Spent the weekend on the coast in Oregon near Pacific City at a “rustic” beach cabin (closer to Whalen Island really). Rustic may be generous….it was a shack verging on neglect… when mushrooms grow out of the top of the water soaked cabinet in the kitchen, well, I think that’s starting to cross the line into degeneracy. Not to mention that the cabin had been pilfered by an ex-wife….so no cutlery save a long-handled wooden spoon, a rusty cast iron pan and the darker painted squares on the walls inside suggested there was once a painting or two at some point. Let’s just say it was very minimal.
But heck, there were charming bits too – ivy overgrown shed out back, sun-bleached buoy decorations out front and colourful magenta bursts of rhodos everywhere. Plus the shack sat on the edge of an estuary – so great bird watching and access at high tide to hidden windy tidal flows that led out to the ocean.
And the most important bit: a wood stove. Very necessary and uber comforting on cold, windy and rainy coastal days. That thing heated the shack up in no time. My friend called it “Club Babalu”. Plus once you cook clams, barbecue just-caught oysters, snack on local Tillamook cheese and pour big deep glasses of Oregon pinot the whole moment transforms: the beauty of good food and wine trumps any architecture and aesthetic décor.
Went clamming at low-tide, crabbing at high-tide and then sought adventure on a wet and windy day near the cliffs of cape lookout in Kiwanda Park scouring the rocks for uni (sea urchin). Lots of great story potential here. In fact –lots of side stories too: great place to surf, kayak, fish, dune buggy, bike, hike….the list is endless. And that doesn’t even touch a food tour.
I loved that this was a deep and dirty adventure – rainy, sandy, windy and lots and lots of muddy gritty bits. Smelly fish bits too. (We drove with the fish heads on the front of the old land rover in the spare tire to “age” it for crabbing) This was clamming (and crabbing) with an edge. Not pretty stuff like you’d find in Martha Stewart. Which, funny enough, this month’s Martha Stewart features a gorgeous clamming story along the shore of Rhode Island. An attractive happy family (featuring food editor Jennifer Aaronson’s clan) netting non-messy clams, themselves looking sun-bathed and golden squeaky-clean in fantastic east coast clothes. Not a speck of sand or muck in sight. Oh, and then they then cook it all up at sun set on the beach with friends. Predictable beauty, but I’m still green with envy! For a glorious read check out http://www.marthastewart.com/902045/rhode-island-clam-dig
Let’s say my adventure was more wabi-sabi. Our clams (butter clams plus a few cockles, I do believe) where generously seasoned with mud and grit – despite letting them purge. Our crabs were too small to keep or the wrong sex. Think it was “ladies night” at the crab hole – we mostly caught females, which had to be thrown back. And no uni in sight – anywhere….despite getting up at the crack of dawn to hike down and inspect the tidal pools at low tide.
However, a killer breakfast made with stacked chubby roasted potatoes topped with grilled salmon, fennel and squashed preserved tomatoes (last summer’s bounty) hidden beneath a gloriously golden fried egg on a rainy morning was the sliver lining.