Perhaps it is because I am a recent transplant to the West coast and not yet jaded by the grey skies of winter, but I think the Pacific Northwest is an incredible place, even in March. In addition to all the neighbourhoods of Vancouver, there are so many other destinations nearby to visit. I recently spent a long weekend exploring the culinary scene in Seattle, Washington, with a focus on Taste Washington.


There are multiple options to get to Seattle. One could fly, but much more convenient is the Amtrak train. Unable to cross the border during most COVID restrictions, now two trains/per day travel between Vancouver Pacific Central and Seattle King Street. The trip takes just over four hours, but the advantages of not being required to check in several hours in advance, baggage allowance and Internet access allow it to fly by.

Buses operated by Amtrak and FLIX provide additional travel options throughout the day.

We opted to drive based on our schedule. The I5 near Seattle can get very congested and a bit stressful to drive, but as we chose off-peak hours (we left at 7:45 on a Saturday morning) and are Nexus card holders, we breezed through the line at the Peace Arch crossing and did the trip in two and a half hours.


We stayed at the Thompson Seattle in downtown Seattle. The location was perfect: Only a block from Pike Place Market and within walking distance of all the sights we wanted to see.

[Thompson Seattle’s colourful lobby; photo by Andrew Pogue]

The valet took our car we did not need again until we left the city. Thompson is the boutique brand of the Hyatt. With only 150 rooms, we felt welcomed and acknowledged from the moment we checked in. The rooms are spacious, modern and have wonderfully scented amenities made exclusively for them.

[King water view room at Thompson Seattle; photo by Andrew Pogue]

We had a king room, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking over the ocean, boats of all sizes and the Seattle Great Wheel. The amazing view during the day was rivalled only by the incredible lights at night.


We chose this weekend to visit as we were attending Taste Washington, the nation’s largest single-region celebration of wine and food. If this is your scene, definitely plan a March visit to Seattle to attend.


There are winemaker dinners and special evening events during the week leading up to the Grand Tasting, an all-inclusive ticketed event held at Lumen Field.

[Carrot carpaccio at the Grand Tasting, Taste Washington]

One day was not enough to sample from the 200 wineries and 50 restaurants showcasing their products, but fortunately, we attended both Saturday and Sunday.

[Brunch at RockCreek]

We planned each day strategically so that we could explore other restaurants outside of festival hours. On the way into the city, we stopped for brunch at RockCreek Seafood and Spirits. Located in the Fremont area, the urban industrial local favourite was about a ten-minute drive from our hotel.

Chef Eric Donnelly owns two other restaurants in the area, Flint Creek and Bar Sur Mer, which I will keep on my shortlist for the next visit. We tried the citrus ricotta salad and fresh hot blueberry turnovers, followed by oyster and bacon Benedict on brioche and red shrimp enchiladas with guajillo mole. Everything we tried was full of unique big flavours.

[Cozy, dark hotspot at The Nest]

After a long day and a few food samples at Taste Washington, we were happy to skip dinner and instead checked out The Nest, the Thompson rooftop lounge known for cocktails served with a view. It was dark, warm, comfortable and entertaining to watch the bartender mix drinks, a perfect spot to unwind from the day.

The next day we enjoyed breakfast at the hotel eatery. This beautiful space full of quiet tables, abundant greenery and large windows overlooking the streets is aptly named Conversation. We shared the avocado toast, topped with a smoky, spicy and sweet tomato jam. After drooling over all the Dungeness crabs at the market the day before, we had to try the Dungeness crab Benedict. The perfectly poached eggs oozed over the generous serving of crab.

[Taylor Shellfish shucking oysters at the Grand Tasting]

After exploring downtown on foot, we attended the festival for a few hours, avoiding snacks to save room for dinner. We sampled and spit too many wonderful Washington wines to remember all the names. We learned that Washington grows a lot of different varietals, produces many styles and requires planning a visit to the grape-growing regions of Walla Walla and Yakima in the future.

We spent the evening in Madrona, a quaint residential neighbourhood 10 minutes from downtown on the shores of Lake Washington. Our first stop was Bottlehouse, a wine bar located in a quaint old house.

[Wine flights at Bottlehouse]

Recommended for wine geeks, they offer bottles, glasses or flights alongside small bites. We shared two flights, one called Evergreen State of Mind (all Washington wines) and the other Who Run the World? (all made by female winemakers). Both flights included unique and thought-provoking pours.

[Women in Wine selection at Bottlehouse]

We walked a block to dinner at Vendemmia, a local Italian eatery owned by Brian Clevenger. The space was modern and bright, but the food classically prepared. We shared the octopus, which was tender, charred and topped with Calabrian chilis. Both recommendations from our knowledgeable server, the beef cheek rigatoni and the pork shank osso bucco, were spot on.

[Open kitchen dining at Vendemmia; photo by Andrew Pogue]

The featured flight of wine from Two Vintners for Washington wine month carried us perfectly through all the delicious courses.

Monday morning arrived with rain and moderate wind, but we braved the elements and headed out on a long run along the water before indulging in the last meal of our gastronomic adventure, lunch at The George in the Fairmont Olympic Seattle.


The grand hotel is celebrating its 100th birthday in 2024, and the restaurant recently underwent a facelift. It’s retained its soaring ceilings and detailed millwork, adding bright modern accents and brass lighting. It was bustling on a Monday at noon with business people, hotel guests and locals who come here for the food.

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[The George, Fairmont Olympic Seattle]

We shared the winter squash bisque, followed by nettle gnudi. Our server Arnoldo’s favourite is the Smash burger, which has a generous beef-to-bun ratio. He brought us two George cookies to-go, and I could not resist a little bite of the warm treat with my coffee – chocolate chunks, marshmallow fluff and insanely large!


The return walk to the Thompson to retrieve our car was a perfect antidote to the fabulous lunch. Between timing our departure to leave Seattle before rush hour and arriving back in Vancouver after theirs, plus no line at the border, we made it home in less than three hours. With such easy access and the simple excitement of crossing a border, I can’t wait to plan another trip to the Emerald City.

I attended Taste Washington as a media guest and was partially hosted at both the Thompson Hotel and Seattle restaurants for the purpose of this article. Where not expressly indicated, photos by BJ Oudman.

About Our Contributor BJ Oudman

BJ Oudman

BJ Oudman is a western Canadian freelance writer with interests in an active lifestyle, travel, food, and beverages from coffee to cocktails. She left her professional career as a physical therapist in Calgary, Alberta after 30 years to spend time in Vancouver, British Columbia. Follow BJ on Instagram and Twitter.

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