to the Pacific Northwest for a fantastic ten-day expedition. For some reason ever since the season of Real World: Seattle aired in the late 90’s (totally dating myself! No shame!) I have had a love affair with the city, and it’s always been on my mind to get out there. As I have grown older and become more versed in food cultures and wine growing regions, the entire Pacific Northwest came on my radar. With Seattle, Portland and two world-renowned wine countries (Walla Wall and Willamette Valley) all within a four-hour drive of one another the seed was planted to explore them all on one big trip.
This will be a little “mini-series” if you will, as we covered a lot of ground (and took lots of photographs) during our stay. So let’s start with Seattle…
After touching down from a smooth flight, we were greeted with gorgeous blue skies as we hopped in our rental car and drove to west Seattle for some chowder and fried oysters at Sunfish, followed by a perfect panoramic view of the skyline.
We purchased tickets for Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour: Touristy, yes…but actually a really informative and slightly irreverent way to explore a city underneath a city. In the late 1800’s a massive fire tore through the city, forcing Seattle to rebuild on top of itself. I would recommend this tour to anyone who decides to pay Seattle a visit.
Enjoying the gorgeous weather we strolled over to Pike Place Market, just to get a sense of the place, because we knew we would be returning the next day
We wrapped up the day with cocktails at Tavern Law, and a few in their secret upstairs bar Needle and Thread (you have to pick up a phone and walk through an old bank vault to get there), followed by a truly incredible meal at The Walrus and the Carpenter (sadly we don’t have photos of the restaurant, but trust me when I tell you it’s remarkable…best oysters we have ever had).
Day two was a special day not only because it was our first full day in Seattle, but it was also Jürgen’s 30th birthday! Not a bad way to ring in a new decade if you ask me. As we were staying in the Ballard neighborhood, it felt appropriate to pay a visit to the Chittenden Locks, and hopefully see some salmon swimming upstream.
We parked our car nearby and hopped on a city bus to head to the iconic Space Needle. Although at this point we were a bit worried because some of the infamous Seattle fog was beginning to descend and we wondered if we would be able to see anything from the top. Thankfully, just as we arrived the fog began to separate and we were able to get a clear view from the eye of the needle.
A note on the needle: To be totally honest I do not think the view is worth the price ($38 for two adult tickets). Yes its a 360˚ view of a gorgeous city, but it’s actually only 605 feet high (for reference the
Willis Sears tower is 1,451 feet) which isn’t quite tall enough to give you that up-in-the-sky, birds-eye view you look for when you pay money to go to the top of a building. However, the Space Needle is the quintessential image most people see when they think of Seattle so it’s hard to imagine visiting the city and not experiencing it. I will say the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit next door looked really cool from above. Next time…
Now it was time for round two of Pike Place Market. A truly remarkable outdoor market right on the Elliot Bay. It’s a locavores heaven, chock full of hundreds of locally grown and crafted foods from around Seattle. We picked up a Pork Ham Bow and some crab cocktail for a little lunch as we wandered through the various stalls smelling, tasting and taking in all of the incredible ingredients.
And of course, when at Pike Place, do as the Pike Placers do: Watch them throw fish…
We the scurried back through Pioneer Square to wait in line at Salumi (Mario Batalli’s fathers outpost) to pick up a few delectable selections of cured meats to take with us as we hopped a ferry to Bainbridge Island.
Once across the bay at Bainbridge we strolled through the main drag hopping in and out of small shops and art galleries. We unpacked our meat and cheese at a darling picnic table and enjoyed a mid-afternoon nosh. We didn’t stay long, but I would highly recommend a ferry ride and visit to Bainbridge while in Seattle. Next time we go I hope to spend a whole day there. We also don’t have photos of this part of the trip…I don’t know why. Sad.
Firmly docked back on the mainland, we were thirsty of course. We stopped into the Zig Zag Cafe for some cocktail hour libations. We had a wonderful time conversing with some local Seatteites and our fantastic bartender who whipped up some lovely creations, and also (unbeknownst to us) put in a call to the folks over at Canlis, where we would soon be celebrating Jürgen’s birthday dinner.
Our cocktails at Zig-Zag and our meal at Canlis were both incredible. As a result of our bartenders phone call, the folks at Canlis gave us extra special treatment including some bonus courses and glasses of champagne (score big for turning 30). The highlight of our meal was a remarkable Muscovy Duck which now holds a spot on my “Top 5 dishes of all time” list. Tremendous. Phenomenal food in a rustic yet refined setting. Go. Just go.
Our third (and final) day in Seattle was the only day we didn’t have a set agenda. All we knew was that we wanted to do something outside, since the area has such lush and wonderful opportunities for hiking and exploring. Knowing we would be ending up in Woodinville (about 30 minutes outside of Seattle) for dinner that evening anyway, our delightful host suggested we just spend the day there and enjoy the many trails in the area. Also, she hoped to meet up with us later that afternoon and it was easily accesible from the city. However she ended up falling ill and was unable to join us (this is a harbinger of things to come…get ready).
When we arrived in Woodinville we were unfortunetly met with a rather chilly and cloudy day. Unsure of what to do we decided to start the day at Red Hook Brewery, where we thought we could wait out the weather with a little tour and tasting. And let’s be honest, any opportunity to drink during the day, is one we will take.
The tour at Red Hook is only one(!) dollar(!) and you get to taste a lot of brews. I wasn’t in love with many of them, but it’s a well done tour and an impressive facility.
Stepping out of Red Hook, the skies were no clearer, so we thought why fight it? Let’s keep drinking! Woodvinville is actually home to a host of Walla Walla winery tasting rooms, and a few distilleries. Even though we would be setting out for Walla Walla the following day, we had a huge list of wineries we wanted to visit, and figured this would be a great way to cross a few off the list a little early.
The spots we hit were: Woodinville Whiskey Company, Soft Tail Spirits, Isenhower Cellars, Amavi Cellars, Pepperbride Winery, J. Brookwalter, and Sparkman Cellars. Without question Sparkman was our very favorite.
Now it must be noted that we shared our tastings at every stop. We had a big dinner that evening and needed to have our wits about us. After changing in the car (classy!) we headed over to The Herbfarm for a truly unique and very special dinner.
The Herbfarm is a dining experience unlike any other I have ever tried. With only one seating per evening all guests are greeted by name and given the chance to first explore the space before heading out into the restaurants garden where you are given the chance to smell (and taste) many of the herbs and flowers which will be appearing on your plates throughout your meal.
When you dine at The Herbfarm you are a treated to not just a dinner, but an event. The kitchen is set up almost as a stage, with a big heavy curtain which can be pulled to either hide, or back to showcase it. At the top of the meal, the curtain is drawn and the entire Herb Farm staff comes out to be individually introduced. You are then given a step by step guide to the nine courses you will be tasting that evening along with specific wine notes for each course. The food is thoughtfully prepared using über-fresh ingredients, many of which are procured from the gardens out front. Every member of The Herbfarm team is deeply passionate about the meals they create and you can taste it in every bite.
Everything about the experience was flawless, until right before the beef course when I stole off to the ladies room where I proceeded to lose the entire contents of my stomach. At first I thought it was a byproduct of a day of wine tasting, however I would soon learn that was not the case, but rather the beginning of a nasty flu bug which would reappear the following day as we hit the road for Walla Walla, Washington.
But that, my friends, is for another Thursday.
(Special thanks to my sweet friends Jamie and Emjoy…both Seattlites who were incredible resources when planning this trip. Also, to Val and Drew our wonderfully generous hosts).