Archive for us – west

Willows Inn Summer ’14 – Elemental

Has it become a summer ritual? Queue up the car. Pay the ferry and cross the choppy waters. Disembark and roll down the windows. Turn right and follow the island’s loose curves for three miles. Look for the wafts of smoke drift across the road. The same journey every year offers a total escape with each visit.

Crisp air. Overflowing greens brush along the roadside. Red, blue, and pink dots pop in the brush. A kaleidoscope of buoys pop even brighter on Legoe Bay. Purple starfish crawl in the tide pools. A brilliant blue sky hugs the world. And on some nights, just before dusk, black and white orcas breach the still waters.

“When the trees are gone the sky will fall and we and the salmon will be no more,” reads an ancient Lummi prophesy, but the waves might continue to crash. Water is always the background – the island’s natural rhythm and heartbeat. On a sunny summer day, every view has a twinkle of light cast from the water. Of boats and birds bobbing. Of seaweed cast back and forth. Of entire schools swimming just under the waves.

This is the annual backdrop for two summer meals on Lummi Island.

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Willows Inn First Harvest Dinner

To get away – seclusion, slow time, and the freedom to work. To explore the land and work within its bounty. To be inspired by the physical connection to food and walk amongst it – on the farm, into the green. Down to the beach: currants on the slant, stonecrop along the shore, and sea lettuce beneath the waves. Spot prawns swim just beyond. Five chefs ride the ferry into a new land of possibility.1

Sean Brock saw a realm of smoke. John Shields catalouged the environment and found plants in full blushing bloom. Dotting the bay, fishing boats must have piqued Jason Fox’s curiosity for the waters below. Kobe Desramaults, too, thought of weeds and herbs – and the dairy of such diets. And with its salty breeze and clear air, Lummi Island must have reminded Kyle Connaughton of Hokkaido. For Blaine Wetzel, it is merely home.

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Willows Inn (Lummi Island, WA) – Island as Plate

To get away – seclusion, slow time, and the freedom to explore. To live with the land, honor its history, and work within its bounty. To be inspired by the physical connection to food and walk amongst it – on the farm, into the brush. Down to the beach: berries on the slope, stonecrop along the shore, and sea lettuce in the water. Spot prawns swim just beyond. A land of possibility. To take the ideas of noma and practice them on a nine-mile island, most of it uninhabited – welcome to Willows Inn.1

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Keyah Grande (Pagosa Springs, CO) – RIP

Alex and Aki were leaving Keyah Grande for the relative comforts of the East Coast. My last meal was outstanding but my car foiled me from enjoying Keyah a second time. Given that it could take 1-2 years to open a new restaurant, I decided to book the flights to Durango and enjoy one of the final Keyah Grande meals prepared by Alex and Aki.

The meal was as good as the last – Alex & Aki are some of the better chefs in the country. For creativity, I’d say they are right up there w/ Ludo (former Bastide) – their food is more grounded in real flavor than, say, WD-50 or Moto. The other difference is ingredient quality – they are using top-notch ingredients whereas the other experimental places skimp on that front (and hopefully they can keep this up w/ their next venture.)

1. Sourdough Ice Cream – wild arctic char roe, blueberries, red mustard
Very creamy ice cream – slight sour note followed by a creamy saltiness thanks to the roe. Meanwhile, the blueberry’s acid and the sharp mustard leaves cut it. Wonderful texture as it turns from creamy to the popping roe. Excellent.
Ideas in Food - Sourdough Ice Cream - wild arctic char roe, blueberries, red mustard

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Alex (Las Vegas) – Something Real in the Netherworld

As you know, Las Vegas is a weird city. It’s a city that was founded on nothing; and continues to develop thanks to nothing. You can gamble in nearly every state yet LV brings in the majority of that past-time’s tourism.

It nearly works the same way for food too. Top chefs from around the world hear LV’s cash registers and get invited to open an outpost. However, don’t expect to properly experience the chef’s cuisine in LV because it works just like New York, New York – it’s an often watered-down mechanized version of the food fit for the average American palette.

Alex is one of the lone exceptions. His LV restaurant is his only restaurant and he cooks there. I ate here on the 2nd-to-last meal of the road trip. I was expecting something a lot richer (from previous reviews) than I got. Went w/ the tasting menu.

It was a good meal but overpriced at $175. If i went back, I would create my own tasting menu that focused on the richer side of things – namely foie gras.

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