A few favorites: Seattle markets

December 2014…Phillip and I pack up our Wallingford apartment and bid Washington goodbye, heading south to the San Francisco Bay Area. A homecoming six years in the making, I now find myself a born-again Californian, re-learning my way around town and pining for the Pacific Northwest (pun intended). But before the ravages of time lead me to completely forsake the Evergreen state for the Golden one, I want to make a record of some of my favorite places in the Puget Sound as they were when I knew them best.

Seattle Markets

When I travel, the first place I want to visit is a market – a grocery store, a street vendor, a farm stand, it doesn’t matter. I love markets, so when a visitor asks for a good introduction to the city, I suggest a market and luckily Seattle has options far beyond big box stores like Fred Meyer (though, according to my mom, it’s the place to be – her undying/unyielding/unexplainable love of “Freddy’s” is as odd as it is sweet). There are over a dozen farmers’ markets, serving every neighborhood, and some grocery stores who really make fresh, local ingredients a priority. Washington is best known as the apple state, but let’s not forget that it produces 92% of the nation’s raspberries! 50% of the country’s cherries! And nearly as many pears! The largest food co-op in the United States is headquartered in Seattle! The food culture here is strong and I enjoyed getting to taste a part of it.



Wallingford Farmers’ Market // Wallingford // 4800 Meridian Avenue N

Where the children of yuppies run barefoot on the grass, and the kombucha runs six dollars a glass – that’s the Wallingford Farmers’ Market! From late May through the end of September, the Meridian Playground behind the Good Shepherd Center is an idyllic place to spend a Wednesday afternoon. It is one of Seattle’s smaller farmers’ markets, but you won’t find it lacking – on the contrary! It has fresh, PNW produce as you’d expect, as well as live music, hot food, meat and cheese, pastries, and what’s more, it all takes place on a lawn so lush, you’ll want to kick your shoes off and wander the stalls barefoot (and in a hippie love-child daze, you’ll “feel more connected with mother earth” and probably buy that expensive granola). Phillip and I would often bring a picnic dinner, blanket, and books, and do a lap around the market, stocking up on ingredients for the rest of the week. Be sure to take a peek at the flower stall, as we would often find huge bouquets of basil leaves selling for a dollar or two!



Ballard Farmers’ Market // Ballard Avenue NW, between Vernon Place NW and 22nd Avenue NW

Beyond its tasty little donuts, the Ballard Farmers’ Market serves up a feast for the senses every Sunday. For the fingers: there’s a fair bit of fruit and veg to poke and prod; for the nose: freshly baked bread and herbs ripe for the picking; for the tastebuds: goat cheese, pickles, raspberries (try ‘em all!). Stare mouth agape at pay-what-you-can typewriter poets; overhear the oddest of discussions*. Find a seat along Ballard Avenue at one of many cafés or restaurants for some fine people watching (Phillip and I always try for a spot at one of Anchored Ship’s tiny outdoor tables). It’s a lovely way to spend a weekend morning in one of Seattle’s most charming neighborhoods.

*A man approaches a butcher cart with his Great Dane and says, “So I was thinking that it would be good to start feeding my dog organ meat. Do you guys have any, like, cow hearts that you were gonna throw away that I could have? Or like, would I need to order a dozen?” The butcher declines with a shake of his head, giving a look that says, “You know, each cow only has one of those, right?”



Pike Place Market // Downtown // 85 Pike Street

The most famous food market in all of Seattle (and in all of the US?) is Pike Place, perched above the Puget Sound in the heart of downtown. It is perhaps most well-known for flying fish, but there is really so much more to see. Too much, in fact, as Pike Place hasn’t managed to escape the ravages of tourism (souvenir t-shirts, gemstones, and model airplanes made of soda cans) – and that says nothing of the hoards who line the other side of First Avenue. That being said, I love visiting the market for a chance to browse the stalls, sample what’s in season, and grab a bouquet for the kitchen table. I’d recommend that you wake up early to avoid the bulk of the crowds, and take some time to explore the market’s multiple floors – there’s always something new to see! My favorite spots are Lion Heart Book Store, First & Pike News, and Ellenos Real Greek Yogurt.



