Newport, OR. — Dungeness crab would surely be part of my last meal, if I was given a choice. Sweet, fluffy, and succulent, it beats lobster any day in my book.
Though I’ve enjoyed it countless times, I’ve never fished for it.
On a recent trip to the lovely central coast of Oregon, my fellow food writers and I, who were guests of Salishan Spa & Golf Resort, were treated to our own private excursion through Yaquina Bay aboard the family-owned Marine Discovery Tours boat.
On a picturesque 70-degree morning, we boarded and set sail. Just be forewarned that the waters can get choppy the farther out you go. But none in our party — even a few who were extremely prone to motion sickness — were done in by the effects.
You may be richly rewarded for braving the waters, too. We saw whales. Well, at least their blow holes, if not their tails breaking the waves. Still, it made for an unforgettable moment.
The fishing fleet that launches from this quaint town is a busy one, fishing primarily for Dungeness crab, tuna, Chinook salmon and white fish.
Chef Andrew Garrison of Salishan’s signature Samphire restaurant was game to throw out the first crab pot, which bobbed along during our time on the water.
Dungeness is a sustainable fishery here because it’s heavily regulated. A Dungeness crab has to be 6 1/4 inches across its back to be legally safe for commercial fishermen to harvest; for sport fishermen, it’s a little less stringent at 5 3/4 inches. Our guide taught us a clever trick if you don’t have a ruler. A standard U.S. currency bill can be used instead because it’s 5 3/4 inches in length.
Know how to tell a female crab from a male? The flap underneath the body of a male is a taller triangular shape, while it’s wider in a female.
Before heading to shore, the crab pots were pulled in. We lucked out, catching a good number of crabs.
But the “Discovery” is strictly an educational vessel that adheres to “catch and release.”
So after working up an appetite, we had to venture elsewhere to get our fix for lunch.
Fortunately, Local Ocean grill and fish market is just a short stroll away.
The seafood is so fresh here that the market case even labels who caught what, and by what method.
The dockside restaurant knows how to treat seafood with true respect. The food lets the seafood shine — without overdoing it in any way.
Albacore poke ($9) is seasoned with sesame oil, sesame seeds and soy sauce, and tossed with crunchy wakame seaweed.
A special crudo ($10) played off the classic combination of melon and prosciutto, only adding slices of raw halibut to the sweet-salty mix. A generous drizzle of basil oil added a summery note.
Lunch wouldn’t be complete without a crab cake ($8.50). Dredged in panko and crisped golden, it was full of Dungeness meat and the perfect capper to a day that celebrated the bounty of the sea.