So as you may know, I went to Vancouver (1 day), the San Juan Islands (3 days), seattle (5 days) and San Francisco (5 days) over the past 2 weeks. If you’re interested in going to any of these places, I’ve done my best to remember and pick out the best or most interesting things we did or visited and written a little (okay, in some cases a lot) about them. Most of them are food related (duh, this is a food blog), as I don’t think I need to write a list of vintage clothing stores or thrift stores down as they’ll generally be in the areas where I visited the places below. (some pictures are mine, and some are stolen from my mum from times when I couldn’t be bothered to lug my camera around)
Meat & Bread – Gastown – really good hot sandwiches and amazing quinoa salad
Old Faithful Shop – Gastown – I want everything in there, but we settled with a bar of Coffee Chocolate from the Mast Brothers
Solly’s Bagels – really good cinnamon rolls, with chewy, caramelised tops. Also, we were there pretty late (it’s on Main Street, so it took a while to walk there from Gastown) so there was only one cinnamon roll left and of course it was a corner piece. When the woman behind the counter asked us if it was alright, my mum pointed to some rogue cinnamon rolls sitting on another shelf at the back, asking if they were, indeed, cinnamon rolls. The woman said that they were, but they were a little small so she could give us TWO ‘small’ (they were huge) cinnamon rolls for the price of one ‘normal’ one. I also wanted to try the chocolate babka roll so we got one of those too. The two cinnamon rolls were in one box, which were shared by all three of us over the next two days. When I finally opened the second box to try the babka roll, I discovered there was also a third cinnamon roll in there! That means we got 3 cinnamon rolls, for the price of one! Ahaha, score.
Main Street – Dear reader, I have 3 pieces of advice for you if you’re headed here. First, as most of the stores here are independently owned antique / vintage stores, they will be CLOSED on Mondays. Secondly, these shops are also super-spread-apart on this crazy long road which brings me to the last piece of advice, do not start at the Gastown/ China town-end of Main Street. We did all of this, and let me tell you, it was the most time consuming, scariest thing ever. We had to walk down two pretty dodgy main roads to get there, and just as we got to a corner of Main Street, where more sketchy people were standing, when we walked past, they would mumble/cough/shout the NAME OF THE DRUGS THEY WERE DEALING. No joke. I die.
San Juan Islands
Funk and Junk Antiques – a really nice antique store with amazing prices and a whole room for kitchen ware, I got a cast iron muffin pan (yeah, that may have been partially why my bag went from 11kg on the way to America, to 23kg on the way back :/ )
Drift wood beaches – around here, the beaches are littered with white, salt bleached wood which is so beautiful! Also there are these strange dried seaweed pieces that look amazing.
Pablito’s Taqueria – endless tortilla chips before your food arrives with a variety of really good salsas, HUGE portions (although, that’s not unusual in America haha) and some of the ‘coolest’ people I actually saw on the island (most people were wearing cargo shorts and fanny packs. So FYI, when you wear Creepers, deer silhouette tights and *gasp* colourful, patterned dresses, people will stare at you)
Sitka and Spruce – Capitol Hill (in Melrose Market) – one of the best meals we had on this holiday! It has a gorgeous layout with the kitchen prep area attached to the main dining table and a wood burning oven in which they make awesome flat breads. The food was simple and delicious (kind of Ottolenghi Style)
Marigold and Mint – Capitol Hill (in Melrose Market) – a flower shop next to Sikta and Spruce also selling cards, ribbon, linen napkins, cookbooks, magazines (like Kinfolk).
Olympic Sculpture Park – Belltown – just down the road from our hotel was the Olympic Sculpture Park, full of interesting sculptures and with a nice tiered grassy area with chairs (where they also hold a free yoga class on Fridays!)
Fremont Market – Fremont – the stalls were okay, not too different to markets in the UK, but there was an indoor market with stalls from different vendors selling a variety of things. I got a small 1960s muffin tin with a waffle-like textured base for $8. My mum got a orangey red Catherine Holm Roasting tray for only $10!! (it’s a little worn, but still I’ve seen them second hand in the same condition for like $60)
Ballard Farmer’s Market – Ballard – we arrived just as this was closing down, but could see that it would have been really good! Its a food based street market, and closes up around 3 I think. However, within a small area around there, were loads of appealing cafés, restaurants and other shops too, so it’s a good place to explore.
