North American West Coast Part 2: Seattle & Vancouver

Seattle & Orcas
Orcas island morning

We left the glorious Californian sun to be welcomed by a dreary and grey Seattle. Our first evening in Belltown was forgettable as we managed to find a decent pub to have a beer and some average food before retiring to the warmth of our hotel. We made it to our friends’ wedding on Orcas island the next morning by the skin of our teeth, boarding a tiny wheely plane that looked a lot more scary than it turned out to be. My first coffee in Seattle was.. yes you guessed it, Starbucks! By lack of better place to get a hot breakfast while waiting for our (cancelled) seaplane. A drive-through Starbucks, too. I felt depressed.
The food on Orcas was not particularly noteworthy apart from the wedding dinner. Thanks to my colleague David however, our last meal in Seattle was actually very good. He had recommended two places and we picked the nearest one to our hotel, Dhalia Lounge.

Seattle & Orcas
Manila clams at Dhalia Lounge
We shared some delicious starters and really enjoyed the flavours, particularly the smoked salmon and hot mustard. We also shared possibly the best seafood dish of the whole holiday, a bowl of steamed local Manila clams with a lemongrass and bacon broth. Delicious. I finally tried Dungeness crab cakes as my main and, leaving room for dessert, we shared a freshly made portion of small, soft and chewy donuts with vanilla mascarpone and berry jam. I seldom eat donuts due to the calories count, but oh, this was so worth it! Dhalia lounge is also known for their bakery right next door on 4thstreet, which sells fabulous products.
Seattle & Orcas
Pike Place Market

We visited the famous Pike Place Market, having heard so much about it. It was ok but kind of disappointing, an array of very touristy plastic wares, some vaguely interesting hand crafts such as wolly hats and soaps, many fruit and veg stalls with bright colours and fresh produce and a few fish mongers selling the biggest crabs I have ever seen. We escaped the throng of the ground floor to have a peek at the first below.

Seattle & Orcas
Beautiful fresh produce at Pike Market

A lot quieter with some quirky shops, it’s worth a look. Yet this market has nothing on Borough or Boqueria, and did not even inspire us to actually have lunch on site. A curiosity is the very first Starbucks coffee shop opened here in 1971. I took a photo and left it to the other tourists.

Vancouver
Vancouver and sunshine!

We said goodbye to Seattle on the slowest train on earth (Amtrak Cascades, covering the distance of 120miles in a staggering 5 hours!) and arrived in British Columbia, where we got picked up by @bmcboy’s auntie and uncle. Hungry, we stopped for lunch at a randomly selected Italian restaurant on the way to their town.
Poor Italian was an incredibly pleasant surprise. I had Paccheri e Salsiccia – they were cooked al dente, salted to the right amount and the salsiccia was the real thing. I was amazed!

Vancouver
Famous BC clam chowder at Rowena’s


We enjoyed another great lunch with the family on the lake at Rowena’s on the Lake. Log fire going, beautiful countryside and pretty decent food. I also had the thrilling experience of a donut drive-through in Abbottsford (after experiencing a cash point drive through!). Exciting.

We spent our last couple of days of the holiday in the beautiful city of Vancouver. Not enough time to visit the great outdoors such as Grouse Mountain, it was enough to get a feel for a buzzing, elegant city where I am hoping to go back one day. Food was a little hit and miss and; if on one hand the coffee was way better than Seattle (more to come), the food was somehow a strange experience.
Fish Shack
Fish tacos at Fish Shack, Granville St

The feeling of a very lively food, drinks and coffee scene is tangible, yet somehow, coming from London, we felt some places missed the mark. We had a below average lunch at The Flying Pig, a trendy looking, busy gastropub in Gastown; we had a decent lunch at the Fish Shack on Granville St. Stylish and creative interior (kudos to the architect), interesting menu with sustainable choices clearly marked with the Ocean Wise logo, good prices and cool music.

Yaletown
Yaletown

One of our 2 dinners in town was at Forage. It was a hard choice, as there are so many interesting places to pick. I looked up a few of local food writer Nikki Bayley’s recommendations and chose Forage for our first dinner. I was expecting something along the lines of the delicate creations of Roganic or the spices and herbs of the Dock Kitchen. Unfortunately, despite clever and admirable eco credentials (nothing is wasted, everything is sourced locally and cooked on site), the food failed to fully deliver. It was way too overloaded with heavy condiments. The gnocchi were good but the butter was too rich; the cod on pork belly was ok but the vegetables base bland; the cheese pierogi laden with cheese. Slightly disappointing, as I had high expectations and the venue and the service were of good quality.

L'Abattoir

The second and final dinner in Vanc City was at L’Abattoir, of which I had heard from a few food bloggers in the past. We first had an aperitif downstairs at Guilt & Co., a nice bar not too busy at that time and with the fastest and friendliest service of our holiday.

The flavours at L’Abattoir delivered especially on the starter we shared, which was smoked Steelhead with soft boiled egg and crunchy potatoes and it was fantastic. I picked pork shoulder cooked in milk as main, and enjoyed it although it was not what I was expected. We shared a mellow, flavoursome sticky toffee pudding with a delicate ginger ice cream for dessert before heading off into the brisk night air of Gastown.

Steelhead, l’Abattoir

The following day we managed to pack in a meaty, juicy porchetta sandwich at Meat & Bread (in Gastown of course), with extra scratching. Nikki had made me promise I wouldn’t leave town without trying and it was so worth it! Strange for an Italian to enjoy porchetta in Canada, but it worked. Thanks Nikki for the recommendation!

Meat & Bread
Meat & Bread counter

We said goodbye to Vancouver with a bland and tasteless airport meal, the opposite of the San Francisco airport’s quality food. I am looking forward to coming back to explore more, food and wildlife.


In Seattle, we stayed at two funky, good value for money hotels in Belltown which i would recommend:

Hotel Max
http://www.hotelmaxseattle.com/
££

Hotel Five
http://www.hotelfiveseattle.com/
££

In Vancouver we stayed at historic boutique hotel St Regis, downtown
http://www.stregishotel.com/default-en.html
£££


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