Thursday, November 1, 2012

Seattle, The Emerald City, The Caffeine City

There are so many things I love about Seattle, mainly the fact that I have so many dear friends there, and a trip to Seattle is always a whirlwind of get togethers and catching up.  But the always green quality of the city, the huge green spaces and parks and undeveloped hills and the evergreen trees with dots of autumn color changing trees makes it a beautiful place.  Ferries dot the Sound as they sail to the various islands, seals ply the waters, eagles soar overhead, and there’s a feeling of peace and nature in Seattle that I love, as if this city isn’t really a city but just a few neighborhoods set in a giant green park that is wedged between Puget Sound on the west and Lake Washington on the east.  The green extends to the outlook of the people, with recycling bins and post-consumer-recycled products and electric buses running on hydroelectric power – it’s just green.

Then there’s the weather.  The weather is often just grey.  The weather might be the worst part about Seattle.  The weather is definitely why I don’t live in the Pacific Northwest.  There are gorgeous days, with a deep blue cloudless sky and golden sunlight.  There are clear days, when the mountains come out.  Yes, that’s what we say, “Rainier is out today” or “The Olympics [or Cascades] are out today” – meaning they have come out from behind the thick layers of grey haze/cloud/fog/mist/rain/drizzle that often envelopes the region.

Of course, in my head I know that all that moisture is why western Washington is so green all year, and why the flowers are so amazing in the spring – fields of daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, orchards of flowering fruit trees, neighborhoods of rhododendron and azaleas and of course the most amazingly fragrant lilacs.

But the skies are grey, the foliage is muted by the mist, and the damp creeps into your bones.  So I visit, I have wonderful times with wonderful friends, and the weather gods usually give me a few weeks of perfect weather and a few weeks to remind me why I don’t live there anymore.

I have a theory though – that grey wet weather that presses on your eyes and brain, that makes you feel as if you aren’t quite awake – that weather is the reason Seattle is such a center of caffeine culture.  Everyone knows that Starbucks began in Seattle.  Tourists go to the original Starbucks shop in Pike Place Market (just known as the Market to those who live in Seattle) and take photos of each other, as if they’ve arrived at Mecca or the Vatican.  Then there was Seattle’s Best Coffee, and all the myriad independent coffee shops all around the city – nearly a coffee shop on every block.  There are drive up coffee shops, so you don’t have to get out of your car to get your latte or mocha.  There are lingerie and bikini coffee shops to try to pull in male coffee drinks who get a different kind of wake up.  (I have to interject that this has got to be one of the most sexist and exploitive things I’ve heard of in quite a while, and I will never patronize such a place.)

There are tea houses as well, because some of us love our Earl Grey or English Breakfast or Oolong or Chai.  And of course most coffee shops also carry a variety of teas.  Newest is Rooibos, a non-tea-leaf tea that is tasty but seems to put me to sleep.

And best of all, Seattle has the chocolaterias.  Not that they call them that.  No no no, we have gourmet chocolateires in Seattle – The Dilettante, Fran’s Rose’s, Theo’s, to name a few.  Handmade truffles and bars and cakes and cookies and unbelievable hot chocolate with choices from milk chocolate to 70% dark.  Chocolate-covered espresso beans, just in case you need an extra bit of caffeine in your life.
And, as everyone knows, chocolate is a basic food group and you should have some every day.

So you can imagine my delight when, after arriving at the airport and going through the security screening (does anyone else pretend they’re a criminal ready for a pat-down with that new hands-above-head stance in the security tube?) – as I enter the post-security terminal – there, my personal Mecca, my Jerusalem, there it is, the Dilettante Mocha CafĂ©!!!!!!!  OMG, my heart leaps and pounds, my mouth begins to salivate, my cells cry out CHOOOOOOOOOCCOOOOOOLAAAAAAAATE!!!!!!!!

I had a Grande Nonfat 70% Hot Chocolate (made with molten chocolate instead of the Dutch processed) – because this is still Seattle and that’s how we order drinks around here.  I shared a piece of Rigo Jansci torte with Richard on the plane.  (Dark chocolate cake with over an inch of dark chocolate whipped cream in the center, and a dark smooth ganache on the top.  I have the Dilettante cookbook, and I make my own version of this cake for very special occasions.  That whipped cream center takes a quart or so of cream, whipped, and then mixed with about a pound of melted semi-sweet chocolate.  Heaven in a bowl.  Heaven between layers of chocolate cake.  Absolutely amazing stuff.  I’ve been known to put it in a goblet and call it chocolate mousse.)
And Richard bought the chocolate covered shortbread cookies, which we shared with our seatmate on the way to LA, shared with my little niece who met us at the airport, and then polished off somewhere over the Pacific Ocean in the middle of the night.  (And I only had two out of the box, just so you know who the true Midnight Cookie Monster was.)

Happy Halloween to us!


  1. Yes, Dilettante is strategically located in the center of SeaTac food land. Anthony's has pretty good breakfast tacos but the real star of that area are the Dilettante chocolate beverages. And they seem to have a good selection of the classic Dilettante desserts. A very nice addition to the SeaTac food scene.

  2. The Dilettante is ALWAYS the star of any area!!!!!

    Have you tried the Rigo Jansci? Amazing stuff!!!!