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Blaine Wetzel, a native of Olympia, Washington, has come a long way. After spending a year and a half in the Noma kitchen, he decided it was time to go back home to Washington and open a restaurant of his own. He checked out a bunch of locations and decided that an inn on a small island off the coast of Bellingham was the ideal spot. Not content with having his own kitchen, he identified a fertile plot of land on the island where he planted a garden to supply the restaurant with produce. Two years later we are seeing reviews like these: “brilliant restaurant, producing the type of magic that can be created only when a well-trained, creative chef finds the perfect spot from which to source the freshest and finest of ingredients”; “several of the vegetable dishes will stay with me forever”; and “his hot-smoked, Lummi Island reef net caught salmon might be the best thing I ate in 2012.”

After making a big splash in the semifinals of the food industry’s annual James Beard Foundation award competition, Seattle’s list of contenders was cut to a talented few when finalists were announced today.

Blaine Wetzel of Willows Inn on Lummi Island made the final five for Rising Star Chef, a national award.

Still in the running for Best Chef Northwest are Renee Erickson of The Whale Wins, Jason Franey of Canlis and Ethan Stowell of Staple & Fancy. Competing with them for the regional title are two Portland chefs – Naomi Pomeroy of Beast and Cathy Whims of Nostrana.

Chosen as one of five finalists for Outstanding Restaurant Design (75 seats or less) was Seattle’s Westward, which sits on the north shore of Lake Union and is part of Josh Henderson’s Huxley Wallace Collective.

The full list of finalists, or “nominees” as they are officially called, is on the Beard Foundation’s website. Winners will be announced May 5 at an awards ceremony at New York City’s Lincoln Center.

Chef Blaine Wetzel of The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, Lummi Island, WA is semifinalist for the Rising Star Chef of the Year award from the James Beard Foundation.

They’re here! This morning we announced the semifinalists for our 2014 Restaurant and Chef Award categories, from Outstanding Restaurant to Rising Star Chef of the Year. Our announcement took place in Orlando, one of Florida’s burgeoning culinary hubs. We’d like to thank Visit Orlando for making the event possible.

Scroll down to see if your favorite restaurant or chef is in the running. (For a refresher on how these names were selected, read this.) And don’t forget: we’ll announce the final Restaurant and Chef Award nominations, as well as the nominations for our Book, Journalism, Broadcast, and Restaurant Design Awards, at the Publican in Chicago on Tuesday, March 18.

The 2014 James Beard Awards will be held in New York City on May 2 and 5.

The 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards Restaurant and Chef Semifinalists

Best New Restaurant
The 404 Kitchen, Nashville
Aragona, Seattle
Ardent, Milwaukee
Asta, Boston
Bar Sajor, Seattle
Betony, NYC
Brindille, Chicago
Carbone, NYC
Casa Rubia, Dallas
The Cavalier, San Francisco
Chi Spacca, Los Angeles
Connie and Ted’s, West Hollywood, CA
Coqueta, San Francisco
The Elm, Brooklyn, NY
Estela, NYC
Fish & Game, Hudson, NY
Izanami at Ten Thousand Waves, Santa Fe
Laurel, Philadelphia
MilkWood, Louisville, KY
MW, Honolulu
Nico Osteria, Chicago
Pêche, New Orleans
Pinewood Social, Nashville
Ribelle, Brookline, MA
Rose’s Luxury, Washington, D.C.
Serpico, Philadelphia
Tosca Cafe, San Francisco
Trois Mec, Los Angeles
Uncle Boons, NYC
Virtù, Scottsdale, AZ

Outstanding Bar Program
Anvil Bar & Refuge, Houston
Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, New Orleans
Bar Agricole, San Francisco
The Bar at the NoMad Hotel, NYC
The Broken Shaker, Miami Beach, FL
Butcher and the Rye, Pittsburgh
Canon, Seattle
Clyde Common, Portland, OR
Columbia Room inside the Passenger, Washington, D.C.
Cure, New Orleans
The Dead Rabbit, NYC
The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co., Philadelphia
Hard Water, San Francisco
The Hawthorne, Boston
Kimball House, Decatur, GA
Maison Premiere, Brooklyn, NY
Marvel Bar, Minneapolis
The Porter Beer Bar, Atlanta
Rivera, Los Angeles
Rogue 24, Washington, D.C.
Taste, St. Louis
Trick Dog, San Francisco
The Varnish, Los Angeles
The Violet Hour, Chicago
Williams & Graham, Denver

Outstanding Chef
Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern, NYC
Isaac Becker, 112 Eatery, Minneapolis
Sean Brock, McCrady’s, Charleston, SC
Andrew Carmellini, Locanda Verde, NYC
Gary Danko, Restaurant Gary Danko, San Francisco
Suzanne Goin, Lucques, West Hollywood, CA
Gabrielle Hamilton, Prune, NYC
David Kinch, Manresa, Los Gatos, CA
Donald Link, Herbsaint, New Orleans
Carrie Nahabedian, Naha, Chicago
Nancy Oakes, Boulevard, San Francisco
Maricel Presilla, Cucharamama, Hoboken, NJ
Anne Quatrano, Bacchanalia, Atlanta
Michael Schwartz, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Miami
Julian Serrano, Picasso at Bellagio, Las Vegas
Nancy Silverton, Pizzeria Mozza, Los Angeles
Ana Sortun, Oleana, Cambridge, MA
John Sundstrom, Lark, Seattle
Michael Tusk, Quince, San Francisco
Marc Vetri, Vetri, Philadelphia

Outstanding Pastry Chef
Dominique Ansel, Dominique Ansel Bakery, NYC
Melissa Chou, Aziza, San Francisco
Dana Cree, Blackbird, Chicago
Steve Horton, Rustica Bakery, Minneapolis
Kate Jacoby, Vedge, Philadelphia
Michelle Karr-Ueoka, MW, Honolulu
Maura Kilpatrick, Oleana, Cambridge, MA
Phoebe Lawless, Scratch, Durham, NC
Belinda Leong, b. patisserie, San Francisco
Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, Baked, Brooklyn, NY
Yasmin Lozada-Hissom, Spuntino, Denver
Tiffany MacIsaac, Birch & Barley, Washington, D.C.
Dolester Miles, Highlands Bar and Grill, Birmingham, AL
Dahlia Narvaez, Osteria Mozza, Los Angeles
Neil Robertson, Crumble & Flake, Seattle
Philip Speer, Uchi, Austin and Houston
Jonathan Stevens and Cheryl Maffei, Hungry Ghost, Northampton, MA
Christina Tosi, Momofuku, NYC
Nick Wesemann, The American Restaurant, Kansas City, MO
Jennifer Yee, Lafayette, NYC

Outstanding Restaurant
Bern’s Steak House, Tampa, FL
Canlis, Seattle
The Fearrington House Restaurant, Pittsboro, NC
Fore Street, Portland, ME
Foreign Cinema, San Francisco
Fork, Philadelphia
Greens, San Francisco
Hamersley’s Bistro, Boston
Hearth, NYC
Highlands Bar and Grill, Birmingham, AL
Jaleo, Washington, D.C.
Mélisse, Santa Monica, CA
Pearl Oyster Bar, NYC
Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix
Primo, Rockland, ME
The Slanted Door, San Francisco
Spiaggia, Chicago
Terra, St. Helena, CA
Vidalia, Washington, D.C.
wd~50, NYC

Outstanding Restaurateur
Ashok Bajaj, Knightsbridge Restaurant Group, Washington, D.C. (The Bombay Club, The Oval Room, Rasika, and others)
Giorgios Bakatsias, Giorgios Hospitality Group, Durham, NC (Kipos, Parizäde, Village Burgers, and others)
Frank Bonanno, Bonanno Concepts, Denver (Mizuna, Osteria Marco, Bones, and others)
JoAnn Clevenger, Upperline, New Orleans
George Formaro, Des Moines, IA (Centro, Django, South Union Bread Café, and others)
Sam Fox, Fox Restaurant Concepts, Phoenix (Olive & Ivy, True Food, Little Cleo’s Seafood Legend, and others)
Ford Fry, Ford Fry Restaurant Company, Atlanta (The Optimist, JCT Kitchen, No. 246, and others)
Garrett Harker, Boston (Eastern Standard, Island Creek Oyster Bar, The Hawthorne, and others)
Mike Klank and Eddie Hernandez, Taqueria del Sol, Atlanta
Barbara Lynch, Barbara Lynch Gruppo, Boston (No. 9 Park, Menton, B&G Oysters, and others)
Donnie Madia, One Off Hospitality Group, Chicago (Blackbird, Avec, The Publican, and others)
Larry Mindel, Poggio and Copita, Sausalito, CA
Cindy Pawlcyn, Napa Valley, CA (Mustards Grill and Cindy’s Back Street Kitchen)
Nick Pihakis, Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q, Birmingham, AL
Stephen Starr, Starr Restaurants, Philadelphia (The Dandelion, Talula’s Garden, Serpico, and others)
Caroline Styne, West Hollywood, CA (Lucques, A.O.C., Tavern, and others)
Phil Suarez, Suarez Restaurant Group, NYC (ABC Kitchen, Jean-Georges, wd~50, and others)
Andrew Tarlow, NYC (Diner, Marlow & Sons, Reynard, and others)
Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran, Philadelphia (Little Nonna’s, Jamonera, Barbuzzo, and others)
Rick and Ann Yoder, Wild Ginger, Seattle

Outstanding Service
Abacus, Dallas
Bacchanalia, Atlanta
Blue Hill, NYC
Brigtsen’s, New Orleans
Cafe Juanita, Kirkland, WA
L’Espalier, Boston
Komi, Washington, D.C.
L2O, Chicago
Lucques, West Hollywood, CA
Mansion Restaurant at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas
Marcel’s, Washington, D.C.
McCrady’s, Charleston, SC
One Flew South, Atlanta
Persimmon, Bristol, RI
Providence, Los Angeles
Quince, San Francisco
Restaurant Alma, Minneapolis
The Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena, CA
Topolobampo, Chicago
Vetri, Philadelphia

