A new, secretive, rave-like foodie event with local vendors and low cost bites? Count me in!

I, like many other hungry, curious eaters, signed up last week for SUM’s mailing list and waited anxiously to hear when and where it would be located. Finally on Saturday, we arrived at a Redmond warehouse, eager to spend a mere $5 entrance fee and sample some of the best bites the area has to offer. For those of you interested in attending a future SUM event, here’s a writeup (with plenty of pics!) of my experience.

The atmosphere

A friend and I purchased ‘early admission’ tickets – at $10 instead of $5, they allowed you to enter an hour ahead of time. BEST. DECISION. EVER. Only a few dozen folks were around at that time, and you could easily browse offerings and chat with the vendors without feeling like you were holding them back from feeding the masses. I’ve heard that some latecomers were greeted by a few sold out signs – an even better reason to come early and have your pick of the bounty.

But there was also something to be said about the free-for-all when the rest of the crowd was let in – lines of 2 or 3 became 10, and up to 20 or 30 for some of the more popular vendors. It became more difficult to walk around, and there was a chaotic, passionate electricity in the air. I loved it, but as an observer, rather than a participant fighting her way through the lines.

Seattle Underground Market: mega lines everywhere!

While the food was exceptional, my favorite parts of the night were the crowd interactions and networking opportunities. I loved talking to the vendors, some of whom were established bloggers, others had established businesses, and many were chefs with a day job hoping to follow their dream and start their own company or restaurant. Even waiting in lines was a treat, as everyone was so damned nice, perhaps united by the secrecy of the event and their love for food. Adding to the community feel were frequent recommendations thrown right and left by passers-by, and no one was shy about asking complete strangers how good something was.

The food

Not only was everything great, there were few culinary overlaps. Want homemade tofu and shiitake dumplings? How about pork sliders, gumbo, the cutest-ever-bento boxes or vegan cakes? Or maybe some authentic Argentinian empanadas? So many cuisines were represented and it was easy to go overboard trying out the best of all worlds.

Here’s some notes and pics about each of the vendors I visited – with so many to choose from, I didn’t have a chance to see them all. Listed in random order :)

Jessie’s Haute Cakes

Jessie and her daughter were both completely adorable and fun to chat with. I tried two minis, one with lemon curd and raspberry frosting, and one with vanilla cake, a peanut butter core, chocolate frosting and a peanut butter cup on top. Loved them both, moist cake, thick frosting and I didn’t expect either of them to have filling, which was a fun surprise. I only wish I had tried more of them, so tasty!

Jessie's Haute Cakes - the owner herself!

Jessie's Haute Cakes: the menu

Jessie's Haute Cakes: chocolate peanut butter mini cupcakes

Jessie's Haute Cakes

You can read more about Jessie’s Haute Cakes at their main site and Facebook page

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Michael Natkin of Herbivoracious

I’m a big fan of Michael Natkin’s blog and cookbook, Herbivoracious, which are filled with accessible, gourmet (and also easy to make!) vegetarian dishes that anyone would enjoy. He brought his A-game to SUM on Saturday, dishing up another of my evening favorites. Instead of butchering the item’s description, here’s Michael’s own writeup of the dish:

The dish I’m serving, sabich, is an Iraqi-Israeli eggplant sandwich with several different condiments, including hummus, tahina, Israeli salad, hardboiled eggs, and a pickled mango condiment called amba. It can be served vegan without the egg, and/or gluten-free as a salad instead of a sandwich. When Iraqi jews resettled in Israel, they concentrated in a neighborhood called Ramat Gan. Sabich is one of their traditional shabbat meals, and it took the country by storm, becoming one of the most popular street foods alongside falafel.”

Truly a bizarre combination of flavors that surprised me – egg, mango, hummus and pickles all at once? Strange, but TOTALLY WORKED. Consider me a sabich convert.

You can read more about Michael Natkin and Herbivoracious at his main site and Facebook page

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Shipwreck Honey

I have two irrational fears in life: tornados, and bees. Luckily nice folks like the Shipwreck guys (and gals!) deal with the bees so I can enjoy the final product, sting and terror-free (though I’m still terrified by their Facebook page’s main image of a huge bee swarm!)

I tried an eggplant roulade from this booth, a thin slice of eggplant wrapped around peppers and onions. Good flavor and I enjoyed it – I heard rumblings that the pork was exceptional as well.

