Is a spectacular location enough for you?

I could have said something...but I didn't.  I just didn't feel like it would work with the people I was talking to.

Has this ever happened to you?  You're on vacation or out at a restaurant, and something goes wrong and you don't mention it to your server or the front desk or the clerk because you can tell that you're only going to feel worse, not better, after the complaint?

I just got back from three days on the Olympic Peninsula with my family and our new puppy, Lucky Darshan Sugar-cube (it was difficult to decide on his name).  We stayed right on the beach in a rustic cabin, very simple accommodations, perfect for disconnecting from our own busy tourist season.

While the accommodations were simple, the beach was what we came for.  It's gorgeous.  The perfect lay-around with the family, roast marshmellows on a fire, chase waves, and frolic kind of beach.

But after poor service from the front desk and a lousy experience with the only restaurant in 20 miles,  I began to question whether I would come back or not - even though this is the only hotel on this beach.

I realized that a spectacular location is not enough, I want to be treated like a friend.

My friends tell me when I have spinach in my teeth and lipstick on my chin (how'd that get there?).  And they wouldn't send me to a restaurant they wouldn't enjoy themselves or brush off my questions about charges to my credit card.

I thought of all the first-time travelers to our island location, who don't know where to eat, what to do, or whether they are going to be taken care of like a friend. 

The positive take-away (cause that's the kind of lady I am) was realizing again what an impact a simple gesture of true caring can have on another human being.

The team at the Inn want to be your friend.  With that in mind, here are a couple of my local favorites, just to get you started when you arrive on Orcas Island.  I've included things that I personally enjoy and would happily recommend to my best friends.

I don't mention too much about the New Leaf Cafe, I'll let you read other peoples unbiased reviews about that (but you probably can guess my favorite restaurant). 


  Sara's Local Picks

Great Coffee  This is basically just a public service announcement about the quality of coffee on Orcas Island.  It's good and strong. My current favorite is located in Darvill's Bookstore and serves Batdorf and Bronson Coffee, and I name this one specifically only because it satisfies two of my obsessions - coffee and books.  Enzo's (Caffe D'Arte), Teezers (Starbucks), Straight Shots (Pegasus), and Kathryn Taylor Chocolates (Stumptown) all have exceptional coffee as well.  Kathryn Taylor Chocolates, like Darvill's, delivers the double whammy of coffee and chocolate!  If you love a good mocha, it doesn't get much better than this.

Breakfast  Finding a place to eat breakfast when you wake up in the morning (especially if you've arrived late and aren't oriented to where you are) is very important.  I personally cannot stop eating the incredible breakfast at the New Leaf, but I want to give you other options.  When I don't want to be "at work" for breakfast, I love to eat at Mia's, right around the corner from the Inn.  She has a simple menu and a cozy space.  If pastries are your thing (and whose aren't they?) try the Pecan Cinnamon Role at the Wild Flour Bakery, just an easy stroll out our front door.

Hike  I love the 2 mile hike up Turtleback Mountain to Ship's Peak.  The trail is steep, but the view at the top is breathtaking.  In a tremendous outpouring of community generosity and fundraising, this 1500 acre island parcel was saved from development in 2006 when it was purchased by the San Juan Preservation Trust and the Trust For Public Land for a whopping $17 million.  Much of this was raised within the community, from dollars donated by those with little to spare.  And it's for good reason that we all fought so hard.  This is an island treasure not to be missed.  Download a map with directions here.

Shopping  Do not miss Tres Fabu.  This is not what you expect from a little island dress shop.  Nikki Ames, the owner, and her amazing shop girls will take incredible care of you and the uniquely curated, high quality clothing, jewelry, shoes and handbags will have you reaching for your wallet and leaving with at least one serious find.  They also have home accessories in the screened-in porch off the shop.   A note to those with a weak will or a passion for fashion, if you don't plan on spending on clothing or jewelry during your trip, avoid this stop.

Whale Watching  Dan and Denise Wilk of Orcas Island Eclipse Charters have been boating, sailing and loving the wildlife in the San Juan Islands for over 25 years.  Somewhere I have a picture of Denise holding my hand on a dock in Deer Harbor when I was two years old, she's like family and she treats the people we send her like family too.  Nepotism aside (wink, wink) her business stands on its own as a great whale watching and wildlife cruise.  The 56' Orcas Express has great indoor and outdoor viewing, stabilizers in case you have a sensitive tummy, like I do, and their experienced naturalists to educate you about the wildlife.

