The Willows Inn on Lummi Island…and a delayed Mother’s Day Dinner

For the past 12 years, I’ve had a ton of fun with my annual Mother’s day dinner. Every year I start my menu prep as early as January and have a blast prepping course after course. Every year I’ve improved my plating and streamlined the prep and kitchen to makes things run smoother. Here are a few of my favorite years (2011, 2012, 2014).

This year I have been prepping for my dinner but I ran into a few issues. First and foremost, I am so busy! I built a new Moonlit Kitchen, you could say, and every free second is going into it. If you follow me on the Moonlit Kitchen Facebook page, you’ve seen my new pizza oven coming along, piece by piece.



Second, I have been looking forward to doing the dinner in my new kitchen! It was all supposed to be finished before Mother’s day but has taken longer than expected (doesn’t everything?).

Last, I have been looking for some new inspiration. I want to shake things up a bit after 12 years! So this year, I skipped the Mother’s day dinner. I’m now finally settled in my new house and all of the crazy of the past year and ready to post again!

Instead, I had an exquisite dinner at The Willows Inn on Lummi Island. The Willows Inn is considered one of the hottest places to eat in fine cuisine here in the States and happens to be on a little island just 90 minutes from where I live! The dinner was amazing, filled with locally raised, scavenged, and caught ingredients. Here’s a great write up by Saveur magazine.

I took pictures of my meal (though without a flash, they aren’t all great).

The meal started off outside, on the front porch, over looking the Puget Sound. It was a beautiful evening with perfect weather.


A walk in the garden


Crispy Crepe and golden char roe

The crepe was like a smoky lavash, dusted with bonito and other local kelp. It was slightly warm and contrasted nicely with the ice cold roe that was meant to be spread on the crepe.


Smoked Cod ‘Donuts’

These ‘donuts’ were savory with very smoky cod chunks inside. This was a pleasant surprise and one of the best things of the night. I don’t know what they were dusted with, but it was also salty and smoky.


Kale Leaves with black truffles

The kale leaves were crispy and simply prepared (I did something similar last year here) but there were little black dollops of black truffle sauce that were AMAZING!


Sunchoke with onion sauce

The sunchoke was grown there in their garden and then smoked and grilled until blackened and crispy. The onion sauce was not caramelized, yet was smooth and sweet, without any of the funk of onion. The bits of salt on the warm brick added to the course nicely.


Green Rhubarb

This was cool and refreshing and tart, as a palate cleanser. At this point the dinner guests were moved into the dining room for the main meal.


Local Shellfish

Clam, scallop, and oyster, crudo, with wasabi, and other herbs. This was a fresh as it gets.


Native Oysters in a juice of watercress


Springtime Stems and caramelized squid

The stems were braised and the squid was just a savory liquid in the bottom, which was amazing. It was probably the best sauce of the night. I remember picking my bowl up and sipping the last drops.



Lightly Cured Rockfish in a broth of grilled bones

As with many of the dishes of the night, this was smoky and sweet. The ‘caviar’ were kelp seeds, which were soft yet briny and paired great with the rockfish.


Non-alcoholic Pairings

I don’t drink alcohol, so I ordered the non-alcoholic pairings that were offered. Sadly, as with most optional pairings, they were limited (I think they served 3 types). I didn’t take good notes on them so I don’t remember them well. One was sweet, one was more alkaline, and there was a house-made kombucha that tasted too fermented.




Wild Herbs and crispy collard leaves

When this course arrived, I joked with my server that they had found a way to make collard fattening. The course involved a large battered collard green, an watercress emulsion (a sort of rich alioli), and a selection of local scavenged herbs and native plants that you would eat with each bite.


Dungeness Crab in a puree of pine nuts

This course was very simple, yet the crab was tender and moist, and the pine nut milk was sweet and very fresh. This was another course where you would be tempted to lick the bowl. The crab made the dish quite sweet and I remember adding a bit of the course salt they had at the table to balance it out and enhance the overall flavor.


