In the last couple of years, I’ve made travel a priority. I spend less on clothes and meals out and things in general. And more on exploring the globe. And it has definitely made me happier.
Sharing my favorite places through culinary tours has magnified that happiness. So much so, I’m planning all sorts of new culinary adventures: Belgium, Brittany, Charleston, San Francisco, Morocco.
I’ve also been thinking about how I can share my favorite places with more of you through the blog. So in the spirit of encouraging travel and exploration and the pleasure they bring, I’ve decided to start a series of Wanderlust Guides. These little glimpses of my favorite cities reflect nothing but my own tastes and proclivities and certainly are not intended to be authoritative or all-encompassing. But I do hope they’ll lead at least a few of you to discover new places and make them your own.
I thought I’d start with Seattle. My home-sweet-home and city I find maddening (that rain!) and delightful (that view, though) by turns. This week, I’m kicking things off with arguably the most vibrant and unconventional part of the city: Capitol Hill.
I hope you enjoy this Wanderlust Guide. I’d love to hear back in the comments what you think!
Barjot is a little gem of a coffee shop/cafe/bar/bakery/slice of awesomeness that I discovered only a few weeks ago. How it took me so long to stop in, I have no idea. Because Cafe Barjot is the perfect spot to work or meet up with friends or spend a few hours reading or daydreaming and sipping a cup of True North coffee. This tiny cafe has a cozy, mid-century vibe and super-friendly staff. Plus locally-sourced, organic breakfast, lunch and dinner and a great happy hour. The only caveat in sight: parking is tough on this side of the hill, so plan accordingly.
Volunteer Park Conservatory
Opened in 1912, Volunteer Park Conservatory is home to an awe-inspiring collection of plants from around the globe and a great place to spend a relaxing hour or two (especially on a rainy day). I particularly love the succulents room with it’s otherworldly cacti and desert plants. The Conservatory is a plant-lover and photographer’s dream. If the weather’s nice, I recommend packing a picnic lunch to eat in Volunteer Park then wandering the neighborhood around the park, with its grand turn-of-the-century houses.
Some (including the venerable NYT) claim there isn’t a decent bagel to be had on the West Coast. I beg to differ. Though hardcore purists might scoff at Eltana’s honey-water-boiled and wood-fired bagels, I say they are a thing of beauty. With just the right ratio of golden crust to dense, chewy interior, Eltana's hand-rolled bagels are some of the finest I’ve ever had. The Everything and Sesame-Wheat are my personal faves. The housemade spreads are nothing to scoff at either. I recommend a dozen bagels for the freezer and a half pint of the date-walnut and the za’atar-scallion spread for the road.
Ok. Everyone and their uncle is serving cold-pressed juice these days. Juicebox, however, is really killing it with their creative juice combinations and chef-driven menu of light, bright lunch and brunch fare. Run by Brandin Myett (former chef at La Bête) and Kari Brunson (who honed her chops at numerous Ethan Stowell establishments), Juicebox offers flavors like spiced yam and turmeric gold and a selection of creamy house-made nut milks that attract the health-conscious and culinary aficionados alike. Their creative, seasonal soups, salads, wraps and scrambles make Juicebox one of my favorite places to stop for a meal or a healthy pick-me-up when I’m on the Hill.
Kurt Farm Shop
Kurt Timmermeister, farmer, author and cheesemaker extraordinaire, is bringing us more creamy goodness with his artisanal ice cream. Made from milk and cream produced by Kurt’s herd of Jerseys and served out of his tiny shop in the new Chophouse Row building, this is some of the best ice cream in the city. There are subtle flavors like rose geranium and bay laurel and classics like the deep, rich caramel that was my favorite, as well as a selection of farmstead cheeses. You’ll think you’ve died and gone to dairy heaven.
