Seattle Specialty Foods Shopping Guide

We have no small amount of pride in our hometown of Seattle. There is no shortage of high quality food growers, purveyors, and artisans in this city, but the below is our short list of the places we rely on again and again.

Marx Foods Lower Queen Anne
This might be like voting yourself Prom Queen, but whatever, we’re doing it anyway. Marx Foods is one of the few food retailers that actually taste tests all the products on the shelves. We also stock things that are hard to find, even in Seattle’s abundant specialty food scene – game meats, a huge range of exotic chilies, molecular gastronomy ingredients…plus items you’ve probably never seen before (pinecone bud syrup or buzz buttons, anyone?). Our staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and endearingly nerdy about food.

A huge Asian grocery store with especially impressive fresh departments. The produce section is great–a wide range of exotic and tropical items in addition to the usual suspects. They do their meat-cutting in-house, so you can find all sorts of tidbits that you would have to special order at other stores: feet, skin, bones and raw or rendered fat of various animals. The seafood department has live items like tilapia, dungeness crab, geoduck, and oysters.

Pike Place Market
You’re not really a Seattle gourmand until you’ve plumbed the labyrinthine depths of the Pike Place Market. Here’s a short list of our favorite market vendors:

DeLaurenti for their extensive collection of high quality charcuterie, cheese, wine, and pantry goods.

World Spice Merchants is obsessive about keeping their wide array of spices are as fresh as possible. You can buy everything in just the amount you need, instead of the large bottles found at grocery stores.

City Fish may not throw fish at tourists, but it does have excellent, fresh local seafood and fair prices. During uni season they sell whole urchin on the half shell for about a third of the price of a sushi restaurant.

Frank’s Produce has the nicest produce in the market. If they don’t have what you’re looking for, just ask–they can special order your item with a day or two’s notice.

Paris Grocery is a small but well-curated French cheese and wine shop by the same folks who own a (also excellent) local Spanish grocery, The Spanish Table. Their selection of wines and spirits is excellent, including hard-to-find Underberg bitters.

Farmers’ Markets
Seattle has eleven farmers’ markets and they are all great.

Most of the markets are seasonal, but the U-District, Ballard, West Seattle, and Broadway markets are all open year-round. At each one you can expect a full selection of very high quality produce, meat, dairy, baked goods, and prepared foods.

Melrose Market
Counting Melrose Market as one retailer is a bit of a cheat because it consists of several independent vendors under one roof.

There’s Rain Shadow Meats (a full-service butcher specializing in local and sustainably-raised meats), The Calf & Kid (cheese shop that always seems to have the obscure cheese you can’t find elsewhere), Marigold & Mint (organic produce and plants grown on their own farm), and Taylor Shellfish Farms (live shellfish and the best oyster happy hour in Seattle). It combines the convenience of one-stop shopping with the expertise and service of specialty shops. There are also restaurants, a craft cocktail bar, and a home goods shop.

Neighborhood Notables

Pioneer Square
The London Plane

An all-purpose cafe-deli-bakery-pantry-flower-housewares shop by Seattle notable chef Matt Dillon (also the mastermind behind Melrose Market).

Sake Nomi

The impressive selection of Japanese sakes at this specialty store is carefully curated by the owner, who lived in Japan for several years. You can sit at the bar and talk shop while you sip a sake flight, or simply stop in and let them know what you’re looking for and get a great recommendation.

Capitol Hill
Central Co-op

A great full service grocery focusing on wholesome, sustainable, and local foods. Every time you walk in you’re likely to find a new locally produced product on the shelves. The staff is friendly and delightfully grungy. You don’t have to be a member to shop, but membership has its benefits: special sales, discounts, free workshops and events. Pickle-making workshop? Yes, please!

Cone & Steiner

A nice step-up from the ubiquitous corner store, this small market has all the basics–fresh fruits & vegetables, frozen meats, cheese, pantry staples, wine & beer–plus a tidy selection of prepared foods, locally made specialties, and hardware items. They also have a growler station stocked with 6 local beer taps.


