Saturday, July 6, 2019

Seattle Part I: Hotel 116 Bellevue, Chihuly Garden & Glass, and the Space Needle #WGTravel #seattle2019 #VisitSeattle

Earlier this year, The Weekend Gourmet travel team spent a long weekend exploring Seattle. The Pacific Northwest features miles of breathtaking scenery, a fabulous food scene, and easy access for an action-packed day trip to Canada! Our home base the first two nights of our trip was Hotel 116 in Bellevue, located a short 15-minute drive to most of Seattle's iconic attractions. This boutique hotel property is ideally located close to a major freeway, shopping, and dining. After walking through the front door, we immediately noticed the hotel's modern lobby d├ęcor and little touches -- including a station with refreshing fruit-infused spa water for guests. The friendly front desk staff welcomed us and checked us in quickly. Before we knew it, we were off to our rooms!
Hotel 116 offers its guests a pair of convenient cost-saving amenities: complimentary WiFi and free onsite self parking. No car? No worries! Hotel 116 also provides free shuttle service to locations within 5 miles of the hotel. Our room featured a comfy pillow top King bed, a sitting area that was perfect for reading, and an in-room mini fridge and coffee maker -- everything we needed for our home-away-from-home!
Our room also included a view of the courtyard below -- lots of tables to sit and chat! We settled in, unpacked, and relaxed for a bit after our early-morning flight from Texas. Our TV included HBO, so we watched a bit of TV too. After resting for a bit, it was time to explore Seattle! Our destination? Two of the city's most popular attractions: Chihuly Garden & Glass and the iconic Space Needle!

Visiting both of these attractions in one afternoon is a snap, because they're part of the centralized Seattle City Center area. The 74-acre City Center grounds feature 30+ cultural, educational, sports and entertainment, and community events year round. We started our afternoon with a visit to Chihuly Garden & Glass. Opened in 2012, this must-visit attraction features colorful glass sculptures created by Washington-based artist Dale Chihuly. The grounds include an eight-gallery indoor Installation Hall, a peaceful outdoor Garden, and a large light-filled Glasshouse. As we walked through the indoor galleries, we were blown away by the glass sculptures -- their size, intricate details, and vivid color were amazing! The intricate sculptures sit on the ground and hang from the ceiling above. The outdoor Garden exhibit features winding walking paths lined with trees, plants, and flowers...with Chihuly glass sculptures included in and around the foliage. I shot some video of one of the larger glass sculptures on display to give you some idea how truly impressive Chihuly's glass creations are:

The outdoor Garden is anchored by four large glass sculptures -- including the tall yellow plant-like sculpture pictured below. Seeing the colorful glass sculptures placed in and among the green grass, trees, and colorful flowers was somehow both modern...and classic. There was something new to see around every bend of the outdoor walking path!
The centerpiece of Chihuly Garden & Glass is definitely the expansive Glasshouse. This 40-foot tall glass and steel structure has 4,500 square feet of light-filled space. The Glasshouse is home to a 100-foot long floral glass sculpture that includes red, orange, yellow, and amber glass. Theis sculpture is comprised of smaller individual glass sculptures, and it's one of Chihuly’s largest suspended sculptures. 
I want to take a second here to share a key travel tip with you that will ensure you get the most out of your Seattle visit. The Seattle CityPASS® ticket booklet is the best way to see Seattle's top attractions for up to 49% off regular admission. CityPASS® lets you choose five Seattle attractions to visit from seven great options -- including Chihuly Garden & Glass and the Space Needle. You simply pay one price for each booklet, then redeem the included ticket as you visit each of your preferred attractions...easy!

Chihuly Garden & Glass is open Monday thru Thursday from 830AM to 830PM; weekend hours are 830AM to 930PM. Keep in mind that tickets are sold up to 1 hour before this closing time each day. The picture above shows you just how close the Space Needle is to Chihuly Garden & Glass. It was a five-minute walk at most between the two attractions. We made our way to the ticket booth to purchase tickets to check out the Space Needle's extensive multi-million dollar renovation. Note that admission is limited to a specific number of visitors per hour, and there can be a wait during peak hours. Luckily, we were able to immediately enter the main floor to take an elevator up 520 feet -- approximately 50 stories -- to the Space Needle's top observation deck!
The Space Needle's outdoor observation deck features eye-popping 360° views of the Seattle area via clear floor to ceiling windows. The views are especially beautiful on an afternoon with few clouds! The observation deck was quite breezy when we visited, making the temperature cooler than it was on the ground...so be sure to bring a light jacket just in case. During our visit, Michael captured a gorgeous panorama of the Seattle skyline. 
The circular observation deck also features new Skyrisers -- tilting glass walls that let visitors "lean in" and enjoy 24 different angled vantage points of the city below! There are also clear, angled benches located at each vantage point -- they're perfect for snapping photos and selfies! 

