An American Brunch at The Old Town Cafe (Bellingham, WA)

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Not long ago, my friend Diana had a friend visit from Italy and this friend–who went to college with Diana in the U.S. (Brown University, to be precise)–was incredibly eager to eat an American brunch again. “She was really excited about brunch,” Diana related to me later. “She says it’s one of the things she misses most about the U.S.”

A few days ago, while eating brunch at the Old Town Cafe in Bellingham, Washington, it occurred to me: if I were going to tell a non-American how to best experience American food culture, the meal I’d suggest (and this is a brand new revelation) is breakfast.

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My Dungeness Crab Adventure

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Let’s say you’re growing up in Boca Raton, Florida and you’re looking at a map and someone says to you, “Point to a place in America that seems the most exotic to you, the most far away?” there’s a good chance you might point to Washington State. After all, it’s pretty much as far as you can get from Boca Raton within the continental U.S. And growing up, as I did (past the age of 11), in South Florida, I very rarely–if ever–entertained the idea that I might, one day, find myself in Washington State, on a barely inhabited island on the San Juan archipelago, sitting in a rowboat with my boyfriend, his dad, and brother, pulling up traps of giant crabs that we would take ashore, smash on the side of a bucket, and cook in sea water. The closest I ever got to cooking and killing my own seafood in Boca Raton was choosing a lobster from the tank at Red Lobster when I went there with my grandparents.

Flash forward to me at the age of 29: generously invited by Craig and his family to join them for five days on the San Juan Islands where we would catch, kill, clean and cook our own fresh Dungeness crabs; I was suddenly about to experience the most exotic adventure the younger me could’ve imagined.

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Where To Eat In Seattle

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Seattle is a city I never expected to know well. Geographically, it’s pretty much as far away as you can get in the continental U.S. from where I grew up in Boca Raton, Florida. My impressions of Seattle were entirely limited to that which I saw in movies (“Sleepless in Seattle,” “Singles”) and TV shows (“Frasier” being the obvious choice; though, interestingly, Craig says the view from Frasier’s apartment window is an impossible view.) If it weren’t for Craig, in fact, I’m not sure I’d have made my way to Seattle as early or as often as I have. Since knowing him, however, I’ve been to Seattle three times: once as a newbie (one year ago exactly), once as a drifter (Craig was shooting his movie this summer and I drifted my way around town while he did his work) and finally as a tag-along (this most recent trip was Craig’s annual Christmas visit). In the process, I’ve made some pretty wonderful food discoveries and though I’ve covered much ground in previous Seattle posts (see this search) here’s a guide to what I’d recommend to anyone visiting the city for the first time.

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Two Seattle Sandwiches (Consumed at Crave & The Baguette Box)

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Here are two sandwiches to enjoy in Seattle. In both cases, I was stranded at a coffee shop in Capitol Hill (Victrola on the first day, Vivace on the second day) because Craig, who has meetings throughout the day, drops me off at these places so I can do my own work while he does his. I am doing that now. This is work–do you think I LIKE blogging for you people?

The sandwich you see above was ordered at Crave (recommended by Rena) which has its own website. The sandwich is a Crab Melt with “chilean crab, fontina cheese, chermoulah remoulade, mango red pepper salsa, on La Brea sourdough.” Now I was wary of mixing crab with cheese–seems irreverent to the crab, ya know?–but this came together quite magically. The crab stood up to the Fontina and the other components added necessary tang and zest to achieve maximum sandwich harmony. Add to that homemade chips and homemade pickles (the former very good, the latter shockingly bland–were they pickled in vinegar or WATER?) and Crave is a perfect spot for lunch.

The second sandwich was from The Baguette Box (recommended by Molly) which also has it own website. Can you guess which sandwich I had?

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It sort of looks like a red onion and lettuce sandwich, doesn’t it? But no: buried beneath that mix of purple and green was a beautiful house-cured salmon gravlox. The Pacific Northwest is the place to be for salmon and this gravlox did its location justice. Plus the bread was fresh and crunchy and the toppings–while a bit overpowering (red onion breath alert)–were lovingly placed and dressed with just the right touch of salt and pepper. (You can even see the pepper in the picture).

So if you’re stranded on Capitol Hill–or even if you’re not–those are two very good sandwiches that you can enjoy in Seattle.

La Carta de Oaxaca

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You know you’re in love with a restaurant when you have a specific craving for it. Usually when I visit a different city, I like to eat all my meals at different places to make the most of my trip. But yesterday after horseback riding (more on that later!) I turned to Kristin, Craig’s sister, and said: “I want to go back to La Carta de Oaxaca.” We were there last week and Kristin said the food she ate was some of the best food she’d had in a long time. “I want to go back there too,” she said and so we did go back. And now it’s in my top five favorite places to eat in Seattle.

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My Olympic Peninsula Adventure

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Please unfurl your map of the United States. Now place your finger in the center and drag it to the most northwestern corner of the continental U.S. If you are doing this correctly, your finger is in Washington State. And your finger should be very happy because up there on the northwestern most corner it is in one of the most beautiful locations a finger can experience in the natural world: the Olympic Peninsula, the crown jewel of Washington state. This is where I just returned from after two days of roughing it: and through the magic of my digital camera, iPhoto, Flickr and Typepad, I can now take you there with me. Your finger can come too.

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We Leave Seattle (with meals at Salumi & Dahlia Lounge)

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I knew about Salumi before my thousands of readers told me to go there when I went to Seattle. I knew it because of Mario, because of “Heat” and because, well, because I just knew about it. From the moment I started blogging my Seattle trip my readers have pressed me in the comments: “Did you go to Salumi?” “I hope you went to Salumi!” “I won’t get my heart transplant if you didn’t go to Salumi!” And so this post will finally answer that question. (The picture above and post title kind of give it away). But first…

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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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