Tuesday, September 29, 2009

¡Hola RS! Welcome to Seattle!

Welcome to Seattle!

A friend, a lovely American girl I met when she was working an internship in my hometown (Caracas), is coming to visit our darling city this weekend. I offered to give her some pointers, and provide a list of places to go and some activities to engage in while she spends Saturday night, Sunday and Monday in Seattle. She's coming with her husband, and they both love food, wine and micro-brews.

I wish I could expand a bit more with menus, and describe places in detail, but that would make this entry endless. When it comes to Seattle, descriptions can get so exciting, they take over the tip of my fingers, possess them and order them to write a book if possible. Concisely as I can, here's what I recommend to my friend, one day at a time.


I have always said that Seattle's essence drifts playful between its neighborhoods. I have a soft spot for Seattle views and dinner in Wallingford. This wonderful neighborhood is a step away from our own stomping grounds, so we visit and enjoy it on a regular basis.

A Saturday night in Seattle can shine like a thousand stars by jump
ing onto these:

1. Enjoy the view of Seattle from Gasworks Park: I am a local and cannot get enough of it. My husband and I find it interesting, "heavenly industrial" and romantic, so much we had our wedding photos taken here.

Gasworks Park, Wallingford, Seattle. Photo by Valentina Vitols. 2009

2. Dinner. Depending on the mood and on what gastronomy your taste buds are expecting to be visited by, my pick would be Cantinetta (North Italian cuisine) or Joule (Asian Fusion). If you desire a low-key, homemade-like dinner, there is the wonderful, heart-warming Golden Olive (Greek-Mediterranean).

Bring your Endive Salad back, Cantinetta!

Be ready to feel the swirling tentacles of the Octopus dish at Joule, playful in your happy mouth!

Ask for the exquisite Roasted Beet salad at Golden Olive!

Lovely food at Joule, Wallingford, Seattle. Photo by Valentina Vitols. 2009

3. Night Cap. No question about it. Drive to Phinney Ridge to wrap up the night at Oliver's Twist
and enjoy great music, truffled popcorn (a bit too seen in the city, but it goes well with libations) and enjoy the not-for-under-21-drinks like a Jack Rose (apple jack, lime, homemade grenadine) or the Presbyterian (bourbon, ginger ale and soda water).

Sunday, oh, lovely day

1. Brunch is a must. Thanks to the power of Twitter and Facebook, I have a long, long list of great Seattle restaurants for brunch now. Among all those suggestions, my picks are either Lola (Modern Mediterranean / North African), Salty's on Alki (Big buffet-style American food) or Springhill (Northwest).

2. Quick stop at SAM (closed on Mondays & Tuesdays) for some art. On the way out, make sure you get some coffee from Stella Caffe. Secret: they make a "Truffle Mocha" with chocolate truffles that is not on the menu and it's to die for. Speaking of which, before you head to the bus, shop for Grey & Smoked Salt Caramels at Fran's. These are all within a minute walking.

Hammering Man at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). Photo by Valentina Vitols 2009

If the decision involves going to West Seattle (either Salty's or Springhill), a stroll thought Alki Beach after brunch will kill the calories and warm the heart. Beautiful and vibrant, there is so much to see in Alk
i it can easily take a few hours of the day, even for locals. The views of Seattle and the landscape being the most impressive part of this tour.

Beveridge Place Pub in West Seattle should be one of the stops of the West Seattle adventure, especially if there are beers enthusiasts in the group. This place has one of the best selections in town. Patrons can bring take-out in (including dogs) and eat and enjoy a Lager, Porter, IPA or Stout (among many others).

View from Alki Beach. Summer and its fiery colors. Photo by Valentina Vitols. 2009

Now if the decision is to stay eat in Belltown (Lola), I'd suggest to hop on the bus (17 or 18) and go to Ballard.

What to do in Ballard? Half-a-day might not be enough to cover all the fantastic things to do in this traditional Seattle neighborhood.

1. Ballard Farmers Market. On their blog, they say they are more reliable than the Post Office, as they open year-round, rain or shine, from 10am to 3pm. This market is delightful and is the quintessential Sunday activity for many Seattleites.

2. Coffee at Caffe Fiore and then a short walk to
snack at Cafe Besalú. Coffee, chocolate and orange zest blend together and the result is a Sevilla, one of Fiore's most delicious coffee drinks. The Americano itself, is bold, licorish and sublime, according to my husband. A short walk to get pastries at Cafe Besalú afterward, will make anyone sing.

3. Ballard Locks. Preceded by a stunning botanical garden, the Locks are one of those places I always bring my guest of out-of-town to, and they love it. Seeing boats go up and down in the water to either go into Salmon Bay or the Puget Sound is very entertaining, and unique. Salmon are going through the Locks right now and its possible to watch their pilgrimage through a large, underwater window located in the area.

4. Golden Gardens. Hopping on the bus or the car might be necessary, but Golden Gardens is still in the neighborhood, and a stop that won't be forgotten.

5. Early dinner at Ray's Cafe, with a breathtaking view of Shilshole Bay can be perfect. Ray's is famous for superb dessert.

6. Night cap. A perfect way to wrap the day of would be at Sambar. This minimal lounge has a sophisticated wine, beer and spirits list, where the cocktails' names sound like music, and become seductive in your hands. The have perfect frites, and even better steak to accompany them. Dinner was already served, but there might be still a little space to share!

Monday, Monday

1. Pike Place Market: enjoy the loveliness of an early Monday morning at the Market. Go before 11am. You'll be able to roam around, take some beautiful photos and talk to vendors and artisans.

