I recently found myself in the interesting position of attending my first food publicity event. I’ve never been to one before, one where I get to mingle with the hoi paloi of the Seattle food scene. As I am not a good mingler, I found myself with a glass of cabernet and several files about Washington Trolled Chinook Salmon – the purpose of the event.
Up here in the Pacific Northwest, and probably throughout the country, we wait with baited breath for Copper River Salmon, based out of Alaska. Tourists, when they get to Seattle, look forward to sitting down at a restaurant to be served the famous fish. Salmon is a big deal up here, and the fact that Alaskan Salmon gets the fair amount of press, while Washington Salmon gets little or none…well, let’s just say that more press equals more money. Hence, the event.
There are several reasons why Washington Salmon market hasn’t had the luck that the Alaskan market has, most of it due to issues in the past. Quality was a major issue, an issue that has most certainly been addressed. Keep it cold and keep it clean is the mantra that has been heard throughout Neah Bay. The better the fish, the more money that the fishermen will get for their catch.
If the Washington Marbled Chinook that I had at this event (cooked under the direction of Lark’s Jonathan Sundstrom), then Washington Salmon is on the upswing. And yes, the Salmon is marbled, with both red and white flesh within.
It’s this marbling that’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it makes the salmon ‘regionally distinct’. That means that this kind of fish can’t be found anywhere else in the world. It also helps that it tastes pretty damn good.
The curse is due to the fact the it’s odd look makes distributors and market buyers hesitant to put it under the glass and lights. But if you want proof where the Chinook is going, several restaurants in the Seattle area are now using it on their menu (some calling it Washington Salmon, others not) and there’s a rumor going around that some restaurants in Chicago are also in on the secret.
And, to make me smile even more, the salmon is fished by the Washington Trollers Association and the Makah tribe. Or to put it into other terms, these folks are artisinal, and they are using sustainable practices in the catching of the fish. What’s not to love?
Many thanks to Amy Grondin of the Pacific Marine Conservation Council, who invited me to the event and for talking with me about the salmon. I have no problem in recommending this fish to anyone. If anyone in the Seattle area is interested, you can find the Marbled Salmon at the Ballard Farmer’s Market, Ray’s Boathouse Cafe and Catering, and the 35th St. Bistro.