Passport to Pleasure: Onshore at Orcas (Part 2)
After a fun first day on Orcas Island, you’ll find that waking up on the island brings a further sense of relaxation. And a desire for exploration, at whatever pace you’d like.
Enjoy a slow, well-deserved morning with your loved one, lingering over breakfast at Otters Pond Bed and Breakfast, where you stayed for your first overnight. You might be sad to check out of such a restful place, but there’s still a lot to do and see. And eat. Passport to Pleasure—a hedonistic quest for good food and good times—continues with more food finds and romantic discoveries on Orcas Island.
START YOUR DAY WITH CLAY
There are lots of artists on the San Juan Islands, and Orcas is no exception. Pottery is especially popular, and while it’s worth checking out many places, this morning you’re visiting Orcas Island Pottery.
Said to be the oldest pottery in the Pacific Northwest, Orcas Island Pottery is located on West Beach only 3½ miles from Eastsound. The setting is spectacular, as it’s in an area of old growth cedars and Douglas firs, on a 100-foot high bluff overlooking President’s Channel. You’re invited to stroll the grounds for as long as you’d like.
Here you’ll find about 15 local potters with exhibit areas of their work scattered about the premises. The pottery ranges from functional to decorative, and some of it is quite whimsical. Take a peek inside the 150-year-old log cabin, and be sure to climb up the treehouse, where there’s a childhood surprising in hiding.
As you peruse the pottery, think about people who might like a gift. Or choose a keepsake for yourselves, a reminder of your peaceful stay on the island.
At one of the far reaches of the island is a place well worth seeing (if not staying during a future visit): Doe Bay Resort & Retreat. There’s a great variety of accommodations available, from beachside camping and yurts to cabins and houses.
Doe Bay Resort & Retreat is all about relaxation. You’ll find a yoga studio, a facility for acupuncture and massage, and clothing-optional soaking tubs (and sauna). This is truly a place to get back in touch with your bodies.
There’s food at the general store, which is part of the National Register of Historic Buildings. But you’re here to try out Doe Bay Café, which just might be the best place to eat on Orcas Island. The food is that good, the prices are reasonable, and the atmosphere is comfortably casual. While you gaze at the water, you can hear live music some nights, or interesting selections other times, like the Yonder Mountain String Band covering Pink Floyd’s “Goodbye Blue Sky.”
Fresh produce from the organic garden plays a role in many of the plates. For example, check out this olive oil poached duck egg, served over spicy slow-cooked greens, tomatoes, smoked mushrooms, Anson Mills grits and grana cheese (with upgrade possible to a local egg). Delicious!
Hopefully you haven’t eaten too much for breakfast and lunch, as there’s a big dinner ahead. And this afternoon, as a break during shopping, you’re making a stop at Kathryn Taylor Chocolates in Eastsound.
Kathryn Taylor Chocolates is a family business named after the daughter of Ted and Susan Aspinall. Ted brings his experience as a long-time chef, while Susan has been an apprentice with chocolatiers in the U.S. and Canada. This is their workshop and café, where they sell and make chocolates from ingredients found at local, organic farms.
Their chocolates are all hand-made. Most distinctive are the bonbons, which are topped with hand-painted tiles and marbled flowers. Your challenge is to figure out which ones you want to eat on-site, knowing you can also take a box home to enjoy later.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the selection. Fruits? Nuts? Spirits? How about a sampling of three—along with a dessert (maybe a fresh fruit or frangipane tart)—to go with a flight of four single origin drinking chocolates? Enjoy a seat in the casual café and watch as others struggle with similar choices, knowing that you’re going for gluttony sharing bites and sips with your significant other.
These chocolates are absolutely gorgeous; after all, “people taste with their eyes,” says Susan. And the quality is great. “The key is layered flavors that are balanced,” Ted explains, adding, “They’re not overly sweet, as that would take over the chocolate too much.”
Since you’ll likely struggle with your selection, some favorites include bourbon pecan, blood orange, pink peppered mint, and pistachio fig—with the fig poached in Sauvignon Blanc and Galliano, and the pistachio chopped to make marzipan.
To combat a chocolate coma, continue strolling the shopping area, walk back to the water, or go check in early at your next B&B before dinner.
DOCKING FOR DINNER AT SHIP BAY
Dinner tonight is at another potential place to stay: Inn at Ship Bay. Centered around an 1869 farmhouse in the midst of a fruit orchard, there are 11 rooms, all of which feature balconies, fireplaces, and views of the bay.
Even though you’re not staying here, you’re in for a night of fine dining. Like many you’ve met on this trip, Chef Geddes Martin also does the seasonal menu thing with locally harvested products. As an added bonus, breads and desserts made in-house.
Look for local oysters, clams, and mussels. But note that Martin has a love for mangalitsa pork—try the prosciutto plate!
Salads here are special, such as this beet salad with roasted asparagus, greens, herb goat cheese, toasted almonds and citrus dressing. And to take advantage of the locality of products, don’t overlook the vegetarian option in the entrée section of the menu. If it offers roasted buttercream potatoes and foraged wild mushrooms with cippolini onions, wild leaks, wilted greens, and roast garlic mushroom jus, jump on it. You’ll surely want a spoon for the broth.
JUMP INTO BED AT KANGAROO HOUSE
Tonight’s stay is at the Kangaroo House Bed and Breakfast, just north of the Eastsound shops. This five-room inn, built in 1907 as a Craftsman bungalow hotel, has a homey feeling. You can enjoy your comfortable bedroom, or hang out a bit in the spacious living room, where tea and coffee are available.
