For a newcomer to Seattle’s Pike Place Market, the experience can be overwhelming within this bountiful behemoth of fresh produce and artisanal endeavour. Where do you start? What should you see? I felt like an unguided cork bobbing in a deep mercantile ocean. That is where the Savor Seattle Food Tour beckons as a god-send.
At 8.45am, I met up with my fellow guests and culinary tour guide extraordinaire, the ebullient Justin Oba, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Jack Black. Over the course of two hours, Justin led us through the market, with seven tasting stops, as the infectious hum of the morning trade sparked into life. We soon felt like market insiders, getting the jump on the surging 30,000-strong crowds that frequent this Seattle staple, every day.
Our first stop was at Honest Biscuits, homemade treats crafted with love, established by a former judge who decided to follow his passion. Pike Place Fish, the legendary poster-boys of the market, is where they have been throwing the fish since the 1960s’, for fun and efficiency.
We ogled the glistening bounty of the ocean, impeccably laid out on vast banks of ice, and delighted in the fish-throwing antics, that fill thousands of Instagram feeds, daily. Alongside admiring their fresh and sustainable seafood, it was such a buzz to meet and chat with the convivial mongers.
A great revelation was our stop at Market Spice, a fabulously fragrant emporium of loose leaf teas, spices, salts and all of the accoutrements. Operating since 1911, their flagship tea blend is Cinnamon-Orange, a rock-star seller, tasting absolutely sublime. Justin also introduced us to Rub with Love Shack, where we sampled a plethora of rubs and spices, while savouring rotisserie meats and moreish sandwiches. The powerhouse behind this shop is the king of the Seattle kitchen, Tom Douglas, who has produced a dazzling range of spice rubs, mustards and teriyaki sauces, tailor-made to apply to virtually every meat, fish and vegetable imaginable. You must devour one of his sensational Wild Salmon Burgers.
Alongside grazing from the market’s parade of splendours, Justin unfurled a stimulating volley of vivid anecdotes, secrets and insights, central to Pike Place’s abiding legacy. It’s proven to be a great incubator for small, fledgling businesses – many have morphed across the city and beyond, with a chain of outlets. Yes, the original Starbucks is here. But what really stands out is Pike Place Market is fundamentally about family, farmers, friends and community. And it’s always been like that, since the market’s advent 110 years ago. As the oldest continuing running farmers’ market in the USA, the Savor Seattle market tour will endow you with a deep sense of its soul. www.visitseattle.org
In a city brimming with lip-smacking dining offerings, settling on where to savour Seattle’s culinary verve is quite the conundrum. But Dahlia Lounge & Bakery should definitely be on your radar, garnering accolades aplenty for its perfectly executed Pacific Northwest cuisine.
It was Tom Douglas’s first restaurant, opened in 1989, taking pride of place in his 13-strong restaurant empire. The cocktail list alone is wondrously inventive. I settled for a Sour Cherry Mule, consisting of vodka, spiced cherry shrub, lime and ginger beer. For my main, in deference to the region’s famed basketball-sized Dungeness crabs, I noshed on the cravable crab cakes, complemented with local celery root, herb relish, rhubarb and miner’s greens.
But the star of the show, with legendary pulling-power, is the Triple Coconut Cream Pie, bursting with white chocolate and toasted coconut. It’s the essential finale to a superlative experience in this classy but casual establishment. Kimpton Hotel Vintage will thrill the vinophiles and faithfully falls within the current trend for small-scale luxury.
Drifting into my beautifully-appointed guestroom, the character of wine country has directed the design palette. With plush beds, stylish furnishings and tech toys galore, it’s funky, fancy and comfort personified.
All manner of special thrills await you, including a complimentary happy hour in the lobby lounge, showcasing great regional wines. The daily wine tasting visibly demonstrates the hotel’s sociable ethos, backed up with superb dining offerings in the ground-floor Tulio Ristorante. Wine, dine and be wowed in this award-winning venue. Perfectly located in downtown Seattle, Kimpton Hotel Vintage is an attention-grabbing lodging, comprising 125 rooms, which pay homage to the region’s most notable wineries. www.hotelvintage-seattle.com
Tripping to the USA? Driving on the other side of the road can be a challenge. Check that your travel insurance covers you for rental car insurance excess in the event of a few dings, an accident or theft of the rental vehicle. Cover-More’s Options policy covers up to $10,000 for rental car insurance excess on international trips (and $4,000 for domestic travel if hiring a rental car in New Zealand). Cover-More’s 24 hour global assistance centre is just a phone call away. Call 0800 500 225 or visit https://www.covermore.co.nz/