Outstanding Wine Program
5 & 10, Athens, GA
A16, San Francisco
Addison at the Grand Del Mar, San Diego
Archie’s Waeside, Le Mars, IA
Bar Boulud, NYC
The Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN
Café on the Green at Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas, Irving, TX
CityZen at Mandarin Oriental, Washington, D.C.
FIG, Charleston, SC
The Grill Room at Windsor Court Hotel, New Orleans
The Little Nell, Aspen, CO
Marcel’s, Washington, D.C.
Momofuku Ssäm Bar, NYC
Picasso at Bellagio, Las Vegas
Press, St. Helena, CA
Rouge Tomate, NYC
Sepia, Chicago
Spago, Beverly Hills, CA
Troquet, Boston
Yono’s Restaurant, Albany, NY

Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional
Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE
Ron Cooper, Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal, Ranchos de Taos, NM
Don Feinberg and Wendy Littlefield, Vanberg & DeWulf, Cooperstown, NY
Mike Floyd, Nick Floyd, and Simon Floyd, Three Floyds Brewing, Munster, IN
Ted Lemon, Littorai Wines, Sebastopol, CA
Steve Matthiasson, Matthiasson Wine, Napa, CA
Stephen McCarthy, Clear Creek Distillery, Portland, OR
Garrett Oliver, Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, NY
Luca Paschina, Barboursville Vineyards, Barboursville, VA
David Perkins, High West Distillery & Saloon, Park City, UT
Tom Peters, Monk’s Cafe, Philadelphia
Joey Redner, Cigar City Brewing, Tampa, FL
Jörg Rupf, St. George Spirits, Alameda, CA
Eric Seed, Haus Alpenz, Edina, MN
Rob Tod, Allagash Brewing Company, Portland, ME
Ann Tuennerman, Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans
Harlen Wheatley, Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY
Burt Williams, founder of Williams Selyem Winery, Healdsburg, CA
David Wondrich, spirits educator, Brooklyn, NY
Stephen M. Wood, Farnum Hill Cider, Lebanon, NH

Rising Star Chef of the Year
Jimmy Bannos Jr., The Purple Pig, Chicago
Katie Button, Cúrate, Asheville, NC
Daniel Delaney, Delaney Barbecue, Brooklyn, NY
Chris Kajioka, Vintage Cave, Honolulu
Christopher Kearse, Will, Philadelphia
Matthew Kirkley, L2O, Chicago
Casey Lane, Tasting Kitchen, Venice, CA
Jessica Largey, Manresa, Los Gatos
Andrew Le, The Pig and the Lady, Honolulu
Rick Lewis, Quincy Street Bistro, St. Louis
Malcolm Livingston II, wd~50, NYC
Tim Maslow, Ribelle, Brookline, MA
Matt McNamara and Teague Moriarty, Sons & Daughters, San Francisco
Marjorie Meek-Bradley, Ripple, Washington, D.C.
Ben Nerenhausen, Mistral, Princeton, NJ
Jorel Pierce, Euclid Hall, Denver
David Posey, Blackbird, Chicago
Ben Puchowitz, CHeU Noodle Bar, Philadelphia
Eduardo Ruiz, Corazón y Miel, Bell, CA
Cara Stadler, Tao Yuan, Brunswick, ME
Eli Sussman, Mile End, Brooklyn, NY
Ari Taymor, Alma, Los Angeles
Michael Toscano, Perla, NYC
Chris Weber, The Herbfarm, Woodinville, WA
Blaine Wetzel, The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, Lummi Island, WA

Best Chef: Great Lakes
Myles Anton, Trattoria Stella, Traverse City, MI
Dave Beran, Next, Chicago
Neal Brown, The Libertine Liquor Bar, Indianapolis
Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo, Fat Rice, Chicago
Curtis Duffy, Grace, Chicago
Paul Fehribach, Big Jones, Chicago
Phillip Foss, EL Ideas, Chicago
Greg Hardesty, Recess, Indianapolis
Douglas Katz, Fire Food & Drink, Cleveland
Anne Kearney, Rue Dumaine, Dayton, OH
Ryan McCaskey, Acadia, Chicago
Regina Mehallick, R Bistro, Indianapolis
Brian Polcyn, Forest Grill, Birmingham, MI
Iliana Regan, Elizabeth, Chicago
Jonathon Sawyer, The Greenhouse Tavern, Cleveland
David Tallent, Restaurant Tallent, Bloomington, IN
Jason Vincent, Nightwood, Chicago
Paul Virant, Vie Restaurant, Western Springs, IL
Erling Wu-Bower, Nico Osteria, Chicago
Andrew Zimmerman, Sepia, Chicago

Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic
Scott Anderson, Elements, Princeton, NJ
Cathal Armstrong, Restaurant Eve, Alexandria, VA
Joey Baldino, Zeppoli, Collingswood, NJ
Pierre Calmels, Bibou, Philadelphia
Anthony Chittum, Iron Gate, Washington, D.C.
Joe Cicala, Le Virtù, Philadelphia
Spike Gjerde, Woodberry Kitchen, Baltimore
Lee Gregory, The Roosevelt, Richmond, VA
Haidar Karoum, Proof, Washington, D.C.
Tarver King, The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm, Lovettsville, VA
Rich Landau, Vedge, Philadelphia
Lucas Manteca, The Red Store, Cape May Point, NJ
Cedric Maupillier, Mintwood Place, Washington, D.C.
Justin Severino, Cure, Pittsburgh
Bryan Sikora, La Fia, Wilmington, DE
Brad Spence, Amis, Philadelphia
Lee Styer, Fond, Philadelphia
Vikram Sunderam, Rasika, Washington, D.C.
Angelo Vangelopoulos, The Ivy Inn Restaurant, Charlottesville, VA
Cindy Wolf, Charleston, Baltimore

Best Chef: Midwest
Justin Aprahamian, Sanford, Milwaukee
Paul Berglund, The Bachelor Farmer, Minneapolis
Steven Brown, Tilia, Minneapolis
Clayton Chapman, The Grey Plume, Omaha, NE
Gerard Craft, Niche, Clayton, MO
Doug Flicker, Piccolo, Minneapolis
Josh Galliano, The Libertine, Clayton, MO
Michelle Gayer, Salty Tart, Minneapolis
Ted Habiger, Room 39, Kansas City, MO
Howard Hanna, The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, Kansas City, MO
Jamie Malone, Sea Change, Minneapolis
Kevin Nashan, Sidney Street Cafe, St. Louis
Ryan Nitschke and Nick Weinhandl, HoDo Restaurant at the Hotel Donaldson, Fargo, ND
Ben Poremba, Elaia, St. Louis
Lenny Russo, Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market, St. Paul, MN
Phil Shires, Cafe di Scala, Des Moines, IA
David Swanson, Braise, Milwaukee
Jim Webster, Wild Rice, Bayfield, WI
Kevin Willmann, Farmhaus, St. Louis
Sean Wilson, Proof, Des Moines, IA

Best Chef: Northeast
Tyler Anderson, Millwright’s, Simsbury, CT
Jamie Bissonnette, Coppa, Boston
Joanne Chang, Flour Bakery + Cafe, Boston
Eric Gabrynowicz, Restaurant North, Armonk, NY
Wesley Genovart, SoLo Farm & Table, South Londonderry, VT
Gerry Hayden, The North Fork Table & Inn, Southold, NY
Evan Hennessey, Stages at One Washington, Dover, NH
Brian Hill, Francine Bistro, Camden, ME
Dano Hutnik, Dano’s Heuriger on Seneca, Lodi, NY
Matt Jennings, Farmstead Inc., Providence, RI
Michael Leviton, Lumière, Newton, MA
Barry Maiden, Hungry Mother, Cambridge, MA
Evan Mallett, Black Trumpet Bistro, Portsmouth, NH
Masa Miyake, Miyake, Portland, ME
Ravin Nakjaroen, Long Grain, Camden, ME
Guy Reuge, Mirabelle, Stony Brook, NY
Champe Speidel, Persimmon, Bristol, RI
Benjamin Sukle, Birch, Providence, RI
Joel Viehland, Community Table, Washington, CT
Eric Warnstedt, Hen of the Wood, Burlington and Waterbury, VT

Best Chef: Northwest
Chris Ainsworth, Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen, Walla Walla, WA
Andy Blanton, Cafe Kandahar, Whitefish, MT
Greg Denton & Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton, Ox, Portland, OR
Eric Donnelly, RockCreek, Seattle
Renee Erickson, The Whale Wins, Seattle
Jason Franey, Canlis, Seattle
James Honaker, Bistro Enzo, Billings, MT
Joe Kim, 5 Fusion and Sushi Bar, Bend, OR
Richard Langston, Café Vicino, Boise, ID
Nathan Lockwood, Altura, Seattle
Brendan McGill, Hitchcock, Bainbridge Island, WA
Trent Pierce, Roe, Portland, OR
Naomi Pomeroy, Beast, Portland, OR
Dustin Ronspies, Art of the Table, Seattle
Adam Sappington, The Country Cat, Portland, OR
Ethan Stowell, Staple & Fancy, Seattle
Jason Stratton, Spinasse, Seattle
Cathy Whims, Nostrana, Portland, OR
Justin Woodward, Castagna, Portland, OR
Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi, Joule, Seattle

Best Chef: NYC
Jonathan Benno, Lincoln Ristorante
Fredrik Berselius, Aska
April Bloomfield, The Spotted Pig
Paul Carmichael, Má Pêche
Amanda Cohen, Dirt Candy
Dan Kluger, ABC Kitchen
Mark Ladner, Del Posto
Paul Liebrandt, The Elm
Anita Lo, Annisa
Carlo Mirarchi, Roberta’s
Seamus Mullen, Tertulia
Joe Ng, RedFarm
Alex Raij and Eder Montero, Txikito
César Ramirez, Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare
Masato Shimizu, 15 East
Justin Smillie, Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria
Alex Stupak, Empellón Cocina
Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone, Carbone
Jonathan Waxman, Barbuto
Michael White, Marea

