Inspiration is what sets Chef Dre Neeley apart. Southern and French cuisine, as well as other tastes he’s picked up while traveling, are the base influences in his refreshing cookery, and his recipe for mussels steamed in Dragon’s Head Cider is no different.
Neeley and with his wife Pepa Brower are the duo at the helm of Gravy, a restaurant situated on Washington’s Vashon Island, a short,15-minute ferry ride from Seattle. Using all the local ingredients he can get his hands on, Neeley cooks up innovative dishes at the farm-to-table eatery.
“On Vashon, there’s an endless bounty of so many different ingredients,” he says. “You can’t really get bored out here, you can’t help but to be inspired.”
Neeley says the acidity of Dragon’s Head’s Wild Fermented cider — the Vashon cidery’s version of a farmhouse cider with notes of lemon, pineapple and grapefruit — enhances the natural flavors of the local Washington mussels featured in this dish. The exceptional brightness of this summery dish is also thanks to Neeley’s addition of wild watercress and local spring onions.
“What’s great about the Wild Fermented Cider is that, being naturally fermented, it adds depth and brings a playfulness to the dish,” Neeley adds.
However you like to enjoy these shelled treasures — whether you dive right into the mouth-watering broth with a chunk of bread or take your time with each perfectly seasoned bivalve — the interactive aspect of this dish is all part of the fun.
Following Washington State restrictions due to COVID-19, Gravy has continued to serve customers through take-out orders. Locals can expect something delicious in the innovative, ever-changing weekly Gravy Box — a mash-up of a takeout, gourmet grocery and meal kit which, at the hands of Neeley and Brower, is sure to impress. Among the one-of-a-kind assortment in Gravy Box No. 1 is a smoked carrot dip, four bone-in pork chops, peach chutney and farm salad greens.
The restaurant has also begun a new weekly tradition called Fish Fry Friday. With specials featuring a different local fish each week, customers can stop by and try Neeley’s fried fish and seafood dishes.
Local Mussels in Dragon’s Head Cider
2 cups Dragon’s Head Wild Fermented Cider
2 pounds Penn Cove mussels
1/2 cup spring onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons crème fraîche
Bunch of wild watercress or arugula
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a pan over medium-high heat, heat up oil and sweat sweet onions for about 5 minutes. Add the mussels and cook uncovered for 2 minutes. Add the cider and cover the pan, cooking for 4 minutes until all shells have opened.
Turn off heat, add crème fraîche and salt and pepper, to taste.
Place wild watercress in a serving bowl, spoon mussels and broth on top, serve. Chef Neeley recommends accompanying the dish with artisanal, locally produced bread to you, such as Ben’s Bread in Seattle.