Thursday, February 16, 2012

Impromptu Seattle

Sometimes it pays to plan out a trip, sometimes… At other times the beauty is to have no real plans and just wing it, go with the flow and see what develops. We recently completed one of the later with an impromptu jaunt to Seattle to meet up with our great friends.

cocktails at Artusi in Seattle
Cocktails at Artusi in Seattle
We escaped a little early from work on a Friday afternoon, battled the hordes northward and finally made it to Seattle without too much loss of sanity or temper. Shortly after arriving we were whisked off to Artusi ( on Capitol Hill and plied with cocktails and comfort food. The drinks were unique and I mean that in all the best senses. Take the Marinetti's Automobile: Bulleit Rye, Carpano Antica, Liquore strega, fig vinegar, Amarena Cherry & Cayenne or the Anti-fascist Aesthetic: Novo Fogo Cacha├ža, Imbue Vermouth, Maraschino, lime juice and bitters. A Love Bizarre: Wry Moon Unaged Whiskey, Clear Creek Blue Plum Brandy, Cocchi Vermut di Torino, Lime, Maraschino, Peychaud's Bitters and Joyous Young Pine: sparkling wine, juniper oil, Aviation Gin, sugar cube, lime bitters also made the cut. Each was delicious and memorable, and you probably start to see what I mean about unique. A common thread was top shelf ingredients, Northwest craft liquors, interesting bitters and some unconventional ingredients like Juniper oil and fig vinegar. In lesser hands this could have been a mess, but the mixologists at Artusi combined an artistic perception with a deft hand to create something grand. Oh yea, I mentioned the comfort food. Try their hearty Ribollita soup, braised pork shoulder, cassoulet, and (I’m told) excellent tripe. We also tried a celery root puree, which was one of our great takeaways. Where has this been all our lives? It doesn’t sound like a life changing event, but we’ve had to make it at least once per week ever since. Sated and chilled, we had a great time catching up until we finally had to call it a night.

gelato in Ballard
D'Ambrosio Gelato in Rome.... Er... Ballard
The next morning, we toured around the neighborhoods and stopped to picked up some New York Cupcakes on Madison St. ( Back home one of the Maple Bacon cupcakes became an amuse bouche in anticipation of some hearty, homemade, whole wheat pancakes. After breakfast, we grabbed our coats and headed for Ballard, where we naturally stopped for a spot of pre-lunch gelato at D'Ambrosio Gelato. It was the real deal and made us feel like we were back in Rome for a moment. Well fortified, we wandered up and down the street, stopping in at Curtis Steiner ( which Carl Steiners's in Ballardoffered an array of antique and locally hand crafted jewelry in a fun and funky atmosphere. Be sure to visit the web site and check out the mind-blowing Curtis Steiner 1000 Blocks project - Click one of the links towards to top to start the video. We stopped in at Blackbirds, then around the corner to the Blackbird Apothecary and an herbalist shop. The area is interesting with a number of hip shops tucked into very vintage buildings. It was heartening to see a number of new enterprises opening up after the past few sour years (economically). At one point we had to stop and marvel at a 3 story deep construction pit dug precariously between two antique brick buildings. We wrapped up our visit to Ballard by heading over to the Ballard Locks where we toured the grounds and watched several boats get shunted from Puget Sound into Lake Union.

Charcuterie plate at Dot's Delicatessen on Fremont in Seattle
Charcuterie Plate at Dots, washed down with Normandy Cider

Our next stop was the Book Larder ( ) a well curated community cookbook store on Fremont st. We killed some time browsing the shelves, chatting with the owner and sampling marmalade cake they had made in the shop earlier in the day. If you’re in the area, it is well worth a stop. The visit also led to the “Bitters” book (Thank you Gretchen!) the results of which will be in a future post. While you’re there, be sure to stop in to Dot’s Delicatessen ( ) a few doors down. We were 20 minutes early for dinner, so we sat back and snacked on an excellent local charcuterie plate and killed a bottle of Normandy cider while they finished preparations. I ended up having their cassoulet, which was fantastic and helped Betsy through a rib-eye steak sandwich with frites. It was all washed down with a nice red wine selected by Barry, who is infallible at picking good bottles. Dot’s is definitely on my “go back” list.

Dungeness crab at Pike Palce Market
Dungenss crab on parade at Pike Place Market
The next morning we dug into Gretchen’s multi-grain cereal, which fortified us for our next adventure – the Pike Place Market. On our way, we stopped off to browse through Isadora's (, an antique jewelry shop that had some amazing art deco pieces. Next stop was the original Sur La Table store on Pine st. which was a cook’s mecca for gear, followed by the Beecher’s cheese plant/shop ( We sampled the curds and mac & cheese, and then sauntered over to the market where we browsed the produce and seafood shops of unimaginable bounty. If you were looking for Northwest Salmon, fresh steamed Dungeness Crab, Washington apples or forest mushrooms there was aplenty. We made our way through the market and came out on the street below where we ducked in to World Spice Merchants ( ) and picked up a few necessaries. The weekend came to a close all too soon. The short time made us seize the moment and the spontaneity of just exploring took us places we wonderful places we wouldn’t have found if we’d spent days planning it. Add to that the pleasure of spending time with good friends and we couldn’t have thought of a better way to spend a weekend in Seattle.

I'm not a big cupcake guy, but these from New York Cupcakes
were to die for.  The Maple Bacon ( front and center of course)
is fully endorsed by the Cult of Bacon

Ballard offers some great architecture

Carl Steiners shop in Ballard ( Photo taken with permission)

Bets & Gretchen at Hiram M. Chittenden Locksin Ballard

The King of Pike Place Market