BY LIS DAVID
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
May 25, 2016
Driving through Bayview Corner, you may have seen the signs for dinner and cooking classes or Ebb Tide Produce’s farm stand at what looks like a residential home and farmstead. I advise you to stop, pick up some produce, write down the phone number to the restaurant and book a reservation for Orchard Kitchen. You’ll thank me later.
Orchard Kitchen, restaurant of Tyla and Vincent Nattress, has an assortment of dining experiences, which keep it fresh and evergreen: farm-to-table dinners, cooking and wine classes and In the Field dinners during the summer.
Orchard Kitchen sits on the historic Grimm family farm, which the Nattresses purchased in 2011, in a beautiful bucolic setting on South Whidbey. Upon arrival, guests receive greetings from the chirping chicks, the cackling turkeys and the laughing goats amidst red-painted barns and five acres of beautiful land cared for by Ebb Tide Produce.
The dining room is a friendly atmosphere: a bar, like a chef’s table, overlooks the cooks and large wooden farm tables surround the kitchen. Seating is family-style, so guests feel as if they are at a dinner party. An open kitchen makes for a show as guests watch Chef Vincent artfully prepare the meal. French Doors act as portholes to the farm where diners can daydream of how the carrot on their plate started its life in the field. The walls are garnished with large paintings of farm animals by the restaurant’s server and in-house artist Laura Hudson.
Vincent Nattress takes inspiration “from what’s fresh” for farm-to-table dinners with a menu that changes weekly to encourage a longing to return. The bill-of-fare is a celebration of the Pacific Northwest in which the diner has a personal connection to the land on Whidbey Island and our region. Ingredients are often sourced from Ebb Tide Produce, Willowood Farms, Glendale Shepherd, Penn Cove Shellfish and many more local farmers, ranchers, fisherman and producers.
On a recent visit for a spring dinner at Orchard Kitchen, our dinner was started with a warm welcome from Tyla Nattress who led an amiable service throughout our meal. There is one menu for the evening—no choices except whether to order a bottle of wine, beer or Tyla’s suggested wine pairing on the menu. The idea is to sit back, relax and enjoy the show.
Clinking wine glasses brought guests to attention as Chef Vincent took us through the meal for the evening with a description of his creation. The feast commenced with a parade of passed amuses bouche (French for “mouth pleaser” or “small bites”). A server swooped in with mini glasses of chilled Ebb Tide carrot soup with herb oil; a dish has never tasted so carrot. Next we chowed on a bite of a salad with fish and herbed crème fraîche on homemade tortilla chips.
For the first course, platters of butter lettuce mounded with baby beets, walnuts from the farm and creamy Big Boy Blue cheese. Next came a taste of the Salish Sea with pan-seared halibut accompanied by buttery melted leeks, spring’s first stinging nettle purée and a spot prawn reduction that had me in full restraint to keep from licking my plate. The third savory course was fresh pappardelle with homemade guanciale (or cured jowl), morels from Oregon and kale raab. Oh, the morels and nettles; the menu sang the first signs of spring. And dessert: bright and zingy Meyer lemon curd tart with pillows of meringue atop almond shortbread. Finally, yes there was more: chocolate truffle for our mouths to give a proper farewell to a remarkable dinner.
As if dinner isn’t enough to continue drawing people back, Orchard Kitchen offers wine and cooking classes for a different experience. Class themes range from egg, brunch, braising and knife skills; the list goes on.
Attending a rosé wine class, I learned the different production styles and flavor nuances of nine different wines from around the globe. During the class, each wine was tasted and carefully studied through our noses and palettes for a flavor profile. We were given information sheets on each wine we tasted. The Nattresses have a deep knowledge of wine and food and are natural teachers, leaving students well-informed.
Classes end with a meal where students raise a glass to a lesson well-learned. For our class, brunch of their farm eggs with hollandaise, house-made gravlax, asparagus and morels paired ever so perfectly with the refreshing blush wines.
The couple brings a wealth of knowledge from their extensive careers in the hospitality industry. Vincent Nattress has studied in Michelin-starred restaurants in the south of France. He has been the Winery Chef for notable vineyards in Napa such as Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Robert Sinskey Vineyards; he was also the executive chef for Meadowood Napa Valley.
Together the Nattresses owned Roux, a critically acclaimed restaurant in St. Helena and have also owned catering companies.
Tyla Nattress has had a long stint working in fine dining and at wineries. She has worked in the lab at the praised Robert Mondavi Winery, at the tasting room for the Miner Family Winery and in the cellar at Felton Road winery in New Zealand.
With all this experience comes more offerings at Orchard Kitchen: In the Field events create an al fresco touch to dining on Whidbey. Farm-to-table does not get more authentic than sitting alongside rows of crop. In the Field dinners occur every other Saturday after Fourth of July. Farm dinners are Fridays and Saturdays for one seating at 7 p.m., adding Thursday to the calendar from the first week of July through September. Classes are Saturday and Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m.; see the calendar on their website for more information at www.orchardkitchen.com.
Chef Vincent Nattress said he thinks the restaurant’s ace is location: “I think the setting is what makes us different—the fact that you are on the farm whether it is classes or dinners [and that] we’re so focused on the ingredients.” Whidbey Island residents are lucky to have a bounty of local foods from land stewards, artisans and craftspeople. Orchard Kitchen recognizes this abundance by creating a menu that tastes like the garden and a dining experience that is as welcoming as having a feast with friends.
Lis David is writing, eating and drinking her way from one end of Whidbey Island to the other. She developed her passion for writing about food and beverage by working in restaurants and on farms in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Spain and Ireland.
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