Hungry in Seattle

You can be a lot of things in Seattle–sleepless, wet, caffeinated, a member of a hot, trampy band of medical residents…and of course, hungry. Last weekend sis Michelle and I followed the train tracks to the Emerald City, and had a grand old time.

It occurred to me that our adventure has all the trappings of a romantic mini-break for you and yours this Valentine’s Day weekend. It’s not to late to make the reservations–and won’t you be all the more lauded for your spontaneity?

While it may be the slightly more expensive route, taking the Amtrak Cascades to Seattle is by far the most relaxing way to travel north. We departed on the 4:40 pm train, bags stuffed to the brim with what would prove to be far too many boots, and clutching a carefully-assembled train picnic.

Our feast started off simply enough, with a round of decadent Brillat-Savarin triple cream Brie and a couple of Lovejoy Bakers‘ mini-baguettes. Dessert was added, a bar of Scharffen Berger’s 41% Milk Chocolate with Sea-Salted Almonds. I don’t usually eat milk chocolates, I far prefer dark, but this bar is divine–rich, nutty, and nuanced.

Next, a couple of Olympic Provisions chorizos crashed the party, accompanied by a few minibar bottles of Finlandia vodka, which doubled as both a gullet-full of fiery weekend kickoff and hand sanitizer.

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There was also a bottle of champagne somewhere in there because no train picnic is complete without bubbly, even if you have to drink it from plastic cups from the train’s dining car because someone forgot flutes. The same someone also forgot a sharp knife, so we had to saw at the chorizo with a plastic knife. I was grateful we had the vodka-hand sanitizer.

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From the Seattle Times

We arrived in Seattle at 8:30 pm, and were whisked downtown in a cab to the luxurious Hotel 1000, a beautiful boutique hotel on the corner of 1st and Madison. We were greeted like royalty despite reeking of vodka and chorizo, handed glasses of champagne while we checked in, and given a corner room on the 12th floor with brilliant views of the Sound and downtown Seattle. The ever-gracious staff was very accommodating of our every wish. Mine was free internet, Michelle’s was a Blackberry charger because she’d forgotten that in addition to the flutes and knife.

Minutes after we’d settled into our swanky room and had a good jump on the bed, an impressive cheese plate arrived, accompanied by a bottle of wine. The plate, which was heavy on Vermont cheeses, included a wedge of Bijou, Vella Dry Jack, Piedmont, Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam, Ayr, and Baleyhazen Blue. We were quite taken with this cheese plate, ordering it three times during our visit, which caused Michelle a serious case of cheese constipation.

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The room itself was gorgeous, but even more spectacular was the bathtub, the centerpiece of the massive bathroom, which I’m certain was bigger than my entire studio apartment. The free-standing tub sat in front of a floor-to-ceiling window, and the water flowed from the ceiling in a thick stream that made quick frothy work of the vial of bubble bath provided. It was the ideal spot to enjoy a glass of wine and a birds-eye view of the city.

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Michelle, you CANNOT spend the entire weekend in the bathtub!

We explored the hotel a bit, touring the spa, library, virtual golfing, posh lounge, well-stocked wine cellar, and restaurant, BOKA, where we enjoyed some delicious Kumamoto oysters and Prosecco.

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The next morning we slept in jet setter-style, and after Michelle finished watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians, and I finished dropping my poor iPhone Georgie I in our toilet, we headed out for lunch. Despondent about the unfortunate Georgie, I could hardly enjoy my ham on baguette and hazelnut butter lettuce salad at bustling Capitol Hill café Caffe Presse. The $4.50 glasses of Cremant were heartening though.

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After a stop at the AT&T store to seek medical attention for Georgie, which then led us to a subterranean QFC for a bag of rice for him in which he had to convalesce for the duration of the trip and then some, we did some shopping and stopped at a lackluster cupcake shop that shall not be named. We spent most of the afternoon at H&M downtown, buying jeggings and umbrellas, because when in Seattle…make a beeline for H&M. Then it was back to the room for naps and more cheese.

