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As I ate my way through the Seattle food scene, I came to understand the city better, from its sustainability efforts to its inclusive community. These five unique Seattle treats were among my favorite parts of the seaside city — and they speak volumes about what it offers as well as what it values.
Hopped Up on Local MicrobrewsCraft microbrews are king in Seattle. While in many other cities, affordable draft beers suffer in quality and complexity, Seattle bars, restaurants — and even the ferry to Seattle’s neighboring islands — serve local beers full of flavor at prices comparable to Los Angeles’ happy hours. Indeed, India Pale Ales (IPA), known for their heavy use of hops, are pervasive, with venues serving several variations of the deliciously bitter beer on tap. Even grocery stores favor the IPA, leading me to purchase the Avatar Jasmine IPA from the Elysian Brewery Company, one of Seattle’s famed brewpubs, located in Capitol Hill. Dried Jasmine flowers are added in the boil, which give a subtle flower flavor to the beer’s essential use of hops, an ingredient I even spied growing among healthy leafy greens, herbs and berries at a local environmental education center’s garden. www.elysianbrewing.com
No One Goes Hungry on the StreetsMost vegetarians haven’t had the chance to savor the quintessential late-night city street-food — the hotdog. Los Angeles vendors, for example, almost exclusively sling bacon-wrapped franks, but, in Seattle, no one goes hungry on the streets. Novel and delicious, my street dog was not only vegetarian, but Japanese-style as well. I went for the most popular offering, the Matsuri, which is dressed in nori seaweed, teriyaki-glazed onions, carrots, wasabi mayo, mustard and spicy chili sauce. My friend happily battled with layers of noodles and spicy red cabbage as we strolled to our next nighttime destination which, like many unlikely spots in Seattle, boasted a menu that was as inclusive as the city’s friendly people.
Sustainable Eats on Bainbridge Island Half an hour from Seattle’s downtown area and accessible by ferry through the Puget Sound is the quaint and beautiful Bainbridge Island, which offers views of the surrounding Olympic Mountains. It is understandable, then, that islanders care for the environment, which they also show through their high-quality, organic and artisan foods. Streamliner Diner is a local favorite for breakfast, with fresh, local produce adding a gourmet-touch to morning favorites such as pancakes and omelets. My best Bainbridge Island meal, however, was from a small cafe called Fork & Spoon, where my sandwich featured Bainbridge Bakers’ gruyere roll and locally produced vegetables. www.streamlinerdiner.com
Creative Chocolate is Fair Game One of Seattle’s most iconic sites is the Pike’s Place Market in downtown, where fresh seafood, flowers and artisan products — from jewelry to chocolate pasta — can be purchased every day. Though I enjoyed the novelty of the chocolate pasta, the most tasty and interesting Seattle chocolate I sampled was from Theo Chocolate, one of the nation’s first organic and Fair Trade chocolate factories. The flavors “Fig, Fennel, and Almond (vegan) Dark Chocolate” and “Bread and Chocolate,” made with French bread and 70 percent cacao, won me over. Clients can learn more about the factory’s notable practices and products with a visit to the factory, located in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. Tours cost $6 and come with chocolate tastings which, because it sounds too good to be true, should be booked several weeks in advance. www.theochocolate.com
The Buzz Around TownThe weather isn’t tops in Seattle, but the coffee is — and few rainy-day activities are better than enjoying a hot latte, flavored and frothed with your favorite spices, preferred milk and expertly executed high-quality espresso. Small shops serving bottomless organic roasts will tempt even the biggest Starbucks fans, who will delight in ordering a Pike Place Roast at the company’s first location in Pike Place Market.
Choosing among Seattle’s best brews can be hard, which is why some visitors, and even locals, enjoy iced soy lattes with their hoppy craft beers. // © 2011 Mindy Poder
At Fork & Spoon cafe on Bainbridge Island, guests can enjoy organic coffee, seasonal produce and a local bakery’s artisan breads. // © 2011 Mindy Poder
Guests of all dietary preferences can enjoy Seattle’s Japanese-style street hotdogs, which use meat or vegetarian franks. // © 2011 Mindy Poder