With its craftsman style exterior and 1,972 pipe organ, Rosario Resort has often been praised for its old world elegance. But since 2016, the buzz surrounding this historic site has been a bit more edible.
Renowned chef, Raymond Southern, took over the kitchen. His commitment to fresh and seasonal ingredients revolutionized the old school ‘meat and potato’ menu.
Rather than the simple choice of filet, chicken, and salmon, Chef Raymond’s updated selection features seasonal fare. But this ‘farm-to-table’ mentality isn’t about keeping up with the hipsters. Chef Raymond was born and raised on a small farm outside of Vancouver, British Columbia. For him – this way of cooking is a way of life.
Here ingredients are allowed to shine. Flavors and textures are combined with intention. In-house butchery means no part of the animal is wasted. And careful sourcing ensures only the best is served.
To provide a little insight into how he does what he does, Chef Raymond shared some of his rare time outside of the kitchen with me:
Q: I’ve heard your food praised for its modern take on old classics. What does that look like on the plate?
Chef: It’s really based on what’s available. For example, we work with Valley Rabbits. They raise rabbits exclusively for us. And they’re amazing. So instead of an old school pâté made with chicken liver, we’ve done rabbit pâté and mixed it with local hazelnuts.
The other thing I really love is upgrading peasant food, like the scallop dish we’re doing right now. We’re getting gorgeous pink scallops from Lopez Island and we’re preparing them in a Peruvian style that’s spicy and flavorful.
Q: Are most of your ingredients local, like the scallops?
Chef: It always my goal to know where my ingredients come from. That means I want to know the farmers and artisans personally. That’s really the only way you guarantee the quality of your ingredients. So yes. We source local ingredients whenever possible.
Take the butter we serve with our bread. It’s so good, you might want to eat with a spoon. We get it from Cherry Valley Dairy and we serve it with Barn Owl Bakery bread from Lopez Island. I’ve visited both suppliers. They’re both located here in Washington. I’ve seen how their operations work. And, I choose to bring them in because their product is outstanding. That’s what I’m always looking for.
It’s like our burger. We serve it on a house made brioche bun. And the patty – that’s made from a mix of ground and cut beef. That mixture took me two days to develop on site at the North Cascade Meat Produces Cooperative.
Q: How did the menu changes you made in the main dining room, carry over to the other areas of the resort?
Chef: In every way. The bar’s a little more casual. So it has a more casual menu with items like pizza. But that doesn’t mean the quality drops off. We’re making our pizza dough from scratch and preparing each pie to order.
Down at the Cascade Bay Grill, fish and chips have always been a staple. We weren’t going to get rid of them when we got here. But, we weren’t going to serve frozen fish and chips either. So we use fresh fish that we batter ourselves.
Q: Is there a go-to dish you’re always comfortable knocking out?
Chef: Pasta. I challenge anyone to make a better pasta. Right now we’re serving it with a rabbit ragù. It’s amazing. We’re also doing a pork chop right now that our regulars keep coming back for again and again.
I stuck around for dinner. Because what’s a gal to do after hearing about all this amazing food? While the decision did cause me to waddle a bit on the way home, it’s not one I’ll soon forget. Chef Raymond and The Mansion Restaurant staff bewitched me stomach and soul.
With a window seat overlook Cascade Bay, I perused the menu while enjoying one of the ‘Temperance Cocktails.’ The Provençal Spirit was bright and acidic with just a hint of sweetness. It’s the kind of libation-free drink that’s worthy of a celebration.
(The drink menu has a fabulous selection of craft cocktails. However, the ‘Temperance Cocktails’ section pays homage to the prohibition. This selection of alcohol free drinks makes sure those abstaining don’t feel left out.)
My Cherry Valley Dairy butter and Barn Owl Bakery bread arrived with the drink. Chef Raymond hadn’t been joking about how good this stuff really is. I seriously contemplated running my finger around the small glass jar of cow-fat goodness!
The bread and butter starter was followed by a helping of Octopus Chicharrón. This huge bowl of in-your-face flavors ran the gamete from sweet and spicy to salty and acidic. If you have more than one in your party, consider sharing your appetizers. The portion sizes are hearty. (This is especially true if you plan on having a second appetizer and a main course…like me.)
Because when the Salish Sea Tempura Halibut Cheeks arrive you want to have room. Dipped in a Riesling tempura batter, they are fried to a perfectly golden crust. Inside, the tender fish remains moist and tasting of the sea.
For the main course, the Jack Mountain Pork Chop came like a beautiful, savory challenge. Nestled on bed of hodge podge and topped with a healthy portion of milk-braise white cabbage, the thick cut pork arrived bone-in and sprinkled with gruyere. Be still me heart.