Considering that Adam took over 130 pictures of London restaurants we ate at, it was only natural that we start chronicling our thoughts and opinions about the food we eat. We've totally become accidental foodies. It all started out when Sheila started calling Adam "the human trash compactor"; since he eats almost anything. But somewhere along the way we started having discussions about food and seeking out culinary adventures when on travel. We bring a unique perspective to this arena as we're both vegetarians (no meat, poultry, or fish). I suspect we will both have varying opinions on the food, and hope to not only have a record for posterity, but provide some fun, useful if not amateur insight.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

the third wave

Seattle is the undisputed capital of coffee houses and birthplace of the "second wave" with Starbucks, Seattle's Best Coffee, and Tully's. However there is a new crop of private gourmet coffee houses that is forging the "third wave".

Third wave refers to a current movement to produce high-quality coffee in which coffee is considered an artisanal ingredient (i.e. wine, cheese) rather than a commodity (i.e. wheat, sugar). This has driven improvements in all stages of coffee production: from bean growing, harvesting, & processing; to stronger relationships between growers, traders, & roasters; to higher quality & fresh roasting. Some examples would be Blue Bottle and Ritual Roasters in SF.

With that intro, here's a culinary tour around some of Seattle's coffee house hot spots...

Starbucks (the original location & a second wave member)
It's definitely a tourist "distraction" as the line stretched 30 deep along the sidewalk of Pike Place despite the rain. They were joyfully taking pictures of the original mermaid logo, buying tumblers & mugs, and of course drinking their favorite grande double shot caramel macchiatos with low fat milk, extra foam, no whip, add hazelnut. We opted for the in-season pumpkin spice latte. I have stay - go once to say you did. The coffee is standard Starbucks, heavy handed on the syrup which makes it too sweet, coffee grinds at the bottom, milk tends to be too rich / creamy. With such brand recognition the original Starbucks has certainly become a "check it off my tourist itinerary list" spot. I would go there for my morning cup if living in the area though, even if there wasn't a line.

La Panier (a third wave sleeper disguised as a fantastic french bakery)
A few storefronts down from Starbucks on Pike Place is La Panier, the quintessential french bakery with decadent pastries and surprisingly delicious lattes! By virtue of being in every Seattle guide book (at rightfully so), it can certainly be a challenge to land the first come first serve tables and bar areas. We did after 10 minutes or so. S opted for the amondine and I took the waitress' recommendation for the pain au chocolat. Both were flaky (sign of the right balance of butter and dough kneed / preparation) and extremely fresh. However the best part of our quick french breakfast experience was the latte. The espresso was mild (i.e. not bitter) and the milk smooth / rich. In it's raw form with added sugar or syrup, the latte was a perfect compliment to our pastries. A recommended place in anywhere near Downtown. It's place along Pike Place Market draws in the tourist, but I saw an equal number of locals which says a lot give the location. One of the best french bakeries we've been to outside of the France; and one of the best latte we've ever had!

Zeitgeist (the third wave cool kid)
Tucked away beyond Pioneer Square in an exposed red brick façade building is the Zeitgeist Kunst & Kaffee. It a local joint that serves up one of Seattle’s best cups. The clientele are locals, with a sprinkling of tourist who enjoy taking pictures of everything around (entry doors, menu, tumbler, logo). Okay I lied; only one tourist was snapping photos. Bet you can guess who?!?!

You can tell that the others in front of us are fiercely loyal to Zeitgeist and have made a habit of turning the coffeehouse into their third place. The space moonlights as an art gallery with local pieces hanging on the wall for purchase under a high ceiling loft-like space. The seating and layout are inviting with an 80s ambiance, less Starbucks and more airport lounge. Enough of the architecture, let’s get to the good stuff.

We ordered a latte. It was strong, better yet bold. The aroma and flavors shined through with our frothy smooth milk. The overall mix was not too sweet, not too bitter. However, it was not as memorable as others we’ve had. I don’t know if was the fact we ordered the latte to go or just the overload of lattes drank of the few days in Seattle. S my advice, stop in for a latte to go if in Pioneer, then lose yourselves in the labyrinth of art galleries around Zeitgeist, but don’t make a special trek just for the latte.

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