These are just a few recommendations to get you started, and whether you stay with us or not, we are here to provide you with real human apathy-busting hospitality, so stop by and get one of our Eastsound Food Maps (with a complete list of dining options) or just to say "Hello".

Our passion is sharing this stuff with visitors to Orcas Island.  Good restaurants and the best hikes, and we want to hear what you need during your stay.

Love,

 

P.S. If you have a favorite spot on the island, share ONE in the comments below.

P.P.S. More activities and informationcan be found by clicking here.

 

Not Your Grandma's Sherry + Weekend Wine Tour of Spain with Gonzalez Byass

We're hot on the tail of our first Outlook University wine weekend with Willamette Valley producers Adelsheim, Coeur de Terre, and Raptor Ridge and we are excited to bring you the next unique experience.  We're traveling across the globe to what wine experts call "a rising star" of the wine world, Spain.  Executive Chef Steve Debaste is creating a pairing menu of tapas that reflect Spanish roots and New Leaf sensibilities.

On the wine side we are lucky to host Felipe Gonzalez-Gordon Terry, who represents the fifth generation of Spains most venerated wine family.  In keeping with the mission of Outlook University to bring together dynamic learning around food, wine, creativity and wellness, we've found Spanish wine royalty to guide you through the incredible breadth, history, and quality of Spanish wine.  Join us!
Felipe's family's business, Gonzalez-Byass, has grown from its humble beginnings in 1835 to become one of Spain's most revered and respected wine  companies. In Spain, Gonzalez-Byass not only represents wine, but the very essence of Spanish culture with some of the most recognizable and significant Spanish wines ever  produced - many of which will be available to taste during the weekend with Felipe.
  

What makes Gonzalez-Byass so unique is the breadth of wines that they offer.  Spain has many wine regions and Gonzalez-Byass seems to have a foot hold in almost all of them.  Over the weekend we will explore the family's estates that cover five different regions.  Does anyone else feel like visiting Spain?

  • The Penedes region is located an hour south of Barcelona.  The influence of the sun and the Mediterranean sea make the Penedès a privileged territory for wine making.  We will be tasting two Cavas from Vilarnau. 
  •  Somontano is the wine region that lies in teh shadow of the Pyrenees Mountain range boarding France.  We will be tasting three wines from Vinas del Vero during our tour to learn about this distinct place. 
  •  Rioja, the classic Spanish wine region north of Madrid, is home to Bodegas Beronia.  Rioja wines bear distinct aging requirements producing unique characteristics and we will have the opportunity to taste and learn about including a Gran Reserva, Reserva, and Crianza. 
  • Finca Constancia in Madrid is one of the newest estates developed by the family.  We will taste two wines from this winery.  
  • Jerez in southern Spain is where Gonzalez Byass began with it's sherry production.  It's rich history includes the inspiration for the archetectue of the Eifel Tower and hosting kings, queens, and dignitaries in it's grand bodega...not to mention helping the world to rediscover the delight of bone dry sherry with Tio Pepe.  


Taste of Spain Wine Pairing Dinner:
Saturday, April 21, Reception at 5:30, Dinner at 6:00  $120 per person *tax & gratuity included 
Nibble and nosh your way through five courses of Spanish tapas and award winning Spanish wines.  Family style seating and a relaxed convival atmosphere make our wine tastings a fun way for visitors to get to know the locals and locals to mix with friends new and old.

** Space for both events are extremely limited and prepayment is required to reserve space in the seminar and dinner.    
 
Spanish Wine and "Not Your Grandma's Sherry" Seminar:
Friday, April 20, 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm, $30 per person
Join us for a wine tasting featuring 12 unique wines and sherries with Felipe Gonzalez-Gordon.  This is a unique opportunity to learn about Spanish wine and sherry from a man whose family is steeped in the tradition.  The seminar will include 3 flights of 4 wines ranging from a bubbly Cava, Spanish whites and reds, and the sexiest sherries you've ever tasted.  These are Felipe's grandma's sherries, and she was drinking the finest of her time.  Believe me, you will be delighted and surprised by this rare treat.
 **For reservations or more information call the Inn at 1-888-OUTLOOK or 360-376-2200.  Special room pricing is available for attendees.

 

 

Outlook U...School never sounded so good

Willamette Valley Pinot Camp - Saturday, March 10, 2012
Three World Class Wineries in one room, just for you!

Pre-payment is required for the seminar and dinner to confirm your reservation.  Our capacity for both events is extremely limited. 

