Sunday, June 6, 2010

Post 25.5: Welcome to Seattle - Day 1, Part 2

continuation from from Post 25.2...

Our journey through Seattle takes us to the area around Pike's Place Market.  Our journey in numbers:

A lesson in truffle oils.
Connie gets a whiff of the buttery essence of the truffle.

The number of dollars it costs per person for wine tasting (and food pairing) at La Buona Tavola, a small shop with everything from wine to pasta to truffle salts, truffle oils, and truffle creams galore.  Duke and I had a red wine tasting; Connie and Diana chose some sweeter whites.  Totally worth it. 

Is the glass half empty or half full?
Well, really it's one-tenth... but who's counting?

You can read Duke's post on our wine tasting experience here.

The house that chowder built.
Small store, little space... but big chowder taste.

The bowls of chowder we ordered from the highly recommended Pike Place Chowder.  One cup each of (clockwise from top left) traditional clam chowder, shrimp and crab clear chowder (special of the day), scallop chowder, and Manhattan chowder.  The scallop chowder had a hint of lemon, and it complemented the dill very well.  We came back here again before our flight back to LA.

See which chowder Duke likes, and view higher resolution pictures from his post here.

Est. 1971.
The company has since gone public but has adopted a more private logo... ifyaknowatimsayin.

The cups of coffee we (we as in Connie, Diana and Duke) drank from the original Starbucks location.  The line to order (not to the mention the line just to get into the store) looked more like the branches that hang off of the tree that produces coffee beans.  Super touristy.  Yes, we were super tourists.  Along with their coffee purchases, they also rang up a bill for Starbucks coffee mugs.

Smelly cat?
We learned that the storefront performers share the space with each other.

One of the baristas attempted to engage the tourists in conversation.  "How many of y'all are from America?" (a few scattered whoops and shouts).  Then, "how many of y'all are from overseas?"  (silence... then nervous laughter from the crowd).  I don't think the non-American tourists quite understood her.  =\

Too much cheese! Also, the number of cheese-filled items we tasted from Beecher's Handmade Cheese, a cheese shop that not only serves cheese-infused food but makes their cheese in-house too.  They claim that they have the world's best mac & cheese, but I think Duke and I agree... we've have better.  However, the panini-style grilled cheese sandwich was to die for.

Duo of dairy.
The best grilled cheese sandwich and a so-so mac & cheese.

There's more of the cheese-making process in Duke's post here.

The falafel princess. 
A very shy falafel maker attempts to hide from me while another prepares with zest.

Gyro cut into four sections from Falafel King.  And one conversation with the store employees about where their homeland of Eritrea is. 

Me: So where is Eritrea exactly?
Employee: You know Ethiopia?
Me: Yeah.
Employee: Okay, right next to Ethiopia.
Me: (pointing at the employee's small map of Africa) Here?
Employee: (flips it in the opposite direction) HERE.

How can we split this? The knife was dull, but we managed. 
It was tough to see the meat under there, but the meat was far from tough.

Read Duke's post about our pit-stop at Falafel King here.

And those were our daytime activities for our first day in Seattle.  The next post will show of the loot I brought back from Pike's Place.  Until then...

ML - 20100709/20100529

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Post 25.4: Seattle - National Doughnut Day, Part 2

In the quest for insanely delicious doughnuts, we stopped at Lola, one of Tom Douglas' restaurants, at the end of our second night in Seattle.  But alas, the waitress informed us that the delightfully delicious doughnuts had been sold out.  She added, however, that the dainty delicacies would return in the morning... Of course, we returned.

Sweet sucrose. 
A bouquet of sugar packets bloom in the basket.

And of course, we ordered the doughnuts.  They were described to us more like beignets than just plain doughnuts.  But whether they were like beignets or like traditional doughnuts, we would order then anyway.  This really was Duke and Connie's mission... but I followed along.  I mean... how good could a donut be anyway? Well, I soon found the answer.

Shaken not stirred. 
Heather, our server with a very warm personality, shakes the doughnuts in sugar tableside.

Oh, heavenly goodness.  I took one bite, and I thought angels had landed on earth.  It was light.  It was airy.  I'm not quite sure how they made them, but they sure as hell didn't taste fried.  And even if they were fried... no grease! These baby beignets were basic, bite-sized bliss.

Baby beignets. 
Vanilla bean mascarpone and apricot jam serve well as complements.

What made these doughnuts (do these even still qualify as doughnuts?) even better was the vanilla mascarpone. The apricot jam was quite amazing in its own right, but this mascarpone... this mascarpone was something else. Four doughnuts of the way through the plate, Connie and I found ourselves clear out of mascarpone cheese. Both of us turned our heads and eyed the remaining vanilla mascarpone on Duke and Diana's plate... it was pretty apparent that we had been the only ones that had been spooning globs of the mascarpone onto our doughnuts. I wanted to take a tub of this stuff back home with us. Impossible.

