Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

August 22, 2017

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You can “Meet the Producers” at the 106-year-old Pike Place Market, which consists of owner-operated bakeries, fish markets and butcher shops.

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Seattle for the senses

Get ready to see, smell and taste your way through the city

“It was a dark and stormy night,” a tour guide began his spiel, “and that’s every night in Seattle.” Well, not really. Seattle’s reputation as Rainy City is based less on rainfall than the gloom and drizzle that blankets the cityscape 220 days a year.

We should care? Seattle sweeps away the gloom with a glorious pairing of art and food. Come and see; if art’s food for the eye, food’s art for the palate.

Now luring art lovers westward is Chihuly Garden and Glass (305 Harrison Street; tel: 206-753-4940; chihulygardenandglass.com; adults from US$19, kids 4 to 12 US$12), a long-term exhibit inside Seattle Center dedicated to the oeuvre of native son and globally celebrated glass artist Dale Chihuly.

You may know Chihuly: his flamboyant works show in 200 museums worldwide. His large-scale architectural installations span the planet from New York’s Rockefeller Center to London’s Victoria and Albert Museum to the Singapore Art Museum.

One of his most playful and ambitious efforts was 1996’s Chihuly Over Venice. He created fantastical glass works at factories from Mexico to Ireland, then installed them as “Chandeliers” to shimmer and glow over the canals and piazzas of Venice. Even the seen-it-all Venetians were smitten.

Unveiled last year, Chihuly Garden and Glass sees the one-eyed, frizzy-haired artist bejeweling his hometown with eight galleries presented in a loose biographical order. The visitor then steps out to the Garden and 13-metre-high Glasshouse, a riff on London’s Crystal Palace.

Seattleites tend to complain about the hefty admission price — day/night admission is US$26 for adults — and the gift shop where one might pay $9000 for the equivalent of a Chihuly paperweight. But for the Chihuly novice, the exhibit is the perfect ticket.

The wavering Glass Forest represents the artist’s neon art of the 1970s. Collections of Native blankets and baskets play off vivid glass art counterparts. His riotous Persian Ceiling dazzles from above. Mille Fiori is an impressionist garden of floral forms atop a reflecting platform.

The Garden is a landscape of glass art dispersed amid Pacific Northwest flora including a near-500-year-old western red cedar and 4500 plantings of black mondo grass. Some could be reinterpreted as triffids from a distant planet, prepping to annihilate humanity with deadly spores. With Chihuly, there’s no end of play with the imagination.

The finale is the Glass House. Here the city’s iconic Space Needle looms through a jungle of brilliant red, orange, yellow and amber “Persians” suspended from the 13-metre-high ceiling. (Happily, the museum welcomes cameras. In the Glass House, the shutter-bugging is near-symphonic.)

Such an immersion builds an appetite, in which case Seattle, lately emerging as one of the great American food cities, is ready for you. But first, you must check out the regional food basket at the Pike Place Market.

The market and Monsoon

Savor Seattle Food Tours (1916 Pike Place; tel: 206-209-5485; savorseattletours.com; tours from US$40 per person) is an enterprising outfit that operates five guided walking tours to the city’s gastronomic hot spots. Its two-hour Pike Place tour melds history, local colour, visits to vendors and at least 16 tastings.

The latter include Pike Place Fish for three excellent takes on smoked salmon, Pike Place Chowder for deliriously rich clam chowder and restaurateur Tom Douglas’s Etta for crab cake: a buttered breadcrumb crust with fluffy Dungeness crab, this is probably the finest crab cake you’ll ever eat.

Seattle’s a great foodie town and Canadians are relieved to discover that prices are substantially lower than they are in Vancouver or Toronto. “One of the things I love most about Seattle,” says Tanya Matthews, the Canadian marketing director of the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, “is that you can eat great food without spending a million.”

Homegrown chefs and entrepreneurs build empires without leaving town. Tom Douglas has no fewer than 12. Maria Hines has three restaurants focusing on organics. Chef Ethan Stowell has six, including How to Cook a Wolf and the sublimely named Anchovies & Olives.

Vietnamese-born and Edmonton-raised chef Eric Banh and his sister, Sophie, drive Monsoon (615 19th Avenue East; tel: 206-325-2111; monsoonrestaurants.com), a Capitol Hill landmark since 1999, when the Banhs began applying Vietnamese panache to Pacific Northwest product. Monsoon’s kitchen shows no fear of flavour, yet its fare is refined enough to be compatible with an up-market wine list.

Banh likens his cuisine to Vietnamese street food, where quality is imperative. “If a chef isn’t good,” he says, “he can’t afford to feed the family.”

