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Seattle: What to do

September 25, 2013
Sunset over the Sound from Golden Gardens.

Sunset over Puget Sound from Golden Gardens.

This is Part 2 of my series on traveling in Seattle (for what to eat see Part 1). Besides there being an amazing array of things to eat, activities in Seattle abound. There are a lot of other quintessential Seattle sites that I left out just because they are in every city guide, but look here for an extensive list of points of interest.

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Gasworks Park.

Visit a park – To blend in as a true Seattleite and see what really makes this city awesome, visit one of the many parks.

  • Discovery Park (Queen Ann) – Seattle’s signature green space. It is huge and over looks Puget Sound. Great for walking or biking and lovely views.
  • Green Lake (Green Lake) – Great to walk around and it has lots of kid friendly activities (waterfront, playgrounds, skate park, basketball, volleyball, baseball). There is a paved path all around the lake, but can get crowded at peak times.
  • Fremont Peak Park - (Fremont) My favorite park in Seattle. It is a hidden nook overlooking all of Ballard and the Sound. It is small, but the sunset views are the best in Seattle and it is an ideal picnic spot.
  • Golden Gardens - (Ballard/Crown Hill) - This is one of the few true beaches in Seattle. There are fire pits, grills, and covered areas to have parties. When the tide goes down you can walk north along the beach for miles. It is beautiful year round, so venture over even if it is not summer.
  • Gasworks Park - This unique park is on the site of the former Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant, and contains remnants of the plant which are preserved. It is the location for many a city event and local gathering (it is wild on the 4th of July), and has a great view of downtown. There are many regular events held at the park like movie nights, LARPing, hoopers, music, and BBQs.

Go to a market – Seattle has farmers markets just about every day of the week. See the full listing of locations here, and these are my favorites:

  • Ballard Farmers Market (Every Sunday, year round, 10am-2pm) – The best farmer’s market ever. A great balance of produce, scavenged items (like mushrooms), value added products (cheeses, baked goods, etc), prepared foods, and art. The only must is getting fresh donuts with cinnamon and sugar from the vendor at the north end of the market.
  • Fremont Sunday Market (Every Sunday, year round, 12pm-4pm) – This market is more about antiques and crafts, but there are a few produce vendors and the hot food vendors are more numerous and better than those at the Ballard Farmers Market. The garage has the best vendors for vintage clothes and trinkets, and the outside vendors have an awesome array of handmade goods. My favorite vendor is only there sporadically, but if you see Johnnie Smalls’ tent, do not pass it by. The hot food vendors are all great, but my 3 favorites are the tacos, falafel, and Indian food (in that order). My ideal Sunday started with a stop at the Ballard Farmers Market to get ingredients for Sunday dinner, followed by some shopping and lunch at the Fremont Sunday Market.
The wonderful Book Larder.

The wonderful Book Larder.

Fill your carry on with books – While there is lots of other great shopping in Seattle, I’m sure there are much better people to guide you there. If buying heavy books to lug home isn’t appealing, both of these spots host many regular author events.

  • The Book Larder (North Fremont) – This place warms my heart. It is the perfect store filled entirely with cookbooks and hosts regular author readings and cooking classes. I got to meet two of my absolute favorite food bloggers (Smitten Kitchen and Sprouted Kitchen), got a book signed by Ted Allen (though I didn’t get to meet him due to some personal scheduling confusion), and was introduced to  Sherri Brooks Vinton at a free event.
  • The Elliott Bay Book Company (Cap Hill) – While this store is big, it is beautiful with huge skylights and still has hidden reading nooks. Any place that takes the time to have staff hand write recommendations to put on the shelves always wins me over.

See a concert – Seattle’s has many small music venues that curate great acts. These 3 are my favorite, each with a great venue atmosphere and solid acts.

  • Tractor Tavern (Ballard) – Small venue, especially great for boot-stomping bluegrass.
  • Nectar Lounge (Fremont) – Another small venue, but with a great outdoor area and mezzanine.
  • Showbox (Belltown, SoDo) – Both are great, but Showbox at the Market is my favorite. They both get large acts but still have an intimate experience.

