Lunch Date 5 – Savor Seattle

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Just a sampling of our adventure.

Savor Seattle is something like speed dating, but with food. The personal ad would read something like this:

Do you like fine food, hob nobbing with notable chefs and foodies in the know?  I like brisk walks rewarded with nuanced edible delights and an opportunity to imbibe expertly crafted cocktails, beer, and wine. Perhaps we have something in common, contact me.

With a free day ahead and no plans I took a minute to websurf things to do in Seattle. I have been here before, visited the museums, parks and Pike’s Public Market, so my eyes lit up on this link to Savor Seattle Tours, a Trip Advisor #1 rated attraction. It hit all the right notes, gourmet walking tour, something I can do solo but enjoy the company of others, experience some great food and get behind the scenes epicurean scoop, seven stops, all in three hours. Sign me up.

We met our guide Mark Boeker at the upper lobby of the Mayflower Park Hotel. A beautiful place with the first bar in Seattle to have windows installed… back in the 1970’s. Apparently there were ordinances protecting the citizenry from viewing revelers before then. Mark quickly put the group at ease with just the right touch of self-deprecating humor while efficiently handling the group handling logistics to get us started. I liked him immediately, this was going to be fun!

Sangria and Crispy Duck Cake with Apricot Chutney at Andaluca

First stop was right downstairs to the acclaimed Andaluca Restaurant and the haunt of Chef Wayne Johnson (who will be appearing on Iron Chef America on July 31, 2011.) The mellow yellows and creams of the Mayflower transform into rich red mahogany, painted murals and echos of the Andaluca Provence of my travels. Seated before the paned windows at a black tiled table we were treated to a glass of sangria and a crispy duck cake with a cucumber riata. The sangria, unlike any I’ve tasted before had hints of cinnamon, a pinch of cardamon and freshness of pear, and while fortified with fruit brandies, it was not overly alcoholic. The crispy duck cake, not gamey, was lightly and freshly seasoned with mint, lemon, sweet marjoram and topped with an apricot chutney, resonating with my own personal flavor palate. Lucky for all of us we can get the recipes at their web site!

Serious pie. Seriously.

Time to walk and we headed a few blocks over to Virginia Street and Serious Pie, the brainchild of Chef Tom Douglas who is credited with helping put Seattle on the culinary map with his five downtown restaurants. Dude, this is some serious pizza! We tasted two; the morel and crimini mushroom with truffle cheese; and the yukon gold potato, rosemary, pecorino pizzas while learning that their in-house pastry chef takes about 27 hours to prepare the dough to create this twice baked crispy bed. Side note: Chef Tom bested Food Network’s Iron Chef against Chef Morimoto in 2005, serious indeed. Another side note: Tyler Florence talks up Serious pie on the food show, “The Best thing I ever ate.”

White truffle oil flavors our potato and leek soup.

Heading down towards the water we start weaving our way through the crowds to La Buona Tavola – Truffle Cafe located at Pike’s Place Public Market for some truffle edification and tasting. The shop with a sunny yellow interior is hardly bigger than a closet with a tasting table and single round table with a few seats and some bar stools. Hospitality exudes in the demeanor of our hostess and staff as we were offered a simple potato and leek soup. “Have a taste before I add the white truffle oil… ready now try with a few drops. See!” Our taste buds come alive with the buttery, lightly pungent addition. Next a dusting of sea salt and truffle mixture on the back of our hands, while we listened a bit about spring truffle season and the differences between black and white truffles. Envisioning fresh, rustic bread with a sprinkle of this seasoned salt was enough to ensure I had a small jar to bring home.

Il Bistro Seafood Saffron Risotto

Back onto Pike Street, we head toward the end of the market and downstairs to Il Bistro and a plate of saffron seafood risotto paired with a 2008 Waving Tree Sangiovese. Two succulent, tender little neck clams topped this brilliant yellow rice with small bits of plum tomatoes and chives. While we ate, we chatted with Chef Nathan Luoma about preparing risotto for a crowd and some make ahead steps so you are not left stirring in the kitchen while your guests are drinking your wine. Chef Nathan, a gracious host, truly engaged and passionate about his restaurant and cuisine. When else would I have had a chance to meet and talk with him? Cool.

I am glad the tour suggest having a bottle of water to bring along for our walk. I was getting thirsty as we ventured further, walking down a lane paved with bricks recovered from San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. Great recycling even then… We passed the Market Theater Gum Wall, gross but quite the attraction as dozens of tourists added their wad and smiled for the obligatory photo.

