Serious about their motto “seed to plate,” Brandywine Kitchen co-owners Azizi Tookas and Chris Sunde are committed to local food-sourcing, taking the term “farm to table,” to the next level. In fact, Tookas and Sunde got their start by growing luscious, Brandywine tomatoes and if you head into the restaurant today — chances are the vine-ripened tomatoes on that juicy burger were once a seed in their plot.
Azizi met with me before opening one recent morning, and I asked to him explain. He began with his account of how he got to where he is today.
Originally from Seattle, Azizi came to Bellingham in 1998 to attend WWU. Like many of us, Tookas and co-owner Sunde were captivated by Bellingham and the local food culture.
They cut their teeth in the local restaurant scene by managing two local crowd favorites; Azizi at the Old Town Café and Chris at La Fiamma Pizza.
The two then got into local agriculture. Azizi and Chris leased a plot of land and developed their own farm, Brandywine Gardens. They focused on tomatoes—they planted seeds to grow the restaurant’s namesake Brandywine tomatoes, one variety among the ten to twelve heirloom varieties they grow. They began selling their produce at the Bellingham Farmers Market.
A few years later, the two decided to start serving sandwiches at the Saturday Farmer’s Market. They were such a hit that a restaurant was the natural next step. In 2010, Brandywine Kitchen opened, and the rest is history.
Azizi explained that the “seed to plate” motto comes from their drive to support the local food systems as much as possible—including sourcing from their own Brandywine Gardens. They have a long list of local vendors (http://www.brandywinekitchen.com/vendors.htm), and as you take your first flavorful bite, it is clear that the ingredients have only had to make a short trip.
If you’ve never been to Brandywine Kitchen, there has never been a better time. Described by Azizi as “comfort food with a twist,” I have always had consistently fresh and delicious meals here (my favorites are the Salmon Cakes and the Apple-Jalapeño Chicken Pressed Sandwich).
With inspiration from Indian, Vietnamese, and Italian flavors, as well as classic American favorites, there is always something new to try. Azizi also clued me that he and Chris have been working on a revamp of their menu to debut this month!
Both Azizi and Chris have now grown families, and despite balancing the restaurant, farm and young ones at home, they still love to get out to eat. Azizi prefers outings to family-friendly spots such as Boundary Bay and La Fiamma Pizza, but he still loves cooking at home too.
In general, he likes to experiment with East Indian, Ethiopian and Central/South American dishes. He got my appetite going talking about his south-of-the-border pork tacos.
I asked him about summertime foods he likes to cook up, and he responded with, “it’s salmon season.” Salmon is also one of my favorites, so I had to ask him for his best recipe. It happens to star one of my other favorite foods—garlic.
The Recipe: Azizi’s Browned Butter and Garlic Scape Grilled Salmon
Ingredients: (Serves four to five people)
- 1 lb. fresh, never-been-frozen salmon fillets
- 2 garlic scapes
- 2 tbsp. butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Brown the butter—melt the butter in a light-colored pan over low heat.
- Once melted, turn the heat up to medium and allow the moisture to cook out (you will see the milk solids separate and sink).
- Wait until the milk solids begin to caramelize (they will darken) and turn the heat back to low. Let the butter continue to cook until it reached a golden-amber color and emits a rich, nutty fragrance. Transfer it immediately to a heat-proof container.
- Chop the garlic scapes and toss them into the container with the butter.
- Allow the butter a few minutes to cool, then pour over the raw salmon.
- Grill skin-side down, never longer than 10 minutes. 5-6 minutes on high heat will do—watch for the skin to begin charring and the color of the fish to turn just past opaque pink.
- Azizi recommends serving the salmon with wild rice and either lightly sautéed veggies (he loves asparagus) or a salad with carrots… and tomatoes of course.
Azizi and I wrapped up our chat, and I went straight to the store to buy the ingredients for that night’s dinner. I will let you draw your own conclusion about the recipe, but this won’t be the last time I will grill this one up this summer.
As for Brandywine Kitchen, I would challenge you to find a spot in town more committed to “seed to plate” than this one—Azizi and Chris live up to their motto in each garden-fresh bite in their wide variety of dishes.