Wednesday, June 30, 2010

capitol hill

Friday, June 4, was our first full day in Seattle, and it was probably the day I was most looking forward to on our itinerary.  The plan was to go and explore Capitol Hill, one of the city's more alternative neighborhoods.  It pretty much sounded like Seattle's version of our neighborhood in SF, which meant that there should be plenty of interesting things to see and eat.
But first, there was breakfast to find a little closer to the hotel.  With all my extensive planning, I had that covered; we would have a nice sit-down breakfast at Tom Douglas' Lola.  I knew I wanted to try the doughnuts there after seeing Giada De Laurentiis sing their praises on The Best Thing I Ever Ate.  When I started researching Seattle food, that was one of the first things to make it on my "to-eat" list.  It also quickly became apparent that Tom Douglas was one of the big names in Seattle food, with his numerous restaurants.  I figured we should eat at one of them, but in the end, I wasn't willing to give up one of our limited number of dinners in town.  Luckily, in addition to the doughnuts being served at the Dahlia Lounge as a dessert, they are also served at Dahlia Bakery and at Lola for breakfast.  The food selection and seating options were better for breakfast at Lola, so we did that.
My doughnuts were brought to the table in a little paper bag and shaken with cinnamon and sugar. then the top of the bag was snipped off, and they were dumped onto my waiting plate.  Still warm and pillowy and served with vanilla mascarpone and apricot as the "seasonal jam," they did not disappoint.  The vanilla mascarpone was creamy, slightly cold, and had a lovely vanilla flavor.  It kind of reminded me of the double devon cream that tea rooms serve with scones.  The apricot jam was also pretty interesting, with a bit of cinnamon spice, but I preferred the jam and mascarpone together on the doughnuts, rather than the jam alone.

Steve's breakfast was more of a wild card.  I had seen the menu online ahead of time and read reviews that had included Tom's Big Breakfast.  It appeared to be a seasonal dish, always using octopus, but substituting different veggies depending on the time of year.  I think the review I read was from someone who had tried a fall version with squash.  The version on our menu had snap peas, bacon, chickpeas, and green garlic yogurt with the octopus.  I thought it sounded really good, and the reviewer loved the fall one, so I was curious to try it.  Steve wasn't sure, but I bullied him into ordering it.

Steve ended up loving the dish, as did I.  The bites that I stole from it satisfied my craving for salty to break up the sweet of the doughnuts.  I also used some of his bread to eat with the remaining mascarpone and jam once I ran out of doughnuts.  Since Steve kept talking about Tom's Big Breakfast the rest of the trip, I didn't have to feel bad about pressuring him into ordering it.
After breakfast, we walked toward Capitol Hill.  Our first stop in the neighborhood was the brand new Melrose Market.  It was still quite obviously under construction, but a few of its tenants were open for business already.  There was Marigold and Mint, a cute flower shop (pictured below) which was the initial draw for me, before I knew about the market as a whole.  There was also a butcher, a cheese counter, and a restaurant (Sitka and Spruce).  A sandwich shop is coming, but that was the part that was most under construction at the time.

The main area of the little market, housed in a single building with few interior walls, felt a little like the SF Ferry Building, but on a much smaller scale.  The idea here seems to be more communal too.  The cured meats from Rain Shadow Meats and cheeses from Calf and Kid will likely be used in Homegrown's sandwiches and at Sitka and Spruce as well.  It's a cool project, and we'll have to revisit it to see how it turns out the next time we find ourselves in Seattle.
Continuing up Pike St., we looked at a few more shops before lunchtime.  There was Izilla Toys, newly reopened after having just moved to a new location; NuBe Green, a shop on Pine St. that sells green/sustainable housewares; and Flora & Henri, an adorable (and expensive) boutique with baby clothes and toys.

Then, we carried out my plan for lunch at Oddfellows Cafe.  This was another place I stumbled upon while researching Capitol Hill.  Between the general look of the website and the online menu, I was sold.

We got there, waited in a line to order, and I saw all kinds of photographic opportunities.  There were the pastries and drink menu (above), as well as the jars of garnishes on the bar (below).
Steve ordered a French Dip, and I got a sandwich that was essentially a caprese salad on a baguette: mozzarella, tomato, and basil.  I had to add a little salt, since the mozzarella wasn't very salty on its own, but it was a good meal.  I often don't feel like eating something really heavy for lunch while traveling, especially when we're eating a lot to try to fit more places in.  This was light, fresh, and delicious.
Speaking of eating a lot, dessert was next.  We made a quick stop to look around a store we had passed before, but after that, it was off to Cupcake Royale for my first cupcake of the trip.  Seattle has apparently been home to a cupcake craze in the last few years.  My research found a cupcake store for nearly every area that we planned to visit, and a couple of them were different locations of Cupcake Royale.

