Here’s to a bright and better new year! As we often do, we stayed in and had all the Traditional Foods of the season.
First, on New Year’s Eve, there was the chips and dip course. This year I made a variation of the America’s Test Kitchen caramelized onion dip, and it was pretty good, although still a bit too sweet. We ate more vegetables with it than usual, since I ended up with vast quantities of crudites after a catered event last weekend.
Ever have a restaurant experience that, while not at all bad, somehow wasn’t all that good either? There was absolutely nothing wrong with the lunch we got at the Fish Tale Brewpub in Everett, but we still don’t think it likely we’ll go back. This makes me sad, since I liked the one in Olympia so much.
It’s partly the decor, frankly. I saw this mentioned on nearly every Yelp review about the brewpub, and it’s true – the place is dark, uncomfortable and strange. The main dining space feels like the breakfast room in the basement of a cheap hotel, while the sunny window in the front hosts nary a table. Did these people never hear that a pub is supposed to be cozy?
Then the food, about which I’m not really sure what to think. I got an oyster po’boy and a Caesar salad. There were lots of oysters – too many, actually, I couldn’t close the bun enough to take a bite – and the bun was a pleasant enough sourdough. But the condiment was a mean smear of mayo (maybe it was aioli, I could hardly taste it) and a small handful of greens. The Caesar seemed fresh but the dressing had almost no flavor at all. I got bored before I got full.
Jon got the lamb burger, on the extremely enthusiastic recommendation of the waitperson. It was…meh. It mostly tasted of feta, and the meat was overcooked and rather dry, despite having a dollop of tzatziki on top. The fries were the soft kind, which I realize is a style but it’s not our favorite. Not the worst lamb burger we’ve tried, but not even in the top ten.
Oh, well. The beer was excellent.
On Sunday afternoon we drove up to Edison to eat oysters and drink wine, fabulously presented by Slough Food and Les Huitres Volantes (The Flying Oysters). The oysters, from Taylor Shellfish, were cheap and blazingly fresh, the Chablis was chilled and dry, and it wasn’t even raining. We ate ourselves silly. The place was packed and they ran out of oysters. It was fantastic.
Have I mentioned that we love Edison?
If you haven’t been to the Bivalve Bash at the Taylor Shellfish Farm on Samish Bay, you’re missing out on one of the best summer parties around. We went last year, but I didn’t do a post as my camera battery died halfway through. This year we took some shellfish-loving friends and a camera with a fresh battery and had a fabulous time.
We saw the kids’ Mud Run.
We toured the Oyster Shell Sculpture Contest.
Jon entered the Oyster Shucking Contest, and placed third (and got to keep a rather nice oyster knife). And the rest of us got to eat the oysters.
Last Friday was our anniversary, so to celebrate we packed a few key items and headed out on Chuckanut Drive.
First we took a walk at Larabee. The weather has been gorgeous, once the morning fog burns off, and the woods were filled with dappled light.
Then we headed down to Taylor Shellfish. Usually we just come here to pick up oysters or mussels to take home, and of course for the Bivalve Bash (which happens to be next weekend!), but this was the first time we’ve taken advantage of their picnic area. We bought a bag of Kumamoto oysters, opened some wine, and settled at a table by the water and started shucking. We also brought some ham-and-butter sandwiches, made from Breadfarm baguette and Golden Glen salted butter, as well as some intensely flavored olives, and we alternated bites of these with sweet little oysters as Jon opened them.
This is a good place.
After a rather tough week at work, I felt that I had earned a little blowout for our Friday night dinner. My husband aided and abetted by driving up to Taylor Shellfish after work and picking up a bag of fresh oysters, then compounding his wonderfulness by also stopping by Slough Food for manchego and sopressata. I came home on a sultry afternoon to a cold flute of muscadet and good cheese and salumi. The perfect antidote to a long, mostly booze-free week.
After soaking in the fragrance of the lilacs and daphnes on the porch, we moved inside and had a “counter dinner”. I laid out everything we needed on the kitchen island, we pulled up stools and poured fresh glasses of wine, and began. Continue reading
We don’t usually go to chain restaurants (although I’m well acquainted with the appeal of an Egg McMuffin), but a friend gave us a coupon to Anthony’s that needed to be used during March. I’d only been to an Anthony’s restaurant once, in Richland, and wasn’t thrilled by the experience, but we figured they’d at least have oysters and booze, and if we didn’t like it we could have dinner elsewhere. Much to our surprise, we had a great time.
Finally, a beautiful day! We celebrated by going on food safari, as Jen from Last Night’s Dinner puts it (I’m adopting that phrase, it’s perfect). We had visited the farmer’s market the day before and gotten a bunch of goodies, but on Sunday we drove out Chuckanut for further supplies. We got mussels and Kumamoto oysters at Taylor Shellfish, a loaf of farmer bread from the Breadfarm (plus what may have been the world’s best macaroon), and a completely gratuitous chorizo sausage from Slough Food (hey, as long as we were in there…) We took our haul home, fired up the grill, opened up some wine and settled in to eat shellfish.
One of the perks of living in the Skagit Valley is being near the water. We don’t live close enough to Puget Sound to, say, go kayaking every morning (rats!), but a half-hour’s drive gets us to a ferry terminal, a bayside walking trail, or a shellfish farm.
I visited Taylor Shellfish for the first time many years ago, as part of a Watershed Masters program I was in. We toured the facility, listened to a lecture on oyster reproduction in a big cold drafty room, then ate quantities of hot fresh oyster soup. I wasn’t actually a big fan of oyster soup, but I appreciated the gesture at the time. We’ve since been back to the farm a number of times to buy fresh clams, mussels, and (most recently) oysters.
The retail shop is right on Samish Bay, near the mouth of Oyster Creek. They sell shellfish and crabs, as well as oyster knives and a few sauces and seasonings, so if you want you can buy a bag of oysters and head straight out to one of their picnic tables on the water and eat them immediately. It doesn’t get much fresher than that.
Last Thursday at Gretchens we volunteered for a class focusing on shellfish paired with wine. The food was prepared by Knut Christiansen, the wine was provided by Randy Finley, owner of Mount Baker Vineyards. We were there for five hours and I think I’ve eaten enough butter sauce to last me for a week or two, but it was a fun class.
Randy brought a good assortment of wines. We had the choice to begin with a sip of viognier or reserve merlot – both were excellent. Then he poured a rosé which was interestingly substantial, with almost an oaky quality. It went with the first shellfish course, which was: