Okay, so oysters, and the Oregon Coast have nothing to do with why I stopped food blogging, but I figured it's as good as anything to use as a background to tell that story.
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I explore Cape Arago and some surrounding Oregon State Parks.
Feast 2014 was eggcellent. I stand by that pun.
Oh yeah! This post is also about breakfast tacos! If you've been following this blog for a while then you know I'm a big advocate of breakfast tacos. So suck it Rene Redzepi, I was into tacos before you!
The perfect dish to serve camping breakfast tacos in? No idea, but if you have a good idea leave a comment. A Jiffy Pop pan lined with foil isn't the perfect plate, but when you forget dishes and a cutting board, you use what you have. Like a true outdoorsman!!
No this isn't a post about Taco Time, nor is it really about food. It's about the largest bioterrorism attack against America, ever. The attack could be viewed as a political threat or even as religious extremism. Did I mention that this story includes a cult in the 1980s, The Dalles, Oregon, and a Taco Time Salsa Bar? Cause it does.
The sun is still tucked away behind the eastern hills as I wipe the sleep from my eyes and pull my 96 Buick into drive. The car is filled with fishing gear, and by that I mean a 24 pack of PBR, a coffee thermos full of bottom shelf whiskey and two of my closest friends Katy Weaver and Mikael Stadden. We drive through the dawn to River Forks Park, hoping to catch some Steelhead where the North Umpqua meets the South Umpqua River.
Expecting to be the first lures in the water, we’re shocked to see that there are already three boats drifting in the middle of the river. Given that the park opens at sunrise, these guys must have woken up even earlier than us. I had no idea that there was an ‘earlier’ than 5:30 AM.
After casting out a few dozen times and only catching sticks that live on the riverbed, we walk upstream to find a better spot. The North Umpqua is known for its world-class steelhead fishing, but it’s about a month too early to catch anything good. After my friends down a few PBRs but only get one bite, we figure we might have better luck downstream along the main Umpqua River. Back into the Buick we go.
Fifteen minutes later we step out onto the James Wood Boat Ramp, which after hours of research confirms that it wasn’t named after the actor with the same name. The location seems almost unreal; towering Doug Firs, Osprey flying overhead, Mergansers floating downstream amongst mossy rocks that line the banks of a surging river. Epic right?
Wrong. This surging river lacks the one thing we need most. Fish.
After a couple of hours with very few bites and half of a fishing pole gone (don't ask), it’s time to cut our losses and head to one of the best bakeries in the area.
Lighthouse Center Bakery is located in Umpqua, Oregon, which literally consists of a post office and a bakery. Despite being located in the middle of nowhere, this bakery’s sticky buns rival any brioche-baked pastry I have ever had. The unhealthy amount of butter and sugar injected into these sticky buns is completely ignored as we stuff our faces to quell the pain of an empty-handed fishing endeavor. The walnuts topping the buns complement their texture and gave a nice meaty crunch to this vegetarian bakery’s best baked sweet treat. In addition to baked desserts, Lighthouse Bakery also serves vegetarian sandwiches and fresh bread. Our butter-induced coma makes us unable to resist the latter, so I purchase a still-warm loaf of their sourdough as we leave to go.
Since we are still in the mood for fish we decide that some grilled steelhead would go great with the freshly baked sourdough, even if the fish is store-bought. Braving the crowd at the Roseburg Costco on a Saturday seems even more difficult than actually catching a fish. After stuffing our faces with every single free sample we could spot, it was back to the house to fire up the grill. And yes, if you are a loyal “eat local” Portlander and are upset that I bought farm-raised steelhead, please send your angry letters to former mayor Sam Adams.
As I prepare dinner, everyone else takes a nap on the lawn to enjoy the few rays of sun us Oregonians are graced with every April. After every single part of the meal is grilled, we dig in, and it all feels perfect for a spring day. I’ll admit I did this on purpose. Though getting up at 5:30 was a wasted effort and we didn’t reel in anything other than sticks, I’ll probably try to catch another fish or at least the lost part of my favorite fishing pole later on in the season.
Grilled Myrtle Wood Steelhead
- 1 pound Steelhead Fillet
- 1 Lemon sliced
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 teaspoon Sea Salt
- 5 Myrtle Wood Leaves or Bay Leaves
- 3 feet of Aluminum Foil
- Light the grill. Charcoal or gas will work with this recipe given that the fish will be cooked in an envelope of foil.
- While the grill is heating up prepare the fish. Place the fillet on the foil. Drizzle the olive oil on top and sprinkle the salt on.
- Layer the sliced Lemon on the fillet and be sure to cover as much surface area as possible while still making it look pretty. Evenly space the myrtle wood leaves along the fillet.
