With those monstrous doughnuts still haunting my mind, I leave behind the fast-paced commerce of the market and head right into one of the narrower passageways adjoined to the Main Arcade. I pass a cheese shop, a sausage shop, and then wham! land in the middle of nowhere. There are corners and alleys that are deserted, with nary a soul in sight, complete with shuttered windows and dusty doors. I’m not creeped out ”“ I have a lousy sense of direction — but it’s only after consulting my map that I get back to civilization.
There are several levels below the main (market) level that house a labyrinth of shops featuring everything from a used bookstore, cookware stores, craft stores, a tattoo parlor, and so much more.
Tucked into an area of the market called the Sanitary Market (so named because back in the horse and carriage era, horses were not allowed here), is the Pike Place Market Creamery. This is my kind of place where every kind of dairy product imaginable is on display ”“ from the most coveted clotted cream to milk in glass bottles. There’s also a fascinating collection of eggs from all types of poultry, and at the back of the store, an amusing collection of cow-themed knickknacks. I get a kick out of the mug that has, “I udderly love you!” written on it.
I head on over to Post Alley which is on the same side of the street as the Sanitary Market. It really is an alley teeming with even more shops and restaurants. Here’s where the famous Pike Place Chowder is located, a simple operation that’s won awards for their New England-style clam chowder. I order that, along with a sourdough roll. I want to order the Dungeness Crab Roll too but I’m afraid it might be too much food for one person. A chef at Shangri-La’s Red restaurant once told me that ”˜chowder should be thick enough to eat with a fork.’ I had a hard time believing that until I’m faced with this chowder, which is thick enough to eat with just my little plastic fork. The soup is creamy and to the brim with real clams cooked just right (not tough and rubbery). There are just enough potato chunks to add texture although I must admit that the soup is a little too heavy-handed on the thyme.
What I like about traveling is the amount of walking I get to do afterwards to burn off what I eat. Near the chowder place is a Mexican grocery run by a Filipino couple (hmm, go figure) talking in Tagalog, which I guess would sound Spanish enough to just about anybody. In the back, there’s a kickass, mouth-burning selection of hot sauce, and I briefly contemplate buying the bottle that says, “100% Pain.” Yikes!
Right beside the grocery is a unique little store decorated with dangling ristras, strings of fresh peppers, garlic buds, and dried flowers. They’re in a myriad of colors and I recognize some of the peppers as habaneros, Scotch Bonnets, and the longest jalapeÃ±os I’ve seen. The “wreaths” themselves smell harmless but a naughty part of me is tempted to bite one of the peppers. Heehee.
I pass by still more bakeries that entice and encourage with their yeasty, dreamy smells. This one’s called the Three Girls Bakery.
Across the street from Post Alley is the very first Sur La Table (est 1972), a unique ”“ and it follows ”“ expensive (mostly French) cookware store. Boasting a selection of things for the “serious cook,” as one of its posters proclaims, I see plenty of things that have me wiping my drool off my chin by the time I leave the store.
On my way back to the Main Arcade, I duck into the North Post Alley where I stumble upon an intriguingly named Rose’s Chocolate Treasures. It’s a dim room full of chocolate paraphernalia ”“ I especially like the copper pitchers with long spouts, perfect for an elegant cup of hot (haute) chocolate. The owner is busy on the phone while I putter around, so when I spy a crate full of cocoa beans, I take a quick photo. I’ve never seen real cocoa beans or the cocoa pod before. Then, being the most-not-shy girl that I am, I stick my entire face into the crate and inhale deeply. Eck, not much chocolate-y essence. Must be old beans.
I’m keen on trying the piroshkies at Piroshky-Piroshky, simply because I’ve heard so much about them. Basically a Russian empanada (handheld meal), these come in savory and sweet flavors. A typical Russian flavor would be beef and onion or potato and mushroom, but I zero in straight for the cherry and white chocolate piroshky. It’s a heavy, doughy brick that’s attractive in itself, but I’m most disappointed with it. My family looks at me expectantly as I bite and then chew…
…and then chew some more, all without saying a word or uttering gasps of ecstasy — my often effusive exclamations of gastronomic delight are legendary in my family ”“ but nothing happens this time. My family looks worried. “Not what you expect, Lor?” My sister asks quietly. “Nah, not at all. It just tastes like dough with dried cherries, “ I murmur. Which, on second thought, is exactly what it is, but it just doesn’t taste that good to me. I thought it would be sweeter or something. Oh well, win some, lose some.
Meal with the family today is at Lowell’s, a counter-service restaurant known for its spectacular view of Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains. It’s also somewhat of a pilgrimage for tourists because a scene (where Rob Reiner counsels Tom Hanks on “tiramisu”) from “Sleepless in Seattle” was filmed here ”“ there’s a newspaper clipping and a handwritten sign to let everyone know.
We’re going all out on the seafood today: two three egg-oyster omelets, one with bacon; an egg foo yung for my dad; and lots of sourdough toast to pass around. My sister has just nabbed a free hot apple cider from the 1st Starbucks store when she purchased a mug, so we include it in the photo for the authentic Seattle experience. And how are those omelets? Well, put it this way: I love eggs, so anything made with them is already good enough for me. To couple it with oysters only triples the deliciousness factor.
My sisters are going nuts at Buona Tavola, a specialty store featuring truffle oils and aged balsamic vinegars. There are plenty of toast points and crackers for dipping and tasting, and we all get carried away in the aromas and exotic tastes. We’re all entranced with the chef-owner of the store who engages us in animated conversation on how to taste properly and where the best oils come from. Such an impassioned food lover!
Before we leave Seattle, we stop by The Confectional, a store specializing in cheesecakes. Its sign hanging on the ceiling implores us to “confess our love for cheesecake,” (as if we need any help!) as well as every dessert lover’s prayer: “Forgive me chocolate for I have sinned. I have not yet had my daily confection.” I like this shop’s sense of humor.
I make do with a cheesecake truffle while my sisters spring for two mini cheesecakes: the Seattle-NY style and the Quadruple Chocolate. As our car speeds away from Seattle back towards the Canadian border, we agree: Very good, very sweet, very memorable. Just like Seattle.