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One Day Wander | Seattle

June 5, 2009


The one-day wander. That quick stopover, scheduled or unscheduled, en route to another destination – a small, often highly rewarding detour from the longer journey ahead. This week’s wander is through the Northwest’s nicknamed Emerald City.

I recently found myself headed to Vancouver by way of Seattle with less than 24 hours to spend in the emo-capitol of the world. My thoughts on Seattle prior to arriving were this – Kurt Cobain, Bill Gates, Starbucks, and the famed space needle. Not stereotypical at all.

Everything about Seattle, I found, is intelligently done (including the aforementioned musician, computer genius, coffee corporation, and that futuristic structure punctuating the sky). From architecture to food, Seattleites sure seem to be doing their part to make the world a bit better. So, it comes as no huge surprise that data matches the observation with The United States Census Bureau noting that Seattle (in 2008) was the most educated city in the U.S.


This week’s travel, the one-day pop on Seattle with my favorite smarty-pants traveling partners in crime – my twin sister, her boyfriend, and my husband.


I dig funky boutique hotels; if you do as well, Hotel Max is certainly where it’s at. It’s hip, fun, friendly staffed, modernly decorated, and fairly priced. Plus – it’s walking distance to many must dos in the city. It’s essentially as if you’re staying inside an art gallery – with local works showcased throughout the hotel. And the room color scheme of orange and grey rocks.

Another hotel worth looking in to is the Inn at the Market. It didn’t make Condé Nast Traveller’s “Gold List” or Travel + Leisure’s “Best Hotels in the World” list by chance. But, reserve early…it books up fast and it most definitely falls in the splurge, not save category.

The redesigned Seattle Central Library is just one (of the many) examples of Seattle’s innovative approach to life. It took a simple concept and public space (a library) and made it a work of art. In 2004, famed architect Rem Koolhaas’ design was opened to the public. The library is nothing short of spectacular and a novel approach to seeking knowledge in an inspired space.  Great thinking begets greater thinking…loves it.


It’s not a trip to Seattle without visiting these two landmarks – The Space Needle and the Pike Place Market. The concept for the Seattle Space Needle started in 1959 when Edward E. Carlson sketched his vision on a napkin. His drawing turned into the focus of the futurist World’s Fair in 1962 and the space-age focus of the Seattle skyline. With 360° views of the city and even Mount Rainier visible in the distance on a clear day, it’s a must-do experience. Side tip – the monorail is a fun and inexpensive way to get the needle. Hop on at the Westlake Center Mall station at Fifth and Pine Street and ride until you’re dropped off just shy of the space needle base.


Pike Place Market is way beyond a food lover’s paradise. You can wander around for hours and stumble upon the most amazing, fresh ingredients – from flowers to black truffles, they’ve got it all. The day we were there, we were treated to a cheese festival featuring varieties like nothing I’ve ever tasted…simply delicious. One more thing in the area worth noting – I’m generally anti-bucks (Starbucks that is), but across from Pike’s sits the original Starbucks location that started it all…

One of the most known glass artists in the world is Dale Chihuly and I’ve been a longtime fan of his work. He lives and works in Seattle – make time to see his collection in some of the many galleries throughout the city and also his public instillations around the Seattle area.


Seattle, in general, makes use of its outdoor space in such a spectacular way. It appreciates art in a way that I haven’t quite found in most cities I’ve lived or visited up to this point. Because of this, one of my favorite moments in our one-day wander, was while on an impromptu run with my twin, where we stumbled upon an outdoor sculpture garden at the Olympic Sculpture Park featuring works from the very talented Alexander Calder and Richard Serra (and many more). The best part – it’s free!


Seattle’s a serious food town with serious chefs and artisan being a key word throughout the culinary belly in the Northwest. From cheeses to rogue supper clubs, Seattle takes food from farm to table in the literal sense.

The Pioneer Square shop, Salumi Artisan Cured Meats was co-founded by Chef Mario Batali’s parents, Armandino and Marilyn Batali. It’s now owned by their daughter and son-in-law Gina Batali and Brian D’Amato. It’s amazing – but similar to many of these Food Network/Celebrity chef joints, you really have to be prepared to stand in line for a while. This one is the real deal, but it patience is key.

And because while on any coast I never pass up sushi, hit Shiro’s located in the Belltown area. It’s a good bet. Remember that name, because there’s a part two to Shiro’s to come in the next few weeks. The trick to the Seattle Shiro’s is to get a seat in front of Shiro, the sushi master, at the sushi bar, and just let him feed you…


Lastly, speaking of serious eats, you must try Serious Pie. An intimate wood fired pizzeria. Our litmus test for food when traveling always comes back to a story that happened in Costa Rica when I was trekking with said favorite companions. The quatro of us stumbled upon a restaurant in the remote town of Santa Teresa with a sign boasting that “Our chicken is the shit.” Well, as it turned out, its chicken was the shit and forced my husband to say a phrase that is forever repeated at meals when the four of us are together. Just as his meal was nearing its close, approaching the last bite, he somberly said, “I’m going to be so sad when this chicken is gone.” Needless to say, it provoked so much laughter and continued enforcement of the way to the man’s heart is through the stomach rule – I’ve yet to see such slow bite chewing.

Long story short – Serious Pie is the shit. The fava bean salad and that night’s special of wild boar sausage turnovers were a fab way to start. For entrees, we had the cherry bomb peppers and sweet fennel sausage pie (all sausages of course are homemade here) and the morel, arugula pesto and sole di sardegna cheese pizza, which were both, again, the shit. Sweets rounded out the meal with rhubarb, ricotta and tangerine hand pies, tiramisu made with sherry sabayon and mascarpone, and perfecto cannolis. But, the gold star of the evening goes to the drink menu, which seamlessly sells both bottles of prunotto barbaresco and pabst blue ribbon. Who could ask for more?

Suffice to say, for a one-day wander, Seattle was the shit.

Post script – sorry mom for the potty mouth, but really, it’s the shit.