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Lummi Island: The Willows

2579 West Shore Drive, Lummi Island 98262 , Phone: 360-758-2620

Reviewed by: ChrisV from WA, review #4126

When: 2014

The Willows - Perfect for Special Occasions

Crispy Halibut Skin, photo by Writer

For our 15th wedding anniversary in June, I made reservations for one night's stay at the Willows Inn on Lummi Island, plus dinner for two at the Inn. The chef at the Willows is a young man by the name of Blaine Wetzel, who grew up in Washington state and who apprenticed for Rene Redzepi at Noma in Copenhagen. The reservation was made back in January prior to Blaine's receipt of a James Beard Award.

In order to get to Lummi Island, one takes the Whatcom Chief ferry from Whatcom County. The ferry takes about 10 minutes and holds approximately 20 cars. We arrived at about 4:00 and checked into our room, located above the Inn's lobby, with a wonderful view of the water. It was a gorgeous day, and we walked down to Sunset Beach, located across the street from the Inn, to enjoy the warmth of the sand (but not the water!).

All diners were asked to gather in the lobby and deck area by 6:30 for seating in the dining room. We arrived early and were served a variety of "snacks": several oysters, roasted carrots, and a few other nibbles. We were seated in the dining room, one table at a time. There were menus encased in leather covers, and a complimentary sparkling hard cider was poured for us.

Since it was our anniversary, we had a bottle of champagne that lasted for most of our meal, along with water.

The dining room holds about 24 people and there was a wonderful view of the evening's sunset.

And the meal began. Dinner courses were interspersed with snacks, and we were rarely without something to eat. Food was served on or in a variety of boxes, rocks, and plates. There was a staff of about 4 women serving the dining room, plus the chefs would also bring out food, explaining what we were about to eat. Blaine himself served us a variety of courses, and I asked him when a cookbook might be published. He said that he actually was in the process of working on a book but that it would not be published until 2016.

For dinner we had: weathervane scallops and horseradish (there was also some cream in the dish) grilled mustard greens with herring roe on kelp spot prawn poached with its roe smoked fishes aged venison leg on rye and wild lettuce porcini mushrooms in sweet woodruff grass-fed lamb and grasses salmonberries with wild roses hazelnuts and chestnuts

Snacks: Samish Bay mussel crispy crepe with steelhead roe halibut skin kale with black truffles sunflower root and sweet onions shiitake roasted over fire roasted razor clams bread from local grains with pan drippings flax seeds

This was not the order of the meal, as the snacks were interspersed with the dinner courses.

Meal provisions are noted for being locally fished, foraged, and farmed. When I made the reservation, I advised that my husband is allergic to scaled fish, but not shell fish. There were few modifications that needed to be made. When we were served the smoked fish, he was served a large roasted beet and was happy. I was delighted with the smoked salmon plus a large portion of smoked black cod that was meant to be shared by the table. I gave up most of my portion of the venison leg to him. The only disappointment I had was with the lamb; whenever I have grass-fed meat, I get a liver-y taste, but my husband enjoyed his lamb. I would have been thrilled with a plate of halibut skin, kale with black truffles, and the roasted shiitake mushrooms.

The desserts were the salmonberries in a sweet transparent sauce with the wild rose leaves; hazelnuts and chestnuts, which was a small scoop of a cold hazelnut gelato and a warm scoop of chestnut puree, meant to be consumed together; and flax seeds were caramels, the final bite.

The bread didn't arrive at the table until late in the meal. I had hoped for some earlier in order to "sop" up some of the incredible sauces, but it was good it wasn't there - too easy to fill up on bread. Besides the (chicken) pan drippings, there was also a small ramekin of butter.

I took photos of all of the courses, but the one I will upload is the crispy halibut skin (it was filled with clams in a cream).

Dinner is currently $165 per person. The champagne we had was $40. One can opt for wine or juice pairings with the meal. We were given a copy of the menu in an envelope to take home. Blaine signed mine with a note that the menu paper was entirely made from smoked salmon. The smoked salmon is excellent but I'm fortunate enough to live nearby and know a number of fishing men who smoke their own salmon.

Our room was $200 per night. The Inn offers breakfast (for an additional cost), but we were up with the sun and on our way to drive around Lummi before we headed home.

I would happily return to the Willows, probably for special occasions and to see what can be farmed, foraged, and fished at another time of the year.

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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