“Monica, you should visit Toni out at Buck Bay Shellfish in Olga. You can pull live oysters, clams, local dungeness crab and island salmon straight from her tanks and coolers and if you wish, shuck them right there while looking out over the bay from where they came.” suggested my friend Jon Kobayashi, General Manager for The Outlook Inn and New Leaf Cafe.
I would like to say, I am very happy that he did because here at Buck Bay Shellfish Farm I had a life changing moment. You see, I would have never considered myself one to seek out oysters but rather “tolerate” them when the opportunity to experience them presented itself.
But now, things are different for me. I am obsessed with them. You can ask hubby. It’s a problem.
When we made our visit to Buck Bay Shellfish farm here on Orcas Island the concept that my mother taught me when I was little about cooking and keeping things simple and fresh, well, that concept rang very true here. Oysters pulled straight out of the clear blue waters of the Salish Sea arrived on my plate and only with a squeeze of lime. That is it.
Simplicity at its best.
In addition to steaming Buck Bay’s clams on the beach over an open fire, I also made a very delicious non fussy soup (I used my immersion blender). Once the soup was finished I took a medium sized sauce pan and added 1 tablespoon of butter over medium high heat and let it melt upon which time I tossed in one pound of clams with a sprinkling of garlic powder, covered the lid and in less than two minutes they were open. I then poured the clams and all of the wonderful juices into the soup. This was amazingly easy and very flavorful. The orange you see garnishing the soup is chili oil. If you don’t know about chili oil, it is very (very) hot.
There are Al and Mark digging for clams :) Mark is third generation here at Buck Bay and with Toni runs the farm. Here he is showing me a huge bucket full of fresh clams! From this bucket came my clams for the soup as well as the clams I used for dinner on the beach. Al is a great guy who really made me laugh :) He’s been helping Mark and Toni harvest shellfish for quite some time. He has lived in many different places but has settled on Orcas Island because, “It just felt right being here.”
That is a feeling I have come to know very well :)
Here is Toni and in the bottom left photo she is holding her prized possessions that I am finding very hard to live without. Farm fresh, organic hen eggs and duck eggs as well. In addition to your seafood you can pick up these beautiful eggs!! If you haven’t had the pleasure of enjoying a duck egg, Doe Bay Cafe on island does an amazing Duck Egg Poached in Olive Oil (scroll down for the picture in the link) atop Cheesy Grits for breakfast. It is to die for!!
Roasted spring garlic from the Orcas Island Farmer’s Market spread on toasted multi-grain bread and topped with cherry tomatoes. I should say not to forget your crunchy and flaky sea salt :) Those little black seeds are basil seeds. I love them. When they touch anything wet they form a membrane around themselves and they become interesting to chew on.
Baby clams :) So cute, wouldn’t you agree? Did you know it takes up to two to three years for these little babies to become full grown? Even then, it may take longer. These little babies arrive much smaller than this and they are called clam seeds. They are then buried in the muddy sand when the tide is out and the top of the clam bed is then covered with a long sheet of flexible netting. The netting helps keep all of the hungry seagulls and other wildlife away from them keeping them safe.
~ Mark securing the netting which covers the clam beds
Here a piece of wood from a harvested clam bed is being removed. The wood served its purpose as a barrier so the clams would not be able to escape by digging deep. Mark told me that once he put a handful of baby clams down on the muddy sand, walked away for a split second and when he returned, they were all gone!! Deep down in the thick muddy sand they went quickly burring themselves. “They are very, very fast Monica!” he told me as he laughed.
Become a master oyster shucker – Toni will teach you how :)
Thank you for the memories Buck Bay Shellfish Farm :) xoxo
Could you guess how much we love the islands? Somehow we are always drawn back here. What a better place for us to ring in the New Year than to return back to peaceful Orcas Island which is the biggest of all the San Juan Islands here in Washington State. Peace, after all, is what we were after.
We mixed it up a bit this year, a few nights in our Airstream and a couple of nights at The Outlook Inn. On one of our many strolls through Eastsound, I would always remind hubby how much I would love to stay at The Outlook Inn. If the New Leaf Cafe (The Outlook Inn’s cafe) was amazing as it was, surely The Outlook Inn would be just as superb. Hubby knew that, so he and B surprised me. I was very excited!
Our room was completely charming, quiet and had the most incredible view from the balcony. A kitchenette, charming bathroom complete with jetted tub, heated floors and towel warmers. All of their personal care products come from New Zealand and contain Manuka Honey, my latest obsession. Coincidence?
Upon waking the next morning and feeling very refreshed (the bed and fluffy duvet and pillows were so comfy), we took a trip to the beach where B could beachcomb and search for baby dungeness crabs (and gently set free of course) and hubby and I could enjoy a quiet and peaceful day. It was a chilly clear day with the most amazing crisp salt air. We felt so good. So refreshed!
Since the New Leaf Cafe is closed until February, we brought along our “Airstream Look-a-Like,” portable COBB grill to prepare our New Year’s Eve celebratory dinner. A simple feast of a seafood medley using just a few ingredients so the true flavors of the seafood would shine.
I knew that Kyle at Orcas Homegrown Market would have an incredible selection of seafood. Clams, oysters and endless varieties of salmon. We chose a beautiful fillet of king for our feast that evening. We picked up our seafood and headed back to the Inn. The holiday lights that adorned the shops and boutiques in town were sparkling so beautifully on this chilly night in town.
Back at The Outlook Inn, I brought all of our ingredients straight to the picnic table perched atop a grassy hill with the most peaceful view. As I began to prepare our dinner, hubby and B headed down to the seashore to explore but not before declaring “we are so hungry!” to me. No worries, this was such a quick and easy meal to prepare. We would be enjoying our meal in no time.
I could see B turning over rocks searching for his baby crabs as I went along preparing dinner . . .
A seafood medley was in store for us.
Salmon fillets: with spinach, tomatoes, beans and Parmesan cheese baked “en papillote” style (fancy French term for baked in a pouch). Put your “en papillote’s,” on a hot grill, covered and cook for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove from your grill and set aside (they will continue cooking). You may choose to add salt, but we did not as the sauce (below) was an incredible accompaniment to the salmon.
Clams and oysters in a garlic, butter and white wine sauce: melt a stick of salted-butter in a shallow pan on your grill, add sliced garlic (to your taste) and then add your clams and drape your oysters along the edges of the pan. I used about two pounds of clams and six medium sized oysters. Cover and cook for 2 minutes — some clams will be open and some will not — add a splash of wine and continue cooking for another few minutes until clams are all open (discard the ones that don’t open). Use a butter knife to pry the oysters open (which will not be opened — stubborn they are!)
Sprinkle your clams and oysters with chopped parsley and serve with crusty bread (I forgot to buy bread — oh how heavenly it would have been to soak up all the juices).
Bon appetit :)
Bon Voyage and a Happy 2012 to You!