We Arrive in Seattle

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On Friday morning, the day we were supposed to go from Bellingham to Seattle, Craig had a family emergency and so he left me in the care of his friend Rena who drove me down and babysat me while he tended to things. Rena was a very good babysitter: we had a deep conversation about subway racism on the drive to Seattle and then, when we arrived, she toured me around a bit. Our first stop was Volunteer Park (near her apartment) which featured a water tower that we climbed in order to take the picture you see above. Then she took me to…

a cool greenhouse:

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Where we saw pretty flowers:

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After the flowers I was a bit beat and so we went to Rena’s apartment where her boyfriend Aubrey was waiting. Aubrey’s a music aficionado, a rock musician and an artist. I studied the art he had hanging on the walls while listening to the record albums he cued up. Then their friend Susie came over to hang out and we began to discuss where we’d go to dinner.

“We could go to Ethiopian food,” suggested Rena. “Seattle has lots of Ethiopian food,” she informed me. I’d never had Ethiopian food before but quickly grew concerned when I was told it involves sharing from a communal plate and using one’s hands.

“But what if someone has dirty hands?” I queried. Everyone found this funny. So we loaded up into Rena’s car and drove here, to Queen Sheba Ethiopian Cuisine:

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Here’s Rena, Aubrey and Susie showing off their Ethiopian beer and very clean hands (which I insisted upon several times):

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We ordered the vegetarian platter which was appropriate for the many vegetarians among us. Here it is for you to gaze at:

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And here’s the pancake they give you to scoop everything up:

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Now because I’d never had Ethiopian food before it’s difficult for me to gauge how good this was. I enjoyed the variety and textures and flavors but didn’t necessarily feel that anything was particularly delicious or memorable. It was fun, though, to share a big plate of food with new friends while getting babysat and as far as communal eating experiences go, this is a good one.

Across the street from Queen Sheba is a used book store overrun by stray cats. Look at this cute little sucker:

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It was here that Craig caught up with us, along with Kristin (his sister). Together we all went to a bar to meet Craig’s cousin and a few more friends, including Kristin’s friend Amy who’s a huge fan of my site. Such a big fan that I will honor her by posting her picture and her boyfriend’s picture too: (he’s a chef, so it’s food related):

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Now the next morning we went to Craig’s favorite breakfast place in the whole world, Glo’s, but I can’t tell you anything more because I just wrote a piece about it for Serious Eats. So check over there to learn about our breakfasty experience.

This day, Saturday, was “Adam Sees Seattle” day and we started at the main hub of Seattle tourists and locals alike, the Pike Place Market. Here’s Kristin, Craig and Rena out in front:

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Perhaps the most famous thing about Pike Place Market are the fishmongers who throw fish. I’m not sure why they do this but it’s a beloved Seattle institution. When I said I was going to Seattle everyone wrote comments, “You have to go see the guys throw the fish!” So here they are, but they’re not throwing the fish in this picture because that’d be too hard to coordinate:

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Wandering around the market was lots of fun but it was really crowded, so we walked down several sets of stairs so we could walk along the water. We were joined by Craig’s friends Morgan and Wendy who have a new baby (insert baby name here). As we walked along the water, we stumbled upon a store that triggered a gun in my memory: World Spice. Why does this sound familiar? Oh yes! This is where Amanda Hesser suggests ordering spices from in her book “Cooking For Mr. Latte.” I quickly excused myself from the group and ran in:

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As I scanned the shelves I remembered that there was one particular spice that Amanda says is worth getting, a certain kind of pepper or replacement for pepper that has lots of flavor…but what could it be? And then I saw it, Grains of Paradise:

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Cue the song “Almost Paradise” and then change the words to “Grains of Paradise.” I got a 1 oz. bag of these fiesty pepper alternatives and I’ve yet to use them so I’ll blog about it when I do. But here’s a funny Grains of Paradise story: Rena got a 1 oz. bag of Grains of Paradise and put them in her coat pocket and later in the trip we went to go see a band called Awesome in concert. At the door to the concert they patted you down searching for weapons, alcohol or drugs. They pulled out Rena’s bag of “Grains of Paradise” and asked her what it was. When she said “A pepper alternative” they eyed her suspiciously but ultimately let her through. I thought that was a funny story.

Here’s the group of us posing near the water:

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From here we entered a Craig and Kristin favorite, Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe, home of the Stillborn Fawn:

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A terrifying dancing dummy (the one the left, not Kristin):

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And…well…

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But soon I insisted we return to the Pike Place Market. “Hey!” I informed the group. “I hear there are donuts in there that are worth getting and I manage a food blog, see, and I gotsta eat those donuts so I can maintain my reputation. Aight?”