Best Chef: South
Greg Baker, The Refinery, Tampa, FL
Vishwesh Bhatt, Snackbar, Oxford, MS
Justin Devillier, La Petite Grocery, New Orleans
Derek Emerson, Walker’s Drive-In, Jackson, MS
José Enrique, José Enrique, San Juan, PR
Justin Girouard, The French Press, Lafayette, LA
Chad Johnson, SideBern’s, Tampa, FL
Matthew McClure, The Hive, Bentonville, AR
Rob McDaniel, SpringHouse, Alexander City, AL
Jose Mendin, Pubbelly, Miami Beach, FL
James and Julie Petrakis, The Ravenous Pig, Winter Park, FL
Steve Phelps, Indigenous, Sarasota, FL
Ryan Prewitt, Pêche Seafood Grill, New Orleans
Hari Pulapaka, Cress, DeLand, FL
Horacio Rivadero, The District Miami
Henry Salgado, Spanish River Grill, New Smyrna Beach, FL
Alon Shaya, Domenica, New Orleans
Michael Stoltzfus, Coquette, New Orleans
Isaac Toups, Toups’ Meatery, New Orleans
Sue Zemanick, Gautreau’s, New Orleans

Best Chef: Southeast
Billy Allin, Cakes & Ale, Decatur, GA
Jeremiah Bacon, The Macintosh, Charleston, SC
Colin Bedford, The Fearrington House Restaurant, Pittsboro, NC
Kathy Cary, Lilly’s, Louisville, KY
Ashley Christensen, Poole’s Downtown Diner, Raleigh, NC
Scott Crawford, Herons at the Umstead Hotel and Spa, Cary, NC
Todd Ginsberg, The General Muir, Atlanta
Damian Heath, Lot 12 Public House, Berkeley Springs, WV
Vivian Howard, Chef & the Farmer, Kinston, NC
Scott Howell, Nana’s, Durham, NC
Meherwan Irani, Chai Pani, Asheville, NC
Kevin Johnson, The Grocery, Charleston, SC
Josh Keeler, Two Boroughs Larder, Charleston, SC
Matt Kelly, Mateo, Durham, NC
Edward Lee, 610 Magnolia, Louisville, KY
Daniel Lindley, St John’s Restaurant, Chattanooga, TN
Steven Satterfield, Miller Union, Atlanta
Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman, Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, Memphis
Aaron Vandemark, Panciuto, Hillsborough, NC
Tandy Wilson, City House, Nashville

Best Chef: Southwest
Charleen Badman, FnB, Scottsdale, AZ
Kevin Binkley, Binkley’s, Cave Creek, AZ
Bowman Brown, Forage, Salt Lake City
David Bull, Congress, Austin
James Campbell Caruso, La Boca, Santa Fe
Rob Connoley, The Curious Kumquat, Silver City, NM
Bryce Gilmore, Barley Swine, Austin
Jennifer James, Jennifer James 101, Albuquerque, NM
Matt McCallister, FT33, Dallas
Frederick Muller, El Meze, Taos, NM
Hugo Ortega, Hugo’s, Houston
Jeff Osaka, Twelve, Denver
Jonathan Perno, La Merienda at Los Poblanos Inn, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, NM
Martín Rios, Restaurant Martín, Santa Fe
Silvana Salcido, Barrio Café, Phoenix
Alex Seidel, Fruition, Denver
Chris Shepherd, Underbelly, Houston
John Tesar, Spoon Bar & Kitchen, Dallas
David Uygur, Lucia, Dallas
Justin Yu, Oxheart, Houston

Best Chef: West
Matthew Accarrino, SPQR, San Francisco
Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski, State Bird Provisions, San Francisco
Josef Centeno, Bäco Mercat, Los Angeles
Michael Chiarello, Bottega, Yountville, CA
Michael Cimarusti, Providence, Los Angeles
Justin Cogley, Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel, Carmel, CA
Mitsuo Endo, Aburiya Raku, Las Vegas
Tyler Florence, Wayfare Tavern, San Francisco
Ed Kenney, Town, Honolulu
Mourad Lahlou, Aziza, San Francisco
Corey Lee, Benu, San Francisco
Ludo Lefebvre, Trois Mec, Los Angeles
David LeFevre, MB Post, Manhattan Beach, CA
Niki Nakayama, n/naka, Los Angeles
Daniel Patterson, Coi, San Francisco
John Rivera Sedlar, Rivera, Los Angeles
Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, Animal, Los Angeles
Joshua Skenes, Saison, San Francisco
James Syhabout, Commis, Oakland, CA
Ricardo Zarate, Picca, Los Angeles

America’s Best Hotel Restaurants.

It’s lucky for weary (and hungry) travelers that some of the top restaurants in the country are housed in hotels — from a temple of gastronomy (and veritable Picasso museum) in the Bellagio in Las Vegas to The Inn at Little Washington, a culinary destination in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. GAYOT has narrowed down the nation’s best options for hotel dining to present to you the top 10 U.S. hotel restaurants in alphabetical order.

Food experts have predicted foraging will be a major 2014 food trend. Naturally, restaurants that serve up dishes accented by wild local ingredients have been getting plenty of attention. Despite the spotlight on foraged foods, the practice of finding wild mushrooms, lettuces, herbs and other fare is shrouded in mystery for some chefs. But these foragers were waking up at the crack of dawn to find truly local menu items long before “forage” became a buzzword.

From stays in Texas to Tanzania, these hotels make you feel like a local.

Staying in a hotel with ties to a farm no longer has to be the design equivalent of rustic (e.g., flowers in a Mason jar). Every place on our list offers amazing landscapes, delicious local food, has a farm on site or has strong connections to local farms and is in some way committed to ecological sustainability. You’ll want to go to all of them!

Willows Inn Lummi Island, Washington

In 2011, the 103-year-old Willows Inn on Lummi Island (an isle 75 miles north of Seattle) was redesigned. New accommodations, including the stunning waterfront Beach House, were added. But the real reason people visit is the menu. Chef Blaine Wetzel (formerly of Noma) has created a prix fixe menu that focuses on the fished, farmed and foraged. All food comes from no more than 30 miles away.

2014 Restaurants of the Year
Source: January 2014 Hideaway Report

United States

THE WILLOWS INN, Lummi Island, Washington — {Formal} Inspired by an apprenticeship at Noma in Copenhagen, Blaine Wetzel has created a temple to all things local and seasonal in his native Washington. Chef Wetzel and his team forage daily for wild plants on the remote and unspoiled island, and procure meat and fish from within a tight radius. Kale never tasted so delicious as when Wetzel has crisped it and topped it with rye crumbs and black truffle. A dish of glazed beets with lingonberries and sorrel was extraordinary. And a pink crescent of salmon smoked for eight hours over green alder could almost have been candy.

FARMERS FISHERS BAKERS, Washington, D.C. — {Informal} Part of the Washington Harbour complex on the Georgetown waterfront, this distinctive restaurant is owned by the North Dakota Farmers Union. The menu reflects a dedication to local products, and the interior reflects an artisanal aesthetic: The chairs are handmade, and the impressive wood ceiling was installed by craftsmen from Canada. For lunch, I tried the rich butternut squash soup and continued with the chicken salad club. At dinner, look for hearty fare such as steak frites with farmer’s whiskey sauce.


LA COLOMBE, Constantia Uitsig, South Africa — {Formal} Tucked into a cottage on the Constantia Uitsig wine estate in southern Cape Town, this restaurant deservedly wins accolades from every quarter. Intimate and charming, it offers a multicourse menu of exceptionally inventive cuisine. Chef Scot Kirton combines contemporary French techniques with Asian influences. His ingredients are impeccably fresh and locally sourced where possible. We relished dishes 
such as Champagne-poached oysters, ostrich tataki and tartare, and quail and langoustines in a delicately spiced sauce. Be prepared to linger.

OLIVIER ARLOT, Montbazon, Loire Valley, France — {Informal} Chef Olivier Arlot’s new restaurant displays a relaxed style, with limestone floors and white-painted beams, and the service is akin to that of a chic auberge. Our outstanding meal included sautéed baby squid in a reduction of Chinon wine, grilled sea bream in curried tomato butter with a clafoutis (custard) of Provençale vegetables, and roast guinea hen with a gratin of spinach and Swiss chard. We also enjoyed a fine selection of Loire Valley chèvres, and concluded with shortbread topped with sautéed mirabelle plums and bergamot ice cream.



Free of advertising since its inception in June 1979, Hideaway Report is a private monthly publication for sophisticated travelers. The selection of hotels, resorts and restaurants for inclusion in this publication is made on a completely independent basis, with Andrew Harper, LLC paying full rate for all meals, lodging and related travel expenses. Andrew Harper and his editors travel incognito to write candid and unbiased travel reviews for a subscription service, which provides personalized travel-planning assistance, bespoke tours and valuable travel privileges to its subscribers. For questions regarding this article please contact

Noma’s René Redzepi, British star chef Mark Hix and Simon Rogan, soon to open the new restaurant at Claridge’s, pick the food destinations they’re excited about for 2014.

Chef and co-owner of Noma in Copenhagen, awarded best restaurant in the world three years in a row

Seattle, USA
Take a boat to a place called Lummi Island. There’s a chef there called Blaine Wetzel, who works with local native Americans. If he feeds the fire right, that place could become one of the most influential restaurants in the world.

Sao Paulo, Brazil
Chef Alex Atala is changing things in Latin America. For decades in Brazil, it was bad variations of Spanish/Italian food. At his restaurant, DOM, Atala is incorporating Amazon-native dishes into the everyday. His excursions to the Amazon last seven, eight, nine days. The roots, the plants, the seeds, the flowers — each tastes different.

Kyoto, Japan
If you want a mind-blowing food experience (and old shrines to boot), Kyoto’s the place. You go into a little place where they fry pork chops — and they’re the best pork chop ever. In kaiseki meals, you see where fine dining’s tasting menus originated: you can sit for hours and eat things you’ve never seen, but some dishes are the same as they’ve been for the past 1,000 years.

