Monday, March 19, 2012

Pike Place Market Food Tour


After living in Seattle for nearly 20 years, it was time for me to get to know one of our most famous, well-loved spots – Pike Place Market. Sure, I’ve visited the Market innumerable times before for its beautiful bounty of fresh fish, local fruit and vegetables and specialty shops. But I have not spent time learning the rich history and tales dating back to 1907, when the high price of onions sparked an outrage and the Market was created to allow shoppers direct access to the farmers and their produce.


Knowing my love of the Market, my husband, Bob, thoughtfully booked us on a Food and Cultural Tour with Savor Seattle (an early birthday celebration for me – an amazing gift!). Bob and I met eight other food lovers and our marvelous, personable tour guide, Santino, at Starbucks to begin our Market adventure.


The day was grey and drizzly but Santino’s pink umbrella was a bright beacon to follow. The Market was alive with vibrant colors, scents and sounds. Cherry blossoms, pussy willows and tulips were visible everywhere. Flower boxes full of daffodils lined the rooftops of the Markets’ buildings. Spring is here, even if the weather doesn’t quite agree yet.


Our first stop was at the Daily Dozen, a doughnut shop. We shared bags of fresh, hot doughnuts liberally showered in sugar ... what a way to begin! From there we visited Market Spice and sipped their signature black tea flavored with cinnamon, orange and cloves. At Pike Place Fish we stopped to watch the flying fish and savor smoked salmon and salmon jerky.


Next, Frank’s Quality Produce gave us incredibly sweet grapes and tangerines to sample. I also discovered fresh green garbanzo beans in their pods there, something new to me. (I bought a bag to bring home with us. The shelled garbanzo beans are similar to fresh green peas and delicious to eat raw or sautéed.)


We then meandered over to Pike Place Chowder while Santino continued to engage us with his extensive knowledge of the Market in an entertaining manner. Cups of clam chowder and seafood bisque were given out to try, and since Bob and I do not eat shellfish they graciously had vegan chowder for us.

And no visit to the Market is complete without stopping to say hello to the mascot, Rachel the Pig.


Our next stop, Beecher’s Cheese, was just plain decadent. Beecher’s makes their cheese in the heart of the Market where you can watch the process. We sampled their flagship cheddar and gooey mac and cheese (flavored with chipotle chile) ... let me just say, Beecher’s has perfected their craft!


Down the street, we stopped in at Pear Deli & Shoppe. This is a foodie paradise! Local chocolates, wine and cheese fill the shop along with an impressive selection of retro sodas (Bob and I stocked up on ginger beer, root beer, cola and orange soda for our boys). They specialize in a variety of sandwiches and served us delicious ones made with Macrina Bakery’s potato rolls. We also indulged in handmade salted caramels and I will return for more of those! The caramels are the perfect balance of sweet and salty and because they are not overly sweet they do not stick in your teeth, making it easier to eat lots of them.


We continued down the block to Etta’s Seafood, one of Tom Douglas’ fabulous restaurants. There they served crab cakes with tomatillo sauce, and again Bob and I were given an alternative option to enjoy. This time we sank our teeth into warm grilled corn pudding cake which was simply divine. Santino had kindly let Etta’s know of my upcoming birthday and they surprised me with a birthday candle on my slice!


Not only did Santino share stories and history with us, he taught us some terrific food tips. My favorite is how to tell the difference between male and female eggplants – something I had been completely unaware of before! If you look at the non-stem end of an eggplant, you will see a brownish marking. If the mark is a small dot it is male and if it is an oval shape it is female. This is significant to recognize since male eggplants have fewer seeds and are therefore less bitter in taste. I will be shopping for those sweet male eggplants from now on!

Check out these beautiful strings of chile peppers!


I highly recommend this tour if you visit Seattle or are a local and want to have fun being a tourist in your own city. If you attend the Blogher Food Conference in June (I’ll be there!) a lunch tour of Pike Place Market with Savor Seattle is offered, so be sure to sign up.

16 comments:

  1. Oh no, not this... It makes my heart ache!!! I miss Seattle... If I go to the conference in June, I am not coming back here for sure. Sorry, husband. I've had enough of the South and want to go home (Seattle)... I miss Bellevue, I miss my one hour drive every morning from Bellevue to Renton and back, I miss rain, I miss everything! Thanks you Hannah for this post! :)

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    1. My pleasure, Marina - there is a lot to appreciate in Seattle, that's for sure. I would like to have a chance to miss the rain for a bit, though...you'd never know spring arrives today with all the wind and chill.

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    2. I've been in the South for 1,5 years by now and let me tell you, I miss the Seattle's rain. I am going to tell you something that may shock you: you can have too much sun, yes! I think the perfect scenario is to live in Seattle and twice during the rainy season go for a few days to Florida or California. :)

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    3. It's true, Marina, you can have too much sun - I lived in Los Angeles for 5 years and though I loved all the sun, I found I missed seasons and was very happy to move to Seattle. You do have the perfect scenario!

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  2. What a wonderful food mecca to have at your disposal. I have been there once, and look forward to another visit.

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    1. If you have the chance to visit again, Lynda, the tour is a lovely way to enjoy the Market. Lots to savor and discover!

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  3. I'm going to Blogher too, so I'll look forward to seeing you there! The Market tour looks like a lot of fun. I've heard of these tours but never gone on one!

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    1. Oh good, I'm so happy you'll be at Blogher! Savor Seattle offers other food tours, too, that look terrific (like Hip on the Hill). Fun to discover more here!

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  4. How funny about the eggplants! I had no idea there were boys and girls. Pike Place Market sounds fabulous. Looks like it was the perfect day for hot donuts and chowder.

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    1. Who knew eggplant had different sexes?! It makes me wonder what else I need to learn about fruit and veggies. It's still perfect for hot doughnuts and chowder out...spring is coming in like a lion here, that's for sure.

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  5. What a thoughtful and FUN birthday gift. It's always astounding to me the things we Seattleites never do. I just found one more tour I need to take. So, lump me into that native who needs to explore her own city more group.

    I'm so jealous you're going to the Blogher conference. I have to go out of town for family stuff! But, family comes first. Enjoy. I can't wait to read your reviews of the classes, food, and great people.

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    1. So true, Mikaela - we don't take advantage of all we have here nearly enough. I'm inspired to keep sightseeing in Seattle!

      I'm sorry I'll miss you at the Blogher conference. I'm only going to be there on Friday, though, as I, too, have an out-of-town family event on Saturday. Hopefully our paths will cross again soon!

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  6. What a fantastic market....a definite must do if ever make it to Seattle :)

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    1. I do hope you can visit sometime, Mairi! I'd love to share the Market with you.

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  7. So fun! I love that you went on a tour of Pike Place even though you live there. And I became obsessed with fresh chickpeas when I saw them for the first time last year - they are just amazing!!!

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    1. It was a terrific experience and a great reminder to take advantage of all we have in Seattle. Finding the fresh chickpeas reminded me of the first time I saw fresh green almonds. I love these new discoveries!

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