The group willfully obeyed and soon we were inside getting in line for the Doughnut stand:

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Only just as we cued up, one of the doughnut makers announced that there were only two dozen doughnuts left. And there were 8 people in front of us. Now that may not seem like a big problem but these doughnuts are tiny doughnuts and they come in bags of 1/2 a dozen doughnuts each. I thought we were done for but then I saw the doughnut man put a bunch of doughnuts in a giant bowl and then I heard him say, “This way everyone can have some.” When we got to the counter, we saw what had happened:

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Instead of selling the remaining doughnuts to the few people in front of us, they decided to give away all the remaining doughnuts for free. Now where else in the world would that happen? In your neighborhood? I doubt it! This was a fine moment for Seattle.

I must report that at this moment Craig, a lover of all things aquatic, spotted a giant metallic squid hanging from the ceiling:

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He then proceeded to take 800 pictures so, bored, I went into a gourmet store nearby and saw Spotted Dick in a can:

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I thought that was fun.

Soon, after tearing Craig away from the squid, we big adieu to all of his friends except for Rena and then killed major time in the Elliot Bay book store, one of the best book stores I’ve ever been to. I bought a pocket-sized book of Emily Dickinson poems so that I can better myself while waiting for the subway. (“Because I could not stop for trains trains kindly stopped for me.”)

We began our walk to meet Craig’s friends David and Celia for sushi, but I quickly stopped to snap this picture of Pike Place Market at night:

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(Good picture, eh?)

We journeyed the 8000 miles to Shiro sushi, which was recommended by one of YOU, yes YOU, a loyal reader of this site. (We read all of your comments multiple times, you Seattle residents you. In fact most of these Seattle people you’re meeting in these posts read your comments too and are going to try all of the restaurants you recommended.)

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Craig, upon entering Shiro’s sushi, realized that he’d heard of it before: that his dad told him it was one the most authentic sushi joints in town, where Japanese people went to get sushi. This made us further excited for our meal.

Inside, we joined Craig’s friends Celia and David who’d be housing us that night. Here they are modelling and eating their salads, respectively:

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(David is a really cool artist who worked on a music video for Thom Yorke of Radiohead. You can watch it here.)

So here’s the miso soup and cucumber/shrimp salad they’re eating:

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As you can see, everything is super fresh and authentic. But wait ’til you see the big stuff. Check out Celia’s sashimi:

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Have you seen fresher looking sashimi in all your life? And look at my plate of sushi:

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If food is art, this is museum quality: look how gorgeous. It’s the finest plate of sushi I’ve ever had in front of me and everything tasted as good as it looks. Like all the creatures of the sea crawled right up on to the sand, on to my beach towel, up my legs, up my chest and into my mouth. It was that fresh, wonderful and miraculous. Everyone else felt the same way.

And that, my friends, ends the first leg of our Seattle trip. Stay tuned for the next leg, the right leg, the one with the scabby knee. And then there’s a third leg, so my Seattle trip is a mutant. Stay tuned!

26 comments

  1. Ohh!! Ethiopian food!

    I’m so sad your first time was so blah regarding the food itself. It’s one of my favorite food ‘ethnicity’s, if one can call it that.

    If you ever in Chicago, I’ll take you to Ethiopian Diamond so you can make the appropriate comparisons.

    And yes, that sashimi is making my mouth water.

  2. The Queen of Sheba in NYC (10th Ave and 46th) is very good, and worth trying (take me with you if you go!). I love Ethiopian food…mmm…

    -Meg (hey, we met at Mark B’s birthday party in B’lyn a few years ago!)

  3. Bah. Queen Sheba. I went there once and I was not impressed. The food is expensive and bland and terrible. If you want REAL Ethiopian, next time you and/or Craig are in Seattle I’ll take you out.

  4. There are a couple of Ethiopian places in NY called Meskerem. One is in the Village, one is around 45th, and there may be more. They are pretty good, but the best I’ve had is actually in Richmond VA, at a place called Nile. phenomenal. I hope you give it another shot! Oh, and I plan on going to that Turkish place you went to the other day, with the sour cherry juice. mmm! Sounds like you had fun in Seattle, can’t wait to read about the rest.

  5. Ethiopian food can become really addictive. I second Queen of Sheba in NYC (though I couldn’t recall the name of it at first, but remembered that it was on 10th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen – thanks Meg C.!). I’ve also heard raves about a superior Ethiopian restaurant in New Brunswick, NJ, should you ever find yourself there.

  6. Now where else in the world would that happen? In your neighborhood? I doubt it!

    Actually, yeah. But I live on Hawthorne in Portland, OR.

    And that’s scary, your Seattle adventure sounds a lot like mine, down to the doughnuts and the Market Spice store (I only bought tea there, they make crazy good tea blends).

    And while I was walking by the fishyguys, one guy totally threw a twelve pound crab at his coworker. My inner teacher flipped out.

  7. Alice, I disagree. Last time I had it there (4 or 5 years ago, I’ll admit), it was flavorful and delicious, and just fine for a student’s budget (I was doing doctoral work at the time). Perhaps it has changed. I gained a taste for it while living for many years in Berkeley, CA, which has some excellent Ethiopian and Eritrean food offerings.

