If you’ve never visited Seattle, Washington, your primary food and beverage reference for the city is, of course, its coffee shops. And while you’ll be pleased to know that coffee is indeed central to its culture, Seattle is also home to a world of culinary influences beyond the caffeine-charged bean.
A trip or two to Seattle’s Pike Place Market will show you the fresh and bountiful ingredients that Seattle has to offer. Pike Place Market has been Seattle’s farmers market for more than a century. Here, you can find everything from locally foraged mushrooms and handmade gourmet sausages to fabulous regional wines and cheeses to pair with these exciting foods.
Before the Europeans arrived, the Squamish, Puyallup, and other Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest had hundreds of food sources to forage, hunt, and harvest. They ranged from beaver and gooseneck barnacle to pelican and licorice fern. Today, the focus is more on salmon, which tribes have the rights to fish in Puget Sound.
Immigrants to Seattle from the countries of the Pacific Rim like China, Malaysia, and Japan have had tasty influences on local foods. Local customs have evolved to incorporate those ingredients and methods of preparation. They include bok choy, yuzu, curries, and soy sauce and cooking styles such as hot pot and stir-fry.
When you hear of geoduck, you’ll be happy to learn that it has nothing to do with fowl or with geotracking. Geoduck is actually a large, long, saltwater clam that calls the Pacific Northwest home. Its sweet-tasting meat is used for everything from sushi and sashimi to chowder and sautéed geoduck, fra diavolo style for spiciness. Other popular local seafood includes king salmon, Dungeness crab, Quilcene oysters, Penn Cove mussels, and pink shrimp.
The Salish people of the region have long used alderwood, from the indigenous alder tree to smoke and roast salmon on sticks and in smokehouses. The practice has seen recent widespread popularity. If you don’t have a smokehouse handy, try to get your hands on some alderwood-smoked salt in Seattle. It adds a slightly sweet taste to the seasoning and makes for a wonderfully succulent, flavorful piece of salmon.
Visiting Seattle in the spring is the perfect time to join the locals in preparing dishes that include protein-packed stinging nettles. It’s a native, spicy green that residents often forage, wearing gloves to protect themselves from the spikes. You can use stinging nettles in soups and pastas as a more flavorful substitute for cooked spinach.
Native American tribes in the Seattle area have picked the region’s small, sweet native trailing blackberries, as well as huckleberries, blueberries, and salal berries for centuries. They ate the berries fresh and would also preserve these luscious fruits by drying them.
Taking cues from the culinary bounty and traditions of the Pacific Northwest, try blending blackberries with honey, lime juice, and mint leaves. Then, dry the mixture on a pan in the oven to make delicious fruit leather roll ups.
Venison was an important staple for the Salish people of the Pacific Northwest, and they prepared it in a number of different ways. They steamed, dried, and roasted venison and made stew with chunks of it, adding vegetables and herbs.
One of our favorite Pacific-Northwest inspired dishes to make and serve is roasted venison tenderloin with blackberry sauce. The blackberry sauce balances out the venison’s strong, savory flavors with spices like nutmeg and star anise and the tang of the blackberries.