Saturday, April 22, 2006

One fine day in Seattle (Part Two).

The first part of this account of a beautiful day in Seattle can be found at NA Confidential: One fine day in Seattle (Part One).

Tuesday was as good a spring day as you’re likely to have in Seattle, and by early afternoon we’d stashed the rental car in the baseball game day lot on the site of the late and largely unlamented Kingdome, and strolled off for a look at the redevelopment projects under way on the south side of the business district, where Qwest Stadium and Safeco Field (home of the football Seahawks and baseball Mariners, respectively) sit side by side.

Pioneer Square and Commerce Square are entertainment districts of vintage origin and recent re-use, both of them shaded and lined with 19th-century brick commercial buildings returning to utility as offices, galleries, cafes and shops.

Nearby, surrounding the two sports facilities, are numerous old warehouse buildings in the process of conversion into condos, hotels and drinking and dining establishments. In one such building to the west of Safeco, Pyramid Ales – a longtime player in Seattle’s craft beer scene – has its brewery and a two-floor restaurant that was hopping before the baseball game.

Pyramid’s claim to craft beer fame is its infuriating Hefe Weizen, which borrows two-thirds of the Bavarian wheat ale formula – it’s unfiltered and made with wheat – but backs away from the classic style where it means the most, using non-specialized American ale yeast for fermentation, thus sacrificing the fruity/spicy flavors and aromas that characterize the genuine article.

However, Pyramid’s ales are well made – the IPA might have been the first and only choice for me – popular, pleasingly local and far better than mass-market swill.

Safeco Field itself is an engineering marvel, featuring a retractable roof that rolls into place on tracks when needed, and a seating configuration that is among the best I’ve seen in terms of intimacy and sight lines for baseball.

Upper deck seats on the east (right field) side of Safeco provide views of both the Olympic Mountains and the ferries and commercial ships going back and forth, in, out and across Puget Sound.

Safeco Field’s concessions offerings quite possibly are the most comprehensive of any in the country. The usual ballpark staples are freely available – hotdogs, peanuts, popcorn, nachos, soft drinks and fizzy yellow Bud Light – but they’re merely training wheels numbly clanking beneath a considerably higher common denominator for culinary delights and interesting libations.

Take craft beers, for instance.

Actually, I took several.

Good beer is everywhere at Safeco, and it’s not just ghettoized in one or two dispensing stations located on the other side of the field or closed entirely when crowds are small, as was the case during Tuesday night’s Mariners loss to the Texas Rangers.

Local stalwarts Redhook and Pyramid (and the far smaller Snoqualmie) are joined by Oregon brewers Deschutes, Full Sail and Bridgeport. Colorado’s Fat Tire pours alongside Coors. While aficionados might argue, and with merit, that for the most part small producers aren’t present at Safeco, and also point to Redhook’s ballpark sales status as a manifestation of its marketing tie-in with Anheuser-Busch, it remains that such a range of choice, and its pervasiveness within the confines of the venue, is something unprecedented in my experience.

Try imagining anything approaching these many options at Cincinnati’s Great Western Ballpark, much less Louisville Slugger Field, and the scale becomes more obvious.

The one product I sampled from a truly small brewery was Copperhead Pale Ale, from Snoqualmie Brewing Company. The next day, we happened upon the brewery’s taproom after perusing the famous waterfall nearby. It’s about 25 miles east of Seattle.

Of course, if you’ve had too many beers, espresso always is close at hand, albeit from the Starbucks monolith.

When it comes to food at Safeco Field, fans can choose from items like barbecued pork and the fixings, Tex-Mex munchies, full Thai platters and a half dozen varied presentations of sushi (with sake-from-a-box to accompany). These are the eateries I personally witnessed along the field level concourse; there may be others elsewhere.

Sushi and India Pale Ale at a baseball game in Seattle? I couldn’t resist the pairing.

What could be more appropriate given the city’s maritime heritage, its multicultural ethos, the contemporary setting on the Pacific Rim facing the vibrant Asian economies – not to mention the fact that outfielder Ichiro’s status as a bona fide Mariners hero fully incorporates his resume as Japanese baseball legend?

Kids (and adults) dissatisfied with Ichiro’s on-field performance can try to do better at one of the Nintendo game stations for public use, which are located near the children’s play area beyond the centerfield bleacher seats.

To be honest, I’m not sure what variety of sushi I consumed, although I was pleased to read a “raw food” health warning on the plastic package. Whatever it was, I’ve had better at Maido Essential Japanese. But that’s hardly the point.

Sushi and IPA.

At a baseball game.

Coming back to Louisville just keeps getting harder and harder …


smoosh said...

Wow! Roger, I can only hope that we do as well at the new Busch Stadium on Saturday ... but I'm not counting on it.

barenada said...

Thanks for this. Brings back some good memories for me.

Highwayman said...

Yeah, we've got a long, long way to go in the metro huh??

TedF said...

Have we upgraded our camera? Very nice pic's.

We do have a long way to go here, but you must admit that progress is being made. Slow and in spurts, but it is coming along.