Top Shelf: Finding NW cuisine through Seattle noise

Sep 16, 2020 by Timothy MacDonald

Top Shelf: Story and photos by Chef Timothy MacDonald

Sitting in Fremont Coffee Company, late on a Saturday afternoon. Boston’s “More than a Feeling” competes with a hippie playing an open-air rendition of “The Freddy”, the flute song from HR Puffinstuff.

Cannabis is in the air and the dreamcatchers sway in the mid-August summer breeze. The locals make the most of this sun, as they know the driving rains will be back soon.

A bearded Scooby-Doo Shaggy techie sits akimbo on a motorized skateboard opposite a neon sign that announces “Breakfast all day: Gluten-free and veggie options”. 

Google’s HQ is in the immediate vicinity and dictates pho, poke, health bowl and salad cafes dispensing politically correct health food at a socially distant distance. Italian wood-fired pizzerias situated on the ground level of the many condominiums pump out charred margaritas to go as tech-savvy gym-glad 20-somethings restrain their designer pooches from disgracing themselves.

Starbucks is simply outnumbered by bohemian coffee houses offering simply better short and long American coffee at far better prices.

Pike’s Peak Market

Over the bridge on the No. 32 rocket, I head through Queen Anne and Capitol Hill, a shell of its pre-COVID self. Past the Space Needle lies Pike Place Market. Old school homemade wooden stalls selling bagels, doughnuts and samosas break into the market mainstream and then onto the weekend hippie market where children of the second hippie generation sell flowers, honey and whatnot. A tourist touches an in-season mushroom and, in the current climate, her fingers are almost shawn off by the vendor.

On the outer edge, the Russian pie shop and the bakery sisters are still there, but an agonizing 15-minute, politically correct queue turns a pie into a ball ache. Silly tourists queue 30 minutes at the original Starbucks; the crumpet shop sadly closed due to the situation.

Dick’s Drive-In

What is Pacific Northwest cuisine? The maple bacon doughnut, tofu egg salad, the vegan communities’ contribution itself, Dungeness crabs, smoked salmon from Alaska, shellfish at Taylor’s, moose and elk niche products, wild berries (particularly black Marionberries growing wild at the moment), wild mushrooms from the surrounding forests, fusion trucks like the Japanese hot dogs downtown, my favorite: Dick’s Drive-In, chowders, huckleberry and cherry pies. I suppose what I’m saying is it’s farm-to-table kind of stuff, and I love it.

There is no one, typical example of Pacific Northwest cuisine. If anything, I can offer a modern take on land/sea, something that would suit and fit hand-in-glove in Seattle.

Raw corn, sea urchin and pickled onion taco with coriander


  • 6 hand-sized corn tortillas
  • Raw sweetcorn puree made from 2 raw sweetcorn
  • 12 lobes fresh sea urchin
  • Salmon roe
  • Micro coriander
  • 12 slices candy radish
  • Spanish onion, pickled

I have changed this recipe from what is pictured in the tray held by the elegant arms of Miss Maddison. It’s a great first course that is light when you want to book it out and get to bed early on charter.

Simply barbecue the tortilla and top with a spoon of the puree. Garnish with sea urchin lobes, roe, coriander, radish and pickled onion.

Thank you to my old chum Mark Best for the inspiration.

Timothy MacDonald ( has more than 20 years experience as a chef. He was named Concours de Chefs winner for yachts over 160 feet at the 2011 Antigua Charter Yacht Show. His recipes are designed for the owner and guests. Comments are welcome below.