Category Archives: Travel

Your pre-IFBC food guide to Seattle

Hi, IFBC people! It’s the Monday before for the International Food Bloggers Conference, and I can’t wait to meet you all.  Hopefully I’ll have enough time to bring cookies.

While IFBC isn’t the best time to actually explore Seattle, I know a bunch of you who are flying/trekking in are coming early, so this is to cover some places to check out that are nearby.

The guide I wrote before PAX covers about the same area, so I won’t write about those spots here, except for an obligatory nod to Pike Place Market. This is slightly more far-reaching, as most food nerds I know will absolutely travel for food, and a bit higher price range.

The NW Chocolate Festival: Really. It’s running at the same time as IFBC, is within walking distance, and, at $30 for a day pass, if you have a few minutes on Sunday it’ll be worth walking in.

I didn’t attend nearly enough of it last year, but with chocolate from Theo to Fran’s to Lillie Belle in attendance, it’ll be the best dessert ever to top off your weekend.

IFBC

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Your Friendly PAX Survival Guide, Part II

Now that you know the basics for PAX, you need to know where to eat. The con proper is low on interesting foodstuffs, which include such highlights as a Taco Del Mar, Subway, Tully’s Coffee, and a pizza place. (The crepe stand outside the convention hall isn’t bad, so of course the lines will be killer.) On the plus side, Seattle has a pretty awesome happy hour scene, and there are lots of good eats in walking distance or a bus away on the tunnel.

Here are some of my favorites. Everything but Sub-Sand and the trucks are about a ten minute walk away from the convention, and get you out of the crowds. (Sub-Sand is a direct bus from the convention center, so make the trek.)

Where to eat during PAX

  • Serious Pie, Downtown. Check out their happy hour, which runs Monday-Friday from 3-5 pm for $6 mini versions of their pies. It’s a great sampler option, and they have awesome alcoholic and non-alcoholic options for all.

  • Homegrown, Capitol Hill and Downtown. A bit pricey, with $7 half sandwiches, but they’re delicious, filling, made locally, and actually fairly healthy. Bonus: it’s by one of the stops for My Sweet Lil Cakes, and the place it’s in, Melrose Market, not only has Rainshadow Meats, but is near a ton of other neat places to grab a quick snack.

  • Food trucks, various locations. Our food trucks keep odd hours, from the ridiculously delicious Off The Rez and their 10 pm showing on Capitol Hill, to the 11am – 2pm midweek 2nd and Pike Pod, to Box Nature Sushi, for some of the cheapest – and seriously tasty – rolls in town. There’s an informal pod in South Lake Union as well, and there are many things involving bacon. Visit SeattleFoodTruck.com and get searching.

Where to eat during PAX

  • Chan, Pike Place Market. The Market proper is TOURIST CENTRAL. I say that in caps because you need the warning. I personally dislike going into the main market area after 11 am, but the shops in Post Alley and the surrounding buildings aren’t nearly as claustrophobic. And Chan’s happy hour, with nothing over $6, is cheap, spicy, and full of kimchi, hold the Satan.

  • Piroshky Piroshky, Pike Place Market. See the same warning as Chan’s, but Piroshky Piroshky is where locals go to grab a quick snack. The lines tend to be huge, but fast, and the beef and cheese piroshky is ridiculously filling at under $6.

  • Sub-Sand, International District. Like I said before, their $3 eggettes are awesome on a platter, but their bahn mi are nothing to sneeze at. Catch any bus in the tunnel going south to get some deliciousness.

Your Friendly PAX Survival Guide, Part I

The Penny Arcade Expo, or PAX Prime, is next week, so I thought I’d take some time now to talk about one of my favorite cons. (Though if you have no clue what it is, tickets sold out ages ago.)

Before I get started, though, I’d like to comment on PAX in relation to the Scalzi con harassment policy, which I co-signed because it is awesome. PAX has a visible policy – “Don’t harass anyone” is the extent of it – but also one where the con’s large volunteer staff, the Enforcers, are an ever-present force to assist.