One part apothecary, one part pantry store, Sugarpill is a sweet little shop stocked with items to cure what ails you, whether it’s seasonal allergies or boring cocktails.

Meet a Producer – Midori Farm

Marko & Hanako produce truly superb organic sauerkrauts & kimchi at Midori Farm in Quilcene, WA and a nearby commercial kitchen – shepherding the whole process from seed to jar.  Because their krauts are unpasteurized and don’t ship well, we only sell them in our Seattle retail store and Amazon Fresh.  You should come by and check them out!

We had a chance to interview them on why they do what they do and how they do it.  Here’s what Marko had to say:

Why did you decide to start making & selling sauerkraut?
I started making kraut and kimchi after living in South Korea while teaching English.  Everyone in Korea eats Kimchi every day at almost every meal.  So when I came back to the states I was working on a vegetable farm and started making kimchi and kraut with the excess produce.

I knew it had health benefits similar to yogurt, and at the time I was a vegan so it was a good way to get probiotics into my diet.

After a few years of making it and perfecting some recipes, my friends started clamoring for more, so I started selling it around town.  About that same time I moved to Port Townsend which had a vibrant farming community and a great market, so I started producing kraut in a commercial kitchen and selling it.

Can you talk us through your kraut & kimchi production?
The main idea is that we chop or shred vegetables (usually cabbage is the main ingredient), then mix in a small amount of sea salt.  That salt draws the juices out of the vegetables in about 20 minutes are so creating a brine.

Then we pack that mixture into our fermenting vessels.   We place a weighted plate on top of that to squeeze out any air in there.   This creates an anaerobic (oxygen free) environment for the fermentation bacteria to start their work.

It is a succession of bacteria that do the fermenting and create the flavors associated with non-pasteurized kraut and kimchi.  Each strain can live within a certain range of acidity as they work on the process of breaking down the vegetables they create acids changing the PH level of the solution and thus inviting in the next strain of bacteria that can live and thrive in an increasingly acidic environment.

We usually stop the fermentation process after a few weeks so the kraut is still a bit crunchy, but has had enough time to develop complex flavors.

What’s your favorite part of the farming/production process?
I love that we are producing a “processed” product from start to finish.  We sow the seeds, cultivate the soil, water the growing seedlings, protect the plants from insect and disease damage, harvest the mature vegetables, shred them, ferment them for weeks and then put them into jars and sell them to folks all over our region.

It is an amazing opportunity to observe the entire process of bringing a food product from seed to shelf.  Plus it’s an amazing opportunity for creative thought and art in action. It is all so very long term oriented, it is fun to be a part of producing something that takes such a long time to create.

For example the onions and leeks we use:  They begin with spreading compost and planting cover crops each fall to nourish next year’s crop.  Then seeds are planted in the greenhouse beginning each January.  These onion seeds grow into onions that will be in the kraut folks are eating the following year.  A full year and a half after we began preparing the soil in which they would be planted.  I like the opportunity to take the long view.

Why did you decide to farm organically?
For us there is no other way to farm for long term health of the soil, the water, the animals and ourselves.

What are your favorite ways to enjoy your dill & caraway kraut and horseradish leek kraut?
On good bread with a good goat cheese.   Packed with potatoes and good sausages and a bay leaf then cooked in a covered dish in the oven.  On burgers, on pizza, with eggs, with anything grilled and salads of course.  Horseradish leek kraut on lamb is especially good.

Any quick & easy recipe ideas beyond simply using them as a condiment?
Blending them with any fat is perfect.  We make kim-cheese by processing kimchi with chevre or cream cheese.  And blended kimchi butter or kraut butter which can then be added to about anything.

Braising meats with lots of kraut or kimchi is divine…We like to brine meats in kimchi and kimchi juice.  Or slow cook pork or beef or tempeh or tofu with a jar of kimchi then roll up that mixture in lettuce leaves.  Our standby quick soup is a big spoonful of kimchi in a hot cup of water with some miso and a boiled egg or noodles.

Best Souvenir Ever!

During my recent food scouting trip to Italy I had the opportunity to visit Compagnia del Montale, the family owned & operated company producing our superb aged balsamic vinegars.  It was a great visit, and I learned a lot…but perhaps even more exciting was what they sent me home with.