Owner of the UK’s ever-popular Hix restaurants

Nashville, USA
I’ve not been but I hear that Nashville has a strong emerging food scene. Sean Brock of Husk has one of his restaurants there and people tell me of other good bars and restaurants they have visited.

San Francisco, USA
San Francisco is always interesting and the Mission District seems to open a new place every week — an area that has been under gentrification for a good few years.

Newly appointed Head Chef at Claridge’s and owner of five restaurants throughout the UK

Victoria, Australia
Dan Hunter has confirmed he will open his own restaurant ‘with rooms’, Brae, in Birregurra, Victoria following his success as head chef at Dunkeld’s The Royal Mail Hotel. Dan has a very similar ethos to us. This purpose-built restaurant with farm is a very exciting opening in 2014.

Barcelona, Spain
Ferran Adria’s El Bulli Foundation opens in 2014 and is going to be a place where chefs can create, discuss and interact with other researchers like journalists, scientists and philosophers. Everyone is waiting to see what will happen next and it will be interesting to see what they come up with.

Manhattan, New York
One of Brooklyn’s best restaurants is opening in Manhattan. Brooklyn Fare, a small (18-seat) counter-style restaurant and the borough’s only three-star Michelin rated one, will open a second location on West 39th Street between Ninth and Tenth avenues.

What’s cooking for the coming year? Comfort food and classic cookware are making big comebacks. Humble vegetables such as turnips are not just turning up at haute-starred restaurants — they’re also taking root on (gasp!) the dessert menus.

These forecasts on fare spiced up the Culinary Institute of America’s annual Worlds of Flavor conference held in California’s Napa Valley in mid-November.


“What’s near and what’s far is constantly shifting,” says Francis Lam, a judge on Top Chef Masters. Here are picks for top cuisines for 2014 — and notable restaurants around the world to experience them. The predictions come from The Culinary Institute of America’s recent Worlds of Flavor conference in California’s Napa Valley.

Peruvian cuisine combines ancient ingredients of the Incas with foods brought by Spanish conquistadors. “Peru offers tremendous diversity. Dishes reflect the sea, the Amazon jungle and the Andes mountains,” explains Virgilio Martinez, chef/owner of Central Restaurante in Lima, Peru and Lima in London. “The country has thousands of varieties of potatoes and nearly equal variety of corn and quinoa.” He showcases summit-to-sea abundance in causa, a potato dumpling stuffed with shrimp and avocado.

Encompassing 7,000 islands, the Philippines maintain culinary traditions brought by Malay, Spanish, Chinese and American explorers and settlers. With the archipelago headlining on the news following Typhoon Haiyan, more chefs and foodies are focusing on boldly-spiced Filipino cuisine. The national dish is adobo, chicken or pork braised in garlic, oil, vinegar and soy sauce. The Filipino answer to spring rolls, lumpia, are commonly stuffed with pork and seafood. “It touches on all the flavor components,” notes Chef King Phojanakong of Kuma Inn and Umi Nom in New York City.

Showcasing pure, clean flavors and über-local foraged ingredients, the New Nordic Cuisine continues to enthrall diners and influence restaurateurs from Sydney to Singapore, including Blaine Wetzel of Willows Inn on Lummi Island near Seattle. Wetzel cites “backdoor inspiration” for his menu, “Letting the season speak to me and what I cook that day. We’re the only place in the world with reef netting for salmon. We have kelp coated with herring roe plus berries, grasses, mushrooms. Sometimes we can make a dish just one week a year.”

“Turkey holds thousands of years of culture and each civilization left its culinary trace,” remarks Mehmet Gürs, chef/owner of 10 restaurants in Istanbul including Mikla. The country melds cooking styles of Central Asia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and the Balkans. Gürs works with anthropologists to document heritage dishes such as manti, a dumpling from Mongolia stuffed with lamb and served with house-smoked yogurt sauce from bufala milk. “But we don’t want to be a museum restaurant — we want to bring these recipes to life.”

We’ll call it Next-Mex — the modern metamorphosis of Mexican cuisine. “Mexican food incorporates new ingredients all the time. We need to keep authenticity but include new ideas,” says Enrique Olvera, chef/owner of Pujol in Mexico City. His dishes build from indigenous edibles Mexico bestowed to the world — corn, squash, tomatoes, chilis and chocolate. But Olvera catapults tradition into the 21st century. He coats smoked baby corn with coffee mayonnaise (plus light dusting of ground Oaxacan flying ants) and refines tacos by using tender suckling lamb, avocado cream and poblano pepper tortillas. News flash! Olvera plans to open a restaurant in New York City in Spring 2014.


According to presentations made by 60 of the world’s best chefs, top food trends include:

Comfort food gets classy: Chefs are taking down-home recipes upscale. Part of a chefs’ collective called the Young Turks, Isaac McHale used crowd-funding to launch The Clove Club in East London. A menu fave: the buttermilk-fried chicken seasoned with fragrant pine salt.

Fermentation: The same metabolic process that creates bread, cheese, pickles and wine is now transforming veggies such as turnips and string beans. “We get layers of flavor through fermentation,” explains Cortney Burns, co-chef at Bar Tartine in San Francisco, where dishes often incorporate root vegetables fermented in beer mash. “The process is not just delicious, it’s healthy.”

Root-to-leaf cooking: In the eco-embrace of waste-not, want-not, chefs strive to consume every part of a plant. At Pope Joan in Melbourne, Australia, chef/co-owner Matt Wilkinson whizzes carrot tops into a pesto that’s tossed with carrots and served on smoked yogurt (another trend to watch).

More quinoa: Just when you’ve gotten keen on these grain-like seeds in your local supermarket — expect to see a rainbow of different varieties. More than 120 species of quinoa grow in the crop’s native Andes. Chefs also are preparing quinoa in different ways. Stuart Brioza of State Bird Provisions in San Francisco first cooks it, then fries it to add toasty crunch to beef tartare.

Pressure cookers: A favorite of your grandmothers, this venerable vessel can cook foods faster and enhance caramelization. Fans include Maxime Bilet, co-author of the award-winning Modernist Cuisine book series. “The pressure cooker acts like a still, concentrating flavors back into sauces. Otherwise, all the flavors you smell are gone.” Bilet loves it for pot-au-feu.

Vegetables for dessert: The early allure of vegetables balances sweetness in savory desserts such as steam-roasted Jerusalem artichokes tossed in licorice syrup and served alongside coconut custard and pineapple sorbet. “The dish recalls my childhood in Samoa,” says Michael Meredith, chef/owner of Merediths in Auckland, New Zealand.

Japan’s rising star: With sushi as ubiquitous as burgers, Americans continue to look east for culinary inspiration. “Chefs are using Japanese ingredients with French techniques to create new dishes,” notes Masayasu Yonemura of Restaurant Yonemura in Kyoto. He adapts tofu for sliders topped with sautéed foie gras and truffle sauce.

Food and Wine Chefs’ Favorite Dishes of 2013. Some of the country’s best chefs reveal their favorite bites of the year.

“The guests dining at Noma should feel a sensation of time and place in their very bones,” René Redzepi says in the introduction to to his 2010 book on Nordic cuisine. Just a decade ago, when Noma opened on Copenhagen’s waterfront, the young chef committed to a bold new brand of Nordic cooking that was wildly innovative yet deeply rooted in the seasons and the natural environment, using ingredients from Scandinavia.

Today, with its Michelin stars and place at the top of Restaurant Magazine’s list of the world’s best restaurants, it’s hard to overstate the impact of Noma: chefs from Chicago to Beijing offer foraging tours; ingredients like hay ash, green strawberries, spruce shoots, and fermented this and that are suddenly part of the fine-dining vernacular; and riding on Noma’s buzz, Copenhagen has become an against-all-odds culinary capital drawing young chefs and foodies from around the world.

“I never imagined that one of the biggest joys of running this place would come from seeing people leave,” master-mentor Redzepi wrote earlier over e-mail, as he crisscrosses the globe promoting A Work in Progress, a new set of three books documenting a year in the life of the restaurant. Next week, he begins a book tour through seven North American cities, including a talk with Padma Lakshmi at New York’s 92nd Street Y on November 13. “As much as I get attached, it would be a real letdown if they didn’t at some point want to do their own thing. I’ve seen many times where a split can be treated like a bad divorce, since such a strong relationship develops with your sous-chefs. But it really should be like your best friend moving out of the shared apartment: the friendship continues.”

By the time Spain’s influential El Bulli (where Redzepi himself once worked) closed in 2011, Noma had become a finishing school of sorts for already accomplished chefs, taking up the mantle of Ferran Adrià’s educational kitchen. “They are forced out of their comfort zones, and by the time they leave, their minds work in a completely different way,” explains Matt Orlando, a former Noma chef, now heading up Amass in Copenhagen. “Noma produces chefs who have a different way of approaching cooking and how a restaurant should function.” At the core is Noma’s famed Saturday Night Projects, staff-only tastings at which the chefs create and get feedback on new dishes—gatherings meant to spark creativity and sharpen chefs’ sensibilities. “Just to work with René on a daily basis—everyone had all these things like liquid nitrogen, a hand blender, and cream—but the things that come out are kind of mind-blowing,” confirms Daniel Burns, who recently opened Brooklyn’s Luksus.

For his part, Redzepi, who shares the cover of next week’s Time with Momofuku’s David Chang and D.O.M’s Alex Atala, sees the work at Noma as part of a larger shift in the way the world looks at chefs. “Twenty years ago, cooking at all levels was, at the end of the day, a blue-collar, menial trade,” he says. “In the past three to five years, things have started to change dramatically. It’s not like it’s a white-collar trade yet, but let’s call it ‘hipster red.’ In these times of change, when a generation like mine is the gateway between the past and future, it’s even more vital and just plain nice to see these friends and colleagues grow around the world. We can process this craziness together.”

To celebrate Noma’s tenth anniversary and the release of A Work in Progress, caught up with four restaurants and their chefs who bring the Noma DNA to their own projects.

