Friday, December 28, 2012

Willows Inn (Lummi Island, WA): An Unforgettable Experience

My favorite meal in 2012? Easy. Willows Inn at Lummi Island is a small inn on a small island in Washington, with a restaurant helmed by Chef Blaine Wetzel, a young native of the area who had worked at Noma (you know, the world's best restaurant). When they talk about local ingredients, they really mean it. It isn't just produce from the state, but really local. Chef Wetzel forages around the island. A lot of the fish used are caught in the waters around the island, just five minutes from the restaurant.

Willows Inn is a 2-hour drive from Seattle plus a 10 minute ferry ride, and it's not only worth it but the journey adds to the experience.

There's only one seating every night which is at 6:30. The ferry only runs every hour and we didn't want to be late, so we took the 5PM ferry and ended up with time on our hands when we got to Willows Inn. Time to sit on the patio staring into the sunset while sipping cocktails. The cocktails here had quite a few interesting ingredients. I loved the Pacific Gin Fizz (gin, wild pineapple weed, egg white - $14)

What is wild pineapple weed, you ask? I didn't know it then but apparently it's wild chamomile. Whatever it was, it was my favorite out of the cocktails we tried. We also had time to peek into the kitchen as they were prepping.

Finally we got called and seated in the small dining room.
The dinner is "five courses" with a lot of "snacks", which meant way more food than five courses. Our meal started with a small wooden box.

As you open the treasure box: a whiff of smoke, and baked sunflower root

Next is a Crispy crepe with salmon roe, sandwiched between green onions. The crepe was a thin crisped salmon that held everything in a perfect bite-sized morsel.

Pickled oyster with sorrel was beautifully presented on a bowl of rocks

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The New Year's Eve List List

I'd do a list of New Year's Eve dinners but other people have done a good job of it, but if you're still looking for options, here are some nice lists that other people have put together. Well, OK, I added a few of my own ...

For dinners, LA Magazine has 37 great options for a range of budgets.

Eater LA also just came out with a "complete" (maybe not, but definitely large) list of NYE dinners. PS. I was told that Slater's 50/50 had cancelled their NYE trivia plans though, so might want to double check that one.

Don't forget Open Table's list of their participating restaurants, plus with this you can find out which is still available. I'm eyeing n/naka's Japanese celebration with lobster, white truffles and wagyu beef. Now, where did I put that $200 ...?

Or if you're totally broke from Christmas shopping, Tom Bergin's is doing their Tuesday at Tom's special on NYE! Chicken Fried Steak with dessert is just $15 plus oatmeal stout for $4.

I don't really do clubs and parties so I'll direct you to HuffPo for that list.
I hate these slideshow type "articles" though, so I'll just tell you the what caught my eye was the party at The Edison and the Spanish Masquerade at The Bazaar.

Where LA also had a very comprehensive list from parties and balls to dinners.

Sassafras is also having a party with open bar for $70.

If you're looking for a show rather than just dinner, I'm personally curious about the Intimate Illusions magic show with Ivan Amodei (the 10pm show is sold out but 7pm is still available), or this Lucent Dossier party.  El Cid is also having a flamenco dinner show for $45 ($65 late seating)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tasting Ora King New Zealand King Salmon at Nobu

There's a new salmon player in the US and it's called Ora King. They culture sustainable king salmon in New Zealand in 5 sea farms and hatcheries in Marlborough Sounds. Supposedly it's the longest and most sophisticated selective breeding program in the world (they've been breeding since 1994), with every fish individually tagged by hand and tracked (that's over 200,000 fish) so that they can control in-breeding.

Ora King's salmon goes from harvest to airplanes within 12 hours and a few of restaurants in Los Angeles have started carrying them, including Nobu and Craft. I was invited to a tasting at Nobu of appetizers and sushi made with Ora King salmon. With the eating local movement going on, the question is: is the taste of Ora King salmon worth the miles traveled from New Zealand? The answer is yes!

At Nobu, we tried different preparations of the Ora King salmon. The most representative of the texture and flavor is certainly the sushi and sashimi, and I think I had seven pieces of sushi that night ...

Salmon sushi
Ora King salmon has a rich flavor and a wonderful firm, oily texture.

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