Last weekend we were up on San Juan Island in Puget Sound with my wife’s folks and a couple of their friends. At the (very fine) farmer’s market in Friday Harbor on Saturday morning, one of our crew bought a few zucchini blossoms and the woman in line behind her bought all the rest that the stand had remaining. Turns out that woman was Gretchen Allison, chef of Duck Soup Inn, where we had reservations for that very evening. And that auspicious omen turned out to be very accurate indeed, it was one of the most enjoyable meals I’ve had in a long time. And that is saying a lot because I had been suffering from pretty bad stomach cramps all that day!
Duck Soup Inn is tucked in off a rural road between Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor. Inside, it has a rustic and sort of casual… ok, dated… decor of wood and forest green walls. Don’t let that worry you.
For our first course we had those zucchini blossoms, filled with goat cheese, tempura battered, and deep fried. Mind you I’m in the camp that feels you could deep fry a raquetball and as long as the oil was hot enough and you sprinkled some sea salt on at the end, it would be delicious. But these were really nice.
All entrees at the Inn come with soup and salad. The soup of the day was a vegetarian chocolate, chili and walnut puree. I had a bit of trepidation that I was about to be served a cup of mole (the sauce, not the small mammal or Avogadro’s number of walnuts), but I shouldn’t have worried. It shared some of the same flavors, but balanced perfectly so that it whetted the appetite without leaving you full. My wife is allergic to nuts, so they gave her the previous day’s mushroom and chili soup which was also tasty. I’m not sure if the soup is always vegetarian.
The salad was noteable for containing several edible flowers (grown in their own garden) which also made an appearance as a garnish on most every plate. Each one was perfect and arranged carefully on the plate, not just an afterthought or a tired trend, but a really attractive complement to the meal.
My entree was a very well made chili relleno, served over a red-pepper polenta and with a cumin tomato sauce and an avocado salsa. Once again the flavors were spot on. Unfortunately this is where my GI situation got the better of me and I was only able to have a few bites before standing down. Until dessert. Somehow I managed to eat a properly brittle-topped creme brulee and sample a cobbler and a hot-fudge sundae. What can I say.
Service throughout the meal was attentive and kind without being at all obtrusive, perfectly fitting the atmosphere of a lovely restaurant. I can’t tell you the tab since an angel took the check, but entrees run $25 to $35 dollars. Keeping in mind that that is inclusive of a soup and salad so you don’t really need an appetizer, I think it is a fair price for a very pleasing experience.
Bonus Friday Harbor recommendation: The Market Chef on A St. has carefully made deli sandwiches, salads and bakery treats, available to dine in or take out. On a nice day you can sit on their back porch. I had an intensely flavored potato salad with capers and a dijon vinaigrette that I need to replicate real soon now.