Delancey – near Ballard – a bit of a trek to get there because we walked (there is a bus stop really close by though), but so worth it. This Brooklyn-Style-Pizza restaurant is owned by Brandon and Molly (aka the food blogger, Orangette), and served the best pizza my parents and I had ever tasted (and they have both lived in New York for a number of years, plus my mum is Italian). The thin crust was perfect, not soggy, slightly crisp and chewy, and the pizza wasn’t dripping with grease. Also, make sure you don’t miss dessert, the Bitter-sweet Chocolate Chip Cookies with Grey salt are to die for, crisp and buttery on the outside, chewy in the middle and they have tonnes of flavour from (probably 60%) dark chocolate and the grey salt.
Molly Moon Ice Cream – Capitol Hill – not the most flavourful ice cream I’ve ever had (I had maple-walnut and couldn’t really taste the maple), but the texture was really good and store smells amazing as they are constantly making fresh waffle cones, mmm.
The Ace Hotel – Belltown – we stayed here for the 5 days we were in Seattle and it was my favourite hotel of them all. The room had awesome touched like the huge origami folding instructions printed on the wall for a frog and a crane, the diamond on the bathroom door and the bird encyclopaedia pages used to cover the inside of the bathroom shelves. The hotel has a breakfast room with granola, yoghurt, coffee (apparently from Stumptown Coffee) or tea, a toaster and bread, jam and butter, milk and soya milk, orange juice, fruit and a freakin WAFFLE MAKER. Yup, hot, self-serve waffles with syrup (although it wasn’t the best syrup, but I think I’m a maple syrup snob and real maple syrup is pretty pricey). I want a waffle maker now.
Macrina Bakery – Belltown – right across the road from our hotel was Macrina Bakery. They have nice sandwiches there (hot or cold), good coffee, and good bread. Only down side, the muffins weren’t great, I don’t know if they were a day old and I just happened to have back luck, but my Wholegrain Raspberry Muffin wasn’t very flavourful, and was dry and heavy, with a strangely thick and chewy exterior. I had to mix honey and cinnamon from the coffee section and slather it on the muffin to make it palatable.
Tartine – Mission – this was by far the best breakfast I had on this holiday. We shared the double chocolate pain au chocolate (with bitter-sweet Valrhona chocolate inside), a morning bun (orange and cinnamon-sugar sprinkled on croissant dough, rolled up and baked in a muffin tin), an almond breakfast cake (almond cake with fresh seasonal fruit, ours was raspberry, topped with streusel), and a croque monsieur for my dad. We also bought a frangipane tart (I think it was wild blueberry, with the most flaky, delicate, amazing pastry ever) and a slice of the double chocolate loaf cake. We walked a lot that day.
The Ferry Building – Embarcadero – the building here is like a foodie mall, filled with stores with ceramics, kitchen ware, ingredients and most importantly food! There’s a small stall for the Black Jet Baking Co. where I bought a Salty Nut Brownie which was really fudgey and chocolatey. There’s also a really good Thai restaurant (recommended to me by Erica) which was super busy, called the Slanted Door.
Smitten Ice Cream – SoMa – the ice cream here is made in front of your eyes using liquid nitrogen to freeze the ice cream base in seconds! This method makes the ice cream have smaller ice crystals in it, making it smooth and creamy like no other ice cream. I had the fresh mint and chocolate chip ice cream
Blue Bottle Coffee – SoMa – just down the street from Smitten Ice Cream is the garage/café Blue Bottle Coffee Co. You’ll see their coffee being served in many other places too, but I think this may have been their original store. The latté I had was pretty amazing, and my dad bought some coffee beans from there too.
