Back to the Islands: The 14th Annual Savor the San Juans

For those who have never been, the San Juans, an archipelago of islands off the coast of Washington State and easily accessible by ferry, are a magical combo of natural beauty, nature’s bounty found in farms, orchards, wineries, a cultural dedication to sustainability, land stewardship, and small food producers as well as delightfully charming small towns and villages set against the backdrop of Puget Sound.

Now, after a year of pandemic and social distancing, it’s time to celebrate to return to the island and experience in real time the food and farm culture of Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan islands, the largest of archipelago’s 170 islands.

And what better time to do so than during the 14th Annual Savor the San Juans? It’s a fine time to taste and tour with so many special events going on such as harvest dinners, film festivals, farm tours, wine tastings, demonstrations, and more. And of course, there’s plenty to explore on your own as well.

Upcoming tours and events

October 14-17 Friday Harbor Film Festival

October 16-17: Lopez Island Farm Tour

October 16: San Juan Island Farmers Market

October 29: Alchemy Art Center: October Sip ‘N’ Sculpt with Maria Michaelson!

November 12-14: Hops on the Rock Orcas Island Beer Fest

Information on Local Flavor Specials can be found here.

Getting there, visit here.

Where to stay And what to do.

Can’t make it this year, then bring a little of the island into your kitchen with the following recipe.

 Cook Like a Coho Restaurant Chef: Roasted Garlic, Pear, and Goat Cheese Flatbread

Ingredients for Flatbread Dough

1 tsp active dry or instant yeast
1 tsp granulated sugar
3/4 c warm water
2 c (250g) all-purpose flour or bread flour
1 Tbsp olive oil, plus 1 tsp for brushing the dough
1 tsp salt

How to Make Flatbread Dough

Mix the ingredients together by hand or use the dough hook of a stand mixer.

If making by hand, place dry ingredients in a large bowl, make a well in the middle, and add wet ingredients. Incorporate the wet with the dry and knead for ten minutes. If using an electric mixer, place all ingredients in the bowl and beat for five minutes, until all the ingredients come together into a smooth ball.

Place dough in a greased mixing bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 45 minutes.

Punch down the dough and separate in half. Form each half of the dough into rounds.
Sprinkle the countertop with flour.

Take your rounds and roll them out to a football shape and length. Press your fingers lightly into the dough and dimple. This helps prevent any large air bubbles. Brush with olive oil to keep the crust crisp.

For best results, especially if this is your first time making flatbread, bake the flatbread before topping it. Transfer dough to a baking sheet. There is no need for parchment paper with this dough.

Bake at 450°F for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Top with goat cheese, garlic, and pear. Bake for another 5 minutes.

Top with arugula and balsamic reduction.

Balsamic Reduction

1 cup balsamic vinegar

How to Reduce Vinegar

Pour balsamic vinegar in a shallow pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Let reduce until your balsamic is a thick consistency and coats the back of your spoon.

Roasted Garlic

4 cloves of garlic

How to Roast Garlic

Peel four cloves of garlic and place in oil until submerged, cover with aluminum foil and roast at 450°F for fifteen minutes or until golden brown. You will be able to smell the garlic when it’s ready.

Whipped Goat Cheese

1/3 cup goat cheese
2 tsp water

How to Whip Goat Cheese

Place goat cheese and water in a blender or food processor. Blend for two minutes until it is smooth and easy to spread.

Kayaking In a Glittering Light: Exploring the bioluminescent bay of Laguna, near San Juan – Puerto Rico

Night is quickly approaching as we paddle our kayaks across Las Croabas Bay, maneuvering around the anchored sail boats whose halyards are snapping in the light wind.  To our right is the vast Atlantic Ocean, but we paddle instead for the narrow mangrove canal leading way Laguna Grande, one of only five bodies of water in the world where bioluminescent creatures, often known as the “burning of the sea,” live year round.

It is dark and the moon is hidden behind a bank of clouds and so the only lights we have to follow are the glow sticks on the life jacket and back of the kayak ahead of us.

“This is just the way it should be,” says my friend Jody, who has taken this trip several times before.  “If the moon were out, we wouldn’t be able to see them.”

By them she means the tiny phosphorescent creatures that live, 450,000 to the gallon, in Laguna Grande de Fajardo, accessible only through the mangrove canal and only by kayak as motorboats are prohibited.

A little light might be nice, I think, as we navigate among the mangroves whose roots, which twist up above the waters along the narrow channel in a latticework pattern, collecting debris from the falling leaves and palm tree fonds.

kayaking in bio bay

We are lucky on the way into the lagoon, as the current tugs us along.  And because my 12 year old daughter Nia and I frequently kayak, we’re able to maneuver around the turns and bends better than some of the others in the long line of kayaks behind us.

We had started earlier this evening, just after a heavy rainstorm, in the hip and lively Condida neighborhood of San Juan where we’re staying at Marriott there. 90 minutes later we arrived in Parque Las Croabas where several tour companies offer trips to the lagoon. Our group numbers about 45, some of whom had never kayaked before. No worries, Juan Ruiz, our lead guide at EcoAdventure PR, tells us as we clamber aboard, no one has fallen in yet. Reassuring, given that the waters are murky and dark.

The journey through the mangroves seems a long way from the sophisticated hotel, restaurants and shops that make up that area and my daughter is wondering why we didn’t stay by the pool overlooking the ocean.  It is, she tells me more than once, hot and humid in the channel and the paddle so far, about 30 minutes, a little long.  She is, unfortunately, entering those teenage years where such adventures somehow pale in comparison to going to the mall.

Bugs are not a problem as we slathered on organic bug lotion before we left. We’d also bought along some freshly made empanadas stuffed with cheese and chicken. We are prepared and after a sharp turn to the left, the mangrove roots start to spread out and within minutes we enter the lagoon.


Almost at the same moment as the waters open up, Nia gives a little cry. I look back and see that her oar, as it lifts out of the water, drips iridescent white froth and as it re-enters the water, the dazzling Champagne-like bubbles encircle the flat surface of the paddle. I dip my hand into the water, letting it trail along as my kayak glides forward. It is the same-glittery confetti lighting up the black lagoon–and though I know, from listening to Jody, this would happen, the experience is more more astounding than I expected. Mesmerized, I could endlessly watch the glow of stardust-like creatures slipping through my fingers into the water below. Nia’s shout of astonishment echoes as more paddlers enter the lagoon and their movements create swaths of glow stick-like paths.

Kayak B-BThese are, we have been told, bioluminescent organisms, living creatures that emit light– think tiny underwater lightening bugs and you get an idea of what they’re like.


It isn’t totally understood says Ruiz, why bioluminscents live in only a few bays. But all are similar–small, shallow (none are more than 14 feet deep), ringed by mangroves and connected to the ocean only by a narrow channel. Heading back, we battle the strong current running against us until finally entering Las Croabas Bay. Here the wind is even stronger and there is an uneasy chop to the inky waters. Then for a few minutes the clouds drift off and in the moonlight we see El Faro (the Fajardo Light House) and houses lining the hills.  My daughter isn’t complaining anymore. She’d be willing come back soon even if it means leaving the hotel pool.

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