It began as a small boarding house in 1896 and now brags international awards for its cuisine and unhurried hospitality. This could be a public relations plug for a place, but it is a short story of the first (and only) time my daughter and I ate escargot.....
The Shelburne Inn and Bed & Breakfast in Seaview WA. boasts one of the best of the Pacific Northwest Regional restaurants, The Shoalwater Inn. With it's own organic garden and patio views, I had stayed there before, but this particular night was a departure for us, and a rainy and foggy one...and, it was New Year's Eve, I believe 1984. Loving the ocean year round, we had finished a walk in town and on the beach, and then found ourselves sitting at a corner table in the dining room of this period decorated old hotel at about 8:00pm. After the entrance, one passes the cozy hearth and sofas for visitors and wall plaques depicting the history of the building and town. There is a staircase leading up to rooms with comfy four posted feather beds and claw foot tubs.
There were holiday lights and decorations but only a few people sitting across the room from us. Carols were streaming from a speaker in the room. I remember sharing my glass of white wine with my daughter as the waitress served the appetizer order - Escargot !! It wasn't a dare, but rather that I had always been taught to try new things and was passing the idea on. With a bit of hesitation we took our first bites - expecting to swallow it whole, and for it to be slimy, or spit it out. Once I had tried overly cooked calamari and found it to be horribly rubbery and without taste. I was surprised to experience a mellow, tender, pleasing taste...a flavor all it's own. Alternately with the wine, needless to say, they went down smoothly with a few chews. We both were amazed at how delicious they were and knew then why they are considered a delicacy. I do not have their recipe, and they serve it only in certain seasons when snails are harvested in the area. The dish in the picture above is mushrooms stuffed with escargot (ours were seasoned in wine and I'm not sure what else, but alone) and sounds very tasty with bleu cheese and pecan sauce. Together with their cranberry bogs, kite and music festivals, the town draws quite a crowd all year long.
After our meal of clam chowder, shrimp dishes and salads, we waited for dessert. Time passed quickly by as low voices came from two other tables. At about 10:30pm, when we decided to leave, we were asked if we would like to stay for the New Year's party and, of course, said yes. Soon we were brought the shiny hats that strap under your chin with a rubber band and two noisemakers each...the horns to blow and the hand held kind you wave in the air that make a loud clanging noise. When they began the countdown to midnight, everyone, including the owners and staff, joined in to sing Auld Lang Synge...so we rang in the new year and rang out the old... with the 9 or so strangers in this dimly lit room. Everyone saluted one other. My daughter was 14 years old. Along came the cake and ice cream with sparklers, no less, and finally we said goodnight.
We awoke to a hearty sausage and egg breakfast with their freshly baked signature scones along with the jam, lemon curd and DevonShire cream, complimentary with a night's stay. We ate quietly, paid our compliments, and headed out into the blowing storm, ready to drive the 100 miles back home to Seattle and begin our new year. To this day, it is one of my fondest memories...and Mary's as well.