Tempting tastes. 
I could hardly keep from drooling as I was taking the pictures of these babies.

I am about to make one of those grand statements that I hope I don't regret... these. are. the. best. damn. doughnuts. I. have. ever. had. EVER. No joke. EVER was bolded and italicized. That's nothing but emphasis, y'all.

Bite-sized bliss.
It's hard not to moan, "Oh my goooood," after taking a bite.

This is the first time I have ever celebrated (or even acknowledged) National Doughnut Day.  After having the Top Pot doughnuts and these beautiful, baby beignets topped with vanilla mascarpone and apricot jam... it's safe to say that I'll be celebrating National Doughnut Day from here on out.  It was Lola, though, that really sucked me in.  Oh, Lola... I never thought... of all foods... it would be a doughnut that got me.

This concludes our side-step into doughnutdome, but the next post will continue our Memorial Day weekend journey through Seattle.  Until then... let's get S.O.F.A.T.

ML - 20100630/20100531

Friday, June 4, 2010

Post 25.3: Seattle - National Doughnut Day, Part 1

Today is National Doughnut Day.  I'm pausing the chronological posts of the Seattle trip.  Gasp.  I'm dedicating one entire post to donuts.  Double gasp.  Donuts aren't particularly a favorite food of mine, but twice we had doughnuts in Seattle... and twice they captured my heart.

The house drip. 
I'm not a big coffee drinker, but the smell lured me in.

We stopped by Top Pot on the way to the Space Needle.  (I saw the ad for this place in the Alaska Airlines magazine I was reading during the flight up.)

The raspberry old fashioned.  Bits of the berry dot the doughnutscape.

Upon entering I noticed that Top Pot was so... un-donut-shop-like.  Or... at least it wasn't like any donut shop I had ever walked into.  It was far from being similar to a Krispy Kreme store... no bright lights or large windows.  And it was definitely unlike the neighborhood donut shop with the flashing OPEN sign... you know, the one on the corner that occassionally makes sandwiches and sells Lotto tickets too?

Hand forged doughnuts.  Hand eaten too.
I broke the doughnut into bite-sized pieces.  See the golden interior.

Top Pot was way different.  Upon entering I felt like I was walking into a local coffee shop.  The aroma of freshly brewed coffee was actually the strongest scent in the store.  The lights were dim... there was wooden furniture.  There was wooden furniture.  And an enormous bookshelf that spanned from floor to ceiling.  Oh, how I wished my future home library (dreams of future mansion) would be like that.

No cracks in the glaze.
Light from the window reflects off the thick chocolate shell.

So my first sights and smells indicated that I had just walked into a gourmet doughnut shop.  Yes... a doughnut shop, not a donut shop.  The extra effort they took in creating their delectable delights inspired me to put the extra effort in typing a few extra letters.  So what about the first taste?

I spy...  something light, fluffy, and golden.
The Bavarian Creme Bismark in the distance.

Niiiice.  I love how the chocolate covering didn't just crack and fall off when I tried to break it in half.  The glaze stayed in tact; it clung to the dough tight.  I was impressed... and I was also full.  The center of these doughnuts were so dense that I could barely take another bite.  The coffee was probably aiding their expansion in my stomach. 

Take it away, please.  Stomach and mouth... both full.

Supposedly, the donuts are so addicting that the Seattle Seahawks Golden Tate broke into a Top Pot store in the middle of the night just to satisfy his craving for their maple bars.  I wish I had known this earlier... I would have ordered the maple bars! Top Pot quickly turned the event into a marketing campaign.

I wish I could try them all.  But I was donezo... it was time for the Space Needle.  Part 2 of National Doughnut Day still to come!

ML - 20100629/20100530

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Post 25.2: Welcome to Seattle - Day 1, Part 1

Welcome to Seattle!

The friendly taxi driver who took us from Sea-Tac Airport into downtown exuded a warmth that the temperature lacked.  He was welcoming and friendly.  (The cabbie on the way back was a different story.)  The taxi driver did think I was Korean, but that's probably due to a number of reasons:

(1) The cabbie said that Koreans were the predominant Asian in the Seattle area... did he forget about how Chinese people are everywhere?

(2) He said he really can't tell the difference between Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc.  Okay, completely understandable... Indian? Pakistani? Sri Lankan? Uh... sorry to say, but I can't tell the difference either.

(3) He could probably smell the kimchi coming from my sweat... it's probably my constant craving for haemul pajeon that triggered that olfactory sense.

No matter, the cabbie was cool.  We even negotiated a $40 flat rate (the meter was higher) from Sea-Tac to the Westin.  Thanks for the ride, man.  He set a positive tone early on for the trip.

