We are at Estates Wine Room and Double Canyon winemaker Kate Michaud just described one of her vintages as the “sensation of being in a waterbed.” It moves, it’s got a certain depth, but at the end of swirling around, you hit the bottom and are enveloped.
For those not up on their sniffing and quaffing skills, the semantics matter not — the wines are delicious. It seems Seattle has come just a little bit further in 10 years than my husband and I remember, and rather than a grungy, craft beer-fueled getaway hopping around to selfie at Pike Place Market, there are cozy neighborhood alcoves filled with chef-owned restaurants and cocktail bars, boutiques and curios that feel like they’ve got true soul. Or maybe it’s just us, older and refined a decade later.
Either way, there’s lots more to experience in Emerald City in a couple of days than we imagined, and the wine tasting was just one way to toast a fun, well-fueled February getaway that offered an appetizer to Taste Washington’s annual March extravaganza, with more than 235 wineries and 65 restaurants.
Estates certainly wasn’t here 10 years ago, and, as we roll up to an illuminated, twinkling Pioneer Square and its charming cobbled streets, we’re excited for some nibbles and noshes, along with learning about Kate’s unique story living abroad, studying art history in our hometown of Boston, and now splitting her time between educating in Seattle and creating in Walla Walla. (As a New England girl, this home to former Patriots QB Drew Bledsoe has always held intrigue and been one of the most fun parts of Washington State to pronounce).
Then it’s on to Vendemmia — another tongue-twister for sure. Cherub-faced chef Brian Clevenger’s first restaurant is an industrial-yet-still-charming 36-seater whose name (the Italian word for “grape harvest”) seems remarkably apropos for the evening.
You can find him behind the stove or buzzing about his GH Pasta Company on a Saturday afternoon, cobalt Mariners hat in tow, working the lunch shift for fun while also making 1,000-plus servings of his Italian specialties for the new Sunday Supper portion of the Food & Wine Experience. A sort of prelude to the March event, Clevenger says he doesn’t really need the press, but it’s “always good to be and have your name out there.” As one of the city’s most celebrated young chefs (with popular Le Messe and East Anchor Seafood under his belt, too), his confidence doesn’t seem like hubris but fact.
He does graciously name several other restaurants and not his own as his favorites in the city — including Stateside — but our plates are already pretty much full figuratively and literally. We made an afternoon visit along the waterfront to sip and sample at the Experience, but definitely saved the most room for small international shareables at Sawyer, in the cool Ballard district, and the fresh foragings — including trout in a delightful citrus and fennel relish — at Rider. Like Boston, Seattle is great because the plates are every bit as elevated as the iconic Space Needle, without any fine dining attire required. It’s easy to pass a day sightseeing here without returning back to a hotel to change into finery.
Brand-new Willmott’s Ghost from Seattle favorite chef Renee Erickson is also a cool way to get a glimpse inside the Amazon Spheres that have a months-long tour waiting list. Make a lunch reservation and you can enjoy not only views of the rare plant species inside, but trendy pastel Neopolitan hues in pink and green that, like the savory Roman-style pizzas, brighten up even the grayest of rainy days.
Color also packs a punch at the Chihuly Garden and Glass, a cool indoor and outdoor exhibit of this Tacoma artist’s incredible lighting fixtures, vessels, domes and plant-like structures. It’s conveniently located at Seattle Center, a one-stop shop for all of the most famous attractions: the Space Needle, the Museum of Pop Culture and the Children’s Museum.
But there’s plenty shaking further afield, too, and we were lucky enough to visit during Museum Month. Passes given to those staying at select hotels entitle folks to free or half-price admission at the Northwest African American Museum — with a great glimpse into the life of native son Jimi Hendrix — and the brand-new Nordic Museum, among myriad others.
After full days of exploration, it’s great to find a respite, and the brand-new Palihotel offered a prime location near Pike Market, cool digs a la Brooklyn and Museum Month deals. Remember that sensation of “being in a waterbed”? Well, there’s none of that here, with comfy king-sized beds in efficiently designed rooms that may be lower in square footage but compensate with good taste. That continues with what comes out of the kitchen, with delicious butter biscuits and locally brewed coffee at The Hart and the Hunter.