Willows Inn Dining Room Reopens

March 31, 2014

The willows inn on lummi island dining room northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

The Dining Room at The Willows Inn on Lummi Island reopened on Thursday, March 13, after a two-month recess.

The willows inn smoked salmon appetizer northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

You may remember I gave the property and restaurant a rave review in The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine back in 2011.

The willows inn oysters appetizer northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

During his two-month break, Head Chef Blaine Wetzel was named a semifinalist for the fourth straight year for the James Beard Rising Star Award (chefs under age 30). The nomination is well deserved for the beautiful and delicious dishes he prepares day in and day out. (Photos throughout this blog post were taken during our 2011 visit.)

The willows inn on lummi island soup northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

Blaine also made a visit to Europe that included stops in Copenhagen and participation in a major food event in Italy. You can read more on the chef’s blog.

The willows inn mushrooms  northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

The Willows Inn is also offering a 2-for-1 Spring Special on select dates now through the end of April.  When you reserve an on-site room during March or April you can add a second night for FREE. During your stay you can indulge in spa-therapy treatments, walk and rock-hunt along Sunset Beach, take a bicycle ride, hike the island’s wilderness preserves, or simply relax with a good book (in the hot tub, perhaps). The offer is valid until April 31, 2014, and cannot include a Saturday night.

There is even a two-day Author Series Getaway with Nancy Pearl scheduled from Wednesday, March 19 to Friday, March 21, when you are encouraged to immerse yourself in two books recommended by Nancy. Enjoy book discussions in the cozy atmosphere of Loganita, a specially-prepared dinner with Nancy by the Willows Inn sous chef at the Beach Store Cafe, and a hearty breakfast followed by a second book-club session in the Willows Inn main dining room.

Nancy is the author of the bestselling “Book Lust” and, in 2004, earned the Women’s National Book Association Award for her extraordinary contribution to the world of books. She has become a rock star among readers—the tastemaker who people turn to when deciding what to read next.

The Author Series Getaways continues in April with New York Times bestselling author Jamie Ford appearing on Wednesday, April 23. Guests will enjoy a book discussion with Jamie over his new book, “Songs of Willow Frost,” followed by a private dinner.

To register for either of the Author Series Getaway events, call the inn at 360.758.2620.

Photos by Braiden Rex-Johnson

Poached Halibut with Spicy Mashed Potatoes

March 30, 2014

Fisherman's Terminal boat

Poached Halibut with Spicy Mashed Potatoes

Wine Varietal: Pinot Blanc

Serves 4

Mashed potatoes are the quintessential simple, rustic food. I like to add Asian elements to my mashers, then top a heaping mound of spicy potatoes with a tender poached halibut fillet.

1 pound baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half, plus 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1 teaspoon toaste d sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon Thai red curry paste

1/2 cup fat-free, 1/3-less-sodium chicken stock (See Cook’s Hint, below)

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 cup water

1 cup white wine

1 1/2 pounds halibut fillets, skin and bones removed, rinsed, drained, patted dry, and cut into 4 (6-ounce) pieces

Steamed brussels sprouts, broccoli florets, or 1/4-inch-thick carrot rounds, optional

1. To make mashed potatoes, place the potatoes and the 2 cloves peeled and halved garlic in a saucepan and cover with several inches of cold water. Bring to a boil and cook 15 to 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Drain well, then put the potatoes and garlic through a ricer, or mash with a fork.

2. In a small bowl mix the toasted sesame oil, red curry paste, chicken stock, and soy sauce until smooth. Add the liquid to the potatoes, mix well, cover, and keep warm.

3. To poach the fish, bring the water, wine, and crushed garlic to a boil in a skillet large enough to hold the fillets without crowding them. Remove the pan from the heat, add the halibut fillets, return the pan to the heat, reduce heat to low, partially cover (set the lid slightly askew so that steam can escape), and simmer 5 to 10 minutes, or until the fish just turns opaque. Do not allow the water to boil. Remove the fish fillets and place on several layers of paper towels to drain well.