After visiting the observation deck, be sure to take the stairs down one level to check out The Loupe -- the world's first and only rotating glass floor. It's not for the faint of heart, but the views looking down are definitely eye opening.
Photo provided by The Space Needle Press Team
With our afternoon of exploring Seattle over, it was time for a little snack to tide us over until our dinner later that evening. Lucky for us, Hotel 116 has a convenient onsite restaurant! Eastside Bar & Grill offers a wide range of upscale casual food. My group shared two menu items: a healthy Shrimp Cobb Salad and crunchy Fish & Chips. The beautifully presented Shrimp Cobb Salad featured plump grilled shrimp, crumbled bacon, blue cheese crumbles, boiled egg, creamy avocado, and a variety of crispy-fresh salad vegetables. It was served with a tangy lime vinaigrette. This salad was light, refreshing, and delicious...with lots of layers of flavor and texture.
The Fish & Chips were fried perfectly crispy -- not greasy or soggy (my biggest foodie pet peeve!). It was served with coleslaw and a delicious tartar sauce. Delicious food...and a short walk back to our room to rest up before dinner? That's a winning combination for sure!

Dinner that night was at the Bellevue location of Duke's Chowder House. This restaurant has seven locations in the Seattle area, and they're know for their award-winning chowder and sustainably sourced seafood. The Bellevue Duke's is their newest location, on the upper level of the new Lincoln Square South shopping area. We were warmly welcomed by our hostess and quickly seated. We looked over the handcrafted Duketails menu while we waited for the chef-curated food menu to start! We selected a fruity Oh My Tai!, a glass of white wine, a colorful Blueberry Lemon Drop martini, and a Blood Orange Margarita. Our meal was definitely off to a festive start!

Duke's Chowder House is known for its popular, award-winning clam chowder -- so our first menu item from the kitchen was a shared Quad Dinghy Chowder Sampler. This was a perfect way for us to taste all four of the different chowders on their menu! The sampler included servings of their rich and creamy New England-style Award Winning Clam Chowder, spicy Ragin' Cajun Chicken Corn Chowder, Lobster Mobster Pernod Chowder, and the tomato-based cioppino style North by Northwest Seafood Chowder. We had a great time sipping our cocktails and debating which of these four chowders was our favorite. They were all creative and delicious, but my personal favorite was the smoky, creamy Award Winning Clam Chowder. It was rich and satisfying...definitely award worthy!
Along with the chowder sampler, we shared two other starters: Dungeness Crab "Un"Cake and Rockin' Rockfish Taco. The crab cake is served with a tangy lime aioli and was voted 2019's Best Crab Cake in Seattle. It was crispy outside and bursting with sweet crabmeat inside. The taco included Wild Alaskan Rockfish with a Thai chili marinade, white cheddar, mango chutney, cucumber pico de gallo, and a tequila-lime aioli...a true flavor explosion!
Next out of the kitchen was several menu entrees! For salad lovers, the "Un"Chopped Seafood Salad is a perfect choice, featuring skewers of broiled scallops and wild prawns. We also enjoyed a trio of fish entrees: Off the Hook Stuffed Salmon, Holy Halibut Macadamia, and Sailor Boy Sea Cod Tacos. Duke's salmon is delicious Copper River wild salmon. The salmon entree was stuffed with crab, prawns, two cheeses, and served with a pesto sauce. Our award-winning halibut dish was crusted with macadamia nuts and served with a sublime macadamia beurre blanc...swoon! The fish taco included blackened Pacific Cod, feta, tequila-lime aioli, avocado, shredded cabbage, and cucumber pico de gallo -- so good! Not a seafood fan? Duke's also serves an amazing grass fed North of California Havartii Cheeseburger with bacon, avocado, and a spicy chipotle aioli. To say we were stuffed by then was an understatement...but we decided to split one dessert four ways so we could each enjoy "just a bite."