Xanath Ice Cream – Mission – okay, by this time, we were done with ice cream, so didn’t actually buy any ice cream, but we did get 2 free vanilla beans from here!! They give one to each person that goes in (if you ask )
Long Paragraph of Dissappointment Alert – Chez Panisse – Berkeley – The most famous place that we visited and the most dissapointing. We were in the restaurant downstairs where you have a set menu at a set price, the café upstairs may have been a better choice, with the same dishes served in the restaurant, but also a choice of many others instead. The starter a fresh bean salad with aioli, a roasted red pepper, Jerusalem artichoke hearts and half a soft boiled egg with an olive tapenade. This was the best dish of the meal, well balanced flavours and fresh vegetables, with the tapenade and aioli not too overwhelming, and a perfectly cooked egg. The second course was Salmon in a red wine sauce with fennel, this was incredibly simple, but the flavours didn’t go very well together and for (effectively) $25, frankly I could have made it. Next we had roast chicken with a creme fraiche sauce, braised ‘new’ onions and hand-cut pasta with cherry tomatoes, again for $25, I don’t feel that it deserved this price. The chicken was well cooked and the raw cherry tomatoes were sweet, but there was nothing amazing about the dish and again, it could have been made at home extremely easily. Also, the chicken was served on the bone, which at a restaurant like Chez Panisse means that you cant really pick it up with your hands to eat it, so it seemed a bit strange. Lastly the most underwhelming course was dessert. I asked to have a dish from the cafe menu, because the dessert on the set menu didn’t really appeal to me (raspberry, blackberry and vanilla layered ice creams served semifreddo-style) so I ordered the bitter-sweet chocolate ice cream with a biscotti and caramel sauce. My dad also ordered from the cafe menu, a pear galette served with raspberry ice cream. However, they had run out of the bitter-sweet ice cream so the waiter said they were now serving the white chocolate ice cream instead and asked if it was okay, I was fine with that so ordered it. (My mum stuck with the set menu dessert). My dessert, oh my god I can’t even bear to write this, looked like it was being served to a 5 year old. It was two scoops of ice cream, half melted, with chocolate sauce dribbled all over it served in a pasta bowl (with a huge rim and a dip in the centre) and a tiny chocolate cookie on the side (so not a biscotti or caramel sauce at all). It was the worst presentation of ice cream I have ever, ever, ever, ever seen in my entire life. I’m not trying to sound horrible, but seriously, I don’t know how they could have gone so entirely wrong with it. The white chocolate ice cream also had orange in it (which they hadn’t said) and I don’t really enjoy orange with chocolate or as ice cream, the cookie was good but small, and the sauce I can’t even remember how it tasted (even though it covered the entire dish) so it couldn’t have been great. The presentation of my dad’s tart and my mum’s ice cream were fine, and they tasted really good, so I can’t understand why mine arrived as it did. The best things about Chez Panisse were the starter and the staff who were really really welcoming and kind, however, for the price (it was NOT cheap), we could have (and maybe should have) eaten at Sitka and Spruce or Delancey 3 or 4 times instead. (it’s not just me by the way).
Chipotle – we went to this DIY-style-Mexican-fast-food place after seeing Moonrise Kingdom and it was pretty damn good! You can choose all the components to make it as healthy (or unhealthy) as you want such as: if you want tacos or burritos, the type of tortilla, the meat, salsa and extras like sour cream, guacamole etc… I had a chicken taco made with soft corn tortillas, black beans and lettuce.
Random awesome things from the trip
Raincoast Crisps – these things are the most addictive delicious crackers I’ve ever tasted. We first got the raisin, rosemary and pecan ones, then we got the salty date and almond, which weren’t as good.
Moonrise Kingdom – I kept seeing stills from this not realising it was a movie for a while, I showed the stills to my mum and we found out it was playing in America, then I knew I had to see it! It was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while; I loved the retro feel from the props, to the music, to the outfits and the colours. The storyline was sweet, funny, a bit weird and sad at times (I have a dog that’s pretty similar to the one in the movie), and I really recommend it if you’re in the US
Bus drivers in Seattle – I come from London, I’m used to taking the bus, meaning I’m also used to 99% of bus drivers being constantly grumpy. Surprisingly, in Seattle, they were extremely nice which made taking the buses a more pleasant experience while we were there!
Sour Patch Kids Watermelon – I don’t even like watermelon flavouring, but these don’t taste like watermelon at all! They’re not too sour, sweet and chewy, a few of them really satisfy any sweet craving!
Self-serve Frozen Yoghurt – In the UK, frozen yoghurt shops started popping up all over the place a few years ago, but my experience of them (e.g. ‘Snog’) wasn’t very good. The chocolate frozen yoghurt was sweetened with honey, and I didn’t like that flavour combo, plus it was actually kind of bitter and strangely tart, not like normal yoghurt tart, I mean like nothing I’ve ever tasted before tart. While in Seattle, me and my mum went to a rando self-serve frozen yoghurt place, and it was basically like eating ice cream with a bit less guilt. I didn’t want to fill my container up to the top (even though I had the smallest one, they are HUGE) but because it was self serve meant I could have as much as I wanted and combine the flavours I wanted! You get to add toppings and then they just charge per ounce for the whole thing. I had white chocolate and chocolate froyo with like 1 tbsp of crushed oreos, my mum had pink lemonade sorbet and Greek vanilla froyo with flaked coconut, and the whole thing came to like $5.50!
I met Erica, another teen blogger! We were coincidentally both in San Francisco at the same time, staying in Hotels next door to each other. It was great because we had so much in common and she gave me loads of great tips of places to go while I was there (I also have to congratulate her for managing to understand my English accent for 2 hours – most people in coffee shops / waiters looked at me like I wasn’t speaking English when I ordered)
Latté Art – Such an awesome surprise when you order a cup of coffee and get a pretty image in the foam, I had seen pictures of it before, but never actually experienced latté art first hand!