Thursday, May 15, 2008
Never have we come across a neighborhood more in love with its name than Wallingford, a neighborhood with a low-key hippie persona in Seattle. In fact, on a recent trip there we noted all of the below "W" word references...all within a half-block.
However, strangely, just a few blocks from the main drag, the boundaries get blurred; according to some sources Wallingford's boundaries are thought of as Stone Way N to the west, Lake Union to the south; Interstate 5 to the east, and Woodland Park and NE 60th St. to the north. While some call the retail stretch along North 55th street "Tanglewood", we're counting it as Wallingford for added deliciousness in this Cakewalk; however, we have not included any bakeries south of 36th Street, because to us that just feels more like Fremont.
But boundaries and name obsession aside, we're happy to say that sweetness abounds in Wallingford; here are some of our Cakewalking favorites:
Boulangerie: Pining for pithiviers? Craving a croissant? Jonesing for--ok, we'll stop. The pastry here is buttery, flaky, and sweet--but like most French pastry, it's best enjoyed fresh; a good stop for the morning hours. Plus, we can't confirm, but we expect, that this bakery served as inspiration for the one in the book Pastries by Bharti Kirchner. Cakespy Note: for what it's worth, we far prefer their flaky items (croissant, pain au chocolat) to their choux pastry items (éclairs, etc) here. 2200 N 45th St.; (206) 634-2211.
The Erotic Bakery: Everyone in Seattle knows about this place, and if they say they don't they're lying. Their name pretty much says it all--cakes, cupcakes, cookies and candies are all erotically charged here, decorated with naughty bits built to order. While we thought that places like this were more about shock value than fine baking, we must say we were amazed at the meticulous amount of detail that goes into their fondant "sculpture" pieces--and naughtiness aside, the quality of the baking surprised us as well; the cookie we sampled was actually quite toothsome. Not life-changing, but pleasantly surprising nonetheless. 2323 N 45th St; (206) 545-6969.
Fuel: We love a good logo, but it's even better if, like Fuel, your products are just as good. Our friendly barista made a killer Americano, and the pastry case was stacked with goodies from Fresh Flours (we approve of the Green Tea muffins) and Mighty-O Donuts; what's not to love? We went to the 1705 N. 45th St. location; online at fuelcoffeeseattle.com.
Hiroki: Hiroki is rather unassuming from the outside, but inside there's some magic being cooked up: signature desserts include Green Tea Tiramisu, Gâteau Basque, and chocolate-orange cookies. The standard is clearly very high in Chef Hiroki's kitchen; everything is exceedingly well-made and precise. If we must be completely honest though, sometimes we feel unsophisticated when faced with elegant desserts like these; so to us, this would be more of an after-dinner place than an everyday haunt. Then again, nobody's ever going to accuse us of having too much class--you know how common our tastes can be. 2224 North 56th St., (206) 547-4128; online at hiroki.us.
Irwin's: Situated in an unlikely residential area, Irwin's boasts a case full of gorgeously carbohydrate rich treats, many of which (muffins, scones and cookies) are made in-house. We hear it's not a good choice for the morning rush, as service can be slow--but in the early afternoon, we couldn't imagine anything nicer than spending some quality time with one of those shortbready-rich little fruit-studded scones. We've not sampled their savory fare, but have heard mixed reviews. 2123 N 40th St; (206) 675-1484.
Julia's of Wallingford: Julia's seems to be one of those places that people either love or hate. To us, the retail bakery feels like a portal to 1993--with cases full of hippie-ish cookies, oat bars, and hearty treats like the coconut macaroons the size of your fist, it gives us memories of a time when it was cool to wear "Save the Whales" t-shirts, stirrup leggings, and Birkenstocks--all at the same time. Perhaps it's the memory of these awkward years that scares off some. But moreover we like Julia's, what with their hearty, mostly beige-hued baked goods; we don't like their cakes quite as much, but think they're worth a visit. 4401 Wallingford Avenue N., 206-633-1175; eatatjulias.com.
Mighty-O Donuts: We didn't even know that these donuts were vegan the first time we tried them, but we did know that we liked them. These donuts are not for the feint of heart--none of that light-as-air business here. These donuts are seriously dense, cakey, and seriously tasty. While you can get Mighty-O Donuts at coffee shops and grocery stores throughout the city, the flagship is worth a visit: seasonal flavors and a full variety of flavors you won't see in other stores are here, plus all those vegan employees are just so freakin' cute. 2110 N. 55th St., 206.547.0335; online at mightyo.com.
Trophy Cupcakes: You've heard us rhapsodize about Trophy Cupcakes before, and we'll do it again. Tucked away from street view in the Wallingford Center (a renovated former schoolhouse), Trophy embodies the full spirit of celebration, with impeccable decor, cute party products...but of course, most importantly--beautifully crafted, and toe-curlingly good cupcakes (read our interview with owner Jennifer Shea here!). Our favorites? The Chai Cardamom, Hummingbird, and of course, the one that Martha made famous. 1815 N. 45th Street, in the Wallingford Center; online at trophycupcakes.com.
Zoka Coffee: The pastry case here is an absolute feast for the eyes, overflowing with deep-dish pies in flavors from a vaguely virtuous blueberry to an absolutely sinful chocolate peanut butter; cookies ranging from vegan thumbprints to dense chocolate truffle cookies, to the decadent "Zoka Bar"-- a multilayer confection of coconut, chocolate, butterscotch and walnuts cradled on a graham cracker crust (reminiscent of the Magic Cookie bar from Magnolia Bakery, or the Bakedbar of Brooklyn). We love it all, and everything (except for a few bread items like bagels) is made in-house at their own commercial bakery. Sweet. A few different locations, but we visited 2200 N. 56th St.; online at zokacoffee.com.
Any other Wallingford favorites? Let us know!
Also, we've not yet been to brand-new ice creamery Molly Moon in the Wallingford Center--has anyone else? We'd love to hear your thoughts!