Hood Famous Bakeshop

February 26, 2017

When you’re too much of a foodie to eat at the Cheesecake Factory but you still want that creamy, tangy goodness (and you’re willing to deal with parking in Ballard), check out Hood’s Famous Bakeshop. Instead of Snickers and Pumpkin flavors, you’ll fall in love with more interesting Filipino flavors like ube and guava. The shop itself is little more than a hole-in-the-wall, so choose your cakes (mini size and up) and go. I went all mini for a family dinner:

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The red top left is the white chocolate guava, the orange next to it is mango, the purple is the ube (purple yam), the green is coconut pandan (a green leaf used in southeast Asia for flavor), and the brown is Vietnamese coffee. The big hits were the coffee and the mango, but I preferred the ube which is what Hood is famous for. It doesn’t taste like yam – the flavor is pretty close to vanilla – but the ube gives the cake a lovely texture (the color ain’t bad either). If you’re throwing a summer dinner party for out-of-town guests (or, for that matter, a winter dinner party for Seattleites) these will be big hit. The ube cake is also sold at local grocery stores so there’s really no excuse for going to the Cheesecake Factory (unless, like me, you really like that Oreo Cheesecake!).

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Mr West

February 19, 2017

So many waffle cafes, so little time. I’ve enjoyed Sweet Iron, Arosa, Metier, and many more – and now I can cross Mr. West off my list.  It’s a sweet spot to work (solid wifi), sip coffee, and devour some excellent waffles. I had to choose between several sweet and savory options – there’s a whole waffle bar with toppings to put on your buttermilk or buckwheat waffle. But I went with The King, topped with drizzled almond butter, bananas, bacon, pecans, and maple syrup.

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The buckwheat waffle stood up nicely to the load of toppings and the almond butter was a nice twist on the classic peanut butter. Elvis would have approved. To wash it down, I got the Coffee Egg Cream – a combination of coffee, milk, chocolate syrup, and seltzer.

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Certainly not the same as the NYC classic, but enjoyable nonetheless (and so few places outside NYC even offer an egg cream). This place is a winner, and an easy walk from the downtown light rail station.

Toast

February 10, 2017

Cute coffee shops are one of the reasons I love living in Seattle. Toast, with free wifi, spacious work space, and excellent espresso, takes things a step further with freshly made waffles and gourmet toast. I was more excited for the waffles.  They have all sorts of fancy toppings, and you can mix and match as desired. I got half of a s’mores waffle:

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Perfectly crisp waffle, a little toasted marshmallow in each square, fudge drizzled over the whole thing, and graham cracker crumbs to make it perfect. It was the perfect dessert for breakfast, but I didn’t stop there. I got another half with cream cheese, jam, and whipped cream – they call it The Tart.

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I actually liked this one even better. The cream cheese gave it a nice tang and the jam was like a complex syrup. I’d like to come back and try the toast – or the BLT waffle. Worth the fight for parking in Ballard!

Pike Place Bakery

February 5, 2017

This old-school bakery has staying power – it’s been at The Market since the 80s and draws in the tourists thanks to a solid location close to the fish-throwing action.  They get mixed reviews on Yelp, and the sign could probably use an update, but I can’t deny the attraction of their “Texas Donuts” – literally a donut the size of a small child.

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I doubted my ability to eat a Texas Donut, so I asked the saleslady for her recommendations (okay, I WAS confident in my ability, which is why I didn’t get one). I was told to try the buttermilk bar, a sort of donut/pastry with a sweet buttermilk-flavored filling:

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It turned out to be quite tasty. A little too sweet, but it was fresh, buttermilky, and decadent. I ate half and dunked the other half in my coffee the next day – both experiences were highly enjoyable. I also got the Chinese Almond Cookie at the saleslady’s recommendation:

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Now, I don’t love almond flavor so I wasn’t sure I’d like these. And truthfully, they were a little “almondy” for my taste, but I recognized that the buttery texture was on point, the chocolate filling was a nice counterpoint to the sugary almond cookie, and that the cookies were fresh and made with care. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised  – this bakery is not the tourist trap I was expecting.

Sweet and Savory

January 17, 2017

The only way to get through Seattle’s winter is to get out. I made myself do just that last Saturday – it was sunny, so I decided to visit the U-District Farmer’s Market where I found the delightful new stand Sweet and Savory Catering by Cynthia Brock. Huddled in the freezing temperatures, she was selling her homemade cookies and pastries along with more savory fare like her “winter jam” – a sort of chutney with nuts, quince, and spices that is amazing on sandwiches or paired with Stilton cheese. I chose an assortment of treats, including an apple-fig galette, lemon bar, and apricot bar:

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The lemon and apricot bars were spot-on with a lovely shortbread crust and flavorful topping. The galette was a bit heavily spiced for my taste, although the crust was solid. This woman knows her way around a stick of butter.  Just as amazing were her Christmas cookies:

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I didn’t share. I ate them all myself and didn’t feel bad about it at all – they were that good. Plenty of butter, sweet but not overly so, and tasting so incredibly fresh. This catering company is worth checking out while Cynthia is still at the U-District market!

