Food memories are very important to me. I can remember great tasting dishes, where I was eating, who I was with, what I was celebrating. Yes, my culinary journey has been filled with many fabulous food memories & tastes.
Recently I had the best meal of my life. It was crafted & created by Chef Blaine Wetzel, at Willows Inn on Lummi Island, Washington State, in the San Juan Islands.
I first read about Willows Inn in an article entitled “10 Restaurants Worth a Plane Ride“, written by Frank Bruni in the New York Times. It has been on my list to visit for about a year. It is about 1 ½ hours from Vancouver BC, & two hours from Seattle by car and ferry. It has become a destination restaurant thanks to Chef Wetzel.
Chef Blaine Wetzel worked for Rene Redzepi at Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant that has won the ‘Best Restaurant in the World’ award for 2010, 2011 & 2012, by S. Pellegrino.
Now he is creating memories for the diners who make their way to this incredible little island.
My meal was a journey of tastes & artful presentations through 23 courses. Now, don’t think that there were 23 courses on the menu.
No, the chefs from the kitchen bring all the food to the guests & you are treated to many ‘snacks’ along the way.
I love the concept of ‘snacks’ from the kitchen – they are a treat, a taste and a special experience.
The chefs describe where the ingredients are foraged & gathered from as they present their creations:
*“smoked salmon from Lego Bay, just one mile away, then smoked over alderwood for 8 hours in the smokehouse just outside the dining room”.
*“pickled oysters from Salish Bay, around the corner served with sorrel and placed on frozen rocks from Sunset Bay, right out the front window”.
One of my favourite dishes was the homemade sauerkraut with black cod on a crispy, thin chip – it was light, flavourful & completely satisfying.
Imagine a bread course being just that; a course during your meal. The bread came as course #13 – homemade rye bread with homemade butter, served in a wooden box on top of hot rocks to keep the bread warm. And yes, in case you want to know, the box was made by an artisan in Bellingham Washington.
Course # 18 was something that made me look into the open kitchen & smile; these chefs know how to tempt & tease your palate. A small dish was brought to the table and introduced as, “roast chicken drippings in case you want to dip your bread” = fabulous !! We were never served the roast chicken that night, just the memory of the drippings. Wish I could be there for roast chicken night !
As the presentation of the meal progressed, the sun set over the ocean as if to toast to the celebration that was taking place in the dining room.
Willows Inn knows the definition of hospitality from the moment you arrive, from the gorgeous variety of guestrooms & accommodations, to the cocktail hour on the deck, through a meal you will never forget, and of course the breakfast you are served before you start your journey back to the mainland in the morning.
The list of requests for reservations just got a little longer …. As Chef Wetzel was just named to the list of Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chef of 2012.
Chef Blaine Wetzel is a culinary master … if you are looking for a meal of a lifetime, & culinary memories, make your way to Willows Inn.