I had trouble deciding between the red velvet and the salted caramel cupcakes (trendy flavors, I know).  I went with the red velvet, because of my love for cream cheese frosting.  Steve had a bite of it, but he was rather happy with just an espresso.

I thought that the cupcake was decent, but not the best I had ever had.  The cake itself was perhaps a little dry and crumbly, and the cream cheese frosting didn't drive me wild.  I still prefer the gingerbread cupcakes with cream cheese frosting from Miette in SF.  That's probably better anyway, since Miette is a lot closer.

All sugared (or caffeined) up, we left Cupcake Royale to see some more of the neighborhood before we were due to eat more food or drink more coffee.  Sadly, we had to pass on the Molly Moon Ice Cream.  It smelled really good, but there's only so much sugar one can consume in an afternoon.
We made a stop at Elliott Bay Book Co., where we spent some time looking at the books and the card/gift section.  I didn't take any pictures inside, though I wish I had.  With the exposed brick and the large, paned windows, it looked so quintessentially Seattle.

When we left, we headed back down Pine St.  Soon, we came upon a storefront that looked a lot like some of the cards we had just been looking at at the bookstore.  It turned out to be the retail home of CakeSpy.
We went in and looked around at the art, more cards, and other CakeSpy-ware.  I decided I needed a fake terrarium—stuffed, felt mushrooms in a mason jar—and we had a lovely chat with Jessie Oleson, the artist herself.  It wasn't until I got home that I realized why her artwork seemed familiar to me: I read her review of Baked in Brooklyn a year or two ago, around the time that I got their cookbook.

Nearby, we also stopped in at Area 51, a cool furniture store with lots of vintage stuff.  It would fit in well in the Mission; it was just quirky enough.  On our way out, we struck up a conversation with the owner, who had actually lived in SF before.  He was flattered that his store had appeared on our radar, but I had found it while looking for neighborhoods much like my own.  Not too surprising, really, since I knew what kinds of places I liked.

Coffee was the next item on the list for the afternoon.  It would be a good way to rest our feet and kill time before dinner.  Unfortunately, my information (and Google Maps') was out of date.  We went looking for Espresso Vivace at the corner of Denny & Broadway, only to find a Pete's and some construction across the street from it.  According to their website, the main location of Espresso Vivace had closed almost two years ago and moved up the street a ways.  That flat piece of land that was under construction was where it used to be.

Not knowing all this, we headed up Broadway to look for somewhere else to go, in a bit of a haze from tired feet and indecision.  We passed an Espresso Vivace sidewalk cafe, but it was all outdoor seating, which didn't appeal to us.  It was intermittently drizzling, and it was a little chilly.  So we kept walking.  We saw another Espresso Vivace (the new one, as it turns out), but it looked crowded and wasn't a location I had heard about before.  Instead, we decided to maybe walk to the one I knew of that was supposed to be across from the REI.

The problem?  It was on the other side of the highway, somewhat inaccessible, down a sizeable hill.  We figured this out when we reached the highway.  There was no way that we wanted to walk all the way to this place, if we could even figure out how to get there.  By the time we actually found it, we'd probably have to turn around and hike all the way back up the hill to get back to the restaurant for dinner.  So I took a few pictures of the view, and we turned around.
detour view
We were still in search of a coffee shop so we could sit for a while.  We went into one, but it said that they served Starbucks coffee, so we left.  We didn't come all the way to Seattle to drink Starbucks.  Instead, we went back to that Espresso Vivace (the real one).  By this time, I wasn't thirsty for anything but water, fearing that I'd spoil my dinner if I got the mocha that I wanted.  Steve got some coffee, though, and we managed to find a seat for a while.  We probably should have just gone to Bauhaus Coffee in the first place.  It was also on my list, but it was on the Pike/Pine side of the neighborhood, from which we had just come.  By the time we learned of the Espresso Vivace issue, it was in the opposite direction from our dinner destination.

Our dinner at Poppy was next, but I'll save that for a separate post.

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