Those of you who read my blog know that I was in Kelowna on a little vacation. My husband left early to take his staff on an annual weekend in Vegas and I stayed behind to enjoy a few days on my own (my specialty). I cooked happily for a few days but by mid-week my adventurous spirit was tugging at my apron urging me to go exploring. I considered going to the west coast of Vancouver Island but we are planning to go there this summer and I didn’t want to preempt it by going alone (plus there is no shopping there). I considered San Francisco but that would have involved a stopover in Vancouver and extend the travel time. I was looking for a quick jaunt. Seattle was next on the list and made the cut.
It’s only an hour by plane from Kelowna. ✔
It’s by the water. ✔✔
It has US style shopping. ✔✔
It has Pike Place Market. ✔✔✔
So Seattle it is.
I set the alarm for 4:00 am, packed a carry-on (always good intentions) and set for the airport to catch a 6:00 am flight to Seattle. We touched down before 7:00. I navigated through the terminals and got to my car rental. In no time I was driving, guided by my trusted GPS, and arrived at the Fairmont in downtown Seattle shortly after 8:00 am. Understandably my room was not ready but I was offered an upgrade to a suite on the 11th floor that would be ready in a couple of hours. They stored my luggage, valet parked my rented Jeep and suggested I walk down to Pike Place Market for breakfast at Café Campagne. The brioche French toast was a must, I was told. That sounded good. The weather was cloudy with a light drizzle so I borrowed an umbrella from the valet service. I was carrying my purse that I wear courier style over my shoulder, I had the camera bag with three lenses and the umbrella. A bit cumbersome but I was still in good adventurous spirit.
I walked down 4th street to pike and turned down towards the water. As soon as I got to 1st street at the market’s entrance my senses were pleasantly assaulted and I became intoxicated with the sounds, sights, fragrances and soul of Pike Place market. I love markets and that’s usually the first place I head to when visiting any place. Even before shopping for clothes.
Stalls with gorgeous vegetables, vendors spraying them with water from garden watering buckets, piles of red tomatoes, fresh green peas, artichokes of all sizes, green and purple, fresh fava beans, asparagus with fat stalks, salad green of all kinds, you name it, it was there. And look at all these fruits, plump, juicy and sweet looking. And the flowers, huge variety, gorgeous, fragrant, I wanted them all. I walked slowly, examining, photographing and imagining having all these resources to use in my kitchen. I was slowly getting depressed. Calgary has a farmer’s market but it’s nothing like this one.
I looked for Sur La Table as Café Campagne was situated right behind it in the alley. I found the restaurant and eagerly went to the door only to find it shut. The restaurant was closed. The sign said they do serve weekday breakfast but only between Memorial weekend and some long weekend in the fall. Memorial weekend was coming up but wasn’t today so I was out of luck. I walked into Sur La Table and looked around a bit. I love that store but have to admit that I have just about everything in my kitchen, twice (think Kelowna), so I wasn’t buying anything. I explained my breakfast dilemma to the young man at the store and he suggested I go up to 1st street and up a block and have breakfast at Le Pichet. It sounded promising so I walked up the hill, found the little French restaurant/cafe and settled at one of the empty tables. It wasn’t busy so I made a couple of phone calls before looking at the menu. The restaurant had a casual feel, wooden tables, no tablecloth as you would find in a restaurant if you were really in France. By the time I arrived here I was a little cold, a little uncomfortable and a little frustrated at having to run around looking for food. I wanted a bowl of oatmeal and Le Pichet had no oatmeal on the menu. In fact the menu was focused more on brunch-lunch style foods and didn’t have a vegetarian selection that was very enticing. The menu did look good though for a non-vegetarian guest, with chicken liver paté, authentic flavoured salads and charcuterie. But it was 9:00 am and that’s not was I was in the mood for. The server was friendly, offered café and croissant and said if I wanted oatmeal I may be able to get it at Bacco Café a few doors down, on the corner of 1st Street and Pine. I apologized, thanked her for the suggestion, got my “stuff” organized (purse, camera, umbrella, coat) and headed down the street yet again.
