Tag Archives: edible flowers

Remarkable Dinner at the Willows Inn (Lummi Island, WA)

19 Jul

Since reading about Blaine Wetzel at The Willows Inn a few years ago (a good article, from earlier in its existence before he’d won the James Beard award), I’ve always wanted to eat there, but getting to a restaurant on a small island a three hour drive and ferry ride north of Seattle was always logistically tricky.

Last week I finally made it happen… and it’s up there in my list of memorable meals and dining experiences. A dinner of 15+ small courses, each based around a few incredibly fresh ingredients, almost all caught, foraged, or grown on the island and prepared with care. I’ve never tasted squid so tender and tart (raw, fresh from the ocean, with oil and bright, intense flowers picked off herbs), such smooth and buttery cabbage and razor clams almost the same texture, squash blossoms so delicate (with a grassy green sauce from the stems), or anything like some of the drink pairings (an earthy mushroom-infused vermouth, a fermented rhubarb juice).

And eating those and more while the sun set across the ocean, highlighting green in the water and the shadows of the San Juan islands, with the hint of smoke from the outdoor grill, the sound of the waves, a large eagle flying by like that’s nothing unusual, and a great dining companion… these too made a difference.

A few photos (click to enlarge):

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After many courses, a break for some soothing, relaxing tea made from birch branches:

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The breakfast the next morning was also remarkable– with a toothy, coarse porridge of various whole grains, a salmon cured in fennel, brown butter brioche, even cheese from a “dairy with a mere 9 goats” on a nearby island:

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And in a weekend on the island arranged around this dinner, there were hints of the source everywhere, from the dense, biointensive garden grown just for the restaurant nearby (talking to the farmer, she meets with the chefs every fall to plan out what plants, leaves, fruit, roots, and flowers they want to cook with the next year), to the restaurant pantry packed with dried, preserved, and fermented ingredients from across the island (cured venison heart, smoked egg yolk, bundles of birch branches, fermenting garlic, berry syrups), to seeing several of the chefs walking that corner of the island before dinner the next day (whether scooping up buckets of water from the ocean to lug uphill or picking flowers and leaves and tucking them away in an array of little plastic bins to bring back to the kitchen)…

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…to even the breadth of berry foraging available when we took a walk in the woods– picking up thimbleberries, blackberries and relatives, huckleberries, salmonberries, and salal berries for dessert in our apartment the next night:

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Copenhagen: Geranium

31 Oct

When I ate at Kiin Kiin earlier in my visit to Copenhagen, the chef/owner(? — sorry, industry friends, for not knowing) stopped by to chat at one point, and asked where else I was eating on my trip. I mentioned Geranium as my other major meal and he was very enthusiastic and excited I was eating there, putting it up with Noma as an elevated nordic food experience.

And there I was a few days later, eating things like this (only the center piece is edible– a chocolate egg filled with toffee and rolled in pine dust, nestled in a bed of fragrant evergreen tips):

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I very slightly toned down the commitment and expense of a solo Geranium meal by going for lunch, and opting for the ‘light lunch’ (only 19 courses). In a few photos:

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Instead of a wine pairing, I opted for the non-alcoholic fruit juice pairing– which included I believe 7 different juices, all made in house and paired with specific courses. I remember a tart red currant juice, the white grape juice infused with tarragon, and especially a fermented carrot juice.

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The oyster and a ‘cracker’ of fish skin:

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One of their long-standing dishes and also one of my favorites– a bowl of stones, among which are a few “dill stones” you pick out and eat– actually balls of an amazing preserved halibut wrapped magically in a thin layer of dark green dill gel with a consistency of kelp.

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And many more dishes, including a sweet carrot shell around air and picked buckthorn, a cheese in the very early phases of form (almost a thick cream), a single charcoal-cooked baby potato with sheeps milk butter, egg yolk, a granita (frozen ice) of pickled cucumber, a sort of dumpling with a transparent (I believe dried apple) wrapper and filled with an assortment of tiny edible flowers, and many more. A few photos:

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The series of desserts (including the aforementioned chocolate toffee egg rolled in pine dust, a sheep yogurt, a frozen herbal tea ice, and a fascinating white chocolate which I don’t even normally like) was also fantastic– interesting flavors without much overt sweetness.

I even got to sit at a little counter in the kitchen for one of the courses and watch as chefs bustles back and forth a few feet away.

The whole meal felt like everything I’d expected/hoped from distilled/refined Nordic food– true to the place, forests, flowers, trees, the feel of “The North”, spare design, seafood, and minimalism combined with elegance.

At the risk of repeating myself after Kiin Kiin, this was another one of the very best meals of my life. This was a week for the record books and memory… which is one of the main reasons I’m collecting some photos and notes here, to look back at some day.