I didn't just cloister myself away in Seattle's all-veg restaurants (or indeed, the city itself) during my stay. I was also inducted into the world of baseball, witnessing the Seattle Mariners defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates. I'd expected that the refreshments would be restricted to hot dogs and beer and I swooped on these Dirty Tots as soon as I saw them - the 'tater tots are scattered with surprisingly sharp, soft cheese, pickled peppers and, if you're not me, bacon. I washed them down with the smallest Mountain Dew I could find and tried not to notice the oil pooling in the bottom of the tray.
Actually, there was a broader variety of food than I'd expected - I noticed wood-fired pizzas, tacos and even a Thai noodle stand further around Safeco Field. I was delighted to match up the real baseball experience with what little I'd learned from The Simpsons - the organ music, the spruiker throwing bags of peanuts and, on my way out, evidence of a stand selling nacho hats.
As well as the Mariners, Seattle is the home of Orangette, a food blog I've been reading for nigh on a decade. Its author Molly Winzenberg and her husband Brandon own a pizza restaurant with a bar next door; these venues were on my wish-list for the trip. Three of my Aussie friends obliged in joining me there one night.
I assumed that Delancey and Essex would be located on a hip retail strip and was surprised to see them nestled unobtrusively in a residential area. This didn't seem to dim their popularity - we put our names on the waiting list at Delancey and settled in with drinks and bar snacks at Essex. I had a potent little cocktail called Cedro in Thyme (US$12 ~ AU$16) and made from vodka, Salers, pear brandy, Acqua di Cedro, and a house-made thyme tincture.
We nibbled on bright, sweet Castelvetrano olives (US$4 ~ AU$5.30) and an intermittently hot and sugary snack mix of cashews, rice bubbles and flaked coconut flavoured with vanilla and Aleppo peppers ($US6 ~ AU$8).
Delancey didn't keep us waiting any longer than we'd been warned, finding us a table for four in the back corner. It was a little loud and dimly lit. The pizza menu has the very American style of just a small number of toppings per pizza, although here they take extra care and pride in sourcing high-quality ingredients from local suppliers.
The bases were relatively thin, crisping up at the edges and softened with sauce in the centre. The white pie (above left, US$16 ~ AU$21) was a festival of cheese with house-made ricotta, fresh and aged mozzarella, Grana, and a bit of garlic. The Crimini (above centre, US$14 ~ AU$18) was generously scattered with its namesake mushroom, a little thyme and a strong whiff of truffle oil.
To drink, I tried a non-alcoholic house-made beetroot shrub (above right, US$4 ~ US$5). It was such an unusual, almost savoury soda, and it suited the pizzas well.
We opted to pack up some of the pizza and order some desserts to share. Delancey is known for its chocolate chip cookies sprinkled with grey salt (US$3.50 ~ AU$4.60) - so much so that you can eat them baked, as dough, and/or matched with a Ramos Pinto 20-year tawny port. My companions tried every combination! Preferences for baked vs dough varied, but we agreed that we preferred mixed-in salt to the concentrated sprinkle here.
I had my eye on the bourbon roasted peaches (US$9 ~AU$12). Although I expected more fruit and more syrup on my plate, I nonetheless enjoyed their combination with crumbled corn cookies, anise hyssop leaves and brown butter icecream.
Neither Delancey nor Essex are really designed for vegetarians (and I don't think vegans would have much fun there), but I was very glad to visit them - I think I'd be a fan even if they didn't have a blog connection that's special to me.
On my last day on the west coast, my mate Kim and I ventured out of Seattle, and she suggested the Black Diamond Bakery for a breakfast stop. The bakery's brick oven was built in 1884, but the adjoining cafe serving breakfasts is a youthful 25 years old by comparison. The menu is a classic diner selection of eggs and bacon and chicken fried steak, pancakes and French toast and hash browns. Everyone is served half a canned peach in syrup and a miniature blueberry muffin to begin.
There are a few incidentally vegetarian options, and they'll also happily omit the meat on other items (like Kim's burrito). I took on a veggie and cheese omelet (US$11.99 ~ AU$15.80), a brightly yellow egg batter wrapped around sauteed spinach, capsicum, onion, mushroom, tomato and a long, stretchy thread of orange cheese. I must admit to being more enamoured with the sides, a huge serving of home-made crispy edged hash brown and, in preference to toast, a gorgeously fluffy biscuit spread with butter.
On a clear day, the Black Diamond Bakery supposedly has a view of Mt Rainier, but we weren't blessed with one of those. We thought their garden was charming anyway.
We did eventually find our mountain views, though, and a waterfall too before we turned back to town (see pics below). Here we queued up for one of Seattle's other attractions - the original Starbuck's.
I'm not much of a coffee drinker (much less at 5pm) so I revelled in Starbuck's diluted conception of this drink, ordering a 'tall' (i.e. small) S'mores frappuccino. My straw first hit on a thick chocolate syrup base before working through a sweet, milky vanilla coffee; I could barely suck the 'marshmallow-infused whipped cream' through my straw and, honestly, I didn't really want to.
To finish, here are a few snaps of the more natural beauties of Washington state...