A car, some Kilt Lifter Ruby Ale and Micro-Brew Museum with tin ceiling.

Now we’re talking. We’re heading into the basement of the Pike Brewing Company and meeting up with Abil Bradshaw as she gives us the lowdown on the lore and process of brewing. I’ve never smelled raw hops before and the difference between the Cascade and Columbia varieties were noticeable. Did you know that Washington produces about a third of all the hops used in the US? I didn’t either. We wandered from the grain mill, to the mash and back to the fermenting tanks and kegs and finally upstairs to the Micro-Beer Museum with the stylized tin ceiling. Awaiting us to taste were the Scotch style Kilt Lifter Ruby Ale, and Pike Tandem Double Ale paired with cheeses. Abril quickly notices that there is a blue cheese on the plate. “Stop! This will not go with these beers, bring us Pike IPA (India Pale Ale) for the blue,” she adamantly addressed the staff. The blue cheese did pair best with this hoppy, bright IPA brew, the flavors compliment each other.  Of the three, I liked the Kilt Lifter best, but those who know wouldn’t be at all surprised. Beer and cheese tasting, nice trend to play with.

Pho Xao at Thoa’s Restaurant. Do you see the Manchester United Team Bus!?

Seattle’s brisk fresh sea air hits our faces as we walk to the views of Elliots Bay and Thoa’s Restaurant and Lounge for some Pho Xao. The interior is bright with vibrant green walls with hints of bamboo plants and colorful artwork. Our serving of delicate rice noodles, included tender, flavorful chicken and light fish sauce, was topped with cashews, one taste and I was ready for more! The view of the water from our table was wonderful, as was the view of the Manchester United team bus parked next door at the Four Seasons. (Yes, I am a soccer fan.) Of all the stops, this one felt a little rushed and I wish we could of had a bit more time here. If my stay were longer I would definitely come back for a full meal. This personal interpretation of Vietnamese food from Chef Thoa Nguyen, creator of the Chinoise Cafe and the Islander restaurants is a winner.

Gelatiamo “Delizioso!”

Last stop, dessert. How can it be the time has passed so quickly? Visiting with new found friends as we walk up to Gelatiamo for some gelato and Caffé Umbria. Two scoops, raspberry and chocolate chip, smooth, fruity and creamy all at once.  Lingering over a second cup and finishing up our visiting it is time to bid our companions adieu. Thanks to our guide Mark for such an enjoyable outing.

The Caffé Umbria kicks into my caffeine deprived system, a necessary boost on the way to catch the Number 13 back up to Queen Anne. This turned out to be a perfect progressive lunch. One you can do on your own, or as a date. Many restaurants have great happy hour menus and a selection of small plates so a gourmet tasting tour could be yours for a song. What a great way to see and taste some of the best of this city.


Savour Seattle Tours
About Mark Boeker
Serious Pie
La Buono Travolo — Truffle Cafe
Il Bistro
Market Theater Gum Wall
Pike Brewing  Company
Thoa’s Restaurant and Lounge

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9 Responses to Lunch Date 5 – Savor Seattle

  1. Angela Shen says:

    Hi Robin! Thank you for posting such a wonderful blog about your experience on Mark’s Gourmet Seattle Tour! I hope you don’t mind if we share it with the restaurants you visited.

    We hope to see you on a future Savor Seattle Food Tour soon!

    – Angela Shen

  2. Robin says:

    Dear Angela,
    I had such a great time. You bet you can share with your partners! I may be ready for the Chocolate tour when I next visit the city, sounds delish 😀


  3. So glad you enjoyed your visit at La Buona Tavola – Truffle Cafe! I hope we see you again soon.

  4. Robin says:

    Fabulous energy and staff is a delightful reason to return Truffle Queen! But, I will have to visit the Truffle Cafe online now that I am home, but bless my soul the truffle salt is the best travel souvenir ever! I love the fact you carry your own personal vial wherever you go…this stuff is addictive.

  5. Bentobird says:

    Overwhelmed by all this delightful food and writing, Robin! Now I know where and what to eat when I visit Seattle–hooray!!

  6. Robin says:

    Welcome aboard the tour Bentobird! This was a really long post so I am very glad you made your way all the through it.

    Hope you have a great weekend! Love yesterday’s french bento post!

  7. A meal from Savor Seattle can certainly impress your date.

  8. MMM, the apricot chutney! But some don’t like deserts. But the date should be sweet, right?

  9. travels says:

    Awesome article.

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