I still haven't eaten here

Everything about food, from matching food and wine to recipes, techniques and trends.

Moderators: Jenise, David M. Bueker, Robin Garr

I still haven't eaten here

Postby Jenise » Sun Mar 17, 2013 3:45 pm

The ferry to Lummi Island is only about ten miles from my house, and I dined at the Willows Inn a number of times before Blaine Wetzel arrived. Enough times that Riley Starks, still an owner at that point, recognized me the day he and I ended up in an elevator in Downtown Bellingham together--post-NY Times claiming the Willows one of the Ten Restaurants To Go To Before You Die (which occurred in a different article shortly after their claiming it worth a plane ride), which caused the WSJ to name it one of five restaurants around the world to inherit the El Bulli mystique for impossible-to-get-reservations--on which occasion I nailed the Close Door button and refused to let him out until he promised to get me a table.

You see, once Blaine showed up with his ersatz Noma Pacific Northwest, it had become impossible to get a table--especially if you were a local. In their shortsightedness, they made it a prereq pretty much to book a room at the tiny Inn, which used to cost about $100-125 per night for one of maybe four rooms they had, but which were now joined by 12 others either newly built or cobbled together from nearby residences and cost $300 a night, such that the 16 rooms provided the 32 diners the restaurant now holds and a lot more income.

And such that the locals who helped keep The Willows afloat all those years are now invisible. Unless they book a room.

Riley admitted this was a problem and told me they were trying to come up with a plan. "After all," I said, "When you guys fall out of the favor because the private jetsters have moved on to The Next Big Thing, you might regret that you'd alienated us." He nodded in agreement. And then he sold the Inn.

So god knows if I'm ever going to dine at the new Inn. Every now and then I pick up the phone and try to get a reservation but the phone calls are getting farther apart. By the time the shine wears off of them, it might have already worn off of me. Still, it remains an interesting local phenomenon.

http://www.outsideonline.com/fitness/nutrition/Chef-Blaine-Wetzels-Quest-to-Become-the-Ultimate-Locavore.html
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
Jenise
FLDG Dishwasher
 
Posts: 26332
Joined: Tue Mar 21, 2006 3:45 pm
Location: The Pacific Northest Westest

Re: I still haven't eaten here

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Sun Mar 17, 2013 8:08 pm

That policy regarding the rooms would probably piss me off enough that I'd not even try for a regular reservation. In a sense, I can't blame them for milking it while they can but they ought to realize that anyone who lives close enough to not require a room will be very put off by this.

"An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a very narrow field" - Niels Bohr
User avatar
Mike Filigenzi
Known for his fashionable hair
 
Posts: 6973
Joined: Mon Mar 20, 2006 5:43 pm
Location: Sacramento, CA

Re: I still haven't eaten here

Postby Karen/NoCA » Sun Mar 17, 2013 8:28 pm

That is unbelievable. When my dad and step-mom lived in Cambria and we visited, I was always impressed when they would take us to a very nice restaurant, that was popular with all the tourists and locals. Upon entering the parking lot, I would say, "Golly they are so busy, we will never get in". Dad would walk in, and they would ask for the reservation name. Dad would show his driver's license, and say, "we are locals." We got right in. He told me they always saved a few seats for the locals. This happened in several places over the years. Now, that is good business. Oh, by the way, the locals also got 10 % off.
Karen/NoCA
Hunter/Gatherer
 
Posts: 5264
Joined: Thu Mar 23, 2006 9:55 pm

Re: I still haven't eaten here

Postby Lou Kessler » Sun Mar 17, 2013 8:46 pm

Karen/NoCA wrote:That is unbelievable. When my dad and step-mom lived in Cambria and we visited, I was always impressed when they would take us to a very nice restaurant, that was popular with all the tourists and locals. Upon entering the parking lot, I would say, "Golly they are so busy, we will never get in". Dad would walk in, and they would ask for the reservation name. Dad would show his driver's license, and say, "we are locals." We got right in. He told me they always saved a few seats for the locals. This happened in several places over the years. Now, that is good business. Oh, by the way, the locals also got 10 % off.

