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Café Campagne

Seattle's brasserie

Café Campagne has serious staying power. Now in its 25th year, their original concept (farm to table) is what nearly everyone does now. But along with those fresh ingredients, they offer imported items, an atmosphere, and wine that transports you to France, plus service that makes each visit a warm and welcoming experience.

Campagne restaurant, opened in 1987, was fine French dining at its best. Café Campagne opened in August 1994 as a one-room sibling that offered a more casual experience. Current Chef/Owner Daisley Gordon arrived at Campagne in March 1995, just half a year after the Café opened. Campagne was a pipeline of chefs who went on to do amazing things on their own. Daisley arrived in town and worked for one month at a new Tom Douglas restaurant, Etta's. At the time, Tamara Murphy was the executive chef at Campagne with Jim Drohman as her sous. Daisley jumped at the chance to be her lead cook. Tamara moved on to open her own restaurant, Brasa, and Jim became executive chef with Daisley as his sous. That lasted a few years until Jim and his business partner opened their own restaurant, Le Pichet, in 2000. "I learned a lot from both of them," says Daisley. "I had graduated from culinary school when I was 30, but even so, I felt this was way earlier in my career to be running a kitchen than I had anticipated. I was mature enough but didn't have the culinary development I planned on. I learned it all at the same time: people, kitchen, finances, press. Social media and internet reviews were coming on. I just put my head down and got to it. Ten years later, I figured out what it was I was doing; I had a handle on it. It takes some time to understand the rhythm of things."

In those early days, what made the Cafe special are now standards like farmers dropping product off at the restaurant. "We did it as a natural expression of our Provençal focus. After I became the chef, my wife, who is fluent in French, and I started traveling to France. I did a short stage at a couple of restaurants, but mostly it was about dining at Michelin 3 star restaurants in France and Belgium. Great experiences and very different from American dining. In 2005, I went to Provençal and found a more rustic style, more compelling to me with robust flavors and a simpler approach. No one skimmed off fat, it was left in for flavor. I had bouillabaisse for the first time, and we put our version of it on the menu when I returned. In October 2006, we went to Bordeaux and the southwest region of France where we ate duck, duck confit, foie gras, mushrooms, and things cooked in duck fat. To me the food seemed more real and compelling." This melding of Daisley's rigorous training and professional approach with robust country food was something Seattle loved.

In 2011 two big things occurred. Campagne closed after a 14-year run, and Daisley became a partner in the business. "We felt Campagne had run its course. It was exciting to do something different in that space and Marché was a great experience. If we'd had more time and a bigger financial cushion, it might still be here. Certainly some of what happened there informs what we do at the Café. The architecture of the room was difficult. The bar was sweet, but the dining room was a rectangle with a sheer wall that kept us from doing something else with it. The wine bar concept fit a niche." Marché closed in February 2014. When Campagne closed, Daisley's plan was to eventually buy the business. He became sole owner in 2016.

One of the things that sets Café Campagne apart is the number of things they make in-house, like all of their sausage: pork-garlic for cassoulet, chicken-pork for breakfast, merguez, and pork-pistachio. "We used to buy sausage, but I wanted to make it." They make their own pâté, salmon gravlax, duck confit; and certain breads like the brioche for French toast, pain de mie for the croques sandwiches, and potato rolls for burgers. Their puff pastry, croissants, and pain au chocolat, pastries and macarons are all done in-house, along with ice cream and desserts.

Their seasonal cassoulet is extremely popular. "It was always a winter dish, but our marketing director got very excited about selling it to go. Now we offer it from October 1 to Tax Day. It takes a few days to make since there are so many components, beans, pork hocks, sausage, duck confit, broth. We make it every other day during the season," says Daisley. "We try to stay seasonal. The season is short in the Northwest, but you may be getting almost everything at the end of the season: tomatoes, asparagus, stone fruit, squash, pumpkin. We usually do some sort of tomato fest. The cassoulet has been such a take-away success that one day we may offer our take on chicken quenelles the same way. "These are old-school dumplings from the Lyon region."

A back room was added to the Café for more seating and private events. Guests can choose hors d'oeuvres and drinks or sit-down meals, standard or customized menus.

"We're fortunate to appeal to a broad range of people. If you've traveled to France, you'll love having this very French place in the heart of Pike Place Market to remind you. If you haven't been to France, it can seem exotic. You can have brunch, lunch, an amazing dinner, or hot chocolate/coffee in the afternoon. People are excited about restaurants and dining out; enthusiasm waxes and wanes on French food, but it's on an upswing again. Our enthusiasm for the food and quality of hospitality is why people come to Café Campagne. I can't imagine opening another full-service restaurant, but components of what we do might work well somewhere. I'm just happy we're successful with this one spot, delivering such a personal experience."

Café Campagne
1600 Post Alley
Seattle, WA 98101
206-728-2233

cafecampagne.com

Photos courtesy of Cafe Campagne


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