 

Wine Seminar:

Saturday 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm, $30 per person plus tax
Join us for a wine tasting featuring 12 Willamette Valley wines and an exclusive opportunity to learn about the wine making and land that have made Willamette Valley wines so well respected.  Presenters include Adelsheim Vineyard Winemaker Dave Paige, Owners and Winemaker of Raptor Ridge Annie and Scott Schull, and  Coeur de Terre Vineyard Owners and Winemakers Scott and Lisa Neal. 

 

Wine Pairing Dinner:
Saturday at 6:30 pm, $120 per person *tax & gratuity included 
Sumptuous five course wine pairing dinner with all three wineries and the culinary talent of New Leaf Executive Chef Steve Debaste and Special Event Ch ef Madden Surbaugh.

 

Retail Sales of wines from the weekend at exclusive pricing will be available and encouraged...you will want a tasty reminder of this fantastic event!

Room Specials
Book the seminar and dinner and receive some seriously "tipsy" pricing on your stay at the Inn:
  • Luxury Bay View Suites  $129 per night (regular rate $199)
  • East Wing Standard  $89 per night (regular rate $119) 
  • Historic Main Building $69 per night  (regular rate $89) 
Raise your glass, school has never looked so good!
Three world class wineries, one fantastic day,  with unbelievable room rates, 12 different wines, an exclusive seminar and the New Leaf Cafe's sumptuous food to encourage your good attendance.

Outlook University is underway with it's first educational "stay, play, and learn" event.  Willamette Pinot Camp is the first of a series of events for our guests exploring some of our favorite things - food, wine, creativity and wellness.  It could be argued that wine embodies all of them!

We are excited to offer a series of mini conferences during our Spring and Fall seasons exploring food, wine, wellness and creativity.  It is a new facet of our business and one that encompasses one of the most important values of our organization: learning. 


My husband and I took over our 123 year old 40 room hotel and full service restaurant 10 years ago at the age of 23.  Learning is an understatement for what we have had to do over the years and the incredible thing is that we love it, because we haven't stopped learning and being passionate about improving.


This is the opportunity to take your vacation to the next level...relaxed learning that is more in-depth than a traditional wine dinner, and unusual in the caliber of presenters.


We think you will find this topic and those to follow both interesting and delicious, so stay tuned!

Warmly,
Sara Farish
Owner and CEO


Audio Producers Rock on Orcas Island Nov. 12-13, 2011

On November 12-13, an extraordinary group of local and international talent will offer a workshop for professional audio producers at the Outlook Inn on Orcas Island.  Audio professionals, musicians, songwriters and others passionate about creating and refining the art of sound will gather for two days of presentations, panel discussions and demos in sound engineering.

The group of Orcas Island presenters will include Garry Garritan on “Future Trends in Virtual Instrument Technology”.  Garry is a pioneer in large sample libraries and his Garritan Personal Orchestra, released in 2004, has become course material in music colleges around the world.

Jake Perine, who for over a decade taught audio and video production at the Art Institute of Seattle and who was house engineer for Seattle’s prominent RFI mastering studio before moving to Orcas, will present “Bow to the Master”, how to get the most out of the mastering process.

Kevin Dickey and Rich Williams of Burl Audio will offer “The Zen of Signal Path”, an intimate conversation about soul, tone, electrons and electromagnetic fields. Burl Audio has recently found a global audience in the analog/digital converter market and has won a coveted endorsement from Eddie Kramer who has worked with some of the best, including Led Zeppelin and Cream.

The most recent new arrival to Orcas, Craig Russo, will be hosting “Vocal Tuning with Melodyne”. Craig has been involved in music production for over 15 years and in 2009 had a Global #1 song credit for a tune he co-wrote and produced for British artist Robbie Williams. Craig will offer before and after comparisons of an alternative approach to vocal tuning.

Rounding out the local talent will be Roger Sherman who has released over 100 performances from concert halls and other venues around the world. He will bring ideas for incorporating room sound and mic techniques when producing acoustical music in live spaces.

From Canada, Drew will present “The Power of Ableton and its Place in Your World”. His Ableton Live training videos are posted by some of the largest music blogs in the world as well as Mac Pro Video.

A panel discussion on the “Northwest Legacy in Musical History” will feature Bruce Pavitt, founder of SubPop Records, Jack Endino, legendary Seattle producer of Nirvana and Soundgarten and Cathy Faulkner, Seattle’s “Queen of Rock” of radio station KISW fame.

Special room rates for the weekend are available at The Outlook Inn @outlookinn.com and, with a 2 night booking, conference admission is free. For all others, admission is $100 for the weekend.  For more information go to outlookinn.com or call (360) 376-2200 and ask for Adam.




