Thursday, June 18, 2015
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
|Salmon with Fresh Carrot Puree served in the Okanagan Valley|
|Mrs. Yvonne Swan and her Bumbleberry Pie|
|A Pea Crab in a clam???|
|Hama Hama grilled oysters|
|Steve opening oysters he grilled on San Juan Is.|
|Razor clam, Oregon-style|
|Just half of one big Dungeness crab has enough meat for one.|
|Crabcakes a la Dungeness|
|Small grilled pieces of a large salmon, hand-caught!|
|One of the four pink or spring salmon, the catch limit of the day.|
|Rocky coasts, so different from NC's|
|Watching seals and sunset on San Juan Island|
|Former coach Bobby Knight hit one of these guys on the same road just a few nights before our encounter. It totaled his car. The cow was called for a blocking foul.|
|Not so small, these buffalo roam!|
|In the beautiful Okanagan Valley|
|Great tasting at this old school building!|
ROAD FOOD FOR TWO MONTHS????
|Crater Lake is phenomenal! Blue, blue, blue water.|
NOTE: We made an effort not to eat at any fast food places or chains during our 63 days away from home. Mission accomplished!
We tent-camped, and rented condos, cottages and cabins or motel rooms with kitchenettes so we could prepare our own meals. When they were unavailable, we used microwaves at filling stations or went to picnic grounds with grills.
Shopping at Sat. Farmers Markets was fun, as was tasting and buying from roadside stands. We made an effort to buy local as much as possible, even free range beef and bison, along with locally roasted coffee and local brews.
|Dinner at Cannon Beach, Oregon|
But nothing beats a picnic in a scenic setting! We were, after all, celebrating our 40th anniversary.
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
TOP 10 GOOD EATS IN THE OBX
|Sugary white sand beckons on Hatteras Island|
|Tacos from Bad Bean Taqueria in Corolla|
|Tiny Layer Cake - 16 layers!|
|Ocracoke Fig Cake|
|Want a signed copy? Email me, or check the independent bookstores up and down the OBX.|
Monday, April 21, 2014
|Right or Left-handed Whelks, or Carolina Conch|
|A pound of cleaned conch from Willis Seafood, Salter Path|
|The cleaned, conch "muscle."|
|Minced cooked conch|
Then I minced the tender, cooked meat. I softened chopped bacon and onions together over low heat, then to the pot added canned tomatoes, the minced conch, chopped red potatoes, and enough water to cover, then left it on a slow simmer until the potatoes were tender. Then I spiced it up with a bit of Old Bay, and red pepper flakes.
Monday, March 24, 2014
|The raw toro we brought home from Locals Seafood|
We were curious, too. It's cut from the tuna's belly, and in many instances, it's what's left over after the loins have been quickly sliced from the sides of the fish. A tad expensive, at $24 a pound, what was this chunk of tuna meat cupped in leathery skin?
If it's a bluefin tuna, or even a bigeye, toro is considered a real delicacy, the "king" of sushi ingredients. Very oily, it's high in fat.
And toro almost tastes like butter.. . . . delicate and soft, yet exploding with flavor. "It's like foie gras of the sea," said my husband, tasting what he had "singed" on the grill.
|Tuna Udon with Veggies and a Garlic, Ginger Soy Sauce|
The dry-packed scallops were just gorgeous, just the right size at 10 to 12 per pound. The yellowfin tuna was firm, brilliant red, and smelled so fresh. Winners, both, and great to show off recipes from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK.
|Fresh yellowfin tuna steaks from the Outer Banks|
As he packed up my order, Steve, their front man, talked about this dynamite toro he had blackened on the grill. I knew of toro, but had never had the pleasure of tasting it. "Look at this," he said, picking up a package of the firm, red fish with its stiff skin from the bed of ice. He explained how he and a buddy had a beer while waiting for his piece of toro to cook on a very hot grill, and how although the skin had blackened, the flesh was tender and so succulent. We were swayed, and brought a piece home.
Tuna are like torpedoes in the ocean. They're also like the body builders you see showing off on the beach or lifeguard stands. Exceptionally fast swimmers, they're efficient, and develop quite the muscles, which are the loins that are harvested from the whole fish. It's fascinating to watch them first skinned, then cut into by the quick work of the pros at fish cleaning stations.
|Tuna being cleaned at Oden's Dock on Hatteras Island|
GRILLING THE TORO
My Steve also got the grill going at a fairly high heat, then placed the tuna skin side down, as the other Steve had suggested, and seasoned the flesh with salt and pepper and just a touch of freshly squeezed lemon. He took it up to about 140 degrees on an instant read thermometer, when the flesh became flaky and the skin a golden color, not blackened. We decided to take it off and dive in.
|Our toro after cooking|
We took tentative bites, then more, then sorta drew lines on the plate separating our shares, because oh my, it is truly is like butter, with such a delicate flavor and texture. We ate it by the forkfuls, although I could see placing a flake on a delicate wafer cracker, or perhaps naan bread, with champagne or bubbly prosecco.
Friday, February 7, 2014
LUCKY ME! THERE'S A PEA CRAB IN MY OYSTER!
A pea crab, a bit bigger than a green pea and coral in color, sat right on top of the steamed oyster on its half shell. It was a little lagniappe, and I was thrilled. The chef at Old Salt Oyster Bar in Columbia, NC. knew what he was doing when he returned this tasty morsel to its cooked
Pea crabs are considered a real coastal delicacy, bringing good luck and fortunes when eaten raw. Only the females infiltrate oysters, as its host oyster filtrates up to 50 gallons of water a day, and they eat what the oysters eat. After their babies hatch and become too numerous, the oyster will sorta spit them out.
