Passport to Pleasure: Onshore at Orcas (Part 1)

orcas_welcome_600Tickled by the notion of overnights after last week’s Passport to Pleasure at Hotel 1000, it’s time to embark on a series of more distant trips.

Let’s start with Orcas Island, the largest and most rugged of the San Juan Islands. So close, and yet such a far away feeling. Once you get on the ferry, your troubles start to fade. And while island life is certainly a bit slower, it doesn’t mean there isn’t excitement for couples to find—even if just sitting and staring at the stunning views of the water. So we sail away to Orcas for a two-part Passport to Pleasure—a hedonistic quest for good food and good times.

roses_ext_600EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ROSES

If you’ve taken a morning ferry, you’ve probably arrived hungry. Bypass the shops at Orcas Landing (though stop if you want to arrange a whale-watching tour) and take a short drive to Eastsound (the “city” on the island, with 1,200 people), your base of operation for this two-night trip.

It’s here that you’ll find Roses Bakery Cafe. The store sells a wide variety of products, including cheeses, meat, wine, and chocolates (everything you’d want and need for a romantic picnic at Waterfront Park), as well as all of its baked goods.

roses_pizzaBut I recommend sitting in the dining room, perhaps even at the counter of the open kitchen, so that you can order a fresh pizza right out of the oven. This is the thin crust variety, and they come with several seasonal combinations of ingredients.

Pictured is springtime’s soppresetta, kale, tomato, and provolone pie. The sandwiches are also good (Roses uses local meats and produce), and you just might get tempted by the sweet treats in the dessert case.

LOPEZ ISLAND AT LILY

If you leave Roses with sweet tooth unscathed (or even if you don’t), take a stroll through the shopping area and make your way to Lily, which serves ice cream from Lopez Island Creamery. This is in the same location as Allium, where you’ll be having dinner later in the day.

lily_290eastsound_island_290

At Lily, you can order bento boxes to go, as well as a variety of sandwiches and other snacks. On weekend mornings, this is the place for fresh, warm cinnamon rolls. For now, post-lunch, it’s time for ice cream. Sample away. Flavors are on the subtle side, which will let you really focus on the quality of the cream. There’s really no place to eat in the store, so you can take your ice cream for a little lakeside stroll. Or, walk to the island in the inlet—just be sure to know the tide schedule so you don’t get stranded!

MORAN MISSION

Capitalize on nice weather by checking out Moran State Park. This 5,252-acre park was donated by shipbuilder and Seattle mayor Robert Moran, who started giving land in 1921.

moran_6317_600If you’re feeling hardy, there are almost 40 miles of hiking trails to explore, including access to Cascade Falls; its 100-foot drop is the largest in the San Juans. Whether by foot, bike, or car, be sure to go to the top of Mount Constitution (elevation 2,409 feet) to climb the four-story observation tower. On a clear day, you’ll get 360-degree panoramic views of the Olympics, Cascades, Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, and Vancouver Island. Find a cozy place to sit in the area, and the top of you will feel like you’re on top of the world.

When you come back to Earth, how about a stop at Rosario Resort & Spa? This is the site of the Moran Mansion, built in 1906. There’s a lot of history in this building. Tour and take in the Arts and Crafts furnishings, learn about the shipbuilding business in Seattle, and see images of the city before, during, and after the great fire. Check the calendar to see if Christopher Peacock is playing the mansion’s 1,972-pipe Aeolian organ, accompanied by an interesting and informative photographic slideshow.

DINNER COMES ALIVE AT ALLIUM

allium_sign_600_6315Allium is Lisa Nakamura’s new baby. Previously at Qube, bin vivant, and The Herbfarm in the Seattle area, she made quite the move in opening Allium in the old Christina’s location in Eastsound.

