Pacific Northwest Bounty: Feasting My Way Through Washington
I spent 10 days in September in the great state of Washington, doing a book tour for my latest cookbook, A Taste of Washington, and attending IFBC 2014, the mother of all food blogger conferences. I mentioned in my pre-conference post that this wasn’t my first trip to a conference, and that I planned to make the most of my time there. And so I did, literally eating my way around the Seattle-Tacoma area, including Whidbey and Bainbridge Islands, both within easy distance by ferry from Seattle. If you are planning a trip to this breathtakingly beautiful part of the country, you will want to bookmark this post. It’s my little black book from the trip and I know you’re going to be drooling!If you arrive in a new city, the Eater Heat Map for that city can point you to some new, cool (I mean hot) new places to dine. Miller’s Guild was only a block from the Westin in downtown Seattle, and it was getting lots of coverage. Jason Wilson, also the chef at Crush whose recipes are in my book), has created the ultimate grilling restaurant with an enormous wood stove for cooking just about everything. Sit at the counter for a view, but be warned you’ll be warm!I think Washington outdoes even Colorado when it comes to seasonal eating – witness this luscious heirloom tomato salad with in house ricotta cheese.And when in the PNW, I try to get as much fish and seafood as I can, so knew the salmon would be the right choice for dinner.If you stay at the Westin, ask for a higher up floor so you can get views – and if you are lucky enough, ask for a room in the north tower facing north (this is the south facing view) so you’ll have views of the Space Needle.I had to pick up wine from Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville for a book event I was hosting, so I took the time to do some wine tasting in Woodinville, only 40 minutes northeast of Seattle.Someone tipped me off to The Commons for lunch – I thought a half sandwich and small salad would be manageable, but the BLAT and chopped salad with blue cheese were both large portions, and I left lunch quite satiated.I didn’t realize this before (not sure why) but although the grapes are grown in the agricultural southeast part of Washington state, there are hundreds of wineries and wine tasting rooms in a very small geographical area around Woodinville. It all started when Chateau Ste. Michelle set up a winery here, and others followed, hoping to attract employees who wanted to live closer to a metropolitan area and hoping to draw on tourists visiting Seattle. I literally went to about 6 wineries in just a few hours driving about 1 mile.One tip to fellow conference attendees: check out events that are happening with other bloggers or groups before you come to town. I found out that Plum Deluxe was hosting a wine pairing dinner at Tulio just a few blocks from my hotel, so signed up. The menu included suppli and melon bruschetta for appetizers,
, a salad of greens and apples with a creamy gorgonzola dressing,butternut squash risotto,scallops with a mushroom and bread sort of hot panzanella salad,and dessert. I made new friends and enjoyed a fun evening before my book tour started and the conference got underway.On Saturday I ventured to the Proctor neighborhood of Tacoma for a book signing at the farmers’ market. Sadly, I had no time to shop or eat, although I was drawn to the colorful harvest and the aromas wafting through the street as I signed books.A food blogger conference never has a shortage of things to taste. I won’t share everything with you, but just a few of my favorites, starting with Raincrisp crackers. I’ve had these before, but they served them with guacamole and with a shrimp salad. Both were surprisingly great pairings with the crisps and I now have new appetizer ideas.There were lots of bites of salmon, sushi, and other things during the conference, but perhaps the best single bite was the slider from Relish Burger Bistro which happens to be right in the Westin hotel. Hard to beat a great burger!I’m heading to Paris and Burgundy very soon, so have French wines on my mind, but had never really tasted many Bordeaux wines. I feel like I’ve heard a lot about the reds of Bordeaux, but I actually loved the whites and the rose wines.On Sunday my book tour took me to my favorite farmers’ market in the Seattle area, the Ballard Market. The abundance of produce grown within 50 miles of the market, the gorgeous flowers, the wine tastings, the cheese makers – well, I’m jealous of Seattleites every time I visit this market. The market reflects not only the climate – far more moisture than Colorado – but also the attitudes of the residents here who insist on local, seasonal, organic food.I felt like I was constantly driving around the Space Needle, but I’ve never been inside. Locals call it a tourist trip, but still, the views from the top would be stunning on a blue sky day like this, don’t you think?On Sunday night after the conference, instead of dropping into bed from exhaustion, I made myself head out to Trove in the Capitol Hill neighborhood for dinner with 