For the most part, I came to Seattle to visit my best friend Cheryl, who I've known since I was in elementary school. I've been up to Seattle to visit her several times over the years, but my last trip was a short one day and, after watching her get married in Cabo this summer, I felt that I wanted to a longer visit to spend time with her.
In the past few days since I've returned, though,I've been thinking that maybe I also went to Washington in search of something that is impossible to find. I wanted certainty, to be sure that the life I'm living here in Los Angeles is the right life, the one that I'll look back on without regret. Needless to say, I didn't find any answers written in the gray skies of Seattle. The tangled paths of our lives take us places we never thought we would go, and there's no way to know with certainty that we are ever where we're "supposed" to be.
In this sense, the rainy city is an especially good symbol for the understanding that nothing in life is ever black and white, but always cloaked in shades of gray. Correspondingly, Seattle is a good place to mull things over. Pensive skies, expansive lakes, gentle drizzles. Because of the nearly constant moisture, everything seems in a continuous state of picturesque overgrowth, mosses draping themselves over stones, vines and bushes poking out from every corner like unkempt hair from underneath a hat. The presence of so much water- whether in the many lakes, the sound, or the rain- makes the whole city feel sparkling and abundant.
I've never really been able to figure out why Seattle isn't more popular as a travel destination. Lately, it's been all about Austin, New Orleans, or Portland. But Seattle really has it all. For food people, Seattle brings access to pristine Northwestern seafood, mushrooms, endless blackberries, apples, and increasingly sophisticated wines. Most importantly, for me anyway, Seattle restaurants are hyper focused on quality ingredients and excellent technique, with a de-emphasis on pretension and social media hype. For those who love being outside, like me, it has easy access to all kinds of adventures and gorgeous hiking. Culture and music abound. And the population is an interesting mix of uber rich tech nerds, Northwestern hipsters, nature lovers, and everything in between. No matter what kind of person you encounter, almost everyone in Seattle was super friendly. I had conversations with many, many strangers in my five days in Seattle. Since I've been back in LA, I've had conversations with zero strangers.
Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream
Lots of locations: see website!
I was actually won over by Molly Moon's before I even ate any ice cream. The adorable logo with the dog licking the ice cream cone is irresistibly lovable. The line around the corner outside speaks volumes about the quality of the ice cream, though. Check out this fabulous graphic to see a list of their flavors here, which includes 'Scout Mint' made with real girl scout cookies, and original strawberry, using only Washington grown berries. I had salted caramel which Cheryl warns me you should always try first- sometimes it's too salty, she says. I find this hard to believe since nothing is too salty for me but, you know, if you're sensitive try it first.
The Walrus & The Carpenter
4743 Ballard Ave NW
I made a mistake when I went to the Walrus & The Carpenter. I got overly excited about other items on the menu and forgot to order enough oysters. I recommend that you get mostly oysters, and eat elsewhere if you need more. The food is good, but it's expensive and...maybe not as subtle as I would like. With the exception of the scallop crudo, I would have skipped our other dishes- fried oysters, sardines, and an open-faced BLT that was a little insulting. (As in, how are you supposed to eat an open-faced BLT? With a knife and fork?) The oysters, though, they were perfect in every way and served with a proper mignonette- not a few bits of minced shallot floating in vinegar- a thing which seems to be increasingly rare these days. The atmosphere is fun and convivial, and the restaurant is small, so be prepared to wait.
Lighthouse Coffee Roasters
400 N. 43rd Street
I'm not a coffee expert in any sense of the term. But, I do love coffee, and I like to visit all the coffee shops when I'm somewhere new. This place was my favorite in Seattle. Fantastic coffee and nice people serving it. What a concept! Also, the beans are roasted in vintage cast-iron roasters, so that's cool.
6015 Phinney Ave N.
The finest pastry skills married to Japanese aesthetic and flavors. Red bean croissants! Black sesame shortbread! Green tea and Yuzu macarons! AND MORE! Things sell out so, if you want one of those red bean croissants, be like Cheryl and call ahead to have them set it aside.
I suppose suggesting wine tasting as an activity is a kind of nerdy thing to do, but we had so much fun in Woodinville! If you head into the town center, you can park and walk to a ton of wineries, all of them with a pretty vibrant scene. Many places offer food, so you can keep the wine-tasting going for awhile. Weekend days are best for this type of thing, for obvious reasons. (ie. the obligatory post wine-tasting nap.)
Rattlesnake Ledge (Snoqualmie Region)
I laughed when I read the Washington Trails Association description of this hike just now, because it echoes exactly what I said to Cheryl when she pointed out the end destination of the hike from the parking lot. It says, "as soon as you arrive in the parking lot you have a view of Rattlensake Ledge's sheer rock face across Rattlesnake Lake. At this point it seems amazing to think you will be up there by the end of your hike." Just know that you will get up there, and it's not as hard as you'd think. The trail is well designed and only about 4 miles, so it's pretty heavily trafficked, but I didn't find that distracted at all from the experience as a whole, or the great view from the top. Cheryl tells me there are a lot other hikes right nearby, including an 8 mile hike with a higher elevation gain, called Mount Si.
Mighty O Donuts
The very last thing that I did in Seattle was to race my rental car away from Cheryl's house much later than I should have left for the airport, and hurtle towards Mighty O Donuts. Since Cheryl used to live within walking distance, I'd been there before, more than once, and I didn't want to miss it this time around. I ran in, ordered a dozen donuts, and brought them onto the plane. Some people nearby commented- as I sat in my tiny plane seat with a dozen donuts on my lap- that I must really love my family. Truth be told, those donuts were all for me. Mighty O donuts are - get this- certified organic. Not that I think a donut can be "healthy," but I do think an organic donut must be better than those trans fat fried monstrosities we normally eat. These donuts are lighter, and more flavorful than the conventional alternative. And they cost more, too :) so don't say I didn't warn you.