Bacco was just around the corner like she said. It’s a small little place, tables cramped together, noisy, friendly and informal. There was one empty table so I took it and squeezed into my seat being careful not to knock over the flower vase on the table beside me, spilling the water into the girl’s breakfast plate. It could have easily happened. I got settled at the tiny table and looked around. The place was humming. The crowd was a mixture of locals and tourists (I could tell by the street map they were examining, same kind that I had). Most people had a large glass of juice they were sipping slowly. I saw the sign on the wall offering freshly squeezed juice in many combinations (grapefruit-kiwi-lime, carrot-apple-ginger, pineapple-orange-banana and more). I looked over the menu as the server pleasantly ignored me for the next fifteen minutes. He made no eye contact with me. The menu was extensive for such a little place. I wondered what the kitchen looked like in the back. A lot of the items were appealing. Polenta benedict, breakfast skillet (applewood smoked bacon, herbed potatoes, bell pepper, onion, mushroom and cheddar cheese), truffled toast (eggs, Fontina and white truffle oil on brioche toast). Oh, yes, here is the oatmeal (bowl of hot rolled oats, dried cranberries and banana). When the server finally got to me I asked a couple of questions about some of the menu items (especially the truffled toast) but decided to stay with my original intention and ordered the oatmeal. I asked him to bring me an order of brioche toast as well. It wasn’t specifically on the menu but he said he could do it. The food arrived in short order. A simple bowl with oatmeal and a few white looking strawberries cut into thin wedges scattered on top as well as some dried cranberries. The menu mentioned bananas but there were no bananas in sight. Maybe they ended up in someone’s juice cocktail. I sprinkled a bit of brown sugar on the oatmeal and since it was a bit dry I poured a little milk over (I never do). The oatmeal was okay but the brioche toast on the other hand was excellent, sweet and fluffy and eggy-moist. It came with a pat of unsalted butter and a communal jar of jam. By communal I mean an open jar of jam with a spoon perched in it sitting on the table when you arrive. I am not a communal anything, sorry. I can’t help wondering where the spoon in the jam jar may have been. Did someone perhaps lick it and absent-mindedly returned it to the jar? Who knows? I prefer individual jam jars or individual jam portion prepared and set just for my order. Oh well, I am not going to be a stick in the mud. When in Rome act like the Romans. So I kept faith in people’s good intentions and spooned some jam on the lovely brioche toast and enjoyed it. The juice was not a great success. I ordered the grapefruit-kiwi-lime combo and it was watery and sour without a trace of sweetness. Two sips and that was it. Should have ordered the strawberry-banana combo, too late now. I decided not to stay for coffee and headed back to the hotel.
When I approached the reception I was greeted by name with a smile and was handed a key to my upgraded suite on the 11th floor. The suite included two small rooms, one containing a king size bed, opening into a little living room with a sofa, desk and a second TV (one was in the bedroom). Of course in my head I was rearranging the whole place, who needs two tiny rooms? I like large, luxurious spaces. I was starting to feel a little sorry for myself and texted my kids the signatory text “misery, why am I here?” I know it sounds bad because I am on a weekend away in an upgraded suite at a 5 star hotel and I am complaining? But think about it. I gave up my spacious and gorgeous rooftop abode and traded it for (so far) walking in the rain, looking for decent food and staying in nice but cramped quarters. Well, I yam what I yam, for those of you who remember Popeye the sailor man.
So I was overdue for some retail therapy. I left the hotel and walked down 5th past pike and pine until I reached Nordstrom. They had a huge sale going and I can’t shop like that. Clothes everywhere, large crowds, people on
speakers calling out numbers that were handed out to people for some reasons (prizes, maybe?) I didn’t last long and left empty handed, even after quickly going through Barney next door and a few surrounding shops. Back at the hotel I regrouped, cleaned up, watched news and made reservations for dinner at one of Tom Douglas’s restaurants recommended by a friend, the Dahlia Lounge. A table for one.