Brewery Tour (Fremont, Ballard) – There are a few hosted tours, but there are so many in Seattle it is easy to just organize your own. Just in Ballard and Fremont you could walk between Fremont Brewing Company, Outlander Brewery, Hale’s Brewery, Hilliard’s Beer, and Peddler Brewing and go a grand distance of 2.2 miles.

One of the incredible exhibits inside the Chihuly Gardens.

One of the incredible exhibits inside the Chihuly Gardens.

Museums and Exhibits – Real Seattleites do all activities rain or shine, but if you would rather stay dry there are many awesome museums that go far beyond endless exhibits of things in glass cases.

  • EMP (Belltown) – The Experience Music Project is Paul Allen’s brain child, and is a weird combination of Sci-Fi and music exhibits. The exhibits are all unique and interesting, and change regularly so repeat visits are worthwhile.
  • SAM (Belltown) – The Seattle Art Museum is right downtown and a short walk from Pike’s Place. It is even worthwhile just to stop into the foyer to see the awesome exploding car sculpture. There is free admission the first Thursday of every month.
  • Chihuly Garden and Glass (Belltown) – This exhibit is incredible. If you go on a day that there is an event, the price is discounted (and you don’t miss any of the exhibit).
Houseboat neighborhood on Lake Union.

Houseboat neighborhood on Lake Union.

Ride a boat! – Seattle’s geography is defined by many bodies of water which are also great spots for activities.

  • Ferry Ride and Bainbridge Island (Belltown) – The ferry provides an awesome view over the sound and of the city. The downtown area of Bainbridge is really just one long block, but there are cute shops and restaurants and wine to taste.
  • Lake Union – There are many boating options in Lake Union, including ferries, sail boats, small boat tours, and kayak rentals. Take whichever suits you best to see the awesome house boat communities, Gasworks park, the Space Needle and the downtown skyline.

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Visit a troll – The Fremont troll is by far my favorite Seattle landmark. It is less than a 10 minute walk from Fremont center…. and it’s a giant troll under a bridge crushing a Volkswagen Beetle. So awesome.

Seattle: Where to Eat

September 16, 2013
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Cappuccino, toast with chevre and cornichons, and a seasonal salad at Le Pichet, my favorite Seattle restaurant.

Before it is all forgotten, I wanted to recap my favorite things to do and places to eat in Seattle. It is truly a wonderful city to visit and live in, and there are many unique aspects to be missed. There are a lot of options, so this post is all eats and I will do another with activities!

Breakfast & Lunch:
Homegrown (Fremont, South Lake Union, Cap Hill) – Breakfast all day and lunch sandwiches. This is the only place in Seattle I ate at with obsessive regularity. Their food is simple, perfectly executed, and consistent. The service is always fantastic. The sandwiches may seen pricey, but they are so worth it (and you can buy half sandwiches).  I regretfully never had the bacon, peanut butter, and fluff sandwich, but tried every other sandwich on the menu. If you are overwhelmed with the options start with the avocado, egg, and cheese.
Portage Bay Cafe (U District, Ballard) – This was the first place I ate when I had first moved to Seattle and was still living in a hotel. There will be a wait at either location, but they serve coffee outside and there is a store with chickens next to the U District location. They are local, organic, and seasonal, and have creative menu items. And each sweet breakfast (like pancakes or french toast) comes with a trip to the fruit bar, which is the most amazing assortment of fresh fruit, homemade whipped cream, maple syrup, and other topping delights (or you can order a trip to the fruit bar on its own).
Serious Biscuit (South Lake Union) – Great name, great biscuits. Don’t wait to be seated (there’s always a line), just order at the counter and one of the cafe tables will open up (or just go outside). The ham, egg, Beecher’s cheese, and apple mustard was my favorite.
Paseo (North Fremont, Ballard) – The place to get Cuban sandwiches in Seattle. There’s usually a line, but you can call ahead and then just pick them up. Seating is nonexistent, but Fremont Peak Park is an awesome place to sit and eat with a view of the Olympics.
Happy Hour:
List (Belltown) – Italian small plates. Happy hour 4-6:30. It’s right downtown and the happy hour menu is extensive and cheap. Gnocchi and eggplant parm are always good choices.
Alibi Room (Belltown) – A weird little place tucked across from the gum wall. It’s a stone’s throw from Pike’s Place Market, but hidden enough to not be touristy. Good pizza and small plates, great cocktails. Happy Hour 12-6pm (including weekends).
9 Million in Unmarked Bills (Fremont) – The happy hour is late (4-7pm daily), the servers are always nice, and there is a lot of outdoor seating. Get the diablo shrimp on ricotta pancakes and the grilled Caesar.
Awesome decor at the entrance of Bizzarro.

