Matt Costello, the longtime genius chef behind the food at The Inn at Langley (Langley, 400 First St.; 360.221.3033; innatlangley.com) is known for his disarming combinations made with ingredients primarily from Whidbey Island. As an experience, the single-seating, multicourse meal ($155 per person) is as much entertainment as dinner.
A dish called “rhubarb” might come in the form of an ice-cold magenta consommé with house-made ricotta floating in the center. Sunflower heads might be braised and sliced like artichoke hearts. The lacy white flowers garnishing the plate might come from bolted carrots. Expect anything except the expected—and no matter what that is, you’ll probably be wrong. But when it comes to the inn itself, Costello—who is also the innkeeper—chooses predictability, with luxuriously appointed rooms ($325–$600) overlooking Saratoga Passage.
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Keep your eyes open; in August, when the San Juan Islands’ orca whale population typically migrates past Whidbey, the animals often feed on tiny, translucent ghost shrimp a stone’s throw from the shore.
NIGHT OWLS: Check out the Concrete Theatre, built in 1923 (45920 Main St.; 360.941.0403; concrete-theatre.com), updated for films, live music and events during the festival. early birds: Stop by 5b’s Bakery (45597 Main St.; 360.853.8700; 5bsbakery.com) for quality gluten-free baked goods and more for breakfast or lunch. For dinner, there’s Annie’s Pizza Station (44568 State Route 20; 360.853.7227; anniespizzastation.net), whose handcrafted cuisine would be a hit even in a town bigger than Concrete, population 753.
RULE THE ROOST: Spend the night in one of Ovenell’s Heritage Inn log cabins, located on a historic ranch across the river (46276 Concrete Sauk Valley Road; 360.853.8494; ovenells-inn.com). Pick up a steak or two—the cows are raised right there on the ranch—and throw them on the provided barbecue. Had enough of eagles? Elk, deer and coyotes are known to roam the ranch on a daily basis.