Insiders Guide To Seattle

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They say that it rains more in London than in Seattle. I’m not sure who “they “ are but, I will tell you this, a sunny day in Jet City is particularly special.

Known as the Emerald City because of the lush greenery; Seattle is a lively, progressive urban center, with a plethora of parks and surrounded by natural beauty; home to about 3.3 million people (an estimated 602,000 in the city proper). It is often times credited as the West Coast birthplace of the hipster craze, so, naturally, it has several cool kid neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Ballard, and Belltown. People here are enamored about getting out into nature, and they’re serious about protecting the environment. The live-music scene that boosted Seattle to pop-culture influence during the ’90s grunge scene (think Nirvana and Pearl Jam) continues to thrive.

Seattleites love good beer; the city is a cornerstone of the microbrew revolution. And, it makes coffee well enough to have launched an espresso empire—Starbucks, Peets, Tully's to name a few that started the coffee craze in the ’90s. It’s a bookish, erudite place, but also a dynamic and inventive urban center, with growing technology industries—Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing—and vibrant enclaves of restaurants, bars, and galleries.

Lauded restaurants, local distilleries and breweries, and museums with themes ranging from art to aviation, there is something for every visitor. On rainy days, relax in a quirky café, enjoy some neighborhood boutique shopping, or browse at an independent bookstore on Capitol Hill. Want to get out of the city? Take a day trip to Bainbridge Island, Tacoma, Leavenworth, or Mount Rainier.

Ready for a perfect Seattle day or weekend in Seattle? Grab your comfiest shoes, jacket, and sunnies, we’re about to explore the Pacific Northwest by way of Seattle.

Photo Credit: Max Delsid

Photo Credit: Max Delsid

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THINGS TO DO

The most prominent landmark is this area is the Seattle Center, which houses the Pacific Science Center, Museum of Pop Culture, Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass. Musical and performing arts shows are put on by the Pacific Northwest Ballet and Seattle Opera at the McCaw Hall, and professional sports teams display their skills at the Key Arena, home of the Seattle Storm, and at Memorial Stadium, home of the Seattle Reign. You can opt to visit each of these attractions, picking and choosing as you please, but to save a bit on seeing them all, or at least Seattle’s Top 5 Attractions, CityPass is the way to go. If you are looking for fun and unique things to do (off the beaten bath?), Airbnb Experiences might be you best bet. Locally Sourced 12 Course Tasting Menu to eat with locals or Photoshoot in Pike Place Market for that perfect insta-worthy shot.

There is something to be said about Summer days in Seattle, but the SEA rain adds to the charm of the city. On rainy days, relax in a quirky café, enjoy some neighborhood boutique shopping, or browse at an independent bookstore on Capitol Hill. Want to get out of the city? Take a day trip to Bainbridge Island, Tacoma, Leavenworth, or Mount Rainier.

Exploring each of Seattle’s neighborhoods will give you a great glimpse at it's distinct local flavor. You’ll find lots of nightlife in Belltown, just north of downtown, where young professionals go to eat, drink, and dance. Capitol Hill is the gay-friendly hipster scene; take a look at our Capitol Hill recommendations. Fremont has a funky, hippie attitude, with eclectic shops and landmarks like the Fremont Troll. Ballard has a strong Scandinavian history, but today it’s mainly cute boutiques and restaurants.

EAT

I have always wanted to visit the Emerald City, and each time I’ve visited, it’s been filled with sightseeing and eating my way around town. How to eat local, organic and sustainable in the Pacific Northwest?

Try to think of a food that isn’t grown, raised or harvested in the Pacific Northwest, and you’ll realize why in-the-know foodies have been putting down roots in the region for decades.

Outsiders, who have been slower to discover the abundance, now flock here for the food, seeking a taste of Northwest cuisine prepared by talented chefs who cook local, seasonal foods with an alluring simplicity. Seattle is a great starting point to taste the bounty of this region.

To an outsider the term Northwest cuisine, the obscure, all-encompassing term doesn’t really mean much. But, try asking a local, ‘What exactly is Northwest cuisine?’ and you might experience an uncomfortable pause followed by, ‘local, seasonal and fresh,’ or ‘organic and sustainable.’ While those words won’t conjure up an image of a specific dish or narrow to a section of the spice rack, they hint at what truly defines the regional fare – simplicity. I'm starting to think that the  farm-to-table and locavore trend started here.