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The Bring Your Own Computer (BYOC) Area. Photo by Gamerscore Blog, Creative Commons License.

Beyond that, PAX is one of the best chances to see the gaming sphere in action, from Bungie to Valve, and the con itself is a dizzying experience. So have some tips on surviving Seattle – and PAX – for both first timers and veterans. I’d love to hear what you have to add; there’s always something new to learn about PAX.

  • Bring water. A water bottle is probably the most important part of your gear. You’re going to get dehydrated if you’re there all day, as it’s loud and fairly dry. Drink often, and lots – the bathroom lines aren’t generally too bad.

  • Also earplugs. I can’t handle loud noise, so I usually wear earplugs the entire conference, but they’re handy even when you don’t normally need them. I probably would have benefitted from them in 2011 when I ‘won’ the scream booth challenge at Asura’s Wrath, effectively knocking my voice out for an afternoon.

  • Do everything in your power to stay healthy. PAX Flu is a serious problem. Most years at least one booth has antibacterial stuff available, but don’t rely on it if you’re nervous. Assume every controller you touch has been touched by everyone and plan accordingly.

  • Dress appropriately. I’m not saying don’t cosplay, though it’s a rather cramped space and I prefer to keep a low profile while I’m running around. Dress comfortably, but also know that, even in summer, Seattle can get this thing called ‘rain.’ I usually wear a shirt or tank top, long pants, and comfy sneakers, then tuck a jacket into my backpack.

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Portal 2 at PAX Prime 2010. Photo by Michael Myers, Creative Commons License.

  • Prepare for swag. I’m never going to beat the year I got 20+ shirts, but getting a few shirts, some posters, and other stuff is standard. Not having a bag will really, really suck later. Besides, if you have a DS or ereader, you’ll want it only for gaming/reading in line.

  • Also prepare for lines. Lots of lines. The popular stuff can have 2-3 hour waits. Going with a friend can help, but you’re still stationary for long periods of time. The Enforcers will try to make it fun, and bringing distractions is great.

  • Cell phone reception? What reception? If you want to ever see your friends at PAX, coordinate via email or in person before you enter the Main Hall. Not during, before. There’s pretty much no reception in the Exhibition Halls. Also agree on where exactly to meet – and make sure they know where it is. It is not the time to hunt for people. I’ve tried.

Food loves of Norway

Honestly, I have a lot of things I loved in terms of Norwegian food, and I’m rather sad that I can’t duplicate a lot of it fully out in the states. (Apparently we can get cloudberries on the east coast, but I’ve never seen one in the Seattle region.)

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Because Ricochet tends to focus on sweet things, I’m going to comment on desserts, but I had some rather awesome savory dishes as well that will get gushed about over on Crave Local.

Pjalt. Oh my goodness, pjalt. One of my few food regrets from Røros was not eating Chris’s share as well as my own.

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I’m not going to explain pjalt correctly, so no matter if this sounds bad to you, if you like baked goods, get it and eat it. Pjalt are a regional specialty for Røros, a baked pastry that tastes like a fluffy cross between a pancake, a crumpet, and a waffle. (The closest thing I’ve had are Polish kolaches, but that’s not quite right.) Then the gorgeous Norwegians had to take this already lovely thing and top it with local butter and brown goat cheese, getost.

It’s this marriage of fluffy baked softness, sweet cheese, and some of the best butter I’ve had in my life, and it is so freaking good. Seriously, if we hadn’t been going straight from the bakery to a copper mine I would have asked how well they kept then stashed a half dozen in the fridge for the flight to Stockholm.

Waffles. Unlike the Americanized Belgian waffle, Norwegian waffles are not necessarily crisp; they can be soft. They’re heart-shaped, usually in clusters of five, and topped with jam they were the majority of what I ate at the Rica Nidelven’s breakfast buffet. This is not a bad thing.

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I tried them at the Trondheim airport pjalt-style, topped with getost and butter, and it’s not bad, but it’s not pjalt. I’d stick to slathering them with strawberry jam.

