Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Seattle is one of my favorite west coast cities in the USA. I have been visiting relatives there since I was a child, and each trip brings with it a deeper knowledge of the city and the diverse Seattle neighborhoods.
First there were childhood visits to the Space Needle, then teenage trips to the famous Pike Place Market, and more recently, post-college visits to Rem Koolhaas’ Seattle Central Library.
With the major landmarks and tourist destinations covered in past trips, my visit to the city last week offered me a chance to dig deeper into some of the off-the-beaten-path parts of Seattle.
I arrived on Thursday evening. My cousin met me at the airport and drove us back to my aunt and uncle’s house in Laurelhurst. We spent a great night catching up over dinner on their deck, which overlooked Lake Washington and Mount Rainier.
I have always loved their neighborhood, not only for its views but also for its beautiful homes with their pretty front gardens and peaceful ambiance. I wanted the evening there to last much longer, but between darkness and jet lag, I had to go to sleep eventually.
The next morning my aunt and cousin took me downtown to explore the Seattle neighborhood of Capitol Hill. The pretty area was full of shops, restaurants, and markets.
One such place was called Melrose Market. Inside the converted industrial space were a busy sandwich bar, a butcher, a cheese shop, a couple of gift shops, and a restaurant.
The restaurant was called Sitka and Spruce. We sat down there and ordered several plates to share, including a great plate of fool madamas. I also ordered a good glass of Washington wine to celebrate the trip and taste one of the region’s Rieslings.
After lunch we headed deeper into Capitol Hill with a trip to a great local bookstore and a stroll through a design shop called Nube Green. Next door was Molly Moor’s ice cream, which tempted us with funky flavors like huckleberry chunk and peppermint with Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies.
Speaking of food, that evening my aunt and cousin cooked up a Mexican meal of huaraches, which means “sandals” in Spanish. The flat corn bases topped with black beans, pork, sour cream, salsa, guacamole, and red cabbage were the best shoes I’ve ever eaten.
To finish off the night and to celebrate our miniature family reunion, we opened a bottle of 1982 Porto Seguro vintage port that my cousin had received for her christening in 1985. After decanting, it tasted nice and smooth.
The next day my cousin took me to explore another Seattle neighborhood: Ballard. Once a Scandinavian fishing area, Ballard is now home to fun boutiques, lively bars and coffee shops, and award-winning restaurants.
We tried to go to one of the last of these, which was called the Walrus and the Carpenter. Unfortunately it was closed for Labor Day weekend. Instead we ate al fresco at a restaurant called the Golden Beetle. I had a breakfast pizza and my cousin a pastry filled with cherries and chocolate. Both were good, and we were glad to have eaten there.
After brunch we spent time wandering through some of the shops in Ballard. We saw cute note cards and paper goods in Venue, pillows galore in Jax Joon, clothes in Ketch and Dolce Vita, and shoes in Re-Soul.
Speaking of soul, that evening my aunt and uncle took me to a place called Jazz Alley. We had heaping bowls of gumbo for dinner, after which we enjoyed the music of the Rebirth Brass Band, a jazz group from New Orleans. They played a great set, at the end of which everyone in the room was dancing.
The night ended on a high note (pun intended), as did my time in Seattle. The next morning we were all up early to head to other parts of Washington for weddings. As we waved good-bye, my family encouraged me to come back again soon for another visit. With so many great Seattle neighborhoods and so much to do and see, I think I will have to take them up on it soon.