I first discovered Sleeping Lady Resort when Jack and I joined David for his general surgery retreat during his first year of post-graduate training. It is a blissful place tucked into the Cascade Mountains along the Icicle River, just outside of Leavenworth, just a few hours from Seattle. The serenity is amazing, but the thing that stood out the most during our visit was the amazing food being served at the resort. Many of the room packages include a buffet-style breakfast and dinner at the resort’s Kingfisher Restaurant and, while I am not typically too excited for buffets, I was wowed by the amazing quality and attention placed on the food here. On the resort property is a two acre organic garden where much of the produce and herbs used in the resort’s restaurants are grown. The farmers use both natural fertilizers, crop rotation, and environmentally beneficial insects like bees and ladybugs to maintain a healthy and sustainable garden. And, it is quite clear from observing the daily work in the garden and talking with staff about it, that it is quite the pride of Sleeping Lady. The culinary team visits the garden daily to harvest fresh ingredients and to plan for the resort’s daily changing menus.
When I was graciously presented with the opportunity to attend the late summer Harvest Dinner in Sleeping Lady’s organic garden, I, understandably, jumped at the chance! Not only do I respect the work of Sleeping Lady’s culinary team, I’ve always wanted to dine at an outdoor farm dinner like the beautiful ones hosted by Outstanding in the Field. The Harvest Dinner seemed like a perfect way to have the experience of dining in celebration of the chef, the farmer, and the land, yet without the tremendous cost.
This past Saturday, David and I enjoyed a beautiful evening and delicious meal. Rigby tagged along and not only garnered much attention for his cute babyness, but also behaved well, which allowed us to really enjoy our food. Before we even tasted the first bite, our evening started with the introduction to our delightful dining companions, Lori Vandenbrink, the Director of Sales and Marketing for Sleeping Lady, and her husband, Patrick. We instantly connected with Lori and Patrick and their company certainly made our dining experience that much more enjoyable. Lori and Patrick’s sweet son looked after Jack during the meal, making Jack’s night also very enjoyable. The funniest part of the evening was when one of the staff members politely interrupted our conversation to say that the boys were calling requesting the password to David’s iPad so that they could watch their promised movie! This made us feel like Sleeping Lady is truly a special community, one in which we were happily connected to for the night.
Settling into our seats at the end of a long table adorned simply with a white tablecloth, a burlap table runner and dotted with lanterns and colorful flowers from the garden, we enjoyed our beers and savored the perfect temperature as the sun dropped behind the mountains. On cue, the overhead garden bulb lights turned on, casting a beautiful glow as the feast began.
The first course consisted of three salads served family style and was, perhaps, my favorite course of the evening. The flavors were all so fresh and each bite a surprising burst of summer that seemed to explode in your mouth. I particularly loved the nuttiness of the faro from Bluebird Grain Farms that was combined so perfectly with sweet corn, perfect tomatoes, humble wax beans, and a delicious yet subtle coriander vinaigrette. Each bite was chewy and nutty and tasted like summer food should. As we were eating the salads, Lori looked at her plate and said, “I wondered how Josh (the executive chef of Sleeping Lady) was going to use the wax beans that I bought for him at the farmers market.” I loved that the dinner was truly a combined effort of the special communities of Sleeping Lady and Leavenworth. The other thing I have to mention about this course is the cucumber and radish salad. I normally am not a cucumber fan, but I could not stop taking bites of these cucumbers, which were so refreshing and crunchy and when I was lucky enough to get a piece of the garden grown mint on my fork, my taste buds delighted. So, so good.
The entrees were served buffet style which gave me the opportunity, while at the food table, to introduce myself to the executive chef, Joshua Holmes. He’s a down to earth guy and we connected over our southern pasts, particularly our connection to Atlanta. It was clear from his menu and from hearing him speak that he is passionate about using the produce and herbs from Sleeping Lady’s garden in his food. He also mentioned how excited he is for the opportunity to get out of the kitchen occasionally and to do events like this one which are more closely married to the source of the food.
There were two particular highlights of the entree course. The first was the braised and smoked country pork rack. In the best way, it tasted like a deliciously fatty campfire. Really, it was so perfectly smoked, so tender, so delicious. And, perhaps the most surprising dish of the night was the grilled eggplant with chimichurri. It was truly outstanding and tasted nothing like the eggplant I’ve attempted to grill at home.
Dinner closed with a vast spread of mini deserts and coffee from Grounds for Change. I loved the creamy caramel flavors of the creme brûlée, but what I was most taken with was the dessert I least wanted to taste…the pumpkin pie. I was not feeling ready to embrace the flavors of fall, but after tasting this pumpkin pie, I’m now feeling ready for the foods of this next season, particularly if they can taste even half that good. I cannot stop thinking about it! The crust was perfectly buttery and the pumpkin was rich, yet light, and tasted perfectly of cinnamon and nutmeg.
Sleeping Lady hosts Harvest Dinners a few times annually. If you get the chance, you should really go. I’m hoping for an opportunity to return this winter to try a meal at O’Grady’s, their newest full service restaurant where I hear the burgers are a big hit!
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