Tyttebær. My love for Norwegian lingonberries shall never die. (Not sure if I’d like pjalt topped with lingonberries, but it’s okay – I can have many food loves in my stomach.)

Just trust me when I say they differ from Swedish preparations of lingonberries. Norwegian tyttebær are tangy, still slightly chewy berries in syrup, that belong with reindeer and other hearty things, and often potatoes. I know I can probably hunt down the berries in Ballard – if I can’t find them there, I’ll be rather confused – and maybe I’ll make a Norwegian Forest Cake. We’ll see.

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Rørosmat ice cream. This is amazing ice cream, thanks to whatever magic the Røros grass and mountains are contributing to the milk. And they have tyttebær ice cream, thank their lactose-loving hearts, and it is glorious, this mix of slightly sour, tangy ice cream and lightly tart berries.

Of course, they barely ship the ice cream within Norway. I need to fix that.

Things I learned in Norway

When we were in Norway, we stayed in two cities – Trondheim and Røros, which are completely different experiences. But it was definitely different from our trek in Stockholm – and better for two Seattle kids who don’t like to be in super loud cities.

Here are some tips I wish I’d known before making the flight out, and what I’ll be keeping in mind for the next trip.

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Most days, everything closes by 6. For a city brat like me this was a bit of a shock, especially as Trondheim is a larger town than where I grew up. The Rema 1000, a supermarket chain, certain larger stores, and restaurants are open past that, but almost everything else had big signs highlighting “Now Open Until 18:00” – so it was a bit of a big deal to be open even that late.

The cool thing, though, is a lot of the stores are still specialized – there are embroidery shops, more hair stores than I’d ever seen (until I got to Stockholm), fishing stores, and lots of neat alleyways, some with rather impressive street art. (There’s a fair amount of art, period, but it all flows together.)

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On the plus side, both cities are great for day treks. The bus system is good, there’s a direct train to Røros, and most hotels have bikes for rent if you don’t want to use the Trondheim city bikes. Since the Trondheim city centre isn’t too large an area, it’s really fun to walk about and see everything. Nidaros Cathedral is gorgeous, and there are parks, small churches, and stunning architecture everywhere.

Even better, they have signs pointing you to the city centre – where there’s a rather lovely tourism bureau who can help you out. Definitely say hi; I was working with Lisbeth of Visit Trondheim for this trip, and she’s amazing.

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It’s also rather calm in the summer once the students are off campus, and not ridiculously hot. Just make sure you bring an umbrella in case it rains, as it can be pretty sudden.

It’s a good idea to spend two days sleeping. I’ve been to Australia, which is a longer flight than going to Norway, so I assumed I had a rough idea of how bad the jet lag was going to be.

I was so wrong. The jet lag hit on the first day like a sack of bricks, and went away about as easily.

We were only late to one appointment during our time, which thankfully was fixed very easily, but the first day or so we were fairly useless. I was also not in the greatest moods thanks to being exhausted. It didn’t help that our flight in to Norway was rather convoluted, but I’m so glad we had our hotel room nearby so we could nap.

The long days are really long. In Trondheim, midnight was about as bright as a slightly cloudy 7 pm in the summer here. Since we weren’t used to it, we would go out for dinner then realize it was 11 pm only by checking our clocks. We had no internal sleep cycle whatsoever even by the end of the first week.

Since this translated somehow to us waking at 2 am, we compensated by spending our free time napping. Make sure your hotel has really, really good curtains.

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Thought American portions were huge? Have some more reindeer. Chris and I were rather content sharing meals when we could; it not only saved money, but it meant that we ate everything as opposed to bringing huge amounts back.

And at least in Røros, we ended up eating reindeer almost everywhere. It’s rather tasty, but I would be nervous for bringing vegetarian friends to parts of Norway. I think I went to one restaurant with a decent selection of vegetable-based options, and the potatoes are really good, but a vegetarian cannot live by potatoes alone.