Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pacific Northwest Part 1: Pike’s Place Market & the Beecher’s Handmade Cheese Adventure

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Last year’s birthday adventure was a drive up the coast that, by happenstance, took my auntie and I on a partial California Mission tour. It was loads of fun. And I still haven’t finished culling through all the images I took. Wow. I just now realized, I haven’t finished culling through all the images I took until I wrote that sentence. Where did the time go? Because here it is, a full year later and I’m talking about this year’s adventure with my auntie: we headed even farther north this time around to Seattle, Washington. Auntie was turning 50 and that meant getting outta dodge for a little fun, a little something new, a little adventure.

I'd been to Seattle twice before but always on the way to somewhere else so other than driving through Pike's Market Place, Indian food in Capital Hill, trinket shopping along the Pier, I hadn't spent much time there. So I was looking forward to our adventure.
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Pike's was fun. There was so much to see. I only wish I hadn't been saddled with a cane and still recovering from a bum knee because the place is H-U-G-E! We only just scratched the surface.
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Of course, I had to get some iconic images like this one…
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and this one…
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and of course, these guys. Every time they threw the fish though, I kept missing the shot because I was distracted by something else around me.
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I saw lots of things I've never seen before. Like these Fiddle Fern Heads. They look strange to me. What the heck do you do with them?
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The fruit, and there was LOTS of it, was amazing. Everything looked vibrant. And large. Must be all that friggin' rain.
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And there was a lot of it. Like, pretty much every day we were in town. How do the natives deal with it?
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There were more unusual items. Can you read that sign on the right? Yes, you are reading that correctly. Chocolate pasta. Mr. Pasta man was trying to get passers-by to taste it. I love chocolate. But raw pasta? Not so much. I passed.

But I did try this:
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Gourmet olive oils. Gourmet dipping sauces. Gourmet vinegars. Like this 18 Years Aged Fig Balsamic Vinegar. Now we're talkin'. This stuff was oh-so-yummy! I'd like to bathe in it.

Ok, so maybe not. But you get the picture. It was tasty.
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Auntie bought cashews from this nut lady. Pike's Place Nuts. Freshly roasted. Literally. They burned my tongue. But it was a good hurt.
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There were more flower stands than I could count. They were gorgeous.
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And ginormous. Seriously. These tulips were big. Really big.
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I loved the artisans. This dude was sitting in for his friend who made all these awesome cuffs.
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This is the one I bought for me. Love it. I feel like Wonder Woman when I wear it. Kinda.

All this walking around and lookie-louing got us hungry. So we went on our hunt for sustenance. And quickly fell into indecisiveness because there were so many choices.

Cold weather means comfort food.
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So when I saw this cheese shop, Beecher's Handmade Cheese. That was it. Mmm. Cheese.
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They make it on the premises.
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They've got sandwiches …
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and they have cookbooks…
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and cheese … Lots of cheese. We ordered lunch. But there was no seating. We grabbed our lunch and went in search of a place to hunker down with our goodies. Took us almost a half hour to find a place. One that wasn't wet.
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Beecher's is known for their mac and cheese. It's in the cookbook up there. Auntie likes mac and cheese too. I ordered it. It was made with Jack cheese. Just Jack, they say on their signage. But when I say it, "Will & Grace" episodes float through my head. Hear him? "Just Jack!"

Flavor was decent. But do you know my favorite part of mac and cheese? The crunchy bits on top. This didn't have any. They served it from this huge pot thingy. Think cafeteria style. Not fresh. Not baked. So it was borderline mushy. Pasta should be al dente. So even though this had flavor, it lost points for lack of texture. It fell flat. I wouldn't buy it again.
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And then there was grilled cheese.
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I would buy this again. This is my sandwich. It was the Flagship Sandwich: flagship cheese, just jack, basil, tomato and their Beecher's spread. It was crispy and buttery on the outside, ooey-gooey on the inside.
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And that Beecher's spread, I wish they bottled it. Look at those mustard seeds. I'm adding them next time I make homemade grilled cheese.
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Auntie's sandwich. She got the classic Grilled Cheese: flagship cheese and just jack. Look at the ooey-goodness. I had a bite. Again, crunchy buttery outside. It was good but after eating mine with the basil and mustard seeds, it was too one note for my taste buds. I think Auntie liked it, though. She didn't try mine.
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A few days after I got back to San Diego, while I was laid up due to the horrendous cold I caught the last night in Seattle, I was watching Martha Stewart on the Hallmark Channel. And the first guest was Beecher's owner. Talk about coincidence. He was on making their mac and cheese with Martha and talking about the Beecher's that's due to open in New York this summer. So they're going by-coastal.

Now they just need to open one up down here. Because even in sunny San Diego, there's no such thing as too much comfort food.

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