In addition to their more cost effective “condiment” style balsamics like Oro Nero and Vigna Oro CdM also produces award winning Affinato and Extra Vecchio balsamics.  Their extra vecchio has twice won the uber-coveted Spilamberto prize – which is given out each year to the best extra vecchio vinegar.  In other words, their vinegar has twice been considered the best balsamic in the world.

I was really excited to taste their most recent winner (they won last year’s award) and see how it was produced, but they also let me taste their private reserve.  Extra vecchio’s aged for a minimum of 25 years.  Their private reserve, which is NOT for sale, is aged over 70 years.

And let me tell you.  It’s something special.

Check out the color and thickness.

No thickeners or artificial colorings, that’s just what happens to grape must when you expertly age it for a really, really, really long time.

Then they coaxed some into a bottle for me to take home.  WOW.

I have no idea how many pounds of grapes are represented in my little bottle of their reserve.  Balsamic loses about 10% of its volume for every year it ages though evaporation, and it’s been estimated that a cup of 12 year affinato represents something like 70lbs of grapes…so maybe I’ve got a whole field’s worth in a little 3.4oz bottle at home.

It certainly tastes like it.

Farmbox Greens at Marx Foods!

I’m super excited to be the first retailer in Seattle (and maybe the country) to offer urban-farmed microgreens from Farmbox Greens.

Not only are they gorgeous, but they’re also delicious, thanks to a perfectly balanced regimen of light, moisture and nutrients.  Dan, the owner of Farmbox Greens, has achieved this by building a perfectly controlled urban farm right around the corner in West Seattle.

Urban farming was once only found in futurists’ dreams, but mission-driven entrepreneurs like Dan are making it a reality – hoping to develop a model that can have national impact.

You’d walk right by Farmbox Greens in West Seattle, because it looks like a garage.  In fact it actually IS a garage…at least on the outside.

On the inside it’s a squeaky clean, perfectly controlled, state of the art facility where they grow these tasty greens as sustainably as possible.  This isn’t a side project for Dan (a landscape architect by day).  It’s a crusade.  He wants to teach us all how much tastier and more efficient (in land and resources) urban farming can be.  And the results are delicious.

We had a lot of fun visiting the Farmbox facility and shooting this video.   I think it really captures who Dan is, what he’s doing, and what makes these microgreens so special.

North Olympic Peninsula Urban Foraging

The Olympic Peninsula is home to abundant natural beauty–the Hoh rainforest, the Olympic mountains, the Pacific coast. It is also home to a sort of agrarian renaissance, with an impressive diversity of farms, from livestock to orchards to vineyards.

Here are a few notable spots between Chimacum and Port Angeles on the north peninsula:

Chimacum Corner Farmstand
Awesome farm stand and natural foods store with a heavy focus on local farmers and producers. They have a full selection of fresh, frozen, and dry goods as well as beer and wine. On Sundays they host the Chimacum Farmer’s Market. (9122 Rhody Drive Chimacum, Open Daily, 360.732.0107)

Chimacum Farmers’ Market
Small market with a nice selection of vendors to cover all the basics: produce, meat, dairy, and bread. With food carts and live music every week, this is a sweet spot on a Sunday. (Chimacum Corner Farmstand, Sundays, June – October)

Port Townsend Farmers’ Market
An awesome market for a small town: all the food groups are covered, plus great prepared foods, body products, crafts, and live music. (Tyler St between Lawrence St & Clay St Port Townsend, Sundays, April – December)

This store has a nice collection of local goods, plus knickknacks and crafty-type things. Stop in here for picnic provisions before a hike or boat outing. (810 Water St Port Townsend, Open Daily, 360.385.5560)

Cidery Tasting Rooms
There are two cider makers in Port Townsend, Alpenfire and Eaglemount, that comprise a nascent community that is small (for now) but scrappy, endearing, and personable. Their tasting rooms are not the sleek, well-appointed tasting rooms of established Washington wineries, but the people pouring your tastes are the same people who are tending the orchards and working the cider press. For example, after you’ve sampled the ciders and chatted with the farmers, they might leave to hop on a tractor and move some rocks (or any other number of tasks essential to producing great cider).