Uwajimaya // International District // 600 5th Avenue South

The Disneyland of Asian grocery stores, Uwajimaya’s brightly-colored aisles of common and uncommon sauces, snacks, and ingredients may take you a few hours to digest. I have certainly spent a weekend afternoon loading fruits and vegetables into my basket, tempted by bittermelon and dragonfruit though thoroughly unsure how to consume them. Uwajimaya has an impressive seafood department too, featuring live geoduck, sashimi-grade fish, and PNW salmon. There is also a great selection of prepared foods as well as an extensive food court whose offerings cover the entire Asian continent. Come hungry. Or come with a mind open to the idea of getting very hungry, very quickly. With so much to try, there is always a reason to return. I’m even planning my next trip as one thing I never did when I lived in Seattle was to make sushi with friends, with fish from Uwajimaya. It’s on my list and should be on yours, too!

The trouble with moving away is that when you return, it’s never quite as you left it. Has a new farmers’ market popped up in the neighborhood? Did kombucha girl finally cut her blonde dreads? Are gluten-free bakeries a thing of the past? If you know the answers to any of the aforementioned questions, you are someone with whom I need to talk!



A few favorites: Seattle parks

December 2014…Phillip and I pack up our Wallingford apartment and bid Washington goodbye, heading south to the San Francisco Bay Area. A homecoming six years in the making, I now find myself a born-again Californian, re-learning my way around town and pining for the Pacific Northwest (pun intended). But before the ravages of time lead me to completely forsake the Evergreen state for the Golden one, I want to make a record of some of my favorite places in the Puget Sound as they were when I knew them best.

Seattle Parks

Many are quick to call Seattle rainy, though I’d argue that it really needs to be thought of as green. Evergreen, in fact (progressive state drug laws notwithstanding)! Summer, winter, autumn, spring, Seattle is a lush, coniferous wonderland, and you needn’t look far for an escape from the city. Dozens of parks dot the landscape and line the coast; a fine network of trails winds its way from Lake Washington out to the Sound. There’s a hike, a walk, or a ride for every kind of nature enthusiast, though I do wish there were more Tuileries-style park cafés. Arm yourself with a sturdy pair of rubber boots and a good coat, and you can enjoy the parks all year round!


Green Lake Park // Green Lake // between Highways 99 and 5 in north-central Seattle

Although my first move to Seattle was a rushed affair, I had the good luck to find an apartment just blocks from Green Lake, though I didn’t realize at the time just what a gem was right around the corner. It is one of Seattle’s best resources and it certainly is not underutilized. On any given day, you’re more than likely to find youth soccer, pick-up basketball, rowing, strolling, or a boozy singles’ kickball league , among many other things. At just about three miles around the lake, it’s a perfect, peaceful spot to unwind and stretch your limbs after a noisy day.


Golden Gardens Park // Ballard // 8498 Seaview Place NW

If you take the Burke-Gilman trail west as far as it goes, you’ll end up in Golden Gardens, part wetlands, part sandy beach. Most days you can even see the Olympic Mountain range across the Puget Sound. It’s a popular place for bonfires, volleyball, and watching sea lions lounge. But this place is special to me as it was the destination of the first bike ride that Phillip and I went on now over three years ago. I was out of cycling shape and worried that I would barely make the five and a half mile journey, much less the round trip. But Phillip, ever the forward-thinker, scheduled several breaks into the afternoon – a chocolate tasting, hot tomato soup…and even though I huffed and puffed, I arrived at Golden Gardens feeling happy as a clam. What crashing waves; what rugged shore! A visit to Golden Gardens is a perfect introduction to Washington’s wilderness.


