Monthly Archives: December 2014

Does Willows Inn offer the best dining experience in North America?

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Smokehouse

A full 5 Yums Up for me and a spot on my most memorable meal list. From the moment we pulled into the parking lot and were greeted by a fire in the grill and aromatic smoke chugging out of the smokehouse I was engaged in the experience of dining at Willows Inn. A good walk on the beach across the street set our appetites on fire.
As the sun set, the chefs visited the grill and smokehouse more and the kitchen and dining room started to glow with light and activity. I was drawn away from the smokehouse to make a quick change before moving to the lobby bar for a drink, a snack and some excellent entertainment from a young man with a guitar, a violin, a ukulele and a great song list.
Regular trips to the glass French doors to the kitchen built even more anticipation as I watched the chefs with calm and precision work magic as 6:30 approached.
Soon we were all seated in the casually elegant dining room, drinks were poured and a parade of servers and chefs presented each of us with a small lidded cedar box.

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Samish Bay Smoked Mussel

Lift the lid and smoke escaped and we were all in; appearance, aroma and taste. By far the best mussel I have ever eaten and I wanted more, right then. I was soon distracted by tiny crispy crepes rolled around char roe.

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Crispy Crepe with Char Roe

The 1st two bites had the whole room humming. Things moved along pretty quickly but with plenty of time to savour the aromas, appearance and taste of each dish.

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Crispy kale with Black Truffles.

Next up was my favourite of the evening; crispy halibut skin stuffed with halibut emulsion and bits of razor clams dusted with seaweed dust. This had everything going for it; incredible presentation, crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside and flavour that made you long for more.

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Crispy Halibut Skins

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Grilled Shitake Mushrooms

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Spot Prawn Poached in it’s Roe

The lightly smoked oysters were so good, they delivered another order to our table.  Don’t they look amazing?

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Shigoku Oysters

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Black Cod wrapped in Caraflex Cabbage

The Black cod wasn’t the most beautiful presentation of the evening but one of the tastiest.  I happen to know from hanging around the smokehouse that the cod was lightly smoked and there was a sliver of very crisp cod skin along the top of the fish before it was wrapped in cabbage.  My second favourite dish of the night.

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Pears Cooked in Embers

Pears cooked in embers was the pescatarian swap for tartare of venison and wild lettuces.

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Quite possibly the best smoked salmon I’ve ever eaten.

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Smoked Sockeye Salmon

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Slices of Persimmon

Things were starting to get a little foggy about now.  We’d chosen the wine pairing option and the pours were generous.  I don’t know what the persimmons were in but it was refreshing and lively.

Only one other dish needed to be swapped out for our pescatarian request.  It was pine mushrooms instead of pork chop in juniper with turnips buried in embers. Once again I loved the taste of the fire on the turnip and the mushrooms and juniper were earthy, deep and dark.

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Pine mushroom and juniper with turnip from the embers

There was also roasted sunflower root, caramelized squid and charred radicchio, felicata squash and pine-flavoured cream, flax seed squares and bread from local grains with butter and onion drippings but my final favourite was goat’s milk with grasses.  The grasses were in a broth and I was actually reluctant to taste it fearing it might be a bad end to the meal but it was amazing.  So bright it almost sang to me.

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Goat Cheese with a Broth of Grasses

In all there were 11 courses and 9 snacks or surprises paired with 5 wines and 1 beer.  I made a mistake and ordered a bottle of Capitello Oregon Brut before dinner and also chose the wine pairing option with dinner.  I was drinking bubbly between courses instead of water and it may have had an effect on my judgement toward the end of the meal.  I wasn’t the last person in the dining room as I’d intended to be and I regret it immensely.

I’ve eaten at a couple of Michelin starred restaurants this year as well as some of the best restaurants in Vancouver and this meal is definitely my best of the year.

I’ve booked it for same time next year.