The Willows Inn is a secluded retreat located on Lummi Island, WA. The Inn has become a culinary destination and their mantra – “Fished, Foraged, and Farmed”. Chef Blaine Wetzel sources ingredients from Lummi Island fishermen, the surrounding forests and beaches, and from Nettles Farm – only a short walk from the dining room.

Gastronomic retreat in tranquil setting on Lummi Island, a 10-minute ferry ride from the mainland north of Seattle, with 21 accommodations both on site and scattered around the island as much as a mile and a half from the main lounge and restaurant. Off-site lodgings, such as “The Beach House” and “The Watermark” are in stylish, privately owned island homes rented by the inn, and amenities vary, but most offer fine views. On-site options include “The Haven,” perched on a hill behind the restaurant. All have limited service; breakfast at casual café near the ferry dock is included. Principal amenity is excellent restaurant featuring acclaimed chef Blaine Wetzel’s constantly changing menu.

The Pacific Northwest is home to some of the most extraordinary destinations – short, memorable getaways that serve to refresh and inspire. The area is also home to a rich variety of wonderful restaurants.

One well kept secret, both a destination as well as a jewel of a dining spot, is Lummi Island, the most northeasterly of the San Juan archipelago, with a population of slightly more than 900. A short trip from Seattle and a beautiful destination, Lummi Island also is home to one of the top restaurants in the country, the Willows Inn.

In the 20 years I have been going up there, very little has changed. Time stops on Lummi. The little bargelike ferry can carry about 24 vehicles on the six-minute trip from the mainland.
The only noticeable shift on Lummi has been at the 104-year-old Willows Inn, which has become the subject of worldwide attention since chef Blaine Wetzel, 27, came on the scene. Wetzel saw the chef job posted on craigslist in 2010. He had been chef de partie (line cook) at the legendary Noma in Copenhagen, arguably one of the top restaurants in the world, and decided that it was time to return home to Washington state.

“It was like hitting the jackpot,” says Wetzel, of the job that he now lives and breathes. In the few short years he has been at the helm, Wetzel, who is now part owner of the Willows, has seen a noticeable change. “At first there were 10 people for dinner. Now we are full. We are busy, booked every day, filled up months out.”

Wetzel is the reason. The Willows Inn has been listed by The New York Times as one of the 10 places in the world worth flying to for dinner. Bon Appétit magazine lists it as the No. 3 food lovers’ hotel in America. Travel and Leisure says Lummi is among the best secret islands on Earth. Gayot’s 2013 restaurant issue lists Willows Inn as one of the top 40 restaurants in the United States. Those are just a few of its many accolades.

Wetzel, who says he has invested his reputation here, is obsessed with the freshest ingredients, as he says, “farming, fishing, foraging fresh local foods.” Sustainability is his mantra. Even the simplest ingredients come right out of the sea, or garden or forest, arriving on the plate in short order. The difference is noticeable. With each bite, we could hear people moaning with delight as they dined at tables nearby.

Half the guests this year have come from the greater Seattle area, another 20 percent from Vancouver, British Columbia, and the remaining 30 percent from all over the world. The day before I was there, acclaimed restaurant critic Frank Bruni, a repeat customer, had dined there. It’s not unusual to see a Ferrari or Aston Martin parked next to a Subaru at the inn. The dining room can hold 35 at the most, and has one seating five nights a week, from Wednesday through Sunday.

Overnight guests can stay in a variety of rooms, ranging in price from $175 to $675. For dinner, the price and menu are fixed. Dinner is $150. With wine parings it is $65 more. With juice pairings, it is $45. While I cannot speak for the rooms, the unforgettable dinner experience, with its impeccable service, was worth every penny.

Our dinner included charred kohlrabi with red currants and coriander; wild seaweeds with Dungeness crab; dried beets glazed with lingonberries; king salmon with summer squash and nasturtiums; and blueberries with woodruff and malt. And there were snacks – a smoked mussel, nestled on hot rocks served in a cedar box; a tiny crispy crepe with salmon roe; a crackly toasted ribbon of kale with black truffle and rye crumbs; crunchy halibut skin; grilled shiitake. In all there were at least 20 small offerings, each one more heavenly than the one before.

While my friend was served perfect wine pairings, my juice pairings were something to write about as well, all pure, unsweetened, and just squeezed – the color as hypnotizing as the taste – gooseberry; cucumber; sorrel; carrot; and elderflower. If you think you have ever tasted any of these kinds of juices, think again. These are fresher than fresh. The difference is marked and delicious. And the presentation and the service matched the exquisite tastes of the food.

Summer’s a time for soaking it all in, eating every single thing at its absolute peak freshness, staying out late to watch the sun set after nine, the air still warm, cold drink in hand. To help you max out your summer supper plans, I’ve rounded up four special dinners that caught my eye. They’re the kind of dinners that take a little extra effort, a little extra money, but that promise to pay you back in vivid and spirited memories. Reserve soon, though, as they’ll surely sell out.

Willows Inn on Lummi Island is hosting their second annual Harvest Dinner July 24th and 25th, and it is a Big Damn Deal. If you want to eat food cooked by some of the best chefs in the country, surrounded by some of the most serious diners in the country, here’s your chance. Christopher Kostow of the three Michelin starred Restaurant at Meadowood is the chef whose food I’d be most geeked to taste, followed closely by Virgilio Martinez of Central Restaurante in Lima, Peru. Of course this all sounds silly because Alinea chef Grant Achatz will also be in the kitchen, cooking alongside Dominique Crenn, Justin Yu and Willows’ own young genius, Blaine Wetzel. Dinner, with wine (or Wetzel’s incredible juice) pairings included, is $500. If the price doesn’t make you wince, you shouldn’t hesitate to go. (Read this report from last year’s dinner if you’re on the fence.)

Need a good excuse for a little San Juan island-hopping this summer? Frank’s Oyster House chef de Cuisine Kym Goheen is cooking a summer afternoon meal on Shoal Bay on Lopez Island on August 4th (you’ll dine while taking in the stunning view from Jones Family Farm’s oyster beds, pictured above). There’ll be oysters, of course, along with: Herbed goat cheese, house-made crackers and roasted summer peppers with brut Crémant; oysters (raw) and clams from the grill, accompanied by Washington Sauvignon Blanc and Picpoul de Pinet from Languedoc; smoked Jones Family pork loin, seasonal fish and produce accompanied by Oregon Pinot Noir; and strawberry and herbed shortbread with a house-infused strawberry and tarragon eau de vie.

The meal begins with drinks and snacks at 1:45pm and will go unil 6pm or so, making it convenient for those who must leave the island that evening (although, why would you?). The price is $120 per person inclusive of wine. Call Frank’s to reserve a spot, 206.525.0220.

Or reserve at table at the lovely Allium on Orcas Island (pictured left) on the 4th of July, when chef Lisa Nakamura will serve a four course prix-fixe menu: smoked salmon spread on dill focaccia; corn and bacon chowder with fresh corn and roasted garlic dumplings; a Surf and Turf of Painted Hills beef tenderloin and Dungeness crab cakes with potato salad, mac and cheese and summer veggies, and, of course, pie! A la mode with caramel sauce. And just in time for the fireworks, viewed from Allium’s waterfront deck? Hot chocolate and cookies. Dinner’s at 7:30 and is $95 not including wine/tax/gratuity.

Finally, Delancey pizza maestro Brandon Pettit is guest cheffing at an Outstanding in the Field farm dinner on Skagit River Ranch, Tuesday, July 9th. No word yet on what the menu will be, but when I hear back from Pettit I’ll update the post.

Getting to Blaine Wetzel’s restaurant, the Willows Inn on Lummi Island is not easy. But the two-hour drive (plus ferry ride) from Seattle to this island in Washington’s San Juan archipelago is well worth it. Lummi’s isolation and wild beauty are reflected in Wetzel’s food, a pure expression of this mostly uninhabited rocky patch of wooded coastline and its surrounding waters. Much of the Willows Inn’s produce comes from their own Loganita farm and they get some of their red meat from the neighboring Granger Ranch. Wetzel’s chefs also go foraging daily in the woods and on the shore, picking stinging nettles, fiddlehead ferns, sea beans, wood violets and wild roses. Giant spot prawns, geoduck clams and ling cod are plucked out of the water by fishing boats that can be seen from the dining room.

This way of life is second nature to the 27-year-old Olympia, Washington native. “I grew up hunting for mushrooms with my family,” says Wetzel. “I was always outdoors, always fishing, so this was a natural fit for me.” He worked for almost two years on the other side of the world at Copenhagen’s Noma, currently sitting at the top of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, before coming home to take over the Inn’s kitchen in 2010. Noma chef René Redzepi is a fawning admirer of Wetzel’s cuisine, a high compliment from the man who revolutionized Nordic gastronomy and leads a worldwide movement of chefs focused on “time and place” in their meals. But Redzepi is not the only one who’s taken notice of Wetzel’s cooking. Last year Food & Wine named Wetzel a Best New Chef and this year he is a James Beard Award finalist for Rising Star Chef.

Wetzel’s austere yet theatrical progression of dishes is reminiscent of Noma, but a meal at The Willows Inn is like one nowhere else. An impossibly green stinging nettle reduction with wild lettuce and fresh cheese may be followed by a crisp of halibut skin dotted with pickled razor clams and seaweed dust. Each light, colorful and complex dish is a modern folkway, a reflection of life on Lummi Island on that very day.

We head north to Lummi Island, just west of Bellingham to check out the Willows inn. A renowned location that has been bringing in guests for over a century.
Reservations at the Willows fill up quickly for the summer. You can book online at

When chef Blaine Wetzel returned home to his native Washington three years ago, after a stint at Noma in Copenhagen, he took over the kitchen of this small inn on Lummi Island, just a few hours outside Seattle. There he began crafting intensely local, poetic, and electrifying cuisine from the surrounding forest, sea, and farms. Dinner is a dreamy progression of courses delivered with a few words and sheepish smiles—often by Wetzel himself—starting with “snacks” like puffed fried halibut skins or a sliver of smoked sockeye salmon. Later, you’ll get a primeval thrill when you’re given an obsidian dagger with which to slice your venison carpaccio. As for the rooms, don’t expect a five-star stay: Your bed may squeak and the shower may be dimly lit, but you’ll wake to the tenderest scone you’ve ever had, studded with pine nuts and shoots from Lummi’s forests.—Sara Dickerman

The visionary food of chef Blaine Wetzel can only be savored on Lummi Island, one of the San Juan Islands near Bellingham between Seattle and Vancouver. An alumnus of Copenhagen’s Noma, Wetzel blends local foraging, farming and fishing with avant-garde artistry to produce dishes like baked sunflower roots on a bed of smoldering moss in a wooden box, or venison tartare with rose petals. A three-hour prix-fixe dinner is comprised of up to twenty tastings, each more luminous than the last.

