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Pellegrini Italian Market

July 26, 2016

If you’ve lived in the Atlantic Northeast, it’s hard to eat Italian in the Pacific Northwest. Sure, places like Spinasse will impress, but when it comes to the neighborhood deli/market, pickings are slim. That’s why I was excited to try Pellegrini Italian Market in West Seattle – it brought me home for a minute and I could enjoy the very Seattle experience of the West Seattle Farmers Market while eating a Sicilian slice. The desserts were varied, colorful, and almost overwhelmingly abundant. It took some time to choose so I started with a nutella cookie and espresso while I thought things over.

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The cookie was nutty and fresh with a healthy dollup of nutella (and went well with the espresso) but I needed something a bit more iconic. Enter the rainbow cookie!

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These Italian confections are found all over the Northeast but are hard to get right, the main problem being that they get stale quickly (and this cookie was indeed on the dry side). They can also be too almondy or too sweet (this one had the right balance of both). But the real showstopper was the  peach sandwich cookie:

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Loved the crunchy sugar “crust” and loved the jam-like filling. With “pretty” desserts like this, I worry that the instagram value outweighs the flavor, but in this case, both were unbeatable. Verdict: Pellegrini tastes like home SWEET home. (Sorry for that one.)

Shug’s Soda Fountain

July 16, 2016

If you’re tired of the retro decor/food scene, Shug’s probably isn’t for you. But if you are looking for a spot you can take your kids, hipster friend, date, or silent reading group, Shug’s will work for you! (Yes, there was a silent reading group there when I visited, and no, I didn’t ask how to join even though I really, really wanted to.) The space is light, friendly, and hip without being pretentious or gimmicky, and the location makes it a perfect post-Pike Place Market cool-down.

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There are novelty items (which would actually be standard items in New York) like an egg cream and lime rickey, beer floats, shakes, sundaes, and house-made sodas. The Sundaes were the most intriguing part of the menu – the Brown Derby involves a Mighty-O donut – and I selected the Crested Lourie:

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Coconut ice cream, pineapple, Grenadine, and cashew-coconut brittle. I gave the sundae a thumbs up overall, although the pineapple could have been fresher and the brittle would have been easier to deal with if it were broken up. My date got the Kitty Canutt:

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Cinnamon ice cream, apple compote, and graham cracker crumble. I’d like to return and try their egg cream, malts, and sodas… and maybe that Brown Derby sundae. Because donut.

My Top Ten

March 13, 2016

People ask me for my top recommendations for desserts in Seattle, so I created a page for it.  I’ll do my best to keep my “Top Ten” up-to-date.

1.  Cake: Simply Desserts, Fremont.  This beloved dessert shop has cake by the slice as well as whole cakes made to order (call ahead). The atmosphere isn’t much, but your mouth will be happy.

2. Ice Cream: Full Tilt, multiple locations. The waffle cones are fresh, the retro decor is fun, but the best thing is the imaginative flavors (Mango Chili is my latest obsession). The ice cream bars are also pretty special.

3. Doughnuts: Rodeo Donut, multiple locations. A donut shop inside a cupcakery? Yes please. Rodeo makes the glorious Maple Whiskey Bacon donut along with increasingly adventurous (and yet always delicious) flavors – Tamarind and chickpeas, anyone?

4. Pastries: Bakery Nouveau, multiple locations. Nouveau makes Macarons, chocolates, sandwiches, and pizza, and all are good. Their pastries, however, are great. I challenge you to smell this place and NOT try one of each.

5. Pie: Pie Bar, multiple locations. Also a contender for the liquid dessert category for their fabulous “pie-tinis,” Pie Bar runs a cozy Cap Hill bar/bakery/restaurant (they make savory pies too) complete with a walk-up window, just in case you’re walking along and suddenly need pie.

6. Chocolates: Dolcetta, multiple locations. You can find Dolcetta chocolates at various outdoor markets and local shops, and they are well-worth seeking out, especially the dark chocolate pretzel bar.

7. Cookies: Hello Robin, Capitol Hill. They’re known for the Mackles’more but I’m partial to the plain old chocolate chip. They’ll let you build your own ice cream sandwich with Molly Moon’s, and the small but bright space has a welcoming vibe.

8. Dessert for Breakfast: Portage Bay Cafe, multiple locations. Wildly popular but worth the hype. The pancakes are pretty glorious, but the bananas foster French toast will change your life.

9. Liquid Dessert: Lunchbox Lab, multiple locations.  The burgers are good but the milkshakes – especially the boozy ones – are a great way to spend your entire day’s calorie quota. You have to taste them to believe them.

10. All-around best: Hot Cakes, multiple locations. Hot Cakes really has it all – a solid signature standby (yes, that would be the hot cakes), boozy milkshakes and butterbear, and experimental creations that make their Instagram account a must-follow. This is the place to take out-of-town guests if you want to impress them.

Canal Market

December 20, 2015

Canal Market bills itself as a mercantile/cafe/bakery with an emphasis on fresh pastries and sandwiches. The reviewers on Yelp just call it an overpriced grocery store with terrible service. I wanted to see for myself so I stopped in one rainy morning for pastries, which were nicely arrayed on the butcher block counter.

