By Ali Daniels
Where is Lummi Island?
Disneyland. Hawaii. The Olympics. The Grand Canyon. Salmon with Mustard Greens.
I’m not sure when it happened, but slowly and surely my reasons to venture out of my comfy Seattle bubble started to need different qualifications. No longer was I only after sunny beaches and scream-inducing rides, I wanted more. I wanted a meal to write home about.
One of the best parts of these new adventures I long for is that many are just a stone’s throw away from the city. Including my most recent voyage to Willows Inn – technically a freeway and a 20-car ferry ride, but pretty close. The husband and I trekked about two hours from our homebase in lower Queen Anne to enjoy a meal people fly to the northwest to experience.
Willows Inn is tucked along the northwest side of Lummi Island – one of the amazing San Juan Islands. This 102-year-old Inn welcomes guests with open arms to a peaceful retreat. For us city folk, the quiet is jarring at first. No sounds of traffic, no sirens, no revelers – just silence. It doesn’t take long for the sounds of the water to lull you into a peaceful sense of being. Like the best kind of roller coaster, the Inn Keepers create a sense of calm just before your car tips over the top of the highest peak on the tracks. We had no idea what was ahead of us, but as soon as we sat down to our meal, we knew we were in for an adventure.
Sunset view during dinner
Chef Blaine Wetzel and his petite culinary crew spend hours gathering, smoking, shucking, pickling and preparing a meal that has more twists and turns than the typical amusement park journey. The goal of this kitchen is to highlight the best of the season and region. Which means they are often seen around town with baskets in hand collecting berries from the roadside and chatting up local fisherman about their daily catch.
Cedar box with Sunflower Root
The moment the first delight was placed in front of us, we knew we were in for something great. Sunflower root smoked with rocks and moss in a tiny box, just as the island natives would have done hundreds of years ago. Each course has a story and a meticulously perfect presentation.
Highlights from our meal: salmon roe, smoked cod, kale chips, fresh oysters, island berries, venison, cabbage, puffed halibut skin, razor clams, spot prawns, smoked oysters, salmon with mustard greens and woodruff ice cream with malt and fresh berries.
Only 35 others shared the culinary journey with us that evening. I’m sure we all took something special away from it. It was everything I had hoped for. While there were no souvenir shops, no sun tan oil, and no photo op’s with Mickey – it gave me what I was looking for – a meal to write home about.
A few days later, the husband asked me how it felt to have had the best meal of our lives. I thought for a minute and realized we had two options, either eat only pizza from here on out, or book another trip to Lummi. I opted for the latter.
Yum – Smoked Cod, Spot Prawns, Island Berries, Smoked Salmon