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Best. Meal. Ever.

A couple weeks ago we loaded ourselves in the car and headed to Willows Inn on Lummi Island, one the islands scattered across Puget Sound. We’ve had a brief flash of summer here (cue the Decemberists’ Summersong), and taking the tiny Chief Whatcom ferry across, we could see up and down the length of the Sound.

Willows Inn is part farm, part restaurant, and its brilliant young chef Blaine Wetzel has been in the press for his extremely local cooking. He trained at Noma in Copenhagen (world’s “best restuarant”), where the chef drew a circle 44 miles around the restaurant and cooks within its radius in all seasons. Blaine Wetzel stays close to home as well – everything is foraged, fished, and farmed around 7-mile-long Lummi Island. (I’m half convinced that Lummi is really the Clam Island in Michael Chabon’s Summerland – a great, great read!) Biking around the island felt like biking around Clam Island – boarded up houses, tall cedars, boats reef netting (an almost-forgotten Lummi fishing method), gray driftwood, old fishing sheds, and the occasional cow.

All of this sounds very twee – but it was a great place to bring a kid. Luke dug around on the beach, helped feed the chickens, nibbled on tomatoes and herbs (which he won’t touch on his plate), and chatted up the Willows Inn staff, who made a big fuss over him.

They found a babysitter for us, and we headed to happy hour.  

And then dinner. O dinner – you started with one small plate after another. A review described the dishes presents fairies might leave on your doorstep – oysters, sprinkled with roe, served on pebbles frozen in ice;

bits of alderwood-smoked salmon, still smoking on a nest of twigs in cedar boxes; 

a small basket filled with tender young radishes and lettuce, sprinkled with hazelnut “dirt” (malt) and served with small flowerpots filled with an herb/creme fraiche/yogurt dip; 

geoduck with oyster emulsion and horseradish snow; 

rye bread served on warm rocks with nutty local butter on the side… I don’t think we were speaking much at that point.

The salad made me realize I’ve been disrespecting vegetables my entire life. I deeply, deeply apologize. Erik was blinking back tears – he later told me it was a Ratatouille (ok, Proustian) moment. It took him back to the salads his grandmother used to make with vegetables straight from her garden, dressed with peppery oil.

The wines were incredible. Near the end of the meal, after the crispiest, most perfectly cooked duck breast ever,      I babbled to the somalier, “This malbec foreshadows the next course, doesn’t it? There’s pine in it! How did you do that?” We were four or five glasses in at that point, and by the time the pine ice cream with blackberries and I don’t know what else arrived, I was very, very happy.

The most amazing thing, aside from the meal, was how humble and genuine the chef, somalier, and entire kitchen crew were. Blaine made the rounds of the tables, stopped to talk earnestly with Erik about dairy allergies, and looked completely abashed when some tables gave him a standing ovation.

So there you go – a post without any mention of challenged pancreases, and yes – our duck was a happy little guy, and his name was Colin.

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Courtney #

    Sounds like a dream come true. Great day with Luke and an evening alone. We havent’ had that in 8months. I have to ask how did you do the babysitter? Was Luke in bed anyway so you were ok leaving him for a few hours. Did you give the babysitter a quick and dirty training? This is just so cool, especialy coming fromt he lady who didn’t even want to leave him with family and friends at first. I want to get to this point!

    September 5, 2011
    • Training was very quick and dirty! “Here’s the Dex, come get us if it drops below 100,” (we were right next door – otherwise wouldn’t have dropped him on someone cold turkey) “and we’ll check in every half hour. Oh, and don’t feed him anything except cheese or nuts for a snack. Water only to drink.” She was great – Luke was up and running around the whole time, but they stayed nearby. Thanks for the vote of confidence – the next step is doing more of that with friends and family! Hope you guys find someone who can let you get out from time to time!

      September 5, 2011
  2. Courtney #

    My uncle and sister are pushing hard for it. They are reading the Pink Panther books, doing set changes, BG checks and bolusing. My uncle is coming over for the CGM training on Wednesday. (they do it at our home because it doesn’t work inside the walls of the hospital, lucky us.) So hopefully one day. I am ok with a few hours during the day for now, but over night makes me nervous. (my uncle wants to take the boys for a night to give us a break.) You know how nights can be so weird. So not ready for that yet. I figure it will take awhile for the CGM to “normalize” anyway. Baby steps!

    September 5, 2011
    • Great that you’re taking those baby steps! Nights are harder, no doubt.

      September 6, 2011
  3. Ah…the “disrespecting veggies” comment made me chuckle! Sounds heavenly. So glad you guys got to have a nice meal together. 🙂

    September 6, 2011
  4. Jen #

    YUM! I so want to go there..maybe I will!!! Addison would LOVE having a meal like that just as much as I would. Glad you had such a great time..

    September 7, 2011
    • You’ll take fantastic pictures when you go. 🙂 And – it was all low-carb!

      September 7, 2011
  5. ahahah i knew that the colin the duck link was before i even clicked it! ahahaha!!

    your time there sounds absolutely MAGICAL. i mean, how is that place and food even for real? and your pics are fantastic, they add so much to the post.

    thank you so so much for sharing. i have a huge smile now, though not as big as yours in that photo! 😀

    September 7, 2011
  6. It took a lot of wine to get the smile that big. 😉 Add it to your list for your next trip to Portlandia!

    September 7, 2011

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