12 days: on the fifth day of christmas: wetzel… (2014)

8th Course: Parsnips in Razor Clam Broth


Blaine Wetzel got his start at a very young age. By the time he returned to his native Washington at the age of 24 to head the kitchen at Willows Inn on Lummi Island, he had spent eight years cooking around the world.  He had cooked in the kitchens of Mary Elaine’s at the Phoenician in Phoenix, Alex at the Wynn in Las Vegas, Aubergine at l’Auberge Carmel in Carmel-by-the-Sea, and Noma in Copenhagen. His cooking at Willows Inn has turned heads, earning his far-flung archipelago off the coast of the Pacific Northwest some time in the culinary spotlight. In 2012, he was named one of Food + Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs, and earlier this year, he was elected the restaurant industry’s “Rising Star” by the James Beard Foundation.

Although Wetzel had been on my radar for a couple of years, I didn’t make it to Willows Inn until last year.  I liked it so much that I went back for a second time a few months later.

Using ingredients he finds locally, Wetzel subscribes to the foraging branch of the Nordic school of cooking.  I was particularly interested to see how he would he bring a sense of place to his dishes at The Restaurant at Meadowood, where he cooked the fifth night of the Twelve Days of Christmas, with wine pairings by Failla.




Inspired by the ingredients he found in Christopher Kostow’s kitchen, and eager to use as many products as he could, Wetzel’s menu for his dinner at the Twelve Days of Christmas quickly ballooned to ten courses. Together with three courses from the team at The Restaurant at Meadowood, this was the longest menu at this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas so far.

Wetzel presented some of the most simple and delicious food I’ve had at this year’s dinner series.  His  dishes were all very simple, each showcasing the flavor of one or two ingredients.  Among my favorites was a single prawn, served with its roe and bit of its own broth and oil. There was also a truly delicious bowl of steamed yellow foot mushrooms, also served with just a bit of its own juices.

Wetzel found an untended field of wild wheat on Lummi Island.  He gathered the kernels, sprouted the wheat, and brought them to The Restaurant at Meadowood, where he cooked them and served them in the cooking broth, still warm and steaming.  That was immensely comforting.  So was a tea that he made by steeping young birch branches from his backyard in hot water.  The tea had a mellow, sweet fragrance that reminded me of Chinese red date soup.


12th Course: Alpine Cheese


One of my favorite courses at this dinner was Christopher Kostow’s Alpine cheese course.  He melted the hard, aged cheese down with some dairy, and served it as a rich, thick pudding.  Paired with the cheese was roasted red curry pumpkin, which was glazed with honey flecked with black truffles. The pumpkin was presented table-side, and then spooned out of its skin, still steaming, over the cheese.




Below, you’ll find the menu from the fifth night of the Twelve Days of Christmas with Blaine Wetzel of Willows Inn and wines by Failla.   You’ll also find a slideshow of all of the photos that I took.


Nuka Vegetables

Kale Chip
Flavors of chorizo.

Black Olive Meringue
Whipped olive oil.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)


First Course 
Whipped Yogurt
Black sesame, pickled plum, shiso.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Second Course
Birch Tea
From young birch branches.

Third Course 
Mackerel Belly
Char roe.

Fourth Course 
With its own roe.

Fifth Course 
Swiss Chard
Smoked cod cheeks, crispy cod skin.

Sixth Course 
Steamed Yellow Foot Mushrooms

Seventh Course 
Grilled Seaweeds
White truffle.

Eighth Course 
In razor clam broth.

Ninth Course 
Old Lummi Island Grains, Sprouted
Served in its own cooking juices.

Tenth Course 
Charred Radicchio
Caramelized squid.

Eleventh Course 
Wild onion, cress.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Twelfth Course 
Alpine Cheese
Pumpkin, honey, black truffle.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Thirteenth Course 
Chestnuts, Hazelnuts
Olive oil.


Failla “Chuy”
Chardonnay, Sonoma Valley, 2012

Failla “Haynes Vineyard”
Chardonnay, Coombsville, 2012

Failla “Occidental Ridge Vineyard”
Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, 2006

Failla “Occidental Ridge Vineyard”
Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, 2012

Failla Estate Vineyard
“Meter x Meter”
Syrah, Sonoma Coast, 2010


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Below are links to my posts and photos from all of the Twelve Days of Christmas dinners I have attended over the past three years at the Restaurant at Meadowood.  Each chef is listed with the restaurant with which they were cooking at the time they participated in the event (some have moved on to other projects and restaurants).


Scott Anderson (Elements; Princeton, New Jersey)
John & Karen Shields (Formerly of Townhouse; Chilhowie, Virginia)
Phillip Foss (EL Ideas; Chicago, Illinois)
Stuart Brioza & Nicole Krasinski (State Bird Provisions; San Francisco, California)
Jason Franey (Canlis Restaurant; Seattle, Washinton)
Matthias Merges (Yusho; Chicago, Illinois)
Mori Onodera (Formerly of Mori Sushi; Los Angeles, California)
James Syhabout (Commis; Oakland, California)
Nick Anderer (Maialino; New York, New York)
David Toutain (Agapé Substance; Paris, France)
Josh Habiger & Erik Anderson (The Catbird Seat; Nashville Tennessee)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Andy Ricker (Pok Pok, Portland, Oregon & New York, New York)
Rodolfo Guzman (Boragó; Santiago, Chile)
Carlo Mirarchi (Blanca and Roberta’s; Brooklyn, New York)
Tim Cushman (O Ya; Boston, Massachusetts)
Ashley Christensen (Poole’s Diner; Raleigh, North Carolina)
David Chang (Momofuku; New York, New York)
Matthew Accarrino (SPQR; San Francisco, California)
Mark Ladner & Brooks Headley (Del Posto; New York, New York)
Rasmus Kofoed (Geranium; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Nicolaus Balla & Cortney Burns (Bar Tartine; San Francisco, California)
David Kinch (Manresa; Los Gatos, California)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Matthew Orlando (Amass; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Frank Castranovo & Frank Falcinelli (Frankies 457, Prime Meats; New York, New York)
Kobe Desramaults (In de Wulf; Dranouter, Belgium)
Alexandre Gauthier (La Grenouillère; La Madelaine-sous-Montreuil, France)
Blaine Wetzel (Willows Inn; Lummi Island, Washington)


~ by ulterior epicure on December 16, 2014.

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