We Spend Time in Seattle (Featuring: An Orangette Lunch + The Seattle Meet-Up)

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Some cities trigger immediate food flashes in our brains. It’s word association for your stomach. Let’s play. Paris: cheese. London: pudding. Orlando: mouse.

From the moment I knew I was going to Seattle, I thought: coffee. Where does Frasier recreate in the middle of every episode? A coffee shop. Where did Starbucks begin? Seattle. Seattle is the center of America’s coffee culture, and my trip to Seattle wouldn’t be complete without sampling the city’s best coffee.

The latte you see above is from Victrola, arguably the city’s best coffee shop. (I know, I know: cue the hordes—“___ is so much better!”) It was the location of my big Seattle Amateur Gourmet meet-up which was lavishly attended. But before we get to that, let’s start with a cappuccino…

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That’s the pretty cappuccino I consumed at the Hi Spot Cafe, a lovely breakfasty/brunchy place in the Madrona neighborhood. (Thanks for the correction, reader!) We met Craig’s family there because they were in the neighborhood on New Year’s Eve Day. There’s Craig’s Uncle Chris, his sister Kristin and mom eating their breakfast. If you look in the mirror you can see Craig talking:

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(It’s just like the ghost in Three Men and a Baby!)

Here’s my breakfast, one of those sampler breakfasts that gives you a pancake, eggs and sausage:

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Everything was well prepared but the sausage was especially good. I think it was house-made.

Now because the next leap we’re about to make is to doughnuts, I don’t want you to think that all we did on this day was eat. We went back to David and Celia’s (where we were staying) and watched David use power tools to crack open a coconut.

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The coconut was to go into a carrot cake Celia was making for that night’s party. Craig and I soon left and took the bus to the touristy city center where I was desperate to go ride the Space Needle.

First, though, we popped into the Pacific Science Center where Craig used to work (he ran into an old friend outside who snuck us in.) It was fun for a moment to see the various exhibits, but we didn’t stay long. Instead we headed straight to the space needle. I was terribly disappointed to find that to ride up in the space needle costs $14. I weighed my interest against my wallet, and decided I didn’t really care that much. So we rode the monorail–a much cheaper alternative (at $2). What a disappointment! It goes like three feet.

But those three feet took us back to the Pike Place Market where we met Craig’s friends Ryan and Kristen who I’d been hearing lots about from the moment I met him. Celia also came along and our ultimate destination was a concert but before that we detoured over to Top Pot Doughnuts which all my readers recommended in my comments:

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I love that there’s this big, imposing space to eat doughnuts. Craig and I studied the case carefully:

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And then we ordered two very gay doughnuts and one classic, the gay doughnuts being the “Pink Feather Boa” and “The Chocolate Rainbow”:

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The gay doughnuts were fun but far and away the best one was the classic one: simply glazed, it had a wonderful texture. Much more crisp than the cakey ones and much fresher tasting too.

Here’s Kristen and Ryan with their doughnuts:

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Their doughnuts were heterosexual doughnuts and they thoroughly enjoyed them.

Now I have to tell you about the Awesome concert we went to after the doughnuts. “Awesome” is capitalized because Awesome is a band: here’s their website, Awesome The Band. Download some of their songs, they’re really great–reminiscent of “They Might Be Giants” who I thoroughly enjoy.

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Now it being New Year’s Eve, we left the concert eager to party. So we headed over to Black Bottle which I think some of you may have recommended:

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This was a perfect place to go. Just classy enough, with candles and sexy waitresses, but laid back and fun. Here’s a sexy waitress opening a bottle of sexy bubbly (not champagne, it’s Louis-Bouillon and then we ordered Cava: both were great):

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We toasted the new year:

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And then ordered some food:

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Those three pics above show some kind of hamachi (hey, this was New Year’s Eve, I don’t remember!), meatballs and then an awesome flatbread thingy with olives. (I think it was the Provencal.) We really enjoyed all of this food.

Soon, though, we were ready to depart. David and Celia were throwing a New Year’s Party and we were late. But first we had to stop for important New Year’s ammunition: Mentos and Diet Coke!

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For anyone confused by our purchase, you need to watch this video.

