When I heard that Blaine Wetzel was taking part at one of the Epicurea events hosted at The Bulgari Hotel in Milan, I knew I had to attend. Blaine Wetzel was the sixth chef out of seven other chefs from around the world who are part of Epicurea events which is a unique collaboration with The Bulgari Hotel Milan and food expert Andrea Petrini.
Blaine has been on my list of chefs whose food I would like to eat for a while now. However, because his kitchen is situated in The Willows Inn on Lummi Island which lies at the Southwest corner of Whatcom County, Washington, USA, getting there requires some planning. The drive to Milan from Zürich is only three hours!
Blaine Wetzel is from the state of Washington. In 2011, at the age of 24, Blaine started cooking at Willows Inn and is now a partner in the business. Before that he worked for 2 years at Noma. Blaine is a Locavore: “Fished, Foraged & Farmed – Only Here Only Now”.
Upon my arrival an hour or so before the event was going to start, I was warmly greeted by Fabio Serafini, the Bulgari’s F & B manager & his staff, who then introduced me to the Bulgari’s Executive Chef Andrea Ferrero & Blaine Wetzel. Andrea, the host chef for all of the seven Epicurea events, happily organised a kitchen tour for me.
After my visit of Andrea’s kitchen I couldn’t help thinking how different this environment must be for Blaine – in a large city, a long way from the sea.
Stand-out dishes for me this evening were Grilled Squid & Radicchio – the bitterness of the Radicchio worked well with the Squid – and Jerusalem Artichokes with sweet Onion & Fennel. My Favourite dish by far was Goat Tartare with Smoked Eggs & Rye. This was a first for me, and the goat meat was very tender even though it came from the leg. After my meal I spoke with Blaine about this dish and surprisingly he told me he usually makes it with aged venison. So this was really “Here & Now”! The steamed Rhubarb with Green Juniper & Bay Leaves brought it all to an excellent end.
When I return to Milan I will be sure to visit the Bulgari again – an oasis in the city – and I look forward to eating Andrea Ferrero’s menu which is heavily influenced by his love for the Mediterranean & creating new combinations and fresh takes on fish.
During my evening I also spoke to Blaine’s girlfriend Raquel Ruiz Diaz who runs FOH at Willows Inn. We talked about life on Lummi Island and the Willows Inn. I am planning my visit now and I can’t wait to taste Blaine’s cooking on his home ground!