Bob Dunning

Bob Dunning: We get saucy on the Oregon seafood scene

By From page A2 | August 14, 2014

SEASIDE, Ore. — Several years ago I embarked with my family on the Tartar Sauce Tour of the Pacific Northwest, stopping at every restaurant that even hinted that seafood might be available inside its four walls.

And yes, that includes McDonalds, which offers one of the best commercial tartar sauces available on its longstanding Lenten staple, the esteemed and revered Filet-O-Fish.

This year the tour was quickly derailed when our very first restaurant stop, in the charming town of Gold Beach on the southern Oregon coast, produced a misspelling of “tartar” on a long and extensive menu.

I don’t know about you, but I refuse to eat in an alleged “seafood” restaurant that can’t spell “tartar” correctly. The next thing you know, the waiter will be pronouncing “salmon” with an “L” and recommending the hamburger over the halibut.

Coming as we do from the Farm to Fork capital of the free world, I figured what’s good for Davis should also be good for the coast of Oregon.

Eat only what’s farmed locally and brought to market in a horse-drawn wagon. Davisites have become downright righteous about eating “local” stuff, and have even convinced themselves that the coffee they drink by the gallon is actually local because it’s “roasted” within a hundred miles of their lips.

Hey, the next time you see coffee beans dangling from a bush on a Yolo County farm, give me a call. Until then, don’t pretend it’s local.

The only problem with the Farm to Fork theory here in drippy and sometimes dreary Seaside on the extreme northern coast of Oregon is that not much grows here that’s fit for human consumption.

Unless, of course, your body can figure a way to digest the branches of a Douglas fir. Or the beach grass that grows on the ever-present dunes.

A man could starve trying to live off the land on the Oregon coast, though wild blackberries do grow so abundantly in the late summer that they’re actually considered a nuisance by some of the natives.

Ah, but there is that great big ocean right at our doorstep, with an overwhelming buffet of “local” edibles such as Dungeness crab, bay shrimp, plump oysters, king salmon, razor clams and a variety of delectable species of fish ready for the broiler.

As hungry as one might get trying to live off the land up here, you could grow fat and sassy eating only what the locals manage to pull from the sea.

So, instead of Farm to Fork, what we’re now engaging in morning, noon and night is a meal plan we have officially named “Foam to Fork” in honor of the sometimes massive waves lurking just outside the salt-sprayed windows of our humble beachside dwelling.

Put simply, I’ve never had a bad oyster in the state of Oregon. Fresh means it was harvested an hour ago, rolled in flour or panko and pan-fried to a golden brown, hot on the outside and still jiggling on the inside. Pretty much the same way you prepare the wily and elusive razor clam, which is unique to the Northwest coast.

Earlier today we drove a few miles up the coast to the small town of Warrenton, where many of the Dungeness crabbers dispense their catch on a daily basis. Without a doubt, there is no crab on earth with the distinctive flavor of the Dungeness, which doesn’t need cocktail sauce or melted butter to make it palatable.

There’s a very small fish market by the name of Warrenton Deep Sea located right on the docks, selling extraordinarily large Dungeness crab legs for $36.50 a pound. A steal, even if we did have to tap into the equity on our East Davis estate in order to allow every member of the family to fully indulge in this seafood fantasy.

Just up an access road to Warrenton’s lumber mill we discovered a lush patch of blackberries and in five minutes picked enough for an overflowing blackberry shortcake as log truck after log truck rumbled by to dispatch its load at the end of the road.

While the blackberries were indeed local and growing close enough to the ocean to qualify for our “Foam to Fork” feast, it is true that we did have to purchase both the whipped cream and the pound cake to make the dessert complete.

But the whipped cream was at least “foamy,” and the fair-trade, sustainable and 100 percent biodegradable pound cake was purchased from a small local merchant by the name of Fred Meyer.

Tomorrow our Foam to Fork experience will include bay shrimp salad, grilled salmon and an ice-cold beverage made with locally grown hops.

If we decide not to return to Davis, you’ll know the reason why.

— Reach Bob Dunning at [email protected]

Bob Dunning

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