The Willows Inn is several hours of driving north of Seattle and a short ferry ride to the small Lummi Island. The setting is lovely, overlooking the water and surrounded by greenery. The Inn has a few rooms available for rent on the property as well as some places on the island but not on the property. Plenty of parking is by the buildings or across the street near the entrance to their private beach front. There is a nice porch on two sides of the main building, all with great views, a nice living room like room and a good sized dining room with individual tables. After checking in, where there are a number of house made snacks to try, you are invited to enjoy the bar until dinner is served promptly at 6:00. Dinner is an extended tasting menu that started on the shaded porch and then you are escorted into your table in the dining room. Wine pairings are offered and it looked like generous pours however we chose to order our own wines off the almost all locally sourced wine list.
We started with a couple of their featured cocktails while waiting for the dinner to start. They were colorful and not too strong.
With the porch side food items they served a local sparkling cider that matched well with all the tastes and was quite refreshing.
The Willows Inn has its own garden on the island and the tasting started with items from it. A variety of cucumbers were amazingly different textures for a similar taste of cucumber. A bit of salt could have enhanced these but this was about as fresh as it could get.
The heirloom melons were tastes of 3 varieties. The green one was not too sweet but the middle one was sweet, soft and perfumed like a musk melon and the outer orange one was very sweet and good. All had a perfect ripe texture to the bite. Delicious and simple.
Island plums were a number of varieties of wild plums. The sweetness and softness varied but they were all excellent with strong flavors of sweet, ripe plums.
The spot prawns and rhubarb ceviche was served in nasturtium leaves with lots of herbs. The prawns were locally sourced and had a terrific flavor and texture. The leaves actually added a lot to the dish rather than just being a pouch to hold the ceviche.
Toasted kale leaves were dotted with local truffles and rye crumbles. The kale was wonderfully crisp and the truffles had a great truffle flavor. This was a standout. The texture and flavors were outstanding!
A cute wood box was next with a smoking mussel inside. The mussel had been smoked and caramelized and placed back in the shell on top of a paste of something. The smoke coming out of the box served to intensify the depth of this one’s flavor. Really good.
Reefnet-caught sockeye salmon was glazed with something delicious. It was brought with wet towels for your hands as it was to be pulled apart and eaten with your fingers. It was an amazing color with a taste to match. I’m not normally a salmon lover but I scarfed up every bit of this that my husband didn’t grab first.
The last outdoor course was a savory donut – now you’re singing my song. These however were filled with smoked black cod. The amazing doughy donut filled with this rich fish was simply divine. It had a sprinkle of something on top that really took it to the next level. Another offering that I could have eaten a plate of alone.
Inside the wooden tables are set with varying flowers and flatware. According to one of the servers all the servers always are on the lookout for interesting utensils and are known to pick any pretty flowers they see and bring into the mix. It works somehow and just comes off welcoming rather than jumbled – maybe that’s because all the staff were incredibly friendly, welcoming and helpful. Native oysters were served in a broth of wildcress. The green was quite strong but the briny perfect flavor of the oysters came through for another nice offering.
Chilled hakurei turnip soup was served with sturgeon caviar and turnip tops in a caramelized squid broth. The turnip was so tender and the caviar had a fun pop to it. It all mixed together wonderfully or was delightful as separate components.
Lightly cured rockfish was sliced and served in a broth of kelp oil and rockfish bones. A bit of jellied material helped but while good this one didn’t measure up to the previous courses.
Geoduck clam had been grilled whole and then carved and served with a sauce from its liver and topped with crispy bread crumbs. The creamy sauce was good and the crumbs added a wonderful textural contrast to the chewy clam. It was an excellent dish – the wow factor was back in full gear here.
The herb tostada was a really crispy mustard green topped with something that held a pile of herbs on top. Amazing tastes and textures again along with being stunning to look at.
Wild venison leg from the Cascades had been aged since May and then was skewered with chanterelle mushrooms and venison leg tendon. The leg meat was full of flavor and so tender in perfect contrast to the chewy gummy tendon. The mushrooms had been slightly salted to cap off the perfection of this dish. All parts were really good and worked together perfectly. Really fun to eat.
A piece of roasted costata zucchini was brought next along with a bowl of nasturtium sauce. The zucchini had been roasted with chamomile and was scooped tableside to be plated with the sauce. This was not a favorite. Nothing wrong with it just the flavor didn’t appeal to me. It was done beautifully, though.
Sour dough bread made from heirloom wheat was next served with Dungeness crab. The crab was served in the shell with crab custard in a totally buttery broth. No spread needed for the bread, it was there to mop up every bit of the crab custard and broth. Absolutely delicious crab and sauce. Yum x3!
Albacore tuna with poblano peppers and eggplant was another winner. In addition to the tuna loin there was a slice of the tuna belly. A tiny dot of sauce was fermented wildflowers. The tuna loin was truly great with a totally different texture than the belly. The peppers were a fun addition as was the eggplant. I was not sold on the sauce but none was needed with this fine dish.
A tea of toasted birch branches tasted just like you were licking a tree. Totally fresh taste but don’t know if I’m into licking trees, maybe rather just smell them.
Stewed peaches were served with a rose granita. The sweet peach and rosy ice were best when eaten together. Nice.
Anise hyssop ice cream was served with fennel foam and topped with lavender. It was delicious – the perfectly creamy ice cream combined with the thick rich foam into a heavenly sweetness.
Flax seed caramel and black walnut fudge were the final treat and what a great way to end. Each different but both perfectly sweet, chewy and wonderful. Yumx2!