Eaglemount Wine and Cider
(2350 Eaglemount Road Port Townsend, Seasonal hours or by appointment, 360.732.4084)

Alpenfire Cidery
The tasting room at Alpenfire is charming and adorable. On some days they’re offering pizza from the outdoor wood fired grill. Alpenfire also produces a couple of apple cider vinegars. (220 Pocket Lane Port Townsend, Friday – Sunday, 360. 379.8915)

Nash’s Organic Produce
Nash’s is an awesome farm-sourced grocery store with a full range of fresh, frozen, and pantry items, lots of local products, and great produce, much of which comes from their 450-acre working farm. Nash’s raises organic veggies, fruits, grains, seeds, and pastured eggs and pork. (4681 Sequim-Dungeness Way Sequim, Tuesday – Sunday, 360.681.6274)

Alder Wood Bistro
The most notable restaurant on the north peninsula. Alder Wood Bistro is so serious about locality and seasonality that they designate menu items by proximity: local (Sequim-Dungeness Valley), 100-mile radius, and regional (WA, OR, CA or BC). Just as importantly, the food is solid. (139 W Alder St Sequim, Tuesday – Saturday dinner, 360.683.4321)

Additional North Olympic Peninsula resources:

Port Townsend
Port Townsend Food Co-op
414 Kearny St
Open Daily
T: 360.385.2883

Aldrich’s Market
940 Lawrence St
Open Daily
T: 360.385.0500

Sequim Open Aire Market
Cedar Street, between 2nd Ave & Sequim Ave
Saturdays, May – October

The Red Rooster Grocery
134 1/2 W Washington St
Open Daily
T: 360.681.2004

Port Angeles
Port Angeles Farmers’ Market
Corner of Front St & Lincoln St
Saturdays, Year-round

Country Aire Natural Foods
200 W 1st St
Open Daily
T: 360.452.7175

Good To Go! Natural Grocery
1105 S Eunice St
Monday – Saturday
T: 360.457.1857Post

Written by Justin Marx

Browse More:
Urban Foraging Guides

Willamette Valley Urban Foraging

If you’re driving through the Willamette Valley wine country between Portland and McMinnville on Highway 99, these are good shops to fill your picnic basket or fortify your wine tasting tour.

Beaverton Farmers’ Market
A huge, diverse market, easily twice the size of an average farmers’ market.
(SW Hall Blvd between 3rd & 5th Sts, Beaverton, Saturdays, May – November)

Red Hills Market
A nice little deli-type market with a menu of cafe style offerings plus cheese, wine, spirits and anything else you might need for a picnic, much of which is sourced locally. (155 SW 7th St, Dundee, Open Daily, 971.832.8414)

Fino in Fondo
Fino in Fondo is primarily a salumi producer, but their small retail shop also has cheese, charcuterie, and a few pantry items. This is not a locally focused shop, but their stock is quality. (777 NE 4th St, McMinnville, Tue – Sat, 503.687.1652)

Harvest Fresh
Natural foods store with all the trimmings: bulk section, deli & prepared foods, supplements & body care, etc. (251 NE 3rd St, McMinnville, Open Daily, 503.472.5740)

Post Written by Justin Marx
Browse More:
Urban Foraging Guides

Portland Urban Foraging

Portland is a little powerhouse food city of the West Coast. It has the food resources of a much larger city: nationally-acclaimed restaurants and bars, an impressive number of well-stocked farmer’s markets, all manner of natural and specialty food shops, and a comprehensive network of artisan food producers. The list of resources presented here is long but is not exhaustive. These are my favorite spots:

City Market Northwest
In Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood there’s a permanent indoor market that houses multiple independent vendors–it’s called Melrose Market and was conceptualized by chef Matt Dillon, whose restaurant, Sitka & Spruce, anchors the market. City Market Northwest is similar in concept–multiple vendors under one roof–but from the perspective of a retailer rather than a chef. Each grocery department is covered by independent businesses, so you get the quality, depth, and expertise of a boutique shop combined with the convenience of one-stop shopping. (735 NW 21st Ave, Open Daily, 503.221.3007)

