“Do I owe you a recipe?” Hannah MacDonald, the owner of Brasserie Four, asks, smiling widely.
Last winter, I had been so enamored with Brasserie Four’s duck cassoulet that I begged for the recipe when the menu changed. A chef came out and chatted with me, giving the numerous, complicated steps. The three day process, involving duck confit, homemade sausage, and exquisite beans, proved far too time consuming and difficult for my meager cooking skills. Alas, I will have to wait for it to come back on the menu.
“Actually, I’ve already got it,” I say, laughing.
In France, a brasserie is an informal, upscale restaurant that traditionally serves the same menu all day. “It’s like a step up from a cafe, but equally casual,” Hannah noted. In keeping with that theme, Brasserie Four is open for both lunch and dinner, serving the same menu at both times. This taste of Paris, located right on Main Street, is Hannah’s way of bringing a little bit of France back to eastern Washington. The simple, classic flavors are both spectacular and perfectly meshed with classic French cuisine.
Hannah MacDonald herself is originally from Walla Walla, but she moved to Paris for her first year of college. She lived with a French family full of extraordinary cooks, who helped her develop her love of food. She then made her way back to the states, where she graduated from Western Culinary Institute in Portland, OR. She moved back to Walla Walla in 2004 and opened Brasserie Four in 2008.
Hannah says that she is inspired by the bounty of local agriculture in the Walla Walla area, allowing her to offer food that is both “responsibly sourced and responsibly priced”. Herbs, greens and edible flowers are provided by a local farm that produces exclusively for the restraunt. They also get produce from Edwards Farms and ‘Vince, the Pickle Guy’. “I try to use everything that is brought to me,” Hannah observes. “[Farmers] bring me something and I try to make something delicious out of it.” Brasserie Four maintains the same ethical standards for its proteins, using Blue Valley Meats, serving only Washington-grown, grain-fed steak, getting seafood from Penn Cove, and cooking shellfish exclusively from the Puget Sound. These practices are evident in the taste of the food, which allows the flavors to shine through in simple, clean, beautiful ways.
Although Brasserie Four is certainly a sophisticated restaurant, the employees make a specific effort to be family-friendly, from their art shows that go to benefit local preschools to their “Kid’s Corner”, a spot perfect for young ones to play around without disturbing other patrons. The Kid’s Corner is so popular, many parents explicitly ask to be seated at Table 3 so they can be placed right next to it. Everything on the menu can be ordered in a kid-sized portion for half the price. “It’s about half the size… usually more than half,” Hannah chuckled. “I want to give people the opportunity to eat well with their families, without [resorting to] normal kid food.”
Brasserie Four has struck the perfect balance, allowing it to function beautifully both as a family restaurant and as a refined date-night restaurant. It’s one of Walla Walla’s culinary gems. And, if you see the duck cassoulet on the menu, I promise that it is delicious.
Brasserie Four is located at 4 East Main St. They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 12:00-10:00pm.