Inside the cab.  Downtown Seattle from the freeway.
See the green aligning the road.  Clean air for all.

So where to? Pike's Place Market, of course.  That was the one place that we all (Connie, Diana, Duke) wanted to hit up.  And I can tell ya... we spent quite a bit of time there. 

Here's our morning and early afternoon of day 1 at Pike's:

The public market.
Formerly used as a basic trade center... now called Pike's Place.

All quiet on the western front.  A peaceful walk down to the entrance.
The body of water behind the market leads to the Pacific.

First bites in Seattle. 
The goodies from Le Panier provided some fuel for the trek through Pike's.

Garden or market? Bundles of bouquets line the east side of Pike's.

Cheery cherries.  Chukar Cherries offers a wide array of chocolate-covered cherries.

Fresh produce, of course! 
An eclectic recipe for Brussels sprouts here.

A refreshing respite.
Doing a little bit of people watching as we trek on to the second half of the market.

Super shellfish.  The scallops were almost about the size of my fists!

Pike's Place Fish Market.
A crowd gathers to watch the famous fish fly.

The goods.  It's all about the salmon here.

Not only produce and seafood.  But... internal organs of poultry too?
A small Japanese corner shop sold some deliciously crispy chicken hearts.

Endless aisles of everything.  Can you spot Duke?

A mountain of cheeses.
A culinary conoisseur's dream.  A lactose intolerant's nightmare.

Petting the Pike's pig. 
Depositing some coins into the life-sized piggy bank.

A glimpse of the group. 
Crouched down low now... see how high we can jump later.

There it is! One of the most photographed sights in Seattle.
A slew of people and a ton of cars crowd the main entrance.

Leaving the market we all decided to make at least one more stop here before we left Seattle.  There was too much, really, too much stuff inside the market to go through in just one morning.  It was just a little past noon, but it was time to find Pike's Place Chowder, the spot where locals say supposedly has the best chowder in all of Seattle.

To be continued in the next post...

ML - 20100625/20100529

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Post 25.1: Departure for Seattle (LAX-SEA: AS 477)

Here's how we got from LA to Seattle by 9:00 a.m.:

3:30 AM / Wake up
4:00 AM / Standing in driveway... waiting for Jess to pick us up
4:15 AM / Wake Jessica up because she didn't hear her alarm

4:20 AM / Text Connie and Duke just in case they didn't hear their alarms...
4:21 AM / Confirmation... Connie is awake
4:22 AM / Confirmation... Duke is also awake

4:23 AM / Text Diana... supposed to be at my house 10 minutes ago... is she asleep too?
4:24 AM / Text from Diana... "will be there soon"
4:25 AM / Diana arrives within one minute

4:30 AM / Jessica's Accord screeches into my driveway
5:15 AM / Arrive LAX (nice driving, Jess)
5:16 AM / Find Connie inside

5:20 a.m.  LAX Terminal 3.  Waiting for Duke.
Facing the emptiness.  It's actually quite crowded behind me.

5:25 a.m.  Saving time and money.
The four of us consolidate our liquids into one bag for check-in.  $15.  Smart.

5:50 a.m.  Man in front of me reads Chinese newspaper.
I am amused.

5:55 a.m.  Say hello to the Alaskan native.
A plane takes off in the background.

5:59 a.m.  Push back from the gate.
Hello VX planes.  See you on the return flight!

6:00 a.m.  Taxi to the runway.
The air traffic control tower and iconic Theme Building sit behind.

6:05 a.m.  Take off.
As we barrel down the runway, a Qantas flight touches down on the adjacent runway.

6:05 a.m.  The wheels lift off the ground.
QF 25 from Auckland comes to a stop just as we lift off.

6:06 a.m.  I'm leaving on a jet plane...

6:06 a.m.  Where ocean meets the sky...
About to turn North by Northwest towards Seattle.

6:07 a.m.  Bye, bye, bye...
Our Airplane! was a Boeing 737-900.  I was hoping to fly in this.

7:00 a.m.  Would you like a snack? I sure would!
Party mix and real tomato juice for a change.

8:55 a.m.  Wings extend to the fullest for landing.
I love how the mini jet stream flies between the flaps.

9:06 a.m.  Welcome to SEA: Seattle/Tacoma Int'l.  Rain.
In the back sits an NWA jet that has yet to be painted with Delta livery.

While we were waiting to de-board the plane, some passengers had to be taken away by security because they threatened the flight attendant.  Smart.  All because a passenger stepped on another passenger's foot.  Real smart.  Props to the Alaska Airlines FA who picked up the screaming baby and walked it up and down the aisle.  Super props.

To be continued.  Until then, get S.O.F.A.T.

ML - 20100624/20100529