Asparagus and Pine Tips

These bits of young white asparagus were soft and tender but the pine tips were softer. Everything was in a pine broth with an herb infused oil (tarragon?).


Geoduck Clam

The geoduck was fried crispy and served with some delicious lardon (pork) bits. Sadly, the clam was a bit chewy and dry. It was one of the only misses of the night.


Spot Prawns

The locally caught spot prawns were as sweet as candy and lightly poached in a broth of their own shells. It was as pure a prawn flavor as you could ask for.


Smoked Marbled King Salmon

This course was so good I had the gall to ask for seconds. Smile It was smoked, incredibly tender, and had been basted in a sweet vinegar. It arrived with hot towel service as this and the next course could be eaten by hand. This course was the one I wanted to try at home. Spectacular and the best of the night.


Wheat Bread

with pan drippings

The wheat bread was a sour dough miche made from an heirloom wheat variety. It appeared to have been baked in a stone hearth with a dark crust in European style. The bread came with a bowl of chicken pan drippings, which were fatty, dark, and the very essence of chicken. The dish also came with cultured butter, but it was the drippings that were the star. In the end, this was probably the most filling and substantive dish of the night.



with lovage

To round out the ‘main’ courses was some delicate, silky halibut. I am guessing it was poached in a vegetable broth. There were bits of crispy halibut skin and a taste of simply prepared lovage (steamed?) to add alkaline to the dish. This was the final savory course of the night. Again, I could have eaten another 2 plates of this. It was a deceptively delicious bite.


Toasted Birch Branches

To transition to desert, we received a toasted birch tea. It was smoky, smoky, and tasted like a campfire (in a good way?). It came in a little birch pitcher. At first it seemed too weak and too smoky, but it grew on me. I drank two cups.


Stinging Nettles and Goat’s Milk

The desserts were scant, light, and only lightly sweet. This dish had a goat’s milk ice cream, similar to the milk ice cream that I’ve served before, slightly icy, and free of other influences. Drizzled all over the ice cream was a nettle extraction and blossoms.



Anise flavored ice cream with a hyssop emulsion and dried lavender blossoms. The anise and lavender played very well together. Again, this was a dish that was very lightly sweet, but nice. The one thing I missed in both of these dishes was a change in texture. Something crunchy…


Pumpkin seeds and candied angelica

The final course was sweet, nutty, and had a bit of texture. It was a sort of nougat or cracker with the candied angelica shaved over the top.


They sent us home with an extra loaf of sourdough miche from earlier in the evening. It was a great night that gave me a ton of new ideas and a great experience.

Mother’s Day 2015 – 12 Course Dinner

It’s that time of year again! This year, for my 11th annual Mother’s day multi-course dinner, I did 12 courses. This year I deviated from the French theme on several occasions and even had a guest course prepared the friend that acts as sous chef each year. It was a lot of fun with a mix of French, Korean, Lebanese, and American influences.

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Every year I squeeze as many people into my house as possible. I’ve found that it is not much more work for a few people as for many as many guests as I have plates. I have a few seats reserved for annual guests, others are rotated, where I tell the guests that next year their seat will have to go to someone else.

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1st Course – Canapés

Gruyere gougere, chorizo kale chip, truffled quail egg with caviar, and mashed peas crostini

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A course like this first course can appear simple, yet disguise the amount of work that goes into preparing four courses in one. The chorizo kale was the surprise for most of the guests. It exploded with flavor; I kept catching people sneaking the extras from the kitchen.

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2nd Course – Scallop Crudo

Scallop crudo, mineola orange, fennel, flying fish roe, habanero, and toasted buckwheat

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This was a crowd favorite. The raw scallop ( ‘cooked’ in the acid of the fresh citrus) had the perfect texture, mixed with the crunch of the fennel and buckwheat. The roe added a briny, saltiness and the habanero a little spicy bite.