Before telling you about dessert, I want to share a bit about Duke's sustainably caught seafood. All of their salmon, halibut, rockfish, cod, and weathervane scallops are 100% wild and sustainably caught in Alaska. Their shellfish is 100% sustainable from the Pacific -- including Dungeness Crab, mussels, and wild prawns. Now...about that dessert! We opted for "I Want You So Bad" Marionberry Pie. It's made with tart Washington-grown marionberrries. It came to the table warm, topped with a scoop of locally produced vanilla ice cream. There's something very special about warm fruity pie and creamy cold ice cream that goes perfectly together. A bite or two was plenty for each of us to end our visit to Duke's Chowder House on a supremely sweet note! 

From Duke's Chowder House, it was a quick drive back to our cozy room at Hotel 116. Then, it was time to digest for a bit and enjoy a relaxing hot shower using the bathroom's spa-inspired toiletries. I decided to do a bit of reading in the comfy bedside chair to wind down a bit. Then? It was time to climb into our King bed to get some much needed sleep after our busy day exploring Seattle. We had another busy day of sightseeing planned for the following day...so getting adequate rest was essential. Luckily, our bed was so cozy that we slept great! Sometimes I don't sleep well away from home...but that wasn't the case this time. 

The next morning, I woke up early and walked literally 2 minutes down the hall from our room to pick up coffee and pastries at the onsite Woods Coffee Roastery & Bakery location. This Pacific Northwest coffee chain offers hot and cold beverages...and a nice selection of fresh pastries. Being able to walk feet from our room straight down to Woods Coffee was a huge perk -- haha...get it?!?!? -- of our stay at Hotel 116. Since we had a planned visit for coffee later that morning, I opted for a chilled Blackberry Vanilla Energy Drink and a warm Lemon Blueberry Scone. Then? I walked back down the hall to our room and enjoyed my morning treat before checking out of the hotel!
We absolutely loved having Bellevue and Hotel 116 as our home base the first two nights of our trip. This is definitely a growing area, with tons of new restaurants and shopping. Before leaving Bellevue, we had one more stop: coffee and breakfast at Third Culture Coffee. In an area that's know for its coffee, Third Culture really stands out! This wildly creative coffee shop brings together coffee and teas from around the world in an upscale casual location. The beverage menu is quite varied, so there's literally something for everyone. We found the best way to experience Third Culture Coffee was to jump right in and have fun.

The coffee and tea selections at Third Culture Coffee include both the familiar and authentic beverages curated from across the globe. The menu includes creative Signature Beverages, Espresso, Manual Brew, Cold Brew, Coffee Flights, and Teas. We tried the Indian Filter Coffee, New Orleans Iced Coffee, Hibiscus Herbal Tea, and spicy Elaichi Chai. Once we made our beverage decisions, we stepped up to the counter and placed our order.
The most unique beverage that we tried that morning was definitely Michael's Indian Filter Coffee. This lightly sweetened, strongly brewed beverage contains coffee, chicory, and condensed milk for sweetness. As the video below demonstrates, creating this Indian coffee beverage was quite an elaborate presentation. The finished coffee is served in a small metal drinking cup...with a bit of foam on top. My hibiscus herbal tea was served in a porcelain teapot. It was steamy hot and slightly tart, with a touch of added sweetness from a bit of natural sugar crystals. 
We paired our beverages with a bite of breakfast from Third Culture Coffee's food menu. We selected a classic Grilled Cheese, Avocado Toast, a S0Co Taco, and the unique Kaya Toast. Our grilled cheese was cooked panini style, so it was crunchy outside with a gooey, cheesy center. The avocado toast was served on toasted rosemary semonlina bread and drizzled with a sweetly tart balsamic glaze.
The SOCO taco was filled with cage-free eggs, house-made spicy chorizo sausage, heirloom rainbow potatoes, and Tillamook cheddar. The Kaya toast was totally new to us -- and now I wonder where this magical product has been all my life! Kaya is a creamy lemon-coconut jam that tastes like the tropics. It was spread solo on toasted brioche...and it paired perfectly with my hibiscus tea. 

After our breakfast at Third Culture Coffee, the Bellevue portion of our Seattle adventure was over. However...we still had more adventures planned! Stay tuned to read all about the rest of the fun we had while visiting Seattle.

Disclosure: Hotel 116 provided my a hosted stay to facilitate inclusion in this story -- including rooms and gift cards to Eastside Bar & Grill and Woods Coffee. Visit Seattle provided CityPASS® tickets to visit Chihuly Garden & Glass, and the Space Needle provided four complimentary admission tickets. Restaurants featured provided The Weekend Gourmet team complimentary meals to facilitate inclusion. All opinions shared are solely my own.

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