The Space Needle, Pike Place Market and its fair share of rain; surely there can’t be much more to this corner of the Pacific North West? Indeed there can, finds Alexandra Fraser.
Seattle has always featured prominently on our screens on the other side of the pond; there cannot be a household untouched by either Frasier, Grey’s Anatomy or Meg Ryan and Tom Hank’s epic insomniac love story.
You’d think by now we’d know the city like the back of our hands, and yet, there is still so much which surprises Brits who visit its hilly streets and bustling markets.
Seattle through the eyes of Frasier Crane is a cultural hotspot, accessible for the elite and well-stocked with foreign culinary imports.
However, is with some disappointment that we hear Frasier identifying an Australian shiraz in his bid against Niles for corkmaster and not a bottle of Canoe Ridge cabernet sauvignon, produced only a few hundred miles from his sky-scraping home.
Of course, seeing as Frasier’s luxurious flat could not actually exist given the air rights surrounding the Space Needle, it seems that local knowledge was not at the top of the producer’s list of priorities, although producing an iconic TV show was right at the top.
What the producers would have discovered, should they have looked to the oenological wonders of the Pacific North West, is a thriving wine scene which continues to grow to this day, as well as a culture of incredible local food.
Aer Lingus offers seamless connections from 14 UK cities to Seattle, flying via Dublin where guests can preclear US Immigration before stepping board their transatlantic flight. Fares from UK start from £249 (£1,249 business class) each-way including taxes and charges, when booked as a return trip. Visit www.aerlingus.com for more information.
What to drink
Washington state not only produces wine but their wines are some of the best in the world. For those who have sampled the oenological wonders of the Pacific North West, it can be slightly baffling that Washington wine isn’t as much of a household name as their southern neighbours on the sunshine coast.
On the same latitude line as Bordeaux, much more effort goes into the production top quality wines than one might expect from a new world (and relatively unknown) wine region. Individual vineyards produce remarkable grapes and the yearly Taste Washington, the world’s largest single-region food and wine festival, celebrates an area that is quickly gaining traction on the world’s wine stage.
Matthews Winery, one of their prettiest offerings, is deceptively quaint. With an outside lawn that celebrates the few sunny days Washington state receives each year and a beautiful barn-like inside area for the other 360 days, their wine selection is wide and universally delicious.
Book a tasting and try their food – all farm-to-fork, their innovative menus a delicious accompaniment to the main meal – their stunning array of wines.
Another jewel in Seattle’s crown is Chateau Ste. Michelle, a wine distillery and family outing al in one. The Chateau offers you the chance to blend and bottle your own wine in an incredible course which will leave you examining the backs of bottles for months after you return home.
For more information on Taste Washington, please visit tastewashington.org/.
Where to eat
The short answer is everywhere. The Crane brothers chose their city well – Seattle is teeming with five star eateries and delicious popups which even the most fastidious connoisseur couldn’t turn down.
Book onto one of the Savor Seattle food tours to experience the wonders of Pike Place Market with none of the queues. Avoid breakfast – you’ll move swiftly through samples of sixteen different delicacies, and those they be but small they are filling.
Ellenos’ Greek yogurt is a gem – with enough protein to make you feel less guilty for skipping the gym (not that you’ll need it with the steepness of the streets which lead down to Seattle’s beautiful waterline), it’s the perfect sweet snack. Try the Marion berry topping at your own peril – you wont find compote like it in the UK unless you make it yourself with some of our lovely country blackberries.
Beecher’s Cheese and Chuckar Cherries are other top spots to hit. Bring a bag of Chuckar’s chocolate pralines home – the cherries are delightful for anyone with a sweet tooth, but a little too sugary for those dedicated to dark chocolate.
Although it is hard to imagine Frasier or Niles making their way through the bustling crowds at ‘the market’, just past the official Pike Place district lie three of Seattle’s top restaurants, amazingly all owned by the same chef; Seattle’s Tom Douglas. Etta’s seasonal seafood is as fresh as fresh can be, Seatown Market Diner’s chowder wards off winter chill and the Rub With Love Shack has delicious sandwiches if you’re looking for something to munch on while you walk the waterfront.
What to see
Seattle’s most beloved glass blower Dale Chihuly has a permanent installation at Chihuly’s Garden and Glass, right next to the space needle. Stunning native plants as well as offerings from all over the world provide a backdrop to his intricate works. You can also find his work at our very own Kew Gardens, nestled amid the flowers all over the site.
A City Pass will get you into all of Seattle’ top attractions, and the Space Needle is not one you can miss. With far reaching views across the entire city and to the bay beyond, it truly deserves its iconic status.
Where to stay
After all the walking you will do (to burn off the food as well as to traverse Seattle’s steep streets) you’ll need somewhere to rest your head. For a hidden gem, visit Hotel Vintage, a fine Kimpton hotel on 5th avenue with a straight shot down to the market and an award-winning restaurant of its own, the lovely Tulio. The hotel offers complimentary bicycles to use during your stay, and holds daily wine-tasting sessions in the lobby.
All in all, Seattle is a mandatory bucket-list entry and the best time to visit is as soon as possible; I hear it’s simply stunning in the fall.
For more information and to explore the other wonders Seattle and the whole of Washington State has to offer, visit www.visitseattle.org.
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