I grew up in New England, Boston specifically. I’ve always had this romantic image of islands and the shore in general. I suppose that’s not super original, but there’s something about the air, the color palette, and even the rainy weather while you’re ensconced safe inside that makes me happy. Moving from that environment, Seattle was always attractive because of the plethora of islands here in Puget Sound. And even though I’ve lived here for almost a decade and a half, I haven’t spent nearly the time I’d like exploring all these spots. One place however that has found me repeatedly visiting is Whidbey Island and the Inn at Langley, specifically. Whether you stay there or not (and staying there for a night is quite lovely), the main attraction for me is the meal. Helmed by Chef Matt Costello, formerly of Dahlia Lounge, the restaurant at The Inn puts on a simple and local dinner. One seating, one fixed menu, all introduced by the Chef speaking at length about his love for the local products and the Whidbey Island agricultural community that produces them. I would never describe a Chef’s job as easy, but it certainly appears that Costello, cooking a fixed menu three nights a week using the local ingredients he loves, definitely has a sweet gig.
Warm bread and butter are always a pleasure. Seriously, it’s hard not to love warm bread. But the oil that came along with the butter was a grapeseed oil produced by Apres Vin made from Cabernet Grapes. Wow. It had this amazing grapey quality and a nuttiness. It was a super pleasant change from the usual olive oil (and I love olive oil).
Things started off with an amuse bouche. I’m generally a fan of stuffing things into other things — and foie gras into a fig is no exception. The 12 year old balsamic drizzled on top didn’t hurt. I’m not a huge fig fan, but these felt crisp, slightly tart, and lovely homes for the creamy duck liver mousseline occupying a rectangular space in their centers.
Soup was next, a celery root puree which was subtle but perhaps a touch underseasoned poured on top of porcini mushroom panna cotta and carrot greens. I was surprised to find the tiny carrot greens as the saviors of the dish. The soup and panna cotta were but creamy foundations for the carrot greens which despite their small size packed a ton of bright fresh almost salty flavor. It was hard but I think I made sure there were at least a few molecules of carrot green in every spoonful I ate.
The highlight of the meal was the Roasted Black Cod with Artichoke and Brown Butter. It’s true that I find it difficult to resist much that’s basted in brown butter. But this piece of fish was cooked perfectly. In general, a small piece of white fish, with only the simplest adornment is a dish I’ve found only in French restaurants… in Seattle, the now closed Mistral was among the better places to get something like this. Outside of Seattle I’ve had this dish, often with John Dory as the fish, at places like Gordon Ramsay in London. And Costello’s Black Cod was competitive with the best I’ve had. Moist, gently flavorful, flaked apart in perfect bite size chunks — truly a pleasure to eat.
It’s almost a shame the meal didn’t end there. Next was the Clove Dusted Duck Breast with Yam Jus and Chanterelles. And while I love Chanterelles, the duck was dry. It just wasn’t enjoyable. Usually duck has so much fat that it’s very difficult to serve it dry. I’m sure it was just an off night, but a bummer nonetheless.
A deconstructed Waldorf Salad (love that cheese) and a Simple and Rustic Pavlova with Marinated Tropical Fruits made up the bulk of dessert. But the little orange creme filled milk chocolates that Costello lovingly introduced to us were the highlights of the meal wind-down. Smooth, creamy, with a sweet thick orange filling. Perfect end note. It was clear that the chef was proud of these, and it showed in their craftsmanship.
It’s impossible not to enjoy the whole atmosphere at the Inn at Langley, especially if you’re staying at The Inn and not just eating there. But ultimately, it would be difficult to really walk away happy if the food did not live up to the cozy yet refined island aesthetic. And I’m pleased to say, I always walk away thinking about when I’ll be returning to the Inn at Langley for more.