Wow. Just home from a fantastic two-day book event at the Willows Inn on Lummi Island. Stacy, Skyla, Weston and I all had a wonderful time, and I can’t imagine a better place for food, books and sheer beauty. We arrived, checked into a beautiful house on Legoe Bay and had to fight off the urge to run down to the beach and fish. We were due shortly at the reading, which was hosted by author Julie Trimingham (her novel, Mockingbird, will be out in July) at her lovely waterfront farm, Loganita.
We gathered in the airy, glass-fronted meeting place with sunshine streaming in and breathtaking views of the Strait of Georgia and San Juan Islands. To be honest, it was a bit difficult to start talking about the book and reading with a backdrop like that. But the guests were enthusiastic, engaged and kind, and I think it went pretty well. And the snacks provided by the Willows Inn kitchen! Huge, sweet radishes fresh from the raised beds out back, with a creamy dipping sauce; local goat and sheep cheeses; handmade herb crackers; and some spectacular, chewy, salt-dried whole smelt (kind of like portable, jerky versions of Spanish bacalao) that I couldn’t stop eating.
Dinner was even better. The whole group dined together on all the best locally grown, caught and foraged ingredients, lovingly (and skillfully) prepared. Highlights for me were the steamer clams in herb broth, the pan-roasted local asparagus and a halibut dish that literally melted in the mouth. Oh, and the house-made bread, crusty and slathered with fresh-churned Island herb butter, that we ate with everything. Awesome. If there’s a unifying theme to the cooking here, to me it’s that they feature the fresh, intense flavors of the raw products with a light (and perfect) cooking and seasoning touch. It’s a philosophy that requires an enormous amount of skill to pull off, and they do it here at the highest level.
Next day started with eggs “benedict” made with locally reef-net caught sockeye lox, and blueberry-buckwheat pancakes, followed by a tour of the restaurant garden with culinary gardener Mary. Stacy put on her boots and did a little garden work (you can take a farmer off the farm, but…) while I stood around and talked books with the guests. Finally, the kids and I hit the beach for a little fishing. Actually, Skyla led the charge and took off with the six-weight while I was still eating lunch. I snapped this picture from the balcony, as Skyla worked a Miyawaki popper off the rocks.
Then it was off to the ferry and the drive home. We were all a little sad to leave beautiful Lummi and all the wonderful people we met there, but inspired as well. Many thanks to Julie and everyone at the Willows Inn and Village Books for their generous, thoughtful hosting, and to the guests who came to share the experience. Our family definitely felt the love. As Paul from Village Books said at dinner, “We come together here as strangers and leave as friends.” True, that.
The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, WA is one of the hottest “destination” dining experiences in the world, racking up incredible reviews from Bon Apetit, Gourmet, The Wall Street Journal, etc. They were even featured in last month’s issue of Outside Magazine. The main hook? They’ve taken the locavore concept to the extreme–everything they serve is foraged, grown or caught on tiny Lummi Island or the surrounding waters, then prepared with impeccable technique and care by star chef Blaine Wetzel and his talented crew of sous chefs.
So it’s seriously humbling to be reading from and talking about Closer to the Ground at The Willows Inn, on May 14th and 15th, as part of their literary series. This is going to be really fun–we’ll have a talk/reading in the afternoon, share a great dinner and then do a little garden and forest foraging the next morning with some of the restaurant crew. I’m stoked!
Many thanks to The Willows Inn and Village Books, in Bellingham, for putting this together. For more information or to reserve a spot, call The Willows Inn at 360.758.2620 or visit their event page at: http://www.willows-inn.com/events/author-series-with-dylan-tomine/. A copy of Closer to the Ground is included with reservations, but if you’d like an extra copy or seven (joking) or just want the book, the good folks at Village Books are happy to ship: http://www.villagebooks.com/book/9781938340000. If you can make it, come on out to Lummi Island for a great overnight getaway in a gorgeous setting, with amazing food and some book talk as well. I think we’ll have a great time.
After the Oregon book events, I was happy to be home. Spent most of the weekend on farm and house chores, but found a little time to wander around in the woods in a driving rain storm. It felt great. The kids were at a birthday party and Stacy was at the farm, so I went looking for chanterelles at a very relaxed pace. Scouted a new spot (nothing), went to an old favorite (very few), and finally ended up at our most reliable area (a few more).
I’m not sure if there were pickers ahead of me or if the late arrival of our autumn rain kind of closed the window on chanterelles, but given the conditions, I thought I’d find more. Pretty tough. The ones I did find, though, were dandies. Mostly deep in the ferns, very few under the huckleberry shrubs or in more open spots. After a couple of hours I was soaking wet, covered with fir needles and carrying about a pound of chanterelles. Just enough for an awesome pizza (more on that in the next post) with some in reserve for salmon/chanterelle linguine later this week.
BOOK UPDATE: I will be at Village Books in Bellingham on Tuesday, October 30th at 7:00pm. Then at Orca Books in Olympia on Saturday, November 3rd at 3:00pm. Come on out if you can–I’d love to meet you in person. Also, I feel honored to have Closer to the Ground reviewed in Publishers Weekly today. Click HERE to read the review.