To eat in and around Seattle, isn’t merely to eat well. It is to experience something that even many larger, more gastronomically celebrated cities and regions can’t offer, not to this degree: a profound and exhilarating, somewhat life-changing nirvana-like experience. Think fresh, local, and sustainable: Oysters, razor clams, Dungeness crab, king cod, salmon; Morel and Chanterelle mushrooms, huckleberries, to name a few. The late  Anthony Bourdain, Instagram, Eater have become my new TripAdvisor and Yelp when it comes to foodie recommendations.

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Pikes Place Market is great starting point to get a good sampling of the regions best. The whole of Pike Place Market qualifies as unique to Seattle, especially as it is a municipally preserved 100-year-old genuine farmer's market, with a fierce rejection of chain-stores. Starbuck's #1 is the exception and is grandfathered-in, but even they can't sell anything they weren't selling when they opened on Pike Place. If you are a chowder lover you must visit Pike Place Chowder. A bustling, stand in line to order then find somewhere to sit, with creamy clam and other chowders. Not a formal place at all, cardboard bowls and plastic spoons, but the food is excellent. A wide range, too, including a vegetarian and gluten-free options (The Manhattan Clam Chowder is gluten-free). Many awards are on display and they deserve the all. From what I can tell no matter what you order you will not be disappointed. The lines move rather fast so don't let them scare you. Trust me it is worth the wait! No trip to Seattle is complete without eating here.

The Calf and The Kid, once located inside the Melrose Market in Capitol Hill, was considered Seattle’s first cheese bar when it opened. You’ll find a great selection the best cheeses from all around the world and from right here in the Pacific Northwest paired perfectly with beer, wine, and spirits. After seeing this spot on Anthony Bourdain's show 'The Layover' I had to go because we were in the area. It was like a dairy heaven. The staff here really know their cheeses and can make recommendations based on your palette and preferences. Here, we picked up Saratoga Passage, a sheep cheese. While you're at the Melrose Market, pick up some cured meat and/or pate at Rain Shadow Meats, a bottle of wine from Bar Ferd'nand to pair with your cheeses. And on your way out, pick up a bag of homemade caramels from Sitka and Spruce.

Innovative and hearty with great fresh ingredients is Sitka and Spruce. More like a non-red-meat restaurant than a vegetarian restaurant--though vegetarians can eat very very well here indeed--the Sitka and Spruce’s menu emphasizes fresh and local in a way you might call sophisticated and yet holistic: unbelievably good local cheeses, olives, and bread; fermented pickled vegetables; kale with toasted hazelnuts, ash-roasted shallots and bosc pear; wild juniper cured king salmon with kohlrabi slaw; braised lamb shoulder, red potatoes, brussel sprouts and aioli. A great spot to get brunch, coffee or some yummy drinks is the light and airy hipster vibe, Oddfellows Café + Bar. Americana is a great small space, great service excellent food. Perfect for brunch with plenty of gluten-free options (gluten-free bread, granola, and buns). Creative quality food at a decent price, and interesting concoction of mixology cocktails. A narrow, casually romantic room with dark walls, muted lighting, small tables, a stamped tin ceiling and a compact bar. The place is inviting and unpretentiously hip.

The London Plane in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood is actually a collection of seven businesses in one. This lovely place includes a flower shop, patisserie, bread bakery, deli, catering kitchen, restaurant, and cafe. 

Fascinating, beautiful and imaginative with great fresh ingredients, The Walrus and the Carpenter will not disappoint. Oysters are the reason to visit. But, don't be too greedy, save room for other items on the menu. The Walrus and the Carpenter menu emphasizes fresh and local, some might say life changing: Fried Brussels Sprouts; oysters, oysters and more oysters; grilled sardines with walnuts, parsley and shallots; roasted medjool dates with sea salt. This place does not take reservations. Expect a 45 minute wait--long but well worth it.