In the winter of 2010, Riley Starks was in trouble. A fisherman and organic farmer, the 59-year-old owned a small inn on Washington State’s Lummi Island, a nine-mile ridge of fir and hemlock rising out of the sea near the Canadian border, with a year-round population of 964 weathered souls. Starks and his wife had bought the eight-room Willows Inn in 2001, and for a while they lived out their fantasy. Starks supplied fish and veggies to the restaurant, while his wife handled the inn and the cooking. But the economic downturn had clobbered both the inn and their marriage. His wife left in 2009, and Starks was forced to place an ad for a chef on Craigslist. He wasn’t looking for anything special, just a warm body to keep the place alive, and that was largely what he got among the 25 responses. Most were from restaurant-crazed Seattle, as he’d expected, but one reply jumped out at him. It was from Copenhagen, Denmark.

“To whom it may concern,” the email began. “Please consider my application for the chef position posted. I am originally from Washington State and, although for the last eight years I have been working around the country and in Europe, I would love the opportunity to return to the Northwest again. I am particularly interested as timing and the description of the restaurant seem like a possible perfect fit, a small chef-driven kitchen with the emphasis on the garden.”

In a sweetly passionate 1,000-word cover letter, the applicant explained that he was a chef at Noma, which he described as “a small restaurant with a biodynamic farm where the focus is exclusively on seasonal, farm-to-table dining. If radishes are on your section, you are the one harvesting them almost daily, and chefs are responsible to forage for various wild plants, herbs, mushrooms and berries that make up a huge part of the cuisine. I have totally refined my palette, to a more fresh, natural, juicy type of food full of texture.” The cover letter was signed, “Kind regards, Blaine Wetzel.” He was 24 years old.

Starks had never heard of Noma, but he checked it out online. What he found was a restaurant that had blown up the culinary world by going local with a vengeance. “They wanted foie gras. He gave them cloudberries,” said one Swedish restaurateur about René Redzepi, Noma’s chef. In 2009, after three years of steady climbing, Noma had claimed the number-three spot among the world’s top restaurants, as chosen by the food critics and restaurateurs at the World’s Fifty Best Restaurants Academy, and its complete reimagining of Scandinavian food would soon send it to first place, a position it still holds.

Starks scanned the Noma menu, the sea urchin powder and hay ash and Icelandic puffin eggs, and realized that Denmark had nothing on Lummi Island. He spoke with Wetzel, whose greenness did not give him pause. (“I wanted youth. Think about it: Alexander the Great was 24 when he conquered the world.”) Then he wrote to offer Wetzel the job. “Blaine, I would like to do all we can to encourage you to become our chef. If you have the same sensibilities of René Redzepi, we could thrill you with ingredients that very few restaurants can get. We keep live spot prawns, large and from right here, and I can say that there is likely no other restaurant that does this on the West Coast. Since I have been a commercial fisherman all of my life, I can source the best of the best from friends. I am not a chef or even a cook, but my job is to source ingredients, which I do well. Reading reviews of Noma, I have become inspired to reach higher, keep going, try harder. Though our location is pretty amazing, with west-facing marine views, the element that brings people here is our food. It would be so much fun to take that to a new level! It gives me energy just thinking about it.”

Blaine proposed that they revamp the kitchen and dining room and give America something it had never seen before. Starks agreed to go for broke; he borrowed and bartered $100,000 from his Lummi Island neighbors. “It was a Hail Mary pass for me,” he says. “I was going to lose this place anyway. I promised him all this stuff. But I really saw this as the salvation of the restaurant. I said, ‘You come, I’ll make this work somehow.’”

Blaine Wetzel saw Lummi Island for the first time in August 2010. For centuries, the Lummi Indians had visited for the good eats; little had changed here. One of the greatest salmon runs on earth slid past the western beaches every summer. The place was lousy with berries. Raspberries, huckleberries, salmonberries, Saskatoon berries. Rubenesque blackberries spilled along the roadsides, shining like purple Christmas lights. Wetzel recognized seaweeds and beach plants from Noma, and he knew that a lot of the ones he didn’t recognize would be edible, too. A few might even be delicious. The waters brimmed with oysters, mussels, and clams. Starks’ organic vegetable farm was a five-minute hike up the trail from the 100-year-old inn, the only public business on the island besides the Beach Store Cafe, also owned by the inn, and a small grocery store. The simple wooden building perched above a beach looking due west across the Rosario Strait, the arched backs of the San Juan Islands breaching the horizon like a pod of orcas.

“It was such a rare scenario,” Wetzel told me. “This little restaurant in the middle of nowhere, right on the ocean, only 25 seats, with its own farm and its own fishing boats. You don’t hear that very often. It caught my attention right away, and then it sparked my imagination.” Still, the inn was two hours from Seattle, reachable only by ferry, and the kitchen was a wreck. Noma it was not.

A 26-year-old culinary sensation is tantalizing the Pacific Northwest with his succulent foraged fare

Behind every great dish is a chattering of stories waiting to be told. Take the ripe blackberries with wild yarrow, carrot flowers, sorrel and chickweed in a puddle of dill oil that are served at the Willows Inn on Washington’s Lummi Island. One tale you might tell could be of its ingredients: how the berries were foraged only a few hours earlier from bushes plump with fruit, the yarrow and chickweed plucked from a field of the farm up the hill from the restaurant. Or, you could talk about the person behind the culinary creation: Blaine Wetzel, the Inn’s inventive 26-year-old chef who, after answering a Craiglist ad, took over the Willows’ kitchen and transformed a struggling restaurant into an international dining destination.

Still, you might just take a spoonful of the tart fruit and the grassy greens, put it in your mouth and experience what life tastes like on this patch of an island in the Pacific Northwest on a sunny, warm, mid-September day. That’s exactly the kind of storytelling that Wetzel is trying to accomplish with his cooking. “I want each dish to reflect a moment in time and nature,” he says.

Wetzel has succeeded in that mission—and the epicurean world agrees. This year, Food & Wine magazine named him one of its 10 Best New Chefs, and the New York Times included the Willows Inn on its list of “10 Restaurants Worth a Plane Ride.” However, getting to Lummi Island is actually not that simple—after flying to Seattle, you’ll need to drive for two hours and then take a six-minute ferry ride to this smallest of the San Juan Islands. The island itself is only nine square miles, half of it a forested nature preserve, with a population of 964. Besides the Willows Inn, it contains one café and one general store.

Why has so much attention been paid to someone working in such an off-the-beaten-track part of the U.S.? His resume—or one particular entry on it. Before the Willows, Wetzel served as a chef in the kitchen of Noma in Copenhagen, crowned the World’s Best Restaurant by sponsors San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna for two years. (Wetzel has plenty of other restaurant experience: He’s also worked at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona; Citronelle in Carmel, California; and Alex in Las Vegas.) Noma executive chef Rene Redzepi has been hailed for reinventing Nordic cuisine by using local, often wild, products in surprising ways. Signature dishes include radishes in a flowerpot filled with a soil made from malt and hazelnuts; an oyster steamed in sea water and placed in the shell atop chilled beach pebbles; and white asparagus and spruce sauce. Many of the ingredients have been foraged by Redzepi and his chefs from the nearby shore and forests.

And Wetzel has carried that unique practice over to the Willows Inn. As a result, it’s probably only on Lummi Island that one can drive around and espy the odd sight of a professional chef—one of the restaurant’s staff, dressed in kitchen whites—scavenging berries in a patch at the side of the road. Redzepi’s methods immediately resonated with Wetzel. The soft-spoken chef says, “Growing up in the Northwest [he's from Olympia, WA] I’ve been going mushroom hunting since I was young. I was outside a lot, collecting blackberries and other things.” He adds, “Before Noma, I thought foraging was something you did at home; I don’t know it could be applicable on a larger scale.” But in Copenhagen, he saw 80 diners a day consuming wild herbs, vegetables and fruits—and loving them.

The six chefs working in the Willows’ kitchen forage every day; Wetzel tries to go just about as often and usually in the mornings. Watching him in action is not unlike watching a shopper go through a grocery store and pick out stuff. Here, instead of trolling the aisles, he’s got the entire outdoors as an open-air market. Wetzel starts with an ingredient he needs—like chickweed, a spinach-like weed—in mind. Then, he heads to spots on Lummi Island where it grows—striding through a field behind the inn or scrambling up a sandy bank near the beach—to gather enough for his diners that evening. But a foraging chef must multi-task as well: While he’s prowling, he’s also checking out the surrounding plant life to forecast when it will be ready—to see how the salmonberries are coming along or whether the hips on the wild beach roses are big enough to pick. “I can be inspired by where an ingredient grows,” he says. So the grasses and herbs peeking out from beneath the wild blackberry bushes led to the berry dish described earlier.

Besides foraging, Wetzel has many other food sources. There’s a four-acre farm up the hill that’s leased by the Inn and staffed by two full-time farmers which grows anything and supplies an endless amount of free-range chicken eggs. The Innalso has access to two full-time fishing boats that employ the reef-net technique invented by native Americans to catch the local salmon—a spotter stands on a tower on the boat’s deck, sees a school of incoming fish; and tells the crew who lower a huge net into the water and scoop them up. In his cooking, Wetzel will only use ingredients from his area—that means no citrus and no olive oil.

