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Originally published August 28, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified August 28, 2008 at 1:47 PM

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Guided walks introduce groups to some of Seattle's finest food

Gourmet walking tours take visitors on a tasting trip through Pike Place Market, downtown Seattle and downtown Portland.

Seattle Times travel writer

If you go

Savor Seattle offers its walking tours year-round. Call 1-888-98-SAVOR (72867) for reservations, or see www.savorseattletours.com.

The Gourmet Downtown Seattle Tour departs Wednesday-Saturday at 2 p.m. and ends around 5 p.m. Maximum 12 per group. Twenty-six bites and sips, nine stops. Cost: $65 including tax.

• The Pike Place Market Food & Culture tour departs daily between 10 a.m.-10:30 a.m. and lasts about two hours. Maximum 16 per group. Twenty-six bites and sips, 10 stops. $41 including tax.

Other tours

Seattle By Foot offers the Seattle Coffee Crawl, a two-hour walking tour focusing on the city's coffee scene, with stops at several cafes. Tours start at 10 a.m. at the Pike Place Market Wednesdays-Mondays in August and Thursdays-Mondays through Nov. 9. Cost is $15 including tax. Call 206-853-3545 or see www.seattlebyfoot.com.

Portland Walking Tours offers four-hour "Epicurean Excursions" through downtown Portland Fridays and Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Cost is $59 including taxes. Call 503-774-4522 or see www.portlandwalkingtours.com.

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Attention Seattle foodies: Here's a quick quiz:

• Which restaurant used to be a favorite watering hole for patrons of an early 1900s bordello?

• Why did the owners of Pike Brewing Co. name one of their beers "Tandem Double Ale?"

• What is Chef Tom Douglas' secret baking tip for the pizzas rolling out of the ovens at Serious Pie?

If you know the answers, then maybe there's a better way for you to spend an afternoon than sipping and tasting your way around downtown Seattle.

If not, then limber up your taste buds. Angela Shen has the answers.

A 27-year-old self-described "food evangelist," Shen founded a company called Savor Seattle and launched food-focused walking tours of Seattle's Pike Place Market last year.

More than 6,500 people signed up, about 40 percent locals, so last month she added a second tour, this one focusing on the downtown gourmet scene.

Shen originally planned to do walking tours in Chicago, where she had been living, but when she and her husband relocated to Seattle a year and a half ago, she decided to try out the concept here and set out to get to know the people behind the foods she discovered.

The result is a tour that's as much about connecting with local chefs and the owners of family-owned food businesses as it is about eating and drinking.

"That's usually part of the equation that's missing," she says. "After you meet them, you know how much love and care comes out on a plate."

A New York native, her own food background includes shelling pea pods in her parents' Chinese restaurant in Minneapolis and launching a breakfast bar for Quaker Oats, where she worked as a brand manager.

The Gourmet Downtown Seattle tour — a 1.5-mile, three-hour walk through areas of downtown with a colorful past — is an eclectic nine-stop marathon that includes five "sit-down" restaurant/dessert stops.

Wayne Johnson, executive chef at Andaluca in the 80-year-old Mayflower Park Hotel, starts things off at 2 p.m. with a mini-lesson in Spanish tapas, called "pintxos" in Northern Spain. Chilled glasses of homemade Sangria and appetizer portions of ground duck topped with an apricot chutney and cucumber raita are elegant starts to the 24 more tastes and sips to come.

Next it's a stroll down Fourth Avenue to what Shen calls the "Tom Douglas Block."

"Bars, brothels and gambling halls," used to surround the area near Fourth and Virginia. Now it's upscale restaurants such as the Dahlia Lounge and Lola, owned by well-known Seattle chef Tom Douglas.

It's been lines out the door since Douglas opened Serious Pie, a casual pizza parlor next door to the Dahlia. But at 2:30 p.m., when Shen brings her groups here, lunch is winding down, and Gray Brooks, Douglas' chef in charge, has time to talk.

He reveals a Douglas secret as he passes out samples of two pizzas, one topped with housemade mozzarella and another with roasted mushrooms and truffle cheese. The cheese goes on after the pizza is baking in the oven.

Chocolate, sausages and beer

The first of several dessert stops follows at the Chocolate Box, a shop on Pine Street that stocks several brands of locally made chocolates. Here the groups gets a lesson in how chocolate is made, and samples several varieties made by Theo, a company in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood that roasts its own cocoa beans. Then it's into the Pike Place Market for a peek inside a third-generation German delicatessen called Bavarian Meats.

Shen promises an introduction to the "sweetest German ladies you'll ever meet in your life." Waiting with a tray of sausages made in a factory two blocks away is Anna Eicher, a tall blond woman in a white coat who's worked here for nearly 50 years.

Arranged on platters are rolls of smoked pork tenderloin, little squares of sunflower-seed bread topped with liverwurst and hot ground mustard, along with the store's best-seller, Landjäger, a long-lasting smoked sausage popular with European backpackers.

"For five weeks, you can keep it at home," Eicher explains. "Then you should have eaten it."

Next comes a 3:45 p.m. sit-down snack at Place Pigalle, an elegant little restaurant tucked into a corner of the Market near the LaSalle Hotel, an early 1900s bordello now a subsidized housing complex. The Lotus Inn next door — now Place Pigalle — was a favorite hangout for brothel patrons, thus the reason it was named for the red-light district in Paris.

Seth and Lluvia Walker, new owners who took over a year and a half ago, have tables set up with cloth napkins and glasses of chardonnay. The "taste" is a serving of Northwest Penn Cove mussels in a sauce of balsamic vinegar, shalotts, celery and bacon.

For the answer to the tandem-bike question, Shen walks her groups over to the LaSalle and downstairs to the Pike Brewing Co. below the Market.

She points out an orange bicycle built for two near the entrance. Owners Charles and Rose Ann Finkel ride it to work most days, no doubt rewarding themselves with a pint of their Pike Tandem double ale.

Finkel spends a few minutes explaining beer-making as the groups nibble on a local cheese made from the milk of cows fed on Pike's spent grain, and sample glasses of "Naughty Nellie," a beer named for the former madam at the LaSalle.

The tours end just before 5 p.m. at Gelatiamo, a Third Avenue ice cream and pastry shop owned by Maria Coassin, who comes from a family of bakers in the Friuli region of Northern Italy.

Coming up with the right combinations of ingredients for new flavors, she says, is like being a "matchmaker. Liking each other is not enough. You have to get along together."

Dressed in jeans, heels and yellow blouse, she dishes out a raspberry sorbet and a velvety pistachio made from nuts grown in the town of Bronte near Mount Etna in Sicily.

For anyone feeling guilty about indulging, the same rule applies to eating gelato as it does to making it.

"Like everything in life," she says, "it's all about balance."

Carol Pucci, 206-464-3701 or cpucci@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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