Maybe if I sent a letter recommending this way of doing business to Thomas Keller at The French Laundry he would change his reservation policy? I'm just kidding I doubt if Thomas would read it and if he did he would toss it into the trash immediately. Hey if you're that good that your restaurant is sold out every night of the year way in advance I guess you can afford to be as independent as you so desire.
Lou Kessler
Doesn't buy green bananas
 
Posts: 2974
Joined: Fri Mar 24, 2006 4:20 pm

Re: I still haven't eaten here

Postby Mike Bowlin » Mon Mar 18, 2013 2:29 am

Karen/NoCA wrote:That is unbelievable. When my dad and step-mom lived in Cambria and we visited, I was always impressed when they would take us to a very nice restaurant, that was popular with all the tourists and locals. Upon entering the parking lot, I would say, "Golly they are so busy, we will never get in". Dad would walk in, and they would ask for the reservation name. Dad would show his driver's license, and say, "we are locals." We got right in. He told me they always saved a few seats for the locals. This happened in several places over the years. Now, that is good business. Oh, by the way, the locals also got 10 % off.


Cambria, now thats a wonderful place to spend time. Been there countless time. Thanks for the reminder.
Thanks,
Mike
User avatar
Mike Bowlin
Ultra geek
 
Posts: 318
Joined: Sun Jun 22, 2008 2:57 am

Re: I still haven't eaten here

Postby Jenise » Mon Mar 18, 2013 4:13 am

Mike Filigenzi wrote:That policy regarding the rooms would probably piss me off enough that I'd not even try for a regular reservation. In a sense, I can't blame them for milking it while they can


I really don't blame them. As I've said on this board many times, if all the restaurants here close down Olive Garden will be the last one standing. It's the worst area for restaurants I've ever seen, and if I'd realized it was this bad I might not have chosen to live here. This area supports mediocrity and good indepenedent restaurants that try to do innovative, quality food even on a casual level close down. This isn't the Napa Valley, there's no wine and food tourism in this county. You can't eat in a different good white tablecloth restaurant every night--the restaurants aren't here. So logically they can't expect the locals to support what the Willows is trying to do. BUT I would have thought Riley would have been just a little bit inclined to accomodate the few who had been regular customers all along.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
Jenise
FLDG Dishwasher
 
Posts: 26332
Joined: Tue Mar 21, 2006 3:45 pm
Location: The Pacific Northest Westest

Re: I still haven't eaten here

Postby Karen/NoCA » Mon Mar 18, 2013 11:27 am

Maybe if I sent a letter recommending this way of doing business to Thomas Keller at The French Laundry he would change his reservation policy?

Yes, in our travels, I have heard some comments about Keller from some of the local folks. I think he makes room for those he hangs with, however. I don't like that type of attitude. We have a Bistro and another locally owned restaurant here in Redding that are very good to excellent. You can walk in for lunch at 12:30, there may be two couples in there and they ask if you have reservations and when you reply "no" they look around and act as if you have committed a mortal sin. One was directly behind the police dept and a lot of us went there on a regular basis. We got so tired of that treatment, we went elsewhere. They went out of business and reopened on another end of town. They are much nicer now and we appreciate that when we go there.
Karen/NoCA
Hunter/Gatherer
 
Posts: 5264
Joined: Thu Mar 23, 2006 9:55 pm

Re: I still haven't eaten here

Postby Karen/NoCA » Mon Mar 18, 2013 11:45 am

Cambria, now thats a wonderful place to spend time. Been there countless time. Thanks for the reminder.