Wine Pairing:

Capitellp Methode Champenoise Oregon Brut

2013 Big Table Farm “Wirtz Vineyard” Edelzqicker, Willamette, Oregon

2011 Maison Bleue “Upland Vineyard” Grenache, Snipes Mountain, Washington

Longsdon Straffe Drieling Tripel, Hood River, Oregon

2011 Gramercy Cellars “Inifo Montoya” Tempranillo, Walla Walla, Washington

2012 Brook “Tehys” Riesling, Eola-Amith Hills, Oregon

I highly recommend Willows Inn.  Book early so you can stay right on property.

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Rachel’s 23rd birthday

I woke in the early morning of Wednesday with a sore throat that managed to keep me awake a long time and was feeling pretty poorly to start the day.  I stayed in bed and skipped the workout and felt much better for my favourite day. Rachel’s birthday invokes the strongest and best memories and I’ve always tried to have breakfast with her.  Yesterday was no exception.  She chose Catch 122 on Hastings.  Neither of us had been there and it was a good choice.  I had a truffle scented mushroom omelet with goat cheese.  It was a little bland but benefited from hot sauce.  The hash browns were a thing of beauty.  Rachel had a 3 decker english muffin scrambled egg and chorizo affair that was impossible to eat as a sandwich.  She ate every bite but I don’t think she’d order it again.  Coffee was good, room is good.  2 1/2 Yums Up.

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David made baked beans on potatoes and an excellent arugula, corn and red pepper dish for dinner.

I ate about 2,300 calories yesterday.

This morning I did a 10 minute bike ride, some crunches and stretches.  My body is aching and sore.  I think I may have a flu bug I’m fighting off.

Tan Tan Noodle Challenge continues and Peaceful takes the lead

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Driving home yesterday I was thinking of what to have for lunch when I saw a parking spot right in front of Peaceful. and the Tan Tan noodle challenge was on.  I ordered to go and perhaps that’s not comparing oranges to oranges but Peaceful came out the winner over Lin’s anyway.  The spinach and tofu addition make for a more interesting dish. Peaceful serves it with the sauces on the bottom and the other components separate on top. Once tossed the sauces become rich and thick  The spicing is just right too, not but not overpowering.  Both have excellent handmade noodles but Peaceful  makes the better dish.

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Monday morning David started our day with this amazing skillet breakfast of potato, egg and curd.  Add some sauce and it’s a new poutine.  It was delicious.

Light workout this morning, feeling quite sore from Sunday and Monday.  10 minute bike, crunches, push ups and stretches.

I ate about 2,000 calories yesterday.  It is possible to eat great food and eat low colorie if there are no extras or alcohol.

Dim Sum at Jade and 2 new must have dishes

Woke up feeling like all I wanted to do was drink coffee and read the news but I climbed on the bike anyway and finished with a very nice workout.  3 sprints on the bike, 2 – 2+minutes and 1 – 1+ minute.

I felt hungover yesterday.  I rarely drink enough to feel that way and it wasn’t lack of sleep.  Dim Sum was a great idea and Jade is one of my favourite places.  They make a fish and mushroom tart that I’ve never seen anywhere else and is 2 bites of amazing.  The prawns in balsamic another slightly odd dish for dim sum but also deeply delicious.  Our 2 new favourites are the personal hot pot with scallops, prawn and mushrooms in a Thai sauce that is mopped up beautifully with the deep fried mushrooms.  There are snowy owls in Boundary Bay this time of year so a repeat may be n the future.

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Halibut with Green Onion and Ginger

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Thai Style Prawn and Scallop Mini Hot Pot

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Prawns in Balsamic Sauce

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Mixed Mushroom and Truffle Chow Mein
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Baked Mushroom and Fish Tart

Another day of not being able to guess at the calories.  Today won’t be like that though.

Sunday sunrise walk following day of debauchery

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Walk on Ambleside beach this morning. 20 to 25 minutes. Beautiful way to start the day and it’s warm and not raining.

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Topsail did a little running and swimming with her favourite ball.

We started the day yesterday at the market and it was pouring rain. Somehow I couldn’t resist the Kaboom Box poutine. It’s tastier than it looks. Delicious, in fact. Fresh hot perfect fries with curd and mushroom gravy. Breakfast of the gods.

