Although it is mere coincidence that the words Seattle and seafood both start with the same three letters of the alphabet, it takes only a stroll through Pike Place Market to see for yourself that Seattle is a seafood-lover's nirvana. Silvery salmon, hefty Dungeness crabs, clams, mussels, and dozens of varieties of oysters are the seafood stars in this city on the shores of Puget Sound. Salmon, although not always local, is a Northwest icon that shows up both fresh and smoked on Seattle menus. Wish you could take some salmon home? Not a problem. Pike Place Market fishmongers will pack fresh salmon for you to take home on the plane, and some vacuum-packed smoked salmon doesn't even need to be refrigerated. Oysters are such an obsession here that one of my favorite restaurants, Elliott's Oyster House, even has an oyster "New Year" celebration every year in early November.
Washington's bounty doesn't end where the surf meets the turf. The state's temperate climate is ideal for growing everything from apples to zucchinis. Small farms grow such a wide variety of fresh produce throughout the year that the locavore movement (eating locally as much as possible) has rapidly gained ground among chefs at the city's top restaurants. Fresh, organic, local, and sustainable are the watchwords at an ever-increasing number of restaurants in town, such as Tilth, Agua Verde Cafe, and Portage Bay Café. Even espresso stands around town have jumped on the wagon, serving organic, fair-trade, and shade-grown coffees. Perhaps best of all, Seattle's Theo Chocolate, a company that gives tours of its chocolate factory, roasts its own organic and fair-trade cocoa beans. Finally, guilt-free chocolate!
Of course, as nearly everyone on the planet knows, coffee leviathan Starbucks got its start in Seattle, and espresso here has been raised to an art form. However, from dawn to dark, Seattle cups and glasses stay filled with more than just double-tall skinny lattes.
Washington State is one of the nation's top wine producers, and while there are few vineyards in the vicinity of Seattle, many of the state's best and biggest wineries are in the town of Woodinville, just a 30-minute drive north of the city. Washington wineries are best known for their cabernet sauvignon and merlot, but you should also keep an eye out for excellent syrahs and semillons. Many of the city's top restaurants emphasize Washington wines on their wine lists, and a wine bars around the city provide opportunities to sip and sample regional fruits of the vine. Seattle is also home to quite a few craft breweries; some are tiny brewpubs, but others are major brewers that craft distinctive beers. While Pyramid Breweries and the Red Hook Ale Brewery are the two major players in the area, smaller brewpubs worth searching out include Big Time Brewery & Alehouse and the Elysian Brewing Company, two of my personal favorites.
Nearly every restaurant in Seattle has a Happy Hour, typically between 4pm and 6pm and sometimes late at night. Happy Hour is a great way to sample a restaurant’s smaller appetizer plates and enjoy a glass of wine or cocktail at a reasonable price. But here’s my real secret for a happy Happy Hour: oysters. Many Seattle seafood restaurants offer freshly shucked oysters for $1 to $2 during their happy hours. Now that is something to make you happy.
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