My relatives no longer live there and we have not been there in a few years. I love Cambria because they want all stores to be owned by locals, no chains, no big box, and no street lights. All the stores have small white lights that come on at night. It is such a charming town and the store owners are very nice to us tourists. They even have a waiting list for anyone who wants to move and build a new home or business. They control the population diligently due to water concerns. My folks were on a given amount of water usage each month. When you go over that amount, you cut back or pay fees. At one time we were considering moving there, but the thought of not being able to flush as needed and maintaining a large herb/veggie garden was a concern. Plus, where we wanted to buy, the deer come in and eat up all your good tasting plants.
Karen/NoCA
Hunter/Gatherer
 
Posts: 5264
Joined: Thu Mar 23, 2006 9:55 pm

Re: I still haven't eaten here

Postby Mike Bowlin » Tue Mar 19, 2013 2:17 am

Karen/NoCA wrote:
Cambria, now thats a wonderful place to spend time. Been there countless time. Thanks for the reminder.


My relatives no longer live there and we have not been there in a few years. I love Cambria because they want all stores to be owned by locals, no chains, no big box, and no street lights. All the stores have small white lights that come on at night. It is such a charming town and the store owners are very nice to us tourists. They even have a waiting list for anyone who wants to move and build a new home or business. They control the population diligently due to water concerns. My folks were on a given amount of water usage each month. When you go over that amount, you cut back or pay fees. At one time we were considering moving there, but the thought of not being able to flush as needed and maintaining a large herb/veggie garden was a concern. Plus, where we wanted to buy, the deer come in and eat up all your good tasting plants.

I like the pace, the small town feel and the Blue Whale Inn on the beach. Next year I must revisit during the seal migration.
2090.jpg
2090.jpg (64.69 KiB) Viewed 1210 times
Thanks,
Mike
User avatar
Mike Bowlin
Ultra geek
 
Posts: 318
Joined: Sun Jun 22, 2008 2:57 am

Re: I still haven't eaten here

Postby Karen/NoCA » Tue Mar 19, 2013 12:43 pm

The elephant seal migration and the time they spend on the beaches there during mating is very interesting and almost scary. They are so noisy. Of course, I wanted to walk down to pet them and my dad had a fit! They can be very dangerous and can move fast when they want to.
Karen/NoCA
Hunter/Gatherer
 
Posts: 5264
Joined: Thu Mar 23, 2006 9:55 pm

Re: I still haven't eaten here

Postby Brian Gilp » Tue Mar 19, 2013 1:03 pm

Jenise wrote:In their shortsightedness, they made it a prereq pretty much to book a room at the tiny Inn

I am confused. Is a room a requirement or is it just that if you book a room you are guarenteed a dinner reservation. The Inn at Little Washington ensures that all rooms can have a dinner reservation but it is not a requirement to get one. I believe the same goes for the Clifton Inn in Charlottesville. I guess I thought that was standard if one ran a small Inn and Restaurant and would find it odd if I reserved a room and could not dine there.
Brian Gilp
Wine guru
 
Posts: 1457
Joined: Tue May 23, 2006 6:50 pm

Re: I still haven't eaten here

Postby Jenise » Tue Mar 19, 2013 2:36 pm

Brian Gilp wrote: I guess I thought that was standard if one ran a small Inn and Restaurant and would find it odd if I reserved a room and could not dine there.


I agree with that. But you'd never go to the Inn if you weren't going to the restaurant. It's not an Inn that happens to have a good restaurant in the sense you know back east. It was a house and long ago a restaurant was added. And they had a few reasonably priced rooms because the restaurant is the only commercial business on the island and there are no hotels. Guests of islanders would stay there if the restaurant business didn't fill the rooms. They added more rooms and tripled the price when the NY Times articles created a clamor of out of town guests. They now have 16 rooms and seating for 32 at dinner which creates the new bottom line: you have to book a room to get a dinner reservation. They're doing what they feel they have to do. I'm just explaining why I haven't dined there since Blaine Wetzel took over the kitchen.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
Jenise
FLDG Dishwasher
 
Posts: 26332
Joined: Tue Mar 21, 2006 3:45 pm
Location: The Pacific Northest Westest


Return to The Forum Kitchen

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests