I'll admit it; I tend to toot my own horn in the name of traveling. While there are many who've seen more of the world than I have, I still feel extremely blessed when it comes to vacationing in awesome lands both near and far. As much as I long to get back to Europe sooner than later, some of my most-loved trips have been right here, on U.S. soil. For this country is filled with amazing culture and landscape diversity. From NYC to the Grand Canyon to New Orleans to Key West, one can not deny the dramatically different scenes that America so proudly boasts.
There's one particular city that comes to mind when I daydream about my former travels. Wooing me not once, but twice in just 4 years, I've seen it at its best and at its very worst. Seattle, the rainy city. Seattle, the uber progressive metropolis. Seattle, the greatest U.S. area I've ever known. Shocking, I know. It certainly doesn't have the most appealing reputation. Yet, it's my belief that this subpar status has come from those who've never visited, from those who only choose to believe the crappy weather consensus. Truth be told, Seattle does rain a lot but not even the all day drizzle could take away from the city's incredible people, views, and food. Oh, and I must not forget to mention...Seattle claims picture perfect 70 degree sunny summers. So there.
In less than one week, I'll be returning for a third time to the Pacific northwest city whose praises I exclaim. Call me nerdy...call me passionate; my reason for returning? I'm attending the International Food Bloggers Conference. Stoked beyond belief, I simply can't wait to explore Seattle with a group of fellow Tampa bloggers and friends. Yes, my motivation for signing up was definitely the destination but at the same token, I'm really looking forward to the conference too. Having only attended a day long conference when I first started blogging a year and a half ago, I know I'm about to be overwhelmed in only the best kind of way. Here are some highlights from the 3-day conference that I'm most excited about.
- The conference's keynote speaker, Dorrie Greenspan: The woman is a foodie genius. Winning multiple James Beard awards for her stellar cook books, she is America's culinary queen.
- Live Food Blogging with Amazon.com Grocery: I'll be simultaneously eating and blogging. Right up my alley. Amazon Grocery will sample fifteen specialty, niche or hard-to-find brands. Each brand will have a few minutes to serve me their goods, give a quick explanation, and answer questions while I blog/tweet about it. Every three minutes, a new brand will take the stage.
- A Taste of Seattle and Gourmet Fair: Need I say more?
- Food Photography and Cooking Demo: New York Times food photographer Andrew Scrivani will be teaching the A-Zs of Digital Food Photography. Friends, I really, really need some lessons in photography. Having just bought my very first DSLR, I plan to take a photography course this Fall. This conference session should be a great start.
- Food Photography Workflow: Post production tips and tricks from New York Times' food photographer Andrew Scrivani.
- Taste of Alaska reception: Yes please. Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute will share some creative and delicious tastes of the best seafood Alaska has to offer. On the menu: Alaska Halibut Corn Dogs, Buffalo Alaska Cod Quesadillas, Sockeye Salmon Bites and Bacon Wrapped Scallop Sliders.
- Urbanspoon Dine-Around Dinner: It's a secret supper. Pretty cool, huh? Urbanspoon will be hosting several dozen intimate dinner parties all around the city. I'm kind of giddy with surprises...especially when they involve food.
Now that I've given you a little taste on what the conference will be offering, I feel that I must provide you with a little insight on my love affair with Seattle. My very first trip was just four years ago when my mom, brother, and I made the cross country trek to visit my cousin, Kimberly. Having lived there off and on for several years, Kimberly showed us the ropes, making quick believers out of all three us during our week long summer getaway. Comfortable in shorts almost everyday and impressed with the city's devotion to green living, I was convinced I'd live there some day.
I'll never forget my first experience at Pike Place market. I was blown away with the abundance of seafood, handmade crafts, and of course, people. While Pike Place is a tourist trap, it's also a place that locals venture to for fresh fish and flowers. However, just across the street stands an infamous joint that the locals definitely stay away from...the first ever, Starbucks...serving the exact same coffee as the Starbucks on every street corner of Seattle. Right next to the chaotic coffee house though, is a place of glory. Beecher's Handmade Cheese. I'll be going there for the third time next week, rest assured.
One incredible feature of Seattle is that one can be submerged in city life and then, in just a couple of hours, be one with nature in Washington's gorgeous mountainscapes. On my first visit, we checked out Mount Rainier, the sky-high beauty that can be seen from almost anywhere in Seattle. We also traveled to the Olympic mountains where I was able to admire some seriously precious creatures. Needless to say, I haven't eaten deer since. I just wouldn't feel right about it.
I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you how wonderful the food scene is in Seattle. For one, the seafood is better than anywhere I've ever been. We're talking the freshest and tastiest salmon, crab, halibut, and oysters one can find. Before this trip, I despised salmon. It was when I tried salmon in Seattle that I fell in love with the pink fish that's native to the Pacific. It's what salmon is supposed to taste like. Seattle also offers a plethora of bar-none Vietnamese and Thai restaurants. The city is up there with NYC and SF with Asian cuisine. They totally know what's up when it comes to the noodle.
Just two years ago, I had the opportunity to visit again. Chris was asked to go there on business. So...like any hard-working professional would do, he secretly booked a room at a Bed and Breakfast. Then, he had his lovely girlfriend join him on the (business) trip. Yeah, he broke some rules, but he did work too. So for two days straight, I got to walk Seattle's streets all by my lonesome, discovering the city in a whole new light. It was mid November this time around, and my goodness, was it brutally cold and rainy. Bundled up and shivering, I've never had so much fun being my own friend. Even at its worst, Seattle still managed to win my affection.
Chris and I did lots of the touristy stuff I had done before...the delightfully cheesy Duck tour, the incredible Sky Needle viewing, and of course, the irresistible Pike Place perusing. We also went on some new adventures too. Staying in Capitol Hill, we were able to see the quainter side of Seattle. Fall leaves covered the friendly neighborhood sidewalks and inviting parks broke up our long walks around town.
We also ate...a lot. Surprising, I know. We dined at my favorite little dive, Ballard Brothers. The place serves up one ridiculous mouth-watering blackened salmon sandwich. I highly recommend it. We also made the drive out of the city to Bizzaro Italian Cafe, an awesomely quirky joint that Guy Fieri had drooled over on an episode of DDD. I quickly understood why. My Clam and Pancetta house-made Linguine was out of this world.
With all our good eating, I still felt like I was missing out on some of Seattle's famous chef eateries...so it's a good thing I'm going back, in full foodie form next week. A few of us already have our reservations set for some highly regarded restaurants such as Poppy, Anchovies and Olives, and Etta's. I can feel my stomach growling now.
While food will always be a passion, traveling is an obsession. I am grateful for my past trips and those soon to come. This Seattle excursion shall be most excellent. I can't wait for lots of learning, exploring...and you know it, eating. IFBC, bring it on...I'm anxiously waiting.