Orcas Island Chef Lisa Nakamura shares her Cinderella Pumpkin Soup on TV!

I know...it makes me feel a little country bumpkinish to get so excited about seeing someone I know on TV, but local Chef Lisa Nakamura has brought an artful little restaurant to Orcas Island and when I found out she was on King 5 teaching how to make her Cinderella Pumpkin Soup, I was thrilled!  Ok, so it helped that they were also going to be giving away a getaway to Orcas Island including a stay at the Outlook Inn and meals at both Lisa's Allium and the New Leaf Cafe.  To plan your own fall getaway to the San Juan Islands check out the San Juan Visitor's Bureau for "Savor the San Juan" lodging and dining deals.  

 

Lisa shared her recipe for Cinderella Pumpkin Soup, the perfect thing to warm your belly as the chill of fall starts to fill our dwindling evening light.

Cinderella Pumpkin Soup

Cinderella Pumpkin Soup with Homemade Ricotta and Pickled Apples

For the soup

Makes eight portions

2 lbs Cinderella pumpkin (these pumpkins can be around 20 lbs when mature, so see if your grocer will
cut them into sections for you), skinned, seeded and cut into 1 inch chunks

1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 sprig thyme

2 leaves sage

1 bay leaf

1 stick of cinnamon

1 cup white wine

1 T brown sugar

2 cups cream

Salt and pepper to taste

1 T butter

In a large heavy non-reactive pot, melt the butter. Add the onion slices and cook them slowly with the
thyme, sage and bay leaves until translucent. (This step is key in producing good soup, it helps coax out
more flavors.)

Add the pumpkin and white wine (use a dry white table wine for cooking, save your fancy white wine for
drinking) and cook until the wine has evaporated. Add enough water to cover the pieces of pumpkin
and season with salt and pepper. When the pumpkin pieces are tender, add the cream and the sugar.
Bring up the boil, remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaf, and then carefully puree in a blender until
smooth. Strain the soup though a fine sieve. Correct the seasoning as needed.

If the soup is still too thick, thin it out with a little more water and adjust the seasonings as needed.

You may also use chicken or vegetable stock in place of water. I find it changes the taste a little, and
takes away some of the pumpkin flavor intensity. If you use store-bought stock, make sure to purchase
the low sodium version and watch how much salt you add as you cook the soup.

Homemade Ricotta

Make four cups ricotta

½ gallon whole milk

½ gallon cream

1/3 cup + 1 t distilled vinegar

¼ t salt

Instant read thermometer

cheesecloth

In a clean non-reactive pot, heat the milk and cream together until it reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Stir in the salt and vinegar and bring the combination to 175 degrees (just under the boiling point). Let
the mixture stand undisturbed for ten minutes. Carefully strain the curds into a cheesecloth-lined
colander over the sink or a large bowl to catch the whey. Cover the curds and let them continue to
drain in the colander overnight.

The next day, scrape the curds away from the cheesecloth and store in an air-tight container.

You may use this ricotta in savory or sweet applications.

Many recipes call for just whole milk. I like to use cream and milk, as it results in a richer finished
product.

Pickled Apples

Yields approximately two cups

Use tart firm apples, such as Granny Smith, cut into 1’4 inch dice

1 cup rice wine vinegar

¾ cup sugar

2 T salt

½ vanilla bean

1 sprig of thyme

In a non-reactive pot, bring the vinegar, sugar, and salt to a boil. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved.
Remove from the heat and add the vanilla bean and thyme sprig. Cool to room temperature. Add the
apple dice. Let the apples marinate in the pickling liquid at least overnight.

All recipes copyright by Lisa K Nakamura, Allium Restaurant

It's a family affair! Running the business with family...

The Outlook Inn and New Leaf Cafe are truly a family business.  We like to think we are charting a new course for this type of business, but it still can have it's bumps and challenges.  So who is the "family" in family business?  Here's the cast of characters, ala the children's book by Tove Jonasson "Finn Family Moomintroll" which are my daughters recent obsession.

Outlook Mama:  Sara  Farish.  That's me!  I married into this business in 2000 and have been working here since 2001.  I coddle, prod, (but never cattle prod), encourage, and learn from this constantly changing and evolving team.  I'm the softie of the bunch...and can often be found wiping tears and giving pep talks.  I have also been known to invoke the "No Asshole Policy" when pushed too far (more on this another time).