In your search for Seattle’s most insta-worth spots, Bar Melusine is it and in the shot, you have to include the chairs which perfect coordinate with the colorful tile. The bright and airy, green and white tiled French inspired bistro will leave you in awe, from the carefully curated oyster selection to the beautifully plated dishes. There is also Copal, another insta-worthy place. Elliot's Oyster House is located on one of the piers over looking Elliot's Bay, which makes an incredible atmosphere. Their selection of oysters is why we came here. Somewhere in between the two dozen oysters and Oysters Rockefeller,  we tried the Grilled Salmon--perfectly grilled, tender and tasty. The menu is pricey but this is a great area with very good atmosphere.

And, because there is always room for dessert… As a California-girl, I’m unsure how I had never hear of a date shake until Frankie & Jo’s. The plant-based ice cream shop serves up on ode to the real-deal Palm Springs date shake in a dairy-free, vegan and paleo revival that tastes exactly like it’s dairy version.

Thirsty? Grab a drink at Sun Liquors. An intimate neighborhood cocktail lounge that uses fresh squeezed juices, syrups & bitters made in-house, whose menu is updated seasonally.

 If coffee is your thing, pay a visit to Elm Coffee Roasters, house-roasted, single-origin brews are the specialty at this casual coffeehouse in a calm palette. Sip on Victrola Coffee Roasters in a vintage decor shop. Head up the street to Capitol Coffee Works for perfectly pulled shots or the dimly lit Caffé Vita Coffee Roasting. Visit the a well-known espresso machine’s La Marzocco Cafe If you are doing a Seattle coffee crawl make this your first stop. It’s a great place to try out coffee machines and figure out which La Marzocco to follow you home. Also a great cafe to hangout at and gets pretty packed most of the time.

For a more healthy take on Seattle, grab a juice or ice from Pressed Juicery or a tasty açai bowl from Verve bowls.

SLEEP

When it comes to picking a place to stay, something for every type of traveler in Seattle: City dwellers can stay in a sleek, modern downtown hotel, while architecture buffs might want to opt for a historic Tudor home on Airbnb. You can’t go wrong with one of the best hotels in town like The Four Seasons and The Fairmont Olympic Hotel or boutique hotels Hotel Vintage, Hotel Max, and Thompson Hotels. But staying in one of the best Airbnbs in Seattle ensures you'll be immersed in the real culture of the city in a much different way. You'll find a place to stay near all the best Seattle attractions and restaurants, but you’ll also get a greater sense of what it’s really like to live in this city.

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This is by means not a full comprehensive guide of Seattle. I will keep adding to this list as I eat and visit more restaurants in Seattle. Leave me comments below if you have more suggestions and if you find this mini travel guide helpful!

Have you been to Seattle? Share your favorite places to eat.

CityPASS

Photo Credit: Cover - Timothy Eberly - unsplash.com

Originally published 12/2013; Updated 3/2019

Kale Banana Smoothie

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I love LYFE Kitchen in Palo Alto and the gluten-free menu--what I absolutely love is the Kale-Banana smoothie. I probably frequent LYFE about 2-3 times per week, specifically for this after a spin session or aerial yoga class. I had been trying to recreate this smoothie at home and after many attempts, I have finally found the recipe. gluten-free, gluten-free palo alto, palo alto gluten-free, gluten-free fare, gluten-free smooties, kale, banana, banana smoothies, kale-banana smoothies, lyfe kitchen, lyfe kitchen palo alto, lyfe kitchen kale-banana smoothies

I like that this recipe does not have milk (dairy, almond, coconut...). Sometimes, somethings are best kept simple. This smoothies proves just that. Plus, the bananas add the creaminess and smooth texture that milk would.

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Here it is...Enjoy!

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[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:11]

Follow @valeriefidan and tag your awesome food photos with #letsregale! As always, all opinions, as always, are my own. Photos taken with iPhone; edited in Camera+ and instagrammed.

Decadently Chocolatey Vegan Chocolate Ganache Tart

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Northern California, Gluten-Free Travel, Gluten Free travel, Gluten-Free Traveling, Gluten Free Traveling, Gluten-Free Northern California, Mendocino, Northern California Coast Last year, on a recent stay in Mendocino's Stanford Inn by the Sea, I feel head over heals over the Chocolate Ganache Tart--decadently chocolatey with a delicious berry sauce. Not too sweet or heavy. Just wonderful! The best part? Both vegan and gluten-free! Now being back home, I have searched high and low for Chef Barry Horton Ravens Vegan Chocolate Ganache Tart recipe. Voilà! I have found it. The luxurious chocolate filling of this tart is amazingly easy to make.

