Last month in the travel section of the Chicago Tribune, there was a great article that caught my eye about a Bed and Breakfast Inn on Lummi Island in Washington, located two hours north of Seattle. I have never been to Seattle (shame on me!) but this is another incentive to visit. The Willows Inn has been a welcome destination since 1910. Owner Riley Starks purchased the Inn in 2001 and revived the tradition of the “farm resort” using produce, eggs, poultry, and other ingredients grown at his nearby Nettles Farm. They are able to create an environment where they can practice their food philosophy and make a difference in their communities by adhering to creative and sustainable practices, and of course offer a unique culinary experience for guests of the Inn.
Chef Blaine Wetzel at Willows Inn may be only twenty-six years old, but he spent several years at “Noma,” the Copenhagen restaurant voted the best restaurant in the world two years running by Restaurant Magazine. In addition to using the produce at Nettles Farm, the chef sends out his five cooks to forage in the wild of this nine-square mile island. If you go to the Inn’s website, you can watch the chef’s videos of what is fresh for the week. The kitchen of the Inn looks like a farmer’s market! The food you will enjoy at the Inn is grown, foraged, cooked and served with everything locally; in fact, the only items they buy commercially are oil and salt. One popular item presented to the diner arrives in a cedar container, and when the lid is removed, alderwood smoke escapes with the inside containing a perfect bite of house-smoked locally caught sockeye salmon. There is a “Peter Rabbit” course which arrives in a twig basket of pea shoots and raw turnips with an edible “dirt” of hazelnut and malt. The Willows Inn has what the French call terroir: It is symbiotically connected with Lummi Island. Nowhere else could this food exist, and in no other time can this menu take place. Few restaurants can be said to accomplish this feat.
Not only will you dine like a king at the Inn, but many activities are available on the tiny island such as kayak tours, bike rental, and even whale-watching. Or just take a leisurely stroll around the roads and beaches of the island and enjoy the sublime opportunity to relax in this beautiful environment and do nothing – but don’t be late for dinner.