A short day in Seattle, Snowpocalypse Edition!
My casual weekend trip to Seattle to see Uncle Scott and Aunt Jacque, as well as to collect some major United miles toward my Premier Platinum status challenge, happened to coincide with the Pacific Northwest's snowstorm of the decade, which was, in some ways, exciting! My first winter wonderland of the season, or in several seasons, really.
However, because this is Seattle, and snow of this magnitude is very unusual, it meant that the city shut down and my Friday activities were constrained to morning and early afternoon, and my Saturday activities were constrained to... well, taking Yuki on a snowy walk. As many of you know, I tend to plan my trips around food and beverage, so I needed to squeeze in as many epicurean adventures as possible into about three hours' time. Ok... go!
The good news is that three of the spots on my list were quite close together in the downtown area, and so I made my way into one of my favorite cities in the US, and a place one might call foodie heaven, and enjoyed some quintessential Seattle tastes!
First stop was the Starbucks Reserve Roastery (yes I know I know Starbucks blah blah blah), which is the grandest of all the Starbucks and features a selection of their most prized coffees, coffee tastings, a restaurant and bar, and all manner of observable coffee-related equipment. The "Experience Bar" downstairs is the spot to taste, and so I found a seat at the bar and was offered a short list of coffees from which to choose. One of the stars here is the siphon coffee brewing method, which the baristas told me is quite the show, so I had to give it a try. They offer flights of three of their various reserve coffees in the siphon; unfortunately, it's not so great for just one person because each cup of coffee is 12 ounces, and I wasn't interested in shaking the rest of the day. So I had her recommend a great coffee for siphon brewing, and she selected Colombian Pink Bourbon beans and began preparing the siphon.
I really appreciated how well-balanced this coffee was. I tend to drink lighter roasts, but sometimes I miss the roundness and toast of darker roast coffees, and this one had a nice creamy and velvety finish while still maintaining a vegetal nuance I expect from a lighter roast. I enjoyed watching the much-hyped siphon as well, which pushes boiling water up into a vessel above the pot and filters the brewed coffee back into the pot once the heat is turned off and the boiling stops. Since my latest Chemex just met its demise, I was tempted to snag one for my coffee making back home, until I saw the price!
The next stop on my little adventure was just two doors down, and one of my favorite spots in Seattle at which I always seem to find myself when I visit: Taylor Shellfish. This is the biggest farmer of shellfish in the country, but don't let that fool you. Taylor produces some of the highest quality oysters and clams in the Pacific Northwest, if not the country.
They have four outposts of their oyster bar in the Seattle area, and this one, tucked into a spot on the very edge of Capitol Hill, was new to me. I appreciated that tanks where they kept all the delicious bivalves were right there in the open, so I could go marvel at the selection of oysters, clams, mussels, and Dungeness crab on offer, including the PNW's own delicacy, the geoduck.
Geoduck, you say!? What the fuck...
See what I did there?
Pronounced "gooey-duck," this is a gigantic bivalve that is... well, let's just say evocative in its appearance, with a long siphon that sticks up through the sand where the clam lives that resembles... well, I'll let you Google it.
The siphon, though alarming in appearance, is just as edible as the belly of the bivalve, and they slice it into thin ribbons of slightly crunchy, sweet, fresh deliciousness. The belly is more tender, and has more sweetness but a tad more brine. Taylor serves geoduck sashimi two ways––one option is with almond harissa and preserved lemon, and the other is old school, with just soy sauce and wasabi. I opted for the latter, and enjoyed a generous portion of this wonderful gift from the beaches of the Pacific Northwest. So good.
But of course, one cannot visit Taylor (or the Seattle area in general!) without sampling the bounty of oysters grown in the region. Taylor specializes, obviously, in Pacific coast breeds, which are generally my favorite, and have a tendency to have a deeper cup and hence are a bit meatier, but smaller, and have a nice sweetness and minerality with limited unpleasant brine (which is my main complaint about many of the bigger, flatter east coast oysters).
Taylor offers a "shucker's dozen" for a pretty reasonable $30, two each of six oyster varieties, and all of the oysters are farmed by Taylor or their sister company based in British Columbia, Fanny Bay. Lucky for me, three of my absolute favorite varieties of oyster were on the list!
As a general rule, the smaller the oyster, the better I like it, so I went clockwise. The "Fat Bastard" was first, which is essentially a massive Shigoku, which was tasty and had the sweetness and complexity of a Shigoku, but a bit too meaty for my taste––would be a great oyster for other oyster preparations, like grilled or in a chowder, but not my cup of tea as a raw oyster. The next was the Pacifica, a relatively flat oyster, which was my least favorite, since the funky curves of the shell bled out all the oyster "liquor" and much of the flavor, but one shell was particularly cool because it still had two rocks attached! The next were oysters from Fanny Bay, Sunseekers, which were new to me and SO tasty, with a lot of complexity and salty minerality, and bursting with flavor.
Super sweet Kumamotos, which tend to be my favorite, were next, and they were outstanding, although this time were upstaged by many of the others on the plate! Among those were the little Shigoku oysters that were next in line, which were the best I've had. Saline but delightfully toothsome, with some lovely concentrated flavor due to their compact size. The most flavorful, however, were the itty bitty Olympia oysters in the center, the only species that is native to Puget Sound, and so tiny and packed with almost vegetal mineral flavor.
I paired my oysters with a glass of Cava Rosado from Mont Marçal in Catalonia, the quintessential Cava region, which was bone dry, subtly fruity, and had some nice tiny bubbles to cleanse the palate after each oyster.
As oyster lovers know, after about twelve or so, you start to get a lingering seawater taste in your mouth that gets a tad unpleasant after a while, so I signed my check and headed to the Pioneer Square area downtown for a visit to a local Italian haunt, Il Corvo. This place offers just a few daily pastas, and is open on weekdays only and only for lunch. I was hoping that the much talked-about line out the door would be shorter on this day because of the impending storm, but to no avail. I waited a good 45 minutes as the heavy snow started falling for my plate of pasta.
They make everything by hand here, and it's dirt cheap for the quality of the food. I ordered a house focaccia at the insistence of the woman at the counter, and selected as my pasta the "Cresti di Gallo" (or "crest of the rooster" because of its shape) pasta with a butter sauce containing a few big beans, leeks, carrots, chilis, and some kind of green. The bread was amazing, with some herbs baked in and a bit of cheese on top, and hit the spot when dipped in their excellent olive oil. The pasta was perfect after standing in the cold and snow for a while––buttery and warm, and brimming with the essence of leek and slight spice from the chilis. Warmed me right up!
Afterwards, I took a cue from my experience cooking duck last week and prepared some duck breast with a pummelo and thyme gastrique and some smashed potatoes for my gracious hosts while we watched the snow continue to fall. Woke up this morning to an impressive accumulation of dense snow, the kind I remember from my childhood winters in Salt Lake City, and spent some time in the park and by the beach trudging through the freshly fallen snow with Scott and Yuki, their sweetheart of an akita.
Seems things are starting to catch up to normal pace again here, so I shall venture out for dinner tonight and report back! Until then, enjoy your weekends, everyone!