Enjoy!

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:5]

Are you on instagram? Follow @valeriefidan and tag your awesome food photos with #letsregale!

How To Taste Costa Rica

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Food can be thought of as a way to fully experience a country's culture, and the best way to connect with the local people. While my trip to Costa Rica was not about the Tico cuisine, I knew visiting a country in Latin America would be all too familiar. Many travelers say that Costa Rican food is not all that great; bland, it is unimaginative at best. While, it was not the most flavor packed or creative dishes I had ever tasted, it was gluten-free friendly. Food in Costa Rica has a rich history and deep meaning for the people there, which for me, deserves a lot of respect when being critical of its food. To generalize a Costa Rican meal, one would certainly have to talk about black beans and rice (Gallo Pinto). Most traditional dishes in Costa Rica consist of rice and beans, with other ingredients like chicken or fish and various sorts of vegetables.

A cautionary note: If you ask for a soda in Costa Rica, you won't get a Coke. Instead, you'll be directed to the nearest family-run restaurant, similar to a small North American diner. If you're itching to try authentic Costa Rican cuisine, eat at a soda. You'll be welcomed with a smile and treated like family, and your patronage will benefit the local community. Rock-bottom prices ($4-$6) and large portions are just icing on the cake.

The Meals

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The most common dish for breakfast is Gallo Pinto, which consists of rice mixed with black beans, served with natilla (sour cream), eggs (scrambled) and fried plantain. Costa Ricans usually drink a cup of coffee or fresh fruit juice with it

 Ensalada de frutas (fruit salad) consists of several pieces of tropical fruits, like papaya, banana, maracuya (passion fruit) and many more.

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For lunch, Casados, a traditional dish of beans and rice are served with some sort of meat or fish and a salad, fried plantains, cheese and corn tortillas. The difference between Gallo Pinto and Casado is that in Casados, rice and the bean are served side by side and not mixed.

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There is no typical meal for dinner, but another typical main dish in Costa Rica is Arroz con Pollo (rice with chicken) which can be served with various vegetables from the area like camote (sweet potato), chayote, and yucca.

taste costa rica 1 Ensalada de mariscos (seafood salad)

Seafood is very common thanks to the country’s proximity to both the Pacific and Caribbean. Along the coast seafood is plentiful. Fish is often fried but may also be grilled or blackened.

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Small dishes before or in between meals are called Bocas, like black bean dip, Chimichurri, tomatoes and onions in lime juice, served with tortilla chips or Ceviche (fish or shrimp with onion in lime juice). Patacones, fried green plantains cut in thin pieces. Patacones are fried twice. Patacones are served in restaurants all over as a side dish for fish dishes or as an appetizer with guacamole, chimichurri or black beans.

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Tamale, similar to the Mexican version, is a seasoned corn meal which is covered in plantains leaves. In the inside, it has rice, beans, vegetables and meat.

There are also other traditional sweet corn dishes like Pozol (corn soup) or Chorreadas (corn pancakes). Typical soups in Costa Rica are also very popular, such as Olla de Carne which is a soup with beef, potatoes, carrots, chayote, plantains and yucca; and Sopa Negra, black bean soup.

There are a lot of traditional Costa Rican desserts that can be found all over Latin America like Arroz con Leche (rice with milk). The rice is cooked in milk with sugar, cinnamon and other ingredients. One of the most common desserts is called Tres Leches, a cake bathed in evaporated, condensed and regular milk with a whipped cream top. (Tres Leches is not gluten-free.)

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Drinks

The traditional drinks for lunch are called Refrescos Naturales (or frescos or naturales for short), and consist of liquefied fruits diluted in either water or milk and sweetened to taste. They come in many varieties such as cantaloupe, blackberry, strawberry, watermelon, mango, tamarind, passion fruit, guanabana, cas, and lime. And, then of course there is the Batidos, a fruit smoothie-like drink consisting of fresh fruit, ice and water (al agua). That's it. Of course one can also add in milk (con leche) or condensed milk. But there is no need.