For the holidays

Black Friday. A date that sends shivers down the spines of retailers all over America, pumps adrenaline into the limbs and digits of holiday power shoppers, and surreptitiously begins the unofficially official neighborhood seasonal lights and display contests all over the country.

Barely catching our breath post Thanksgiving, we plunge right into the anticipation, preparation and discombobulation of December holidays—religious/solstice/festivus —that will carry us to (and through) New Year’s Day.

Why do we do it? Lots of nutty reasons—peer pressure among the most obvious. Anyone who dares to avoid participating in such mayhem will most assuredly be singled out. So…what does one do to get through it all unscathed? I find it best to focus on the fun. Not taking away the significance of any one celebration—I find giving attention to a food-centric event helps immensely. Take for example a walk through a local market…

Touristy stops

When a good friend of mine invited me on a walking tour/culinary event in Seattle—on Black Friday—with her extended family, I said yes. Realizing the craziness of this infamous shopping day would be compounded by Apple Cup attendees, kids on school break and all around holiday high jinks, I knew my group add-on status would take the pressure off of me. Whew!

Eleven of us rendezvousing downtown meant slightly different arrival times for all. My merry band of three rode in on the light rail, thus avoiding freeway traffic and giving us a cushion of about two hours. After a little shopping, we took flight at a local tourist attraction: Wings Over Washington. Similar to EPCOT’s Soarin’, this aerial movie theatre experience had us flying over treetops, tulip fields, wine country and coastal scenery. Family friendly, it was a fun way to spend a little time while waiting for our peeps.

Kooky glops

Gathering at the official meeting place for our foodie walking event, we found ourselves at the entrance of Unexpected Productions’ Market Theater in Pike Place Market’s Post Alley. Up for coffee warmth, I paid a visit to Ghost Alley Espresso, just a few steps away from the theater. A small place that serves big, bold, locally roasted (and very delicious!) coffee beverages. Latte in hand, I made my way back to our meeting point, taking care to avoid the chewing gum…

Miriam, our Savor Seattle tour guide, gathered us at our first stop: the Market Theater Gum Wall. Bringing us up to speed on its sticky and colorful history, we were entertained by the simplicity of it all. Theater goers in the early 1990s being asked to dispose of their gum prior to entering the lobby; the manager pointing out to the building landlord that the theater is not responsible for cleaning the outside walls; tourists and locals turning the whole thing into urban art. Priceless!

Since 2015, these walls of stickiness receive an annual scraping, usually in October. We were lucky enough to see about six weeks of gum work buildup, post scrapping. Making our way past bubble gum artists in progress, we headed to our first real culinary stop upstairs…

Culinary chops

On the market’s main level, there’s a doughnut place that would be easy to miss. The best way to find it? By its wonderful sugary dough smell, and it’s loooooong line of patrons awaiting their chance to by a bag of fried goodness: Daily Dozen Doughnuts. Simple—just fried dough sprinkled with sugar—but oh so good. After trying one, I could totally understand the line…

Stepping outside for a bit, near the flying seafood of Pike Place Fish, Miriam shared a little market history with us, 1907 up to now. Crossing the brick lined street to the Sanitary Market building, we sampled our next treat: Ellenos Greek Yogurt—marionberry, followed by passion fruit—very tasty!

Heading a bit north, we moved from sweet to savory with mini street tacos from Los Agaves. Soooooooo delicious—I’m definitely going back for more the next time I’m at the market.

Walking and talking (and chewing), our group was having fun getting to know each other. The icebreaker Miriam emceed at the tour’s start helped us with friendly conversations. Along with our clan of 11 Pacific Northwesters, there was a couple from Texas and a couple from Australia.

The Truffle Queen gave us a taste of black and white in the form of salt, spreads, oils and sauces. Just give me a spoon—I’ll happily finish off any of those jars. Our host shared a fun option this shop provides: with your Truffle Queen purchase, they’ll ship anything anywhere. Even the umbrella you’re tired of carrying around can be shipped home along with your truffle salt…

Pike Place Chowder shared cups of their signature dish; so wonderfully perfect, especially on this rather chilly day. At Beecher’s Handmade Cheese (another food group of mine), I learned an important detail for all market vendors: they must be original to Pike Place. They can expand out into the world, but already franchised/multiple store vendors cannot set up shop here.

Wrapping up our Black Friday foodie tour with crab cakes from Etta’s Seafood Restaurant—the best crab cakes I’ve ever had by the way—Miriam asked us to say our favorite tour treat. While I chose the doughnuts and the crab cakes, everything truly was excellent.

Happy taste buds and tummies in tow, we said our goodbyes, and headed off into the throngs of holiday goings-on, ready to face the season’s events. At least until the next meal…

So…why do I do it? Deal with all the holiday hubbub? After this year’s Black Friday, I came to realize that we’re all in this together. Whatever group activity we choose. However much time we spend as a clan. And when we focus on doing things—helpful/mindful/respectful things for and with each other, we almost always come away with smiles. We see the smiles on others, and we feel them on our own faces and in our hearts. And we make memories. And maybe—just maybe—that’s why…J 😊

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