Shop around the Block
Zebra hats, gnomes and cooking classes in Old Ballard
A fresh look at holiday-shopping opportunities in a favorite Seattle shopping district: Old Ballard.
The hot blocks
Along Ballard Avenue Northwest between Market Street and Vernon Place
Too bad Ballard's historic district doesn't put up its retro-classic snowflake decorations on the light poles anymore, but the growing count of shops and restaurants — even a tasty new gelateria — still gives good value as a place to spend your gingerbread. Expect a mix of young trendies, old folks and families with strollers, especially for the popular Sunday farmers market.
• Start at Gifted, a quirkily eclectic gift shop at 5427 Ballard Ave. N.W. Zany friends of any age might deserve the zebra-head knitted hat ($21). Bargain find: Colorful lily-pad flower tea candles, $2.50, just right for a stocking.
• Venue is, well, a venue for Washington artists, some with studios upstairs. The art boutique, 5408 22nd Ave. N.W., features Suquamish artist Laurie Sharp's needle-felted WoolPets, ranging from gumdrop-sized guinea pigs to a Christmas-ornament mermaid with wildly fuzzy purple hair ($60). Bargain find: Owner Diane Macrae's "Gnome in Seattle" postcards (five for $5) feature a winsome garden gnome photographed all across town, from the Space Needle to the now-defunct Lusty Lady peep joint. On the web at www.venueballard.com.
• New to the neighborhood this month, Dish it Up!, 5320 Ballard Ave. N.W., is a second location for a popular Magnolia kitchen shop. How about a not-too-big, not-too-small two-cup teapot from England's Price & Kensington, $14.95? Or give an experience: a class around the shop's 32-foot granite cooking counter (e.g., Thai Cooking, Dec. 30, $75). Bargain find: Red, yellow, green or orange plastic Pepper Savers, shaped like a bell pepper, for keeping them fresh in the fridge ($5.95). www.dish-it-up.com.
Ballard used to be all about fish. So warm up with the Caldo de Pescado — spicy fish soup, served with tortillas, $8 — at La Carta de Oaxaca, 5431 Ballard Ave. N.W. (www.lacartadeoaxaca.com).
Savor a 12-ounce porcelain cup of hot chocolate ($2.50), and oh why not a flaky-as-snow red plum croissant ($2.75), at Fresh Flours bakery, 5313 Ballard Ave. N.W. On the web at www.freshfloursseattle.com.
— Brian J. Cantwell, NWWeekend editor