Washington’s Olympic Culinary Loop

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Photo © Laureen Haydock-Lund

by Laureen Haydock-Lund

FARM TO TABLE. It’s a well-worn phrase meant to clarify that food has come to the table directly, without passing through a market or handler. The term can get stretched, however, in the competitive restaurant world, in an effort to attract foodies who enjoy knowing where their food is coming from, whether it is farm to table, sea to table or forage to table.

That’s why an effort that’s been underway since 2009, less than two hours from Seattle, has become noticed. The Farm to Table movement is gaining momentum as authentic and sustainable in a region already known for its heritage and beauty—the Olympic Peninsula.

“The greater community is coming together as we build the Olympic Culinary Loop,” said Marketing Director Steve Shively. “It’s a movement to connect provisional, local and seasonal foods with people interested in a true Northwest dining experience.”

Covering an area that reaches from Shelton to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the variety of locally sourced ingredients is astonishing. Foraged mushrooms from the rainforest to handcrafted cider from the orchards; oysters from the Hood Canal to salmon from Puget Sound; cheese, lamb, gin, beef, wine, wild game, crab and the freshest seasonal produce available—all make the direct journey to the plate in record time.

A variety of lodging options are available from cabins to resorts and camping to hotels.

Before you head out, make sure to get the official Olympic Culinary Loop tour map, which includes more than 70 loop members. You can do the loop in sections on multiple day trips, or take several days to travel the more than 450 miles of the culinary route. Download a PDF or pick up a full color brochure at one of the local visitor centers. The tour highlights the tastes, sights and smells of Olympic Coast Cuisine, which reflects the diverse microclimates, coastal proximity and Native American heritage that characterize the Olympic Peninsula.

Choose to spend one or more of your days with the Olympic Peninsula Adventures tours aboard their luxury 12-seat van. OPA offers unique tours that include stops on the Culinary Loop as well as options to tour towns, rainforest or ocean beaches.

An example is the Fall Cider Tour that will have you tasting cider at three local craft cideries; Finnriver Farm in Chimacum, Alpenfire Orchards in Port Townsend and Eaglemount Wine and Cider of Port Townsend. You can build a custom tour, enjoy a private or group tour and make a day of it with these well-versed guides.
“Local chefs are choosing to be here,” said Shively. “Chefs are skilled at the best use of locally sourced and perfectly-in-season products. Producers help the kitchen and front-of-house staff understand the product they are working with and serving.”

Culinary Loop members and staff are working together to “connect the dots” and provide depth and substance to the effort.  One example is at Hardware Distillery in Hoodsport. Owner and Distiller Chuck Morris worked directly with the Hama Hama Oyster Company in Lilliwaup to have his barley smoked in their oyster smokers. “We take half the malted barley and smoke it in the Hama Hama smoker,” said Morris. “We then make a malt whiskey from the malt, then re-distill it with the botanicals to make it a gin.” The cold-smoking process creates a gin with a warm and subtle smoky flavor.

It’s a match made in heaven when residents, chefs and entrepreneurs are enthusiastic about eating and creating with local ingredients. You can find your own little piece of heaven, year-round, on the Olympic Culinary Loop.