It was an ominous looking day when I headed down to the Seattle Art Museum to meet up with fellow foodies and bloggers, More Than Burnt Toast, Cookie Baker Lynn, Eat, Love Travel, Sortachef, and The Lonely Radish. At the invitation of Jan Marie Johnson, we were meeting up to experience Seattle Bites Food Tours’ ”Take a Bite Out of the Market Tour,” a 2010 Best of Western Washington winner.
We started our tour at Taste, the restaurant inside the Seattle Art Museum. The focus of Taste is on local ingredients, primarily sourced from Pike Place Market. While there, we got to taste a flatbread with salmon, onion, dill, and capers topped off with a bit of creme fraiche. It was crisp and chewy at the same time – quite a feat.
Taste also features a wine list of 90+ bottles most of which are boutique wineries. Since you won’t find those wines in your average wine shop, they will sell you a bottle to take home if you like. I wish more restaurants did this because when I try a new bottle of wine at a restaurant and fall in love I’m always disappointed when I can’t find it again.
After Taste we headed off toward the Market, Jan Marie entertaining us with facts, stories and pics from the founding of the Market along the way. For example, did you know that Pike Place Market is over 102 years old? I didn’t. Did you know that it is the longest running market in the U.S.? That there are over 400 small businesses in the Market? That it has its own food bank, post office, health care and day care?
After our savory snack at Taste it was time for something sweet. Nutella and banana crepes at Crepe de France (a favorite of mine in the Market). While devouring our sweet treat we learned the history of Crepe de France, established in 1991 as one of the many small food stalls in the Market, family run, with over 15 types of crepes all made from ingredients sourced from the Market.
After our crepes it was back to savory. First stop, I Love New York Deli, a stall next to the famous Market donuts. Now when I say this is real NY deli, believe me (I have actually been to NY and had deli there, more than once, and I’m not talking Carnegie – ugh). The owner is from Brooklyn and everything except the bread is flown out from NY. The bread is made locally from a family recipe. As a long time pickle hater, I was prepared to eat the potato knishe (yum) and the corned beef sandwich but I was not planning on touching that pickle. Then I thought, this is a food tour, maybe I should just try it. Um, YUM! It perfectly balanced the plate. I think I may have a new addiction (and no, I’m not pregnant). Right next to I Love New York Deli is newcomer Saffron Spice, serving up Indian favorites like samosas, lamb kebab rolls, and lassies. We sampled the vegetarian samosas with two sauces: the first of mint, coriander and cream and the second of tomatoes and ginger. The samosa was as good as the ones I had in Delhi and the saucing was perfect.
Our tour took us through the Economy Market (that’s where Crepe de France is located), the main market, and over to the Sanitary Market for a peek at Can Can a 1900s style Parisian Cabaret that offers burlesque late night. We wandered past Fero’s Meat Market (my go-to for lamb), Three Girls’ Bakery – the first legitimate female business in the Market, and over to Pike Place Chowder for a taste of their award-winning clam chowder(they won the Great Chowder Cookoff in Rhode Island 3 years in a row and then were inducted into the Chowder Hall of Fame).
The chowder was thick, creamy and stick to your ribs, just as it should be. It also threatended to fill us to bursting, so I limited my taste to a few savory bites.
Back in the main market we hit two of my Market favorites: Uli’s Sausage and Pure Food Fish. At Uli’s we sampled the German Bratwurst with spicy hot mustard – a hit that I took home last week – and Hot Italian Vesuvious with huckleberry jam. The latter is a combo I never would have thought of on my own and it was fabulous. Fiery, savory and sweet, a perfect combination of flavors. Uli’s is lean and made with no filler, so to me that makes it health sausage
At Pure Food Fish we sampled on smoked salmon – yum- and learned that it is the oldest merchant in the market, having been there for over 50 years.
We made some more stops around the market learning the history and lore and had a palate cleansing grapel and pear at Corner Produce. Then we headed up to Seattle Coffee Works for some sampling and serious coffee knowledge. Seattle Coffee Works roasts all of their own coffee and serves it in traditional and non-traditional ways such as vacuum pressed. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I was diggin the flavors of the Sidamo we tried – light and hoppy like an IPA.
Naturally we followed coffee with wine – at La Buona Tavola. This was a MAJOR find for me. The wines are Italian and are sourced from small Italian wineries. Personal relationships are the business model here. We started with a prosecco from a 2000 case production and I picked up a sangiovese that Jim and I are now officially addicted to. La Buona Tavola has winemaker dinners once a month, puts together food and wine focussed trips to Italy and caters.
Having tasted all that good food, it was time for me to do some shopping for dinner. I picked up salmon at Pure Food Fish, asparagus at Corner Produce, and wine at La Buona Tavola so I could bring a little taste of the tour back home to Jim. While he enjoyed the meal I concocted he wants to go on the tour himself, for the history more than the food (so he says).
Jan Marie is fun, personable and a font of knowledge. She’s done her research, built relationships and built a tour that has something for everyone. Seattle Bites is a must do on my list for anyone visiting Seattle. I know that every time family or friends visit I’ll be sending them to Jan Marie, and let’s face it, I’ll probably join them myself. Whether your visiting or living in Seattle, take some time and indulge in a Seattle Bites Food Tour. You won’t be disappointed and you’ll definitely be well fed.