Detour-Worthy Local Catches at Ecola Seafoods in Cannon Beach, OR
When I went to Oregon last month, driving out to the coast was high on my priority list. Sure, we have beaches in New York, but not the rugged, epic nature kind found out West. We also don't have much in the way of meaty Dungeness crabs or tiny pink shrimp dotting our waters, and after a few hours driving from Portland to Haystack Rock, I was ready to sink my claws into some of the local specialties.
I found everything I needed at Ecola Seafoods, a family-run fish market and lunch counter in downtown Cannon Beach. Jay and Cindy Beckman have been line fishing commercially since 1977, trolling the Pacific for King Chinook salmon, albacore tuna, Dungeness crab, shrimp, oysters, clams, and "hippopotamus of the sea," aka halibut, among other things. They sell fresh, smoked, and canned fish and shellfish at the market, in addition to lunchtime fare like fish and chips, seafood sandwiches, and a clam chowder we loved last year.
I, however, could not manage to choose just one kind of seafood to eat, so instead I got five. (It's not my fault that Ecola sells perfectly sample-sized portions of so many delicious things!)
First was Crab ($4.99)—although it's technically before Dungeness season kicks into high gear, there are still plenty of them out there, as evidenced by my own crabbing adventure, which yielded a half-dozen keepers. The meat was mild and sweet, and not too oceany. Next were the teeny, tender Oregon Pink Shrimp ($1.99), which are certified sustainably harvested by the Marine Stewardship Council. I will admit that I can be a snob about small shrimp, but these were delicate and firm, besting many of their larger-but-flavorless brethren.
Scallops smoked in-house over alder wood ($39.99/lb) were slightly grainy, but had a heady smoky flavor and meaty texture (and for a fun read, check out this 1981 newspaper article on "scallop fever" in Oregon). The Mussels ($3.49) were the biggest disappointment, smoked off-site and just the wrong side of rubbery. Even Ecola's tangy homemade cocktail sauce couldn't redeem these floppy mollusks.
Oh, and that giant rust-colored thing on the left? That would be a big 'ol piece of Salmon Jerky ($3/ each), cured in salt and brown sugar and smoked in-house, sold as an impulse grab near the register. Flaky, fishy, sweet, and salty all at once, I ended up packing this jerky for my oceanside hike at nearby Ecola State Park, where I ate it with my fingers while the waves crashed down below.