The Head Honcho: Adam Farish.  That's my husband.  He's been working and living in this business since he was a child.  Officiando of detail, financial seer, and the guy who created our incredible signature cocktails while repainting the buiding, producing an album, and being an all around fantastic husband and father.  Bravo!

Gramcracker: That's my mom.  She can be found in the dining room greeting our guests, scolding the bussers, and generally running a tip top ship.  She also makes sure that the plants don't dry up and die and helps Adam and I care for our daughter.  She can also make a mean latte.  This is a busy woman!

The GM:  Jon Kobayashi.  My brother-in-law, married to my older sister Adina.  They have three children, Sophia 9, and the twins Sachiko and Josh 5.  Jon can be found all around.  In retro Nike sneackers and jeans, the only man on the island under 50 who owns a collared shirt (and it's ironed) and actually wears it, he used to be a litigator and joined our team 3 years ago.  He's the guy who books our weddings and events, oversees day to day operations, and obsesses about food, art, and jazz music.

Grandpabello:  John Cunningham.  My dad.  Night watchman, maintenace engineer, non-violent communication specialist.  Sometimes night maintenance engineer who is practicing the art of non-violent communication. 

 

History of the Outlook Inn on Orcas Island: Part 1

The Inn began life in 1876 under the auspices of settler Charles W. Shattuck. Sometimes known as the founder of Eastsound, he was a former forty-niner who came north from the California gold fields to prospect during the Fraser River gold rush. When his luck played out, he worked in a coal mine near the town of Seahome (Bellingham) from which he hurriedly departed after a fire and cave-in in the shaft.
 
Shattuck headed to Orcas around 1860, pitched his tent near the current site of the Inn—probably due to the excellent spring that emerged here—and set himself up as a hunter. Like other early settlers, including Louis Cayou, he sold meat and hides to British buyers in Victoria. During Shattuck’s time, the elk herds that once roamed Orcas were hunted to extinction.
 
In the late 1860’s as the island’s population steadily grew, Shattuck built a house at the head of Fishing Bay. After San Juan County was formed in 1873, he opened a small store in the house serving local farmers, lime kiln workers, passing Native Americans and occasional trappers. Four years later, he was named Postmaster of East Sound (the Postal Service renamed the office to Eastsound in 1985) and handled the mail next door to the store. To round out his activities, he built a dance hall upstairs with his own living quarters in the rear.
 
Shattuck’s place was an all-in-one establishment. In addition to buying supplies, posting a letter or dancing, customers could get a haircut, a tooth pulled or their horses shod. If they got a little too rambunctious, they were likely to end up in the jail just outside the back door.
 
In 1887, Shattuck sold the operation to Walter Sutherland, a former railroad man who originally came from New York. With his son, Luther, Sutherland set about remodeling and expanding the building. In 1891, they opened a 22-room hotel named Eastsound House. The hostelry was famous for its thick steaks of venison and bear meat. As Eastsound became a settled village with grocery, drug stores, hardware stores, churches and a school, the Inn served as the favorite place for locals.
 
Eastsound House also became the focal point of a new industry on Orcas—tourism. Sojourners from Seattle increasingly sought the island’s rural tranquility arriving by boat to attend dances and clam bakes or simply to relax in a rocker on the verandah. Access was at first via Anacortes on paddle wheelers such as the State of Washington and thence to Eastsound by small steamer. Direct service soon became available from Whatcom and Seattle aboard such famous steamers as the Islander, Rosalie and Lydia Thompson.
 
In 1908, Eastsound House was sold to Mrs. Ida Baker. After which, it went through a series of changes. Variously operated as the Mt. Constitution Inn and the Beach Hotel, the establishment was simply called Baker’s Beach by most locals to avoid confusion. Baker actively promoted her business offering tennis and croquet as well as dances, hay rides and clam bakes. At one point, she even claimed curative powers for the waters of the spring. Nonetheless, business steadily declined and she closed the doors in the late 20’s.
 
The building sat empty for some 15 years as the island economy declined due to the Great Depression and downturns in farming, fishing and forestry. In 1942, Seattle capitalist, Fred P. Myers, purchased it. He refurbished it completely then quickly sold it to his old friend, E.G. McMicken, a former steamship man. It was McMicken and his wife who named it the Outlook Inn. Under their management, the old hotel gained a new reputation for fine dining combined with country tranquility. McMicken sold it in 1946 due to poor health. After which, the Inn was sold three more times.
 
