Since I was a little girl, Pike Place Market has felt like home. Every visit was an adventure, as my mom would lead me by the hand through the maze of stalls and people. Eye-height with brilliantly colored pyramids of fresh peaches, tomatoes and radishes, I would gaze in wonder, savoring samples of fresh fruit as if they were the world’s richest treasures. I would press my face against the glass of Three Girls Bakery, seeing the shelves piled with fluffy pillows of bread and confections of tantalizing shapes and textures. Even then, something was awakening in my little soul.
Now I am grown, and I have only grown more enamored of the Market’s beauty and bounty. Over the years, as my love for cooking blossomed and I merged it with my passion for writing through my food blog, the Market increasingly became a source of physical, creative and spiritual nourishment. Today, it is a sacred space to commune with the Earth’s bounty, and with the other humans who value its treasures as much as I do.
Today, in the throes of summer, the Market is a living, breathing thing, packed to the gills with humans not from here. It’s abuzz with excitement; the air electric; the vendors running on adrenaline, fueled by the agony and the ecstasy of trying to impart generations of food education in a five-second soundbite, before the crowds scurry back to their ships.
During the holidays, the Market is a veritable winter wonderland. Twinkling lights and boughs of pine and holly hang from every lamppost and awning; the iconic pigs are festively adorned. The crowds are somewhat lighter, the pace is slower and there is a reverence in the air for the magic and mysticism of the season and the time-honored traditions of this hallowed place. If you’re ever lucky enough to catch the beginnings of a gentle snowfall out of the picture windows at Storyville Coffee, the silent beauty will stop time.
But to me, the Market is magic every day, and I appreciate every stroll down her cobbled streets. The air is perfumed with picture-perfect bouquets of seasonal blooms. A fishmonger throws a huge slab of wild-caught salmon to the cashier as crowds huddle, smartphones aloft. I skip the sidewalk to bypass the ever-present line for the “original” Starbucks. I may or may not resist the urge to indulge in the incredible gluten-free abundance of Cinnamon Works. And of course, I pass rows upon rows of fresh, seasonal fruits, vegetables and herbs, harvested primarily from local farmers.
This is my happy place: perusing the bunches of vibrant purple and yellow carrots; filling a paper bag full of plump, sweet cherry tomatoes; salivating as I imagine sautéeing giant leeks in fragrant spices; sifting through piles of feathery dill fronds and leafy basil. Sometimes I go with a list, which my dear friend Chas at Frank’s Produce helps me cross off. He points out the fresh zucchini that just came in from Eastern Washington; sets aside the bruised avocado I've unwittingly selected and pulls a perfect one out of the heap; and offers menu suggestions when I draw a blank.
Over the years, I have fostered these relationships with vendors that now go way beyond patron and producer. One of these people is Brian Gilbert: head cheesemonger at the iconic Market creamery, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. My sister (who used to work there) introduced us, because I didn’t yet have “a cheese guy” in my vendor rotation. We instantly connected, lighting up over our shared passion and philosophy behind food and beverage.
At the time, we both were starting our own businesses; his was cheese pairings, mine was food and beverage marketing. As our friendship grew, we found we were writing the same business plan, and had the same mission. So we joined forces — and today, I couldn’t be more thrilled with what we have created. It’s a business borne of the Market; a way to celebrate the creators; and a vehicle for sharing our love for all things culinary with the world.
The business is Gilbert’s Cheese Experience: a cheese-pairing pop-up where we host fun, interactive tasting and food-education events with local food and beverage producers. Our goal is to introduce people to the foods and drinks we love, while also sharing the stories of how they're made and the people who make them. Our mission is to build community between consumers and producers, while having fun and teaching people something along the way.
It’s been a thrilling adventure seeing this so quickly grow from a dream to a reality. Best of all, I am basking in the joy of becoming a part of the Market family — finding my place as a professional amidst the motley crew of those who love food. Aptly, our summer events will be collaborations with Market merchants, including indi chocolate, Cedar & Spokes Coffee & Bar and the Pike Place Atrium Kitchen.
Whether you’ve been a hundred times or you’ve never ventured down, I welcome you to come and stroll the streets of Pike Place Market. Experience the wonder of seeing where your food comes from; watching how it’s made; and shaking the hands of the people who produce it. We are all part of this ecosystem, and I’m so honored to be sharing its stories, products and traditions with the world.
For tickets and more information about Gilbert’s Cheese Experience:
● July 14, sessions at 1:15, 2:30 and 3:45 pm at Indi Chocolate: Bastille Day Celebration With Cheese, Chocolate and Bubbly; tickets/info here.
● July 20, 5-6:30pm at Indi Chocolate: Cheese, Chocolate and Natural Wine With Wilridge Winery; tickets here.
● July 25, 6-7:30pm at Cedar and Spokes: Comté Cheese and Epicurean Wines at Cedar and Spokes; tickets here.
● August 17, 11:30am-12:30pm at Kasia Winery Tasting Room Snohomish: Cheese and Wine Tasting With Kasia Winery; tickets here.
● August 17, 6-8pm at Kasia Winery Tasting Room Snohomish: Cheese and Wine — a Personal Gathering With Kasia Winery; tickets here.
Post by Holly Regan