The first time I heard from the Willows Inn was 4 years ago, in 2011. I read an article in New York Times listing “10 restaurants worth a plane ride” and among them… lucky us here in Washington state, was this restaurant I had never heard of before: Willows Inn on Lummi Island, WA.
Since then, we have gone several times and each time, the experience was a joy and a feast that we shared with good friends. We do not get tired of the Willows Inn.
The fact that Young Chef Blaine Wetzel arrived in 2010 from NOMA in Copenhagen, one of (if not the) best restaurant in the world was promising. But his own talent was confirmed when he won, last year, the James Beard Award for National Rising Star Chef and more over when he received, at the beginning of this week, the James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest.
Lummi Island is 2 hours drive north of Seattle and you need to take a 10-minute ferry to cross the water. When you are on the ferry, the adventure begins. The ferry is not indeed the regular one you take to the San Juan Islands. Rather, it’s a smaller version, which can fit around 10 cars.
Then you drive 10 minutes on the quiet Island. The restaurant is a small house that overlooks the Puget Sound and faces westward, meaning you may be lucky enough to enjoy a fabulous colorful sunset from the deck. Willows Inn is a very simple and cozy place that is made more welcoming by a very attentive staff.
As soon as you sit at your table, the feast can begin. This is a prix fixe tasting menu with a wine or juice pairing option. You then taste a succession of small dishes and “snacks” prepared with flowers, vegetables, mushrooms, shellfish, and meats sourced locally on the island and the surrounding water. All these small dishes are unique and outstanding. Some of them remind us of Michel Bras and his Gargouillou in France.
I don’t want to reveal each detail but here are some of my photos. Enjoy and read the captions for a small explanation of the dishes! Bon appétit!