Flying Fish Co. & Kruger’s Farm Market
The seafood here is high quality and all sustainably sourced. They also have a small selection of local meat, eggs, and pantry items. Right next to the Flying Fish Co., is Kruger’s Farm Market–one urban outpost of Kruger’s Farm, which grows fruits, veggies, and flowers on the outskirts of Portland. Between Kruger’s and Flying Fish Co. there’s a nice selection of seafood and produce, plus a few extras. (2310 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Open Daily, Flying Fish: 971.258.5212, Kruger’s: 503.235.0314)

A classic Italian specialty shop featuring a lot of great imported goods. The fresh departments are limited, so save your meat and produce shopping for another stop. (3735 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Open Daily, 503.232.1010)

Woodsman Market
Something of a retail larder, this shop has a small selection but is laser-focused on high quality, local, and artisan goods. They have charcuterie (local, imported, and house-made), local meats butchered in-house, cheese, eggs, fresh produce, and a collection of pantry goods. (4529 SE Division St, Open Daily, 971.373.8267)

Foster & Dobbs
No fresh departments here, but the local charcuterie, cheese, and pantry goods they carry are great quality. (2518 NE 15th Ave, Open Daily, 503.284.1157)

Market of Choice
A small chain of natural grocery stores based out of Eugene, with one location in Portland. Check it out for the great selection of Oregon products. (8502 SW Terwilliger Blvd, Open Daily, 503.892.7331)

Mr. Green Beans
A DIY foodie heaven, Mr. Green Beans sells “domestic arts” equipment–everything you need to roast your own coffee, make cheese, and put up pickles and preserves. (3932 N Mississippi Ave Open Daily, 503.288.8698)

Portland State University Farmers’ Market
This is Portland’s big market. Set in a gorgeous location with a full range of farms, food producers, and even some apothecary items. (South Park Blocks, SW Park Ave at SW Montgomery St, Saturdays, March – December)

There are so many farmers’ markets in Portland; for a list of all the others check out this 2013 Guide to Portland Metro Area Farmers Markets.


Post Written by Justin Marx

Browse More:
Urban Foraging Guides

Urban Foraging Guides

It’s easy enough to find guides on which restaurants, bars, and food trucks to sample when visiting a city, but guides on where to shop for food are considerably harder to come by. Sometimes you just want to cook a meal, or pack a nice picnic, or have a snack that didn’t come out of a hotel minibar. The following guides are meant to help with all of those needs.

These guides are also useful if your intention for traveling (as it often is for us) is to savor the unique culinary landscape of a place–much of a city’s character can be discovered though its farmers’ markets, shops, and food producers. Plus, you never know what tasty local specialty you may stumble upon. Go forth and forage!

Willamette Valley
North Olympic Peninsula

Going to the Source: Chicaoji!

Chicaoji Hot Sauce is one of my favorite products we sell, not just because it’s local and tasty, but also because of the down to earth guy who makes it: Randall Waugh. He’s a solid guy!

I recently got to go to Lopez Island to interview Randall and watch Chicaoji being made – check out the video below:

Truffle Hunting in Italy

One of the highlights of my recent food scouting trip to Italy was getting to hunt bianchetti truffles & fresh morels.

I love wild foods –especially wild mushrooms. The forest contains some of the most delicious foods and some of them, like mushrooms and truffles, are defenseless and just waiting for you to pick them.

I wish it was that simple. Our hosts can see the forest floor like Neo can see the matrix.

My guide was Luigi – a 26-year foraging veteran in Emilia Romagna who started out with a farmer’s market stand and is now king of the small specialty food & hospitality empire that produces our favorite Selezione truffle oils.

Luigi and one of his foragers brought a dog along to help with the truffles. Dogs help locate truffles with more accuracy than humans – allowing them to be gathered without digging up large portions of the ground. This is better for the forest and better for the truffles. By not disturbing the delicate mycological organism underground that produces truffles, you help ensure they’ll still be around next year. And, dogs can tell at a distance whether a truffle’s fully ripe, so you’re not plucking truffles before (or after) their time.