A signature dish is fresh baby squid — yes, fresh, not frozen, from Monterey Bay — stuffed with minced duck, grilled over charcoal and accented with five-spice, basil and shiitake mushrooms. It’s so good you want to return before you’ve left.

Another signature is flank steak seasoned with five-spice, honey and garlic, a dish that makes you want to howl with pleasure. The Monday special is Dungeness crab slathered with Vietnamese chili sauce. Pacific Northwesters cherish the local crab and show up to pack the room.

James Beard award-winner and one of the few to whoop TV’s Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, Chef Maria Hines is the force behind the Golden Beetle (1744 Northwest Market Street; tel: 206-706-2977; golden-beetle.com/main). This daring venture marries organics with the cuisines of the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, and spritzes things up with fancy cocktails.

Golden Beetle’s kibbeh is a crackling bulgur crust stuffed with spiced lamb and then garnished with baba ghanoush and slivers of preserved lemon. There’s halloumi from Cyprus, the savoury cheese arriving in an umami haze. And, oh yes, French fries: they’re fried in beef fat and dusted with sumac, its slightly bitter notes conjuring up visions of exotic feasts in black tents.

The best of the West

At Lloyd Martin (1525 Queen Anne Avenue North; tel: 206-420-7602; lloydmartinseattle.com), named for chef-owner Sam Crannell’s two enterprising granddads, grandson turns out powerful flavours without a kitchen — yes, without a kitchen. “Just three guys with the equivalent of Bunsen Burners,” he says. The counter at the rear of this snazzy boîte is a fury of sizzle and smoke and aromas that tickle the taste buds.

The princely offering is foie gras torchon, a full moon of silken duck liver terrine perched on brioche and capped with a toonie of rhubarb Champagne gelée. By comparison, shaved Iberico ham dressed with Moroccan olive oil, a beautiful thing in itself, verges on the austere.

Fish and meat mains are treated lovingly, and in modest portions. Veal loin with porcini and snowcap mushrooms in Marsala jus salutes the classic. Wagyu beef tenderloin, Australia’s response to Japan’s Kobe beef, comes marbled enough to be consumed by the toothless. Dessert has to be salted caramel tart with chocolate pastry and peanut butter ice cream.

The rainy city also boasts some of the finest Italian on the coast. An old fave, the chandeliered, wine-walled Barolo (1940 Westlake Avenue; tel: 206-770-9000; baroloseattle.com) in the business district, knows how to fill a room at lunch: with a US$13 two-course menu and wines for a bargain US$20 a bottle.

On this occasion, lunch was grilled octopus drizzled in a Sicilian onslaught of olive oil, white wine, lemon, capers and Gaeta olives; a main of impeccable grilled scallops, squid and asparagus plus saffron risotto; and a light, but rich-tasting bread pudding for dessert.

Or one might pass on the deal and get serious with humanely raised, hormone-free veal scaloppini. It arrives fork-tender with shavings of black truffle and a squirt of lemon for balance. It is not to die for. It is to kill for.

Ethan Stowell’s newest is Rione XIII (401 15th Avenue East; tel: 206-838- 2878; ethanstowellrestaurants.com), named for the district of Rome (like a Parisian arrondissement) encompassing the Trastevere quarter, whose narrow streets and ochre hues provided the backdrop for Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love. Rione XIII is a Roman-inspired tratt with a contemporary American overlay.

The room glows with lofty ceilings, exposed brick, an open kitchen, a wood-fired oven and hand-blown glass pendants that manage to look as if they’re wrapped in prosciutto. The buzz is the unmistakable sound of a crowd tucking into fine food and loving it. In Vancouver, this sort of restaurant quickly becomes the preserve of lawyers, bankers and stockbrokers, but not here: half the room was tables of women — colleagues, housewives, old college chums — their laughter the music of the night.

Antipasto raises the bar, an eye-filling orchestration of Castelvetrano olives, marinated mozzarella, porchetta and prosciutto. There are Roman pizzas with potato, anchovies and rosemary. And fried risotto balls stuffed with mozzarella and sauced in beef ragu.

But if you have a thing for truly great Roman cooking, turn to Rione XIII’s take on saltimbocca (which translates as “to jump in the mouth”) alla Romana.

In Rome, they drape prosciutto over veal scaloppini, top it with sage and pan-fry it in butter and Marsala wine. This calls for no improvement, but Rione XIII kicks it up that American notch anyway: Chef Brandon Kirksey and his brigade transform it into veal chop saltimbocca alla Romana. Not a few slices of veal, but an entire chop sizable enough to qualify as a weapon. Rione chefs then wrap the whole chop in prosciutto. They stuff fresh sage between the meats. They grill it to a juicy, perfect pink. They drizzle it with Marsala and butter. The carnivore faints with pleasure. A vegetarian might just faint.

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