Trip date: May 2016
When my friend Aaron said he was coming up from LA and wanted to eat at The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, I of course agreed to go. My first meal there had been back in 2011 and was lovely, my second meal in 2012 was a pretty spectacular chef event the restaurant was hosting, so I was looking forward to seeing how the restaurant has changed. I also was curious if the dishes had changed or if I would be getting a lot of repeats.
Lauren, Aaron and I made the easy 2 1/2 hour drive up on a Monday afternoon in May, arriving just after 4pm. The first thing I noticed was that the check in area is now downstairs in a dedicated room. They had out complimentary beverages and snacks set up here as well.
As we were getting cleaned up for cocktail hour she spotted the chef's having their family meal outside by the smoker.
Our 17-course meal (and that is after the four cocktail snacks!) was absolutely wonderful. Aaron doesn't eat pork or shellfish and some of his substituted dishes were even better than the regular ones! The only other repeat dish that I had was the smoked sockeye salmon, and that salmon is so good that I was very happy to see it return.
One of the standouts of the night for me was this "crispy mustard leaves with wild herbs and flowers". It was like the most high class version of a carnival funnel cake ever, only savory. And gorgeous!
Near the end of our meal the kitchen invited us to come in for a tour. Chef Wetzel is so friendly and humble, he graciously answered questions and posed for photos. He seemed genuinely thankful when Lauren and I both said we'd been twice before, and when Aaron told him that his trip was built around the idea of dining at the inn.
The next morning we decided not to have breakfast at the inn as we were heading on to Vancouver. There was complimentary tea and coffee and some light snacks in the check out room which I thought was a nice touch.
It was such a great dinner and such a fun overnight with my friends. And even though it wasn't new to me, there were just enough changes to both the inn and the menu that it all continued to be interesting. And delicious.