The Seattle sun blessed the worried Northwest with its presence again, but the forecast predicted heavy rain for Labor Day weekend. Since the weather wasn’t good my last trip, I decided to head over to Seattle (while I still had the chance) so I could write about what Pike Place Market really has to offer. Summer-time Pike Place is the greatest, even though colder days can always be warmed, literally and figuratively, with a visit. I drove this time, and when I parked a friendly man offered me his window ticket so I didn’t have to pay the meter, and so his hour and a half of extra minutes wouldn’t be wasted. I gladly accepted—how nice! As opposed to the first intake of my last visit (coffee in hand staring at frozen fish), this time my first sight was of a police-horse munching on some grass in Victor Steinbrueck Park. There were even some pigeons nesting in the warm grass nearby, which is unusual because they’re usually scavenging near the benches and picnic tables. This park is on the north end of the Market, and it’s so great to eat fresh produce here, read a book, or take a quick snooze. Many days there are musicians playing up front by the tables and water look-out. There’s also a friendly man selling Kettle Corn and lemonade.
Strolling down the outdoor sidewalk of vendors there were a few that caught my eye. One was a Chinese man who makes signs in 15 minutes, translating anything into beautiful Mandarin characters using black calligraphy ink. Sample signs hung on the chicken-wire wall that read, “Mike Loves Julie,” or simply, “Jessica.” One artist had compressed glass wine bottles, and turned them into kitchen ornaments. Each had a unique logo and was garnished with a hay bow around its neck. Other vendors were selling leather handbags, wooden garden signs, and unique jewelry.
I got to chatting with another artist who had watercolor prints and originals on display. He said he specialized in painting nude female figures, and also liked to challenge himself with water scenes. One vibrant print was of a crowd of rowboats floating atop the ocean at sunset; and his latest piece was a collection of colorful, Coy fish swimming underwater.
Inside there were a lot of delightful booths. The first stand I stopped at featured home-made, painted light-switch covers made of clay in all shapes and colors. Some had intricate designs carved into the borders, and others looked like Red Alder leaves, and were painted in rustic, fall colors. There was a professional spoonmaker, and Market penmaker. There was a table laden with inscripted stones. Some had funny sayings on them like, “YOU ROCK!” and “At least you’re not as old as this rock!” Others had inspirational quotes, and still there were larger rocks with more practical engravings like, “Please remove your shoes.”
Walking through the open-air promenade of Pike Place there’s a couple things you’ll always see—fresh produce and flowers. But farmers also bring their home-made spreads to sell, such as berry jams and honey; another vendor packages up dried snacks from his hazelnut orchard. I stopped by a Honey Farm booth and bought 4, 25-cent honey straws—one each in rootbeer, peach, pink lemonade and honey clover. There were also whole jars of wild blackberry, rum spice, espresso, and spiced apple honey.
I spoke with a young flower arranger from Maika’s Garden about her family-owned flower farm in Carnation that has been selling flower bouquets at the Market for the past 19 years. She said that some of the senior flower arrangers had been there for more than 20 years.
Unlike my last trip, today was a great day for peach and nectarine samples from Sosio’s Fruit Produce. I also chatted with one of their produce experts and he explained that orange and red-crusted lobster mushrooms are on the harder side of mushrooms, so their rich, meaty flavor does well in soups. In addition to the great fruit samples and friendly staff, Sosio’s always has a wide assortment of unique produce, such as purple cauliflower and raspberry beans.
To refuel, I stopped by the Athenian Restaurant, famous for being the bar in Sleepless in Seattle where Tom Hanks and his construction friend sit and discuss current dating trends. You might remember the friend saying, “Hellooo, Diane! Take a look at these swatches!” Anyways, since they offer beer and food, and are one of the restaurants in the market to offer widespread views of the sound, I stepped on in. I tried the Athenian Gyro, which features lamb sausage from Uli’s Famous Sausage stand (which I sampled from on my previous trip), and washed it down with Manny’s Pale Ale—a delightful, hoppy and crisp micro-beer brewed in West Seattle.
For dessert I sucked on a clover honey straw and stared out the restaurant’s second-story window watching a parasailor in the sun. The faint silhouette of the chiseled and snow-capped Olympic mountain range served as a backdrop, and the boats left sparkling, saltwater wakes along the Sound.