Monday, May 12, 2014

FoodTrek: Pioneer Square-Dance

Get ready for another exciting episode of: Wasabi Prime and Her Adventures in Wandering Aimlessly (and loving it)!! *heroic musical theme* Now that we're in the early stages of being able to reasonably consider the season called Summer, I'd like to submit what I'd like to call a Perfect Afternoon of Seattle Wandering, aka, the Pioneer Square-Dance.

Drink up, it's sunny! Calvados cocktail at Bar Sajor - Photo by Wasabi Prime

I actually had my sunny-day wander through Pioneer Square a while back, but I'd been saving this post because on the day I walked around this historic neighborhood of Seattle, it was so warm, it truly felt like summer! I gave myself a Treat Yo Self afternoon pass one blessedly not-busy Friday, to meet up with my friend and photographer, Dana, who's behind It's My Darlin', a fabulous street style blog, which is also published in the Seattle Times, so I'm sure you've seen her work in the interwebs or the newspaperwebs. She is in a rare and treasured circle of friends who won't judge me for hauling a camera around, going at a snail's pace, taking pictures of everything -- probably because we all do this. Birds of a feather, right?

I really wanted to wander Pioneer Square, to see the new places, as well as revisit the character-rich neighborhood that I remember vividly when I first moved to Washington over a dozen years ago. A lot of treasured Seattle neighborhoods are facing a kind of  Death by Real Estate, because of new construction and rapidly skyrocketing rent amounts that's pricing-out the people who really want to live and be a part of those neighborhoods (ahem, Cap Hill) and will always be vigilant on keeping things like a Baby Gap from opening in their neighborhood. Granted, there's nothing inherently wrong with new Midcentury Modern-derivative construction and Baby Gaps, but there's something sincere and real about a shopworn neighborhood with visible mileage. I like seeing the cracks in a place; sometimes the world is too perfect. Even if it means avoiding eye contact with the screaming homeless dudes, and walking through a crazy thick fog of pot smoke as I exited the Pioneer Square metro tunnel and made my way to meet with my friend.

Sunny afternoon at Bar Sajor and water pitcher selfies - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Who knows, maybe Pioneer Square is on the cusp of gentrification, but it's still managing to retain its ruggedly charming historic neighborhood feel. I like that there's been an influx of quality lunch-only spots like Il Corvo and Little Uncle's that have popped up in the neighborhood, but blending seamlessly into the existing urban landscape, which still includes mainstays like Salumi. I mostly wanted to explore that quaint little cobblestone niche of Occidental Square, which has become like the Batcave HQ for culinary darlings, Bar Sajor and London Plane (which are both part of the same restaurant group that includes Corson Building and Sitka and Spruce, also personal favorites). I hit Bar Sajor early, at the between 3 and 4pm Sweet Spot, before the post-work crowds arrived, especially on a sunny Friday. I just sat at the bar, soaked up the beautiful sun and Mediterranean-inspired restaurant surroundings, and sipped one of their cocktails that just go by a number. This one was their Number 5 - Calvados, Cocchi di Torino, and cayenne bitters. Sweet with a little bit of heat. Perfect sipping drink. I didn't want food, I literally came in to savor a little atmosphere with a cocktail, which seems like an odd indulgence until you experience it. Time is luxury, baby.

London Plane's wine bar and magnolia leaf-covered ceiling - Photo by Wasabi Prime
I met up with my friend Dana at the recently-opened London Plane, which is right across from Bar Sajor, taking up two corner spaces in the building. A cafe, flower shop and deli-style store on one end, and a wine bar, magazine/book/gift boutique on the other side -- meet Heaven on Earth. It's a browser's dream date, perusing all the achingly smart ephemera, glassware, precious baubles, jewelry, and all the treasures that basically fill your heart with Pure Sinful Envy, but you love it anyways. It makes your own home feel miserably inadequate with the remnants of college furniture and impulse-bought IKEA finds. I was easily pulled from my Aspirational Living Fugue state, admiring London Plane's baked goods and flaky croissant, taunting me from behind the glass. Again, despite all the delicious food right in front of us, the surroundings were nourishing on their own, I made a promise to myself to return when I had time for a leisurely meal, and we continued to wander the 'hood.

The edible delights of London Plane - Photos by Wasabi Prime
The spot where we addressed our aesthetic and culinary appetites was E. Smith Mercantile, aka, The Merc. The simple way to describe this magical place would be to say it's a gift shop with a bar in back, but the best way to describe it is that it's a haven for handmade goods of all sorts. They carry specialty handcrafted items, including jewelry, wearables, artisan sauces and condiments, cocktail mixers, apothecary products -- it's like if Etsy had a brick and mortar shop. And a bar. Which I'm pretty sure Etsy would be down with that. I really loved this spot, for the items they sell and the mentality of having a shop that supports the local community of artists and makers.

Drinks and snacks at the Merc - go here to shop/drink/shop some more - Photos by Wasabi Prime
And yes, delightful cocktails are a bonus. We sipped drinks with swarthy names like the Gold Rush and Mary's Revenge, made with ingredients like lavender bitters, curry tinctures and something called byrrh, which is apparently a wine-based aperitif dating back to the 1800s. Their bar snacks were perfect little bites like fried chickpeas, bacon deviled eggs, and a small jar full of olives. Imagine a hipster saloon that hits all the right notes, and that's the Merc's jewelbox cocktail bar in the back of the shop. Go early - they just have a handful of seats, which fill up quickly. It's a place you'll definitely want to sit and enjoy for a while with a good friend.

The world is full of wonderful discoveries and treasures -- get out there and enjoy it! - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I daresay it was a Perfect Friday, with the summer-like weather, an exciting neighborhood to explore, and new places to take in and absorb. Not that I ever tire of living in the Northwest, but it revitalized that feeling of excitement that a city is a living entity, always changing (for better or worse), and evolving in ways that can make it seem new all over again.

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