4. To serve, scoop a mound of mashed potatoes in the center of individual plates and place a halibut fillet over the potatoes. If desired, arrange steamed vegetables in a circle around the mashed potatoes.

Cook’s Hint: If fat-free, 1/3-less-sodium chicken stock is unavailable, substitute defatted chicken stock and leave out the 2 teaspoons soy sauce.

Recipe reprinted from the “Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook,” gift edition and e-edition, by Braiden Rex-Johnson, copyright 2005 and 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.


Top Beverage Trends for 2014

March 24, 2014

The Pink Door Mint Julep cocktail northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

Following a blog post earlier this month about possible food-and-wine trends for 2014, here are the top beverage trends we may see this year.

The first six come from the latest annual trend-prediction webinar given by Andrew Freeman, chief executive of San Francisco-based hospitality consulting firm Andrew Freeman & Co. Theme of the webinar was, “Blurred Lines.”

• Infused ice: Last year, bars and restaurants were making distinctive cubes or shaving their own ice. Now they’re infusing cubes with herbs and other ingredients to enhance flavors, Freeman said.

• Wine by the ounce: “People don’t like commitment,” Freeman said, noting that they also like to try different things, which is why more restaurants are offering wine by the ounce, as well as recommending wine flights.

• Artisanal spirits: Local craft beer is well established, but local spirits are trending, too. “Local spirits are infusing cocktails like I have never seen,” Freeman said.

• “Tippler nibblers:” Expect more food-drink combinations such as potent snow cones and graham cracker squares in root beer floats.

• Local and Iberian wines: Every state in the union now makes wine, and they’re becoming more popular — and so are wines from Spain and Portugal, Freeman said.

• Tea cocktails: “Tea is going crazy right now,” Freeman said, noting that it’s in food and desserts, but also in cocktails.

BOKA tea-infused martini northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

Here are other possible beverage trends, as predicted by Washington Restaurant Magazine, a publication of the Washington Restaurant Association.

• Non-Alcoholic Beverages: In this category, look for housemade soft drinks and gourmet lemonade (freshly muddled), specialty iced tea (such as flavored or Thai-style), dairy-free milk (soy, rice, almond), and the ubiquitous coconut water.

•Cocktails and Cocktail Ingredients: Cocktails aged in barrels onsite and culinary cocktails (made with fresh, savory ingredients) will continue trending, augmented by regional signature cocktails, edible cocktails, and food-and-liquor/cocktail pairings.

•Alcoholic Beverages: Locally produced beer/wine/spirits and micro distilled/artisan spirits will continue strong; “new-make” whiskey, gluten-free beer, and food-and-beer pairings will pick up steam.

Wine glass photo northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

The beverage trend below was taken from a report by the Food & Beverage team of MSLGROUP, which operates in offices throughout North America, representing leading food and beverage brands, and manages a state-of-the-art Culinary & Nutrition Center in Seattle.

• “Wine-y” Millennials? Consumers ages 21-34 drink more wine than any other demographic. They’ll make up 40 percent of the population over the next few years, so the popularity of wine is expected to rise for years to come. Cheers to that!

Pike Place Market’s Annual Daffodil Day March 20

March 17, 2014

Garden show 2014 yellow flowers northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

That lovely downtown-Seattle spring tradition we all know as Daffodil Day returns this year on March 20, when downtown streets will be awash in cheery yellow as legions of volunteers hand out over 10,000 daffodils to workers, residents, and shoppers to celebrate the first day of spring.

Mark your calendar now to take a stroll at lunch hour that day to pick up your little ray of spring sunshine–gratis, thanks to Pike Place Market flower vendors.

Arcade lights pike place market logo northwest wining and dining downtown seattle websiteAnd, while you have your calendar open, don’t forget to save-the-date for Arcade Lights, which returns to the Main Arcade on Friday evening, April 25. The annual springtime celebration of all things artisanal offers you a chance to taste handcrafted savory and sweet bites, washed down with craft beer, local wine, and nonalcoholic beverages, all made by local artisan food and drink purveyors.