Now then, here’s David and Ryan bringing Mentos and Diet Coke together at midnight:

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The explosion was great but the picture didn’t come out. (Craig has a great one, maybe I’ll append it later.)

The rest of the night was spent drinking David’s signature drink, the Gay Matador:

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It has vodka, Grand Marnier, grenadine and–an essential ingredient, according to David, Red Bull. Normally I hate Red Bull, but it kind of worked here. And I was full of energy and didn’t have a hangover in the morning. (David says because of the vitamins in the Red Bull.)

We played a rousing game of charades:

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Into the wee wee hours and then it was bedtime. I wanted to get some shut eye so I’d look pretty for the two big events the next day.

Big Event Number One: Orangette Cooked Us Lunch!

So when I knew I was going to Seattle, I e-mailed Molly of Orangette to tell her we were coming. I met Molly very briefly exactly a year ago when she came to my two year anniversary party at City Bakery. We had very little time to chat so I was eager to meet her again. She offered to cook a New Year’s day lunch for Craig and I. How could we refuse?

So Celia drove us to the other side of town, where Molly lives with her fiance Brandon. We stumbled out of the car, rang the doorbell and there they were!

This marks the first time I’ve ever visited a food blogger’s house. The day was rainy and cool, but inside it was warm and bright. Brandon and Molly were busy getting the lunch together:

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But they made time to give us a tour. Oh how cruel to give a tour to people with New York apartments when you live in Seattle! They have a great place, very cozy and warm, filled with cookbooks and Brandon’s collection of vinegars. Downstairs was the beer Brandon’s brewing himself: two vats. We were way impressed. And we were also way hungry.

“So any E.T.A. on lunch?” asked Craig.

“The E.T.A. is now!” they responded in unison.

Brandon presented us with a gorgeous salad of raw mushrooms, raw fennel and Paremsan dressed simply with olive oil and a splash of truffle oil. (Do you think Craig and Brandon look alike? Does that make Molly and I the SAME PERSON?)

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Behold the splendor of this salad:

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It’s a salad I saw Alice Waters make with Julia Child (an episode you can find on the web if you look for it ). It’s a wonderful fusion of flavor and so unexpected. And easy. A great beginning.

After we gorged on the salad, Molly made the sauce for the chicken she’d been cooking:

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The chicken comes to us from Amanda Hesser, a deceptively simple preparation that packs a wallop when you bite in:

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The sauce is made (if I remember correctly) with creme fraiche and lemon zest. You can see lemon zest sprinkled over the top. It tasted awesome.

So did the butternut squash puree that she made:

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And the lemon yogurt cake she made for dessert:

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What a wonderful meal! And even more wonderful because we got to celebrate Molly’s latest coup: a book deal! Molly truly deserves her success: she’s a terrific writer and, I can now attest personally, a terrific cook. Let’s hope our books are parked together on the same shelf.

Now, then, we must zip into Molly and Brandon’s car so we can meet my readers at Victrola! That’s where this post started and that’s where it ends.

Big Event #2: Reader Meet-Up at Victrola

Molly helped us pin down a table in the back and then the waiting began. Who would show up to this, a Seattle reader meet-up? Then I was tapped on the shoulder by Betsy of Ovens To Betsy, who came with her husband. And then there was Rena (Craig’s friend). And who’s this? Why it’s Megan of Not Martha. I’ve been reading her forever and here she is!

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That’s Rena, Betsy, Betsy’s husband, and Megan.

And here’s Megan again with Laura, whose sister Stacy I took a class with at NYU, Molly and Brandon and Matthew Amster-Burton, Seattle food writer and proprietor of Roots and Grubs.

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Also in attendance was Kim of Convivial who wrote up the event on her site and posted this picture:

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That’s Molly, Brandon, Craig, Stacy and myself. And also in attendance were a ton of Craig’s friends some of whom also cross over as readers. It was a ton of fun, so much fun that we were asked to keep the noise down. But it was a real treat to meet my Seattle readers! I hope I can come to town again so we can resume our discussions.

And that, my friends, is what happened in the middle of our trip: the second leg. The final leg (the third leg) will go up tomorrow and that’ll conclude my Seattle blogging.

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