Fourth of July in Seattle

July 6, 2011

I usually keep it pretty low key for the 4th of July, but this past weekend I was on a quest to celebrate the three things that make the 4th of July and summer in America truly great: burgers, ice cream, and fireworks!

I started my quest by searching out the best small, local burger chain in Seattle. I’ve always liked the hugely popular, Red Mill, which is well known for it’s Verde burger and ridiculously huge piles of bacon. This time, however, I decided to try Blue Moon Burgers, which is a little bit pricer, but more focused on quality, locally sourced ingredients and more complex burger flavors. They also serve BEER and have several local brews on rotating taps!

Blue Moon Burgers

On Saturday afternoon I visited the South Lake Union location and ordered the waffle cut fries, the El Diablo Azul, and my lunch mate tried the Code Blue burger. The Diablo was really spicy (just like I like it) with a seasoned burger patty topped with a delicious, chipotle sauce and jalapenos, but not the typical pickled version you get at fast food chains. The square, potato roll was substantial and helped hold the hole spice fest together. My partner’s Code Blue was a double bacon cheese burger with peanut butter on a brioche bun — a total gut bomb. But! Who knew the sweet flavor of peanut butter would compliment the savory, meatiness of a burger so well? The fries were great too and didn’t seem as overly processed as your typical waffle cut fry. All in all, my burger craving was successfully satisfied and I checked that off my list of all-American pursuits for the weekend.

Peaks Frozen Custard

On Sunday I decided to try an ice cream shop I’d never visited before, Peaks, on 65th and Roosevelt. Now Peaks is not your typical ice cream shop. They serve only frozen custard, which is ice cream, but slightly different. It is smoother and richer because it is made with egg yolk and has 40% less air in it. Frozen custard was popular back in the 20’s and 30’s at carnivals and it is somewhat of a novelty these days. The texture is a cross between gelato and soft serve and the best part is it is made fresh and can’t be mass produced because it is literally pulled out of the machine right after you order it. The service here is great (almost a little too attentive) with samples and an order sheet at the ready right away.

Frozen Custard with Salted Caramel Sauce

The only bummer for me is that the flavor options are pretty limited. All custard is made from a vanilla base so any additional flavors are added at the end of the process and I’ve never been a vanilla girl. Peaks usually has a few regular standbys like vanilla and chocolate and then two unique, flavors of the day. They also do sundaes and have tons of toppings for making your own custard creation.

The day I visited their flavors of the day were butterscotch swirl and “stars and stripes,” a vanilla, blueberry, and strawberry concoction in honor of the 4th. Since I was on a quest to celebrate the 4th to the maximum, of course I had to try the latter, which had real, fresh blueberries in it. The result was refreshing and delicious, but seemed to melt a lot faster than regular ice cream in the first truly hot weather we’ve had this summer. I’ll definitely be back, but the flavor diva in me still craved the variety that you get at Molly Moon’s.

Me eating my patriotic ice cream as quick as I can before it melts!

To end my 4th of July quest, I had to find locally sourced fireworks and that meant heading into the belly of beast. Yep, that’s right — Gasworks Park, the number one place to watch the fireworks and also the busiest, most crowded place in Seattle on Independence Day. I typically avoid the scene here, which although free to the public, is a major zoo and a total parking nightmare. To my serious surprise, I easily found a parking spot within 10 minutes walking distance at 7:30 pm. After walking past a lot of whining kids and grumpy parents on the Burke Gilman, I made my way to a friend’s little houseboat oasis in the adjacent marina. And you know what’s better than having a houseboat of your own — having a friend with a houseboat.

A packed Gasworks Park (aka the belly of the beast)

From here I had a killer view of the lake and the action at Gasworks, but also breathing room and all of the comforts of home (i.e. beer, snacks, and a clean bathroom). There were also a number of rooftop parties going on with music playing, dancing, and we even got a water balloon toss going between different houseboats for a while.

View from the houseboat oasis

It was insane how many boats were out on the water; it was practically a boat version of rush hour traffic. And it wasn’t just your typical bayliners either. Our marina was also visited by a tug boat pulling a marching band of sexy pirates on a floating raft (seriously). They tied off, demanded to use the bathroom, and then serenaded us with some boisterous big band music and flag twirling before setting sail into the sunset.

Marching band of sexy pirates

When 10 pm grew closer, the anticipation mounted and everyone was ready for the climax of the day: FIREWORKS! And I have to admit, they were pretty awesome: shimmering streamers, screamers, and even fireworks shaped like planets and smiley faces. It was a long show too, covering at least 7 songs and there were a number of times when the crowd thought it was finished and then they’d start the blasting back up again.

Fireworks!

And even more FIREWORKS!

After the climax of course there was the critical mass of foot and car traffic leaving the area, but that was to be expected and I was able to make a quick escape to my temporary new home in Greenlake using some back roads. All in all it was a great 4th of July filled with the things that make America so great: burgers, ice cream, fireworks, and government paid holidays. It made me feel patriotic in spite of myself.

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