Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Seattle and a Sour Cherry Pie

Around mid-summer, when it wasn't uncommon for the mercury to rise to well into the hundreds for days in a row, I started planning a fall getaway. Cold, dark, and wet may not sound like ideal vacation weather to most but it sounded like heaven to me after the dog days of record heat and drought we experienced this summer in Central Texas. Seattle's weather seemed like the perfect antidote to our summer so I booked airline tickets and day dreamed about rainy days and cloudy skies while waiting impatiently for our October departure date.

To help with planning the trip, I reached out to a couple of fellow bloggers for recommendations. Stevie over at Weird Combinations is a wealth of information about California wines so I knew he could point me to someone knowledgeable about Washington wines. He steered me to WinePeeps where I contacted Kori. She sent me a list of wineries to check out in Woodinville, a town just outside of Seattle where many wine makers in Washington have tasting rooms.

When we visited Woodinville, we stopped by Mark Ryan Winery, Delille Cellars, and Matthews Estate. We particularly enjoyed the Doyenne Metier and Roussanne at Delille Cellars and the Matthews Estate Claret was nice as well. Overall, we were impressed with the Washington State wines we tried- the red wines were quite good and were great values compared to Oregon reds, in particular Willamette's vaunted yet pricey pinots. Notably, Washington wines seem to have the same problem as Texas wines in that we found very few bottles on the wine lists of Seattle restaurants that we dined in.

Robin, who blogs at A Chow Life, lives in Seattle and was also an excellent resource. She steered us to great eats, sites, and 'hoods. On Robin's recommendation, we checked out the Ballard neighborhood and stopped by the Ballard Farmer's Market. Like most West Coast farmer's markets, the Ballard market was a wonder. Just look at those beautiful multi-colored carrots below. And blackberries! In October! Those gorgeous husks of multi-colored corn also caught my eye.  

On the list of restaurant recs Robin sent, she emphasized not to miss The Walrus and the Carpenter, an oyster bar known for an extensive menu of local oyster varieties. Aside from fabulous oysters and a great cocktails menu, I would have loved The Walrus and the Carpenter for the decor alone- it looks like a traditional Parisian brasserie only done up in a Scandinavian-like color palette of shades of white and light grey. It's a popular spot (thanks to Bon Appetit naming it a Best New Restaurant this year) and doesn't take reservations so we waited over an hour on a Monday night for seats at the oyster bar. Fortunately, a bike shop next door has taken advantage of the crowds milling around waiting and offered a small beer and wine menu and a seating area so the time passed pleasantly enough. I'm pleased to report the oysters were well worth the wait- I was in heaven slurping down Barron Points, Penn Coves, and Baywater Sweets as fast as they could be shucked.

Robin also recommended Sitka & Spruce, a gorgeous little restaurant that we visited for lunch. The restaurant is housed in the Corson Building, a multi-purpose space that bills itself as a home, a restaurant, and a community. I understand Sitka & Spruce's menu changes daily and when we stopped in, the dishes were mostly vegetarian and featured North African spices and flavors. I wish we had been able to go for dinner as well but we had reservations at Book Bindery. Thankfully, my disappointment didn't last long as our meal at Book Bindery was the highlight of the trip.

As you might expect from the name, the Book Bindery Restaurant is housed in a former book bindery, which endeared me to it even more than the excellent reviews I read. We lucked upon an amazing server named Luciano when we dined at the restaurant- he put together a wine pairing for us based on our menu selections and his choices were spot on. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea but we had a foie gras terrine that was to die for. As in, I would have died happy if that terrine were my last meal on earth. Luckily, I lived to go on to eat some wonderfully prepared caramelized scallops and finished my meal with a bay leaf-scented semifreddo with huckleberries.