3 friends from the conference. This is the newest restaurant from Joule and Revel chefs Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi, two other chefs and restaurants from my cookbook, so I wanted to patronize their latest spot.The menu is Korean, a cuisine with which I have very little experience. Add to that the fact that they had been open for only 3 days, and don’t even yet have a website – well, the result is I have no idea what I really ate, but it was really good.I do know this was a duck confit leg – perhaps my favorite thing of the night.You order meats – we got both pork and beef, several cuts of each – along with sauces and vegetables, and you’re supposed to cook it yourself on the grill in the center of your table. We were too burned out after the conference, so the chefs very nicely cooked it for us and sent it all out ready to dig into.Pike Place Market is an institution in Seattle, and filled with tourists every day of the week, all day long.People line up before the place even opens at Pike Place Chowder, in Post Alley at the market. I had a book signing here and the line literally never let up in the four hours I was signing books. Thankfully, they brought me samples of their award winning clam and seafood chowders so I didn’t have to queue up with everyone else.The original Starbuck’s is also in this part of town, so I usually like to pop in there for coffee and to watch them make that small batch coffee using a contraption called a Clover.Whidbey Island is a great day trip from Seattle. Drive from Seattle to Mukilteo and take the short (20 minute) ferry across to the island.I stopped in the cute town of Langley for coffee and to check in on Prima Bistro, one of the restaurants in my cookbook……well as Freeland, home to Gordon’s on Blueberry Hill, also in the book…
…before landing in Coupeville, set right on the famous Penn Cove, for lunch at Christopher’s on Whidbey. I couldn’t resist getting Penn Cove mussels, and I was literally slurping the garlic cream sauce right out of the bowl with each plump, tender mussel. I met Master Chef Andreas Wurzrainer, thanked him for participating in the cookbook, and was touched when he said lunch was on him.Instead of driving back south and heading back on the ferry, I kept traveling north on Whidbey in order to see Deception Pass. Even with the low cloud cover on a rainy day, it takes your breath away.You go down some stairs to pass underneath the bridge to get to the other side – a bit eerie, but really worth a nice little hike, even in the rain.Here’s the view from the north side of the bridge looking back. As my dad would have said, simply beautiful.Back in Seattle in time for dinner, I met up with some Denver friends who were in Seattle for the week. Our dinner at Serafina in the Eastlake area started with an arugula and pear salad – perfect for a rainy fall day.And I had to get one more taste of salmon before leaving town the next day.Instead of heading straight to Tacoma, I decide to loop my way over to Bainbridge Island and then travel south on the other side of the water. You can reach the island by a short ferry (about 40 minutes) from Seattle, and I’m guessing if the weather had been clear this would have been one spectacular view of the Seattle skyline.The ferry drops you right into Winslow, and you can actually walk onto the ferry in Seattle and walk into town, making this a fun day trip even if you don’t have a car. The town is cute and I did some shopping before heading to Restaurant Marche’ for lunch.Chef Greg Atkinson is the former chef at the very famous Canlis in Seattle, and is a widely published writer, with something like 6 cookbooks to his name and a memoir released earlier this year. I was lucky to find the talented chef hard at work, and I thoroughly enjoyed sitting at the kitchen counter seat and chatting with him as he prepped items for the day with his staff. He was making his chicken liver pate’ when I arrived, and spooned some creamy warm leftovers on a plate for me to taste. Yes, I ate that entire roll smothered in the creamy goodness!He also told me I made a “clever choice” when ordering the mussels frites – how could I resist when I watched him whipping up that pillowy garlic aoili for dipping?My last stop on the conference-book tour was Tacoma, for a special dinner and book signing at the Maxwell’s, run by the talented Chef Hudson Slater.He made a mouthwatering 4-course meal from the book, including these PNW Salmon Tacos, and he could not have been more gracious hosting the event for me.Funny, the entire time I was in Washington, including several trips back and forth between Seattle and Tacoma, I never saw Mount Rainer. But as my plane gained altitude on my departure, I glanced out the window, and there it was, in all it’s majesty. Book tours can be exhausting – as can food blogging conferences – and perhaps doing both in one trip was a bit ambitious. But my memorable meals with the many chefs who participated in the cookbook made the experience special. I’ll be back to this alluring part of the country soon, I’m sure.
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