Awesome decor at the entrance of Bizzarro.

Dinner:
Le Pichet (Belltown) – Very traditional, French small plates. They are open for breakfast and lunch as well, but dinner is the best. Reasonably priced and my favorite restaurant in Seattle. I brought my mom here every time she visited (thanks for feeding the habit, Mom!), and it really was like stepping into a cafe in Paris.
Oddfellows (Cap Hill) – They’re open for breakfast, lunch, and they have happy hour from 4-6pm. Quintessential hipster Seattle, next to my favorite bookstore and across from a huge record store. The falafel salad! Croquettes! Brussels sprouts!
The Walrus and The Carpenter (Ballard) – I’m wary to suggest this, because it is small, doesn’t accept reservations, and was a Bon Appetit Restaurant of the year so there is always a wait. Plus it is expensive. BUT, the food, atmosphere, and cocktails are all phenomenal. My best advice is to go for happy hour which starts at 4, but arrive by at least 3:30 to get in line (or earlier to be extra safe). Then you only have to wait 30 minutes, you are guaranteed a table, and the prices are slightly cheaper.
Jhanjay (Ballard, Wallingford) – Vegetarian Thai food and my favorite Thai restaurant in Seattle. Both locations are great and have speedy, friendly service and fresh, delicious food.
Bizzarro Italian Cafe (Wallingford) – This appropriately named restaurant is weird through and through. It is charmingly decorated with artful junk on every surface. They have great specials, fresh pasta, and traditional dishes.
Drinks & Dessert:
Hazelwood (Ballard) – So hipster they don’t even have a real website. This place may take the title of my Favorite Cocktail Bar Ever. Their cocktails are unique, the bartenders are quirky, and there is a weird, intimate seating area upstairs (look into the peep hole on the back wall. I dare you.). Best cocktail: Birds Feet and Rain.
Fremont Brewing Company (Fremont) – Most importantly: delicious beer. Other great things: lots of indoor and outdoor seats in their new urban beer garden, free pretzels, and you can bring your own food in.
Fainting Goat (Wallingford) – Awesome name, awesome gelato. Their salted caramel is perfect. It is even better than Molly Moon’s Ice Cream  down the street, and the lines are way shorter (though many may disagree, I’ll fight for the goat).

Breakfast Inspiration

April 22, 2013

For dinner I like to experiment regularly with new recipes, but when it comes to breakfast I tend to rely on favorites I can roll out of bed and make. I’ve made all of these for lazy weekend days and also morning entertaining with great success.

Multigrain Waffles - I have made these 5 times the past month. They are that good. Easy, not too sweet, filling, and sturdy enough to save and reheat another day. I’ve been topping with bananas and maple syrup (or just butter and jam on work days), but will certainly be branching out once more spring and summer fruit ripens. As to the flours I usually use a mix of whatever I have on hand, and at the most basic use a 1:1 ratio of white:wheat.

Baked Oatmeal - In the winter I made this with apples, cranberries and bananas. This month I would definitely go with rhubarb and strawberries! It is heavenly topped with a little maple syrup and saves well to be reheated.

Rhubarb Streusel Muffins - After discovering its virtues last year, I’ve been looking forward to the appearance of rhubarb in the market  for months. These muffins are wholesome and just a bit sweet. If you are looking for something a bit more indulgent and picnic worthy though, this rhubarb snacking cake is also excellent.

The Best Buttermilk Pancakes – These pancakes are truly fantastic. My only warning is that the recipe makes a small batch, about enough for two people.