But when you dine at the Willows, I promise you won’t miss either of these. Right now dinner is the only meal served at the Willows, and at three hours, it’s a movie-length affair, complete with dramatic crescendos and surprise cameos. Guests are told to arrive by 6:30, and parties are seated gradually and in staggered groups, timed in the late summer and early fall so that people will be in place to enjoy the stunning Puget Sound sunset. Soon a server brings a first course to the table, setting down a plain, square, palm-sized cedar box. When you lift the cover, intriguing wisps of smoke drift up. Inside is a thumb-length, brown tuber, nestled on a bed of moss and tea leaves. It’s a baked sunflower root, and it’s the sweetest and most succulent one—well, the only one—you’ve ever had. But as delightful as eating it is the experience of watching diners around the room marvel and mumur over their own boxes with wonder-filled, child-like faces.

“When you eat at the Willows, you find yourself so captivated with what you’re seeing, smelling and tasting that you want to talk about it with your friends,” says John Gibb, managing partner of the inn. “I’ve been out to dinner lots of times where I’ve said, ‘Boy, this is a good steak’ or ‘I really like these vegetables,’ but never in the way I was at the Willows, where I was completely enthralled and just wanted to have a conversation about the food.”

The meal is a succession of 16 small courses—some are as petite as one pickled bay oyster with tapioca pearls nestled underneath (and, in a nod to Noma, the shell on icy beach stones) or a potato chip-like crispy halibut skin dabbed with wild razor clams and a halibut emulsion. The largest dishes are just five bites big, like a slender slice of dried smoked venison bedizened with a crispy mix ofbread crumbs and chopped bits of foraged cress, chanterelles and berries. Everything tastes pure, clean and distinctive, just like the island itself.

Gibb believes that Wetzel is on the verge of becoming a celebrity chef, not in the Guy Fieri or Paula Deen way but like a Rene Redzepi or Ferran Adria, a figure who influences how we cook and what we eat on a global scale. Surprisingly, the low-key Wetzel himself welcomes success—not because as a means to fame but as a license for him to keep exploring, in the kitchen and outdoors. “It won’t change what I do,” he says. “It just encourages do more, to follow my vision more thoroughly.” Wherever he goes, the journey is sure to be wild.

Every year our US-based editors team up with Lonely Planet’s expert authors to compile a list of US destinations that are prime for the next year. Best in Travel 2013 already covered two places we think the world should be looking at – San Francisco and the Gulf Coast – but here we wanted to dig deeper and shine a light on 10 places in the US that travelers should add to their wish lists for the coming year. Our 2013 picks are literally all over the map: once-in-a-lifetime northern lights, new top-tier museums, moose trails, Polynesian paradise and barrels of bourbon. Enjoy, and send us a postcard!

1. Louisville, Kentucky

Could it be that the new Portland is in… Kentucky? Louisville has asserted itself as a lively, offbeat cultural mecca on the Ohio River. New Louisville, also known as the East Market District or NuLu, features converted warehouses used as local breweries, antique shops and the city’s coolest restaurants. On Bardstown Rd in the Highlands you’ll find a hipster strip of shops and bars, not to mention many ‘Keep Louisville Weird’ stickers. Bourbon reigns in Louisville. This is the traditional jump-off for the Bourbon Trail; with bourbon’s current wave of popularity, new upstart microdistilleries, including some in and around Louisville like the small-batch Angel’s Envy, are giving the old names in bourbon a run for their money. Try for the first Saturday in May to witness the ‘greatest two minutes in sports,’ the Kentucky Derby.

The coolest hotel in town is 21c Museum Hotel, an edgy contemporary hotel with scissor chandeliers and loft-like rooms.

On Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail
Photo by Marty Pearl, courtesy of Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau

2. Fairbanks, Alaska

Have you seen aurora borealis (aka the northern lights)? The sensation of seeing Arctic skies crackle with smoky blues, greens and reds has long drawn off-season travelers way north. 2013 will be big, marking the end of a fiery 11-year-cycle, when sunspots are particularly feisty, making for a big show in the Fairbanks sky 240 nights a year. Go. From May to mid-August daylight is too strong to see much, but by late summer they start to appear, and Fairbanks is the place to be. On the ground, curious foodies can sample traditional Athabascan cuisine at Taste of Alaska (call to book in advance) at the Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center, or take part in a unique pub-crawl, The Great Fairbanks Pub Paddle. Open all year, the 414-mile Dalton Highway plies north of Fairbanks into the Arctic, and air taxis reach the pristine 800-sq-mile Gates of the Arctic National Park, but the light show will be best back in Fairbanks.

A favorite place to stay is Ah, Rose Marie B&B, a homey Dutch-built cottage that takes its breakfasts seriously.

A stunning display of aurora borealis over a cabin near Fairbanks, Alaska
Photo by Todd Paris, courtesy of the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau

3. San Juan Islands, Washington

Lonely Planet guidebook author Brendan Sainsbury has a new name for these dreamy islands north of Seattle: the ‘Gourmet Archipelago’. Proudly home to a decidedly un-Pacific Northwest-like 250 days of sunshine a year, the San Juan Islands have always gone for self-sufficiency. You’ll find fresh, fresh food, with local artichokes and marionberries from farmers markets, seafood plates of oysters, razor clams and freshly caught salmon, and foraged edibles like seaweed and elderflowers at places like the Doe Bay Café on Orcas Island, or Willows Inn on Lummi Island whose head chef is an alumnus of world-renowned Noma. Hop on a bike, explore the beaches and enjoy the scenery, but be sure to eat!

For more options, see Brendan’s article on the Gourmet Archipelago.

Friday Harbor Farmers’ Market, San Juan Island
Photo by Barbara Marrett, courtesy of San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau

4. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Forget the cheesesteaks and tri-corner hat, Philadelphia is becoming known as an art capital. In addition to the world renowned Philadelphia Museum of Art, the formerly remote the Barnes Foundation, a once private collection of Matisse, Renoir and Cézanne, has a new central location. And it’s not just the big museums – Philly’s gallery scene is exploding with new venues like the Icebox garnering international attention and turning the Northern Liberties and Fishtown neighborhoods into the new hot arts hub. First Fridays, the monthly gallery open house, long a tradition in Old City, has expanded to the refurbished Loft District, where the party goes on in a host of new bars, clubs and live music venues.

For places to stay, the vintage-boutique inn Rittenhouse 1715 is around the corner from the namesake park.

Barnes Foundation gallery, Philadelphia
Photo by R. Kennedy courtesy of GPTMC

5. American Samoa

Did you know that a US passport can get you to an isolated South Pacific paradise without even leaving US territory? From the US mainland, American Samoa is a longer trek than Hawaii, but the distance rewards the visitor with some of the most stunning, untouched beauty of the Pacific and a national park that even the most ardent park system fans won’t have checked off their list yet. From the US, flights run from Honolulu to Pago Pago on lovely Tutuila, with waterfalls, fishing villages and spectacular beaches nearby. But press on with a quick flight on Inter Island Air to the tiny nearby Manuʻa Islands of Taʻu and Ofu, with shining, palm-fringed white sand beaches flanked by shark-tooth-shaped mountains. The best time to visit is Flag Day, April 17, when there are activities galore. This may be US territory, but it’s some of the purest Polynesia you’ll find anywhere.

It’s simple, but the family-run Vaoto Lodge can get you snorkeling within minutes of arrival.

Ofu Island, American Samoa
Photo courtesy of American Samoa Visitors Bureau

6. Eastern Sierra, California

This year, hop past Yosemite – just beyond lies the secret California dream: the Eastern Sierra, the overlooked flank of the Sierra Nevada range, with other-worldly natural attractions and surprises (Basque culture?), not to mention far fewer visitors. Just follow the scenic US Route 395 as it connects wonders like the Travertine hot spring in Bridgeport, the Gold Rush ghost town of BodieMono Lake’s bizarre calcified tufa towers, or the surreal Devils Postpile National Monument’s 60-foot curtain of basalt columns made from rivers of molten lava. Eastward, ho!

In Lee Vining stop at perhaps the greatest wonder of all: fantastic food served out of a gas station at the Whoa Nellie Deli with live music during the warmer months

July 24thTufa towers in Mono Lake, Eastern Sierra
Photo by John Lemieux, Creative Commons Attribution license

7. Northern Maine

Moose, white water rafting, epic hiking. No, not the Rockies – we’re talking about Maine. Maine isn’t only lobster rolls, lighthouses and rocky shoreline. The woodsy interior, on the top half of the Maine ‘thumb’ reaching north to the Canada border, makes for a wilderness adventure. The Appalachian Trail begins/ends atop Mt Katahdin (which literally means ‘Mt Great Mountain’) in primitive Baxter State Park, with 200,000 acres of lakes and mountains to reach by hiking boot. Nearby is Moosehead Lake, home to a 99-year-old steamboat to ride, and the source of the Kennebec River, with great rafting opportunities at the Forks. To the north in remote Aroostook County, miles of old rail beds have been transformed into bike trails, and multi-day canoe trips can paddle you right up to the Canadian border.

Baxter is camping only. A good B&B nearby is the Greenville Inn on Moosehead Lake, built from a century-old lumber baron’s home.

Near Chimney Pond, Mt. Katahdin
Photo by Jue WangCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license.

8. Twin Cities, Minnesota

Lake Wobegon might be ‘the little town that time forgot, and the decades cannot improve,’ but time has been much kinder to the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St Paul. Minneapolis is often called the country’s best bike city and the Nice Ride bike-share system with its web of new bike lanes proves the point. The St Anthony Falls Heritage Trail is a 2-mile path along the banks of the Mississippi River. Plan time for Uptown’s Bryant-Lake Bowl, an old bowling alley with seriously good food (think artisanal cheese plates). And pay homage to the epicenter of Twin Cities’ music scene, First Avenue & 7th St Entry – hometown hero Prince sometimes comes by (seriously). St Paul is quieter, but key to see. Pedal over for a meal at the Hmongtown Marketplace, with authentic Lao dishes, and a show at the Fitzgerald Theater, where Garrison Keillor tapes his Prairie Home Companion.

