A life consumed by food. A lifetime consuming food.
I had been long wanting to go to Taylor Shellfish Farms on one of my trips to Seattle in the hopes of scoring some fresh oysters. But our itinerary doesn’t ever allow us to make it there when Taylor is open for business. Maybe now that they have a Seattle retail location I can make it before they close. I first found out about this place on Yelp, but Taylor has also been featured on a number of TV shows and articles, most notably ‘Dirty Jobs’, with the show host, Mike Rowe, as he goes geoduck farming with the staff at Taylor.
I had been planning to attend the Samish Bay Bivalve Bash for months with a number of people. The event is hosted annually by Taylor Shellfish Farms in Bow, WA to celebrate (aka devour) mussels, clams, and oysters. When the day finally came only me and my one friend ended up making the drive down to Bow, Washington. It was too bad for the people who didn’t make it because they missed out on some good eats. My friend and I wanted to depart early in the day to avoid a long border wait so I made a breakfast sandwich at home instead of making an extra stop at Tim Horton’s. The sandwich was made with slow roasted tomatoes, a fried egg, and cheddar cheese. I overcooked the egg and it lacked the runny yolk. The border wait didn’t end up being too long but we still didn’t cross until about 10:30.
As we got closer we had to take the winding road of Chuckanut Drive and I navigated us through while taking in the scenery. The road followed the curves of the steep rocky hillside and seemed like it would’ve fallen into the bay just below if it were not for the trees that fenced it in. As the road came to a clear we passed a few barns before arriving at an empty lot across from the Blanchard Chapel in Bow.
The so-called parking lot we arrived at was overgrown with unkempt grass that was slightly muddy from the traffic coming into the lot. We parked the car and I carefully followed the path the cars had made in the grass making sure not to get my runners dirty. It was sprinkling, luckily we didn’t have to wait long on the road before a shuttle bus came to give us a lift. The bus had to drive back up Chuckanut to Taylor. We didn’t realize when we passed it on the way to the lot that all the hustle and bustle was taking place just below the tranquil road.
We arrived to the mudflats of Taylor Shellfish Farms. The mud run that starts the festivities of the day were over, but we noticed several people who were covered in mud from head to toe with the exception of the spray painted gold oyster shells fixed to a red, white, and blue lanyard hanging from their necks. We had already printed out a menu of options so we could have a plan of attack. We went from stall to stall assessing the targets as the wet gravel crunched beneath our shoes.
We started off with freshly shucked raw oysters. Even though July isn’t spelled with an ‘R’ (the best time to eat oysters is during the months that are spelled with an ‘R’) we took our chances. I was confident that they would be fairly good, but in the back of my mind I worried the oysters would be at a lower quality to the recent harvesting restrictions in the bay. The man shucking them briefly explained in a South American accent what types they were as they lay before us on a bed of ice. I couldn’t entirely make out his words because he spoke quite quickly. Whichever kind of oyster they were, they were delicious. Clean and fresh tasting. Very meaty oysters considering their size, not to mention a steal at a dollar each (less than a loonie!).
We then gathered a dish of steamed Manila clams offered by the Rhododendron Cafe and a dish of fry bread offered by Samish Nation. Niether one of us had seen or tried fry bread before so we were curious to taste it. We claimed ourselves a table in an undiscovered seating area behind the beer garden that overlooked the mudflats. Finally we got down to business.
The clams were steamed in garlic and white wine, topped with chopped chives and served alongside sliced baguettes; compliments of the local bakery, Breadfarm. The clams were completely free of grit and made a made a great filling between two soaked baguette slices. I actually went back to the stall and helped myself to more bread so we could absorb the remaining sauce left in the container.
The fry bread, an Aboriginal flat deep-fried dough, was served with raspberry jam, butter, and honey. We didn’t get any honey from the stall because there wasn’t a convenient way to bring it to the table, but it tasted fine without it. I was reminded of a Chinese ‘Ox Tongue’ pastry (named so only for its resemblance to the organ) because of the crunchy exterior and chewy interior.
We were very satisfied up to this point and decided to feast some more. We purchased an order of steamed Mediterranean mussels (Il Granaio) and against my instinct, we each had a barbecued oyster. The steamed mussels were the best mussels I’ve had even though peppercorns gave the broth a strong kick. Still, we both much preferred the clams. The oysters (Chuckanut Manor)? Well, I prefer to eat my oysters raw, and my friend had a strong dislike for these oysters in particular. So I think my instincts were correct this time. The only reason had the oysters was because we didn’t want be kicking ourselves for passing up the opportunity.
Just as we made it under the tent at the shuttle bus stop the skies began to pour. We still had to wait a while before we boarded a bus, but we didn’t mind. When we got back to the lot we continued to play ’Can you spot a Canadian?’. We didn’t see any Canadian license plates besides our own, so there was no clear winner of that game. Hopefully our plans for next year will include the rest the Canadians that missed out this year.