Our last day in Seattle was Groundhog Day. The movie, I mean. Once again, I was the first out of bed. Once again, everyone else was stirring by the time I emerged from the bathroom. And once again, they wanted me to go across the street to Starbucks for a carbon copy of their orders from the previous two days. Little Sister tagged along this time though, lucky thing since Starbucks was out of drink carriers. The agenda for the day was to pack quickly, head over to the Pike Place Market, return to the hotel to check out (the only thing about leaving that I was really looking forward to), and hit Uwajimaya in the International District on our way out of town.
Pike Place Market has staggered hours. We arrived after the breakfast eateries and fresh goods suppliers had set up for the day, but before the other non-food merchants and other restaurants had opened.
|Incredibly fresh seafood|
The first thing we did was make a circuit of the entire market. I had recovered some from my gluttony of the previous days and was feeling a little peckish, and though there were some seafood options available (fried oyster fritata, anyone?), I wasn’t really craving fish.
I couldn’t believe that I was going to have gone to Seattle for three days…well two, really…and not have any seafood, but that’s how it was shaping up. There didn’t seem to be much point in getting any unless it was fresh, and the chilly gray morning didn’t inspire a fresh fish craving. Then again, I still hadn’t had any coffee, either. For my first bite of the day, I chose the Mee Sum Pastry counter across the street.
|Asian pastries for breakfast? Yes please!|
While Roommate and Tween seemed a little taken aback at the idea of BBQ pork for breakfast, but I simply could not resist the siren call of fresh hom bow.
|BBQ Pork Hom Bow|
A bit of an aside here: while looking around to see if Mee Sum has a website, I came across some nasty comments about this particular dish. It’s exactly the kind of thing that people on review sites gripe about. They’re cheaper in the International District, they’re better in San Francisco, blah blah freaking blah. Odds are no matter what you’re eating or where you’re eating it, it’s better somewhere else. Not being the best isn’t the same as not being good. It’s not always possible or easy, but maybe try just a little harder to appreciate things for what they are rather gripe about what they’re not. Enough of that rant, the point is that while this was not the best pork bun I’ve ever had, it was damn good and a great start on a cold morning. It was fluffy, flaky, savory and all-around yummy.
|This is the obligatory picture from the original Starbucks. By law, you have to take one.|
After a pause to gaze at the waterfront, be harassed by pigeons and wait for more things to open, we headed toward another of my “must try” spots.
|There’s a definite baked goods theme developing here…|
In case you didn’t catch it one of the dozens of other times I’ve brought this up, I kind of idolize Anthony Bourdain. Since he did the combination Portland/Seattle Pacific Northwest episode during season three of No Reservations, I’ve wanted to check out Piroshky Piroshky. These guys have been turning out Russian-style handheld pies in sweet and savory varieties, each with its own unique design for easy differentiation, for over two decades now. And damn are they good at it. After scoping out the selection I chose, of all things, a vegetarian item.
|Potato and Cheese piroshky|
If you’re seeing this because the friend/loved one/co-worker/whatever who was reading it collapsed, it was just a reaction to the vegetarian thing. Just give them a minute to come around,or maybe some smelling salts if you have them on hand.
Welcome back! Feeling okay now? Let’s continue…
|Inside the Potato and Cheese piroshky|
If you can imagine all the deliciousness of a simple potato, cheese and green onion hash brown casserole but stuffed in a chewy, golden brown pastry and and sprinkled with chives, that’s basically the Potato and Cheese piroshky. I shared bites of it around and everyone was pretty impressed. As for me, I may never eat a Hot Pocket again.
|Lemon Twist piroshky|
To be nice (and of course for the sake of a more well-rounded review), I surprised the ladies with a Lemon Twist piroshky to share. I can’t link to it on their site because it doesn’t appear to be one of their normal menu items, which is too bad because Roommate declared it “freaking delicious”. I didn’t try it myself, I was too wrapped up in my own piroshky and the lemon one was gone by the time I finished.
|Beecher’s Seattle Storefront|
Our next stop was at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, yet another place I learned of thanks to that No Reservations episode. We were there well before lunch, which is unfortunate because their cafe looks like it churns out some amazing things, including a mac and cheese that they’re somewhat famous for. There were prepared versions of this available for purchase, but we were gearing up for a nine hour car ride and refrigerated goods didn’t seem like a great idea.
