This odd thing happens when I travel to new places: I convince myself and my loved ones that I’m meant to live there. The grass is always greener, right? But after a few weeks, my new obsession wanes and I settle back into life in the Bay Area. Seattle’s a bit of an exception. That feeling doesn’t wear off after a few days when I come home from Seattle. I really, really love this city. In addition to the amazing food, distinct neighborhoods, fleece-loving clog-wearing population, the water, and (way) cheaper real estate…my sister lives there. And she just moved into a cute new house and put pink flamingos in her yard. Yeah, she has a yard. Jealous.
So my mom and I decided to capitalize on a few days off mid-week and flew up to wander, eat, explore, shop, and gawk. Here’s what we were up to in case you’re ever up in Seattle and at a loss for what to do.
We weren’t in a hurry this morning–woke up leisurely and walked over to the coffee shop where my sister Rachael works. Then we went over to West Seattle to see her new place, and cruised over to Ballard to have lunch at the Lunchbox Laboratory. I could write a whole post on this place, but I’ll aim for brevity. First, their shakes are incredible (with choices ranging from a simple chocolate to Nutella and Almond Joy) and they serve tater tots in little All-Clad pots. They have wacky hours, no-nonsense service, lots of interesting choices (down to even the salt you’d like on your fries), and it really was one of the better burgers I’ve had in a very long time (with caramelized onions and a gorgonzola cream sauce, could you really go wrong?)
After lunch we cruised over to Freemont to poke around the neighborhood. We stumbled upon an unassuming vintage shop that proved to be absolutely delightful. If I lived in Seattle, I would’ve purchased the little mid-modern table, orange bakelite casserole set, and the old pharmacy lamp. Oh, and the turquoise typewriter was cool, too. And if my mom lived in Seattle, she was all over that green cruiser bike. We liked this place.
Then we found another great shop around the block, Bitters Co. Tough to pinpoint in just a few words, the store stocks tasteful pieces for the home with a general store vibe–everything from Heath Ceramics to sweet little scissors, chalkboards, cheese knives, and local honey. Beautiful shop. Worth the trip if you’re in the ‘hood.
And last, Dream, a new favorite clothing shop with pretty not-too-pricey tees, dresses, and scarves. Check out their dressing room–I wanted to move right in (and yes, I bought the dress):
Next on our agenda was the tour of Theo Chocolate Factory. I’d planned this a few weeks in advance because it does book up, and I’d been looking forward to it all day. If you haven’t tried Theo Chocolate, you can get it at gourmet grocery stores like Whole Foods. Their Bread and Chocolate and the Cherry Almond Dark Chocolate Bar are my favorite–really good quality chocolate and I love that it’s made right there in Seattle. In fact, they mentioned that even in their milk chocolate bars, they never go below 40% cocoa which is pretty high for market standards these days. And I tasted a 91% bar that wasn’t at all bitter. (tough to pull off). They’re magicians, I tell you. During the tour, you get a behind-the-scenes look at the U.S.’s only organic, fair-trade bean-to-bar chocolate factory and learn all about the processes they use. And let’s be real: the best part? A lot of chocolate samples and a beautiful showroom where you can pick up a few bars to take back home.
Later that evening, we had a memorable dinner at Boat Street Cafe. Since Rachael moved to Seattle, I’ve been up to visit four times and Boat Street Cafe is my favorite restaurant so far. It just feels really good in there.
The lighting is low; the cocktails are creative and strong (I recommend the Lillet martini); the food is simple, seasonal, and executed beautifully. I ordered the best crab cakes I’ve ever had–virtually all crab with just a dash of cornmeal. We all shared the house pickle plate (pickled radishes, cherries, asparagus) and I had the creme fraiche ice cream with candied citrus for dessert. A really lovely meal. Smiles abounded.
I started the day off by walking down to Pike’s Place Market to meet up with Tea from Tea and Cookies for a little coffee and a quick market stroll. We have a lot in common, and she’s a big cheerleader for a move to Seattle. This is a reason I like her even more.