I've only eaten pea crabs when their oyster has been steamed, but my friend Della Basnight, a native Outer Banker, loves them raw, when they are still wiggling, tickling your mouth as much as the raw oyster soothes.
|The Swans & Geese at Mattamuskeet|
Our spirits were a bit down, for we had only seen a dozen or so in and around the lake. "Head up to Engelhard, where they were picking the fields clean this morning," the ranger advised.
Which is where we found them in the hundreds, far from the road, not up close and personal.
And on top of that, Martelle's Feed House in Engelhard was not open until 5:30. On past trips, we've bellied up to their bar for fresh steamed oysters straight out of the Pamlico Sound, a hoot and a holler from the road.
So we plotted out a side trip on country roads, north to Williamston, where another favorite, Sunnyside Oyster Bar, should open just as we rolled into town.
Side trips lead to side trips. . . . so when we hit Columbia on our way, we decided to get off the main drag, US HWY 64, and explore the cute little downtown area. Which led us to discover the Old Salt Oyster Bar, a re-furbished old five & dime that serves local oysters from just down the road from whence we came, at Swan Quarter (where a ferry runs to Ocracoke Island).
We devoured a plate of Oysters Rockerfeller and two other prepped oysters for our first go-round. Then we shared a half peck of steamed bivalves, a few with pea crabs. Then ordered another half peck, counting out shells to even our scores. Our spirits were remarkably improved!
This is the season, during the colder "R" months, to enjoy eating this bivalve. Make sure you scroll down to find several NC Oyster Festivals where you can fill your belly, dance and drink beer.
PROMOTE CLEAN WATERS, EAT AN OYSTER
NC has the second largest estuary system in the US, with a mix of salt water that flows through the inlets from the ocean and fresh water from our rivers, a perfect environment for the oyster.
Unlike other shellfish, oysters never move. And they have a very unexciting sex life. During the spring, when the water temp reaches 68 degrees, male oysters release sperm, and the females their eggs, and by chance, those two meet up while floating in the water. Once the little ones, the spats, get large enough after floating around in the water, they sink to the bottom, and attach themselves to something, preferably another oyster shell.
Wild caught Eastern oysters have made a bit of a comeback in NC these last few years. Used to be, way back in the early 1900s, that tons of oysters were dredged from NC's sounds. But they were pulled at a rate that was not sustainable to the oyster population, even if the Dermo parasite had not also hit at the same time. The oyster business was devastated. In 1900, about 800,000 bushels were harvested; in 1994, only 34,000. Gradually, with run-off pollution more in check, and with oyster reef restoration efforts, especially, oysters became a bit more plentiful in our coastal waters. About half of the original bounty, 440,00, were brought in during 2012. So, chuck those shells back into the water, or get them to a recycling center.
Finding fresh, local NC oysters in eateries or markets has become easier, thanks to aquaculture. Several oyster farmers can be found scattered along our coast, from Wanchese to Bayboro to Stump Sound.
WHERE TO FIND FRESH, LOCAL OYSTERS
The acclaimed Chef & the Farmer in Kinston has opened The Boiler Room, an oyster bar that's gaining as many fans as Chef Vivian Howard herself.
Knightdale Seafood, a favorite spot for my sister, unfortunately just announced they were closing.
My friend Carroll Leggett likes King's Crab Shack King's Crab Shack in Winston-Salem.
And on the Outer Banks, folks flock to Awful Arthur's, home of the "happy oyster."
Other foodie friends, like Sharon Peele Kennedy or Morgan Jethro, prefer slurping oysters at their own kitchen table, or at a fold-up table ladened with oysters steamed out in their garage.
Me, I love it when my friend Tommy Manning either steams or grills oysters at the OYC, the old, quaint Oriental Yacht Club right there on the Neuse. Or when friends down in Cedar Point near Swansboro grill us a few they've picked off the reef they've created at the end of their dock.
Where are your favorite places to eat fresh, local oysters?
OYSTER FESTIVALS COMING UP
Go and eat. Talk to the locals, the oystermen, those who live and make their living from the sea. You'll be entertained and leave happy and full.
On March 1st, there's a statewide SHELLEBRATION, sponsored by the NC Coastal Federation. www.nccoast.org. You'll find food, craft, storytelling and music at Swansboro, Hatteras, Wilmington, and Raleigh.
- Wrightsville Beach, from 4 to 7 at the Tidal Creek Cooperative Food Market, with steamed oysters, chili, cornbread and dessert for $35 for members, $45 others. Live bluegrass music, beer and door prizes.
- Swansboro, 11am to5 pm, enjoy "progressive seafood tastings" at several restaurants $40 for members, $50 for non, includes a 45-minute marsh cruise on Lady Swan.
- Hatteras, at Oden's Dock from 2 to 5 pm, $15 per person gets you all you can eat fresh, local oysters at an old-fashioned roast. Local band Dragonfly will be playing. (I understand there's significant roadwork being done on HWY 12 which may cause vehicles to be parked and shuttles provided, but these Hatteras folks are determined to SHELLEBRATE!)
- Raleigh, at Natty Greene's Pub & Brewing Co, all you can eat oysters clam chowder, and fried fish, all sourced from local waters, with bluegrass by Big Fat Gap, for $40 members, $45 non.
Saturday March 22nd, Junior League of Wilmington's ROAST ON THE COAST from 7 to 11 pm. Live music, raffles and prizes. www.jlwnc.org.
Sat April 19th, FROM 11AM TO 5PM, SMOKY MOUNTAINS OYSTER & SEAFOOD FESTIVAL. At this "Pearl of the Smokies," you'll find oysters steamed, raw and fried as well as peel 'n eat shrimp. All oyster shells will be recycled, and oysters come from Mobjack Bay in Virginia. The Caribbean Cowboys will play reggae while The Mile High Band will do high energy country.