Each ticket includes 10 tokens redeemable for food and beverages of your choose, plus a keepsake glass. Extra tokens can be purchased at the event. Proceeds benefit the Market Foundation.


More Top Trends for 2014

March 10, 2014

Northwest seafood photo

I love to see what famous public-relations firms, national restaurant magazines, and culinary websites predict as the trends for the new year.

And with that in mind, here are half a dozen trends that I saw mentioned time and again from various reputable sources including Andrew Freeman, chief executive of San Francisco-based hospitality consulting firm Andrew Freeman & Co. (my favorite source); MSLGROUP’s specialized North America food PR and marketing team; Allrecipes.com; and the January 2014 issue of the Washington Restaurant Association magazine.

1. Desserts Go Savory! But we all know savory desserts were already a trend in Seattle years ago.

2. Locally Sourced Meats, Seafood, and Produce; Sustainable Seafood; Nose-to-Tail and Root-to-Stalk Cooking: Plankton Conchiglie Pasta is on the menu at Craigie on Main in Massachusetts; author Tara Duggan wrote an entire cookbook on using the whole vegetable.

3. Home Cooking and Childhood Favorites Making a Comeback: Creative takes on comfort foods encompass the entire menu at Haute Dish in Minneapolis; Ice-cream sandwiches are on trend in flavors such as milk chocolate and malt at Hardwater in San Francisco.

4. Chef and Home Cooks Experimenting with Unusual Nut Butters and Nut Oils: For the first time ever, the Good Food Awards offered up prizes for small-batch oils, such as squash seed and avocado: JIF now offers several versions of “Hazelnut Spread,” no doubt inspired by the popularity of Nutella.

5. Crazy for Coconut (Milk, Butter, Water, Etc.): I knew the coconut-water craze had become mainstream when my 91-year-old father’s caregivers started offering this to him to drink–and he even liked it! NPR weighs in on whether the coconut-water craze is all it’s “cracked up” to be.

6. Pleasing Pickles and Fantastic Fermenting: Perbacco Chef Staffan Terje is experimenting with as garum, a fermented fish sauce, in braised-meat dishes; Wente Vineyards’ Chef Matt Greco uses wine lees in the restaurant’s house-made bread.

Later on this month, we’ll discuss trending cocktails, wine, beer, tea, and other popular beverages.  So please stay tuned! 

Ever Dreamed of Owning a Vineyard (or Three)?

March 3, 2014

The Willamette Valley

Ever wondered what it would be like to buy a winery or own a vineyard?

Well, you are in luck! A recent press release relates that approximately 694 acres of productive land in Washington State’s highly regarded Horse Heaven Hills Appellation will sell at auction on Friday, April 4. Musser Bros. Auctions and Real Estate will conduct the auction.

The land, approximately 335 acres of which is planted to various wine grapes, will be offered in four parcels, according to Scott Musser, spokesman for the auction company.

“The Horse Heaven Hills Appellation is home to 25-percent of the state’s vineyard acreage. It just made the Forbes list of Six Exciting Wine Regions to Explore in 2014, and with good reason. It is a source of four of the state’s 100-point wines, from the 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2007 vintages,” said Musser.

Grapes currently planted on the parcels are Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Sangiovese, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.

The American Viticultural Area (AVA) is home to such vineyards as Columbia Crest, McKinley Springs, Chateau Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Estate, Chateau Champoux, and Alexandria Nicole Cellars at Destiny Ridge.

The land will sell in four parcels using Musser Bros.'”Power Parcels” system of bidding, which allows bidders to enter bids on just the land that suits their needs.

Parcels include:

*200.97 acres with 83 vine acres, two shop buildings, a residence and a well site. Vines planted include Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Sangiovese, and Syrah.

*119.98 acres with 78.7 vine acres, currently planted in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Syrah.

*75.96 acres with 63.17 vine acres, planted in Cabernet Sauvignon.

*297.91 acres, with 116.8 vine acres, planted in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and Syrah.

Individuals interested in additional information may visit the auction company’s website or call 509-416-6060.