As a Christmas gift one another, Matt and I decided to go for a weekend getaway for some R&R before the chaos of Christmas began. Just south of the border, and across the San Juan, lies Lummi Island. It is a rural island, home to less than 900 people, most of them farmers, fishers, and artists. It is accessible only by county ferry, carrying a maximum of 22 vehicles.
We stayed at the Willows Inn, built in 1910 and overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We indulged in egg nog and brandy by the large stone fireplace, with rare indifference to passing time.
But what did we really come for? The food, of course. The dining room at the Willows Inn is run by Blaine Wetzel, former chef-de-partie at Rene Redzepi’s Noma in Copenhagen. Along with his culinary pedigree, Wetzel brought with him a farm-to-table approach to cuisine. Eating at the Willows Inn feels like you’re eating the coastal landscape around you.
The food itself is a work of art – presented in the most beautiful and earthy way. The chefs themselves present many of the dishes, describing the food’s origin and how it was prepared. There are five “main dishes”, served with ten to fifteen “tastes”. These are accompanied by wine or juice pairings by the Willows Inn’s sommelier. Like many food enthusiasts, I took multiple pictures of the many courses we savoured. However, I will include just a few for your enjoyment:
Baked sunflower root
Smoked Alaskan cod, atop sauerkraut and a potato chip
Stewed lovage stems topped with caramelized squid
Aged venison with forest mushrooms
I need not ramble on about just how amazing a meal this was. In fact, it was more than a meal. It was a full-body culinary feast for the eyes, nose, and tastebuds. Absolutely unforgettable.
With a backdrop as breathtaking as the Pacific Northwest, I look forward to returning to the Willows Inn one day. To sit on the wrap-around deck, overlooking the tranquil ocean in the summer’s evening warmth, while sipping a glass of wine and sampling Chef Wetzel’s creations, would be my version of Utopia.
In the kitchen of the Willows Inn kitchen