Pack your gummy bears, we’re going on a drive. We were invited to a weekend getaway to experience culinary delights, entertainment and relaxation at Tulalip Resort Casino. Only a 2 hour drive South from Vancouver, 30 minutes from Seattle and right next to the Premium Outlets, Tulalip is nice for those looking to treat themselves with a nearby escape and take it easy. We got off early on a Friday and let our weekend adventure begin.
I heard about Tulalip many times but had never been. When I asked my friends about it, I got the same answers over and over: it’s next to the Premium Outlets, only went inside for the buffet, the buffet was good. A jist of what I didn’t expect: they have full spa services with good rates, almost Vegas level interior renovations featuring local Tulalip tribal art, regular shows and concerts and a range of food options from build-your-own pizza to sports bar to fancy Pacific Northwest cuisine and more. Also their Sommelier, Tom Thompson, is fantastic.
We arrived at reception in the late afternoon and I was immediately taken back by the quality of the renovations. Beautiful ambient lighting and artwork set the mood for a relaxing weekend. Opening the doors to our 2016 renovated king bedded room, we were greeted with soft music playing from the smart TV. The room had a luxurious atmosphere, a comfortable bed, massive double sink bathroom and artwork in all the details.
You may not expect from its unassuming exterior but Tulalip is operating at 90% occupancy. Currently they have single king rooms, double queens and 5 uniquely decorated specialty suites. They offer their rooms with dining or shopping packages so know you have some options before you book.
Drinks: Destinations Lounge
This was where we first met Tommy, the passionate and easy-going Sommelier, and got a glimpse into his vast knowledge. For drink aficionados that are about trying everything, a weekend in Washington instead of a Canadian destination means a chance to try local offerings. At Destinations, Tommy prides himself in stocking a number of hard to find gems.
Tommy set us up with this beautiful trio:
- Schilling Grapefruit and Chill Cider (Washington) – Schilling exclusively makes craft cider with innovative flavours. I don’t think I can return to normal cider after this and unfortunately there is nothing comparable in BC.
- Deschutes The Abyss (Oregon) – A World Beer Award winning wine barrel aged stout. Unlike other stouts, it’s not particularly chocolatey, nutty or anything. It’s a balanced, flavourful stout without any one taste jumping out. Worthy of being a stout classic if it weren’t so limited.
- Pappy Van Winkle 15 year (Kentucky) – A rare bourbon found only in 7 restaurants in Washington. It’s most unique characteristic is its strong caramel and vanilla flavour
Even though the word Sommelier is intimidating, if you get the chance I encourage you to seek him out and get a recommendation. Especially if you are going to Blackfish during your visit.
Fine Dining: Blackfish
Blackfish is the most unexpected find in the casino. They serve fresh oysters, seafood, steak and a very satisfying dessert menu. Fresh salmon grilled over an open fire using traditional Tulalip tribal techniques is their speciality. You can see a menu on their website.
Once again Tommy wowed us with the wine pairing. Taking into consideration not only the pair itself but also where we were from and giving us a taste of something we hadn’t had before. From their cellar of 1000 wines, he showed us some unique European style wines for our Vancouverite taste buds. Tommy sent me some of his notes, shared below, on the wine pairings and I can’t even begin to imagine how he keeps track of the dimensions of all his wines. Seriously, talk to your Sommeliers.
Starting with a delicate and fluffy Dungeness crab cake with lemon aioli, paired with Cristal champagne. According to Tommy, bubbly is paired with crab cakes to “cut through the oil”. With his specific choice, a well aged bubbly with finer bubbles allow the crab flavours to linger. When it’s a good crab cake, of course you’d want the flavors to linger right! Their crab cake not too oily, with natural flavours of quality seafood coming though.
Have you ever seen a crouton ring? Their Heart of Romaine Caesar salad is a work of art. Leaves of lettuce were individual ripped, seasoned and assembled again into this deceivingly minimalist presentation. This time we had a German Riesling: “the wine really balances the many components of a Caesar, while the very present acidity cuts through the creamy texture, leaving a great finish on the palate.”
Their Heritage Salmon is grilled over an open fire as it would be in traditional Tulalip culture. It has a beautiful smoky and salty taste that contrasts nicely with the sweetness of the corn fritters that it’s paired with. You can watch the salmon cook through the windows showcasing the fire pit. It is quite a feat to cook salmon so well with nothing but a fire and an iron stick. Rather than a white wine, this was paired with a light red with some fruity notes: Domaine de la Janasse ‘Vielles Vignes’ Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Their filet mignon was my second favorite of the night; topped with blue cheese, toasted hazel nuts, apple bacon and peppercorn demi-glace. It is a fairly busy dish, served with bacon wrapped asparagus, a fennel & frisse salad with prickly pear vinaigrette and a garlic-cheddar potato fritter. Paired with a rich Gaja Cabernet Sauvignon, I enjoyed the mixture of textures and hearty taste.
We had the luxury of trying one of everything on their dessert menu. I would go out of my way to have the “sticky toffee pudding cake” (this was my favorite at Blackfish) and would recommend the “berry meringue concord” if cooler tangy desserts are more your type.
Midnight Snack: Blazing Paddles
If you’re going to be staying at a casino resort, a little midnight snacking is bound to happen. Their stone oven pizza place is bumping with a full bar on a Friday night. It’s build-your-own with around 50 options for toppings. If you’re shopping next door at the outlet and want something easy that isn’t the buffet, this is a great alternative.
Breakfast: Cedars Café
Cedars Café is open 24/7 and serves breakfast until 11 am. The star of the show here is no doubt the Pacific Northwest Benedict with Dungeness crab. Unless you are allergic, I see no reason to go for the other benes. I was also curious about the tex-mex Benedict which ended up tasting exactly as it would sound. Still good but I feel odd calling it an eggs Benedict.
Relax: T Spa
On Saturday morning, we hit the T Spa for a facial and a massage. Their spa offers everything. On top of massages, body treatments and facials, they also do make up, hair styling, nails and even teeth whitening. Basically everything a wedding party could desire. This was my first time getting a facial and I tried the “T Spa Signature Facial” which includes an arm and hand massage. I felt very comfortable in the hands of my aesthetician who answered all of my many skincare curiosities. My friend had the “Sacred Plant Ritual” body emulsion and massage. She was glowing as we sat in our fluffy robes in the relaxation room with tea. With all services, you get free access to their gym, sauna and steam room. Their website offers monthly specials on spa services that may also come with complementary products.
Entertainment : Shows, Gaming and Shopping
What else can you do at Tulalip?
- Catch a show. We were also treated to watch the charming Richard Marx in concert. We had only known his song “Right Here Waiting” but ended up driving home to his Spotify playlist.
- Try your luck, it is a casino after all.
- Shopping at the Seattle Premium Outlets, just across the parking lot.
Scenic Route: Chuckanut Drive
If you desire one last adventure on the road back North, consider taking Chuckanut Drive instead of a portion of the I5 highway. Running along the ocean, it’s a nice drive on a twisting road that winds through the forest and along the cliffs by the sea. Turnoffs to Chuckanut are clearly marked along the highway between Burlington and Bellingham. There are two formal lookout points with parking lots just before the road enters Larrabee State Park.
In our excited stupor we parked somewhere random and tried to walk down to the ocean through thorny bushes. We made it, and it was worth it for the sunset, but that was before we drove past the easy access lookouts.
10200 Quil Ceda Blvd, Tulalip, WA