Shipwreck Honey: eggplant roulade

The big winner for me wasn’t the eggplant, it was the honey – they gave out a small bear of their product with each purchase, either the raspberry or blackberry flavor. I chose the latter and used it on some toast the next morning, and LOVED it. I’ll likely pick up a bigger container from them in the future once my tiny supply is exhausted.

Shipwreck Honey

You can read more about Shipwreck Honey at their main site and Facebook page

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Brown Sugar Baking Company

DELICIOUS VEGAN DESSERTS sums up Brown Sugar Baking Company. A mini red velvet cake, caramel banana cake and chocolate truffle cake was a complete steal at only $5, and there’s no way you’d be able to tell they were vegan. The company’s owner, Lillian, currently deals mostly in cookies – I didn’t try those, but what I had was out of this world. Here’s hoping a bakery sprouts up in the future!

Brown Sugar Baking Company

Brown Sugar Baking Company

You can read more about Brown Sugar Baking Company at their main site and Facebook page

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One Wild Strawberry

One Wild Strawberry easily won points for its dazzling display of cake pops, decorated with various types of chocolate and designs. I tried one with lemon cake base and dark chocolate coating, and was blown away at the cake’s moistness. I picked up the pop on my way out the door and didn’t eat it till I got home, otherwise I definitely would have picked up a few more after the first bite.

Gourmet cake pops

You can read more about One Wild Strawberry at their main site and Facebook page

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The Bengali Gourmet

Blogger and cookbook author Sutapa Ray featured a sprouted mung bean salad and spicy mango dish. As I have an unfortunate aversion to spicy foods, I tried only the mung bean dish – it was earthy, excellently spiced and had a small amount of heat. Hopefully Sutapa has a booth at an upcoming SUM as I’d love to try out more of her creations!

The Bengali Gourmet

The Bengali Gourmet: sprouted mung bean salad

You can read more about Bengali Gourmet at their main site and Facebook page

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Bee Healthy

Winning the ‘cutest dish ever’ award of the night, Bee Healthy offered adorable mini bentos with vegetarian-friendly stuffed rice balls, shaped into bees, pigs and chickens. Each dish came with a small side of potato salad, and sweet-yet-savory dango were also available for purchase. Loved the idea, and hope they

Bee Healthy

Bee HealthyBee Healthy

Bee Healthy

Bee Healthy’s business card doesn’t seem to list a site and I can’t seem to find one, but I’ll add in a link later on if one pops up.

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Omma

Omma’s line was out of control the entire night, and for good reason. They offered homemade dumplings (pork, or shiitake/tofu), either steamed or pan-fried, alongside complimentary bean sprout and cucumber salads. I tried both the pork and tofu, and while both were outstanding, the tofu version was insane. The filling was creamy and savory, having them pan-fried added an extra depth of flavor and combined with provided dipping sauce, they easily were one of my favorite dishes of the night. I’d be patron #1 at their restaurant if they ever were to open one.

Omma

OmmaOmma

Omma

You can read more about Omma at their blog

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Bikelava

Bike-peddled baklava? Now I’ve heard it all! Loved the bubbly, personable lady who assisted with the order, and the baklava itself was one of the best I’ve had. Just the right amount of gooey, syrupy deliciousness oozing from each bite and delicately spiced.

Bikelava

Bikelava

Bikelava

You can read more about Bikelava at their Facebook page

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Chef Leah

I was immediately drawn to Chef Leah’s table because of the ‘vegan meatloaf sliders’ topped with some sort of crema and crispy fried onions. They were excellent and I heard several people in passing compliment them. The slam dunk for me, though, was the flatbread with poached pear and blue cheese. FAN. TAS. TIC. I’ve had dishes like this at countless restaurants and Chef Leah’s adaptation put them all to shame.

Chef Leah

Chef Leah

Chef Leah

Chef Leah has a site with contact information to learn more.

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Empanadas in Seattle

Apparently this vendor also ran out during the evening, and I’m not surprised. The owner had three types of empanadas available, either baked or fried: chicken with peppers and onions, ham and cheese, or spinach. I tried out the ham and chicken versions, both were exceptional with wonderful flavors and the perfect amount of cheese and fillings. I hope to see a food truck or other outlet for these treats someday.

Chicken empanada

You can read more about Empanadas in Seattle at their Facebook page

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The verdict

I really enjoyed my time at SUM and look forward to eating my way through more in the future. If you’d like to learn more about the event, visit http://www.seattleundergroundmarket.com/, follow the registration link near the bottom of the homepage to get updates on future offerings.