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Food & Art Weekend San Juan Island

My sweetheart and I recently treated ourselves to a “school is back in session and the holidays aren’t here yet” getaway to San Juan Island for just the two of us. To relax, see inspiring art and eat. Let’s be real--to eat a lot. We so love the dining options on San Juan Island, where many restaurant have seasonal menus and feature island grown food. Fall is the perfect time to do that, when the stands at the Farmers Market bow under the abundant harvest and the talented island chefs really get going.

As a working artist I equally love checking out the local art scene. More working artists live in San Juan County than in any other county in Washington State. There is a lot to see. Every time.

View from the public look-out above Topsl Seafood Bar
View from the public look-out above Topsl Seafood Bar

We arrived on Friday evening and went straight to Topsl Seafood Bar, my favorite Sushi place on earth, two blocks from the ferry landing. We never make reservations and if there is a wait, we climb to the top of the building, where there is a secret look-out over the harbor. It’s not really secret, but I have never seen another person up there. So peaceful. Back in the restaurant, I ordered my usual: cucumber sake, oysters on the half shell and the assorted Nigiri, because you can never go wrong with the chef’s selection. I don’t think I spoke during our entire time there, I just savored the fresh flavor with my eyes half closed. So good.

The Orcas room at the Bird Rock Hotel
The Orcas Room

Afterwards we checked into our room at the Bird Rock Hotel, a historic boutique hotel, with the most amazing staff. We found a handwritten card and a chocolate bar in our Orcas Suite upon arrival, to welcome us back. How sweet is that? The Orca Suite is not advertised as a room with a view, but it does have a peekaboo view of the harbor from the window. It features an aerated tub right in the room, which we found incredibly romantic.

Bird Rock serves a gourmet continental breakfast from 8:00am to 10:00am with yummy, freshly baked scones, fresh fruit and more, which gave us the strength for our day full of adventure ahead on Saturday. Our first stop was the Farmer’s Market, which cleverly combines all of our interests: food and art and food. We browsed the colorful produce, picked up picnic makings – island made cheese, crusty, European bread, fresh berries – and checked out the array of island made crafts.

Visiting our Favorites at the San Juan Sculpture Park
Visiting our Favorites at the San Juan Sculpture Park

Then we were off to the San Juan Sculpture Park on the north end of the island. This beautiful place showcases over 150 sculptures on 20 acres with five trails winding through fields and woods, around a lake and along serene Westcott Bay. The weather was stunning and we took our time to visit our old favorites, to explore the abundant sculptures, new and old, and to have our Farmer’s Market picnic. Afterwards we strolled the docks of the historic resort Roche Harbor and the street lined with artists booths right at the marina.

COHO Restaurant is open year-round and on all holidays
COHO Restaurant is open year-round and on all holidays

Back in Friday Harbor we treated ourselves to the First Seating special at the cozy farm-to-table-restaurant COHO. First Seating is a three-course meal plus a bottle of wine for $70 for two, and is served from 5:00pm to 5:45pm daily. COHO’s commitment to freshly prepared, local, seasonal food is unrivaled. They recently instituted a table-to-farm composting program, successfully reducing their food waste to zero. I practically inhaled my homemade lamb pappardelle, helped my love with his fresh halibut filet, and also ate both of our homemade ice creams for dessert. Contributing to zero food waste has never been so delicious.

We ended our evening at San Juan Brewing, Friday Harbor’s very own and quite spacious micro-brewery. A live, local band was playing, while we people watched, tapped our feet to the music and sipped our Lane 4 Lager and Outer Island IPA respectively (love those names).

San Juan Islands Museum of Art features thought provoking exhibitions about the Pacific Northwest
San Juan Islands Museum of Art features thought provoking exhibitions about the Pacific Northwest

Sunday was our Friday Harbor gallery and museum day. There are three museums and seven galleries in walking distance to the ferry landing, not to mention the many shops featuring local arts and crafts and the gorgeous sculptures all around town. After breakfast we headed to the fantastic Island Museum of Art, featuring thought provoking exhibitions around what it means to live in our breathtaking Pacific Northwest. We saw the multi-media exhibit Deep Dive about the delights of and threats to wildlife in the Salish Sea.

Cynthia’s Bistro serves Brunch all day
Cynthia’s Bistro serves Brunch all day

For brunch we went to Cynthia’s Bistro, a lovely little place serving made-from-scratch, island inspired fare in a cute, renovated house from 1920. We ordered the Avocado Breakfast Boat and smoked salmon Eggs w/ Benedicts with the most skillfully made triple Mochas. I wasn’t sure if I would like warm avocado. Turns out I do. The soft poached eggs complimented the avocado flavor perfectly. My sweetie was very sure he would like his Eggs with Benedicts. I could barely steal a bite.

We put our car in line for the afternoon ferry and explored the many galleries in downtown. I especially like Arctic Raven Gallery featuring Arctic and Northwest Coast Native work. They showcase beautiful masks, stone and bone carvings, jewelry as well as Spirit of the Wild apparel and accessories, a Canadian product line paying royalties on native designs.

Before boarding the ferry, we picked up luscious lamb burgers from Cask & Schooner Public House to eat on the ferry. I sometimes dream about their burgers on delicious brioche buns with a side of fresh cut fries that actually stay crispy.

Inspired and brimful with ideas for both cooking and art, we reluctantly returned to the mainland until next time.

"What a delightful place to stay!...

The staff is wonderful and the little extras

make it a comfortable place to stay."

--TripAdvisor®
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