Hello, good morning, happy Monday and a big old bear hug of a welcome from me to you on the other side of the world! No, you’ve not read that sentence wrong…thanks to the time difference, while the majority of you gorgeous readers are slumbering away over the next 3 weeks, I have taken it upon myself in the selfless sort of manner you’re no doubt used to by now to sample the food, drink, flavours and trends of the West Coast of the United States.
Over the next few weeks, there will be posts about all things edible from the western seaboard of a country well known for its super sizes and super exciting advances in the culinary world. From food trucks to diners to mom-and-pop places to must visit restaurants, I’ll be sharing a little of America’s best known treats and well kept secrets and I hope you’ll let me know what you think and if there’s anything you think I should be looking out for along the way.
Oh and if there are any sceptics out there among you who doubt that the US has much in the way to be proud of when it comes to food, did you know that without the glorious triumvirate of North, Central & South America we wouldn’t have avocados, chilli peppers, chocolate, peanuts, potatoes or vanilla? For that, I think we can forgive them Pop Tarts, spray cheese in a can and a ‘healthy fruit smoothie’ containing more sugar than 8 pints of Ben & Jerry’s…
First stop on this whirlwind of all things delicious? Seattle. So what springs to mind when you think of the Emerald City?
Let me assure you, there’s a whole lot more to it than these three wired, soggy and emotive things and one of them is Pike Place Market. Open since 1907 and welcoming in excess of 10m visitors per year, this market houses more than 500 residents in 8 different buildings and has a huge variety of fresh produce, baked goods, seasonal flowers, singing vendors and enough things to see and taste to keep the fussiest of tourists happy.
The thing that is most astounding though, after you’ve accepted the sheer size of the place, is what fantastic value some of it is for the quality on show…
…stainless steel bucket fields of the biggest, boldest and brightest flowers in bunches so big I’d be lost behind them for $5-20…
…boxes of insanely creative pasta in flavours like chipotle & black bean or dark chocolate linguine, apparently perfect with vanilla bean ice-cream and berries…
…the most glorious looking produce in punnets of such great value I wanted to ship them all home…I was 50% glad, 50% devastated that this market isn’t on my doorstep.
As well as all the food you can buy to take home and create with yourself, there’s also a huge variety of things to buy and eat on the spot. Seattle was one of the places I had the smallest pre-planned list of ‘food to try’ for which is good because it completely gave us the freedom to dip in and out of everywhere that was on offer and when we walked past Piroshkys, a place with a 20 deep queue out of the door, I knew it was somewhere we had to try. Not for the first time, I thanked my lucky stars that my beloved J is adventurous and accommodating when it comes to dining with me all over the world.
Nothing sells a place better than a line of hungry and happy looking customers and as we joined them, we actually didn’t have a clue what kind of food they were serving. From the windows it was clear to see it was some sort of baked, bread-based product but it wasn’t until we got to the windows that we could see it was Russian pastries and pies. The aroma in the air was incredible at this point – warm, sweet and savoury, it was absolutely delicious and completely useless in helping us choose what we wanted because at this point, the answer was ‘uh everything?!’
Piroshkys are traditionally served in Eastern Europe with every generation and every family doing things a little differently so that the recipes they pass down contain the ancestry of the past with the innovation of the future. This Pike Place located bakery incorporates the flavours of their north-west US location and each pie is handmade and shaped from scratch so you don’t ever get the feeling that you’re holding one of a dozen identical pies that slid off the conveyer belt.
The pastries themselves were, as you would expect, enormous. J and I have already come to the conclusion that a) sharing and b) picking off the appetisers menu while we’re here is what will stop the both of us from needing motorised scooters when we arrive home.
As a place had already been earmarked for our portable pudding, we went savoury here following those in the know with a beef & cheese pie that is their best-seller.
I literally cannot convey to you HOW DELICIOUS THIS PIE WAS.
So sorry dear readers, please don’t think I’m shouting at you but without being there to grasp your shoulders and stare deeply into your eyes until you believe me as to the complete yumminess of it, capital letters are all I have.
The fragrance of the seasoned mince is in your nostrils before the warm, golden baked, melted-sharp-cheddar-topped, sink-into-it-soft pastry is in your mouth and then? Well quite frankly then it was hard to remember that I love J and that we share these things. Honestly, sometimes I have to stop the words ‘Joey doesn’t share food!’ from coming out of me before I find myself abandoned and alone with nothing but baked goods to keep me company.
The mince was finely ground, lean, well seasoned and perfectly complemented by the cheese baked on top. There wasn’t so much that it made the pastry greasy or heavy in your stomach – it just added a little tang and a little creaminess to the mildly spiced filling. I honestly could have gone and got another and eaten it straightaway. I might not have know what I was queuing up for but holy babushka, I’m glad I was a sheep and followed the herd on this occasion.
Russian pies? Hi, so nice to meet you. My name is Alex and I’m your new biggest fan.
The best cheesecake I’ve had came from J’s fair hands for my birthday last year. Baked with skill and love, it was perfect. Now, thanks to a teeny little cheesecake laden shop called The Confectional, I’ve found the runner up for my ‘Great Cheesecake’ awards.
Okay, so they’re not actually a thing but hmm, they would be a good thing, no? Answers on a postcard and volunteers for the judging panel welcome…
The Confectional label themselves as ‘a boutique bakery, offering exquisite, sinfully dense, baked cheesecakes and cheesecake truffles, made with Guittard chocolate and a hint of passion’. Well alrighty then. Boasting 3 Seattle based locations (as well as the terrifying offer to ship their wares directly to you) they offer mini cheesecakes, cheesecake truffles and chocolate dipped cheesecake bites which is where J and I enter stage right.
Our picks were Salted Caramel and Mexican Chilli Chocolate; mouthfuls of cheesecake, double dipped in dark chocolate and given to you on a stick so please be careful when you inhale these bad boys that you don’t take that with you.
They were phenomenal. The salted caramel one was sweet and sticky and had a crumbly crust that saved the cheesecake filling from being overly tooth destroying while the chilli-chocolate combo was simply divine, the chilli heat giving you a little smack round the face while the decadently rich chocolate gave a big kiss on the lips.
These little nuggets of cheesecake bliss were eaten with tea and coffee in Storyville Coffee, a super cute but elegantly grown up coffee shop above the market.
Storyville’s ethos is ‘keep it simple and make it great’ – a motto equally apt for life as for java. As I’m one of ‘those’ people who doesn’t drink coffee, I can’t personally vouch for it but J was very happily silent apart from the cheesecake induced yummy noises and as he is a beautiful coffee snob, I’d take that as a good sign.
Other indications that this place is worth dropping your coins for some beans at? It was packed with locals. The staff were friendly. The decor was chilled chic. The wifi was free. The vibe was relaxed. Really, if you need more than that, I’d have to ask if you’re looking for a good cup of coffee or the key to eternal life…
So there you are readers near and far to me, the first dining experiences of Edible Angel Goes Stateside. A market that offers more than you can carry, a Russian bakery to surprise and delight, a sweet treat place that’s worth two rounds of tooth brushing later on and a coffee shop that isn’t so far up its own backside, you’d think it mistook itself for a brain surgeon or a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Seattle round 2? On its way…