08 May 2010

Spending Time in Sunny Seattle…

It really was mostly sunny when I visited Seattle the first weekend of April. I crashed at a friend’s house in the posh (and bustling!) Capitol Hill neighborhood, complete with a Trader Joes’ Market within walking distance and a bevy of chic boutiques, gift shops, and coffee houses everywhere I looked. When walking down the right street and in the right direction, I even caught the occasional glimpse of both the mountains and the Space Needle. This area probably won’t be on your list of places to visit when you go, but it’s just a train ride and short bus ride away if you want to slum it yuppie-style like a (salaried, mid-30s) native. Then again, there are probably many cool neighborhoods here.

There are lovely fish markets galore. If you are like me, landlocked for the majority of the year and thrown into a frenzy at the thought of eating fresh seafood, you might be tempted to get wrapped up in finding “just the right” place. Don’t – you are paying for that ambience. Go to the neighborhood, working-class places that put all of their energy into simply prepared fresh clams, oysters, and the like. It’s all delicious, the price is right, and you’re eating with the locals instead of the other tourists studiously following their guidebooks’ suggestions. City Fish Co. in the Pike Place Market is a good one to try. And with a large and diverse Asian population in the Pacific Northwest, you also can’t go wrong with fresh, local Vietnamese, Japanese, or Thai food. Go for the street vendors and food carts in the markets—they know what they’re doing.

Speaking of the Pike Place Market, if you shop anyplace, go here. I am not a big shopper, because unless I am purchasing food, I am incredibly cheap, but even I can recommend this place. Located at 1531 Western Avenue and thereabouts, this complex has a mind-boggling selection of shops, restaurants, and –yes—fresh food stands. With a lovely riparian view and an active community culture thrown in, you can stuff your face, buy your unique gifts for the nieces and nephews back home, and get in some great people (and nature) watching.

Coffee is everywhere you go in Seattle. I like coffee and consider myself moderately picky about it quality, but to me, Peet’s (actually a California chain), Starbucks, Seattle's Best, Tully’s…they all taste relatively similar. Everyone picks their own “home team” and is convinced it’s the best, but it’s all good in Seattle. So let’s skip beating the dead horse and talk instead about…tea! There are some great tea shops throughout Seattle. A charming stroll in downtown Seattle will lead you to Perennial Tea Room(1910 Post Aly), filled with a wall full of different canisters of classics and special blends. Tea service includes a tray with a small pot of tea, a beautifully decorated cup, a spoon and a bottle of honey, a small pitcher of cream, and a timer to get the steep just right. The double bergamot Earl Grey was amazing, as was their special-blend herbal tisane called coconut grove, a blend of hibiscus, dehydrated coconut, and chamomile.

And back in the Capitol Hill neighborhood is Remedy Teas, a hip, urban basement shop at 345 15th Ave. E. They have a smaller selection of loose teas to drink hot or cold, but they really excel in the smoothies and tea lattes. I had a rooibos latte that was dessert-worthy, and my friends opted to start their mornings with smoothies chocked full of fresh fruits, green tea, and wheat grass. These drinks will pack at least as much of a wallop as a cuppa around the corner at ‘bucks.