- Fold the foil over the fish to make a nice cooking envelope that will keep the fish from drying out.
- Place the pouch on the grill. Cook until the center of the fillet is that nice light pink color that only appears on cooked salmon.
- Serve with grilled sourdough from Lighthouse bakery (or from wherever) and grilled asparagus.
The salty ocean air wafts a mile inland through the misty hemlocks, cedars, and douglas firs to where I’m making ceviche in the back of a Kia Sorento. The Oregon coast is one of the few places where it doesn’t matter what the weather happens to be that day; it remains beautiful. This particular foggy March weekend is no exception.
I meet up with my photographer for this trip, Megan Hawley, at Local Ocean, which as you can probably guess is a local seafood market and restaurant. The lady behind the counter is very friendly and even gives us free ice! Can you believe it? In this economy! It is by far one of the cleanest fish shops I’ve ever been in. They also have a full restaurant that I plan on trying someday when ceviche isn’t on the menu.
We purchase a pound of black cod that will soon become delightfully spicy ceviche. The fish is fresh and firm. Ladies, here is where I invite you to make a joke at the expense of your boyfriends.
Instead of heading to an overcrowded state park to make the ceviche and hike, Megan takes us to a plot of forest that’s planned to become condos once the housing marketing recovers. The locals aren’t holding their breath to fully utilize this land. Being just a stone’s throw from a dog park and the new community college, this forestland is already littered with hiking trails. Some feature dangerous drops and others that look more like creeks thanks to the recent surge of rain in the area.
Without a proper picnic bench to work on I set up my cutting board in the back of Megan’s car and get to work on the ceviche. I begin to slice the vegetables and Megan snaps photos of the process. In the distance a lone dog plays in the park with its owner while a car filled with teenagers pulls up to the dog park and starts blasting rap music. The muffled beats supply the background music while I dice the onion and think to myself that this is by far the weirdest place I’ve ever prepared a meal.
After prepping the food in an area the health department wouldn’t approve of and letting the ceviche marinate in the cooler, I figure a hike through the misty woods is the only thing to do while we wait. Towering evergreens provide cover to the forest floor’s mossy carpeting. While hiking around this rainforest, something dawns on me. I’m 10 minutes away from the pacific ocean but I wouldn’t swap this greenery for the crashing waves and sandy shores. This is what’s great about Oregon; you’re never more than a short drive away from an entirely different natural backdrop.
After trudging through the underbrush on creek-like trails littered with salamanders and steep paths that seem more like cliff faces, we have only killed about 30 minutes. So, we head off to a second trail maintained by the state. It’s easier walking, but only features views that are hidden in fog.
We return to the car with a hunger that can only be filled with ceviche and promptly drive over to the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, which was only actively used for three years after it was built in 1871 due to the construction of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. We set up on the picnic benches and I pull paper plates out of my grocery bag because I like to keep things classy. As I’m plating I notice that Megan is taking pictures with her Canon DSLR and a group of teenage boys is taking pictures with their iPhones. Though I enjoy the juxtaposition, the only thing going through my mind is that I really hope this project gets more likes on Facebook than their selfies.
A long day of hiking and dicing is rewarded with a spicy and tangy fish dish. The freshness of fish is key to a good ceviche and the black cod from Local Ocean doesn’t disappoint. While enjoying the ceviche on tortilla chips made in Oregon and gazing upon the lighthouse that’s only current function is to attract tourists to the beach shore, I can’t help but think that today was great, but that Oregon has so much more to offer. This state has an abundance of great food and stunning natural features and I plan on taking it all in. Except Gresham.
- 1 lbs. Black Cod
- 2 Jalapenos
- 1 Tomato
- ½ Medium Onion
- 2 cloves of Garlic
- ¼ cup Cilantro
- 4 Limes
- 1 dash Tabasco Sauce
- ¼ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Dice and deseed the tomato and jalapenos. Place in a small bowl. Dice the onion and cilantro. Mince the garlic. Add to the bowl and mix with the tomato and jalapenos.
- Cut the cod into 2cm by 2cm cubes. Place the cod in a separate bowl. Add the Tabasco sauce and cayenne.
- Slice each lime in half and squeeze the juices over the cod. Toss the cod with lime juices to evenly distribute the spices over the fish cubes.
- Combine the vegetables with the fish, lime juice, salt and pepper in a large tupperware container. Seal the container and toss to mix all the ingredients.
- Place in the fridge or iced cooler for at least 2 hours. Be sure to mix at least once to ensure the lime juice cooks all the pieces of fish.
- Serve on tortilla chips or on a tostada.
Photos by Megan Hawley