By Kristin Kruger
Orcas Island. To most, this is an ideal summer destination. But don’t underestimate its winter potential as well. This time of year the island is comfortable, peaceful retreat. You’ll find that a light fog and cool mist over the water is strangely comforting when you have no other agenda than snuggling into a warm blanket by a crackling fire. And if you happen upon a crisp, clear, winter day when you are visiting the islands, there are no words to describe the incredible views.
And then there’s the food. When the winter weather diminishes the attraction of outdoor activities, treating your taste buds is a great alternative. And the resident chefs on Orcas Island do a darn fine job of it.
We booked a room at the Inn at Ship Bay, a converted 19th century farmhouse on a bluff overlooking the water about a mile outside of Eastsound, the island’s largest community. The inn has eleven guest rooms, each with an unobstructed view of the water, gas stove fireplace, private balcony and a king-sized bed with down pillows and comforters. But the main reason for this choice was their restaurant reviews.
The dining room at the Inn at Ship Bay is comfortably situated in the old farmhouse with views over the edible garden, heirloom fruit trees and the bay beyond. Sustainable food is a priority in the kitchen and their seasonal menus often feature locally harvested ingredients. In fact, the mussels we enjoyed as an appetizer hailed from Buck Bay, just six miles south of the restaurant. For those who are planning to recreate this experience, I highly recommend the seafood bouillabaisse. I’ll leave it up to you to find out why.
For dinner on our second night, we decided to venture into Eastsound itself. We had spent the entire day hiking around Moran State Park so we had certainly worked up the appetite for a good meal. A restaurant named Allium came highly recommended by two friends on two separate occasions so we made a reservation. We were seated at a window table with a beautiful waterfront view just as the sun dipped behind the surrounding hilltops. As for the food itself – delicious. You know those meals in which every dish presented stops the conversation and elicits groans of intense satisfaction and delight? It was one of those meals. I am sure you won’t go wrong with anything you choose on the menu, but here’s my advice: don’t skip the Soon-to-be-Famous Gnocchi. Seriously. You will thank me later.
I am aware that these are just two of the many tasty experiences that Orcas Island has to offer. My only regret is that I didn’t have time to experience more of them. Leave me suggestions if you have any favorites that I didn’t hit. I’m sure I will be back for another meal on this delicious island.