As any local will proudly tell you, summers in the Pacific Northwest are tough to beat. The Puget Sound region is a haven for the food-obsessed this time of year. With a bounty of fresh seafood and produce in season, the readiness of farm-to-table dining in Seattle is mind-blowing. But what does it mean exactly to eat locally or to enjoy a farm-to-table meal at a restaurant? What does that relationship between the land, the farmer, the chef, and the diner truly look like?

peaches from the market

On a balmy August weekend, I venture off on a road trip from Portland to Seattle to dig deeper into the dynamics of this farm-to-table ecosystem. As a foodie, most of my travels are planned around where I’m eating. This summer road trip is no exception.

Upon arrival at Hotel Theodore in downtown Seattle, I drop off my bags and head downstairs to Rider. Luckily, I’m able to snag a seat on the busy patio. Downtown Seattle is buzzing with the energy of the weekend and it’s the kind of evening in the Pacific Northwest that feels decadent—warm with a salty breeze rolling off nearby Elliot Bay waterfront.

rider restaurant

The server recommends the Local Summer Peach and Burrata Salad and I happily oblige. As the dish arrives, it appears to be more of a robust abstract art piece than a salad. I’m sold upon the first bite. The artful plated salad is served with melt-in-your-mouth local peaches draped with black pepper lardo, a generous helping of spiced yet sweet pecans, piled high with a contrasting bite of bitter greens, and sprinkled with edible marigold blossoms. The result? Stunning both on the plate and in taste.

rider food plate

Savoring the dish and the evening, I linger on the Rider patio before wandering a few blocks to Pike Place Market to watch the sunset over the sound. It’s one of those nights that lead you to wonder why anyone would summer anywhere other than the Pacific Northwest.

A Chef’s Tour of the West Seattle Farmers Market

In the morning, I join Rider’s Executive Chef Dan Mallahan, his wife Jaqueline, and others for a small group excursion to the West Seattle Farmers Market. They say one of the best ways to get to know a new place is through its farmers market. And what better way to get to know the region than to know what grows in it?

At the market, Chef Mallahan and his wife, Jaqueline, lead us on their usual route. This is their Sunday tradition, cruising to the West Seattle Farmers Market in their vintage aqua Mustang to procure the fresh produce for Rider. There’s an impressive array of late summer fruits, vegetables, and goods—from meaty shitake mushrooms and vibrant cherries and, of course, melt-in-your-mouth peaches from Collins Family Orchards. Chef Mallahan chats with each of the growers and personally selects Rider’s produce for the week.

 

tomatoes from the market
fruits and vegetables from the market
mushrooms from the market

I realize that I’m only scratching the surface as to how deeply rooted Rider is in Seattle’s food community. In Chef Mallahan’s words, “one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco, Rich Table, has a slogan that I love, ‘go to market, find what’s good and cook it.’ And it’s so true. That is the way to get in touch with what you cook as a chef.” He speaks to the inspiration of seeing and touching the ingredients, and that the interactions with the farmers are conducive for creativity in cooking.

He continues, “I can also get ahead on what’s happening, what’s coming up next, how long this [produce] will be around, and so forth. I have a ton of respect for the growers, it’s harder work than what I do and I’m always working.” Chef Mallahan is a part of the community having grown up in nearby Everett, Washington where he spent summers fishing, foraging and exploring all that the Pacific Northwest has to offer. He knows this region well— not only as a chef but as a local.

Inspired and hungry, we load up our market finds and head back to Rider for lunch.

The True Essence of Farm-to-Table Dining at Rider

Chef Mallahan invites us into the kitchen as he explains the rhyme and reason behind each dish. I jump at the opportunity to peek behind the curtain of the magic that is the Peach and Burrata Salad.

preparing food
spicing rider meal
preparing rider dish

The thin cuts of lardo are draped over the base of the juicy peaches from the farmers’ market and Chef torches the meat as it melts into the fruit for an additional level of flavor. Chef Mallahan’s experience working in the Michelin starred restaurants Boulevard in San Francisco and Glass Hostaria in Rome is expressed in his precise level of craft and artistry in the kitchen at Rider. After assembling the rest of the dish, he extracts a pair of chef’s tweezers from his apron pocket and delicately arranges the marigolds on top. Just as it was last night, it’s a showstopping and mouthwatering plate—and I can’t wait to dig in.

hotel theodore rider chefs

The team at Rider pulls out all the stops as Chef Mallahan personally delivers each plate to our table, explaining how the theme of peaches weaves the story of Collins Family Orchards throughout the menu. We feast on the Ahi Tuna Tartare with foraged Douglas fir needles and our farmers market shitake mushrooms, the decadent yet airy Peach and Burrata Salad, Rockfish Crudo showcasing the versatility of local strawberries and seafood, seasonal desserts, craft cocktails, and more.

Somehow, despite the level of vast knowledge and care, the entire dining experience feels effortless. Deeply satiated as only foodies can be, our group happily disperses onto the streets of downtown Seattle.

serving rider food
rider food
rider restaurant meal

The Foodie Pilgrimage Continues

Confident that I just ate the best lunch of my life, I continue my foodie pilgrimage north to eclectic Fremont for Book Larder— a charming neighborhood bookstore dedicated exclusively to cookbooks. Framed by bright, lofty bookshelves, a large test kitchen anchors the store as an open workshop space for visiting authors and chefs to demo their recipes. For a store deeply niche, there’s an immense variety on display. It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon as foodies study books ranging from celebrity chef’s bestsellers to Nordic entertaining to gardening for edible cocktail garnishes.

Before my time in Seattle comes to an end, I make one last stop at Holy Mountain Brewing for a growler to go. The nondescript brewery lies in the industrial Interbay neighborhood. I pull around to the gravel lot by the train tracks and enter the unmarked door to the airy, modern taproom. Without a standard menu of year-round beers, Holy Mountain’s lineup is holistically seasonal and is forever challenging itself. It’s a difficult decision after sampling the latest beers on tap, but I select a dry-hopped IPA with balanced notes of three Yakima Valley hop varieties and, well, peaches.

To be honest, Rider’s Peach and Burrata Salad is still on my mind. Is it too late to go back for thirds? (We all know I’ve already eaten my fair share of seconds.)

There’s something to be said for enjoying a meal that’s been thoughtfully designed from beginning to end, from the genuine relationships with the local farmers to the artistry of the cooking. For me, that’s the true meaning of farm-to-table dining. It’s the sense of community you gain with every forkful of food or sip of beer. Try it for yourself at Rider. You’ll know the difference when you taste it.

Eat on,

Chloe

Chloe’s Foodie Guide to Seattle

Stay: Hotel Theodore

Eat: Rider

Shop: Book Larder

Drink: Holy Mountain Brewing

Wander: West Seattle Farmers Market

About the Author: Chloe Highberger is a content writer for Provenance Hotels. Fueled by a passion for art, food, nature, and culture, she seeks to inspire deeper travel experiences through crafting stories of true human connection.