Posts Tagged ‘seafood’

Lummi Island in 21 Bites: Chef Blaine Wetzel’s Pacific Northwest Tasting Menu at the Willows Inn

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Smoked sockeye salmon

Chef Blaine Wetzel has put The Willows Inn on Lummi Island on the Pacific Northwest’s culinary map. Wetzel, a native of Washington state, has an impressive number of awards to his name considering he’s barely 30. He was named Food & Wine’s Best New Chef in 2012, and won the James Beard award for Best Rising Chef in 2014 and Best Chef Northwest in 2015.

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The lobby at the Willows Inn

Chef Wetzel’s tasting menu, Lummi Island in 21 Bites, is known for being almost entirely local. It’s also one of the toughest reservations to get in the Pacific Northwest. The Willows Inn seats only 26 and does one sitting per at 6:30 pm. The hotel is closed for a few months in the winter, so getting a reservation during the prime summer season can be challenging. I couldn’t make it happen last summer but got a reservation for June 2016.

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The  cottage at the Willows Inn

Known for it’s super locavore focus, almost everything on the menu is farmed, foraged or raised on or near tiny Lummi Island’s nine square miles.

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Charming details at the 100 year old Willows Inn

The Willows Inn even offers guests tours of the local farm where most of their produce is grown, making it an intriguing foodie destination in the San Juan Islands.

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Craftsman charm at the Willows Inn

Lummi Island is reached by a 10 minute ferry ride from Bremerton. With a population of less than 1,000 residents, little Lummi Island is punching way above it’s weight class in fine dining.

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Pacific Northwest charm at the bar

The evening started with cocktails around 5:30. I had the Pineapple Weed Fizz ($14), made with with pineapple weed gin, egg white and chamomile bitters, which was refreshing in the hot weather and inspired. I liked the lack of formality in the service. It was top notch, but relaxed.

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Mason jars on display in the bar

The meal started with small bites in the bar. First up was a crispy crepe with golden char roe. It was beautiful.

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Left: Flowers and candlelight right: cocktails with fresh garnishes

In honor of National Donut Day, intriguing smoked cod doughnuts were served next. The third course was a standout for me– Kale leaves with black truffles. Next were small bites of roasted sunflower root and green rhubarb.

Willows Inn smokehouse action video

At this point we left the bar and sat at our table, where we were served native oysters in a juice of watercress followed by lightly cured rockfish in a broth of bones.

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roasted sunflower root

The vivid hues of the turnip stems with caramelized razor clams were followed by a Lummi Island “tostada” made with wild herbs served on crispy mustard greens. It was colorful crunchy goodness.

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Kale leaves with black truffles

Stewed porcini mushrooms were served next and, for me, they were the standout course of the evening with their delicate texture and savory umami goodness.

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Scenes from a tasting menu

Dungeness crab served in a puree of pine nuts came next. This delicate yet satisfying dish was followed by a rare seasonal treat of local salmonberries served with petals of Nootka roses. Not overly sweet, the berries were very flavorful and bursting with color. It is a memorable dish.

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Stewed porcini mushroooms

Pacific Northwest staples of smoked sockeye salmon and a seared skirt of razor clam came next. I was starting to lose steam by the time the halibut and lovage arrived.

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Left: Turnip stems with caramelized razor clams Right: Native oysters in a juice of watercress

I found some more room for the wheat bread with pan drippings, but couldn’t muster the strength for the aged leg of venison, which was the last of the savory courses. Epic meals can be too much for me.

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2010 Golden Grape Semillon was part of the wine pairing

The toasted birch branches (served as a tea) were much appreciated with it’s earthy heat acting as a bit of digestive before the dessert courses.

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Seared skirt of razor clam

While I tend to favor savory over sweet, the desserts at the Willows Inn were exceptional and light. Grilled strawberries were served with fresh chamomile in a pleasing combination.

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Green rhubarb

Candied green pine came next, followed by pumpkin seed fudge which was shockingly light and flavorful. I almost asked for seconds.

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Crispy crepe and golden char roe

Wine pairings can be ordered with dinner for $90, or a juice pairing for $40.

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Native oysters in a juice of watercress

The wine pairing focused on the Pacific Northwest and skewed towards the whites, which was appropriate for the seafood-centric menu. I must confess I am not a white wine lover. While I normally adore wines from Oregon and Washington, I thought the wine pairing was the meal’s one misstep. It was also a bit surprising since the cocktails were so good.

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Left: smoked cod donuts Right: Dungeness crab in a puree of pine nuts

If you can’t get a reservation at the Willows Inn you can try checking out Blaine Wetzel’s cookbook, Sea and Smoke: Flavors from the Untamed Pacific Northwest.

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Lummi island “tostada” (wild herbs and crispy mustard 

The Willows Inn also serves breakfast and lunch.

