Monday, December 12, 2011

FoodTrek: Christmas in Seattle

I know we're not supposed to say "Merry Christmas," because we're supposed to be nondenominationally-sensitive to all cultures, religions, etc. At the risk of turning the holiday spirit upside down - forget that noise, Christmas is here, and I'm ready to jingle bell rock-it all the way till December 25th.

Grrrawwwwrrr - It's Christmas, so deal with it, Political Correctness Police! - Photo by Wasabi Prime

The holidays have a special place in my memory because over ten years ago, my first view of Seattle was right around early December, touring the city with my mother, wondering if this would be the place I would call home. The Space Needle had the string of lights atop, making it look like a big Christmas tree, and Macys hadn't co-opted the local department store yet and it was still the Bonmarche Star that continues to hang all bright n' twinkly on the building corner in Westlake Center. All the halls were decked, all the streets were merry with holiday decor, and it really felt like a city ready for festivities. And it was a welcome sight for someone who was parting ways with family, off to a strange new place with an unknown economic future. Not too far from where a lot of us are today, I suppose.

A very sweet and edible Christmas in New Zealand - Photos by Wasabi Prime

But current affairs notwithstanding, Christmas in Seattle continues to hold a little piece of my heart, so despite the total stressball I become during the holidays, I try to take a day to at least enjoy some of it, walk the main downtown blocks to relive some of those decade-old memories and take in the city's way of celebrating. I recently used an afternoon to join the masses of holiday shoppers and muster up some Christmas Spirit patience as I dove into the fray. If you're unfamiliar with Seattle's main downtown area, there's a pretty concentrated block of shopping and large retailers, all near the Westlake Center area, pretty much smack-dab in the middle of the Needle and Pioneer Square/South Downtown. I mostly wanted to admire the store window displays and see the special decorations that come out for Christmas, like the gingerbread house displays at the Sheraton Hotel on 6th Avenue. This year's theme was trains and railroads, with each of the gingerbread structures representing stations from around the world, as well as imaginary ones. The display is open to the public, benefitting a local charity, so do remember to drop a few bucks into the collection box, as it's all for a good cause.

If only travel by rail could be this sweet... Photos by Wasabi Prime

The one from Britain had, of course, a Harry Potter theme. And then some were just too cute for words, like the New Zealand station swarming with adorable wide-eyed kiwi birds wandering around, and little lambs singing carols at the doorstep. For whatever reason, Grand Central Station had been overrun by the weird little cyclops creatures from that animated movie, Despicable Me. Maybe if I'd seen the movie, I'd have gotten the reference, but hey, the kids seemed to love it, and the cyclops creatures were cute, so who am I to complain?

I get a sugar high just looking at it - Photos by Wasabi Prime

It was a lot of walking about, and looking at all that sugary sweetness helps towards building an appetite, so it got me thinking about nearby spots to get a holiday nosh or two. I wound up at Sullivan's Steakhouse on 6th and Union, really close to the shops, but not right in the thick of it to where it's too busy to get a seat. They're in a great location since they're close to the retailers but also nearby the theaters, so it's a good spot to drop by before or after a show. The Mister and his workmates have dropped by here for happy hour before -- they do these crazy-good specials every Thursday, where their signature cocktails and bar food is $6 each. The place gets super-packed, but they run the special until closing, so if you're a happy hour-crawler and work in the area, you need to put that on your list of places to visit on a Thursday.

Tastebuds are partying it up at Sullivan's - Photos by Wasabi Prime

It was totally cocktail-o'-clock for my friend and I, so after a day of holiday wanderings, imbibed several of Sullivan's holiday-themed offerings, along with a big plate of their spicy-sweet calamari, which is one of my new favorite snacks. I have to say the most refreshing was the pineapple-vodka Knockout, and the Merry Berry, which had several different fruit juices like strawberry, pomegranate, lemon and lime juice, with Chambord. The most rich and holiday-decadent was the Chocolate Christmas, which is a perfect Seattle cocktail with its use of espresso liqueur. With the cream and chocolate syrup-decorated glass, it's dessert in a glass, to be sure. It was an indulgent way to spend the day, since these aren't drinks I'd normally have outside of a party, but hey, it's the holidays, and sometimes the best gifts are the ones you give yourself. In my case, it was a day to enjoy the pretty decorations and time to enjoy some pretty cocktails. Consider this your list of to-do's the next time you're on a holiday shopping mission in downtown Seattle.

What about you? What are some of your favorite things you like to do when the holidays come a-calling?

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