Travel black book: Seattle and Portland

Who: Ms Gan Guo Yi, 29, general manager of cocktail bar Jigger & Pony in Amoy Street. The Singaporean, a former air stewardess with Singapore Airlines, co-owns the bar with her fiance, Mr Indra Kantono, 30.

Favourite places: Seattle and Portland

Why: The Pacific Northwest of the United States is a place with a lot of young people, and everyone there was really friendly and genuine.

I was introduced to "locavore" for the first time there - it's a trend in restaurants in the Pacific Northwest - where they source all the ingredients for their food within the vicinity of their restaurant. It's a cool idea. I went there with my fiance to unwind after the Manhattan Cocktail Classic conference in New York in May, and immediately fell in love with the place.

Seattle and Portland are about a 21/2-hour drive apart. They are similar in terms of culture and the food and drink scene, so I have to talk about them together.

Must-do activity

Visit Pike Place Market (85 Pike Street, Seattle, tel: +1-206-682-7453, open daily from 6am to 1.30am) at least twice while you're in Seattle.

The most famous part of the market is the fish market, which was featured in the book Fish! by authors Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul and John Christensen because of its fun atmosphere and excellent customer service.

I tried to bring my book along to get one of the fishmongers to sign it, but they were all so busy.

They really are as crazy and fun as portrayed in the book. One of them had attached a string to a fish that was on the ice, and whenever a little boy tried to touch it, the fishmonger would pull the fish back with the string, which really confused the boy. It's a place that proves that any job - including that of a fishmonger - can be fun.

I recommend going twice because there's a lot more to the market. You need to cover all the shops, as well as go around eating. They sell fresh seafood such as lobsters and shrimp cocktails, as well as snacks such as sausages. They also have all sorts of stalls that sell exotic herbs and fruit.

I was looking for elderflower to use in an upcoming cocktail competition and couldn't find it anywhere, but I found some in Pike Place Market. I also brought back beetroot powder, which is interestingly sweet, and sarsaparilla bark, all to be used in cocktails.

Favourite bar

We loved Canon: Whiskey And Bitters Emporium (928 12th Avenue, Seattle, tel: +1-206-552-9755, open daily from 5pm to 2am).

It was opened by Jamie Boudreau, one of the pioneers of Small Screen Network where professional mixologists share videos of techniques and how to make certain cocktails. I've been following him even before he set up Canon, so I was really excited to go there. It has a grand list of more than 500 whiskeys.

It was there that we met the best bartender in our two weeks in the US. He was just a guy manning the bar but he was always calm, hospitable and chatty. He didn't crack under the pressure and you could tell he was sincere.

The bar really makes an effort to push the boundaries of cocktails. Jamie (the owner) even has a lab in the basement of the bar. It was there that I had my first beer cocktail. It was called The Hooker and was made with bourbon, beer, egg whites and amaretto. It was the name that caught my attention, and the ingredients made me go "Huh?" But it tasted really good. Cocktails here cost about US$14 (S$17.80) each. Best day trip out of the city.

We took a drive and a ferry from Seattle to Orcas Island. We drove our car right onto the ferry, which we found very fun. The island is untouched and not too touristy. It's mostly mountainous, with clear waters and little waterfalls all around it. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous.

It was recommended by a friend and we wished we could have stayed longer than a day. There were also quite a lot of locals bird-watching on the island, and that was how we managed to spot our first bald eagles. Some bird-watchers called us over to have a look at the eagles they had seen. It's a quiet island with just one bar, but if I lived in Seattle, I would go there at least once a month.

Best place for breakfast

In Portland, you can find food trucks almost anywhere, and they are always in fixed locations. They are kind of like our hawker centres. They're open for breakfast and lunch and are closed by dinner, and all sell different things.

My fiance and I liked them so much that we went in search of food trucks along Alder Street two days in a row. We sampled a lot of food trucks and really liked the pulled pork sandwich, Thai chicken rice and fish tacos.

Favourite restaurant

The Woodsman Tavern (4537 SE Division Street, Portland, tel: +1-971-373-8264) is an absolute must-visit if you are in the Pacific Northwest of the US. It has amazing grilled seafood. We had sea urchin and ceviche starters, and for a main we had a whole roast fish in broth.

In Singapore and Asia, we prefer whole fish, but in the US, they prefer fillets. At this place, they give you the whole fish de-boned, so it was the best of both worlds. Rhubarb was also in season, and it was at this restaurant that I learnt that rhubarb and ginger are a good pairing.

I usually pick up pairings through food and use them in cocktails. So one of my cocktail creations in the finals of the Diageo Reserve World Class Singapore competition in June used a rhubarb and ginger pairing, inspired by this restaurant.


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