The Seattle chronicles continues… Why just visit the market when you can taste your way through it? Not to mention, instead of just eyeing the various vendors, also learning some history along the way? Did I mention it was a food tour with lots of tastes?
After a quick refresh at our hotel, we walked over to the Seattle Art Museum, known as SAM locally, to start our Seattle Bites Food Tour of the Pike Place Market. We walked past SAM’s “The Hammering Man” on the Corner of 1st Ave and University St. (he hammers slowly every day except Labor day) to meet in front of the cafeteria where we were introduced to the guide and received our reusable bag, a map vaguely outlining some of our destinations, and a radio/earpiece so that we could always hear her no matter where we were as we were walking or how busy the market might get.
Our first bite was right there at Taste, the restaurant in SAM, with a taste of smoked salmon flatbread with crème fraîche and fine herbs. The Seattle Art Museum actually started out with a large collection of Asian art in the early 1900s, but then in the 1990s with the success of the King Tut exhibition, it expanded to the current downtown facility and the original location became the Seattle Asian Art Museum with which it still has links- you can visit both museums in the same week for the price of one admission ticket. About 5 years ago SAM also expanded to create the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park by waterfront park property to showcase outdoor sculptures for free. Taste Restaurant in the museum is close to Pike Place Market and sources ingredients from there, thus the tasting stop we had here.
Next, after a little history of how the Pike Place Market was founded over the price of onions marked up by wholesaler middlemen from ten cents to one dollar in just a year, and the outrage resulted in a City Councilman proposing a public market that would connect farmers directly with consumers. Customers would “Meet the Producer” directly. The first day the middlemen that tried to tell farmers it was a terrible idea and only 8 farmers showed up, who were then sold out in hours. So the next day, more farmers came, and thus it has been going ever since 1907, making it the oldest continuously run street market in the United States. Armed with that lesson, we then walked to the market and now understood the large sign with the Meet the Producer over the market.
Next, we visited Crepe de France where we used the utensils and napkins that had been packed in the reusable bag for us on Crepe de France’s Paris-inspired fruit Banana and Nutella crepe with whipped cream. Pike Place Market’s Crepe de France is actually owned by an Indonesian woman (who you can vaguely see to the right behind the counter, her back turned to us) who we thanked as a group with a loud “merci beaucoup”.
Next, we passed through Post Alley, passing by Britt’s Pickles on our way to Pike Place Market Creamery with its offering of dairy wonderland and the tale of Nancy Nipples the milkmaid (yes that’s her name!). We continued on then on to Pike Place Chowder in the portion of Pike Place Market that is called the The Sanitary Market, as live animals were banned in that area. Pike Place Chowder boasts “America’s Best Clam Chowder” after winning 3 years in a row after competing in Great Chowder Cook-Off in Newport (even though in its history no restaurant outside New England had ever won!). They were told to take a break from competing for 10 years, but they are in the Great Chowder Cook-Off Hall-of-Fame. The sun came out in Seattle as we learned about the music and busking in the Pike Place Market area, and then we visited Corner Produce for some various fresh fruit samples, freshly sliced with a knife in the producer’s hand as we stood there on the street.
We turned back around towards the insides of the market to Saffron Spice for Mom-inspired chicken tikka masala from a classically French-trained South Indian chef, which was then washed down with fresh mango lassi fortified with more fresh fruit from the market.
As we continued our tour, we stopped at some of the tiles of the market floor, part of the renovation from the original wood, and admired some tiles that had numbers. These are part of a love letter from a man to his mathematician wife: her favorite prime numbers are what he placed on the Pike Place Market tiles he purchased from her. We learned also about Rachel the pig who helps collect a few thousand each year to help fund the various social services the Market also provides to the community. I also took some shots of some of the beautiful and colorful flowers of the market, and some of the hustle and lights of the market.
Next was a sampling of hand-crafted sausage by a German master butcher, Uli’s Famous Sausages was followed by a stop just next door to admire the enormous crabs and taste Salmon- Alderwood Smoked and Teriyaki Smoked Salmon jerky from Pure Food Fish Market.
We then walked through the craftsmen part of the Market, and finally, we wrapped up our tour after the Gum Wall with tasting oils and vinegars at Quintessential Gourmet, where the epitome of meet the producer was experienced as he gave us recipes and suggested various combinations of flavored oils and vinegars that blew our minds.
Coming next… the best meal in Seatle of the weekend, at The Whale Wins.