There’s a seaside tableau—painted by aspirational cooking magazines, travel TV shows, and the Maine Office Of Tourism—designed to convince us that anyone can catch their own fish and grill it into edibility on a beach campfire. Our good-looking, madras-clad friends will smile as they sip white wine together, wrapping wool blankets around their shoulders to protect from the briny chill at sunset. I suspect this remains in the realm of fantasy for most of us who lack not only fishing skills but a Martha’s Vineyard-sized bank account.
Friends, I have discovered the next best thing in rustic seaside dining, and it’s Taylor Shellfish Farms. This Washington state seafood stalwart has a handful of locations, but it’s the Samish Bay farm and “restaurant” I recommend wholeheartedly. (Editor’s note: Kevin Pang, Seattleite here—Kate is absolutely right.) I put restaurant in quotations because the location is primarily a waterfront farm and direct-to-consumer market, with the option to eat your purchased seafood on sun-worn picnic tables. You’ll shuck your own oysters, pour your own beer, shield your eyes from the dazzling sun, and wonder if there’s anywhere on earth you’d rather be.
This past week, I made my second pilgrimage to this Taylor location after a hike with friends to a lookout point between Seattle and Bellingham. Hungry, foot-sore, and looking perhaps a bit bedraggled, we were instantly revived upon ordering our Taylor feast. Dozens of oysters—all fresh as can be, some from the very bay at which we’re staring—plus halibut pâté, a rainbow of pickled vegetables, crusty bread, and a bottle of crisp Assyrtiko. Swallows dove overhead, wind blew off the water, oyster shells stacked in a tin bucket in front of us. No matter that I’m not an expert in oyster shucking; the battle is half the fun.
There is much to be said for eating food at the place from whence it comes out of the earth or water. Even if you don’t believe in the philosophical trappings of it, there’s no beating the freshness or, in many cases, the value. The oysters we ate cost less than $2 each, though you’ll pay a premium if you want them shucked for you. The view and ocean air were entirely free.