Friday Harbor Restaurant, Island Grown Cuisine with a Mediterranean Flair

My Trip to Paris on Global Cuisine Night!

Paris nightI have been blogging so much about our Global Cuisine nights that I simply couldn’t do any more without having experienced one for myself. So, that’s exactly what I did on Nov. 27.

I was dining solo; I was, after all, on assignment (poor me, getting paid to eat delicious food!) and didn’t want anyone to distract me from focusing on my plate. As I sat down and read the menu for that night’s Parisian theme, I realized that tonight’s dinner would be, for me, an exercise in culinary bravery. There were a couple of items I have either not cared for in the past or never tried at all!

My waitress was Michelle. She was polite and softspoken; quiet at first, but with a radiant smile that appeared again and again as we chatted. She was attentive throughout the night, but didn’t hover – a perfect balance. We had quite a few laughs. I was also delighted to note that both Dave and Anna Maria (your trusty innkeepers) were in the house, hard at work waiting on their guests, when most owners would undoubtedly be relaxing at home on Thanksgiving Eve.

Anna Maria, hard at work as always

Anna Maria, hard at work as always

The atmosphere inside the restaurant was intimate yet friendly; I didn’t feel like I was intruding on other diners’ experiences, but still felt as if I could reach over and ask them how they liked their food if I wished. The lighting was perfect for the mood, as was the music – light fare, pleasant but non-intrusive. The staff was always careful to open the sliding doors into the kitchen gently so as not to disturb diners.

It was a full house, even the night before Thanksgiving. The vast majority of the patrons were choosing to try the Parisian menu; it made me smile to see that Global Cuisine is such a hit. By the time my first of four courses arrived, I was too excited to eat to be afraid of all the foreign flavors!

Of course, before I go into them, I need to mention the special amuse-bouche that Chef Bill Messick had prepared especially for us Parisian diners. It was a generous helping of cannellini beans, which had been sautéed in butter, white wine, garlic and parsley, on top of a crispy, buttery crostini. Crostini was to be a player in every main course, which I was thrilled about – who doesn’t enjoy a light, flaky bite of bread?

Smoked salmon rillettes with roasted beets and mixed green salad

Smoked salmon rillettes with roasted beets and mixed green salad

Then the Hors d’oueves arrived. This was the first item I was a bit worried about, as it was fish; I am a staunch avoider of most anything that comes from the sea. So I took a deep breath and “dove in!” The smoked salmon rillettes offered an almost tuna-like texture, with mixed herbs on crostini – it was not nearly as “fishy” as I’d expected, and I actually quite enjoyed it. Next came roasted beets alongside a mixed green salad; beets are another thing I’m not a huge fan of, but these were so crunchy and flavorful that I eagerly mixed them into my greens and practically inhaled the whole thing.

The soup arrived next. It was French onion. I love the flavor of onions, but the actual veggie in its original form, not so much. (Boy, I am picky!) The big delight for me with this soup was the crostini that was floating atop it; it had amazing Gruyere cheese baked into the top, and the soup trickled into the air holes of the bread, creating flavor pockets. The broth was bursting with warmth; wonderfully soothing on such a chilly night.

Roasted duck breast with Duchess potatoes and winter vegetables

Roasted duck breast with Duchess potatoes and winter vegetables

Finally, the moment I had quite honestly been dreading arrived – it was time for me to sample a meat I have literally never tasted. As is appropriate in Paris, the entree was roasted duck breast. I lifted a forkful into my mouth…and was blown away! The meat was fork tender with a seasoned, peppery crust. I grudgingly took home about half of it for my boyfriend, who loves duck; I could have eaten it all myself. The sides were equally impressive. A duchess potato is essentially a high-end hash brown (and who doesn’t love hash browns)? It was crispy on the outside and melt-in-your-mouth tender on the inside. The hearty winter vegetables – squash, carrots and kale – were coated in a sweet glaze, and the kale was honestly the best I’ve ever had. Kale is a tough sell for most; I enjoy it in its baby form, but not normally in any other. This kale was cooked so perfectly that it was crunchy, and somehow brought out only the best of the flavor.

Mouthwatering apple tarte tatin!

Mouthwatering apple tarte tatin!

And then came dessert, which frankly, I think I earned with all of my bravery! It was a wonderful apple tarte tatin with a caramelized top. I’m of the firm belief that caramelizing anything makes it more delicious, and that belief was heavily supported here. The crust was light and buttery, and my slice was topped with a super-light whipped mousse and a dash of cinnamon. I want more now, just writing about it!

Of course, I can’t let this review come to a close without mentioning the wine that I chose to go along with my meal. I asked Michelle for her recommendation of something that would keep with the Parisian theme; she returned with a glass of Viognier, direct from France! I was thrilled, having never had authentic French wine before that I know of. It was a softer-style white, not particularly sweet; but it had a remarkable smoothness and slowly warmed me from the inside as I sipped it. It was the perfect complement to every dish.

Nancy Wright, Joel Hamilton, and Mary Jo Hamilton enjoy their meal during a Thanksgiving getaway

Nancy Wright, Joel Hamilton, and Mary Jo Hamilton enjoy their meal during a Thanksgiving getaway

In between courses, I was fortunate enough to chat with some fellow diners. Nancy Wright was from Port Angeles, and she had brought her dear friends, Joel and Mary Jo Hamilton, from Idaho to enjoy Thanksgiving together and catch up. The trio had rented a cabin on the island for three days. They were quick to make sure I knew that the French onion soup was outstanding, and each had chosen something different off the menu so they could sample one another’s choices. They all agreed, upon receiving their entrees, that the food was so beautifully plated, it was almost a shame to eat – almost!

Come out to Coho and see for yourself, especially on Wednesdays, when we will venture to another international city. After a small break to recover from Thanksgiving, we will return on December 18 with a trip to Berlin. We hope to see you there!


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