Vegetarian Chili

February 25, 2013

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I’ve always loved chili, but as I have been cutting down the amount of meat in my diet I needed a good vegetarian substitute to get through the winter. I couldn’t find a recipe that I loved, so I developed this one with a mix of textures, plus the heft and spice that really define chili.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2” cubes
  • 7 cups of cooked beans. I used equal amounts of black beans and kidney beans, which I soaked and cooked beforehand. If you’re using canned, this is equal to 4 (15.5oz) cans on beans (which you should drain and rinse).
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (15.5oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (15.5oz) can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 2 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper (omit if you want a milder chili)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups vegetable broth

Saute onion for 5 minutes to soften. Add garlic, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper and stir and let them work for 3 minutes.  Add all your beans, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and their juice, corn, sweet potatoes and vegetable broth, then stir everything together.  Bring to boil, then simmer for 45 min partially covered and stirring occasionally. By then the sweet potatoes should have cooked through and the base will be nice and thick (if you like yours a bit thinner, go with 3 cups of veg broth). Taste and increase the salt and spiciness to your liking.  Serve with a little shredded cheese, a plop of sour cream, and corn bread. Avocado or some chopped up jalapeños are also great additions (and a nice dose of color).

DIY Painted Patterned Rug

February 19, 2013

IMG_20130203_140315We moved into a new house last September. With it came a new roommate and the mishmash of furniture that happens when six people live together. While the living room has certainly been functional, the lack of color and design has bothered me and I’ve been slowly working to add more to the room. I started by spray painting half of the basket that holds our multitude of blankets red. Then I switched up the art and made a very crude gallery wall, with a giant Labyrinth poster as the centerpiece (Haven’t seen the movie? You’re missing out). I saw a rug painting tutorial on Apartment Therapy, and knew it was the perfect way to improve our Ikea via Craigslist rug. It is definitely bold, but I love the results. The other tutorial still left me to noodle out many of the details on my own, so I wanted to provide some additional instruction.

Materials:

  • rug (Mine is Ikea via Craigslist, but I can’t find the exact one online. It’s cheap for sure)
  • duct tape
  • paint (I used Valspar Cherry Red Latex Paint)
  • throw cloth
  • X-acto knife
  • paint brush
  • measuring tape

1. I started by measuring the rug and determining the pattern I wanted. My rug was 7.5′ x 5′, and I wanted to repeat the criss cross pattern 5 times. I found the center of the rug, broke the rug up into 15 .5′ sections, then made my crosses 1.5′ each.

2. After planning the pattern out on paper, I went to the rug. I measured the sides and marked the spots where each one of the lines would start/end. On the paper pattern below you can see that is the .5′ mark, 1′ mark, 2′ mark, 2.5′ mark, and on for the left and right sides, plus the middle mark for the top and bottom.

3. After the sides were marked I used big pieces of duct tape to make the pattern. I started by sticking the end to the left side of the rug, rolling out enough to make it across, and then finding the correct marker on the right side of the rug. So for instance the first line started at the .5′ mark on the left side of the rug, and ended at the 2′ mark on the other side of the rug. Once it was oriented I went back and really pressed the duct tape down.

4.  Once the whole X pattern was taped down I made the inner diamonds. I used about 1′ of duct tape as my measure, put it down against the X, and then taped out the 4 sides of the diamond.

5.  With the diamonds in place I went over the corners of each one and used the X-acto knife to clean them up. Be careful not to cut too deep, you just want to cut your tape not the rug fibers.  Make sure one last time that all your tape is firmly pressed down.

6.  Now….painting! I used latex paint (Valspar Cherry Red) leftover from another project. I did one coat, let it dry overnight, then did a second in the morning. Then it dried for another 12 hours and I took off the tape. Just to be safe I waited until the following morning to put it back in the room.

This is definitely not the kind of project to spend a lot or money on, but it has a big impact. Now, on to making throw pillows for that monstrous couch we inherited with the house.

The room and rug before painting.

The room and rug before painting (Hi Brendan!).

The design mapped out (inner diamonds not shown)

The design mapped out (inner diamonds not shown)

I didn't get any photos of the X-taping process, but if you have any questions let me know! Here it is complete.

I didn’t get any photos of the X-taping process, but if you have any questions let me know! Here it is complete.

I used a short piece of tape to align the diamonds.

I used a short piece of tape to align the diamonds.

I used an X-Acto knife to clean up the diamond corners (careful not to cut the rug!)

I used an X-Acto knife to clean up the diamond corners (careful not to cut the rug!)

The completed tape design. For a split second I thought "I could just leave this with the duct tape!" Ha.