When the Inn was purchased by a non-profit organization in 1967, it was in a state of disrepair and lacking in amenities. It had an uneven log foundation, no insulation, two toilets for 12 rooms, an oil-fired range in the kitchen, dangerous wiring, one telephone and no heat in the bedrooms. Laundry was done by hand and put outside to dry. The organization sought to restore the Inn to a more original state and, after many repairs and much remodeling, the Inn provided lodging and an outstanding restaurant known by residents and travelers for homemade bread, clam chowder and apple pie. Staff came from all over the country to help with the restoration and to partake in the organization’s activities. They lived on the property, tended the gardens, cooked and served the meals and cleaned the rooms while learning to “find yourself by losing yourself”. The profits were allocated for monthly conferences with famous personages of the time (best selling authors, college presidents, leading doctors of various occupations, and others). Additionally, the Inn sponsored teenagers in drug rehabilitation, offered classes and teachings and pioneered a unique curriculum for bright under-achievers that served as a pilot model for special educational institutions. The goal of the Inn and the staff was to be of service to mankind in any manner possible and to create a nurturing environment that allowed for guests to truly take pleasure in the island and themselves.
 
A second building was erected in the 1980’s housing traditional type rooms with private bathrooms. The Bay View Luxury Suites building was built in 1995.
 
A “family-style” corporation now owns the Inn - the natural evolution as it became more of a commercial establishment. Yet, the staff maintains the principals of service to guests, community and employees. It is still the perfect place to “lose yourself”.

Where is Orcas Island?

We get this question all the time, especially when our to number was freakishly close to an online business called Reservation Rewards (their new number is 1-800-732-7031 in case you are still dealing with those pesky recurring charges) and people had no idea what the Outlook Inn was.  But really…are we in San Juan, Puerto Rico?  Are we in Canada?  No, but close.  Orcas Island is located in the San Juan Archipeligo in Washington State. Orcas Island can be reached via the Washington State Ferry system departing from Anacortes, Washington, just 2 hours north of Seattle or 2 hours south of Vancouver, Canada. 

Air service to the island is provided by San Juan Airlines and Kenmore Air.  San Juan Airlines departs from both Bellingham Airport and Boeing Field in Seattle and provides a transfer shuttle from Sea-Tac Airport.  Kenmore Air provides daily flights between Seattle and seven locations in the three locations on Orcas Island on both seaplanes and wheeled aircraft.   

Orcas Island is a horseshoe shaped island of fertile verdant valleys, narrow fjord like harbors, and steep emerald mountains the highest, Mount Constitution in Moran State Park, reaching at 2409 feet above sea level.  Dotted along the shoreline and tucked amongst the trees are the varied dwellings, hotels, homesteads, and experiements in island archetechure that house the approximately 5500 residents.

Curious?  Come see for yourself!  We'd love to have you.

 

Farmers Market Orcas Island : In Pictures and a few words

As they say, a picture is worth a 1000 words.   What do these hand felted pin cushions (below) from Bossy Feltworks say?  I think it tells the story of these three incredible island women, who through friendship, creativity, and sheer determination of spirit have made a thriving little business.  Not only is the story of their work endearing but you cannot help but be completely charmed by their creations. 

But a photo is just a photo, is just a photo...you must see this for yourself!

Bossy Feltworks, Orcas Island

Basil plants from Black Dog Farm

Island Thyme Soaps made on Orcas Islan

Seriously the most intoxicating roses from Black Dog Farm

Solistice Celebaration Orcas Island Style

 Here comes the sun!  That seems to be the theme around here.  Early strawberries are soaking in the sun and turning a delicious red, shoulders are appearing white and wintry from long sleeves, and sandles, well we're trying not to wear them with socks so much (it's Orcas Island after all and this fashion crime happens year round).

The culmination of our sundance happens every year during the annual Solstice Parade.  Dancing flower pots, the Oddfellows band, kids on bikes, a wandering 20 foot dragon and a giant earth ball carried by a big huggie ghost (how to describe this costume...) are regular appearances.  It is full of jubilant faces, community creativity, and the heartfelt thanks that we made it through another winter to be reborn into the sun.  And if you live in the Pacific Northwest you know this really does feel like an accomplishment.

The theme this year is "Around the World" and the Parade is on June 18 at 12:00 NOON in Eastsound.  Parking can be tricky for this event (but you don't have to worry about it if you are staying at the Inn, just walk on over). 

Enjoy this video from the 2008 parade and find out more at there website.

Are vacations hard?

We look forward to these special times with family and friends for weeks and months, sometimes even years.  For our family we hadn't been away from Orcas Island and the Inn for more than a few nights since 2009 when we visited our sister hotel in Phuket, Thailand.  So when we were invited to San Diego for 4 nights to relax with no agenda but fun, we couldn't wait to catch the ferry out of here and feel that warm California sun.