Elliott Bay Book Company
One of America’s iconic bookstores, the Elliott Bay Book Company is right up there with Powell’s in Portland, The Harvard Book Store in Cambridge and the Strand in New York in my opinion. I could spend (and have spent) hours upon hours wandering the aisles with their creaky wooden floorboards and towering bookshelves, discovering new and inspiring books and journals. This is a must for bibliophiles and one of my very favorite spots in the city. P.S. They host excellent (and frequent) author talks. Check their schedule to see what they have planned.
Let’s be honest: no one needs anything in this shop. But you’re going to want almost everything in sight if you visit. With a delightful, hyper-curated selection of clothing, jewelry, toiletries and goods for the home and office (plus a giant taxidermy grizzly bear), Glasswing is one of Seattle’s most original shops. Also, the location, next door to Taylor Shellfish and the magical Melrose Building, can’t be beat. You could spend all day in this one block stretch of Capitol Hill alone.
Marigold & Mint
Oh, how I love this shop! The flowers are some of the most beautiful and distinctive I’ve ever seen. And they are locally sourced from owner, Katherine Anderson’s, organic farm. The carefully selected soaps, books, candles and other bits and bobs on offer are always super-dreamy. The staff is lovely, especially Ayako, the genius behind Ayako and Family Jam, who occasionally works in the shop creating magnificent and whimsical floral arrangements. (P.S. Her jam, sold in the shop, is amazeballs and you need to buy as much of it as you can stuff in your suitcase and take home!) Basically, I would live here if they’d let me.
Sitka & Spruce
Located right next door to Marigold & Mint in the Melrose Market, Sitka & Spruce is my favorite of Seattle super-chef, Matt Dillon’s, empire. The space is bright and spare with that classic Matt Dillon touch in the details that makes it feel nostalgic and modern at once. The food is the best kind of Pacific Northwest Fare imaginable--local ingredients, some from Matt’s Old Chaser Farm on Vashon Island, thoughtfully combined and in portions modest enough every meal can be a sort of tasting menu. I especially love Sitka & Spruce for a weekend brunch. There’s always a wonderful hot grain bowl on the menu along with a beautiful egg dish and lots of other imaginative veg-heavy plates. And their scone is one of the best in the city. Start your meal off with one of those and a pot of their excellent French-press coffee and you can’t go wrong.
Also in the Melrose Market, Rainshadow Meats offers the highest quality meats and charcuterie in Seattle. Hands down. If you have access to a kitchen during your stay (or of course, if you live here) you absolutely should stop in for one of their excellent dry-aged steaks or housemade sausage links or a double-thick, bone-in pork chop! Also, their chicken liver mousse is to die for.
Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room
It’s not exactly cool to patronize Starbucks while living in a city that boasts so many small, independent coffee shops and roasters. But Beau and I wandered into Starbucks’ Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room one evening shortly after they opened and were completely wowed. The space is gorgeous. It’s all huge brass roasters and polished wood and soft leather chairs. The pneumatic tubes that whizz coffee beans from roaster to grinder are so much fun to watch they make you feel like a little kid in a chocolate factory. I’d consider all of this a one-time-only thrill if the coffee weren’t also very good. This is where you can taste some of Starbucks rarest coffees, small-batch roasted on-site. Even more fun, you can order your coffee brewed via pour-over, Chemex, French press, siphon, espresso machine or Clover. You can order a tasting flight of various beans brewed the same way or 1 bean brewed via different methods. It’s a coffee-lover’s dream! Definitely worth a stop if you’re visiting from out of town or if you just want to learn more about coffee.
Seattle, and Capitol Hill in particular, has no shortage of fantastic restaurants. Stateside, opened last year by Chef Eric Johnson, is one of Seattle’s best tables at the moment. The perfectly executed, Vietnam-inspired menu, superlative cocktails and lush decor recalling the jungles of Vietnam add up to a beautiful experience and my favorite dining spot on Capitol Hill. I strongly recommend one of the cocktails served in a young coconut. They a) are delicious and b) allow you to imbibe while also having the impression you’re heading off a massive hangover by drinking coconut water. Brilliant!
I hope you enjoyed this little guide. Don't forget to leave me your thoughts in the comments below as well as any spots you think I should add!