    Kristi, glad I could help – and that is fascinating to me that there is great Ethiopian food in NJ, too! Man, now I’m havin’ a hankerin’ for it! Wish there was Ethiopian food in Astoria.

  8. I love mutants, rock on AG! Excellent post and good to see that you had some fun in the city. I’m curious, that night shot of the Market – where the hell are all the people? That’s pretty wild…

    Looking forward to reading more of your adventures soon, cheers.

  9. how about a comic strip post at a Ethiopian restaurant here in the city? that stuff looks delicious.

  10. Third leg? Oh Mary what a double entendre!! ;) Excellently written – makes the reader want to board the first flight headed to Seattle (with an apparent must-see of Bellingham too!).

    Roberto desde Miami

  11. Beautiful. You showed my three-times-a-week jaunt: to the Market for produce, down to World Spice for fresh spices (their dukka is great too), then back to the Market for meat and fish. (Bah to the guys throwing fish. They stink.) Oh, that I could have those doughnuts again.

    When you are next in Seattle, I can certainly take you to a memorable Ethiopian place!

  12. I’m not an Ethiopian food expert, but my Parisian friend insisted on ordering the Ethiopian equivalent of steak tartare the first time I went (needless to say, there was some trepidation on my part), but it was fabulous. Oh, so very, very good. If you go back for a second try, I highly recommend that non-vegie route as an option.

    Bee

  13. Tell me you got some Sourdough bread please… Seattle has the best Sourdough…We would drive from Portland for the day just for a loaf or two of that bread!

    The char siu bao are nice there too and really big!

    We used to get our fix of those too when we were living in PDX. Back in China again we can get those but not the lovely loaves of Sourdough..

    Sounds like you had a good trip. I love Seattle!

  14. Instead of selling the remaining doughnuts to the few people in front of us, they decided to give away all the remaining doughnuts for free. Now where else in the world would that happen? In your neighborhood? I doubt it! This was a fine moment for Seattle.

    That’s my town… gawd, I miss the place. I’m glad you’ve had such a good trip, and hope the snow doesn’t cause you much grief.

  15. Those donuts are pretty good, but they are standard to the little donut factory they come out of (the Charlotte minor league hockey team had a stand there when I lived there, and they went *excellent* with belgian white ales)… http://www.orbie.com/ iirc.

    Now, if you want a good seattle donut, there are two options:

    Top Pot donuts http://www.toppotdonuts.com/, which have admittedly lost a little shine now that starbucks and they have a love affair

    Mighty O donuts http://www.mightyo.com, home of the best organic, vegan donuts I’ve ever had. The french toast donut left me in orgasmic tears.

  16. Best Ethiopian food in New York is GHENET. It’s on Mulberry between Prince and Houston and it is absolutely delicious – especially if you like spicy food.

  17. I only had Ethiopian food once, and I loved it — then I moved to an incredibly whitebread corner of the country and I haven’t had it since. I hope you try it again and have a good experience, because you can, and I can’t. Boo hoo!

  18. this is fun! and so familiar…I’m sure hoping that you made it to one of Tom Douglas’s restaurants because you were oh, so close. Also – glad that you made it to World Spice. Every trip to Seattle I go there and get more little plastic bags of stuff to fill my spice drawer. Love it. last time I got smoked paprika, about 4 different kinds of curry, multi-colored rock sugar cyrstals which my guests always ask me where I got them when I serve it with tea and coffee, and a new blend of spice that the staff there made up and call “Hamburger Spice”. I asked the gal who recommended it what was in it and she said…celery salt, barbeque seasoning, thyme, and something else. It’s interesting. Love that little shop. Did you make it into the Spanish Table or Sur la Tabla right nearby? Can’t wait to hear more.

  19. Rebecca, you are so right. Ghenet is the best Ethiopian food i’ve had in nyc, and I’m actually Ethiopian.

  20. The throwing fish guys are a bther. Keeps the tourists busy though. Just makes it hard to get into De Laurentis. Didnt try thw wine tasting room on post? the free samples of soup with truffle oil at the oil store? the Hom Bow stand? The bread in Seattle is mediocre. When fresh Tallgrass, Esential, Macarina are good.

    The bus should be free in the downtown area – could have taken the 1st Ave bus to Shiros.

  21. well, i have to say that i have had ethiopian food all my life since i am an ethiopian, but since traveling all over this country only one comes to mind as the best and that is the Nile in richmond, va….second will be Ghenet in Nyc….other than that…only mommmmmmmma makes it the best period….

  22. well, i have to say that i have had ethiopian food all my life since i am an ethiopian, but since traveling all over this country only one comes to mind as the best and that is the Nile in richmond, va….second will be Ghenet in Nyc….other than that…only mommmmmmmma makes it the best period….

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