Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Perfect Piece of Salmon

country living
It's easy to forget that the San Juan Islands are so close, so beautiful, and that every minute of every sunny weekend should be spent on one of them, if at all possible. Being able to get to a place as magical as Orcas Island with just a 90 minute drive and an hour on the ferry makes me feel sorry for people who live in less scenic parts of the country -- Alabama, for instance. But being one of the fortunate ones, and taking one of those less fortunate than I with me, I drove to the ferry in Ancortes on Friday and had a fantastic weekend.

Gary and I discussed whether living on Orcas full-time would be fun, or would the small-town life feel cloying and the island feel remote. It's a tough call. It is so freakin' beautiful out there, it's had to imagine being bored or feeling closed off, especially when Seattle is just two-and-a-half hours away. If one were of independent means or say, worked from home (hey... wait a minute!!) what would be the problem? For now I think the proximity is good enough, and I'm looking forward to hitting some of the other islands soon. This was my third trip to Orcas in 18 months, but Lopez and San Juan are beckoning too.

It was back to Doe Bay on this trip and while it was a little chillier than last time with Cheryl, we still had gorgeous weather and plenty of sun. We roamed around the island on Friday, poking into the shops, driving down roads that just ended at the water, and driving up to the Mt. Constitution lookout point which didn't offer quite the same clear views as last time but was spectacular even so. We drove back into Eastsound at dinner time for wood-fired pizza and then checked into our yurt at the Doe Bay Resort. Cheryl and I stayed in one of the little cabins last time but the yurts are situated closer to the water and I liked the idea of being in a fully made bed while essentially being in a tent. The yurt was definitely comfy-cozy if a little cold at night, but soaking in the hot tubs before going to bed definitely helped.
our little yurt in the woods - far right
if you had to camp, this is where you'd want your tent to be
french toast
On Saturday we had a big breakfast at the Doe Bay Café (including, but not limited to, goat cheese-stuffed French toast with strawberry-rhubarb compote) and then drove around the island some more; we hiked to Cascade Falls which is a series of three gorgeous waterfalls, went into a few shops back in town, and checked out another resort on a different part of the island that might be nice for next time. We sat outside at that place, sipping a mocha, watching a bald eagle in a tree, and just looking out at the water. That night we went back to the Doe Bay Café for dinner and it was amazing. We had
at Doe Bay Garden
walked around the Doe Bay Garden in the morning and chit-chatted with two of the gardeners, they told us that the garden, in season, provides all the produce for the Café and that level of freshness was very apparent on our plates. We started with rock shrimp on a bed of spinach, layered on a piece of rye toast with a very delicate sauce poured over, and it was as pretty as it was delicious. But the show-stopper was our wild salmon entreé which came with Yukon gold potatoes, garlic shoots, shiitake mushrooms, wild leeks, and was topped with hollandaise. We are two people who have eaten a lot of salmon...
rock shrimp with spinach
Copper River salmon, king salmon right off fishing boats -- there is simply no shortage of fresh salmon in these parts, but this plate of salmon was special. First of all, it was cooked to absolute perfection, being very slightly raw in the middle and very slightly charred on the edges; and the plate was beautifully arranged, with one yellow blossom on top and tiny purple petals strewn about. Add to that some amazing additions to the dish which weren't listed on the menu: a few sea beans (salty, crisp, delicious) and some fava beans (mild in flavor, hearty, legume-y-goodness) and it was kind of a symphony on a plate. I would not have picked
a perfect plate of salmon
hollandaise to go with a beautifully clean piece of grilled fish but this addition was genius. A little bit of everything on the fork and the taste sensations would pile on as we chewed. There was the fantastic flavor of the fish, then the vegetables would add their earthiness including a hint of garlic, and finally the lemon from the hollandaise would kick in. We were astounded by how delicious is was, and how subtly all the flavors worked together.

On Sunday we got up early and went to the Brown Bear Bakery for quiche and a chocolate muffin ("muffin" being a term used loosely, this was a giant piece of chocolate cake shaped like a muffin) and then on to our last excursion which was a 3-hour sea kayaking tour. The sun had come out in earnest by this point, and the weather was perfect for a paddle along the shore, looking out at the islands, and enjoying being nearly eye level with the fat harbor seals frolicking on some rocks.

Another fantastic weekend in the Pacific Northwest.

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