PUBLIC WELCOME AT THE VERY PRIVATE CEDARBROOK LODGE

By Yvette Cardozo

We’re surrounded by 18 acres of trees and wetlands. Birds fly overhead. A pond reflects the glass and wood enclosed restaurant. And jumbo jets lumber into Seatac airport, hardly a mile away. This is NOT where you expect to find an upscale resort, complete with gourmet restaurant, pillow menus (more about that later) and a spa that features herbal services.

Yet, this place has been here for more than a decade ... though only open to the general public since 2009. When Washington Mutual insurance (WaMu) went belly up, Wright Hotels got what must have been a really good deal.

The vibe here echoes the rustic remoteness of Salish Lodge by picturesque Snoqualmie Falls, with a lofty post and beam, cedar accented lobby that drops to the cozy, 59 seat Copperleaf restaurant below. And the restaurant here is the star.

Copperleaf’s executive chef, Mark Bodinet, a five-year veteran of Napa Valley’s famed French Laundry restaurant, tries to source his food from a 100 mile or so radius. Greens come from area farms, as does much of the meat, poultry and fish. He also wants the menu to complement the season.

So spring/summer fare is lighter, with fresh peas, fava beans, baby turnips, an early season Yakima corn soup, baby spring lamb and so on. Winter dishes are heartier, featuring venison, beef, duck, pumpkin, squash, wild mushrooms, preserved wild berries. Along with their incredible, lusciously thick and creamy signature chestnut soup.

There are also seasonally themed cocktails ...”Thyme to Sparkle” in summer with sparkling wine, blackcurrant liqueur, gin, fresh lemon and of course, thyme. And for fall, “Cashmere Crisp,” with pear brandy, apple reduction, lemon juice and sparkling wine ... an autumn fruit cider with a kick.

My husband Bill and I spent three hours nibbling our way through a tasting menu that was a gourmet sampling of spring yumminess. We started with a Yakima Valley asparagus soup. First, a dish with a single deviled quail egg and a dollop of salmon roe with the tiniest asparagus spears I’ve ever seen. Warm soup was slowly poured over this, giving the dish a creaminess but with a solid tiny something to bite.

On to “the assortment” as we named the next dish ... butter poached morel mushrooms with a mini omelet wrapped around creamed nettles and a potato chive waffle. Each bit had its own personality and Bill, who normally won’t even look at mushrooms, decided he now has a mushroom he will not only eat but love.

The entrees were two-fold ... first, line caught wild halibut from Neah Bay on Washington’s northwest coast with strawberry preserves. The halibut had a crunchy crust that was NOT from breading but, rather, the result of just enough butter and just enough heat in the pan. And the mild fish went perfectly with the pickled ramp and fennel relish.

The second entree was what the menu called a Lummi Island Poulet Bleu.

“The chickens have blue legs,” our server explained, adding that they are free range. The chicken came wrapped in bacon, along with garlic gnocchi that had just enough character to stand up to the smoky bacon flavor.

Then a surprise ... a tiny bite of the kitchen’s wagyu beef from the upcoming summer menu. This is America’s answer to Japan’s famously marbled Kobe beef.  It’s fork tender with a flavor that spreads across your tongue. Yes, we both declared it the best beef we’d ever had.

A friend looked at our posting on Facebook and wondered if there had been enough to eat.

Um, yes.

By the time the bourbon marshmallow ice cream on a bed of Theo’s dark chocolate pudding, studded with caramel pecans arrived, all the two of us could do was stare. We’ll have to go back sometime and order that by itself.

The other surprise was the price. No, this isn’t fast food but a five course, hand crafted, gourmet tasting menu with paired wine for each course (including dessert) runs $130 per person. There are places I can name in the Seattle area where the food, alone, would cost that and forgoing the wine drops the price to $110.

Beyond the food, there’s the chef’s garden. The original garden gave way in 2014 to the hotel’s 68 room expansion (bringing the hotel room total to 167). The new garden sits in four raised beds, within sight of the restaurant’s patio. They hold a variety of herbs ... lavender, three varieties of thyme, lemon verbena and much more, along with veggies ... carrots, beets, squash, fava beans, assorted salad greens ... and strawberries.

This, said Culinary Director Roy Breiman, supplies about 15 percent of daily menu offerings in summer, along with a one week garden produce special, herbs for the cocktails and fruit for preserves.

Along the border are wildflowers that attract the bees and butterflies which pollinate the herbs and edible landscape (wild huckleberries, among others).

But, as they say, there’s more. The hotel prides itself on its impressive array of eco programs.

Of course, they compost. But there’s also the mushroom filtration project where brandywine mushrooms act as a natural filter for rain runoff. Yes, Breiman added, the mushrooms are perfectly edible, though they don’t really serve them to the guests.

Meanwhile, used cooking oil is recycled for biodiesel, roof rain runoff is filtered and reused to water the crops and, the one that totally blew my mind, they have a satellite activated watering system for crops and landscape which somehow can tell what’s dry so that sprinklers are turned on only where they’re needed.

Before dinner, I sampled Cedarbrook’s spa, which was launching its own seasonally themed “menu” they call “taste and touch.”

I got a rosemary mint salt scrub, which left me with baby smooth skin.

Coming in fall would be the heirloom tomato festival with spa treatments called “from your head to your tomatoes,” which, yes, include a tomato and olive oil exfoliation, along with a tomato and lime facial. All of which goes with the restaurant fall special, saffron tomato braised Spanish octopus.

Winter brings “spices of the season ... cardamom, nutmeg, vanilla, allspice, clove. There’s a cinnamon spice foot scrub…hot stone massage and honey-vanilla facial.

And come Valentine’s day there’s...wait for it...a hot cocoa and sugar exfoliation that is finished with a whipped cream body polish. The whipped lotion comes out of a can like, yes ..just like dessert.

Meanwhile, let’s not forget the pillow menu...seven offerings that run the gamut from duck and goose down through hypoallergenic duck feathers to poly and buckwheat, along with, if you wish, herb scented pillow covers.

You can, by the way, buy one of these on the spot and have it shipped to your home.        

INFO

A five course tasting menu at Cedarbrook Lodge is $110, with wine pairings, is $130.

The north wing that opened in 2015 focuses on business meetings with a 120 seat tiered auditorium with Dolby-Digital Surround EX sound, large projection screen and stage lighting.

Thanks to its proximity to Seattle’s airport, Cedarbrook Lodge attracts corporate meetings from around the world. But it is also popular as a get-away for locals, a place for folks with early flights out and also, visitors coming in for cruises who want to arrive a day early and/or stay a day extra.

The Fifth Annual Heirloom Tomato Festival is Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016.

Contact www.cedarbrooklodge.com

Photo Diary: https://goo.gl/photos/HEmKPyhtPCHMDfWr9

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