Sunflowers are still around. I love this kind. Photo by Valentina Vitols 2009

Frequently, the surprised question "Three dollars for a bunch of Dahlias?" can be heard. Yes, flowers at the Market are beautiful and CRAZY cheap. Three things I would do while in the market? Have a couple of cinnamon sugar doughnuts, snap a free sample of Orange-Cinnamon Tea at Market Spices and get at least a bag of Chukar Cherries spectacular Bing Cherries. Don't forget fish can be shipped to NYC!

I know, I do love Sunflowers! Photo by Valentina Vitols 2009

2. Lunch. I would stay in the Market and do any of these amazing places:

Matt's in the Market
: the finds here are their perfect, sheer Don & Joe's Lamb Burger or the unbeatable Braised Beef Brisket sandwich. Both dishes include Macrina breads. If you're in luck, and they have Cantaloupe Sorbet, try it!

Maximilien: privileged view of the Puget Sound, adorned with dishes like Fresh Oysters with Champagne Mignonette or the
Salade Norvégienne (Smoked Salmon, Dungeness Crab, Avocado, tomatoes and toast over mixed greens, dressed in Balsamic vinaigrette). Oh, la lá!

Produce at Pike Place Market. Photo by Valentina Vitols 2009

Steelhead Dinner: what do you want? Rabbit? Coho Salmon? Lamb? Rainbow Trout? Yes, these are all in the menu, ready for you!

Le Pichet (a block away from the Market, on 1st Ave and Virginia St). I am just an eater with a really curious palate, and maybe a fairly good experience...and for me, Le Pichet makes the best lentils in Seattle. And the "craft" best coconut sorbet, too. Anyone wanting to venture into food adventures (sounds funny) should try their tongue dish, if they have it. Sublime!

Fishmonger in Pike Place Market. Photo by Valentina Vitols 2009

3. Ferry Ride. The Seattle-Bainbridge Ferry is, for me, a must-do for an out-of-town guest. The schedule allows visitors some flexibility to stroll around the island once getting there. Mora Ice Creamery is where one can quench the thirst of walking from the ferry terminal...only with creamy sweetness. Their
Gianduja ice cream is fabulous. Along Marron Glacé and Dulce de Leche, they honor the flavors of the owners hometown, spectacular Buenos Aires.

Seattle from the Ferry. Photo by Valentina Vitols 2009

4. Tea Time in Capitol Hill. One of my new favorite places in Capitol Hill is HEALEO. A charming and urban "Nutrition Bar", this place carries more than vitamins and supplements. Their Caramelized Pear Tea induces non-stop sighing. They serve the teas in pretty, pretty pots. If you prefer smoothies instead, try their Almond Coconut Delight. Ever since I had it the first time, it reminded me of the good, ol' Cocadas in my country, Venezuela.

HEALEO smoothies. Photo by Valentina Vitols 2009

Other afternoon delights in Capitol Hill can be found at Espresso Vivace and Dilletante. First one prides on serving "Una bella tazza di caffe". True. Caffe Nico is a proof of this. Dilletante holds a long, long tradition, which includes a more modern cocktails-with-chocolate options!

Caffe Nico, Espresso Vivace. Photo by Valentina Vitols 2009

5. Wrapping up in Seattle. Around 48 hours in our fair city...not much but enough as
hors d'oeuvres.

Whatever the decision is on how to spend the last hours in Seattle, which can include a bite at Quinn's or a drink in the new Tavern Law, don't miss one spot that is highly touristy but at the same time, breathtaking. Kerry Park is a place where people may say goodbye to Seattle, but, most likely, that farewell will become a promise to come back. I am not going to post a photo so your eyes will have the opportunity to look at this view without a preview.

Say goodbye to Seattle by making a last stop at Gelatiamo. Again, coconut will make you smile.

Enjoy your stay, RS!


eM said...

before deciding where to eat in Wallingford, I would check Art of the Table - see if their prix fix menu is to your liking and if they have space available. All the mentions are wonderful - which is no small part of the reason i feel lucky to live in this neighborhood

If visiting Capitol Hill in the evening or Sunday afternoon, check out Century Ballroom - it is the most fun place to dance - and all dance sessions begin with a mini lesson. Beautiful space - it really is an old ballroom. The adjacent restaurant, The Tin Table, is one of the best deals in town. I have two words for you there: steak frites. Also has a full bar so you can wet your whistle before or after a spin around the dance floor

Valentina Vitols said...

Perfect recommendations from eM! Thank you very much!

Art of the Table is a favorite of mine, too. If you can go on Monday for their Happy Mondays (http://www.artofthetable.net/mondays.html), that will be fantastic!

Century Ballroom is a great, fun place. I know RS is a good dancer, so she'd enjoy it very much!

Ryan said...

Pho Cyclo!!!

Sara said...

seems like visiting suggestions should be seasonal...

i.e, summer--gasworks, kayaking, bonfires at golden gardens, and hiking on rainier.

In fall--Ballard mkt, beers at the alibit room, and hiking on tiger mtn (with maybe a stop for some apple picking).

Winter would include snow shoeing, and a trip to baker with a stop at that place that makes great pizza and beer.

Not sure about spring. Probably tulips and bellingham.

Other things...wine tasting in woodinville, dinner at sitka and spruce, a trip to the san juans, and the olympic coast.

Makes me nostalgic.


Valentina Vitols said...

Thanks Sara! Your seasonal recommendations are definitely right on spot!

I agree on tulips for Spring and maybe a bit chilly whale watching function...or Orcas Island.

I will miss the Summer a lot. This one was great...hopefully, we'll get another wonderful one next year.