Dinner was nice. I had a Tuscan grilled bread salad to start, a version of the Italian panzanella, and tried their signature dish of Dungeness crab cakes with fingerling potatoes and grilled asparagus with sauce Béarnaise. Eating mostly vegetarian I only tasted the crab cakes and ate some of the asparagus and potatoes. I am not a big eater, quantity-wise. The restaurant is casual and noisy and I didn’t mind seating by myself enjoying dinner and observing the scene. When dessert was offered I declined and left to go back to the hotel.
The next morning I stayed at the hotel for breakfast at the Georgian and finally I had a winner. The large, spacious room with high ceiling had a lovely old world elegance and charm and was very appealing. Beautiful tables set with white linen, china and glassware, nicely spaced, it was just what I was in the mood for this morning. A buffet breakfast was available but I prefer to order from a menu and have the food brought to me. A quick review of the menu showed many things I could enjoy but again, it was oatmeal for me. I asked them to bring it with the accouterments (toppings, in this case) on the side. I don’t always like to load my oatmeal with too many things. Breakfast arrived in no time and it was gorgeous (see images on right). Oatmeal and toppings arrived beautifully presented. Maple syrup, cream, brown sugar, dried fruits, nuts and fresh berries, each in individual little white and glass dishes. It was very enticing. A mango was cut and spooned into a half papaya and served as a side dish with a wedge of lime and a pot with chamomile tea completed the breakfast scene beautifully. I enjoyed what I had and lingered with the tea, reading the NYT and taking in the scene.
To make a long story short(er), the rest of the weekend went well. I got into the groove, walked everywhere and tried a few restaurants, cafes and gelato places. I even took the underground tour at Pioneer Square, with an interesting history of an area that was destroyed by fire and floods and rebuilt at a higher elevation some years later. I am glad I didn’t live in those days. Life was so hard back then.
I went up to Capitol Hill, a largely residential area with many restaurants, shops and cafes. Barrio on 12 and Pike is urban Mexican style. The street-side walls lift up and it’s like sitting outside, very nice. Across the street is the vegan Plum Bistro with a garage-door like wall that opens the restaurant to the outside. Around the corner and a block down on Pine you can get exotic ice creams at Molly Moon (honey lavender, Strawberries with balsamic). I didn’t research these places, Christine, a local hair stylist that did my hair earlier that day, recommended a couple of them. It was a fun excursion up the hill and back by foot to my hotel.
The last morning of my stay had to be at the market. I had a lovely latte and croissant at, where else, Le Panier, very French bakery (that’s the name). I sat at the counter by the window and watched the goings on at the market. I tried not to buy food to take back with me but it didn’t work. I purchased a brioche loaf and several savoury filled puff pastries. (Cheese, mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes, respectively) and a baguette loaf (sandwich) with brie for the plane trip home. I went back to Three Girls Bakery around the corner and bought their beautiful looking Yukon Gold potato bread and several of the delicious Rugelach that I have been sampling in the last couple of days (apricot, poppy seeds, nuts, ohh, so good). I also stopped at Pears Delicatessen & Shoppe and picked up yet more cookbooks (pizza and vegetables). I then walked into the arcade or covered part of the market and there I completely lost it. Baby green artichokes, baby purple artichokes, fresh peas in the pod, tomatoes, green garlic (never cooked it before), fava beans, French green beans. I better stop telling you everything. I barely stopped at the flowers. You should see the gorgeous Asian poppys, tulips, peonies in every colour. Oh, depressing. I wanted everything but of course had to stop at some point.
I walked back the few short blocks to the Fairmont and the valet looked at me with “you couldn’t help yourself, could you” in his eye. I packed the foods the best I could in the large paper shopping bags and made my way to the airport early. I had to buy a suitcase to accommodate all the extra food but managed to do it and checked it in for a $20 luggage fee.
At home I quickly unpacked everything, the only thing that got squashed a bit was the brioche loaf but even it seemed to have puffed up a few hours later. I think it’s destined for brioche bread pudding. I am back in Calgary now, foods and all, and looking forward to post some of the recipes made from foods I bought and experienced on this trip.
Thanks for reading.