Seward Park // Seward Park // 5900 Lake Washington Boulevard S

Seward is one of my favorites, and most of it has to do with the leisurely, scenic bike ride that you can take to get there. The savvy visitor knows that the best views are from Lake Washington Boulevard as it curves along its banks, all the way to the park’s entrance. On certain summer Sundays, a 3-mile section of the route is closed off to motorized traffic, making the trip all the more pleasant for walkers, joggers, and cyclists. Jutting out into Lake Washington, Seward Park boasts an old growth forest, historic cabins, a 2.4 mile long walking path, and one of our most cherished swimming spots. With an Audubon Center at the park’s gates, it’s a great spot for birders, beginners and life-listers alike, to learn about the local winged population and to perhaps catch a glimpse of America’s most revered bird.


Gas Works Park // Wallingford // 2143 N Northlake Way

The crown jewel of Seattle picnicking spots, Gas Works Park is the best place to be on a warm day. Formerly the site of the “sole remaining coal gasification plant in the United States,” it was decommissioned in 1956 and reopened as a park ten years later. Much of the original equipment remains, though its primary use today seems to be for hopping around and yelling “Parkour!” when the mood strikes. As Phillip and I lived just five blocks away, we made a habit of cruising down on our bikes to people watch, nap, read, or sneak a glass of wine at sunset. We’ve been witness to kite flying, blackberry picking, skinny dipping, and fire dancing from our perch atop its famed hill. Each year on July 4, you can join the masses to celebrate the holiday with fireworks, John Philip Sousa marches, and a spectacular view of downtown. A visit to Gas Works is a must for any Seattle itinerary – in fact, every guest I’ve ever had has visited the park at some point!


Volunteer Park // Capitol Hill // 1400 East Prospect Street

You are unlikely to struggle for things to do on a visit to Volunteer Park. Over the course of many visits, Phillip and I have toured the Asian Art Museum, strolled through the Conservatory of exotic plants, climbed to the top of the Water Town for a 360-degree view, and attended a free performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Not to mention, only a block away there is the charming Volunteer Park Café, a good place to stop for a snack or a coffee. Volunteer Park has it all! If there were to be a downside, it would be the climb to the park (the “hill” in “Capitol Hill”), steep for the bicycle-dependent living in north Seattle, as we were. And still, we found ourselves coming back to Volunteer Park again and again for a bit of solitude and relaxation.


Discovery Park // Magnolia //3801 Discovery Park Boulevard

Seattle’s largest park is also one of the best, though not purely for that reason. From its dramatic location on Magnolia Bluff, it is not unusual to get views of both the Olympic and Cascade Mountain Ranges; to hike through dense forest and on a sandy beach; to wander through wide, grassy prairie and along the edge of steep, rocky cliffs. Following the 2.8-mile long Discovery Park Loop Trail, you can experience a little bit of everything, though I’d recommend veering slightly off path for a chance to visit the West Point Lighthouse, aptly located at the westernmost corner of the park, and the westernmost point in Seattle. Suitable for all levels of activity, you can keep to flat, paved trails, or descend down to the beach (I recall a memorable half hour that Phillip, a friend, and I bushwhacked our way back up a loose, forested cliff – two steps up, three steps down…). To travel far from the city without actually traveling far from the city, add Discovery Park to your list.

The trouble with moving away is that when you return, it’s never quite as you left it. Have any perfectly picturesque park cafés popped up? Have I missed any must-do hikes? What are your favorite parks in Seattle?

A few favorites: Seattle bakeries

December 2014…Phillip and I pack up our Wallingford apartment and bid Washington goodbye, heading south to the San Francisco Bay Area. A homecoming six years in the making, I now find myself a born-again Californian, re-learning my way around town and pining for the Pacific Northwest (pun intended). But before the ravages of time lead me to completely forsake the Evergreen state for the Golden one, I want to make a record of some of my favorite places in the Puget Sound as they were when I knew them best.

