Good food fresh off the farm
The best was last. A small dish full of ``Jerilyn's Blackberry Cobbler'' recently put the finishing touch on my supper of zesty vegetable soup and Chicken Boreg -- well-seasoned chicken breast wrapped in phyllo dough -- at Brusseau's, a small, homespun restaurant in this suburban community.Skip to next paragraph
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The simple but luxurious-tasting dessert is typical of the food served here: appetizing to the eye, and with flavor that has a kind of right-off-the-farm authenticity.
The tangy-sweet berries, explains owner Jerilyn Brusseau, are shipped up regularly from Oregon. There are closer supplies, but the Oregon variety, called Marion blackberries, ``has a particularly good flavor and is available the year round,'' she says.
Mrs. Brusseau has perfected her cobbler over some 20 years. Its moist topping, she observes, is a big improvement over the drier cobblers she ate as a girl growing up on a farms in the Northwest. Like most of her dishes, this dessert springs from a lifelong involvement with carefully prepared, meticulously fresh foods.
``There were always people in our home,'' she says, recalling the ``big fried-chicken dinners'' that were a Sunday tradition with her family.
This strong tradition of hospitality, nurtured on the Snohomish, Wash., dairy farm where she spent her childhood, led Brusseau to act on a longtime dream and open a restaurant eight years ago. She bought an old gas station on one of Edmonds's main streets, up the hill from where the ferry steams across Puget Sound for Kingston every hour, and turned it into a friendly blend of homey informality and ``light, interesting fare.''
Most of that fare -- grains, vegetables, fruits, poultry, seafood, dairy products -- comes from the surrounding region.
These days, ``part of what I do is get farmers out before the public, to show people what they do,'' Brusseau says. At a recent cruise banquet she helped organize, locally raised specialties were front and center: out-of-the-ordinary things like Japanese Kumamoto oysters (``succulent, sweet, delicious,'' according to Brusseau), wild greens, goats'-milk blue cheese, and oyster mushrooms, named for their oyster-like flavor.
Only ``free-run'' chicken, raised locally of course, makes it into such Brusseau's delicacies as Chicken Boreg. Unlike the pen-raised birds found on most supermarket shelves, this poultry is allowed to roam the farmyard -- and the taste difference, asserts Brusseau, is distinct. ``It really tastes like chicken,'' says Henry Knapp, a faithful patron who grew up in England and remembers the ``free range'' poultry of Yorkshire.
Like Mr. Knapp, many of Brusseau's customers tend to make the compact little restaurant a part of their daily lives. Brusseau points out one couple, the Gruenwalds, who've been coming in twice a day since 1979. The same twosomes and groups drop by every morning to sit, eat some of Jerilyn's tempting cinnamon rolls, perhaps, and talk.