When you think of the Pacific Northwest I’m sure Washington and Oregon pop into your mind right away. But, it also includes the regions north along the coast into Alaska. There are many notable influences that make up the diverse food in our region. We have a high immigrant population that has infused their cultural foods into our region. However, the main influence for our cuisine isn’t from another country or continent, but from our Pacific Northwest region itself.
The region provides an almost limitless supply of food. The fact that there are many miles of ocean shoreline makes seafood a huge component in our region’s cuisine. Having lived here all my life, it blew my mind to talk to people from other states and how little seafood they eat. It’s a regular staple in our house. In addition to seafood, much of the coast enjoys a temperate climate which turns out an abundance of fruits and vegetables all year round.
The Pacific Northwest is known for its healthy, natural way of life and the simple preparation of meals served around the region. Home cooks and restaurant chefs alike avoid heavy handed cooking techniques and prepackaged ingredients. When they have such easy access to fresh ingredients, why would we bother with packaged? Plentiful fruits, vegetables, seafood, farm fresh poultry, meat, and wild game can easily be a part of every meal.
It’s easy to live with just the food resources provided around here because of the climate, the sea, the woods, the farms, and the rich soil. The area is perfectly suited for growing a variety of edibles, such as apples, pears, berries, vegetables, herbs, and even mushrooms, just to name a few. When you mix in the numerous fishing and gaming opportunities, there are never reasons to get bored with cooking meals in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a very good area to be a foodie!
And don’t even get me started on the great grape and hops that grow here. Wineries and breweries abound.
Nature’s abundance also provides some surprises in cooking methods to make meals very interesting. Because of our typically temperate weather, outdoor cooking happens a lot. We’re used to rain so it doesn’t stop us from getting out there to smoke or grill. Clams, crab and oysters get eaten quickly steamed or grilled as soon as you leave the beach.
One such cooking method is the ‘plank’ cooking technique for fish. Looking quickly to our hills and mountains, you’ll see cedar most everywhere. There is endless water sources for fish. Smoking fish is ancient way of preserving and cooking from my Native American roots. In this method, the fish is placed on a cedar plank over an open fire, then slowly cooked to develop all the smokey flavors. There are plenty of other ways to cook fish, but this process is very popular, and economical. With an abundance of cedar and fish, it’s only natural the two should come together. The flavor is amazing and the fish needs very little seasoning.
Pacific Northwest cuisine tends to be simple and efficient, one that focuses on the natural resources around us. If you have the chance to visit the Pacific Northwest there are so many places to eat great food that it’s impossible to make a dent in what I would recommend in just a single visit.
Just a few spots I adore:
Chinooks is our go to for seafood. Sure, everyone in the Seattle area has their favorite but this is old school for me. I have many memories of driving to these docks to drop off my Grandpa when it was time to go up fishing in Alaska. Some of the boats from Deadliest Catch call the docks here home and you can see them from the restaurant. There’s a fish market right in front and much of this stuff is coming right from the boats to the table and market.
FX McRory’s is a must stop. In October when it’s full oyster season the choices for oysters on the half shell are amazing and the staff can talk you through it all. So fresh! Plus the whiskey bar goes well with oyster shooters 😉
Stanley and Seafort’s is where we go to celebrate special events. Birthday’s, anniversary’s, etc. It’s a classy place that has an amazing menu. Don’t get attached to it though. It’s constantly changing with what’s fresh. However, their artichoke, crab dip and amazing prime rib are always there and a definite must. I make the same artichoke dip at home since I got the recipe from them.
And here’s a recipe for cooking salmon on a plank. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
- 1 1/2 lbs. salmon filets
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
- 1/3 cup Dijon mustard
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 cedar plank, soak for 2 hours in clean water, then drain
- Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
- Generously brush the salmon skin with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper all over.
- Make the glaze by whisking together the lemon zest, mustard, dill, and mayonnaise.
- Evenly spread the glaze all over the salmon. Put the salmon on cedar plank and put the plank in the middle of the hot grill. Cover the grill and cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until salmon is cooked through.
- Remove plank and let cool slightly before removing.
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