Moments in the Pacific Northwest

Seattle is magnificent. Walking to Pike Place Market just as it was opening (and before the tourists descended), exploring Capitol Hill, hanging out and cooking with new friends in what I believe was the Queen Anne district--something felt impossibly right about being in Seattle. I'll have to take a real vacation there soon, hopefully as a treat for good news regarding graduate school (fingers, toes, arms, legs, and eyes crossed). My heart soars a little bit at the thought of being back there for a longer time. This trip was supposed to be one, but I've been writing cases since stepping onto the first plane on Sunday. My own fault, I suppose, for not finishing them sooner, but at least I've been getting to write with some truly beautiful backdrops (and frankly, with better and more abundant food options at my disposal. Thanks, West Coast!)

On the subject of food, airbnb hostess in Seattle was allergic to wheat, so she had plenty of gluten-free restaurant suggestions for me, and the most remarkable was this Malaysian sidewalk storefront called Kedai Makan. I had Nasi Goreng, which is a fragrant stir-fried rice dish with a fried egg on top, and it was just as delicious for leftovers the next morning. The bar next door to Kedai Makan, Montana, lets you bring you bring in your food and eat it inside--I was thankful for this on a cold, rainy night in Seattle. Rachel, who I think is the owner, had recently launched her homemade ginger beer into retail stores, and the ginger beer, alone and in the Moscow Mule I ordered at Montana is the best I've ever tasted. Basic takeaway: when in Seattle, go to Montana.

Starting a food business, it was really inspiring to be in Seattle. Coconut milk mint matcha latte? Sure thing. Vegan horchata ice cream? Of course. And I didn't even get over the University district this trip, where there's supposed to be a world-class gluten-free and vegan bakery, Violet (which I found hilarious since the place I'm baking and working temp in Cambridge is called Violette). I still talked to tons of store owners and while there's compostable spoons and almond or rice milk in almost every coffee shop, I was surprised by how few non-cross-contaminated, non-granola bar allergy-free options were available. In other words, maybe there's a place for ZC on the other side of the country. I love the thought of my cookies being sold in some of the cafes I saw there one day :)

As I write my reflection on Seattle, I'm in Portland. From the brief clips I've seen of the show Portlandia, there's some truth to the stereotypes associated with the people of this city. I mean, I'm sitting here in a coffee bar that is all wood, has bikes hanging as decoration, and am drinking specialty kombucha while writing and looking out at the Broadway Bridge. Still, I might come back here, as there's not enough room in my stomach for all the cool things I've seen at food trucks and I really needed a whole day to explore one of the biggest bookstores in America, Powell City of Books. If I do make it back here, I will:

1. Not stay at my current accommodation, at least not without a rental car. Nob Hill/Arlington is charming,  and I'm right near the Japanese Gardens, but I didn't realize just how far my airbnb was from downtown. It's a 40+ minute walk down a gigantic hill on a major road to reach downtown Portland (which means walking back up is 50+ minutes up that gigantic hill on the major road). The host is nice and competent (he's a travel agent, in fact), but the place isn't central enough.
2. Get the Alberta Street experience: the first coffee shop I went to told me that Alberta was the area most satirized in Portlandia. I'll take the barista's word for it, as he looked just like a stretched-out version of Fred Armisen in the show.
3. GO TO BOB'S RED MILL! They make 50% of the gluten-free flours I use for baking and they have a whole factory and restaurant in Milwaukie, right outside of Portland. Even though I liked my time in Seattle more and preferred the energy of that city, Bob's Red Mill would be worth a trek back here. Next time, Erica. Next time...


Tomorrow, I head to the state I've dreamed about for as long as I can remember: California. I've been once before when visiting a good friend at Stanford, but the time was mostly spent on campus, only briefly in Palo Alto, and even more briefly in San Francisco proper. It was also in January 2012, when I was eyeballs deep in my senior thesis and freaking out about producing 40+ pages over the course of the month. While that doesn't sound too different from my current situation (1.5 cases to complete, at least 6 teaching notes by the end of December) I'll have to figure out a way to balance the work. It would be a pity not to enjoy what San Francisco has to offer. I'll also have to get a sense of what work/school life in the Bay Area would be like, assuming I get to choose a future out there. At the very least, it would put me closer to Seattle :)