The completed tape design. For a split second I thought “I could just leave this with the duct tape!” Ha.

I put a drop cloth under the rug and put on 2 coats of paint, letting it dry overnight between coats.

I put a drop cloth under the rug and put on 2 coats of paint, letting it dry overnight between coats.

After the second coat dried  for 12 hours I ripped off the tape! It was very satisfying.

After the second coat dried for 12 hours I ripped off the tape! It was very satisfying.

Our remarkably more interesting living room.

Our remarkably more interesting living room.

Dinner Inspiration: Summer in the Oven

September 24, 2012

Farmer’s markets are currently crammed with perfect produce (especially here in Seattle, where the growing season runs late). It is the time for simple, fruit and vegetable heavy meals. While roasting isn’t the first cooking method that comes to mind for cooking summer veg, sometimes it’s so much easier to forgo lighting the grill.

Sweet Cherry Tomato and Sausage Bake – This dish really is as easy as tossing tomatoes and sausage with balsamic vinegar and putting them in the oven, but tastes complex and rich. The sweet tomatoes pop and their juices reduce with the balsamic vinegar to make a thick glaze. I served it with a loaf of rustic bread and a summer beer.

Roasted Zucchini, Black Bean, and Goat Cheese Enchiladas – Enchiladas are my favorite leftover meal. They are filling and wonderful reheated. I added roasted corn to mine as well (Katie’s genius idea), and dipped the tortillas in enchilada sauce before filling instead of charring them, which makes for an almost creamy tortilla as the end product.

Falafel Stuffed Eggplant – A food processor certainly makes this process easier, but before my grandmother generously gave me her old one I used a potato masher for such projects. I made about 3 times more of the relish than was called for, so it was more like a tomato side salad.

DIY Glass Bottle Hummingbird Feeder

July 27, 2012

This is a simple way to make a hummingbird feeder out of a glass bottle with minimal supplies.

Materials:

  • 1 clean glass bottle with a small neck/opening (mine once contained Star White Wine Vinegar)
  • 4ft of jack chain (or more, if you have a larger bottle, or want to have a longer chain for the feeder to hang from).  Jack chain is sold by the foot at hardware stores. I bought one with a brass finish, but also saw nickel. This chain is best because you can open and close the links with pliers, eliminating the need for other hardware to cut/connect the pieces of chain.
  • hummingbird feeder tubes (I was unable to find any at craft stores in my area, so I purchased these)
  • pliers
  • water
  • sugar
  • optional: glass paint, beads, extra wire, or anything else you want to decorate with. Hummingbirds are especially drawn to red!

Directions:

1. Start by checking that the cork of your hummingbird feeder tube fits snugly into the mouth of your bottle. In the finished product the bottle  is upside-down and full of liquid, so this is very important.

2. Measure a length of chain that fits around the base of the neck of the bottle. Use pliers to open the appropriate link in the chain, and then refasten to the other end to create a ring that fits around the neck of the bottle.

3. Determine how long the 4 chains that secure the sides of the bottle will be. The bulb of my bottle is fairly small, so mine were about 6″ long. Use pliers to open links and make 4 equal lengths of chain. Attach one end of each length to the chain ring, equally spacing them around and using pliers to close the links back up.

4. Decide how long you want the chain that will hang between the hook and the bottle to be, then use pliers to make a chain the appropriate length.  Attach each of the 4 support chains to the bottom of the hanging chain, then tightly close the link.

5. Make the hummingbird solution by mixing a 4:1 ratio of water:sugar and heating until the sugar dissolves. Let cool, then using a funnel pour into the bird feeder and tightly cap with the feeder tube.

My feeder is very basic, but I have grand plans of painting the glass.  The minimalist decoration doesn’t keep me from enjoying the daily visits from hummingbirds on my porch!

The most basic materials: pliers, chain, bottle, and feeder tube.

L: Chain sized to fit around the neck, R: 2 ends of the chain are attached to form a loop.

4 equal lengths of chain to cage in the bottle.

Chain lengths evenly spaced and attached around the ring.

Ring with 4 loose chains fitted on bottle. Then attached 4 loose ends to single chain for hanging.

Hummingbird feeder: complete! Hang someplace where you can regular enjoy the tiny visitors.

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