Seattle is famous, or at least kinda well known, for a few things. The grunge movement of the early 90s, Fraiser the TV show, Sleepless in Seattle the movie, the Space Needle, being the home of Starbucks, and Pike Place Market. Perhaps Pike Place market isn’t as famous as the other items above. But, it probably should be. Today started with a Pike Place Market walking tour. The blurb said it gave a chance to walk the market before opening time, meet some of the proprietors, get some food (yay), etc. So, I thought it’d be super early, coz markets all open early, right? Well, no – Pike Place market officially opens for trading at 9AM. So our early start was only 8:30am. Easy! It was about a 10 minute walk from the hotel, I stopped in at ‘Biscuit Bitch’ first to grab a cappuccino. We wandered round the market a bit looking for the meeting place, Indi Chocolate. The market is all a bit up hill and down dale, it has a few levels, laneways, passageways and the like, but we eventually found the entrance to Indi Chocolate. It was also there that we noticed a few other things. Firstly, Mt Rainier had finally decided to put an appearance. Its cloak of fog had finally chosen to part enough so we could a glimpse. Sure enough it’s kinda big! At 4,392m above sea level, it’s very nearly twice as high as Mount Kosciuszko (2,228m).
Indi Chocolate was the starting point of the tour, where we met up with our excellent hosts Heather and Kenna. Our first free (ok, we paid for the tour, so technically none of the food is free) food sample was at another biscuit place – “Honest Biscuit”. We sampled an honest biscuit – just on its own, no grace, no other “fixin’s”. It was a cheesy-crust one, and very soft and light inside. Delicious – you know, for a savoury scone 🙂
At this point I have to apologise – things moved really quickly so there really weren’t many opportunities to take lots of food photos. Stop 2 was “Frank’s Quality Produce”, where we sampled Rainier Cherries (very sweet, larger than regular cherries, with a red/yellow skin), and delicious, juicy, Seattle peach. This was all a little too healthy, so the next stop was important to restore some balance. Daily Dozen, a donut shop, where the sample was (*choir of angel singing*) maple-bacon donuts. Oh yes. Too delicious. We’re moving to Seattle now. Just sayin’.
Pike Place Fish was next, home of the famous flying fish – basically the result of a time-and-motion study that showed walking around with fish took a lot longer than just throwing it over the router – who knew?! They demonstrated with a fish that was thrown, and mercifully, also caught. Could’ve been messy. We got to try three samples of salmon. Cold-smoked (yum), smoked with added rosemary and something (also yum), and ‘salmon candy’ – sounds gross, it’s just smoked until it’s dried out a bit. Also pretty good! About this time we also ran into this guy doing some amazing work on a piano.
Market Spice was next. Would you guess, it was a spice shop. That’s one thing I will say about Seattle – they do love their very clear and practical explanations of things. Pike Place Fish sells fish, at Pike Place. Market Spice sells spice, at the Market. But they also sell tea. We sampled a tasty tea made flavoured with Orange, Clove, and Cinnamon. It was unsweetened, but there’s something about this flavour combination that make sit taste really quite sweet. Lovely. We also got a try a little for their heavily smoked salt. I think this is something for very small quantities only. Afterwards I kinda felt like I’d licked a steam train. The shop had really cool handmade labels for a lot of their tea varieties:
Moving right along we passed a food stall whose name I’ve forgotten – maybe because we didn’t get any food there. But the owner/chef was lovely to talk to, and her series of signs behind the counter offered plenty of good advice, and a bit of attitude 🙂
Our next stop was “Miss Cafe”. We didn’t miss it, we talked right in. This was kinda funny. We were informed that we were about to try this new and different thing, it’s still very rare here in the us … has anyone ever actually tried Turkish food? Considering we have about three Turkish restaurants on our street at home, we had to raise our hand. Sure enough, this amazing new wonder food was Pide. Ooh, rare an unusual! But like all good pide, it was really tasty, a nice beef one.
We weren’t done yet, though. Now, if I were to tell you I visited the “Rub With Love shack” … I expect it might raise an eyebrow, however there’s no need to snigger (oh who am I trying to kid, of course I sniggered!) it’s all about the spice rubs the famous (apparently) chef, Tom Douglas puts on the food here. We sampled a brioche bun tuna burger… and yes, all that rubbing and love must’ve paid off – it was delicious. It was almost like lunch had a happy ending 😉
Our tour then concluded back at Indi Chocolate, where we sampled the Indi Chocolate brownie – apparently the first truly American dessert (the French beat them to Apple Pie). It wasn’t as gooey or dense as many brownies I’d had, but still very tasty. At Indi they’re a bit hipster in attitude, they go source their own Cocoa beans (to ensure their suppliers are paid fairly), then do the roasting, processing, etc right there in the factory at Pike Place. So they have a large range of Single Origin chocolates from various countries, all with their own unique flavours.
At this post we bade Heather and Kenna (plus the family from Georgia who were also along on this tour) a fond farewell, and set off to explore a bit on our own. There were lots of food stalls, lots of craft stalls, lots and lots of flower stalls, all sorts of great stuff. Kinda like if you stretched Queen Vic markets at Melbourne out a bit, and got rid of lot of the people selling crap. It made sense now to see why Seattle has so many good restaurants, many of them source their foods from the markets, and it’s nearly all direct-from-the-farmer stuff. The market was initially set up by farmers to cut out the middle men and their ridiculous markups – and prices are still reasonable. I was surprised to see really big bunches of flowers for $20, and huge bunches of fresh lavender for $5.
What really surprised me was the price of the ‘day stalls’ – for people who want to come in and set u a stroll for the day, and have access to thousands of tourists and locals alike. For a day, the price of a stall tops out at $37 in the peak-set of the peak season. I’m not missing a zero, it’s really just $37. Usually less. This also helps keep prices reasonable. A lot of the upkeep of the market is funded by the public – a lot of the fences have little tags attached, and for about $180, you can get your own tag put there too.
In 1985 when they needed to replace the flooring, they had the initiative to allow everyone to name a tile, and they made millions or dollars, more than enough to get the floor done. Again, there’s a genuine sense of community that everyone was chipping in to help. One guy even bought a bunch of tiles at a particular spot in the market. All of them were prime numbers. Y’see, this was the spot where he first met his wife. He’s a mathematician. And yep, prime numbers, just like him and his wife, are … indivisible. Awwww(nerd alert!)wwwwwww 🙂
It’s a really nice place, the vendors were cool, and they help each other out by buying produce within the market itself, for the places that cook stuff. It’s a really nice little community in itself. It also has the first Starbucks which isn’t actually the first Starbucks, as it was in the basement of a hotel that burnt down long ago, but let’s not let facts get in the way of a good story.
We also passed by (thankfully from a distance) – “The second germiest tourist attraction in the world!” – the gum wall. Apparently it started a the establishment near the wall forbade anyone from chewing gum within, so patrons would just stick it on the wall … then it all got a bit out of control. Because all the sugars etc degrade t he brickwork, they power wash it off once a year. Apparently it’s up to six inches think by that point. In short, ew!
Here’s a few other bits from the Pike Place Market
I’m chopping today’s blog in to a few bits as I think each day is maybe getting bit too long. (And if it gets too late and I can’t be bothered finishing part 2 tonight, as least there’s something to read today).
Let’s see if this experiment works. Next … as Shakepseare said, “Open locks, whoever knocks!”