And of course, since I'm pretty sure it's a required pilgrimage for all food bloggers who visit Seattle, we went to Delancy, the adorable little wood-fired pizza place owned by Molly, of Orangette, and her husband. Delancy was charming and warm- just like Molly's blog. Eric, who is quite the pizza critic, said his pepperoni and fancy cheese (the cheese of the day, which I can't recall) pie was almost as good as Bola Pizza. If you've ever tasted Bola, you'll know that is high praise. Me, I was obsessed with the chocolate chip cookie sprinkled with grey sea salt I had for dessert. (I'll be experimenting soon to see if I can re-create it so you may see such a cookie in an upcoming post.)
Lest you think that all we did was eat and drink (and that wouldn't be far from the truth), we did catch some of the local attractions. See above pictures for proof. You might recognize that tall building on the left with the space ship-looking apparatus on top, aptly called the Space Needle. I was tempted to skip it but I'm glad we went. The view really was spectacular and that day the weather was clear and sunny- not at all Seattle-like. The Olympic Sculpture Park is only a short distance from the Space Needle so we were able to hit both in one day. Of all the sculpture installations in the park, my favorite was the Seattle Cloud Cover bridge seen in the middle photo. Inserted between the glass walls of the bridge are transparent photos of changing sky views. The sun reflects the colors in the images so the accommodating weather made it a spectacular day to see the bridge. I only wish my photos did it justice.

The Space Needle and the sculpture park were both impressive but my absolute favorite place in Seattle would have to be the Central Library designed by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus. Although it's a must-see for architecture buffs, I'm pretty sure everyone who visits the library leaves entranced. Aside from its highly original and thoughtful design, the city skyline views from the upper floors are a sight to behold. And for some reason, the lime green fluorescent lighted escalator that runs through the core of the library, seen in the middle picture below, really tickled me. I'd like one just like it in my next home. Or better yet, I could happily live in that library.
Since we were so close, I couldn't resist taking a drive over to Twin Peaks and Eric humored me in going along. Actually, the town of Twin Peaks doesn't really exist but exterior location scenes for the series Twin Peaks were shot in Snoqualmie Falls and North Bend, just 30 minutes east of Seattle. I've been a huge fan of the show since my high school days when the series originally aired. I'm currently re-watching the entire series (for the 4th time) on Netflix Instant. The Salish Inn seen below and the Snoqualmie Falls are featured prominently in scenes in the opening credits of the show.  
The storyline of the series follows the murder of a high school girl, Laura Palmer, and the subsequent investigation which reveals complicated and often sordid relationships amongst the members of the fictional town. My favorite character, FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, played by Kyle MacLachlan, comes to Twin Peaks to investigate Laura's murder. Agent Cooper was a fount of slightly canned wisdoms, such as, "Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don't plan it. Don't wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men's store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee." Along with his black coffee, Coop loved a piece of "damn fine cherry pie" from the Double R Diner.

The exterior of Twede's Diner in North Bend, seen above in the middle pic, was used to set up scenes at the Double R Diner. As you can see from the painted storefront, Twede's Diner has capitalized on the success of the series by proclaiming the diner the "home of the Twin Peaks cherry pie." When we stopped by to take pictures I decided to pass on going in for a cup of coffee and and a piece of cherry pie.

Perhaps Twede's pie is actually damn fine but I usually find such trips down nostalgia lane disappointing and I don't want to be reminded of bad pie every time I decide to re-watch my beloved show. Since I like to have my pie and eat it, too, I didn't leave matters to chance. As soon as we returned home, I made my own damn fine (sour) cherry pie.

Sour Cherry Pie

I followed the recipe below and found the filling a little too loose for my preference. Since cherries are out of season, I had to use frozen fruit and this might have exacerbated the soupiness of the pie. If I make this pie again, I would increase the amount of corn starch to give the pie filling more body. I think I’d use at least ¼ cup of cornstarch with fresh cherries and up to ½ cup for frozen cherries. Note- I wasn’t able to find sour cherries so I increased the lemon juice as noted below in the recipe when using sweet cherries. This trick worked well- the extra lemon juice added a tartness that tempered the sweetness of the cherries just enough. 

Pie crust- adapted from Tartine
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup of very cold water
3 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup + 5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Filling- adapted from Epicurious
1 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 cups whole pitted sour cherries or dark sweet cherries (about 2 pounds whole unpitted cherries)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (if using sour cherries) or 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (if using dark sweet cherries)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon milk

