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Seattle constantly rates as one of the United States’ most captivating cities to visit, with a heady mix of boundary-pushing architecture and a bumper foodie scene. Mike Yardley finds out what all the fuss is about.
It is the one tour to rule them all: Savor Seattle's Pike Place Market Food Tour. Before joining this early morning group exploratory, I had popped into Pike Place the day before, awestruck by the head-swirl of sensory overload.
For a newcomer, this bountiful behemoth of fresh produce and artisanal endeavour struck me as a bewildering, overwhelming and unwieldly place. Where do you start? What should you see? What's not to be missed? With such a surfeit of choice in this multi-level and cavernous emporium, I felt like an unguided cork bobbing in a deep mercantile ocean.
He even has his own blog (Obalicious) - packed with the latest market insights. Over the course of two hours, Justin led our small group through the market, with seven tasting stops, as the infectious hum of the morning trade sparked into life.
Our first stop was at Honest Biscuits, ``homemade treats crafted with love'', established by a former judge who decided to follow his passion. They will knock your socks off.
For a spot of decadence, Daily Dozen Doughnut Company delivered in spades, with their delicious sugary morsels receiving a unanimous seal of group approval. This charming little enterprise churns out 30 doughnuts a minute, or 30dpm, as Justin puts it.
Our next stop was at Pike Place Fish, the legendary poster-boys of the market, where they have been throwing the fish since the 1960s, for fun and efficiency.
Justin also introduced us to Rub with Love Shack, where we sampled a plethora of rubs and spices, while savouring rotisserie meats and moreish sandwiches. The powerhouse behind this shop is the king of the Seattle kitchen, Tom Douglas, who has produced a dazzling range of spice rubs, mustards and teriyaki sauces, tailor-made to apply to virtually every meat, fish and vegetable imaginable.
Top taste? The smoked salmon pate piroshky. The cheddar cheese rolls are drippingly delicious, too. Alongside grazing from the market's parade of splendours, Justin unfurled a stimulating volley of vivid anecdotes, secrets and insights, central to Pike Place's abiding legacy. Over the decades, the market has proven to be a great incubator for small, fledgling businesses - many have morphed across the city and beyond, with a chain of outlets. Yes, the original Starbucks is here. You might have heard of them.
In a city brimming with lip-smacking dining offerings, settling on where to savour Seattle's culinary verve is quite the conundrum. But Dahlia Lounge and Bakery should definitely be on your radar, garnering accolades aplenty for its perfectly executed Pacific Northwest cuisine. It was Tom Douglas' first restaurant, opened in 1989, taking pride of place in his 13-strong restaurant empire. The cocktail list alone is wondrously inventive.
That's all about to change, due to the imminent completion of a multibillion dollar cross-city double-decker tunnel and the demolition of the highway which will allow the Central Waterfront to seamlessly meld with the city centre.
Posing as if their lives depended on it, the selfie-brigade is swooning over Seattle's latest eye-grabber, the Amazon spheres. Opened in January, these four-storey faceted glass globes were made as a place for Amazon's 40,000-strong downtown
I wandered down to Pioneer Square, the original heart of the city, where the atmospheric streetscape of faded glory buildings are inhabited with a hive of eclectic businesses, eateries and independent stores. The smaller scale of the terracotta and brick Romanesque revival buildings provide a stirring contrast to the soaring heights of the glassy skyscrapers. After the Great Fire of 1889, much of the original street network was filled in and built over, which has given rise to a host of underground tours, if you want to delve deep into the city's secrets and hidden surprises, along subterranean passageways.