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More cheese! I can't get enough cheese! I'll never fit in my new jeggings!

Saturday night we got dolled up and headed out to Cantinetta. Our cab driver took us far from the city, into the distant borough of Wallingford, passing the time with stories of how he was the best dancer in his village. We nearly gave up hope of finding the restaurant in the dark, thickly residential neighborhood, but it finally appeared, anchoring a short block of shops.

The quintessential neighborhood cafe, Cantinetta was overflowing with jovial patrons. The casually dressed crowd was eating and drinking leisurely, the kitchen sending out plate after plate of Pacific Northwest-influenced Tuscan cuisine, the cocktails flowing (quite literally, all over Michelle’s new silk dress, courtesy of my new H&M umbrella’s wickedly curved handle.)

We started with a refreshing salad of avocado and grapefruit with a kalamata olive relish and roasted chiles. The dish was tart, creamy, sweet and briny, reminscent of both winter and spring. We also shared a delicious dish of crisply jacketed pan-fried gnocchini with chunks of tender duck confit, sage, and sweet winter squash.

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As we only had one evening, we decided to dine progressively, and cabbed over to the vivacious Queen Anne neighborhood to How to Cook a Wolf, where we squeezed into the one available table and inexplicably ordered both cheese dishes on the menu, the fresh buffalo mozzarella with lemon-dressed arugula, and the lemon berry cheesecake, which was more like a lemon pudding cake, the moist, dense bottom giving way to soft sweet-tart curd on top.

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The increasingly boisterous, Tecate-swilling crowd continued to press into the small restaurant as it morphed into quite the Saturday night scene, so we excused our cheesy-queasy selves, lumbered into a cab and headed downtown to How To Cook a Wolf’s more sedate sister restaurant, Union, for digestifs.

Returning to the drizzly streets of downtown Seattle, we were heckled by bands of wandering wankers on account of our snazzy new H&M umbrellas, and invited to parties in people’s pants. After a final glass of Prosecco at nearby Bookstore Bar, we returned to the sanctuary of the hotel, where we took more baths and watched movies.

On Sunday, we requested late check out and walked to famous Pike’s Place Market, where we ogled the abundant produce and bawdy fishmongers/fishtossers, and bought a bag of hot, doughy, cinnamon-sugar dusted, made-before-your-eyes Daily Dozen Doughnut Company doughnuts.

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We visited the Athenian Inn and let our Olympic Provisions chubs sit in the same stool Tom Hanks’ chub sat in during the filming of epic romcom Sleepless in Seattle, then we dropped them off at bustling Beecher’s Handmade Cheese for the Beecher’s buyer’s sampling pleasure.

We couldn’t stomach any more cheese, but our chocolate cravings were alive and well, so we headed down quaint Post Alley, a half block up from Pike’s Place, to Rose’s Chocolate Treasures. Rose’s uses very high cacao percentage chocolates in their truffles, so they are deep and rich, and not particularly sweet.

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On the way back to the hotel, Fran’s Chocolates beckoned with sparkling XOXO-bedecked windows from its perch in the swanky Four Seasons. Inside, we browsed rows upon rows of perfectly-placed truffles and caramels, receiving a complimentary milk chocolate caramel for our trouble.

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Back at the hotel, we reluctantly bid our beautiful room adieu and cleaned up the scattered remnants of the cheese plates best we could. I wrenched a sobbing Michelle from her grip on the bathtub’s rim, and the Hotel 1000 driver transported us to the Amtrak station in style, in a sleek Lincoln Town Car.

Once on the train, we ate all our remaining chocolates and doughnuts, chatted up our neighbors, read fashion magazines, took pictures of ourselves administering manual facelifts, and ran up and down the aisles handbag-jousting, you know, all the things you cannot do when you drive to and from Seattle.

Being completely cheesed out and all, we had not packed a picnic, but cobbled together an impromptu return trip luncheon from the dining car–steaming hot cups of thick Ivar’s clam chowder and tiny salty oyster crackers, the kind you can’t seem to get enough of. We washed our hands with Finlandia before eating them, of course.

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