Aug 212012

{ Chef Gretchen Allison – Duck Soup Inn, San Juan Island – Washington State }

As you slowly travel down a forested gravel drive meandering alongside a golden sunlit pond, you soon find yourself at Duck Soup Inn.

Situated in a fairytale-like forest setting complete with giant pine trees, twinkling lights and lanterns hanging here and there, you soon realize that your dining experience at Duck Soup Inn will extend beyond your dining table. Once again, we were amazed and rightly so.

The San Juan Islands continue to keep us in complete awe as to the culinary talents that are found here and tonight was no exception.  But before I take to you the “Soup,” (as the locals like to call it), let me tell you how our epicurean adventure with Duck Soup Inn began.

Owner and Chef of Duck Soup Inn, Gretchen Allison, invites B and I to take a step into her garden which is the equivalent of a living pantry.  Edible flowers, herbs galore, crisp apples, sweet pears, berries of all sorts (I can go on and on) inspire her for the culinary creations at Duck Soup Inn on any given evening.  Every morning she can be found here, beginning her day in this sun-drenched garden collecting the colorful bounties that in the evening will become a part of the menu at the Soup.

To me, Chef Gretchen has done it all and I am left completely inspired.  From traveling the world to living abroad on her sailboat, to raising a brilliant boy all while pursuing her other passions in life such as watercolor painting, gardening and holding cooking classes in her home kitchen, it is with great honor to be able to say I’ve met her and spent time with her charming family.  I can also tell you that her strong sense of wanderlust continues and it is from these experiences (and more) that inspire and influence her talented culinary and artistic mind. I am forever smitten with Chef Gretchen Allison!

~ Just some of the colorful bounties that are headed to Duck Soup Inn’s kitchen; B holding his “Fairy Boat” that he soon set adrift in a nearby pond . . .

When you arrive at the Soup, the precious red-roofed inn is a vision straight out of a fairytale.  The inn itself is gracefully adorned in lush green climbing vines that are dotted with twinkling lights that add yet another element of romance to the air.   The French windows from the dining room are wide open and from inside greet you with sweeping views of the mirrored pond outside.  You can’t help but feel transported to another place and time when you are here.

The inside dining room offers a cozy feel with walls embellished with paintings from local island artist Malcom Ross as well as an inviting fireplace by which you can dine.

Tonight however, we were drawn outside by the lure of the forest lounge.   The forest lounge pulls you in with its enchanting feel and if you have children they will enjoy the freedom to explore and play “make-believe,” all while in your sight.  B could not stop picking the plump berries that seem to hang everywhere in abundance and he enjoyed the comfortable oversized driftwood seating next to the  outdoor fire pit.  Here is where you can relax, unwind and take in the idyllic surrounding.  Later in the evening feel free to help yourself to the complementary fleece throws to cozy up with your loved one(s) next to the fire or choose to take a leisurely stroll down to the pond to have a seat and watch the eagles soar above.

I will honestly tell you from the bottom of my heart, on this night, I fell in love with Duck Soup Inn.

~  House smoked oysters, baked with buttered bread crumbs and parmesan, served with tarragon garlic aioli
~ Grilled mission figs with Maytag blue cheese, toasted walnuts and reduced balsamic

~ Summer salad with golden watermelon, snap peas, red onion, local sweet onion tips, purple kohlrabi, marcona almonds with a sprinkling of feta cheese atop a bed of mesclun lettuce finished with a drizzle of chipotle lime dressing.

~ San Juan Island Pasta Company linguini (prepared puttanesca style), featuring prawns, heirloom cherry tomatoes, fresh herbs and mozzarella

~ Grilled duck breast, marinated in purple sage & fennel pollen, served with apple sauce, fresh greens & mashed potatoes, topped with poppy-seed golden raisin citronette

~ Grilled filet mignon with zinfandel demi-glace, roasted garlic and cherry tomato confit, fresh horseradish crème fraîche and mashed potatoes

While on island we had the pleasure to dine here not once, but twice and I can hardly wait to come back.  The culinary creations that arrived at our table each night were beyond amazing and I am thrilled to be able to share with you Chef Gretchen’s “Lavender and Thyme Crusted Chicken” recipe because it was honestly one of my favorites.  You will find the recipe below.

~ Lavender and thyme crusted chicken breast with goat cheese, blueberry habañero chutney and creamy corn polenta

~ Toasted dandelion root ice cream sundae with butterscotch sauce, toasted almonds & sea salt
~ Mixed berry sorbet atop toasted coconut and finished with basil syrup

Thank you to Chef Gretchen Allison and her sweet family and friends for warmly welcoming us to Duck Soup Inn.  It was a magical night we will never, ever forget!

Chef Gretchen’s Lavender Thyme Crusted Free Range Chicken Breast


  • 4 boneless, skinless free range chicken breasts
  • flour ( for dredging)
  • 1 egg and 1/2 cup milk (for egg wash)
  • 3 tablespoons butter (for lightly frying)
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs (for breading)
  • 1/2 cup granted parmigiano reggiano (for breading)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed lavender blossoms (for breading)
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme (for breading)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary (for breading)
  • big pinch freshly ground black pepper (for breading)
  • big pinch of kosher salt (for breading)
  • goat cheese (for finishing)


In place of the lavender, thyme and rosemary,  1-1/4 tablespoons of "Herbs de Provence," would be lovely.


Step 1
In a shallow dish, combine all ingredients "for breading." Coat the chicken breasts with flour, then egg wash and place into the bread crumb mixture pressing the crumbs into the chicken until well coated.
Step 2
Over medium heat in a cast iron skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of butter until it is fragrant. Gently lay in the chicken and brown on the first side turning over and finishing cooking on the second side.
Step 3
Adjust the heat as you go so as not to burn the chicken. When done, the meat will loose its spring when pressed with your finger and will have reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
Step 4
On a warm plate, place chicken on a bed of mashed potatoes or creamy corn polenta, and fresh greens like raw arugula, and top with 2 tablespoons of fresh goat cheese and 2 or 3 tablespoons of blueberry habanero chutney (recipe follows below).

Habanero Bluerberry Chutney


  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons minced habanero chili
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries


Step 1
Using a medium size non-reactive sauce pan, saute the onion in the oil until golden.
Step 2
Add the sugar, vinegar, salt, habanero and blueberries. Heat until the blueberry skins are broken.
Step 3
Remove from the heat and place berries in a strainer, saving the juices.
Step 4
Put the juices back in the pan over medium heat until reduced by half.
Step 5
Return the berries to the reduced juices and allow to cool.

  9 Responses to “The Magic of Duck Soup Inn on San Juan Island”

  1. I can’t wait to make this recipe. It looks divine!! Another gorgeous post, Monica!!

  2. Oh Anna — you will LOVE LOVE LOVE it! I have already made it myself and will be doing so again tonight. It’s the most incredible combination of flavors. As a matter of fact, when we dined at Duck Soup the second time it was the hardest thing in the world to not order it again, lol!

    PS It is especially the best with polenta — I just made a basic polenta but added two ears of freshly shucked corn and it was so good!

  3. Monica,
    Beautifully written and beautifully photographed.
    Thank you,

  4. Well done. Anyone who calls me brilliant gets an RSS subscription.

  5. […] you gotta see this!) and a wonderful writeup for Duck Soup Inn, one of the island’s treasures here. Just […]

  6. This place is heaven!

  7. Lovely write-up! We look forward to Duck Soup re-opening…

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