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July 31, 2011

Meet the Improved Harbour House Hotel on Salt Spring

Salt Spring Island's Harbour House Hotel has been around in one form or another since 1916 when according to the book, Salt Spring,by Charles Kahn, a woman named Nona Crofton converted her home into a guest house.

The current hotel in a much expanded form since 1916 is owned by a Victoria lawyer Jack Woodward who bought the hotel because rumour has it he really wanted a garden but the hotel came with it.

Now, the organic splendor out back is a beautiful sight of bounty in action. They grow all types of lettuce, melons, peppers, quinoa, potatoes, tomatoes, tayberries, strawberries, blueberries, garlic, onions, nasturtiums, calendula, echinecea, herbs and  they even tap their own Maple Syrup from a stand of maple trees out back. They four resident goats and one of them, Lilly, even has her own Facebook page. Lilly Harbour links to the main Harbour House Facebook page. Lilly just celebrated her birthday on July 25th.

Current executive chef Paul Stewart comes from a culinary family. His mother Anita Stewart has written 15 cookbooks and created Food Day Canada which took place yesterday. For years, he and his two other brothers who all work in the food industry in one way or another, were his mother's favourite testers. Stewart has worked all over the West Coast and loves using the local ingredients in his kitchen. He got his Red Seal chef's papers by the time he was 17 and has been the executive chef for the  hotel for the past 2 years.
 The owner is an avid beekeeper and his sister Linda has been growing Quinoa out back for the past couple of years. Some of the lettuce in the garden is a small piece of artwork unto itself.  They also sell their produce to local grocers.
Salon services have been added his year through Julie Doobinen`s Solace Organic Spa services. It`s a book-ahead, not a walk-in, service at this point in time.  In addition, the StillPoint Yoga studio offers some classes in a space at the back of the hotel.
 A new manager, Len Brown, was hired in the past two months. He has experience managing hotels in London, England and Manhattan and currently runs a B&B on island with his wife Beverley who was a former pastry chef in the Westin Hotel in Manhattan`s Times Square.
They`ve recently had a new van painted up with Lilly on the back and are offering food tours to hotel guests where they can leave their own cars at home and be driven to some of the islands many food producers as part of a food tour.

The hotel has gone through many changes in the past couple of years and like so many things on island, it seems to take a long time to get people to look at the present with an open mind and objectivity at what`s in front of them, unclouded by the past.

If you haven`t been to the Harbour House for breakfast, lunch or dinner for a while, you owe it to yourself and your guests to treat yourself to their new menus - from farm to plate.

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