Jumping over the lazy dog

or, taking the bull by the horns.

Beans, beans, beans!

We all know Seattle has a thing for beans – coffee beans.  But did you also know that Seattle’s starting to fall for the chocolate bean as well? Chocolate bars (pun intended), workshops, tasting tours…we ran into this new craze everywhere during our hunt for food in the city.  It was too much to resist.  So this post features not one, but two of the best chocolate places I’ve visited – and the best part is that you can order their chocolates online!

Let’s start with Chocolate Box.  Right up the street from Pike Place Market, and a few blocks from the major shopping district, it’s a great place to grab a mid-century-modern-inspired seat and savor some gelato or sip on a large bowl of mocha – which is exactly what we did. I had a delicious  scoop of stracciatella and one of those mochas, a combination of temperature extremities that probably did little to help the cold I was starting to catch.  Chocolate Box sells local chocolates and hosts a range of chocolate-themed workshops, so if you’re in town, I’d recommend stopping there first.

A delicate and sophisticated atmosphere at Fran's.  The portrait is actually a photograph of tiled truffles - talk about chocolate art!

A delicate and sophisticated atmosphere at Fran's. The portrait is actually a photograph of tiled truffles - talk about chocolate art!

My favorite chocolate place, though, was definitely Fran’s Chocolates.  It was a chilly morning (well, chilly for me, since I was the only one in shorts) as we made our way to SAM, and nothing in Seattle seemed to open until 10AM.  That is, nothing but Fran’s! There we were, standing outside the museum at 9:40, shivering in our flip flops, desperate for something warm.  A charming floral graphic across the street caught my eye.  I hadn’t actually registered what the graphic was for – I only liked the promising interior, and the designer that I am, I dragged Saarinen and Dinosaur after me.  Open at 9:30 AM, located directly across the street from SAM, Fran’s has the best hot chocolate in the world. I can say this, because I have had hot chocolate from very random places around the world (Paris, which certainly gives Fran’s some competition, and India, which doesn’t, for example), and Fran’s is definitely the best hot chocolate I have ever had.  The barista pulled out a small paper cup, filled it (I kid you not) with dark chocolate chips and topped it with steamed milk – mmmm, delicious.  Fran’s also sells an assortment of chocolate truffles, with the usual flavors…and some unusual ones (chocolate figs anyone?).  These and their hot chocolate mix are available online – I know I’m going to be purchasing some, right now.

Are those diamonds on display or truffles? Either way, a woman's best friend...

Are those diamonds on display or truffles? Either way, a woman's best friend...

Before you get the wrong idea, we did eat some real food while in Seattle.  While at Pike Place Market, we ate at Athenian Inn.  A contender for the best meal of the road trip, it’s also the place where Tom Hanks has a seat in Sleepless in Seattle.  I had the freshest Halibut and green beans I’ve ever tasted, and Saarinen’s seafood alfredo pasta was absolutely divine.

One of Saarinen’s friends recommended Ray’s Boathouse, so we thought we’d check it out.  It’s a bit on the pricey side, and when we got there they said we’d have to wait an hour before we could be seated.  So we opted to eat at Ray’s Café instead – they’re both in the same building, but the view from the deck at Ray’s Café can’t be beat.  As we dined on fresh seafood (everyone had a nibble from another’s dish, of course), we watched the sun drop below the water.  They even provide you with blankets to fend of the chill that sets in at dusk!

The prize for the quickest, cheapest and surprisingly tasty meal goes to Original Deli, one of those last-minute-oh-my-God-I-need-to-eat finds.  Maybe it was because we were so hungry, but their soup and sandwiches were better than Au Bon Pain’s – and I’m a sucker for some Au Bon Pain.

You’d think it would be pretty hard to top our dining experience in Seattle – but there’s a restaurant in Albuquerque that gives the Athenian Inn a run for its money.  And a place in Oregon called the Crazy Norwegian.  Oh yes, just you wait.

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Guess who’s back!

Dear Readers,

I apologize for the radio silence these last few days, but it’s all with good reason, I assure you.  As I mentioned earlier, a few friends and I planned a road trip for the first two weeks of August. Said road trip took place concurrently with the aforementioned radio silence, so there you have it.  But I’m back now, and it’s time to recount the trails we blazed.

The road trip began with an extended stay in Seattle.  Saarinen and I flew out on a Tuesday to meet Dinosaur and my little brother, and were met by Dino, Jr. (for whom we tried out several other nicknames, including Merry Man and Iceberg, but I think Dino, Jr. is going to stick) a few days later.  This first post shall recount our Seattle adventures.

Dinosaur, Saarinen and I at Kelly Park.

Dinosaur, Saarinen and I at Kerry Park.

We kicked off our visit by getting lost.  Actually, we were trying to find Kerry Park, and wound up wandering through an absolutely beautiful neighborhood, albeit in the wrong direction, before being guided to an alley way and winding stone stairs that led us to our intended destination.  Day one concluded with another walk about town, with the obligatory visit to Pike Place Market (our first visit, but certainly not the last).

Yes, I took 'that' picture.

Yes, I took 'that' picture.

The next day we dipped our feet in history by taking the Seattle Underground Tour, with an incredibly chipper tour guide (think the girl from the Progressive commercials, but even more enthusiastic).  It was a bit creepy, but mostly cool (a bit chilly, as well).  I would be curious to know if it’s possible to build a wine bar down there – the right temperature conditions and a “shabby chic” factor – could be quite the spot.  We then took a long, long, long walk from Pioneer Square to the Experience Music Project and the Sci-Fi museum.  In true Gehry style, the museum is quite compelling from the exterior, if only because it makes no sense.  I was digging the bright red and bronze finishes, but the light blue portions paled in comparison to the uncharacteristically sunny Seattle sky.  Dinosaur, Lil Bro and I wrapped up the night by attending the Barcelona-Seattle soccer match (which ended 4-0, the poor things), and Saarinen met up with a friend to visit the Space Needle.

It's really tall.

It's really tall.

We began First Thursday with a visit to SAM.  An interesting collection, for sure, though the museum building itself is composed of the cliché “empty white square” architecture.  I was particularly attracted to the Cai Guo-Quiang sculptures in the lobby.  That we followed by a walk through the Seattle Central Library, which was incredible to see in person.  The interior spaces are bright with daylight even with a cloudy sky, and the pop of neon colors really does make the circulation legible from a distance.  We then wandered through the art district, popping into the galleries that were open and gaping at the exorbitant prices.

The "Living Room" of the Seattle Central Library.

The "Living Room" of the Seattle Central Library.

On Friday we took a day trip to the Cascades (the ones in Washington State, not the ones near Blacksburg, Virginia).  The hike was beautiful – but the waterfall itself was not that impressive.  I imagine, though, had we come a bit earlier we might have seen more rushing water.  The river we drove along was much more beautiful than the falls we drove to see.  The mountains’ steep climb, the winding road and the turquoise blue water set my soul at ease.  I think I like these mountains better than the ones out East.

The beautiful view at the trailhead.

The beautiful view at the trail head.

If you’ll notice, I haven’t made a mention about food.  Well, that’s because our dining experience deserves a post of its own.  So come back tomorrow for a mouth-watering menu for your next trip to Seattle!

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