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 Haagen Dazs cups in the common room freezer.
Welcome to Cedarbrook Lodge, a mountain retreat right in the city of Seattle, WA.
Cedarbrook Lodge has been here for the better part of a decade … though it’s been open to the general public only since 2009.
It started as an executive retreat for Washington Mutual, which had somehow managed to score 18 untouched acres in the middle of a housing development within sight of Seattle Tacoma International Airport. It seemed logical, then, to be close to transport for WaMu folks coming in for meetings.
And then WaMu went belly up. And Wright Hotels got what must have been a really good deal.
The vibe here echoes the rustic remoteness of Salish Lodge, with a lofty post and beam, cedar accented lobby that drops to the cozy, 59-seat Copperleaf restaurant below.
Locally Sourced Dining
And the restaurant here is the star.
For half what you’d pay in many other quarters, my friend Kay and I spent three hours nibbling our way through a tasting menu that was a gourmet sampling of winter yumminess. (I’ll briefly run through the offerings, letting the images and their captions fill in the rest.)
We were seated in front of the fireplace, which was perfect, as outside the temperature was dipping into the 20s.
After a single bite palette-jumpstart that was a mini eggroll where grape jam, mushrooms and pine nuts managed to meld perfectly, we got down to the serious business.
Sweet and salt came together in a vanilla poached quince featuring squash, glazed Swiss chard and caramelized fennel on a gingerbread creme.
Then on to a crispy skin seabass for one of us, caramelized “diver” scallops for the other. Yes, of course, we shared. The fish was fork tender and thin with a wonderfully crunchy skin. The scallops, hand harvested by divers, would have made Gordon Ramsey proud. Perfectly seared with creaminess inside with a texture that reminded me (in a VERY good way) of bone marrow.
On to the meat. The dry aged Fallow venison (yes it’s a breed that is known for its fine texture and mild flavor) lived up to its reputation for its subtle flavor. It sat on “melted” shallots along with various other veggies and a huckleberry thyme jus.
We shared a pork tasting (oh yum! crispy pork belly) and a dry aged wagu beef which is the U.S. answer to Kobe. Yes, the animals are massaged and, if I remember hearing right through the haze of satisfied chewing, fed beer like its brethren in Japan.
I know we were supposed to drool over the caramelized pear crumb cake but by then, we were well into high digestion and I could only play with the toasted honey and sage ice cream.
Got to admit, though, I drank every drop of the Theo’s hot chocolate which came in a demitasse cup.
The other pleasant surprise was the price. No, this isn’t fast food, but to get a five-course, hand crafted, gourmet tasting menu with paired wine for each course (including dessert) runs $110 per person. There are places in the Seattle area where the food, alone, would cost that.
The wine, by the way, was perfect, each choice complementing the taste of the food and neither too much nor too little in quantity.
The pour was maybe two or three fingers per serving, which Kay dubbed a “splash taste.”
Copperleaf’s young chef, Mark Bodinet, a five-year veteran of Napa Valley’s famed French Laundry restaurant, tries to source his food within 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. And, OMG, their signature chestnut soup.
I had tried this soup once before. It’s a thick, creamy, subtly herbed puree that is beyond addictive.
There are also seasonally themed cocktails …”Thyme to Sparkle” in summer with sparkling wine, blackcurrant liqueur and of course, thyme. And for winter, “Smoky Bishop,” with apple cider, red wine, honey, orange peel and spices, all of which comes off somewhat like a mulled wine.
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), but land has already been earmarked for the new garden, whose greens and other veggies and some fruits (carrots, beets, lemongrass, mint, sage, strawberries) will supply about 15% of the daily menu offerings.
“We like to have the entire kitchen crew spend some time working in the garden,” said Culinary Director Roy Breiman, adding that it connects them to the land.
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, Bodinet added, the mushrooms are perfectly edible.
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, we sampled Cedarbrook’s spa, which was launching its own seasonally themed “menu.” We settled on the “Hot Toddy for the Body,” which was an exfoliation made of salt, cinnamon, orange and clove followed by a rain shower rinse. And the “Allure of Autumn Facial,” which combined honey, rosehip and orange peel into a relaxing face and head massage. Ahhh…
We stayed overnight, which meant we got to sample our wing’s “living room,” which is a lounge with large flat screen TV, a bar with gourmet malted milk balls and a fridge loaded with snacks that include the cups of Haagen Dazs.
And yes, there was that 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. Now that’s luxury. — by Yvette Cardozo, RFT Ski & Dive Editor
If You Go
A five course tasting menu with a vegetarian alternative is offered nightly for $75 and with wine pairings, is $110.
The new north wing was expected to open in January. For business meetings, the hotel’s star offering is a 120-seat tiered auditorium with Dolby-Digital Surround EX sound, large projection screen and stage lighting.