SEATTLE Through culinary innovations at its three inns in the San
Juan Islands, Columbia Hospitality is making sure that guests know
they’re in the Pacific Northwest.
The Seattle-based company oversees the 26-room Inn at Langley on
Whidbey Island, 26-unit Resort at Deer Harbor on Orcas Island and
20-room Friday Harbor House on San Juan Island, along with various
group facilities in Washington.
According to Bret Matteson, Columbia Hospitality’s chief
operating officer, the firm is focusing heavily on creating
exceptional food and beverage experiences at its trio of
“All of the restaurants at our inns try to use local ingredients
and specialties from each of the islands, including meats, cheeses
and especially seafood,” Matteson said. “Having some of the best
culinary experiences in the San Juan Islands, and even in the
state, is paramount to their success.”
An example is the work of chef Kate Hegman, a relatively new
face at Friday Harbor House. Hegman works with all organic
ingredients. Ninety percent of her products come from the San
Juans, including fresh-caught shellfish and locally raised
At Resort at Deer Harbor, the Starfish Grill has been renovated.
Chef Brooks Monroe has stepped in to oversee the restaurant, where
the menu emphasizes fresh island fare like mussels. Starfish
Grill’s new ambience reminds diners of their Northwest setting,
with such touches as a mantle and fireplace constructed from the
timbers of an old barge that was washed up on shore.
Inn at Langley recently introduced Matt Costello as the new chef
of its dining room, named one of America’s best 50 hotel
restaurants by Food & Wine magazine in 2002. For 2004, the
property is launching a series of dinners pairing foods with wines
from specific Washington vineyards (Feb. 5, March 11, April 8 and
Plans call for the creation of more culinary experiences at the
chain’s three inns, Matteson said. For instance, guests might be
able to attend field trips and cooking classes, where they go
shopping with the chef and prepare a meal.
Meanwhile, Columbia Hospitality is on the lookout for new hotels
to add to its portfolio.
“When a property comes available that fits with our philosophy
of hospitality, we are always willing to look into the opportunity
and possibly pursue it,” said Matteson. “While we are currently
focused on Washington, we can see having another property in
California, Idaho or Oregon within the next few years.”
The locations of the three hotels are very complementary, said
Matteson. “They are small, intimate waterfront inns that elicit the
feeling of a private vacation home,” he said. “We want people to
feel like they are visiting family and friends every time they walk
through the doors.”
For instance, all three inns feature in-room fireplaces, and
rates include continental breakfast.