You’ve probably heard of people hunting truffles with pigs, and some still do, just not in Italy. It’s illegal to use pigs there because of Italy’s forests are different and pigs would damage the ground.

We were especially glad to have the dog with us on this trip because bianchetti season was almost over – the truffles still out there were tiny – about 5g each. They’re really, really hard to find if you don’t have a trained nose down on the ground.* As it turned out, they made the truffle hunting so easy for me that it wasn’t very rewarding. The dog did most of the work and then my guide pushed the dirt aside and said something like “here, take it.” It was like taking an egg out of an unguarded chicken nest. Too easy.

Next we moved on to the morels. Believe it or not, despite having eaten tons of morel mushrooms over the years that grow within a couple hundred miles of my home, I’ve never actually hunted them myself – so this was a great treat.

Unfortunately we couldn’t use our canine assistant here…the only way we could find them is to train our eye to watch for the white/cream color of their stems – picking them out amongst the leaves and debris on the forest floor.

Luigi’s got the eyes of a hawk, I’d walk right past a bunch of leaves where he’d immediately spot six morels. Foraging at this level really is an art – a combination of eyesight, knowledge, experience and perseverance. I got better at spotting them the more time we spent looking, but I’m not going to be at his level anytime soon.

The entire trip to Italy was an incredible experience – the food, products, and the people producing them here are amazing, but this foray out into the wild was a particular highlight.

*Note to self: I need to put Nyoki to work next Oregon truffle season – it’s time he earned his keep.

Post Written by Justin Marx

Visiting Appenino Food

I’m man enough to admit that sometimes I walk around in little plastic blue bootees.  Hey, they may not be the most stylish footwear on the planet, but when you’re going to the source you sometimes have to eschew fashion for food safety.

On a recent food scouting trip to Italy I got a chance to tour Appenino Food, producers of fine all natural products like our selezione truffle oils, truffle salt, and truffle butter.

Luigi, the head of the company, showed us around.  The man knows quality produce when he sees it, and he should – he worked his way up from selling foraged edibles at a farmers market to this beautiful modern facility.  He clearly hasn’t lost sight of what matters along the way.

Not only was the place spotless but stylish too – check out this handle for their walk-in cooler.  His cooler had a big basket of fresh white truffles for local restaurants, and his freezer was packed with the best frozen porcinis I’ve ever seen.

When we visited, his employees were hand-packing artichokehearts in sunflower seed oil with vinegar.  The artichokes come right into the factory from the field, and every step from that point on, until the jars are closed, is done by hand to preserve quality.

Take a look.  They’re absolutely gorgeous.

This hands-on method allows an impressive level of quality control – the employees scrutinize the artichokes every step of the way.  If they don’t pass muster they get chucked right there.

Sure, it’s a factory, but Luigi’s found a way to balance safety and efficiency with maintaining top quality.  I’m proud to sell his products.

Balsamic Vinegar’s Secret Ingredient

On a recent food scouting trip to Italy, I got to visit Compagnia del Montale, producers of our aged balsamic vinegars and two-time winners of the Spilamberto Prize for best balsamic in the world.

We’ve discussed how balsamic vinegars are made elsewhere.  All traditional balsamics are made from cooked grape must, but there’s actually another, very important ingredient: wood.

Just like you’ve probably heard sommeliers and foodies discussing the “oaked” characteristics of wine, the type of wood you age balsamic vinegar in imparts different flavors to the finished product.

Producers can use whatever wood they want, and as many different aging barrels as they want.

So here’s CdM’s award winning recipe (pencils ready?):

Six Barrel Set
Cherry -> Mulberry -> Ash -> Acacia -> Chestnut -> Oak

I’ll let Enrico explain why:

Oh…and you’ve got to pick just the right grapes, cook them just the right way, and treat them with love, respect and incredible care over the course of 12-25 years.  Easy, right?

Want to know more? Here’s a description of the whole process straight from Enrico:

Related Posts:
Guide to Compagnia del Montale Vinegars