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3rd Course – Eggplant

Lebanese kubbe, eggplant salad, baba ganoush, pesto, garlic cream, and toasted brioche

This was a first, in that it was a guest course, cooked by my sous chef, Yossi. It was a delicious course and helped immensely with the pacing of the meal, as I was able to get ahead with later courses as this was prepared and plated. I definitely want to revisit the guest course idea in future dinners.

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4th Course – Bresaola

Fresh cured beef bresaola and pickled artichoke, carrots, shallots, and radishes

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Homemade Sourdough Breads

I served several breads throughout the night to go with various courses, but this beautiful bread was meant for the mushroom broth.

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5th Course – Mushroom Broth

Brown beech mushrooms in a rich mushroom stock, ginger, and pea shoots

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Thick slices of sourdough bread were served to sup up the rich fresh made mushroom stock. While not as beautiful as some soups from years past, it was a unique and rich comfort food.

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6th Course – Crab

Fresh harvested Alaskan Bairdi crab with avocado, homemade yogurt, and lime oil

A friend recently returned from Alaskan where he helped his father harvest Bairdi crab for his commercial fishing operation. I was lucky enough to score a bunch of fresh crab legs. It is amazing and I didn’t want to add too much to take away from just enjoying the fresh crab meat. Here, I rolled it up in avocado and served it with a rich fresh cured Greek yogurt. The lime oil added tinges of citrus.

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7th Course – Pork Belly

Roast pork belly with glutinous rice cakes, ssam sauce, and kimchi

This was a fun play on a Korean ssam lettuce wrap. Under a layer for filo dough was a smooth red ssam sauce and bright green scallion ginger sauce. The glutinous rice cake added a fun toothsome texture to pair with the crunch of the filo and crispy fatty tender pork. Topped with a pickled yellow cucumber.

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8th Course – Cucumber

Hay smoked cucumber with a cucumber jelly, milk ice cream, fresh sorrel, and mint oil

This was a fresh and bright palate cleanser served between two heavy dishes. There were also vanilla pickled cucumbers to finish off the course.

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9th Course – Lamb

Fresh spring lamb with truffle risotto, morels, Brussels sprouts, root vegetables, and a port wine reduction

The lamb was prepared via sous vide and then seared and breaded with a mixture of panko and fresh chervil. The lamb was topped with Fleur de Sel and finished with the wine reduction. The risotto had fresh black truffle and was topped with beets, Brussels, and rutabagas.

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10th Course – Cheese

Rougette Brie with raw honeycomb

A simple cheese with cashews and locally sourced raw honey was a great way to begin the dessert extravaganza. Served with a selection of fresh rustic breads.

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11th Course – Baba au Rhum

Baba au Rhum with Chantilly and fresh peaches

The babas (brioche rolls) soaked in a rich rum syrup. I cooked all of the alcohol out of the rum and spiced it with star anise, vanilla, and cloves. This was a rich and decadent dessert that is made lighter with fresh fruit and light cream.

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12th Course – Mille Fuille

Chocolate mille fuille with a vanilla bean macaron, malt ice cream, and strawberry milk crumb

The mille fuille had a layer of chocolate sponge cake, another of chocolate praline fuilletine, and layers of rye mousse. The rye mousse was almost not sweet at all, which helped to balance a very sweet dessert.

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Extra Course – Petite Fours

Vanilla bean macarons

As my guests left for the night, I gave each one a box filled with a macaron topped with fuilletine and filled with a vanilla bean Italian buttercream. After 3 courses of dessert, I figured that most guests would want to take these home instead of eat them right then.

It was a fun night and probably the smoothest in terms of pacing between courses and cleanliness in the kitchen. Everyone helped out to keep things clean and organized.

Things learned this year:

  • Courses that are all prepared beforehand minus plating are a win
  • Plating an example plate then leaving the rest to others helps keep things moving
  • All of the plates that I plated once in practice came out much better
  • More space in the kitchen can be crucial
  • Stopping and fully cleaning between courses actually speeds things up