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.