That’s Debbie Grossman talking about how she’s moved Fressers Courtyard Café and Catering back to Village Square in Highlands, the original site of her storied restaurant.
In returning to her roots, Debbie’s captured the feel of an inherently languid dining experience. Part of that is derived from the beauty of the setting – the Village Square courtyard is ringed by arching trees and, if you listen carefully, you’ll hear a variety of birds singing. It’s hard to believe this little bistro is just one block from the summer crowds of Main Street.
And a portion of that experience comes from Debbie herself. She’s a force of nature – loquacious, quick with a joke, and relentlessly cheerful. When you place your order (at the counter), you’re dealing with Debbie. She’ll welcome you, offer her frank appraisal of her menu and prepare your order right in front of you. It’s a polished performance that’s testament to a lifetime spent learning the intricacies of fresh ingredients, heat and the subtle application of spice.
But let’s be frank – you come for the meal. On the evening we visited, one of my friends ordered a Summer Salad, which could have been an express bus to Snoozeville. Not this garden jewel – mixed local greens topped with roasted fresh peaches (her Mom’s recipe), beets and goat cheese, finished with balsamic fig dressing. The effect was astonishing! Here on one plate was the secret of Fressers’ continued success – Debbie’s bedrock commitment to relying on local food suppliers. Nearly all produce is harvested within 30 miles of Highlands. Heck, the edible nasturtiums adorning the salad are growing right there in the courtyard and picked as needed!
The herbs that inform every spoonful of Fressers’ Gazpacho and adorn many dishes are snipped daily from the Tower Garden anchoring one corner of the courtyard. A precisely chilled bowl of gazpacho is a thing of beauty; the gustatory quintessence of a summer day lived well.
OK, I just made a big deal about local food, which makes the transition to my Salmon Burger more than a little bit awkward. It’s highly unlikely that this salmon fought its way from the Atlantic to the rolling waters of Big Creek. But believe me, there’s nothing awkward about the burger itself – a generous patty that blends fresh salmon, ginger and scallions. Debbie takes obvious pride in this showstopper. Our obvious attempts to wheedle the specifications out of her were met with an adroit rebuff.
Fressers offers many of the dishes that made them famous, like their Angus Burger and Fresser Fries, but you already know all about them.
I’ve left room for the desserts, which if you’re the sensible type, you’ve also saved a little bit of room for. Do not, do not! forego dessert at Fressers! Debbie’s right-hand Candi prepares their desserts. Our table sensibly shared our Banana Pudding and Red Velvet Cake. It really doesn’t get any more Traditional Southern Summer Dessert than these two, and they were heavenly. I promise that at some point within two weeks of dining at Fressers, you’ll awaken with an implacable craving for your dessert. It’ll be a long, sad journey to dawn.
Here’s the thing – if you really love what you find at Fressers, Debbie offers a complete catering service. You can give her a call at (828) 526-4188.
Oh, and perhaps you’re wondering – “Her name is Debbie Grossman – where does ‘Fressers’ come in?” Believe me, Debbie has a story about that. Ask her.
by Luke Osteen | Photos by Marjorie Fielding