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A Southern Touch: Chef Calesa Introduces the Winter Menu at bin on the lake

Authentic Southern cuisine is a rarity in the Pacific Northwest. So at The Woodmark, where our seafood is regional and the views distinctly Washington, Southern-inspired dishes like shrimp and grits are a welcome addition to the curated menu at bin on the lake.

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The Southern offerings come from Sous Chef Natasha Calesa, a native of Charleston, South Carolina who has always been drawn to the Seattle area. Upon her arrival in May 2016, she began filling our kitchens with Southern essentials like collard greens, pimento cheese croquettes, and brown sugar bourbon sauce over Berkshire pork chops – making us reevaluate our idea of comfort food.

The classic yet refined recipes join regional favorites like oysters on the half shell and wild king salmon for an encompassing culinary experience at bin on the lake. (The restaurant also offers more than 40 wines by the glass, showcased artistically on the wall and in the innovative wine storage system, and is a recipient of Wine Spectator’s Award-Winning Wine List Award of Excellence.)

Accompanying the food and warm, sophisticated atmosphere are stunning vistas of Lake Washington and the mountains, which are visible from every table due to the restaurant’s horseshoe shape. It’s all very unlike the South, Chef Natasha notes, saying, “Charleston is known as the low country. We don’t have any mountains. Out here – it’s so beautiful.”

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But the scenery isn’t all that inspires her. When it came to creating the winter menu, Chef Natasha decided to cook what she knew, infusing each dish with Southern flavor while keeping in mind seasonal ingredients from the Pacific Northwest. The young chef believes that her recipes are representative of what you would find in the South, finding inspiration in homey classics and saying “Southern is simple.”

Perhaps her most well-known dish – said even to be the restaurant’s new signature dish – is the shrimp and grits, made with andouille sausage, Cajun cream sauce, and scallions. Appropriately, it is her favorite dish to prepare (“It’s so Charleston, and it reminds me of home”). But she also loves traditional collard greens and the relaxing feeling that comes with cooking them in Washington (“Even though I’m far from home, I’m not too far”).

The Southern fare has gone over well with Chef Natasha’s guests, who are generally surprised to see it on the menu and often ask where the chef originated.

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As the seasons change, bin on the lake will debut new menu items in keeping with what is locally and sustainably sourced (Not to mention several other exciting developments, like live musicians in the coming year). But Chef Natasha expects the Southern influence to remain. Those reminders of home have become an inherent part of her cooking style, even in the ever-changing kitchen at bin on the lake – where the bustling nature of the job motivates the culinary team.

“Ultimately, it’s the challenge that drives me when I cook,” she says. “You never know what you’re going to walk into every day. It’s always different, which is one of the best things about it.”

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A Seattle Gift Guide - Experience the Emerald City

When it comes to holiday gift-giving, few gifts can beat the promise of quality time spent together with friends, family, and loved ones. Just as few cities can beat the widespread experiences of Seattle, brimming with world-class art and entertainment, inspired cuisine, and all the spectacular natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

So in the spirit of the season, we have combined the two into an experiential gift guide perfectly compatible with your holiday getaway to The Woodmark. Here are our top gifts of the season:

A Culinary Tour of Pike Place Market

Savor Seattle Pike Place Market Food Tour

Photo: Savor Seattle

Discover the rich flavors and incredible culture of one of Seattle’s greatest attractions. On the Signature Food Tour of Pike Place Market, Savor Seattle leads guests to seven market vendors to taste sweet and savory pastries, famous cheddar cheese, crab cakes, and other delicacies. On the 2-hour tour—including 16 tastings—you will meet the market’s characters, learn about throwing fish, see cheese being made, and hear the secrets behind the first Starbucks store.

$42

A Day at the Spa

The Woodmark Hotel and Still Spa in Kirkland near Seattle Washington

At Still Spa, our luxurious face and body rituals and targeted therapeutic treatments are the perfect gift for anyone on your holiday list. Our signature massage, the Bliss Massage, uses aromatherapy and intentional vibrational oils to soothe the body, while the Aroma Design Bar Customized Journey allows guests to create a unique blend of organic, wild-crafted essential oils for the massage. As a bonus, guests can even take the product home after the massage. For facials, look to our Intraceutical and Circadia treatments.

Prices vary

Lift Tickets

The Summit at Snoqualmie ski mountain near Seattle Washington

Photo: The Summit at Snoqualmie

Between the Cascade and Olympic Mountains, there are incredible opportunities for skiing and snowboarding within an hour and a half of Seattle. At The Summit at Snoqualmie, the closest ski mountain at 52 miles east of the city, there are nearly 2,000 acres of skiable terrain, more than 500 acres of backcountry trails, and a terrain park with a superpipe. Other nearby ski mountains are Stevens Pass, 82 miles northeast of Seattle, and Crystal Mountain, 82 miles southeast in Mount Rainier National Park.

Adult full-day tickets starting at $66

A Chocolate Tasting

Savor Seattle Chocolate Indulgence Tour

Photo: Savor Seattle

Seattle is famous for coffee, but many visitors may not know of the rich chocolate history that is reflected today in the 50 plus chocolatiers across the city. From decadent cheesecake to truffles to lemon pepper white chocolate, the delicacy can be enjoyed best on the Chocolate Indulgence Tour with Savor Seattle. The 2-hour experience takes visitors to talented chocolatiers like Cupcake Royale, Chocolate Box, Dahlia Bakery, and indi chocolate for 15 plus tastings and some expert insight into Seattle’s chocolate culture.

$52 

Snowshoeing the Pacific Northwest

Snowshoeing in Washington

One of the most inspiring ways to see Washington in the winter is on a snowshoe trek, and with the US Forest Service, there is the added bonus of learning about the ecology of the environment. From January to March, rangers lead Guided Snowshoe Walks through the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, visiting stunning locations such as Snoqualmie Pass and Stevens Pass. Snowshoes and poles are provided. 

$15 – 25

A Seattle Cooking Class

The Pantry cooking classes in Seattle Washington

Photo: Aran Goyoaga

Located on the corner of 70th St. and Alonzo Ave., The Pantry was born from a family of friends with a true love of food. A self-dubbed community kitchen, the Seattle favorite is known for bringing people together with five-course family-style dinners, food swaps, and culinary camps for children. Perhaps best of all are their cooking classes, which cover everything from Contemporary Comfort Food to The Persian Kitchen. The classes tend to book up quickly (often months in advance), so make sure to plan ahead.

Prices vary

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