Wales House is a cheery B&B with a fireplace lounge and frequent scholar guests working at the nearby University of Minnesota. (Go Gophers!)

Twin Cities Jazz Festival, St Paul
Photo by Chris McDuffie, courtesy of Visit Saint Paul.

9. Verde Valley, Arizona

Between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon, the Verde Valley is taking off as Arizona’s go-to destination, and not just among the spa and crystal Sedona-fans of years past. The Verde Valley region is beautiful, with green canyons rimmed by red rocks, and towns like Cottonwood, Jerome and Sedona that have long drawn visitors for good food, art and mining lore. But the Verde boost is all about the wine. The new Verde Valley Wine Trail links four new vineyards clustered around Cornville, near Sedona. Most fun is reaching the Alcantara Vineyards… by kayak. Less fun is being the designated kayaker.

Sedona’s Cozy Cactus is a, well, cozy B&B in an adobe with easy access to local hiking trails.

Kayaking to Alcantara Vineyards, Verde Valley
Photo courtesy of Verde Valley Wine Trail

10. Glacier National Park, Montana

One of the countries wildest, most remote and pristine national parks, Glacier is everyone’s favorite national park who’s been. Its jagged, snow-blanketed ridges and glacier-sculpted horns tower dramatically over aquamarine lakes and meadows blanketed in wildflowers. Most visitors stick to the drive along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, so it’s easy to escape crowds by venturing beyond it. A relatively new shuttle system offers an eco-friendly alternative. But go soon. The park’s 25 glaciers are melting – and could be gone altogether by 2030 if current climate changes continue!

The summer-only Many Glacier Hotel, built like a Swiss chalet, is a once-in-a-lifetimer hotel set on Swiftcurrent Lake like a queen on a throne.

Swiftcurrent Lake at Many Glaciers, Glacier National ParkSwiftcurrent Lake from at Many Glacier Hotel
Photo by Bill WeaverCreative Commons Attribution license

Read more:

On a small island called Lummi, between Seattle and Vancouver, Blaine Wetzel is cooking at the Willows Inn. The menu changes daily, and this is definitely one of the most exciting new places to eat in the western U.S.

2579 West Shore Dr., (360) 758-2620.

Rene Redzepi chose this as one of his favorite places.  This appeared in the October 2012 issue.

LE BERNARDIN CHEF ERIC RIPERT recently arrived in Bhutan for a two-week-long gig at the Amankora Thimphu hotel. Though he’s been hard at work mastering ema datse, the national dish of chilies and cheese, travelers may find themselves wondering why the guest chef has also been spending so much time outside of the kitchen. For Mr. Ripert, it is not just a cooking trip, but a foraging excursion that will take him traipsing through the Himalayas for wild mushrooms and other indigenous ingredients.
The wilderness-to-table movement takes the local food movement a step further by promoting locally foraged and hunted ingredients. Here’s a survey of six wilderness-to-table restaurants around the world.

Farm-to-table dining, the movement that painstakingly traces each lettuce leaf’s lineage, has been showing up at so many hotel restaurants that it has come to be expected. Now the small type on hotel menus is elaborating on the latest food craze: wilderness-to-table, featuring hand-scavenged ingredients.

Thanks to René Redzepi, the chef at Copenhagen’s Noma restaurant, who hunts down mushrooms in Nordic pine forests; or Viet Pham, who boasts “an 80% foraged menu” at Forage in Salt Lake City, hotel chefs are embracing creative sourcing. They’re making ice cream flavored with “found” pine tree needles at the Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, N.C., and scallops served with seaweed that the chef picks up on the beach nearby at Chewton Glen in Hampshire, England. Here are a few other hotels getting in on the edible treasure hunt.

—Alexandra Wolfe
Sorrel River Ranch Resort & Spa, Moab, Utah

On a former plot of wilderness along the Colorado River, chef Richard Potts explores 160 acres to find ingredients from fennel pollen to prickly pear. Foraged fare appears in dishes like American wagyu tenderloin with mushroom duxelle, as well as on the spa menu, with a pesto-infused body treatment made from the 30 pounds of basil the hotel harvested this past summer.

Parallel 37, San Francisco

Even the entryway in the Ritz-Carlton’s new restaurant is made from distressed wood hauled in from the wilderness (that is, if Marin County counts as the wild). Most of the herbs on the cocktail menu have been foraged, as well as many of the herbs that appear on the food menu. Bartender Camber Lay combines local bourbon and Benedictine with wild poblano peppers that come from nearby Oakland in the Bar Fly drink. Her signature Pineapple Express mixes local pineapple, lime and Oronoco rum with chocolate mint that was foraged in the hotel’s city.

Four Seasons Resort Nevis, West Indies

Through the hotel’s Catch and Cook program, guests can meet up with fishermen docked on nearby Pinney’s Beach and pick out fresh dorade, wahoo and big-eye red snapper for dinner. Another dining option is to source your own ingredients firsthand: Guests can dive for Caribbean spiny lobsters. They can also take guided hiking trips to forage for 20 types of coconut and collect ingredients for passion fruit wine and sorrel water, all of which they eat and drink afterward.

Willows Inn, Lummi Island, Washington

At the foodie destination on this remote island off the coast of Washington, chef Blaine Wetzel requires each of his five cooks to forage for ingredients at least once a week. From wild crab apple blossoms and elderflowers to sea beans and local seaweed, most menu items have been sourced on or around the premises—only a handful of ingredients, such as oil and salt, are flown in. Even the butter is churned on-site and island-caught salmon and trout are smoked right outside the kitchen.

The Balmoral, Edinburgh, Scotland

Every fall, chefs from the property’s Number One restaurant take groups of guests to the Perthshire countryside to find their own food. After breakfast at the hotel, foragers pick chanterelle and amethyst deceiver mushrooms before stopping for a picnic lunch of local Glencoe venison and foraged mushrooms, cooked by executive chef Jeff Bland. Guests carry home any uneaten bounty in takeout boxes.

The kitchen team of six move with coordinated grace. There’s no discernible food preparation activity, except for the oven baking dark round loaves of rustic rye sourdough. Strategically placed in this compact, sleekly modern space in Washington State’s acclaimed Willows Inn, the young chef, Blaine Wetzel, is both creative force and conductor. Ingredients appear and the plating, of what the chef describes as a “symmetry of dishes,” is finalized, then ushered out of the kitchen to diners who have waited up to six months for a reservation.

“The day may start with chopping wood,” was Blaine’s answer to one question, “and then fishing.” He wasn’t being flippant. The fragrant aroma of alder wood earlier wafted from the small cedar smoke house next to the inn. Chanterelles are in season in the local forests with woodruff and sorrel easily gathered.

The Willows Inn was constructed as a fishing and hunting lodge in 1910. The design of the craftsmen bungalow is atmospheric, but it has the excellent fortune of being nestled within the trees of Lummi Island with stunning views of the bay. For many years the Willows enjoyed a deserved reputation as an ideal, albeit remote, escape, and given the reality of being on an island in Washington State, local sourcing for provisions was a necessity, not a trend.

For Olympia, WA, born Blaine Wetzel, fresh from Copenhagen’s internationally acclaimed Noma, where he was chef de partie, being on an island of only 800 inhabitants, with the “limitations of very local ingredients and suppliers,” forces creativity. Yet riding a tide of interest in fine, very locally sourced restaurants, was going back to the future. Local sourcing was everyone’s food experience until recent history, and a dish as simple as sockeye salmon, smoked with green alder wood for eight hours, is a masterpiece in the right hands.

Within the last two years, a new ownership group, including chef Wetzel, has revitalized the inn and drawn national attention. Partner John Gibbs has high praise for the chef, “Blaine allows the flavor of the food to be what it is, and that requires that he has the best ingredients.” With reservations for dinner in high demand, the attention to detail has to be rigorous.

“The (set) menu ebbs and flows,” the chef aptly explains, “we may do as many as 25 dishes. Small dishes can be more precise.” Small dishes can highlight intense flavors in often overlooked foods, such as a toasted leaf of kale dusted with black truffle and rye. Even cocktails benefit from local bounty with aromatic woodruff scenting a martini.

Cocktails are served in the comfortable lounge of the historic inn, or on the covered porch overlooking the island studded bay. The two dining rooms look into the kitchen and onto nature through generous windows. A procession of small dishes, each a visual and aromatic miniature of food art, occupy attention for the next few hours.

Removing the lid from a warm cedar box emitted an aromatic puff of smoke revealing an earthy baked sunflower root on a bed of moss. The bouquet defined a dinner rooted in the Pacific Northwest forest. A local oyster sat pickled on a bed of white herring roe, from southeastern Alaska, topped with sorrel. A delicate section of albacore tuna floated in cucumber juice garnished with a snow of icy horseradish.

The presentations of dishes were as imaginative as the ingredients. Two crispy sections of halibut skins topped with razor clam and glazed with seaweed powder sat on a flat piece of gray slate. The salt and pepper colored skins nearly blended into the rock. Slivers of smoked venison were paired with chanterelles, pecans and blackberries, all sitting off to one side on a stunning hand thrown pottery dinner plate. The simplest of ingredients created dishes that radiated light and flavor. Three small cups of grilled sweet onion held a pool of pale green rhubarb juice and a contrasting swirl of thyme oil. The visual was asian and the shot of concentrated herbal flavors intense.

Neither the menu nor the wine list remain a mystery with the well trained staff more than pleased to patiently explain the ingredients and preparation of the dishes. Washington State vintages are featured along with a selection of European wines. The menu can be complimented by either a wine or juice pairing. This being Washington State, Westcott Bay dry apple cider was a perfect compliment to the venison. The freshly made juices are as fascinating with the dishes as the wines.

The Willows Inn is America’s most exciting restaurant experience, which can be a curse. Yet in an effort to counter that pitfall, chef Wetzel’s dining room closes for two winter months while the staff rejuvenate and continue their education through travel. It’s fitting then that dinner starts with travel, taking the ferry over to Lummi Island, to begin a seductive food journey you will want to repeat.

The Willows Inn, 2579 West Shore Drive, Lummi Island, WA, 98262 360-758-2620