Next, my mom and I went to The Seattle Aquarium where we gawked at a big maroon octopus (worth the price of admission alone), playful river otters, and beautifully splayed starfish. Afterwards, we met up with my sister to do a little sight-seeing up at Kerry Park in the Queen Anne neighborhood. Views, dogs, impromptu parks. Fleece-wearing folks. I felt right at home.
Our next move: in search of some supposedly infamous cupcakes at Trophy Cupcake in Wallingford. We concurred with the buzz. They really were something. I fell in love with the Hummingbird Cupcake, an old Southern recipe that is largely banana cake with a little pineapple and coconut. What I loved about Trophy was that their chocolate cupcakes weren’t too sweet and actually tasted of cocoa, and can we just hear it for cream cheese frosting done really well? I’ll be back.
We went back to the hotel to rest after a little butter-induced lethargy and went out later that night for a wonderful seafood dinner at Blueacre Seafood. The restaurant opened just last month and they’re certainly still working out some kinks. But it’s by the same folks behind the well-regarded Steelhead Diner in Pike’s Place Market, and I think Blueacre will be really great in a few months time. The salads were a tad bit over-dressed and the desserts were contrived–but they lived up to the buzz in the seafood department: the salmon and lobster were absolutely perfect. A nice downtown spot for a celebration. And although we weren’t really celebrating anything, champagne sounded like a good idea. Why not?
So goodbye for now, Seattle. I know I’ll see you soon. At the very least, for another quick jaunt. Perhaps for a longer stay someday.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
In a few short weeks, we're headed to New York, Vermont and New Jersey to visit family and see my sister Zoe get married. In starting to think through the trip and do a little planning, I found Oliver the cutest tiny-person dress shoes I've ever seen (and he's quite smitten with them), sussed out childcare options for the night of the wedding, and found what feels like the most expensive (and last) rental car in the state of New Jersey. I try very hard not to be one of Those People that begins lamenting the loss of a season before it's remotely appropriate to do so, but this year, as we'll be gone much of September, I've felt a bit of a 'hurry, make all the summery things!' feeling set in. So we've been managing increasingly busy days punctuated with zucchini noodle salads, gazpacho, corn on the cob and homemade popsicles (preferably eaten shirtless outside followed by a good, solid sprinkler run for one small person in particular. Not naming any names).
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
A triple berry summer crisp made with oats, quinoa flakes and hazelnuts. Summer in a skillet.
I had a weak moment on our honeymoon in Italy when I decided that I should be making gelato for a living. My enthusiasm for Italian gelato wasn't surprising to anyone. I'd done extensive research, made lists, had Sam map out cities in terms of where the best gelaterias were. I took notes and photos and hemmed and hawed over flavor choices: Sicilian Pistachio! Chestnut Honey! Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig! In truth, on that particular trip, I cared far more about treats, sunshine, and cobblestone walks than I cared about famous landmarks or tourist attractions, often leaving the camera back at the hotel in favor of my small black notebook which housed detailed jottings on dessert discoveries in each city we visited. Our friends Matteo and Jessica happened to be in Naples on the one night we were there, and we all went out for pizza together followed by a long stroll around the city. At some point the conversation turned to gelato (as it's bound to) and Matteo brought up the famous school in Bologna where many renowned gelato artisans study. My wheels were spinning. Maybe we should visit Bologna. I should see this school! I should talk to these students! I could make Sicilian Pistachio; Chestnut Honey; and Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig each and every day of our lives. Or at the very least, travel to Bologna to learn how and then come back to Seattle to take our Northwest city by storm. Well here we are six months later, back to reality, and the impetus to pack up my bags and head for Bologna has subsided for the time being ... but not the unwavering gusto to sample. That part will always be with me. It's been awhile since I mixed up a batch of ice cream at home, but the other day a beautiful new cookbook landed on my doorstep and I flipped right to a recipe for dark chocolate sorbet with toasty, salty almonds. I didn't need much convincing.