Why It’s Time to Make a Trip to Willows Inn
A pilgrimage to Lummi Island reawakens a passion for local foods
By Allison Austin Scheff
August 8, 2016
When you feel compelled to leave the city and immerse yourself in nature, when you seek to sit in quiet amazement at the wondrous foraged and farm-raised foods our Pacific Coast region provides, and to be waited on with warmth by a knowing staff but without the formality of a fussy setting, it’s time to make a trip to the Willows Inn.
A six-minute ferry ride across a calm bay outside of Bellingham takes you to pastoral Lummi Island and the Willows Inn (2579 W Shore Drive; 360.758.2620; willows-inn.com; $230–$600), where comfortably updated guest rooms beckon upstairs; off-site, waterfront (or nearly so) accommodations offer more luxury. The reason to come all this way, of course, is for chef Blaine Wetzel’s nightly prix fixe menu ($175; wine pairing, $90). His time at the world-renowned Copenhagen restaurant Noma informs his point of view: only the best, and only what’s growing in this exact place, right at this moment. And so edibles such as wild lettuces and foraged berry flowers, and salmon or spot prawns caught that morning and singing with sweet flavor, perhaps alongside their own roe, arrive course after course, as if written as a poem.
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All of the treasures of our lush forests, our ocean and our farms—the sweetest clams, perhaps wrapped in a foraged and dried seaweed wrapper; the lamb raised just down the way on a grassy hill, brushed with the sweet grasses it once grazed upon—this is supper and yet so much more. The owners of lavish yachts and young foodies who’ve traveled here from around the world sigh in unison as the sun sets over a steely ocean horizon and the magical menu unfolds.