After trying nibbles of various things, including the amazing smoked version of their famous Flagship cheese, I purchased a small tub of curds and a little block of the regular Flagship for the ride home. Next, a little smartphone wizardry to see what else was nearby revealed that we were just the proverbial hop, skip and jump away from a place one of my Facebook followers had recommended, and just like that we were on the move again.
|You gotta love the Space Needle as the “t”…|
So, Biscuit Bitch. You could say the name is immature. Gimmicky. An attempt to draw the attention of tourists. Maybe all of these things. But the important thing is that the food is damn good. The fact that they had a substantial line of people waiting for a turn to order at a time when a lot of the other eateries we passed had nothing but bored workers gazing out their windows speaks to that. The place is a hip little hole in the wall with a mock-Southern vibe, which makes sense given the menu and location. And of course, most of the menu items have fun, vulgar little names. This made ordering slightly difficult for me. Should I choose the item with the funniest name, or just the one that sounded like the best dish? Most of the truly outrageous names were saved for the biggest plates, and I wasn’t all that hungry anymore after the pork bun, piroshky and cheese samples. In the end I went with the straightforward, egg and cheese Bitchwich breakfast sandwich. Yes, it’s another vegetarian item. Put your head down and take deep breaths until the shock passes. If we had been there during lunch hours and I’d had a bit more of an appetite, I would have chosen the sandwich dubbed You Lucky Bitch (sort of their take on a Cuban sandwich), but it will have to wait for another time.
|Egg and cheese Bitchwich|
In all fairness this would be a hard dish to screw up with only three ingredients, but there are those who could manage it. Luckily the egg was cooked well, the cheese was good and melty, and the biscuit was a good combination of crusty and crumbly. I wasn’t too fond of the orange juice they were peddling, but all in all Biscuit Bitch is one of the places I’ve thought most about returning to since I got home.
And that is in spite of Little Sister’s order, the Canadian Bitch. Same great biscuits, fine, and bacon is of course a generally welcome addition to any breakfast item. So, it has to be the maple peanut butter that put the rest of us off. Seriously, the rest of us didn’t even like the smell, a fact that was confirmed when Little Sister whipped out the half she didn’t finish later on as we were driving toward home. Still, it made an impression on her, and she has mentioned craving it since then.
|See, Greg? I went!|
The time to bid a final goodbye to the crappy hotel was fast approaching, but before we left I really felt I had to do something about this lack of coffee situation. We were near Café Fonté again and the weather was definitely more appropriate, so I stopped in for a French pressed cup of their Portofino, a bold and delightfully smooth blended roast that I could get very used to. While I waited, I actually looked around the place. They also have a full bar, a very decent wine selection and a variety of high-end foodstuffs. I haven’t been many other places where you can get a cup of seriously gourmet coffee and a plate of rabbit gnocchi or pork belly benedict under the same roof, so I would definitely like to give them a serious try on a future visit.
Back at the hotel, we grabbed our bags and had the valet attendant fetch the car from wherever it had been hiding for the previous two days. We made our stop at Uwajimaya for interesting snacks and gifts, and then we were on the road back to Boise.
|The roasted nut stand at Uwajimaya|
I guess it’s only appropriate that we ended with something bittersweet. For YEARS now, I’ve been wanting to try a roasted chestnut. Blame all those hokey Christmas songs. There is a stand that sells them in front of Uwajimaya, so I bought a bag.
|This is how dreams are crushed.|
I was trying very hard to decide what I thought of the slightly smokey, slightly sweet, overall nutty taste of these things when my roommate said “These taste like the cat’s breath smells”, ruining them for me forever. I guess that’s okay though, I wasn’t really digging them anyway. Perhaps some things are best left to the imagination.
It was such a whirlwind that it didn’t really strike me that it was over until we stopped for gas and crappy road food (the girls were craving Taco Time, and I have a weakness for the potstickers at the Safeway deli…don’t judge me). For a while now, I’ve been entertaining the idea of moving to Portland in a few years. I’d actually been pretty much set on the idea. But now, I could easily see ending up in Seattle instead. It might take another visit or two to each city in order to decide, but that’s the kind of research I love doing.
Mee Sum Pastry
Food: I only tried one thing, but if their other offerings are even half as good it’s a worthwhile stop. A
Value: Worth every penny of the $2.75 I paid. A
Service: It’s a sidewalk stand, you only deal with them for a moment but they’re very polite. A
Atmosphere: See above. A
Final Grade: A
Food: Amazing, addictive and portable. A+
Value: Very reasonable, unless you want them to ship an order to you. Still considering it. A
Service: Some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet at a hole in the wall. A+
Atmosphere: See above. A+
Final Grade: A+
Food: Messy, crumbly and delicious. Comfort food all the way. A
Value: Probably better than you’d expect for such a kitchsy place. A
Service: The people are great, but the line moves a little slow. They could use more cooking space. A
Atmosphere: Plenty of it, from the Biscuit Bitch merchandise and cheesy signs all over the walls to the disturbing paintings for sale by local artists. I shoulda bought the Mr. Potato Head as Leatherface one. A+
Final Grade: A