Trip Diary: Seattle

I was back in Seattle just a few months after I was last here, this time for the ALA Midwinter conference. I didn’t have time or money to add on any vacation this time, but I did get to revisit a couple of fun places, and check out some new spots.

Overall I just love Seattle and look forward to the next time I can get out there to eat and explore. I have missed large swaths of the city, so next time I’ll have to stay in another area. For a full list of all the places I’ve earmarked or visited, take a look at this map. You might also be interested in the writeups from May: Conference portion, trip plan & overview, what I ate, where I went.Stayed at: The Westin Seattle. Per usual at the ALA conferences, this was booked by the guy who arranges all the stuff for our marketing team, which does a lot more conference travel than my group. As expected the room was very comfortable, and had the bonus of being very quiet. This hotel had a door hanger you could put out to turn down housekeeping entirely, which I did for my entire stay. (I’ve never felt the need to have everything cleaned and changed daily.) In return, each night you do so you get a voucher for either $5 off at a hotel restaurant, or 500 hotel points. I turned mine in for the points, as the hotel dining options were rather limited while the restaurant is being renovated. As a side note, I think the key cards here were the easiest I’ve ever used. It worked on the first time, every time, no fiddling with how far/fast to pull it out, etc.

Ate at: After arriving on Thursday, I had the afternoon and evening free. I walked down to Pike Place Market with no real idea of what I wanted for lunch, and wound up going by The Pike Place Chowder Company. They have about a dozen chowders on offer at any given time, and luckily for me you can get a sampler of four, 5oz portions. I tried their traditional New England clam chowder, seared scallop chowder, the seafood bisque, and  and their market chowder of the day, which was in a clear broth. (Thus causing me to wonder – is it really chowder? Hardly matters, it was delicious.) After that I walked around for a bit and had a couple of drinks at the Pike Pub, which is part of the Pike Brewing Company. When I was done there I had enough time to go by Whole Foods to pick up snacks for the rest of the trip, and then I met up with some friends for dinner at Via Tribunali. The food and atmosphere were great, and our server was wonderful.

Friday for lunch I wound up at a Vietnamese restaurant called New Saigon, where my eyes were bigger than my stomach. The pho was good, though not the best I’ve had, but it came out super-fast, which is always key when having lunch at a conference. Spring rolls were unexpectedly huge, but mostly filled with noodles. Dinner was at the Daily Grill, which I wasn’t particularly excited about, but I did have a tasty seared tuna salad, and a few bites of a shared slice of Key Lime pie that was creamy and tart.

By Saturday morning I was really craving oatmeal, my usual breakfast, so I stopped by Urbane at the Hyatt, where I knew I could get some. They serve a generous portion and for less than $15 I had coffee and oatmeal in a quiet and relaxing environment. I know that is a lot to pay for coffee and oatmeal, but I am lucky enough to be able to do that when traveling. Lunch on Saturday was nothing special, just a 6″ sub from Subway and some of my snacks purchased at Whole Foods, as I wasn’t that hungry. Dinner was catered by the Paramount Hotel at an event I attended there, and was pretty good.

Sunday morning breakfast was at another event, and lunch was a panini from NYC Deli Market, close to the convention center. It was a long wait for some reason, which seemed longer as I was desperate to change my heels for flats and put my bag down. None of the seating there looked particularly comfortable, so I hoofed it back to the convention center and found a lovely little corner. I also got to try an Australian root beer, Bundaberg. Yum. Sunday evening I ate leftovers from an event another vendor had hosted.

Monday morning found me back at Urbane, and lunch never really happened. I ate some snacks, and part of a sandwich from our lunch presentation. After that I went back to Top Pot Donuts for a Chocolate Sandcastle (chocolate cake donut with cinnamon sugar) to hold me over until dinner.

Let’s talk about Monday’s dinner, which was an amazing meal at Poppy. The cuisine is Northwestern/New American. But it’s served using a concept from India called thali. Basically a thali is a plate of several small dishes (a few bites each). It’s like tapas, but smaller portions and everyone gets their own collection of dishes. There are several thalis to choose from, and here’s what I got:

spot prawns, kohlrabi and pea sprouts in coconut tamarind sauce
butternut, kumquat and fennel soup
grilled radicchio, leek and lentil salad
delicata squash and black-eyed peas with berbere
cauliflower with toasted garlic, horseradish and currants
fennel kimchi
nigella-poppy naan

I think the black-eyed peas were my favorite. So creamy and delicious! I then split the dessert thali with one of my companions:

mango lime marshmallows
nutter-butter squares
concord grape and rosemary pâtes de fruit
orange chocolate crunch
burnt-honey walnut ice cream with prunes
tahitian vanilla panna cotta with grapefruit gelée and lime shortbread

Super delicious. If you are intrigued by this concept and in Seattle sometime, GO. The atmosphere was nice – reminded me a little of Woodberry Kitchen.

Getting around: In the interest of stretching my travel budget a bit, I took the Link light rail up from Sea-Tac, which was a great decision. Last time I’d done a shared ride van, and I think the light rail was definitely faster than that whole process, and certainly cheaper. Also, way cleaner than what I am used to in Baltimore. Other than that I walked almost everywhere. Downtown Seattle is so compact, and nicely arranged in a grid, that it’s easy to get around. I did take a cab to dinner on Sunday, mostly because it was raining hard enough that I knew I’d be miserable by the time I got to the restaurant. But as the rain had let up, once I put my companions in a cab (they were at adjacent hotels) I wound up walking back to my hotel.  I took a cab to the airport, which was so easy – the lovely thing about these fancy hotels is they just take care of all this stuff for you. It’s a $40 flat rate, so $50 after tip.