At some point, you’ll certainly want to walk through the garden to take advantage of the hot tub. There’s a sign-up sheet to ensure your preferred time slot.
Be sure to ask how Kangaroo House got its name. But if you want to really engage your hosts Jill Johnson and Charles Toxey, start talking about food. And following a good night of sleep, you’ll see their food passion at play in your morning breakfast, which they advise you to think of as “a little dinner party.” Expect dishes like fruit with lime and kumquat, blueberry oatmeal crème brulee, and a root vegetable au gratin omelette that’s so good, the recipe is here:
Root Vegetable Au Gratin Omelette
by Charles Toxey, Kangaroo House Bed and Breakfast
- 6 farm fresh eggs, or refrigerated eggs allowed to come to room temperature
- 1/4 cup cream
- 1/2 cup Dubliner, Double Gloucester, or a similar sharp semi-hard cheese, shredded
- 1/8 cup Pecorino/Spanish Manchego shaved or grated (Parmigiano Reggiano may be substituted)
- 1 small red beet – tap root and small hair roots removed
- 1 medium Yukon Gold potato, skin on
- 1 small orange-fleshed sweet potato, skin on
- 1 medium parsnip
- 1/2 small white onion, diced and caramelized
- 1 sprig fresh dill weed, minced
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 oz. each of spinach (~ 10 leaves) and fresh rinsed nettle leaves (~ 20 small leaves), or substitute arugula
- 1 heaping tablespoon oil-cured, mild chiles (i.e., Mama Lil’s goat horn peppers); decrease for hot chiles
- 2-1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Rinse eggs in their shells with very hot water just prior to using. Note: This is good practice for all egg dishes, promoting sanitation and reducing cooking times.
- Fully coat sides and bottom of eight-inch ovenproof, non-stick pan (or all-metal au gratin dish) with warmed butter and olive oil. If not using a non-stick dish, use two teaspoons of butter instead of one. Set aside.
- (Note: For the next steps, resist the urge to slice all your vegetables ahead of time, as they can curl up, making it more difficult to lay out each layer.) Using a mandoline, slice beet into rounds about the thickness of a credit card. Overlap rounds in a spiral toward center of pan until fully covered. Salt with ¼ teaspoon kosher salt. Sprinkle shaved Pecorino. Rinse mandoline and cutting board to keep from staining the next ingredients with beet juice.
- Increase mandoline blade opening to three times as thick as a credit card and slice potato. Overlap rounds in the same spiral pattern, sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt, freshly ground black pepper, and distribute 1/4 cup of Dubliner evenly on top.
- Decrease mandoline blade opening to two times credit card thickness and slice the sweet potato. Arrange the rounds into the same overlapping spiral and this time only salt it with 1/4 teaspoon salt and sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup of Dubliner.
- Then, decrease mandoline blade back to one credit card thickness and slice the parsnip. Arrange the rounds once again into a spiral layer, salt with 1/4 teaspoon salt. No cheese on top of this layer. For full spiciness, drizzle a heaping tablespoon of minced oil-cured chiles over the parsnips. For a milder taste, drizzle 1-1/2 teaspoons of the chile-flavored oil, without the chiles.
- Cover pan with tight-fitting lid, and bake 25 minutes.
- In medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk eggs, cream, one teaspoon salt, fresh dill, and dash of ground coriander. Set aside.
- Remove pan from oven and add layer of each of the greens and caramelized onions on top of the layered root vegetables. Let pan cool with lid off for 10 minutes, leaving oven on. Re-cover pan and pop it in oven again until hot and bubbly – around five minutes. (I call this annealing the crust. All layers of vegetable behave as a unit after this.)
- Pour egg mixture over top of greens (do not replace lid), and bake 10-12 minutes until set.
- Remove, let rest for two to three minutes, and nudge sides carefully from pan until omelet slides freely. Using small flexible spatula, slip omelet onto cutting board. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.
You’ll likely take time to chat after breakfast—when Jill and Charles have finished cooking. No rush, as you need to digest knowing you’ll soon be getting a little more food before heading to the ferry. Inquire about your check-out time, and get last tips, if you’d like, about things to do before lunch.
FIRE AND PASSION, BBQ AND PIE
When you’re hungry again, you have two more stops to conclude your hedonistic stay on Orcas.
First up is Fire Smokehouse and Grill. You can sit inside and listen to the likes of the Four Tops and the Beatles, or go outside for a seat on the deck. See if the chef will show you his Weber grill tattoo, which shows his true dedication to Fire.
The long-cooking smoked beef brisket is a good choice, featuring alder-smoked brisket with chipotle mayo and coleslaw on a toasted potato bun. Get a side dish with it, and be sure to experiment with the four hot sauce choices: roasted pineapple habanero, orange chipotle, Texas, and honey bourbon. You’ll soon find yourself with a hankering for a rack of ribs.
Next is pie time, as next door to Fire is Passionate for Pies. A shop for pie? You’ve got to try.
There are savory tarts and “outrageous” pot pies (with organic chicken or beef) as well as pasties (the Jamaican chicken curry sounds promising), but you’re here for the sweet pies. Options range from blackberry to black bottom coconut crème, and Cinderella pumpkin to sour lemon crème. But if you see a sour cherry lattice pie, grab it. The season is short, and it’s deliciously tart. The only thing that can make it better is to “a la mode” it with Lopez Island Creamery. Which is entirely possible, as they also sell the ice cream on-site.
Stuffed, it’s now time to head to the ferry dock to catch your ride home. It’s as relaxing as the voyage you took to get here, as the two of you can sit back, take in another hour of water views, and relish the memories while planning your next trip back to the colorful San Juans.