Seattle Bakeries

There’s no more logical place to start this series than with the thing that I think about immediately upon waking up each morning. For the gallons of coffee Seattleites are reputed to chug morning, noon, and night, it is no surprise that there is a lively tradition of baked goods to accompany it. In fact, this culture has bred a number of rivalries, some of which are pretty fierce (in a PNW passive-aggressive sort of way) – just ask a local if they prefer Trophy Cupcakes or Cupcake Royale, Top Pot or Mighty-O Donuts. Pride aside, I think everyone can agree that there’s no finer accompaniment to a shot of dark, strong espresso than a flaky, powdery sweet treat. And since I’ve repeatedly tried my hand at baking to varying degrees of success, I must give respect where respect is due – these are some great bakeries and you’d do right by your stomach to give them a try.


Honoré Artisan Bakery // Ballard // 1413 NW 70th Street

It took me ages to make my first visit to Honoré, as getting there demanded a two-transfer bus pilgrimage from my old apartment in the Ravenna neighborhood. Even in Wallingford, where I lived most recently, Phillip and I would routinely pedal four miles uphill, usually in a nice Seattle drizzle for a snack – some places are just worth the extra effort. But on a sunny day, the trip is especially rewarding as there’s a lovely patio in the back, though the stuff of note is sitting behind the glass up front, and proofing on racks in the kitchen. Pastries, French ones, united in butter, and spanning the whole of the Héxagone. You’ll find canelés from Bordeaux, kouign-amann from Brittany, quiche lorraine from, well, Lorraine, and danishes, from the…Danish part of France. They’re all delightful, but I tend to stick with a croissant and a coffee (beans from Lighthouse!) and slip my way into a seat at the window.


Essential Baking Company // Wallingford // 1604 N 34th Street

There are several Essential Baking locations in Seattle, but the Wallingford café is a gradual roll down the street from our old house, perfect for a weekend morning roll out of bed. They’re got hearty breakfasts and giant kale salads, but Phil and I always come for the toast, and not the six-dollar artisanal slice that’s served in San Francisco. For just under three bucks, which sounds so cheap in comparison, you can get three thick slices of any of Essential’s breads (we’d both recommend the mille gran) and an unlimited amount of raspberry freezer jam*. Grab a bottomless cup of Victrola coffee and an issue of the Stranger, too! We don’t make much a fuss over their pastries, but their bread – always and forever!

*How did I go twenty years not knowing about freezer jam? Is it just a Washington thing?


Morsel // University District // 4754 University Way NE

Biscuits seem to be few and far between in Seattle, so it was good luck that Morsel was a jog up the Ave, not far from where I worked. They can do up your biscuit any way you’d like, and while Phil and I keep our selection pretty simple, judging by everyone else’s plate, the sky’s the limit! Order one of their towering biscuit sandwiches and you’ll find it near impossible to pick up with your hands. If you’re fortunate enough to grab one of the few spots to sit, take your time slathering your biscuit with any one of their sweet or savory jams. Few things on this earth feel as rich. It’s the butter.


Café Besalu // Ballard // 5909 24th Avenue NW

Honoré’s closest competition, Café Besalu is a worthy opponent and just a mile away, which means that in theory, you could hit two of the city’s best pâtisseries in a morning – a noble goal if you are the kind of person who jumps out of bed at seven a.m. Otherwise, wake up as early as you can muster, and prepare to stand on line. You may not beat the crowds, but you will walk away very, very satisfied. My advice is to go with a group (even though the line looks imposing, I’ve had great chance finding a table at just the right moment), and buy as many pastries as you can hold. This way, you’ll get to try everything that you wanted to order, and you won’t be forty dollars poorer for it! For those with the restraint to only order one or two, I’d suggest Besalu’s classic croissant and almond schnecken.


