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A Food and Wine Lover’s Paradise in Seattle

April 2, 2015

Sunny, breezy, 80 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Seriously… am I really in Seattle? This would be my 4th trip to this beautiful city and I kid you not, every time the weather has been absolutely stunning. I’m totally convinced that there is an urban legend going on about how terrible the weather is out here. In order to keep the population down, the locals all say it rains every day…but I think I’m on to them. Because really, between the amazing food and drink, nightlife scene, eclectic shops, Wild Alaskan King salmon for $11/lb, and gorgeous scenery – who wouldn’t want to live here? The entire world might move here if they thought the weather was like it is when I’ve visited.

After our ferry ride from Friday Harbor into Anacortes, we drove out to Woodinville to experience some of the amazing wineries of the Columbia Valley. Washington has an interesting wine scene – all of the vineyards are actually about 3 hours east of Seattle out in the more arid, desert areas of Eastern Washington. However, all of the wineries where they do wine tastings are a short drive from the city. Realizing that most tourists weren’t going to drive to the vineyards, they brought the wine to the people. A great concept, but what I did find lacking was the typical picturesque scenery of the vineyards like you would see in Napa or Sonoma.

We visited four fantastic wineries including: Columbia, Novelty Hill-Janiuk, J. Bookwalter and of course the world renowned, Chateau Ste. Michelle. Not that I would call myself a wine connoisseur by any means, but I do have certain varietals that I like and ones I traditionally don’t like; two of those being Chardonnay and Merlot. For me, most Chardonnay wines are just too rich and buttery, a result of being aged in oak barrels. And Merlot, well…most Merlot wines that I’ve tried have really just not been that complex or interesting – they’re often too light and I like an in your face bold type of red wine. Well, was I in for a re-education! Apparently, Washington State is the place for…you guessed it…Merlot wine. I cringed at the first winery when I saw the lineup and of course it included Chardonnay and Merlot. I laughingly told the sommelier that I wasn’t a big fan of either and she said…well, I think we might change your mind.

At Columbia Winery we tried a very interesting 2012 Composition Red Blend. Composition is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah – a grape that the winemakers introduced to Washington State. Our next stop was the Novelty Hill-Janiuk winery where we enjoyed a lovely 100% Chardonnay. At J. Bookwalter winery, which interestingly names all of their wines after literary terms like protagonist, subplot and foreshadow, we tried some amazing cabs and red blends. My favorite was the 2011 Conflict which was produced during the coldest vintage on record in Eastern Washington. And of course, you can’t go wrong at Chateau St. Michelle who produces more Riesling than any other winery in the world. Three hours and wineries later and yup – I bought a bottle of Chardonnay and 2 bottles of Merlot. My friends will be laughing…that is until I convert them too!

Later that day we checked into the Pan Pacific Hotel in downtown Seattle. Situated in an envious location only 10 minutes walking distance from the famous Space Needle or Pike’s Market, the Pan Pacific Seattle is a beautiful and luxurious high-rise. We had a corner king suite with a stunning view of the Needle. The rooms feature Hypnos beds (you won’t want to get out of them), modern bathrooms with separate rain showers, oversized European soaking tubs and Shoji screen doors, the largest vanity mirror you’ll ever see and iHome® docking stations with audio speakers.

Their list of ecofriendly initiatives is lengthy and includes many great practices, but some of the more unique things I found were for only a small fee per night, guests can match the electricity use of 25 kilowatt hours for a one night’s stay in a guest room at the hotel. Guests who contribute additionally will support the generation of clean wind energy. The wind energy credits for this program are sourced from wind farms in Washington State and North Dakota.

The PanEarth® program launched at the Pan Pacific Seattle and maintains the position of model property throughout the brand. They repurpose all amenities to the YWCA and unused soap is donated to the Clean the World program. It was also great to hear that all of their unpresented banquet food is donated to Food Lifeline in Seattle.

The Pan Pacific Seattle provides some fantastic dining options as well, with an inspired Pacific Northwest-centered menu featuring unique dishes with locally sourced offerings. What I found really convenient was their close proximity to a wide variety of shops and boutiques right in their own plaza. Head to Vida Spa for an Ayurvedic treatment customized to your individual Dosha. Pick up a treat for your favorite four-legged friend at Scraps Dog Bakery & Boutique. Just steps from the hotel, Whole Foods provides fresh, organic, and hard-to-find gourmet items and unique gifts. Be Luminous specializes in power vinyasa yoga, offering a variety of complementary yoga styles for a well-rounded experience. Visit www.panpacific.com/seattle.

We ended the day at a couple of great spots in downtown Seattle – Zig Zag café, which is a cute little bistro with a speakeasy feel and great cocktails and light fare. And then we happened upon Spur, a New American Gastropub that seamlessly brings fine dining cuisine into an approachable bar atmosphere. As the Chef’s experimental playground, Spur has garnered widespread recognition. Within a year of opening, the Chef Owners propelled the gastropub onto Food & Wine magazine’s coveted Go List of, “the most outstanding, must-visit restaurants in the world.” It wasn’t hard to see why with their excellent craft cocktails (try the Moonage Dream) and delicious food (don’t miss the tagliatelle with duck egg, oyster mushroom and pine nuts).

The next day started with a fantastic brunch at Café Flora in the Madison Park section of Seattle. Madison Park is a beautiful neighborhood packed with locally owned cafes, pubs, coffee and ice-cream shops, boutiques, and salons. Cafe Flora has carried its eco-conscious philosophy into its atrium, a charming garden retreat just off the main dining room. The garden atrium brings al-fresco dining to guests year round. Bathed in natural light, the space boasts exotic greenery, a bubbling central fountain and natural stone accents. The collective effect creates a warm, appealing and calming environment for guests. There is also a bar area with reclaimed wood accents using materials from local farms. You really feel like you’ve just entered a lush jungle for your dining experience. If you’re Vegan or Vegetarian, this is one place you can’t miss on your trip to Seattle.

We tried their decadent cinnamon roll with maple toasted pecans which was unbelievably light and delicious. The vegan breakfast quesadilla was amazing with roasted yams, poblano peppers, corn & pepper jack cheese inside an egg battered flour tortilla and topped with snappy sauce. I loved the summer mushroom scramble which was eggs or seasoned tofu with king trumpet mushrooms, crimini mushroom duxelles, roasted red pepper, fresh basil, and goat cheese. Scrumptious! Visit www.cafeflora.com.

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