The Tastes of Bainbridge Island, Washington

Photo © Hitchcock

By Allen Cox

Visiting an island like Bainbridge, a 30 minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle, can be a dilemma. So many outstanding restaurants, so little time.

My solution on a recent trip was to make a day of it—hours of sampling in the course of a 3-block browse, a progressive blur of bites that lasted from mid-morning to an early dinner. I emerged sated—and duly impressed. There is no doubt that farm to fork is fundamental here, and they do it well. Even if you are pondering a trip to Bainbridge Island with only one restaurant in mind, drop everything and go. You can hit the others eateries on your return visits.

Before you go, check the website of Intentional Table, downtown Bainbridge’s go-to gourmet mercantile and cooking school. If they are hosting a class or culinary event the day of your visit, register for it (tip: check in advance–these frequent gatherings sell out). Their Lunchtime Learning cooking classes are a creative and delicious way to pass the lunch hour.

If you arrive on Bainbridge in the morning, go straight to Blackbird Bakery. When confronted with Blackbird’s pastry case, making a decision is no small matter. You’re sure to find a favorite, but if you need a nudge, go for the Brioche Cinnamon Roll and your morning beverage of choice.

Not able to reserve Lunchtime Learning at Intentional Table? Don’t despair. Across the street sits one of the best delis in the Northwest: Hitchcock Deli, famous for a menu of house-made charcuterie that can even make a vegan salivate. Order a sandwich made with their charcuterie, such as the Cuban or the Lazio (both starring Hitchcock’s own porchetta) or the Martino (with house-made sweet Italian sausage).

When it’s time to refresh your palate, head to Mora Iced Creamery. If you doubt that eating ice cream can be a transcendent experience, you owe yourself a visit. This establishment has garnered consistent critical acclaim since inception, for good reasons. Details make the difference: small-batch crafted in Mora’s own creamery with fresh, wholesome ingredients and then frozen in individual, temperature-controlled compartments. Sample flavors to your heart’s content until you settle on one that’s perfect for you.

Fortunately, downtown Bainbridge has plenty of spots for strolling between meals. Take a walk to the Marina District or to Waterfront Park and Trail or simply kill some time boutique and gallery browsing.

When it’s time for dinner, three island headliners each serve up their own style of Northwest cuisine.

Hitchcock (the separate restaurant near the deli) owner and chef Brendan McGill, James Beard Award Semi-finalist for Best Chef, Northwest, transforms farmed, foraged and fished ingredients into eye- and palate-pleasing dishes with the help of an applewood-fired oven in the casual atmosphere of a reclaimed bowling alley.

Restaurant Marché’s Chef Greg Atkinson prefers a French twist on Northwest fare. The a la carte dinner menu includes several small plates, salads and plats du jour at market price. Here, you can dine in the delightful mid-century modern bistro or ask for patio seating where you can watch Bainbridge Island life pass by. Tip: Marché’s wild king salmon with rhubarb-ginger compote is an island favorite.

For islanders in a particularly romantic mood or celebrating a special occasion, Four Swallows Restaurant is the place to go; savvy visitors follow their lead. This place has it all: a reclaimed historic farmhouse, intimate atmosphere, uber-professional staff and flawless preparations and presentations from the craft cocktails and appetizers to the entrees and desserts.

Transportation tip: Downtown Bainbridge is small—everything is within walking distance of the ferry terminal. If you are a ferry passenger and your plans don’t extend beyond downtown, you can leave the car in Seattle. If you drive to the island, you can easily park downtown amid the action if you’re mindful of the parking limits.

If you plan to spend the night, reserve a suite at The Eagle Harbor Inn, a delightful boutique hotel located downtown.

Recipe:

Orange, Almond & Olive Oil Cake 

This Italian-inspired cake, baked with a fruity, high-quality extra virgin olive oil, is simple, light-textured and delicious. Makes 12 servings. Recipe courtesy of Intentional Table, Bainbridge Island, WA.

Ingredients

6 oz. blanched almonds

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. baking powder

4 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar

Zest of 1 medium orange

Juice of 1 medium orange
(about 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Oil a 9-inch springform pan with olive oil.

2. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the almonds until finely ground, similar to bread crumbs (but leave a few pieces of more coarsely ground nuts for texture). Combine the ground almonds, flour and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside.

3. With the electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs in a large bowl until frothy. Slowly add the sugar and beat the mixture thoroughly until it is light, thick and lemon colored. Using a spatula, gradually fold in the flour mixture and then the orange zest, juice and olive oil, mixing just to combine.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool and remove the sides of the pan. Place on serving platter and sprinkle with powdered sugar in a decorative pattern. Excellent served with fresh berries.

When you go:

>> Bainbridge Island Downtown Association has an online map at bainbridgedowntown.org.

>> Intentional Table, 124 Madrone Lane, intentionaltable.com

>> Blackbird Bakery, 210 Winslow Way E., blackbirdbakery.com

>> Mora Iced Creamery, 139 Madrone Lane, moraicecream.com

>> Hitchcock Deli & Charcuterie, 129 Winslow Way E., hitchcockdeli.com  

>> Hitchcock, 133 Winslow Way E., #100, hitchcockrestaurant.com

>> Restaurant Marché, 150 Madrone Lane, restaurantmarchebainbridge.com

>> Four Swallows Restaurant, 481 Madison Ave. N., fourswallows.com

>> The Eagle Harbor Inn, 291 Madison Avenue S., theeagleharborinn.com