Mini Donuts at Ballard Farmers’ Market // Ballard Avenue NW

For a serious Sunday morning stroll, do check out the Ballard Avenue Farmers’ Market between Vernon Place NW and 22nd Avenue NW. Tucked between stands overflowing with local fruits and veggies is the real sustenance that your body needs: mini donuts! Located conveniently at the entrance of the market on 22nd, these little beauties barely have time to skip through piping hot oil, into a paper bag, coated with cinnamon and sugar, before being shoved into your grasping hands for immediate consumption. I would hardly call myself a donut fan, but these may be the ones to convert me; incredibly soft, chewy and warm, between Phillip and I, a dozen doesn’t last more than a couple of minutes.

The trouble with moving away is that when you return, it’s never quite as you left it. Perhaps there’s a new bakery that’s just popped up, or a tried-and-true classic that I never stumbled upon? Now is the time to share that information (in the comments), and quick!

Pottery class: weeks 3 & 4

In our third week of pottery class we started showing up at the studio more and more frequently.  A big benefit of taking classes at the Ballard Community Center is that enrollment in a course entitles you to free studio time whenever the center is open to the public.  Due to city funding cuts, this unfortunately means we can’t throw on the weekends, but on a chilly Tuesday or Wednesday night, why not?




What a surprise, more short round things.  I must say, even I was a bit unimpressed with my lack of imagination.  Or rather, I think it’s more a matter of execution.  If memory serves me right, both times I think I was attempting to make a pitcher – HA!


But then a stroke of rare genius hit, my hands slid together and when I pulled my hands away (slowly, slowly) I had a vase standing about 3 inches high.  And boy, is this thing sturdy.




We also learned another important step in pottery-making: trimming.  This is the time for the novice potter to erase all of the mistake he or she has made up to this point.  Sure there are ample opportunities following this step and definitely during this stage to mess everything up, but once your clay is ¡leather-hard! the task of trimming down the base and smoothing out the rough patches is relaxing and a bit hypnotic.  And when that’s done and your name is carved into the underside, you’ve got a piece ready for its first firing!





Pottery class: weeks 1 & 2

Four weeks ago, Phillip and I started pottery class at the local community center.  When I was a child, I took ceramics camps for several summers and for quite some time I had played with the idea of looking for classes in Seattle – when I mentioned it to Phillip, he seemed keen to join on, too!  We were particularly interested in learning how to throw clay, that is, to sculpt on a potter’s wheel (more on lovely pottery jargon later).

As an eight and nine year-old, my interest lay exclusively in creating an arsenal of very small pinch pots and unintentionally grotesque animal sculptures, so branching out to wheel work was a really exciting alternative.  We showed up to our first class poised and ready to be pottery prodigies, masters of the wheel – and anyway, by our instructor’s standards we were.  He was very complementary of our first bowls; mine the taller and lumpier of the two pictured below.  But despite the learning curve, I find sitting behind the wheel to be a very enjoyable, relaxing, mentally stimulating activity.  And messy!  Now like my more seasoned classmates, I’ve got a pair of dedicated pottery pants (not the pants you’re thinking of, Rosie…coquine madame!).  I’ve truly arrived!




As challenging as turning a blob of clay into a non-blob of clay is the vocabulary – some are completely new words and some are old words with completely new meanings.  Pulling, greenware, leather-hard, ribs, and wedging are all terms that I’m finding myself using more and more, while I have yet to find the word to describe the feat of clay flying clean off one’s wheel and onto the floor, or the act of overwatering one’s clay, or the phenomenon of sitting back to look at one’s work and happily proclaiming it done, only to accidentally tear through it with your thumb as you touch up a smudge.  But then again, I am still learning.




Over-confident from the first class, during week two I sat down at the wheel with a tall, curvy idea in my head, and ended up with a cylinder.  Twice.  Too short to hold anything upright and too fat to be a delicate drinking vessel.  Oh well.  Phillip left a nice bowl and beer stein drying, though!




In week three, we started turning up at the studio more often, so we can only hope that more practice time will lead to something a bit more interesting and a bit less cylindrical.