Traveling, even in the Great Pacific Northwest can be—intriguing—if one is vegan. Sometimes the food is good, other times not so much. This week we are at Alderbrook Resort and Spa on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State.
Now, we probably wouldn’t have plumped for such a fancy getaway, but my husband has a conference there, and what with him not driving right now, I am along as chauffeur.
Anyway, the restaurant, like most here in the Northwest, does offer a few vegan entrees and I have been well (if unusually) fed.
I will get to the unusual part in a minute.
This place is built in the style of a Timber Chalet, but it wasn’t always so elegant. It was begun in 1909 by Henry Stumer, a Seattle business owner. He had previously owned the Hotel Stumer in Union City (now Union, WA). He and his friends at Seattle’s Swedish Club bought several parcels of beachfront property just east of Union City. The resort is situated on the fjord known as Hood Canal, which is a part of Puget Sound.
It’s a fjord, not a canal, so why they named it that, I don’t know. But there it is, one more thing our pioneering ancestors have to answer for.
Stumer built tent cabins out of frames covered in black and orange striped canvas. They had no windows or electricity, only a wood stove for heat and cooking. The creek running through the property was used for refrigeration.
There was no road when Alderbrook opened in 1913, so guests arrived by boat from Union City or on horseback.
Alderbrook went through many iterations over the years, including a hotel. In 1959, Wes Johnson, a Hood Canal realtor from Hoodsport purchased the Alderbrook Inn. Johnson’s redevelopment plans included an indoor swimming pool, marina, 18-hole golf course, and 70-room hotel. To finance the redevelopment, Johnson sold the vacation cottages individually.
Zoom forward in time to 2022, and Alderbrook Resort is a posh palace for those with money to burn. Greg’s wallet is on fire! So much to do, so many ways to spend money, and so little time. The staff here is marvelous, and there are many activities for families. They have a fabulous spa, a high-end restaurant, yacht tours of Hood Canal, and numerous trails for hiking.
But I’m not into spa treatments, for which my husband’s budget is grateful. It’s peaceful and pleasant to just sit on my balcony and observe the waterfront and the forest around us. I have done quite a bit on my writing projects while visiting here.
I’ve spent a lot of time (and $$$) in the restaurant, where I have terrific views of the activities of my fellow guests.
I’ll just say I’ve seen some stuff worthy of a novel. Here is one people-watching moment that sticks out:
The man and the baby: We arrived on Sunday afternoon. We sat at a romantic table for two for our first dinner, overlooking the beach. It’s the Pacific Northwest, so people come dressed for January in June (or June-uary as June is known here). The lawn chairs were full of guests lounging in their summer finery of Gore-Tex and wool, ignoring the intermittent misty rain and drinking steaming coffees. Off to one side was a young man sitting alone. Beside him was the fanciest baby pram I’ve ever seen.
Seated above it all in the restaurant, I had ordered grilled cauliflower. I was not disappointed in the quality of that entrée. It was seasoned perfectly, with just the right amount of tenderness, and was a delicious, satisfying dinner.
I just happened to look up from my meal in time to see the young man wheel the pram to the side of an enclosed area, park it, and walk away. This baby was very tiny, not more than a month old.
That was not a happy moment for me, as you don’t do that here in the US. I later discovered that the enclosure is an outdoor coffee bar on weekends, but I didn’t know it then. Here in America, you never leave a baby or small child unattended in a public place, whether outdoors or in a car. People will assume it’s been abandoned and call the police and Child Protective Services.
The longest five minutes I’ve ever lived passed while I watched that baby carriage like the hawk-eyed grandma that I am. Then a young man emerged from the coffee bar with a steaming cup. He walked to the pram, placed his cup in the cupholder, and pushed the baby out of my visual range.
I’m a terrible witness. I couldn’t remember if it was the same young man, but they both had red jackets. The author in me went into overload. Perhaps the baby was a doll, and I had witnessed a spy transaction, two men handing off secrets. Or maybe it was a big-time drug deal.
Ooh, the possibilities. Now, if Ellen King Rice will only write that novel!
So back to the food.
On Monday, I decided to be adventurous. I thought I would try the spring salad with fresh peas, pea vines, fennel, watermelon radishes, and a champagne vinaigrette. I had never thought of eating pea vines, but I’m not afraid to try new things.
That was … interesting. The vinaigrette was divine, and the peas and radishes were delicious, as were the dandelion greens. Unfortunately, while the pea vines were good, they were difficult to get into my mouth without embarrassing myself.
Somehow, I had thought the vines would be cut to a manageable size, but alas, they were five to eight inches long and wiry. Not only that, but they were impossible to cut with the lovely silver flatware set so neatly beside our plates.
I tried wadding them up into little bales and pitchforking them as one might do spinach, but they sprang apart before I could get them into my mouth. Vinaigrette splattered all over my face and glasses.
I had been raised with manners, so I wiped my face with the white linen napkin and soldiered on.
I tried twirling them around a fork – with the same result.
I ended up leaving most of it on my plate, something I rarely ever do.
This supports my experience that punishment food is on the menu in the most unlikely places and is often labeled vegan. Usually, it’s soggy eggplant or limp portobello mushrooms, which are much easier to get into your mouth than my elegant pea vine salad was.
Today we are on our way home, where we will indulge in budget-friendly home-cooked meals and other economies for a few weeks to make up for this splurge.
And next Monday, here on Life in the Realm of Fantasy, we will delve into some of my favorite books and see how the authors employed themes to emphasize atmosphere and unite the threads of their stories.
Credits and Attributions:
Baby Pram, Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Kimball BostonDirectory 1868.png,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Kimball_BostonDirectory_1868.png&oldid=463698022 (accessed June 14, 2022).
Map of Hood Canal, Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Locmap-hoodcanal-ss.png,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Locmap-hoodcanal-ss.png&oldid=449541623 (accessed June 14, 2022).
Peas and vines, Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Doperwt rijserwt peulen Pisum sativum.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Doperwt_rijserwt_peulen_Pisum_sativum.jpg&oldid=483824040 (accessed June 14, 2022).