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Rosario Resort & Spa

A quintessential Northwest getaway

Tranquil Cascade Bay, natural woodlands, seaplanes and boats, loads of history - these are what draw people to Rosario. Completed in 1909, Rosario has gone through a number of transitions, but has always retained the calm pace that first attracted Robert Moran, builder and owner. Over 100 years later, you won't stay in the Moran Mansion itself, but there are numerous accommodation options: suites, hillside rooms, The Residences (two high-end, two-bedroom suites), harborside rooms. Some of these are condos with full kitchens. The Mansion houses the spa, museum, restaurant and lounge, check-in desk, and staff offices. Rosario owners Jerry and Jan Barto, son Craig Barto and wife Gigi, along with GM Christopher Peacock, Chef Raymond Southern and Director of Marketing & PR Holly Southern, are the team shepherding the resort through its next transition.

Cascade Bay view fromThe Mansion Restaurant

The Bartos are from Anacortes; Jan and Jerry also have a home in Southern California. They have an emotional connection to the Resort, buying it at auction in September 2008. Christopher Peacock, with his nearly 40-year tenure, knows just about everything about the property and has written a pictorial history called "Rosario yesterdays." The Bartos had a few different chefs at the Resort but wanted to offer something "the property deserved," without knowing exactly how to go about it. In 2015, Raymond and Holly saw an ad for executive chef at Rosario and thought it worth checking out. Raymond cooked dinner for Christopher and they discussed both the challenges and positives of island living. After that meeting, they met the owners for lunch. "We clicked right away," recalls Raymond. "One of our main concerns was what kind of work Holly would find with her background in graphic design, marketing, public relations, events? When Jerry heard that, he said 'Forget you, I want to talk to her.'" Rosario was growing again, and Jerry wanted Christopher to fully embrace the general manager role, leaving room for a dedicated marketing and PR position. It ended up being the perfect fit for both Holly and Raymond. "The stars were aligned," says Holly. "Rosario created opportunities for both of us, it felt like it was meant to be." After that lunch, they stepped outside and saw a real estate office with an ad for a house. "It was two minutes away and we decided to look at it," says Raymond. "Once Holly saw it, she said 'I don't care about the job, but we're buying this house!' We actually put an offer on a house before we had the jobs." Raymond took the job in October 2015; they took possession of their house on December 30. Holly stayed in West Seattle to pack and close things down. Their belongings arrived on December 31, one of the restaurant's busiest days. Raymond met the movers at the house and was back at work within an hour.

Director of Marketing & PR Holly Southern

"Rosario is so special," says Holly. "We knew the owners were ready to invest in the property. They've rebuilt the marina and torn down old buildings. They've working with an earlier master plan, restoring and updating the Mansion, keeping the historic details."

Raymond's vision for the kitchen was to open relations with the community: growers, farmers, producers. "The menu was somewhat generic. If you're a chef in Washington state or southern B.C., you know we have the best growing conditions and best grass for feeding animals. This is what you want to work with. Jerry has never placed a rule on what I can do; he's been great to work with. I immediately reached out to local farmers and our relationships have grown and grown. This is the fun part - finding great ingredients, and the area allows that. There's a guy who raises lambs and goats, feeds them, kills them, and brings them here. When someone takes that kind of care, it deserves the same care in the kitchen. Cooking-wise, it's just what I do. I don't like the term fine dining. I've worked all over the world and food is about gathering together over a meal. It should be comfortable, not intimidating. I think people are happier with a belly-warming plate of pasta that something smoked in hay. Season to season, year to year, you may see similar menus here. But each year is a completely different kitchen and new people bring new ideas. We may do the same dish in a different way. It's like baseball season; the same game but you never know what will happen. The kitchen is never boring." Raymond's team handles dinner in the restaurant and lounge (separate menus), dining room breakfast, lunch during high season and on weekends all year long, overflow dining, holidays, event space for private parties, and the casual Cascade Bay Grill during summer months.

Chef Raymond Southern

Dining areas have changed over the years. The current dining room was originally the Mansion veranda. What is now overflow dining was at one time the dining room, converted in the '60s- '70s. Raymond converted a portion of that newer building into a prep kitchen. They added vehicles to transport food to the event space, The Beachhouse, easing pressure on the main kitchen. "There's a lot on the horizon. The owners are invested, and the space is so tied into the history of the island and the Northwest. We get to be the caretakers and are respecting its history as well as bringing it up to a level that's more refined than it was," says Holly.

GM and musician Christopher Peacock

With commitment from the owners; Chef Raymond's seasonal and local food view; Holly's work on the website, media, ad designs and special events; Christopher's operational expertise (and musical performances on the Mansion's 1913 Aeolian organ with 1,972 pipes); Rosario remains a top Northwest resort. There's plenty to do, but the lure of simply sitting on a deck overlooking the water and woods, watching your kids splash in the family pool, restoring yourself in the hot pool and spa, and gathering over a lengthy, satisfying meal cooked with care and passion, is undeniable.

Rosario Resort & Spa
1400 Rosario Road
Eastsound, WA 98246

View of mansion and marina from hillside room

Click here for a brief history of the resort


Connie Adams/May 2019

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