Healthy Cooking Secrets from Sooke Harbour House

At Sooke Harbour House on British Columbia’s lush coast, spa cuisine is sustainable—and fun.

| January/February 2006

  • Sooke Harbour House, a sustainable inn, restaurant, and spa, is located just an hour east of Victoria on Vancouver Island.
    Photo By Andrei Fedorov
  • Cranberry Lavender Sorbet with a Hazelnut Wafer, garnished with Spanish lavender, is an excellent finish to any meal.
    Photo By Andrei Fedorov
  • Seasonal, organic food enjoyed in an oceanfront setting is sustenance for body, mind, and soul.
    Photo By Andrei Fedorov
  • Sauté of Kale with Wild Rice and Roasted Garlic is a hearty winter side dish.
    Photo By Andrei Fedorov
  • Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Apple Pear Compote is rich and creamy without added dairy.
    Photo By Andrei Fedorov
  • Steamed Sablefish with Squash-Fennel Bulb Purée and Roasted Beets is garnished with a sprig of purslane.
    Photo By Andrei Fedorov

You might expect lunch at a spa to consist of a wedge of tofu on a lettuce leaf, but not every place takes such a restricted view. Sooke Harbour House, a country inn and spa on Vancouver Island’s southern coast, has a definition of health that’s as farsighted as its ocean vistas. On its good-for-you checklist: exercise in nature, eat a balanced diet of nutritious seasonal foods, enjoy meals at a leisurely pace in an oceanside setting, rejuvenate with massage and natural skin care, and tailor your lifestyle to nurture yourself and the planet.

This eco-conscious Canadian inn, restaurant, and art gallery overlooks the Strait of Juan de Fuca, habitat for sea lions and orca whales. In addition to co-owning Sooke Harbour House, Sinclair Philip is Canada’s national Slow Food representative and a wine connoisseur. (Slow Food is an international movement that encourages people to enjoy traditional and artisanal cuisine, encouraging foods that are regional, seasonal, and organic.) Healthy eating is more than just counting calories or cutting fat and carbs, Philip says.

“If you know how to cook, and you take time to appreciate food’s sensuality while enjoying the camaraderie of being with other people, then you’ll be healthy,” Philip states. And it doesn’t hurt that the cuisine served in his restaurant has all the right ingredients. The menu features fresh, organic fruits and vegetables (many from the inn’s garden); plenty of freshly caught wild seafood; lean, naturally raised meat; and yes, even local organic tofu.

Sooke Harbour House relies on local fisherman, farmers, ranchers, native people, winemakers, and cheesemakers to supply foods at the peak of their flavor and nutrition—and most of them are organically produced on Vancouver Island’s fertile farms. Even executive chef Edward Tuson, whose flavorful recipes are featured here, gets involved. When he’s not creating magic in the kitchen, he’s busy growing organic apples and raising pigs for bacon, sausage, and ham.

The other part of the healthy equation is eating foods that are locally in season, not shipped from across the globe. The temperate microclimate on Vancouver Island’s southern coast means Sooke Harbour House’s gardens flower year-round. Raised beds under cold frames bolster the winter food supply, and the staff pickles, cans, and dries the fall harvest.

Inspired by nature

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