It’s not often that I have the luxury of an opportunity to “re-do” a trip as a reality check of a previous report. When the Eagle Harbor Inn (speaking of luxury) on Bainbridge Island invited me back to stay exactly one year after my previous visit, I couldn’t resist the chance to check out another of the townhouses and return to restaurants I liked last time, plus explore a couple of new ones.
Bainbridge still holds its charm for me. It’s an enjoyable ferry ride over, making it easy to escape from Seattle, and you can even leave your car behind. The inn’s townhouses have patios to enjoy in warm weather and fireplaces for when it gets cold. With views out to the ferry landing, a stay at Eagle Harbor is both relaxing and romantic. There’s coffee from Pegasus to wake you up in the morning, and if you feel like eating in, recall that you’ll have a kitchen where you can cook fresh eggs from Hitchcock Deli, slice cheese from Town & Country Market, spoon up Boat Street Pickles from Intentional Table, and perhaps pour wine from the Eagle Harbor Wine Company.
Need more stores? Walk up to Winslow Way, where my favorites are the Eagle Harbor Book Company, the Intentional Table (which sells cookbooks, wine and food products, and a carefully curated selection of cooking equipment), and Dana’s Showhouse for its eclectic gift and décor items.
A new addition to Winslow Way is the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art. Admission is free. I enjoyed the “Gayle Bard: A Singular Vision” exhibit, but I’d return anytime as the building is beautiful and still expanding. Meanwhile, a ways from Winslow Way is IslandWood, an educational center for outdoor learning which hosts Mochi-Tsuki each January. I returned again and took in the mesmerizing taiko drumming inside yet another beautiful building.
As for restaurants, I’ve definitely developed my list of favorites. For quick breakfast, I like the simplicity of “toast” at Blackbird Bakery. Also good are the downtowners, pear-anise scones, and Helen’s French rolls. (If you’re visiting Bainbridge on the weekend, perhaps try brunch at Café Nola.) But if you want to hold out for great coffee, go next door to Hitchcock Deli and try out their amazing Bosco machine. The barista will hand-pull an espresso shot and prepare a drink to your liking. The deli remains my recommendation for lunch, with incredible sandwiches, including my favorite: roast beef made with Painted Hills top round, horseradish mayo, caramelized onions, and Swiss cheese.) For a snack to satisfy the sweet tooth, you still can’t go wrong with Mora Iced Creamery.
When it’s time for dinner (and dessert), my top pick remains Hitchcock Restaurant. Last year, chef Brendan McGill was voted The People’s Best New Chef in a Food & Wine magazine national contest. Now he’s a 2014 semifinalist for a James Beard Award as Best Chef Northwest. The ideal way to experience this eclectic restaurant is to pick a price for a tasting menu, then sit back and enjoy all the dishes that showcase pickling, fermenting, preserving, roasting, grilling, and more.
My newest restaurant find, actually courtesy of McGill at Hitchcock, is Via Rosa 11. You’ll need a car (or a cab), but it’s worth the trip. Part market and part restaurant, Via Rosa 11 has an open kitchen and workers who want to please. They offer lots of pastas and sauces that they can prepare in any combination for you to eat on-site. Or, take the raw ingredients to go and turn Eagle Harbor Inn into your home-based restaurant, cooking an easy meal and eating in as part of a relaxing evening on Bainbridge Island.
Continue on to see photos from all the restaurants mentioned—including every course in my latest tasting menu meal at Hitchcock Restaurant.
Toast and jam at Blackbird Bakery
Cafe Nola’s white anchovies on toast
Eggs in purgatory (pan-fried potato cake, spicy tomato sauce, baby spinach, poached eggs, and Macrina toast) at Cafe Nola
Cafe Nola’s chicken fried steak
Caramel pecan French toast at Cafe Nola
Hitchcock Deli’s Cuban B: porchetta, smoked ham, Swiss, bread & butter pickles, Dijon mustard, and mayo
Frozen treats at Mora Ice Creamery: mango sorbet and mint with shaved chocolate ice cream
Menu board at Via Rosa 11
Via Rosa 11′s baked stuffed tomatoes
Fresh-made pasta for sale at Via Rosa 11
Via Rosa 11′s pesto
Wide pasta with porcini and wild mushroom sauce at Via Rosa 11
Gemelli with meatballs at Via Rosa 11
Via Rosa 11′s lasagna
Inside Via Rosa 11
Hitchcock’s oysters: Baywater Sweet with cider mignonette and coriander, Shigoku with sauerkraut granita, Rockaway Beach with pickled watermelon rind, and Kumamoto with fermented hot pepper sauce
Hitchcock: cider-cured sardines with poached potato, kale & rutabaga kimchi, and duck egg aioli
Hitchcock: Virginia ham and pork belly speck with radicchio salad
Hitchcock: roasted Galeaux d’eysine squash soup with black kale juice and creme fraiche
Hitchcock: Manila clams with heirloom potatoes, bacon lardons, shallots, sweet cream, and celery
Hitchcock: intermezzo of lemon-rosemary sorbet with fermented chile powder
Hitchcock: Tani Creek roots (mashua, oca, carrots, red sunchokes) with vegetable “demiglace” and panna cotta
Hitchcock: pork loin with farro, delicata squash, and apple-mustard crema
Hitchcock: short rib with lacinato kale, potato, celery root, mushroom cream, and black truffles
Hitchcock: cheeses (Ossau-Iraty with wildflower honey and almonds, Tallegio with candied pecans, Cana de Oveja with quince preserves)
Hitchcock: “Dessert” of sweet potato and yam terrine with pickled scorzonera and cardamom & saffron creme anglaise
Hitchcock: sticky toffee pudding with blackstrap molasses, ginger sorbet, and salted caramel