When we travel we love to see what other hotels and restaurants are doing, it's kind of our thing, but what I was most aware of this trip was what it felt like to be a guest.  My passion is creating a nurturing and beautiful experience for the travelers that come to Orcas Island and stay at the Inn.  What I found is that it's not always easy to be a traveler.

You'd think that once you were free of the cleaning the  cat box, going to work, packing lunches for school, rushing here and there, your mood would instantly be elevated.  And it would stay like that for the entire vacation.  Just because.  Right?  Well,  it's easier said than done, this relaxing business.  I had a hard time getting my mind into vacation mode.  This transition from my day to day life to the carefree pace of vacation mode was a constant practice for me.

 "Remember....relax, have fun, there is no need to rush.  It's right here.  Happening now.  This is it!" I kept reminding myself.

And moment by moment it worked.  I spent the morning walking downtown with my five year old daughter and we stopped to pick up every rock, pinecone, shiny penny, and miscellaneous (and probably very dirty) piece of treasure we found.  I got lost in her world, where the only rush is the skip to the ice cream shop so we can leisurely nibble our way through two scoops.  She knows about relaxing.

I came home with the same refrain still ringing in my head.  "This is it!"  Because why is so different really, my mindset at home or on vacation.  We don't go any faster because we are worried about rushing.  We don't get anything more accomplished because we are worried about what we have to do.  And if I could relax I'd just do it at home, but sometimes I need travel to unlock the magic of the moment and bring me back to myself.

So when you've traveled long (or short with many inconveniences) and you arrive at the Outlook Inn, I hope we can ease you into vacation mode by providing a relaxing and beautiful space, and the kind of service that reminds you that "It's right here.  Happening now.  Remember....relax, have fun, there is no need to rush.  This is it!"

Hope to see you soon at the Inn and let us know if you need directions to the ice cream shop.

New art to the New Leaf Cafe : heartfelt thanks to Crow Valley Pottery

Do you remember Christmas morning as a kid?  The anticipation you felt knowing something wonderful was going to happen in the morning and then the sheer joy coming down the stairs to see stockings full with surprises and the tree laden in gifts.  It's magical right?  Well yesterday I got the adult version of Christmas morning.  Crow Valey Pottery owners Michael Rivkin and Jeffri Coleman came by in the afternoon and while I slogged through paperwork at my desk and rain came down outside, they infused new energy and life into the New Leaf Cafe.  They brought from their remarkable inventory new pieces of art, pottery, and woodwork, spent a few hours tinkering, and viola, the space feels like it just got a hot new outfit and it's ready for a date (with YOU of course).  We are so grateful!  My pictures really don't do the art justice, you must come see yourself.

We have linocuts from artist Natalia Moroz, oils (like the one above of fresh oysters and lemons) from Robin Lassen and David Ridgway, charming pencil drawings by Christopher Cook just to name a few.  The overall feeling is fresh and evokes the carefree days for summer.   All of the pieces (along with many more at their two store locations on Orcas Island) are for sale.

I know it's spring, but as an adult, Santa can come during any season.

For more information on Crow Valley Pottery, visit thier website or next time you are on the island visit their store next to Darvill's Bookstore here in Eastsound, or the Cottage in Crow Valley.

 

Share your eyes and your opinions...we really care

sara-and-adam.jpg

When Adam and I came to the Inn 10 years ago there was no tripadvisor or yelp.  Guests who didn't enjoy their meal or their stay came directly to us with feedback or they just left and didn't come back.  The world sure has changed a lot.  Now we have glowing reviews and occasionally scathing reviews both with a measure of anonymity that can delight and sadden in equal measure.  The world of online reviews has turned the interaction between businesses and their clients on their heads.

A recent article in fact draws a direct correlation between the revenue of a small independant restaurant and their star rating on Yelp.  What the author of the study, Michael Luca, found was "that a one-star rating increase on Yelp leads to a five to nine percent increase in revenue, regardless of the actual quality of the restaurant itself".  For a business doing $1 Million in revenue that could equal an additional $50,000-90,000, no small matter in this tight economy.  So what does this have to do with us?  We're a little hotel and restaurant on Orcas Island, run by the same family for 44 years, the "youngsters" that have followed in our parents footsteps, whose friends are well versed in the online world.  We want to use these online forums to both build our business and also serve as a platform for a balanced approach to solving problems.

heartfelt-sunflower.jpg

And that's the thing...we really care.  We want to solve the problems that could potentially occur during a meal or a stay at the Inn.

