There’s a bit of a wait at the Alder Wood Bistro, in Sequim, Washington, even on a weekday evening, and I can see why. It’s a perfect sunny evening, and the outdoor courtyard is open for al fresco dining.
During my wait, I poke my head into the courtyard. It’s a green oasis with leafy trees, variegated green foliage just at the edge of downtown Sequim. The alliums and chives are flowering purple. It’s just a lovely evening to sit outside. Yet indoors is just as full, and its patrons are just as happy. The walls are saturated lemon, sage and burgundy with plenty of local art, most for sale.
Since I got to town, people have been recommending Alder Wood Bistro. “Everything is just so fresh.” “You’ve got to have the pizza.” “They get everything locally, from small farms and companies, including the meat and fish,”
Everywhere you turn in Washington State’s North Olympic Peninsula, you see local farm products, farmer’s markets and farm stands. The people here are serious about “fresh.” Since Day One, Alder Wood’s Chef Gabriel and his wife and partner, Jessica, have been committed to using locally-sourced food. Today, they work with more than 20 local growers and purveyors.
Local Beer, Wine, and Food
The restaurant features great local beers on tap and the wine list is well selected, including wines from Olympic Peninsula winemakers and other excellent Washington vineyards. I enjoy a glass of Wind Rose Cellars’ Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Wind Rose is a local winemaker and, the day before, I’d tasted their wine at their downtown Sequim location.
I started with the bread plate that includes a house made focaccia and a seeded grain bread from local baker, Pane d’Amore, that’s served with red pepper garbanzo bean dip. The calamari salad is a mix of lightly breaded and fried calamari, mixed with pickled peppers from Mama Lil’s, fresh herbs, and kaffir lime vinaigrette. The pickled peppers really made the salad pop.
I must try the wood-fired pizza and opted for the Funghi Bianca. It was topped with oyster, shiitake and crimini mushrooms, prosciutto, morel-creme fraiche, caramelized onions, mozzarella and fresh mixed greens. I loved the saltiness of the ham, the sweetness of the crème fraiche, the smokiness and texture of the mushrooms, and the crispiness of the crust. There was a light garnish of fresh calendula and chive flowers and radish shavings. I won’t be able to replicate the crust at home, but will try to make a variation on the delicious toppings.
When I expressed approval about the pizza to my server, she nodded and laughed, “The wood-fired oven is not for decoration.”
The oven makes fabulous pizza crusts, but apparently it’s also used for searing meat, vegetables and bread.
One of the dinner specials at Alder Wood is Salmon et Merguez, local grilled king salmon served with Uli’s Merguez sausage, apricot-chanterelle-sweet corn sauté, grilled Nash’s goat cheese polenta and sautéed greens. That’s a mouthful to say, and each mouthful tasted better than the last. The salmon was moist and had just the right smokiness from the grill. It was topped with sautéed chanterelles and a smattering of fresh corn. The polenta was out of this world, slightly crispy on the outside and soft and moist inside, with kernels of embedded whole corn. I could have made a meal just of the polenta. Well, maybe the polenta and the Swiss chard, which was cooked with julienned carrots and tasted like it had been picked that morning. The sausage, sourced from Uli’s in Seattle’s Pike’s Market, pulled all the flavors together with a spicy nuttiness.
Gabriel and Jessica Schuenemann have been in business eight years. They converted this old house into their restaurant, adding the garden space six years ago. Jessica looked back on how much they’ve learned and said, “I get to do this with Gabriel, and I share his passion for fresh food from the area. We compost; we fill only one can of garbage a week. We’re happy with what we’re doing.”
And Alder Wood Bistro’s customers—including me–are happy as well. — Story and photos by Nancy Zaffaro, Wines, Brews, & Spirits Editor Northwest
If You Go:
Alder Wood Bistro, www.alderwoodbistro.com