With the heat increasing and work stress building it was time to get out of the city for a bit. When an invitation to do so was extended by our dear friends we jumped at the offer. We were heading to Lummi Island.
Never heard of Lummi Island? I hadn’t either until our friends first visited the island a couple of years ago. It’s a 9 square mile island that is accessed by a 22 car ferry from Gooseberry Point near Bellingham, WA (a 1 1/2 hour drive from Seattle). The island has just over 800 residents and conveniences are limited. There is one general store, two restaurants (and yes, we ate at both), a small library, post office, fire station and one church.
Our trip began in Seattle where we spent the day wandering. We started in Pike Place Market and snacked on berries and crumpets while waiting for full-fledged hunger to take hold. A few hours and a couple of celebratory cocktails later we decided lunch was in order. We were near Pioneer Square so hopped into Bar Sajor for a bite.
The lunch was perfect for the four of us with multiple small shared plates. We had two tartines on their sourdough bread: one with halibut and halzelnut romesco and the other with chantrelles and some kind of bean. There was smoked salmon with dill and Ranier cherries and house-pickled vegetables. My favorite dish was the smoked whole milk yogurt with preserved lemon, green strawberries, urfa biber, mint and sprouted rye crisps. We enjoyed our lunch so much that we made reservations for dinner that same night. The restaurant truly outdid themselves for us as we were treated like royalty upon our return. They seated us as the same table we occupied at lunch which was at the front of the house and allowed light breezes to come through the open door. We had a sommelier and essentially two waiters at our service. Spectacular! We were all pleased that we’d chosen to return for dinner.
The next morning we picked up a rental car, grabbed coffee and then pastries at Crumble and Flake before heading to Bellingham. On saturday mornings, Bellingham has a farmer’s market with produce, meats, dairy and prepared foods as well as the typical market bric-a-brac. Since we weren’t heading off to a house where we could cook, we stuck to snacking on samples of cured sausages, pates and fresh garlic fries.
Then it was time to catch the ferry to Lummi. The island was a 50-year step back in time. There is a true sense of community. Everyone waves when you pass them on the street. People don’t lock their doors and they leave the keys in their cars. Everyone knows everyone. In our exploring we came across a good old fashioned swimming hole that was full of parents on the grass shore watching their kids in the water. There’s even a community garden and orchard for the islanders.
The reason for going to Lummi, besides the quaint, relaxing atmosphere, was to stay and eat at The Willows Inn. The small hotel has been around since 1910 and is right across from Sunset Beach. The views are stunning and unspoiled. We spent two nights there and I could have easily done more. We had reservations for dinner at their acclaimed restaurant on our first night and after our meal we promptly made reservations for our second night. The young chef, Blaine Wetzel, proved his maturity with the meal. While local, sustainable is the nouveau chic, the chef’s faire was truly foraged and fished from the island. To call it local, sustainable would be to downplay it’s uniqueness.
Our days on the island were spent exploring by car, foot and by taste. We perused real estate, snacked on raspberries from a local farm, walked through a lavender farm surrounded by evergreens and the ocean and had a wonderful time.
On our last night at The Willows Inn we sat on the patio sipping a local pear eau de vie and watched what the locals said was the best sunset of the year Our thoughts drifted towards how to make this lovely place home. All too soon it was time to pack up and head home and leave the island…for now.