When people choose us over some other option on the island or even in some other location, we feel like we have entered into a contract to give them a clean, beautiful room, friendly, warm service, nourishing, tasty food and a place where they can come to relax and renew.  It is our job to provide a place for this unwinding, supporting their relaxation and enjoyment. That's what we have chosen to do with our lives.

There's a lot involved in that.  To start, people want a clean room.  It's a basic.  But they also want something far more complex.  They want to NOT be distracted from the beauty of the island or the relaxation they are chasing by a mistake we have made that could have been avoided. 

95% of our guests report a great deal of satisfaction with there stays and let's face it, when you work hard and really care it is important to receive positive feedback.  It encourages people, motivates them, and can literally make their day.  On the flip side, when we a guest calls our attention to the fact that they don't have hot water (which occasionally happens when all 14 oversized jacuzzi tubs are in use at the same time), or that their soup is cold, or that one of our staff members was rude, it is distracting from their enjoyment.

And here's the other thing...

carrot-hearts.jpg

It's the people that are not enjoying their experience that we need to especially hear from so we can get ever better at what we do.  We prefer be told about problems at the time they happen so we have an opportunity to improve the situation, but if you're too mad, don't like confrontation, are just plain shy, or didn't think of it at the time, we are all ears any time after your stay too.

So please share with us...if you have a suggestion for how we can improve, we look forward to hearing from you.  If you saw the beauty, appreciated your service, tasted the good wine, and loved your truffle fries, go ahead and crow about it to the stars (people read the stars through the internet these day...links below). We, and our staff, truly appreciate knowing we have served you well!

Review the Outlook Inn and The New Leaf Cafe on Tripadvisor,Yelp, or Google or you can email us, the owners, Sara and Adam Farish.

Easter and the "Unprofessional" Bunny

I have been teaching a sewing class for 7 and 8 year old girls at our local kids activity center, an amazing place called the Funhouse.  It's this really cool place where kids can come and hang out, play, and learn.  This last class we made little bunnies for Easter and I decided to make one for my daughter and surprise her for Easter.  Last night as I put her to bed, she said "Mom, I love the bunny you made me more than the bunnies we buy at Ray's Pharmacy, do you know why?  It's just so unprofessional (read artisan) and full of love, I can just feel how much love you felt when you made it and the ones from the store just aren't the same".  I explained that when the store bunnies were made there were probably 1000's made at a time and she said, "Yeah, and they were just like careless with those bunnies.  They put no love in."

Wishing you a bunny full of love and a professional five year old to point it out!  Happy post easter bunny love...

Picnic Island : Orcas Island, Washington

Anyone know what a tombolo is?  Well it's quite nifty and we have one of our very own leading from the beach in front of the Inn to the little island that lies in front of it.  A tombolo is "a is a deposition landform in which an island is attached to the mainland by a narrow piece of land such as a spit or bar" (thank you wikipedia).  Our little tombolo is made of clam, oyster, and other shells and has a distinctive color variation from the beach.

 

This magical sand bridge that opens up at low tide is lots of fun with kids and yesterday as the sun shown in a truly spring like fashion, my five year old daughter Kiyomi and I grabbed a picnic and our rubber boots and went out to the island.  The Canadian geese are nesting on the island and we were surprised as we came along the path to find a nest with eight unhatched eggs, waiting for a warm mama to return.  We kept off the island after that, afraid we may have scared the mother goose away.   Exploring the edge of the island there were still many exciting discoveries, including orange and purple starfish clinging to the rocks and clams squrting all along the tombolo.  Orcas Island is so full of these incredible opportunities to be in nature, and they are made that much more magical when seen through the eyes of a child.  It's just steps from the front door of the Outlook Inn...and it's been too long since I enjoyed it.

hail & sunshine + photo shoot + webbie webbie website

Adam and I were having coffee at Enzo's this morning and looked out the window to find hail boucing off the cars outside.  It didn't last long and the sun came out just in time to bathe the New Leaf Cafe dining room in bright white sunshine for our photo shoot with Nate Feder.  When I began designing the "About Us" page for this website I realized we had so few pictures of Adam and I together, so today we sat and smiled and tried to get a good shot.  Modeling is hard work!   What do you think?

It's not the final shot, but I thought it was a cutie.  More to come...and perhaps some new photos of things around Orcas.  For now I'll leave you with this quick shot we grabbed at the end of the shoot with Chef Steve Debaste and General Manager Jon Kobayashi...what a happy bunch!