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A trip to Bridge Brewing called for a flight of 5. I really did just “taste” them. Still adds up to about 5 oz of beer.

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A neighbourhood party called for some good wine so I opened a bottle of @QuintaFerreira ’08 Obra-Prima to test it and we finished the bottle with cheese and oysters while we watched hockey. We still needed wine for the party so Harry McWaters ’07 Meritage came along and didn’t disappoint. Of course the party had great food. An excellent Asiago, artichoke dip, Aranchini and Mac and cheese balls were among my favourites.
Needless to say I have no way to count the calories I ate yesterday.

Rainy Saturday morning

7:45 Workout done.  Coffee in hand.  Nothing I HAVE  to do until afternoon.

A lighter workout this morning.  15 minutes bike but no sprints and no weights.

We had dinner at Lin’s last night and though I love their hand made noodles and the honey prawns are amazing, the Tan Tan soup wasn’t the best.  Peaceful may be.  We’re going to have to try them all again soon.  A week of Tan Tan.  Chongqing’s sauce is sometimes fantastic and sometimes too hot and they don’t make the noodles.  Peaceful adds some nice crispy tofu.

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The Bok Choy with 2 kinds of mushrooms was pretty great.

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At The Travel Group’s Friday Winedown we opened a bottle of Sandhill 2011 Cabernet Merlot from Vanessa Vineyards and it disappeared so fast I barely tasted it.  We toured the vineyard just before they picked the grapes so I’m quite partial to the wine.

I ate 2,700 calories yesterday.

Friday morning there’s so much wonderful ahead

Great workout this morning.  15 minute bike with 4 sprints.  They are really getting me huffing and puffing.  I didn’t feel like doing anything but making a coffee but it’s a habit so I just went with the flow.

Cooked dinner at home last night, maple mustard glazed salmon with nugget potatoes and carrots peas and corn.  A simple meal but delicious.  I’m going to take a picture of every dinner plate I eat.  Increase mindfulness and make some pretty pictures.

Finished off a couple of bottles of leftover wine.

I ate 2,300 calories yesterday.

Thursday and Christmas is in the air

It was a tough workout this morning but I did 15 minutes on the bike with 4 sprints of 1 minutes + and a full workout except squats.  Knees just weren’t up for it.  Although I didn’t get to work out yesterday, I did do a lot of shopping including Costco, a knee destroying experience.

We had dinner at home last night.  David made mushroom soup and I made an avocado and pomegranate salad. There was some leftover Norman Hardie Chardonnay and it was weighty enough to hold up brightly with the soup.

I ate 2,300 calories yesterday,

Wednesday morning easy start

Having a guest stay in our basement means no workout for me this morning so I’m taking advantage and starting a new book.  Not many calories burned at that task.  It’s a paper book so a bit more active than reading on my phone.

Dinner at home last night by David was his special vegetarian tourtiere with his new cranberry jam.  Pretty awesome.

I opened a bottle of Seven Stones 2006 Meritage to go with and was it ever good.  I’m always a little worried opening older wine but the cork pulled nicely and was in good shape.  The aromas didn’t leap out of the bottle but came on when poured.  Nice dark garnet colour and smooth wine, very ready to drink.  The dark plummy flavour was great with the tourtiere.

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I ate 2,100 calories yesterday.

Tuesday and December, time to start getting ready

Another good workout this morning.  15 minute bike with 4 sprints.  I moved through the whole workout faster as well to try and keep my heart rate up.  Feels good.

I cooked last night and Rachel came for dinner; tomato and mushroom bruschetta, salt and vinegar potatoes and grilled tuna with white wine, mustard sauce.  The potatoes were disappointing.  I’d spent a good deal of time finding the recipe I’d read in Bon Appetit because I thought I’d love it.  Not so much.  Perhaps it needed to be served instantly.  Perhaps the white nuggets weren’t up to the task of the called for small yukon golds.  Whatever the fault the recipe has been deleted.   I liked the tuna but didn’t get much feedback on it.

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I opened a bottle of Norman Hardi 2012 County Chardonnay to make the sauce and go with the meal.  The wine was the best part.

I ate 2,100 calories yesterday.