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Seattle, San Juan and Orcas Island report (very long)

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Seattle, San Juan and Orcas Island report (very long)

zook | Jul 16, 2006 09:32 PM

After reading so many posts in anticipation of our trip to the Northwest, I wanted to share a bit of our dining experiences once there. We bookended our trip to the San Juan Islands and Vancouver Island with a night at each end in Seattle. Night one took us to Flying Fish where my husband and I shared apps of black ling cod and a beet salad with smoked bleu cheese and red wine vinegarette. Unfortunately those apps were now many meals ago; so I don't remember the prep on the cod; but we both did enjoy the starters. We then shared wild Alaskan salmon with soba noodles in a green avocado sauce and halibut served in a corn sauce with corn gnocci both of which were very tasty. Dessert was a trio of cupcakes (carrot, lemon and German chocolate). The prices were very reasonable, the service terrific and the setting had a hip vibe to it.

Day two took us to San Juan Island but not without making our usual pilgrimage to Piroshky Piroshky at Pikes Market for some goodies to go. We can never pass through Seattle without making at least one stop there. Dinner that evening was in San Juan Island at Steps Wine Bar. There you can order wine by the bottle, half bottle, glass and even half a glass which is a nice way to sample several wines and switch around throughout your meal. My husband had the Westcott Bay fried oysters with some local clams served with an Old Bay mayo. He thought the app was just okay. I ordered their blue moon grilled carrots with lime cilantro sauce which was plated beautifully and tasted great. With a sense of deja vu, we ordered grilled Copper River salmon with blue moon beets and a sorrel dressing and the roasted halibut with Waldron Bay fennel served in a saffron broth with local basil. Both main courses were delicious. We then quickly polished off an ice cream strawberry shortcake made with Waldron Island berries. Again, the prices here were reasonable. The service was very informal but friendly; the setting nothing to write home about.

A rather extensive "continental" breakfast was included with our stay at Friday Harbor House; so we didn't need to eat out until dinner that next night. We headed over to Duck Soup Inn. Because all the main courses came with soup and a salad, we chose to forego ordering appetizers which was a shame as they all sounded worthy of trying. They had sourdough bread slices with a wonderful anchovy paste to enjoy while we perused the menu. We ordered some wonderful martinis; but unfortunately, they didn't serve them until after they brought out the soup which as a fabulous tomato star anise soup with cashew pesto. I am not normally a fan of tomato soup but this one made me a convert. The salads were nice mixed greens with a tasty lime cilantro dressing. I had the Sri Lanka prawns which were supposed to be hot and spicy (but in actuality were quite mild) served in a tasty sauce that contained quite a few ingredients (mango, dates, green and red peppers, raisens, etc.)served atop sticky coconut rice. The dish was tasty but contained too many flavors to really meld together. DH's main was a special of jambalaya with seafood and sausage (what else?!!). This, too, while good enough to eat, was nothing special. Our desserts of cardamom cake with whipped cream, custard and figs, and the raspberry cobbler with custard sauce were worth the calories. The setting of Duck Soup is attractive, the service informal but friendly and the prices were reasonable.

The next day it was off to Orcas Island to re-visit Spring Bay Inn. Since our room came with a private deck with our own bar-b-que, we decided to buy some fresh salmon and eat in. If you are not familiar with Spring Bay Inn, they deliver a "small" breakfast to your room at 7:30 a.m. that consists of fresh baked pastries, fresh fruit, homemade granola and juice/coffee/tea before you head out at 8:30 a.m. for a two hour kayaking journey. Upon your return from kayaking, you are served a huge breakfast which during out two night stay consisted of multigrain waffles with fresh fruit, chicken sausage, and brownies and on day two, a wonderful apple, sausage pesto breakfast pizza with spinach salad, cold mango soup and fresh baked almond macaroons. Despite all that eating in the a.m., we were game to try Bilbo's in town for dinner. While their menu didn't sound like anything other than your typical Mexican restaurant, there were a few nice surprises. I had their Christmas burrito (veggie with two kinds of chile sauce) and DH had the beef burrito combo with an ancho chile enchilada and guacamole salad. They were well executed; but nothing special. The surprise of the night was their desserts. DH had a Mexican chocolate brownie; but I had the winner of a sopapilla with vanilla ice cream with praline sauce. Here in FL, more often than not, sopapillas amount to nothing more than a bit of fried dough, more akin to chinese noodles than the huge concoction Bilbo's served which was more like a large doughnut. Prices were extremely reasonable there, the various tequila drinks good (along with their passable nacho chips and tasty salsa).

The next day we headed out to Sooke Harbor House on Vancouver Island, a favorite of ours, for two nights. If interested in those two dining experiences, check out my post on the Canadian board.

Our last night was back in Seattle to the Herb Farm. We went there with a bit of last minute trepidation after following the very recent posts that vacillated all over the place regarding whether it was a worthy experience or not. Having now been, my vote was it was definitely worth it as we had an extremely enjoyable evening there. For those that don't know, it is a dining "experience" First a thirty minute tour of the herb garden and then a 4 1/2 + hour meal. We chose to dine at the communal table figuring it would be more fun than sitting there for so many hours ourselves. Fortunately, we were seated with 6 other people who were quite fun to share an evening with. At the risk of making this long post even longer, I'm just going to list the menu here saying only that for a nine course tasting menu, there wasn't a miss in any of the courses. Obviously, some were a bit better than others; but each course was a worthy contender for "best in show" and the presentation of each portion was beautiful. The wine pairings were right on the money, as well. Interestingly, one of our table mates had previously advised the restaurant that she did not drink alcohol, so with each course, her meal was paired with a different type of herbal tea, or other non-alcoholic beverage which she kindly passed around for us each to sniff their wonderful aromas.

1st course: paddlefish caviar on cucumber gelee, rosemary mussel skewer, and blams with bay and bacon. 1997 Argyle Brut

2nd: shiso-wrapped Pacific Spot Prawn tempura with crab lemon thyme stuffing and sea bean salad. 2003 Jackson Tripps Proprietor's Grand Reserve Sauvigonon Blanc

3rd: copper river sockeye slow roasted in squash petals with basils. 2004 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Chardonnay "Arthur"

4th: carrot and tarragon ravioli with beets, fava beans and fines herbes butte. 2005 Isenhower Cellars "snapdragon"

5th: muscovy duck three ways: lavender crusted breast with black currants and lambs quarter, braised leg with morel and farro risotto, confit with just-dug potatos. 2001 Nota Bene Cellars "Miscela"

6th: hazelnut crusted goat cheese cake with tart cherries and sage

7th: raspberry soup with anise hyssop ice

8th gooseberry lemon verbena fool with salted shortbread, strawberry rose geranium ice cream cone, apricot crumble with meadowsweet ice cream.

A large selections of coffees and teas came next followed by a plate of several little treats, little cakes, choco truffles, etc. served with just a small taste of a 1916 Barbeito Malvazia Madeira.

Yes, the cost is high ($487) for two all inclusive; but we were not disappointed. Having just spent a few days in New York the month before eating in some of their finest restaurants and working our way through many of their tasting menus, I can say that dining at the Herb Farm was a wonderful experience that I'm glad we didn't miss. In fact, we'd return again; although it definitely isn't the type of place you'd indulge in too often.

Overall, as usual, our trip to the Northwest was wonderful and we can't wait to return to try some more of your wonderful culinary adventures, weather, and scenery.

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