1. This pie crust recipe makes two 9 inch pie shells. Combine the salt and water in a small bowl or measuring cup and stir to dissolve the salt. Place in the refrigerator to keep cold until ready for use. Add the flour to a large mixing bowl and scatter the butter over the flour. Use a pastry blender or 2 knives to cut the butter into the flour until large crumbs form and pea-sized pieces of butter remain.
2. Slowly pour in the salty water while stirring with a fork until the dough roughly comes together. Turn the contents of the bowl out on a work surface and just knead until the dough comes together into a ball. The dough will not be smooth and pieces of butter should be visible. Divide the dough and form two rounds approximately 1-inch thick. Wrap the rounds in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.
3. Preheat the oven to 425° Fahrenheit with a rack placed in the lower third of the oven. To prepare the pie filling, stir together 1 cup sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium sized mixing bowl. Add the cherries, lemon juice, and vanilla and toss with a fork to combine. Set the filling aside while you line the pie pan with dough.
4. Butter the pie pan. Roll out one of the chilled dough rounds on floured work surface until approximately 1/8 inch thick. Work quickly to keep the dough cold and be sure to lift and rotate the dough on the work surface as you go to prevent it from sticking. Wrap the dough over the rolling pin to transfer it to the pie pan. Press the dough gently into the pan and trim off excess dough with a sharp knife, leaving about a 1 inch overhang.
5. Spoon the filling into the pie pan lined with dough and mound slightly in the middle to prevent the center of the pie from sinking while baking. Top with butter cubes.
6. Roll out the remaining dough round on the floured work surface to 1/8 inch thickness. This dough round will be used to top the pie. You can also cut strips if desired for a lattice style pie top. Again, work quickly and lift and turn as you go. Wrap the dough over the rolling pin to transfer and unroll it over the filled pie shell. Or, if making a lattice topped pie, arrange the strips in an alternating pattern over the top of the pie filling. Trim the top dough to allow a 1/2 inch overhang and fold bottom crust overhang up and over the top overhang. Use your thumb to pinch the edges together against the pie pan to seal the crust layers. Brush the top crust with milk and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.
7. Place the pie on rimmed baking sheet and bake 15 minutes at 425° Fahrenheit. Lower the oven temperature to 375° Fahrenheit and bake for approximately another hour until the crust is golden brown. If the edges of the crust begin to brown too quickly, remove the pie from the oven and cover just the edges with foil, then continue to bake until the top has browned sufficiently. When done, remove the pie from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool completely.


  1. Your Seattle vacay sounds awesome!!! I too love "Twin Peaks" and I remember all too well having to sleep with the light on cuz the show freaked the hell out of me! That agent Cooper is good stuff though, no? Love the sour cherry pie! I'm lucky enough to still have some sour cherries in the freezer from my summer picking - this pie definitely gives me ideas on how to use them up.

  2. Ahh Agent Cooper! Loved the show and rented several years ago to watch it all over again. I would make the trip just for that.this post is a great source. We are planning a Seattle trip,might be at Blogher food conference next year if i can manage to go. Glad you had a good time.

  3. I took notes. I really did. I can't wait to visit Seattle!

  4. What a great trip, and what great photos! We have the Twin Peaks series on dvd and just re-watched it a year ago or so. Next time we watch it, I'll have to make a cherry pie. Love the lemon to balance the sweetness.

  5. Nice pictures of Seattle trip...such a fun city to visit...and the sour cherry pie looks awesome...so pretty.
    Hope you are having a fantastic week Shelley :-)

  6. I've never been to Seattle, and I never made my own damn fine cherry pie, and now I am feeling like I am missing out on something pretty special LOL. Wonderful photos!
    *kisses* HH

  7. John and I have been wanting to take a drive to Seattle for the longest time and so we are planning to go sometime next year and stop in Portland as well. I am going to bookmark this post, so I can take in some of the sights that you did. I am a big fan of Twin Peaks, so that will be a stop I want to make. :) Your sour cherry pie looks damn fabulous, Shelley!

  8. That pie does look DAMN GOOD. Wish I could eat it! And I love Seattle. Wish I could have the market nearby to get 10 dollar bouquets every DAY. Gah!

  9. Wow! Your trip to Seattle sounds amazing. And thanks to for the shout out.

    We've never been there, but since the main initial attraction for you was the cold and dreary weather, which we have in spades here in SF, I can see way it's still on our things-to-do-someday list.

    I'm glad that you enjoyed your wine experience there. Those WinePeeps folks are super. You mention Roussanne in your article I think. That's one of the few whites that Hegui and I both really admire. Sort of creamy and almost thick like chardonnay without all that cloying butter. Yum!