Sweet Iron Waffles

January 7, 2017

Seattle has so many options for a sweet breakfast, and now Capitol Hill has one more in Sweet Iron Waffles (which already had a downtown location). By my count, that makes over ten spots in Capitol Hill alone that specialize in breakfast pastries, donuts, or waffles (some of my favorites being Mighty O, Queen Bee, Crumble & Flake, Wandering Goose, and Bakery Nouveau). Sweet Iron does liege waffles and it does them well, with both savory and sweet options and a light and airy setting with espresso and free wifi.

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I went straight for the brie, basil, and bacon option, which turned out to be nice balance of savory and sweet (the waffle itself has a crispy caramelized sugar coating). I also chose a few iced waffles to snack on later. The verdict? Get the fresh, hot off the press waffles – my savory waffle was amazing. The pre-made sweet waffles lose their freshness quickly and next time I’ll stick to the freshly-dipped-in-chocolate sweet options, or do another savory snack.

Sweet Mickey’s

November 5, 2016

Fudge is something we equate with summer, or at least I do. Boardwalks and beach towns, the chocolate melting onto your fingers, eating the brick of fudge you meant to bring back to friends… But this year, I found my fudge fix in the fall – specifically in a lovely candy store in Ballard called Sweet Mickey’s. They are a candy shop that not only sells all kind of fun candy, they also make their own amazing fudge.

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The fudge flavor of the season was pumpkin, and (a bit skeptically) I bought a small piece of that along with salted chocolate caramel and chocolate walnut.

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The pumpkin (center) was easily the best. Laced with a layer of caramel, the pumpkin flavor shone without tasting like a candy version of a pumpkin spiced latte. Texture was fudgy yet delicate, with the caramel layer adding gooey complexity. Runner up was the salted caramel – the fudge itself was dense and the flavors completed one another perfectly. The chocolate walnut was also good – just not as interesting as the other two. Overall, this was some of the best fudge I’ve ever had – my only mistake was not buying more of it.

Eastern Cafe

October 22, 2016

Looking for that coffee shop with outlets, free wifi, space to work, and most importantly, dessert? The Eastern Cafe is all of those. Ride the streetcar or light rail, take a stroll around one of Seattle’s most authentic neighborhoods, and then enjoy this pleasant cafe in the International District. Good coffee and a hip but friendly atmosphere, this is a great place to post up with your laptop or a book.

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Make your work-from-home experience complete with a tasty dessert crepe (savory options and sandwiches area also available). I got the fruit and nutella crepe:

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With plentiful nutella and bananas, real whipped cream, almonds, and powdered sugar, this is a treat worthy of Parisian sidewalk cafes.

Sea Wolf Bakers

October 9, 2016

If you’re more concerned with substance over style, or just want to grab some of the best bread in Seattle to up your dinner party game, check out bare bones Sea Wolf Bakers in Fremont. They do one thing, and do it really well – bread and pastries. They have a warehouse/wholesale type space with a couple tables and minimal service, but the folks there are friendly and hardworking and most importantly, excellent bakers of bread.

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I bought a baguette and a loaf of sourdough rye, as well as a couple pastries. The baguette was of the traditional French variety – meaning it cuts up the roof of your mouth and has a high crust to dough ratio. The rye was dark, very like Russian black bread, with a wonderful fermenty-tasting bite to it. As for the pastries, one was a chocolate croissant and the other a huckleberry danish. 

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Both were outstanding (especially since they were still warm), with crispy, flaky outsides and buttery but light innards. There is definitely a level of perfection and hand-made care that sets Sea Wolf apart from lesser, grocery-store ready spots (ahem, Essentials) and makes their bread worth seeking out whenever possible. I know I will.

Marketing in Magnolia

September 18, 2016

I’ve lived in Seattle for a decade and somehow I’ve never been to Magnolia – not even Discovery Park. I decided to rectify this situation while also checking a couple bakeries off my list, including Cereal Box Bakery. Cereal Box doesn’t have a storefront, but operates a delivery service (baked goods and fresh baked bread delivered to your doorstep!) and has a booth at the Magnolia Farmers Market. That’s where I found them, and selected a peach muffin top and a jam-filled scone.

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Both were notable in their lower-than-usual sugar levels, which I actually appreciated. It was more like breakfast and less like dessert, which was fine… because my next stop was Petit Pierre Bakery. No shortage of sugar here!

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I started with a homemade pop tart, which was nothing like the grocery store variety. Flakey, with a lovely jam filling and homemade icing – you don’t need to be a kid to appreciate these. For later, I got a raspberry chocolate brownie type thing, which was less impressive but still enjoyable:

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It was a little on the dry side. I would stick to the pastries and more traditional French desserts – their lemon tarts and macarons looked pretty good. The cafe itself was cute and popular, with excellent espresso and friendly service.