Saturday, April 2, 2011

What Light Through Yonder Coffee House Window Breaks?

Two weeks ago my husband and I returned from spending seven days in Seattle.

I’d never been there before, nowhere even close, so I was giddy to finally get there. My knowledge about Seattle prior to that week consisted of whatever I learned from episodes of “Frasier”, the fact that the grunge movement in music originated there, and the rumor that there’s a Starbucks on every single street corner. But after this time in the Emerald City, I’m happy to say there’s so much more to it.

I have to say, the coffee there really is great, and there is no shortage of corner coffee houses. But for me it was as much about the atmosphere of the establishments as it was the taste of the beverages. These places are cozy, metropolitan-yet-kitschy with eclectic furniture and local art. Most pleasing, though, was the genuine friendliness of the baristas I encountered.

I fully expected to be given a rolled-eye look when I ordered my caffeine fix in the wrong manner. Many jokes have been made regarding whether it’s a “grande mocha latte double whip” or a “double whip mocha latte grande.” The truth is that they all knew what I meant and didn’t make a big deal about my style. The coffee snobbery that’s so often portrayed on TV is total fiction. I think only coffee preppers in OTHER cities behave that way on the false assumption that this is how Seattle baristas behave.

After taking a 3-mile walk around Green Lake Park in a slight drizzle, my friend and I popped in to the Title Nine store on Woodlawn for a quick look-see while we left our two dogs with the menfolk outside. The store clerks immediately insisted we bring the dogs inside the store so they could meet them. [Insert surprised look here.] A retail clothing store preferred we bring our dogs inside. And then they gave them water. How awesome is that? Seattle is super dog friendly, and I’m convinced it puts everyone in a better mood. Everywhere we went there were dogs walking their owners, and they all seem happier because of it.

I found the majority of people in Seattle to be quite pleasant, as well as helpful, polite, gracious…and I promise it’s not only because I was on a constant buzz of local microbrew influence. People there just seemed to be content. (Maybe they’re under a constant buzz of local microbrew influence.)
Our hosts for the week, who both grew up south of the Mason-Dixon, consider Seattle to be “home”, and I can see how the place can quickly grow on you. The backdrop of immense mountains, the never-ending expanse of evergreens (I’m telling you, these trees are spectacular), the clean air, the availability of every outdoor recreational sport imaginable, and the general attitude of welcomeness all contributed to my relaxation and fascination. On my first day back to work my boss told me I looked so relaxed that I looked 10 years younger. Seriously!

Since returning to Florida, my friends have all questioned me about the weather in Seattle. We all believe that it does nothing but rain there. Sorry, folks, but we saw the sun this week, multiple times. We even wore sunglasses. And we saw a glorious full moon between the evergreens one night. But I’ll tell ya, the Seattle rain is far more tolerable than the Florida rain. It may last longer, but it’s less obtrusive. Our hosts told us not to bother bringing umbrellas because “everyone will know you’re a tourist.” They were right, I didn’t see any umbrellas in use, only hats and hoods, and even that was only sometimes.

Truthfully, the overcast skies contributed to the beauty of the landscape. It’s easier to stare up into the massive evergreens when you’re not being blinded by sunlight. The clouds teasingly shadow the snow-topped Olympic and Cascade mountains far off in the distance.

Our ferry ride across Puget Sound seemed more romantic blanketed in grayness.

Finally, I cannot discuss Seattle without mentioning food. A place called Duke’s Chowder House on Alki Beach served a scrumptious chowder sampler that was an absolute dream.
Dungeness crab bourbon, clam, lobster pernod, cajun chicken, and Northwest seafood combo chowders were each simmered to perfection. There I also had wild Alaskan cod that was the freshest, heartiest hunk of fish I’ve ever tasted, with nary a drop of greasiness.

Our last night found us at The Matador in the Ballard neighborhood where I chose roasted tomato, chicken, polenta, and avocado soup (can you hear the choir of angels singing at its mention?). This was accompanied by butternut squash and goat cheese quesadillas. Divine. Nothing pretentious, but skillfully executed (which could describe much of Seattle, actually).

There’s no question whether I loved Seattle. It was well worth every dollar and hour it took to get there. I felt a million miles from home and yet felt entirely comfortable there. I already miss the chilly mornings I spent sipping my coffee on the deck, gazing at the evergreens and cedars, looking for the hummingbird that surprised me the first day. I can’t wait to go back to what was described to me as “the only place you want to be in summer.”

Seattle, wait for me.

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