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Left: salmonberries with nooka roses right: grilled strawberries and fresh chamomile

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toasted birch branches tea

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Pumpkin seed fudge

The Willows Inn

Menu $175
Wine pairing $90
Juice menu $ 40

Address: 2579 W Shore Drive
Lummi Island, WA 98262

Phone: (360) 758-2620
Toll Free: (888) 294-2620

Email: reservations@willows-inn.com

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Where to Eat in Sydney: Mr. Wong For Dim Sum

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The house special: pork and asparagus wontons

Sydney is one of my favorite cities to visit and I always enjoy checking out the food scene when I’m there. But unlike New York or LA where reservations are essential if you want to dine a hot foodie spot, many of Sydney’s of-the-moment restaurants don’t take reservations at dinner. The last thing I want to do when I’m traveling is wait in a line for over an hour for a meal.

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Solo diners can eat at the counter at Mr. Wong

Fortunately, Jonathan Fambart, the amazing concierge at the Park Hyatt Sydney, pointed out that many of these same restaurants do take reservations for lunch. So my husband and I switched our plans to make lunch the primary meal of the day. Jonathan got us a table at Mr. Wong, the contemporary Chinese restaurant run by the Merivale group.

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Craft cocktails at Mr. Wong focus on Shochu and fresh ingredients

While we had a table reserved, we opted to eat at the bar downstairs because it was slightly quieter. This is not a restaurant for serious conversation, as the brick walls and loft-like space make it rather loud. I started with a Yin martini made with shochu, vodke, Aperol, apricot brandy and fresh peach. It was not overly sweet and not Mad Men-strong, making it a nice choice for lunch.

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Dim sum being prepared in the kitchen at Mr. Wong

Dim sum is only available at lunch, and we ordered a few different things to share. I very much enjoyed the pork and prawn shumai (AUS $12). The duck spring rolls (AUS $12) were also a nice alternative to an entire Peking Duck.

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The oysters at Mr. Wong go for AUS $4 per piece

My husband very much enjoyed his rock oysters served drizzled with a ginger rice wine vinaigrette.

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Duck Spring Rolls at Mr. Wong

There are also a wide variety of roast meats and live seafood on the menu at Mr. Wong, should you be in the mood for mud crab, rock lobster or a whole roast duck.

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The Yin Martini at Mr. Wong

The atmosphere is stylish and the Central Business District location make Mr. Wong a popular spot for business lunches as well as dinners.

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The decor is Cantonese contemporary chic

The standout dish of the meal was the special pork and asparagus wontons (I can’t remember the price). They were exceptional and had the right amount of smokiness and heat. I was expecting the duck to the highlight of the meal but I can’t stop thinking about those wontons!

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The downstairs dining room and bar at Mr. Wong

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Mr. Wong exterior tucked away on Bridge Lane

If you don’t want to wait for a table for dinner, head to Mr. Wong for lunch. The pork & asparagus wontons are not to be missed.

Mr. Wong

Address: 3 Bridge Lane, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

Phone:+61 2 9240 3000

Hours:

LUNCH Mon – Sun 12:00pm – 3:00pm
DINNER Mon – Wed 5:30pm – 11:00pm
Thurs – Sat 5:30pm – 12:00am
Sun 5:30pm – 10:00pm
YUM CHA Sat – Sun 10:30am – 12:00pm

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Where to Eat in Punta Mita, Mexico: The Mita Mary

Warning: lobster tacos can be addictive

Who needs food trucks when you can eat at boat restaurant… right on the beach?

Carl Emberson, the General Manager of the St. Regis Punta Mita is a serious foodie. He imported his favorite empanada recipe from a hotel in Argentina and organizes food & wine festivals. He’s also very, very creative and always wants his guests to have something new to experience.

The Mita Mary

Since the St. Regis is surround by beach (and a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course), there are no roads for food trucks. The solution is the Mita Mary, a repurposed boat turned pop up restaurant right on the sand.

Guacamole and a margarita in Mexico’s answer to a Mason jar

The vibe is of-the-moment yet laid back. You can plant your toes in the sand while ordering your fresh seafood grilled or transformed into tacos and other tasty bites. While I initially fell for the shrimp tacos, the lobster tacos, delicately laced with the right amount of spice quickly became a favorite.

Behold: shrimp taco perfection.

The margaritas are great and the juicy Mexican limes elevate your bottle of Pacifico Cerveza and take the whole meal next level. Señor Emberson sure one upped the World’s Most Interesting Man with this shipwreck bistro thing.

Spectacular sunset views at the Mita Mary

The Mita Mary has two dinner seatings. Book the earlier one if you want a prime location for stunning sunset views.

Fairy lights and great service make the Mita Mary both casual and romantic

Fairy lights strung from palm trees add to the atmosphere after dark.

