Doe Bay on Orcas Island has long been known for its unique laid-back vibe. But this idyllic destination is as equally prized for its unpretentious, seed-to-table cuisine.
This is a nature lover's retreat with rustic cabins, waterfront campsites, and yurts. Amenities include a yoga studio and outdoor soaking tubs with incredible views of the Rosario Straights and the rugged landscape. Guests tend to exhale as they arrive, leave the stresses of modern living at the gates and lean into the peaceful sanctuary of the gorgeous property.
The highlight for me however is the unpretentious, seed to table restaurant with a talented chef turning out unique regional cuisine. Orcas Island is on the map for people who travel hungry and the Doe Bay Café is a can't miss destination for a fabulous meal.
Genius of Doe Bay Café’s Seed-to-Table Restaurant
Chef Jon Chappelle at the helm of the Doe Bay Café. I was able to snag him for a quick visit so we could learn more his talented young team. And of course, I wanted a recipe as a souvenir.
He starts the day with tea rather than coffee, then spends a couple hours menu planning. He plans both the daily café menus as well as the event catering. On this beautiful day, Chef Jon made a big bowl of clams for his crew and chatted with me during the cook.
Do you hire seasonal staff on talent, hustle or both?
"The first glance is at the culinary school; however, the experience is the main focus. Candidates who have interesting or well-rounded experience will be invited to come for the weekend, to dine and chat with the kitchen staff."
The bar, the garden, and the kitchen seem to be in perfect harmony. Do you take inspiration from the garden, or does the gardener take inspiration from the chef?
"In Seattle, the chef builds the recipe and although it may be locally sourced, there is an abundance of local sources. On Orcas Island, the chef takes inspiration from the garden on the property and the fishing season."
It took a couple meals for me to notice, but it seems you don't cook poultry or meat?
“We honor the ethos of the owner to cook pescatarian fare.” Also of note, there is no field roast on the menu either; no fake meat.”
Jon dumps a glug of wine into the clams, the steam fills the kitchen with an amazing aroma of garlic, the sea and crisp wine. Feeling nostalgic; I ask Jon what his early cooking memories are. He tells me a story about his dad traveling to Italy, taking cooking classes and sharing his craft with the family upon return. Jon learned how to cook of paella over an open fire with his dad and to this day it's one of his favorite wedding menu items at Doe Bay. I am struck by how wonderful it must be to weave personal history, experience, and a memorable recipe into a newlywed story. He is truly cooking from the heart.
Bar Manager Chris Rehn is obsessed with taking creative inspiration from the garden and locally foraged herbs and aromatics. The cocktail menu reads like a cast of characters from a classic novel; interesting and unique it's hard to choose just one (or two).
Come for dinner and live music, stay the night and tuck into their amazing weekend brunch. You won’t miss the bacon, I promise.
Chef Jon's Clams. Try these on a warm night paired with a crisp white, a flaky baguette and someone you can't live without.
Chef Jon’s Clams
- 1 TBS butter
- 1 lb of manilla clams
- 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp chopped Calabrian chilies
- Dry white wine
- 1 TBS Licorice root butter* (sub diced fennel or tarragon)
- Italian parsley and chive
*Licorice root is a foraged product. We use 25 grams of the fern’s root per pound of butter. The root must first be cleaned and then processed in a food processor. You then add the ground root to a stick of the butter and cook on low heat for 5 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature and whip into the remaining ¾ of a pound of softened butter. You can sub fennel or tarragon if you can’t find licorice root or don’t want to go through the effort.
In a large sauté pan with a lid melt the butter and add the garlic and Calabria chilies. Once the garlic starts to sizzle and brown slightly add the clams and a healthy glug of white wine. Cover with the lid and steam until the clams have opened. If a few remain closed you can discard them.
Squeeze the juice of half a lemon and stir in the licorice root butter. Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning if needed. Garnish with the chopped fresh herbs and enjoy with a baguette to sop it all up.
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