The Willows Inn is located on a small island north of Bellingham, Washington, and is accessible via a five minute ferry ride, or a short ride via float plane from Seattle or Victoria, or any other number of places you can charter a float plane. By plane, you're delivered right onto the beach, just across the lane from the Inn. The Willows opened as boarding house in 1910 and retains the charm of the early 20th century's atmosphere. The original owners expanded by building several cottages, which served summer and winter guests for decades. The Willows Inn now owns several properties offering overnight or longer accommodations, but for us, the evening meal was paramount, and we weren't disappointed. While not an expert, I have eaten in very fine restaurants in many countries--we drove throughout France for the entire month of May, reserving every evening for fine dining in a country whose primary religion may, arguably, be food and dining.
Nowhere did we experience the flavors, the combinations, or the beauty and original presentations that we enjoyed at The Willows Inn. Chef Blaine Wetzel is nationally recognized as one of the very best, and he utilizes, almost entirely, products grown locally--with the exception of two wines for that evening. We prefaced the meal with a wonderful cocktail from Spyhop distillery on San Juan Island. Although several courses were implied, Wetzel's preference for serving "snacks" presented us with seventeen different servings, from baked sunflower root, or a tiny crispy crepe with salmon roe to grilled caramelized onions or perhaps the tastiest smoked salmon I have ever eaten. Ever. Each dish was paired with a wine, though you can also pair your fare with various juices. Wine pairings suggest that you have a room for the night because the wine and a three hour meal would keep a prudent driver from the streets. The overnight benefit, besides a comfortable room or cottage, includes a superb breakfast, also prepared by Chef Wetzel.
Whether you drive of fly, you'll not forget this meal.