The octopus tacos weren’t bad either

Even if you’re not staying at the St. Regis, book a table for top notch service and a memorable meal. Tables are limited, and reservations are highly advised.

Live musicians at the Mita Mary

Mita Mary Boat Bistro at St.Regis Punta Mita Resort

Punta De Mita, Nayarit, Mexico

+52 329 291 5800

Disclosure: I was treated to my first meal at the Mita Mary. But it was so good I came back three more times on my own pesos.

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Where to Eat in Paris: L’Ecailler du Bistrot for Oysters

The shellfish plate at L’Ecailler du Bistrot

Looking for a great oyster bar in Paris? Head to rue Paul Bert in the 11th. There is Bistrot Paul Bert just down the street, and the unpretentious maritime-themed L’Ecailler du Bistrot, which has combines classic French ambience with excellent seafood.

Plateau de Fruits de Mer Time Lapse at L’Ecailler Du Bistrot Paris, France

It’s all about the seafood here. While my crab and scallop allergy kept me from the shellfish platter, my friends devoured it over the course of an hour.

One of L’Ecailler du Bistrot’s maritime-themed rooms

The fresh oysters from Normandy and Brittany, cockles and various other crustaceans all received rave reviews from my friends. The sole muniere was a standout, as was the half lobster served with frite, and the linguini with clams.

The half-lobster at L’Ecailler du Bistot

The entire meal was complemented by a few bottles of reasonably priced (for Paris) wine from the menu.

The oysters are ready for their close-up

Left: the empty shells Right: oysters on the half shell

Linguini with clams

This was a meal I had absolutely no expectations about, and wound up one of my favorites of the trip. The cozy atmosphere and good service did not hurt.

The Sole Muniere (before and after)

No doubt– L’Ecailler du Bistrot is a seafood standout.

L’Ecailler du Bistrot

22 Rue Paul Bert 75011 Paris

phone +33 1 43 72 76 77

Opening hours:
Monday-Friday, noon to 14h30 and 19h30 to 23h

Closed Sundays & Mondays

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Where to Eat in Paris: Brasserie Bofinger

The stunning stained glass window above the main dining room at Brasserie Bofinger

I recently returned from a trip to Paris where I broke my habit of gravitating to old favorites and dined at as many different restaurants recommended by friends as possible.

First up was Brasserie Bofinger, a 150 year old brasserie in the Marais. Entering Brasserie Bofinger felt like stepping back into the 19th century, and the Belle Epoque atmosphere alone is worth the cost of admission… fortunately the food is great, too.

Gorgeous iron details on the staircase at Brasserie Bofinger

There’s a spectacular stained glass window in the main dining room, and several smaller dining areas in the front and upstairs. I was seated in the main dining room, which filled up quickly with locals and delicious wafting smell of sauerkraut. I noticed that most tourists (with suitcases in tow) were seated in the front rooms.

The stunning stained glass window at Brasserie Bofinger

Bofinger’s menu focuses on Alsatian cuisine, and claims to be “the most Alsatian of the Parisian brasseries.” However the staff had considerably less attitude than my belovedly rude Brasserie Lipp. Brasserie Bofinger had a large selection of seasonal oysters from Normandy, Brittany, and Ireland, as well as gorgeous shellfish towers which seemed very popular the day I was dining there.

A cozy dining space upstairs at Brasserie Bofinger

I always order steak frites when trying out a new (to me) brasserie since it’s such a classic dish. Bofinger had an exceptional chateaubriand (filet). My waitress did not wince at me when I ordered it medium, and the meat was delicious and the sauce was served on the side (I did not use much). The frites were a bit soggy, but I didn’t care much, I only wanted a few. My meal was really all about the steak, and it was fantastic.

Since the tables are narrow, the courses get piled up on top of each other

The tables at Bofinger are close together, so courses are stacked rather than served side-by-side.

Utah Beach Oysters

Next time I’ll probably order one of the sauerkraut dishes (starting at €24), based on their alluring aromas and how much they seemed to favored by the locals. My husband went for the oysters, and particularly liked the briny freshness of the ones from Utah Beach.

Left: Oysters from Utah Beach Right: shrimp on a shellfish platter

Brasserie Bofinger also has an overflow space across the street, Petit Bofinger, should you not be able to get into the main restaurant.

The chateaubriand served with tomato, frites, and green beans

Brasserie Bofinger is a great choice for a classic brasserie experience and will appeal to those who like La Coupole and Brasserie Lipp. It’s only a few minutes walk to the green space of Place des Vosges, which is a great spot to people watch when the weather allows.

Brasserie Bofinger’s exterior on Rue de la Bastille

Meats courses start at €22

Oysters and seafood start at €17

Brasserie Bofinger

Address: 5-7 Rue de la Bastille, 75004 Paris, France

Phone:+33 1 42 72 87 82

Book online

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