Seattle vs. SF


Like many of us, I tend to think of Northern California as the culinary womb of the country—the place where perfect produce is grown, organic chickens run free and bold Cabernets outshine those watery vintages they produce in France. But a recent trip to Seattle instilled a seed of doubt about our status as the capital of all things fresh and local.

Specifically, I took an eye-opening romp through Pike Place Market and came away feeling … uneasy about how our Ferry Building measures up. To start, there were the flowers. Yes, I know you don’t eat flowers, but anyplace that produces dahlias and zinnias like this has got some nutrient-rich soil under its feet, not to mention fertile amounts of both sunshine and rain.

And then there were the fish: salmon and rainbow trout the size of a toddler, piles of perfectly pink shrimp each as big as a fist, and on a shellfish farm outside of town on Whidbey Island, line after line of shiny black mussels pulled from the water. The fisherman plopped a dozen or so into the pontoon boat’s microwave—and out came the most exquisite mussels I’ve ever tasted: plump, with a texture more like moist chicken and just a slight aroma of the sea.

And finally, the fruit. Of course I knew the Northwest had the world’s best berries, but I didn’t know I’d also taste the juiciest peaches—sunny orange and the size of baseballs—along with red-and-golden Mt. Rainier cherries and indigo figs that looked like a laboratory example of what a fig should be.

Everything just seemed bigger, more colorful, tastier, juicier. When you leave Pike Place and run smack into the world’s first Starbucks, and realize that Microsoft was also started on Seattle’s outskirts, you can’t help thinking that with this kind of food, it’s no wonder Seattleites invented the personal computing revolution and the global coffee craze that fuels it.

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