Aaron Barthel

[ Owner and Choco­latier, In­trigue Choco­late Co.]

Where Seattle - - [where Inside] -

For the last seven years, the In­trigue Choco­late Co. (www.in­trigue­choco­late.com) has been pro­vid­ing vis­i­tors to the Pi­o­neer Square spot some of the best choco­late truf­fles around. There are nearly 300 fla­vors, with 12 ro­tat­ing fla­vors daily. Where spoke with Barthel about the hid­den gems in his 'hood and more.

Do you have a fa­vorite fla­vor?

Te­quila and grape­fruit is one of my fa­vorites. Our most pop­u­lar is prob­a­bly the bour­bon and vanilla bean. We steep the vanilla beans in bour­bon for three months and then use both the bour­bon and the vanilla beans in the choco­late.

Any spe­cial events com­ing up at the shop?

One thing I like to tell peo­ple about—it's not on our web­site, it's just a you've-got-to-know-it thing—is we've got a weekly af­ter-hours ses­sion ... ev­ery Thurs­day we stay open an hour later. From 6 pm to 8 pm we do an off-menu tast­ing or mini demo of some kind. It's open house, it's free, just stop in and see what we're up to. We usu­ally post on Twit­ter or Face­book, usu­ally that morn­ing. It's a good time to just come in and chat and see what we're up to.

What are your fa­vorite restau­rants?

One of my long­time fa­vorites is Saf­fron Grill up in North­gate ... some of the best In­dian food I've ever had. And here in this neigh­bor­hood, speak­ing of re­ally awe­some In­dian food, but in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion—it's more cui­sine In­dian food—is Nir­mal's. I like to drop by Alt­stadt, [I am] fairly reg­u­lar there. The käs­espät­zle mit speck—the Ger­man mac and cheese with ba­con. It's amaz­ing. I should men­tion, for lunch spots, Rain Shadow Meats. Their sand­wiches are killer.

Fa­vorite spots to get a drink?

The cock­tail bar at E. Smith Mer­can­tile is amaz­ing ... it's an overused phrase, but it's re­ally craft cock­tails with­out a lot of pre­ten­sion. Be­cause it's so small, they're do­ing it be­cause they love to.

Any hid­den gems you love in Pi­o­neer Square?

They're all hid­den gems. Pi­o­neer Pet [Feed &] Sup­ply—I don't even have a pet, but I like go­ing there be­cause it's un­der­ground and he's got a cou­ple cats that he got as kit­tens that just wan­der the shop. It's in the base­ment or what would have been the first floor be­fore the up­lift­ing of the streets. Klondike Gol­drush Mu­seum. Most peo­ple don't re­al­ize the coun­try's small­est na­tional park is right here in Pi­o­neer Square. I haven't been yet, but I'm dy­ing to go: The Flat­stick Pub. With mini golf in­side! Like I said, it's all hid­den, it's all small and tucked away stuff here. It's a hoot if you've never been: the Planet Java Diner. It's a clas­sic diner and they've been in the neigh­bor­hood ... for 25 or more [years] and it's fam­ily run. Ev­ery­thing is cov­ered with clocks and Coke col­lectibles and Gumby fig­urines. It's wall-to-wall bright col­ors and weird, strange, fun ob­jects. Sake Nomi. I think it's Seat­tle's best sake bar. It's off a side street and John­nie owns the place—he gets stuff that you can't get any­where else be­cause he knows the brew­ers or dis­trib­u­tors in Ja­pan. Mill­head's Bar­ber Shop. It's like a modern take on an old-school bar­ber shop. You can drink beer while you wait; it's re­ally nice, tal­ented peo­ple.

What is a must-do when vis­i­tors are in town?

I rec­om­mend do­ing the walk­ing tours. Be­neath the Streets and Seat­tle By Foot are two that we col­lab­o­rate with on oc­ca­sion, and they're run by peo­ple that are re­ally pas­sion­ate about know­ing the things that they're telling ... I think it's a great way to do the city rather than just hit­ting tourist things, be­cause you're spend­ing time out and about and walk­ing around and you're see­ing how the city ac­tu­ally feels.

What is the No. 1 spot on your travel wish list?

My first spot on my travel wish list is Ice­land. Ev­ery­body I know who's gone there has ab­so­lutely loved it. Peo­ple seem re­ally wel­com­ing; the nat­u­ral hot springs sound awe­some.

Be­neath the Streets

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