Saturday, October 16, 2010

Chocolate is the new coffee (and coffee and chocolate are the new peanut butter and chocolate)

My detour to Seattle was in part to see if I've been romanticizing the city since I went there in junior high with my family. I haven't been. I'm falling fast for this city. Having the Public Market so close is the relationship equivalent of getting flowers every day, and not just the standard beautiful red rose, but the funky, fun interesting blossoms that create unique bouquets each day. On my first walk through the market, I watched the enthusiastic fish throwers toss around a crab, and then a fish (I'm not versed enough in fish to know what kind it was. It was huge and was probably alive earlier that morning swimming around in the cool water). I picked up a pint of fresh, organic raspberries, sampled apple spice tea and ogled a cashmere hat and arm warmers. There's still time, and I might forgo The Script concert tonight to buy them. For lunch I grabbed quite possibly the best mac n' cheese from Beecher's Cheese Market and found a bench in the park overlooking the mountains and enjoyed the outdoors and my comforting cheesy meal. Street performers have always been one of my favorite part of cities, and Seattle is no different. This performer, however, was the first of his kind I've ever encountered. He was a poet, using his art to travel. He politely asked me if I'd be interested in hearing his poem, and proceeded to recite amazing lyrics about the pursuit of happiness. I wish I would have asked him to write it down for me. But, as the saying goes, people might not remember what you say, but they always remember how you make them feel. And this traveling poet, brave enough to express himself to complete strangers gave me hope and added even more sunshine to my day.

From the market I made it to the Art Museum, which had an extensive Picasso exhibit. There's not much I can say about Picasso that hasn't been said, except for how much I enjoy seeing his evolution and life unfold through his paintings. His blue period will always be my favorite, and an inspiration that after even the darkest of times, bright colors and unique shapes can alter even the saddest perspective for the better.

Yesterday I continued my exploration with guided tours. The first, and the second best tour I've been on throughout my travels (the first being the Epicurian tour in Portland), was the Chocolate Indulgence Tour. I love that all the food tours always begin at an upscale hotel. It gives me a chance to play make believe and pretend that I am actually a guest at such a hotel. The first stop on the tour was Oliver's. The first "daylight" bar in Seattle after prohibition is located on a great corner for people watching, and the bartender makes a delicious Flatliner. What's a flatliner? it begins with espresso over ice. Then, the bartender adds cocoa liquor, Baily's and rum, shakes and pours topping the tasty beverage with three espresso beans. Since our tour started at 11, we just had a little sample, not a full martini glass so we could enjoy the rest of our chocolaty samples.

Next stop, Dahlia Bakery. We walked to the Tom Douglas District (named for, you guessed it, Tom Douglas, a chef who owns about a handful of restaurants in a four block radius). Dahlia is one of his famous places, and his pasty is worth the hype. The triple coconut creme pie topped with white chocolate shavings and chocolate truffle cookie dusted with powdered sugar were enough to satisfy the most aching sweet tooth, and this was just the beginning.

Next we were served a mini cupcake, a chocolate wrapped brownie and chocolate gelato with a surprisingly delicious lemon sorbet beneath adding a level of freshness to the chocolate deliciousness. The tour guide explained the lemon chocolate combination the best when she said it was like a tuxedo and tennis shoes. You wouldn't necessarily put them together, but it can be charming. They even gave us milk at the Chocolate Box, adding to the kid in a candy store feel of the tour.

We carried on to the market and stopped at The Confectional. Best name for a chocolate shop/bakery ever. Their slogan is, "Forgive me chocolate for I have sinned. I have not yet had my daily confection." We had chocolate crust raspberry cheesecake and Columbian sipping chocolate made in a European style making it thicker than traditional Latin American drinking chocolates. They also have pumpkin cheesecake. They are on my list for today, even though I've already had my Starbucks pumpkin scone and Chai.

Popcorn was next. The people at Kukuruza (Russian for popcorn) Gourmet Popcorn hand drizzled dark chocolate over their air popped corn and in their Rocky Road version added marshmallows and pecans. I may have to order online for the holidays to share their awesomeness with friends and family.

Our last stop was the Tiffany's of chocolate shops. The chocolates are kept in glass cases like Tiffany's diamonds, and the boxes resemble Tiffany's in that they come with a silk ribbon adorning the recognizable square box. The last of the tour bites was world famous. It is Obama's favorite chocolate, a chocolate covered salted caramel to be exact. If you were to have dinner at the White House, you would be sent home with two of these delicious treats, one dark and one milk. And, if you're like me, and your chance of coming to Seattle far outweighs your chance of being invited to a state dinner at the White House, you have to visit Fran's to join me in saying that you adore the same chocolate as the president.

Then, sweet tooth satisfied 10 times over (which might have been part of the happiness the poet was talking about), I walked to Pioneer Square to walk off a bit of my sugar/theobromine high. Pioneer Square is where the Seattle Underground Tour started. Like most US cities, Seattle had a seedy underbelly. It probably still has some dodgy business going on, again, like most cities, but this literal underground has been open to tourists for nearly 60 years. The sidewalks underground are condemned now, and the smell is definitely palpable. Today's Seattle is the second or third version of the city. Originally settlers homes were swept into the water by the tide, and then the entire city was ablaze. As we walked through the former streets, we heard tales of how women "seamstresses" saved the economy, and how in the early 1900s the sidewalks looked as though they were moving due to the rat infestation. The city eventually offered 10 cents per rat tale to encourage residents to help exterminate the disease ridden rodents, but upon following kids who were regular tail deliverers, they found the 10 year olds were breeding rats and cutting the tails off for money. This stopped the tail payments and closed off the underground until the tour was open. All the spider webs, bricks and rubbish is original. And, if you believe in this sort of thing, many visitors and guides say the place is haunted. I'll check my photos for orbs, but really it might just be the light playing tricks on us.

Well, the Sci-Fi museum (yep, I'm a nerd, but really part of me is doing this to make my nerdier friends a little jealous) and Experience Music Project await. Too bad I'm a week too soon for the Battle Star Gallactica exhibit. Maybe next time...

1 comment:

  1. I did the Underground tour, too! Very cool, isn't it??