Pairing Perfection: The Willows Inn on Lummi Island

When asked to pick his favorite dish at The Willows Inn, David Yake, co-owner of Camber Coffee, laughs. “Oh man, that’s like asking who’s your favorite niece or nephew.”

David Yake of Camber

After a brief but intense round of deliberation with his business partner Andrew Bowman, David settles on something particularly extraordinary: a smoked black cod donut. He describes the donut as a blend of quintessential comfort and total innovation.

David and Andrew’s company provides the coffee for the Willows Inn. Their relationship came about serendipitously. After a chilly hike through Lummi island, David and Andrew stopped in briefly for a coffee. While there, they met one of the owners and started talking coffee. Shortly after, acclaimed head chef Blaine Wetzel stopped by the Camber roastery for a tasting.

Blaine Wetzel of the Willows Inn

Andrew remembers a particular moment distinctly, “After tasting the coffee, Blaine looked over at us and said, ‘You have our attention’.”

To call the Willows Inn fine dining feels like misdirection. Yes, the data driven Opinionated About Dining has ranked the Willows Inn as the 2017 Best Restaurant in the U.S. And head chef Blaine Wetzel has apprenticed at some of the best restaurants in the world. And yes, he’s won two James Beard Awards for his work at the Willows Inn (2014 – Rising Star and 2015 – Best Chef: Northwest). But the experience is something much more than “fine dining”, or whatever stuffy, haute cuisine that term may connote.

The team at the Willows Inn is profoundly committed to telling the story of Lummi Island: it’s seasonal produce, the heirloom wheat grown on the island, and fish so unbelievably fresh, it could have been pulled from the Sound just minutes before service.

There is this deep affinity for the sleepy island that is evident in each decision and in every sumptuous bite. “Every time we go out there, we’re just blown away by how much attention they put into every little detail,” says David.

When it came time to refine their coffee service, David, Andrew, and Blaine set to work designing a program that would match the level of care, quality, and beauty exemplified by the Willows Inn. They needed something that would be consistent, simple to use, delicious, and wouldn’t distract from their stunning open kitchen.

That’s when David had the idea to bring in the Ratio Eight.

Having had experience with the brewer, David knew that it could meet the high standards for quality and consistency that the Willows Inn required. And when Chef Wetzel tried the coffee, he knew it was a match. “I am so impressed with the Ratio coffee brewing machine. It brews the best coffee I have ever tasted.”

The Ratio provided Camber and the Willows Inn more opportunities to experiment with coffee and food pairings. The clear, multilayered flavors of Ratio brewed coffee serve as an elegant counterpart to a wide array of the Willow Inn’s amazing dishes.

In a focused, high-performing kitchen, the Ratio produces exceptional coffee without requiring exorbitant effort. “Before landing on the Ratio, the staff at the Willows was preparing all drip coffee with V60’s,” says David.

“This yielded some stunning brews, but it was hard to control all of the variables, most notably water temperature. The Ratio Eight sped up service considerably by freeing up a staff person who would otherwise be tending the pourover bar.”

In a space so deliberately and artfully arranged, the Ratio Eight feels right at home.

“Its simple, sturdy design is very well made,” says Chef Wetzel, “and it looks beautiful at my restaurant.”

For David and Andrew of Camber, the Ratio represented a fantastic step forward with their new culinary partner. David remembers bringing in the brewer to the Willows Inn for the first time: “The thing that sticks with me is thinking about the first time I brought the Ratio out and took it out of the box and showed it to the staff. I saw their eyes light up. And I saw how excited they were to have something that was beautiful and would produce something that was tastier than they have ever tasted before. But then it would also make their lives so much easier.”

Ratio is very proud to partner with Camber Coffee and the Willows Inn.