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The prices, while high, were typical for artisanal baked goods in Seattle (granted, I would not buy pantry goods here as they were pretty marked up). And the person at the counter was friendly, patient, and attentive. I chose the pumpkin muffin to start with:

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This was a model muffin. Crispy, sugary top (and I loved the toasted pumpkin seeds), strong pumpkin flavor, moist interior. If I had stopped there I would have been in love with the place but unfortunately the second pastry I had ( the maple-glazed scone) was dry and overbaked (almost burnt). I only ate a few bites a left with a bitter taste. The moral of this tale of two pastries is that one should always order at least two desserts in case one just doesn’t cut it.

Last Round of Market Treats

October 2, 2015

Saying goodbye to summer means saying goodbye to many of my favorite farmer’s market vendors, but I thought I’d squeeze in one more round of highlights. The first vendor, Hawaii’s Donut, can be a little hard to track down. They don’t have a website, and their brick and mortar location in Northgate is closed. But they do have a Facebook page, and they’re worth seeking out at one of the markets and festivals they attend.  Their specialty is a Portuguese donut called a malasada. They’re basically dense balls of fried dough filled with cream or jelly. They’re popular in Hawaii, but really they should be popular everywhere.

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What I liked best about this place (which I found at the Fremont Sunday Market this summer) was the freshness of the dough. They fry it right in front of you so that the donut is still warm and moist, and the oil temperature seems pretty perfect.  No soggy or stale donuts here!

Next up is the easier-to-find Honest Biscuits, which also has a new, permanent spot in Pike’s Place Market. Most of their biscuit options are savory, but I went salty-sweet by pairing a warm “Pike’s Place Biscuit” (biscuit with Beecher’s cheese cubes in it) with their jam.

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I was really impressed – biscuit was the proper texture and the cheese chunks added a nice complexity to the whole concoction. Next I’ll be trying some of the savory sandwich options. So yes, I’m sad summer’s over, but on a positive note it means I’ll be checking out some of the many new bakeries that have popped up all over the city!

Lunchbox Lab

April 11, 2015

When the sun’s out, I want ice cream – or better yet, a milkshake. I’ve loved milkshakes since I was a kid, but adult milkshakes (AKA boozy shakes) are even better. There are several places in Seattle that will give you a quality boozy shake (Hot Cakes being my personal fave) but nothing beats the variety at Lunchbox Lab.  A chill restaurant to being with – they have excellent burgers and bomb tater tots – it only gets better with their grown-up shakes.

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Did I mention the variety? I got the banana cream milkshake with vanilla rum. This satisfied both my love of banana desserts and my love of milkshakes. Oh and my love of alcohol. I’ve also had a very satisfying Oreo milkshake with whiskey.  My friend got a Nutella milkshake with I-forget-what-tasty shot:

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She sucked hers down – I took longer to finish. I’m usually good with half a milkshake, but I couldn’t let the rest of mine go to waste!  Lunchbox Lab has an epic happy hour and pleasant outdoor seating with a fire pit. And they’re open late! Definitely on my “most beloved” Seattle restaurant list.

Issaquah Farmers Market

July 7, 2013

Continuing my quest to explore as many Seattle-area farmers markets as possible this summer, I stopped by the Issaquah market to check out my friend’s ice cream stand – one of the few I’ve encountered at any market. First off, let me say that I was overwhelmed by the size and scope of this market. There were a dozen lunch stands, and more produce and flower booths than I could count. And pony rides. But I took some deep breaths and dove in, buying meats, salad greens, cherries… and an apron (I had always wanted one). Finally I took a time out for ice cream:

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That’s Kelly, scooping her homemade Cosmic Creamery ice cream – today’s flavors were cherry-chocolate, vanilla, raspberry-rhubarb sorbet, and something called breakfast ice cream. Curious, I sampled the latter. Turns out it’s a coffee base with bits of bacon… and it’s surprisingly enjoyable! But I went for something a little tamer – a mix of the vanilla and the sorbet – heaven in a cup!

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Naturally, I couldn’t stop with just one dessert, especially since Kelly’s stand was just a few feet away from Sun Spot Mini Donuts. Drawn by the aroma of fried dough (one thing I could never resist), I stopped to watch the donut-making process:

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There wasn’t even a choice – I had to have them. The donuts come in bags of seven, and I could have eaten 10 bags (but held myself to one, which I even shared with a friend). Served up crispy and so hot you have to let them cool down, they shake powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar over the bag. For sure the best fried dough I have EVER had the pleasure to scarf down. Mmmmmm. Respect the mini donut!

Shoofly Pie

May 23, 2011

West Seattle is such a great little corner of the world if you’re a dessert hunter like I am. There are so many quality choices that even though I live in Capitol Hill, I find myself up on California Ave quite often, looking for that special something. A recent expedition brought me to Shoofly Pie, a small, colorful cafe and pie shop.

It’s a great spot to hang out, take tea, and dig into your sweet or savory pie.  In fact, I highly recommend the latter (I had the chicken pot pie) if it’s a rainy day (which it usually is) and you’re in need of some serious comfort food. When you’ve finished with that, move on to dessert:

Everything they have is handmade from scratch – no bland factory/frozen pie taste here! Everything is fruity flaky goodness with seasonal changes in the menu. You can also buy Old School’s vanilla frozen custard to take home, so that you can eat your warmed-up pie a la mode, as I did:

This was a slice of the strawberry-rhubarb pie, which, according to their website, was how everything started. But if that’s too nutritious for you, order the shoofly pie, which is a traditional American dessert involving pie crust and molasses (that’s what I’m going to try next time… I can’t say no to a dessert that’s mostly butter and sugar).

Top Ten in 2010

January 17, 2011

They say the New Year is a good time for reflection, and what better reflection topic than Seattle desserts? Therefore, even as my friends begin their various digestive cleanses, and as America goes on its collective diet, I stand strong and list my favorite Seattle desserts – the best in each of ten categories.

1. Best Ice Cream: I’m gonna have to go with Old School Frozen Custard. Their flavors are far more limited than Molly Moon’s, but the ice cream is superior. This is where I take my dad when he comes to town – and my father really does know best when it comes to ice cream.

2. Best Cupcake: The battle between Trophy and Cupcake Royale rages on, but I for one am glad that we have so many options. For now, I’m a Cupcake Royale girl (I think the cake part is better there) but I plan to keep an open mind (and mouth) in the coming year.

3. Best Cookie: I may disappoint a few folks with this one, but I’m pretty loyal to Specialty’s semi-sweet chocolate chunk cookie. I know, they’re a chain, but they’re GOOD. And you can get them warm. Plus, you know they have a solid franchise when even the wheat-germ cookies are delicious.

4. Best Beverage:  Although I love Diletante’s Chocolate Martini, and Red Mill Burger’s Oreo shake, I’m going to choose Fran’s Hot Chocolate. Maybe I’m biased because it’s winter, but nothing beats Fran’s on a cold day (or even on a warm day…)

5. Best Cake: My favorite place to get cake is still the Kingfish Cafe, although Dilettante’s is a VERY close runner-up. I like the fact that you never know what’s going to be on the dessert menu (but you know it’s going to be good), and I’ve had the only butterscotch cake of my life there.

6. Best Pastry: I’m gonna go out on a limb and choose the Cocktail Bun from Mon Hei Bakery in the International District.  I would make a trip to Chinatown again and again just for one of those, fresh out of the oven. Of course, Besalu makes a darn good pastry too…

7. Best Dessert-for-Breakfast: I haven’t reviewed it on here yet, but I’m obsessed with the Kona Kitchen’s Sweet Bread French Toast.  Portuguese sweet bread is popular in Hawaii, and for good reason, but it’s even better when it’s dipped in egg and fried in butter.  You have to eat it to believe it… (but I wish they would serve it with real maple syrup).

8. Best Chocolates: Theo’s. For the following reasons: you can tour their factory (and get lots of free samples at the store), they have the most creative concoctions, and I love, love, love their dark chocolate. Did I mention all the free samples?

9. Best Doughnut: This was actually the most difficult category for me to choose a winner. I’m obsessed with Top Pot (the old-fashioned style, not the cake style), but I also can’t live without my hot, fresh, Daily Dozen in Pike’s Place Market. Only three “flavors,” and you have to wait in line, but nothing beats the melt-in-your-mouth mini-doughnuts that they serve up. Not even Top Pot.

10. Best Overall Dessert Place: Dilettante’s is the best in my book.  Maybe because I love chocolate so much, maybe because they have such a great selection of delectable desserts, maybe because you can get a chocolate martini WITH your dessert… or all of the above. And a nice atmosphere to boot.

And, one for good luck:

11. Place I’m Most Excited to Try: Honore Artisan Bakery in Ballard. I hear amazing things about their pastries, and based on the number of good dessert places in Ballard I sometimes think I live in the wrong neighborhood…

 

Full Tilt Ice Cream

July 10, 2010

When I first moved to Seattle in 2005, independent ice cream parlors were in short supply. However, in the last few years, there has been a delightful boom in local ice cream production. With a variety of truly unique flavors (the ube ice cream is made from purple yams) and a fun, retro-style atmosphere, Full Tilt is yet another exceptional Seattle ice cream parlor.

And now that our first heat wave is finally here, it’s time to sample some of the good stuff!  I headed to the U-District location, but they also have shops in White Center and Columbia City.  Upon arrival, I chose Coffee-Oreo, a combination of my two most favorite ice cream flavors:

And yes, the ice cream was glorious (sweet, not as creamy as some other places which is fine by me – I like both styles), but the true highlight was the waffle cone.  They make them fresh, right there in front of you while you wait, and I liked it even better than the ones at Molly Moon’s.  And, just in case there is a line as everyone demands fresh waffle cones, you can play Pac-Man!

Or hula hoop, if that’s your preference. In any case, I’ll be back soon to try the Mexican Chocolate … or maybe just a bunch of waffle cones.