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All You Can Eat

Trend-setting restaurants, Northwest cookbooks, local food news and the people who make them happen.

July 10, 2012 at 6:00 AM

Five things you didn’t know about Pike Place Market (and a cookbook!)

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Pike Place Market is a double treasure. As Jess Thomson reminds us in her new book, Pike Place Market Recipes, it’s not just a place for tourists to photograph fishmongers tossing salmon, it’s the place for us to buy that fish and cook it for dinner. (maybe seared with two types of Washington cherries (p. 22?) Blended into a quick rillete and spread on baguettes (p. 27?) I never felt more like a true Seattleite than when I lived near downtown and was a regular at places like Sosio’s and Don & Joe’s.

Thomson — one of my favorite food writers — “brings the market home” in the book by mixing recipes from restaurants at or near the market along with her own recipes using market goods. (Pike Place Genius: Infusing MarketSpice’s signature cinnamon-orange tea into milk and baking it into a “tea cake.”) It’s a vicarious insider’s trip through the market, rounded out with essays, a bit of history, and cooking tips. If you want to lure a loved one to our city, or show them why you love Seattle so, send them a copy. Tell them to make the Fran’s Gold Bar Brownies.

Here’s five things you might not have known about Pike Place Market, gleaned from the book:

1. No, the market’s produce is not all local. High-stall tenants (who have permanent stalls typically built around a platform) can bring in goods from outside wholesalers, which explains why you find strawberries at the market in February and asparagus at Thanksgiving. Day-stall tenants, who rent space from the market on a day-to-day basis, have the all-local stuff. It’s not a case of good v. evil, though. High-stallers have developed local specialty niches of their own, like the wild mushrooms at Sosio’s. And all the sellers survive “by tending to rituals absent in today’s supermarkets,” building their own displays daily, handing out samples of the best produce and educating customers. Only the day-stall produce is guaranteed to be local, but “it’s all loved.”

2. The chowder at Pike Place Chowder (hidden in Post Alley for a good reason, says Thomson — because it’s so good “you really can’t handle looking at anything but the other side of a brick-lined alley” when eating it) is served at precisely 155 degrees to avoid overcooking the shellfish. You don’t have to be all that exact cooking it yourself, she says when divulging the recipe, but take care not to boil it.

3. Pike Place is a public market, but it receives no public money for daily operations (Seattle voters did approve a property tax levy in 2008 for renovations.)

4. More than half the business at the Daily Dozen Doughnut Company (the one with the adorable mini-doughnut-dropper) comes from locals, not tourists.

5. Demetrious Moraitis, owner of Mr D’s Greek Delicacies, “is perhaps most famously known among Market savants for his “yeero” sculptures made with frozen gyro meat,” including busts of people like the Clintons and the Mona Lisa.

I’ve also been struck, cooking my way through the book, by how Pike Place Market’s rich influence spills over beyond its technical boundaries, how many special places and meals we think of as “at the market” are actually “near the market” — the famous salade verte from Le Pichet, biscotti from Il Corvo, the vibrant vinaigrette on Lecosho’s chickpea salad, made with Mama Lil’s pickled peppers. (The official recipe calls for serving the chickpea salad with octopus, but I usually make a side trip to the aquarium on my Pike Place visits, and the cephalopod juxtaposition is just too close.)

Got a favorite Market dish or memory? Share it here.

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