postcards from seattle: melrose market
A sweet little forget-me-knot sterling silver ring and a trio of wool felt menagerie heads. A quick glance through Capitol Hill’s neighborhood website throws these twee nuggets into my path, and I stumble over them, diverting my day as significantly as a rock wedged into the middle of a river’s flow. A ring and a trio of wool heads. That’s all the carrot you need throw to tempt this particular donkey onward to Melrose Market in Capitol Hill.
A visit to Capitol Hill had already been decided upon, thanks to my great affinity for visiting indy book stores. Some people sightsee at museums, some at outlet malls, and some track down independent book sellers for insight on the best reads, trendiest gifts, and a great latte. So it didn’t take much for Elliott Bay Book Company to land on my “must see in Seattle” list.
Elliott Bay’s preeminence in the world of indy book stores is evident the moment I step into the vaulted, wooden-timbered hall. My eyes can barely rest on a single book title before flitting dragonfly-like to the next title of interest. We’ve taken a mere four steps in the door before Big Friend is chuckling embarrassingly loudly with each page turn of Go the F—to Sleep by Adam Mansbach, and Little Friend and I are absorbed in pursuing the yellow dot in Herve Tullet’s Press Here.
Elliott Bay is the type of book shop that makes English majors go mushy inside. A scrumptious, natural foods café in back, extensive “staff picks” notes fluttering from shelves that tower from floor to ceiling, and row after row of books that belie an exquisitely curated collection of cutting-edge interests.
Elliott Bay Book Company is reason enough to visit Union Square. Browse, munch, make mental notes on all the great book choices that must still be read in a single lifetime. Invest some hours in Elliott Bay. But then…
But then walk a few blocks toward downtown Seattle and ferret out Melrose Market.
Melrose Market, a series of shops joined along a common “main street” through a converted warehouse, opens like an oyster fished from the fresh tanks at family farmed Taylor Shellfish. Plain and unassuming on the outside, the inside of Melrose Market is nothing short of treasure.
Butter Home perches on the upstairs balcony of the building, and the shop’s blend of vintage-contemporary could fill my Christmas wish list. In addition to the forget-me-knot ring and menagerie heads, the shop oozes the type of yummy, creative home décor feeling I usually get while trolling Etsy’s shops.
On the main level of Melrose Market, food reigns supreme. At The Calf and Kid, small batch, artisnal cheeses send out ripe fingers to beckon noses. I succumb to a velvety sheep’s-milk yogurt, a jar of fig conserves, and a sharp goat’s ricotta for a Zucchini-Ricotta Galette on the menu later this week.
Next to Calf and Kid, lunch diners have filled tables early to snag some finely crafted sandwiches from Homegrown. The restaurant’s philosophy takes sustainable environmentalism to a whole new level as it beckons us with a Seasonal Squash + Snap Pea Pesto (seasonal squash, sweet corn. green beans, tamari onions + snap pea pesto) and a Roast Pork (stumptown coffee + cayenne rubbed pork loin, pickled red onion, apple butter, mixed greens + sage aioli). The breakfast sandwiches elevate this oft-forgotten meal to a gourmet level with the likes of Lamb Sausage, Egg + Cheese (homemade lamb sausage, a fried egg, sage aioli + beecher’s flagship on a griddled sesame roll, served with a mini cup of oatmeal).
Just across the aisle, at Rain Shadow Meats, fists pound and fingers massage poppy-colored slabs of meat. The butcher shop has all the marks of a discriminating craftsman: smoked duck’s breast, whole slabs of bacon waiting for a customer’s demand to be thickly sliced, and chopped sirloin swirls in thin intestinal coils of beauty.
Just after a clean, no-nonsense but cleverly named Bar Ferd’nand wine bar, Marigold and Mint pops up offering organic, eclectically styled flowers and a farmer’s market array of fresh, organic vegetables. The tiny shop seems to be artistically and deliberately decorated, down to the very arrangement of flower petals, as though the shop owner had futzed about, moved this here, that there, and then told the gerbera daisy, “Look just a smidge to the left. No, a little less, Just there. Yes! Now hold it!”
Making creative use of the right angle of space in the back of Melrose Market is Sitka & Spruce. The restaurant’s white walls, sun-flooded windows, metal bar stool seating, and lively patronage suck me siren-like toward the menu. I nudge Aunt Faith who I know needs to see this menu too. I’m not sure we’re really listening to each other as we each prod the menu with our index fingers and one-up each other on the “Ooooohhh—look at this!” comments.
We breathe, no pray, the menu selections: steamed clams, nettles, black rice & aioli; braised pork, turnip raab, breadcrumbs, & a poached egg; Ykima chickpea puree with beet salad & harissa; warm dates, our yogurt, sea salt, & honey.
The open kitchen, wood stove, and water-swilling sous chef provide nourishment for the eyes as I gaze with open envy at the diners who clearly are in the know about Sitka & Spruce.
In a town where good food and good shopping are no harder to find than that E at the very top of an eye chart, Melrose Market can compete with the best guidebook recommendations on what to see and do while out and about on the town. In visiting Melrose Market, you may experience, I forewarn, more regret over what gifts you must leave behind and what bites much go untasted at the Market shops and restaurants. Then again, if you want to remember to come back later to take it all in, I can recommend a great place to snag a forget-me-knot ring.