And what a location it is! There’s a deck overlooking the inlet, and from that vantage point, you’ll find it hard to take your eyes off the view. Enjoy happy hour outside if you’d like, and stay if the night is warm. Otherwise, take a table in the cozy dining room. Peruse the menu, or ask to partake in a tasting menu (inquire about the price so you’re not surprised), which lets you both share small bites of multiple items.

allium_gnocchi_290_6219allium_duck_6232_290Nakamura’s daily gnocchi (pictured) are currently all the rage, with complementary ingredients that suit the season. These are pillowy and potatoey and delicious. You might also consider the duck breast (also pictured, here with wild rice, shiitake mushrooms, pickled grapes, and orange demi-glace) and the large, caramelized scallops.

An earnest chef churning out quality food with seasonal flair—those are the makings of a nice dinner out.

PONDER YOUR DAY AT OTTERS POND

otters_hot tub_300At the end of a delicious day, you’ll be glad to know your home-away from-home is Otters Pond Bed and Breakfast, where owners Carl and Sue Silvernail will greet you with a warm welcome. This is a contemporary cedar home that’s incredibly clean (there’s a shoes-off policy) and “comfortably elegant.”  (“No frou frou,” the owners point out.)

A beverage will be available in the kitchen, and you’ll certainly want to take up the offer to really warm up in the hot tub. Out on the back deck, the tub has sliding shoji screens to offer privacy. Settle in and it’s just the two off you—along with a squadron of frogs performing a symphony on the pond. Still, it’s relaxing and romantic.

otters_pond_600c_6260In the morning, you’ll probably hear the call of many birds outside. When you first look out your window, you’ll see why the owners describe the setting as a Monet painting. The property is a protected wetland, and the site of all kinds of birding activities. Ask Carl and Sue if you’d like to know more, perhaps taking a peek through the telescope in the living room or binoculars in your room. Coffee is available from the earliest of hours, and you’ll see your names atop the breakfast menu du jour.

otters_bfast_600_6249Speaking of which, expect a five-course gourmet breakfast to get you going in the morning. Carl and Sue tag team responsibilities to perfection. Look for unique items like breakfast polenta with jam, pictured. Note that Sue is an avid ice cream maker, so you might get a frozen treat that can give Lopez Island Creamery a run for the money. A delicious way to start a new day on Orcas Island, which you’ll discover in the next report.

Roses Bakery Cafe on Urbanspoon

Allium on Urbanspoon

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2 Responses to “Passport to Pleasure: Onshore at Orcas (Part 1)”

  1. August 28, 2011 at 1:39 am #

    I loved reading about your trip through Orcas Island. My wife and I recently were married at Orcas Hotel and we’ve spent a lot of time planning our wedding on the island and eating at many of Orcas Island dining establishments.

    You mentioned how Alium took over the old Christina’s location in Eastsound. Although semi-retired, Christina is still cooking fabulous food at her Red Rabbit Farm location on the island. Only through catered events and classes at her farm can you have her food, but it really is a treat. Many still consider her to be the best chef on the island. We were lucky to book our wedding rehearsal dinner at Red Rabbit Farm and you can read about that experience here.

    http://www.francisfoodie.com/francisfoodie/2011/7/19/orcas-island-rehearsal-dinner-at-red-rabbit-farm.html

    Inn at Ship Bay was also a very memorable meal for my wife and I. We had their scallops and bouillabaisse, and it’s the number one place I recommend people to eat while spending time on the island.

    We also had the chance to meet Lisa Nakamura of Alium but only had the pleasure to having weekend brunch at Alium. We hope to return for a full dinner on our next trip to the island. Her pastry chef, Anna made our wedding favors that were lavender infused caramels in a white chocolate shaped sand dollar.

    I’ve become a big fan of your writing and how you relate food with sex and sex education. I look forward to reading more of your work.

    -Francis

  2. Jay
    August 28, 2011 at 7:55 am #

    Thanks for writing, reading my blog, and for your kind words!

    Sounds (and looks) like you a had a fabulous rehearsal dinner. Orcas Island is a magical place, isn’t it?

    Keep up your writing, as it’s nice to learn about your experiences…

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