Oyster Obsession

GUIDES: Tobias Hogan & Ethan Powell

The fanatics behind the Parish and Eat: An Oyster Bar shell out inside tips for finding Oregon’s best bi-valves. 


Image: Michael Novak

 1. Chelsea Gems

These hail from Chelsea Shellfish Farms in Washington, and grow rapidly into petite but creamy morsels at the bottom of Puget Sound. Hogan and Powell rave about a flavor that’s super-sweet and a touch briny. Scout for them on menus at Bar Avignon, Paley’s Place, and, of course, Eat and the Parish.

2. Blue Pool Oysters

What Hogan and Powell love: “smooth-lipped, deep-cupped oysters with sweet melon notes, a cool oceanic finish, and a healthy crunch,” courtesy of the adductor muscle. These little beauties are farmed at the Hama Hama Shellfish Farm in Hood Canal, but you can
devour them at Andina and Trébol.

3. Kumamotos

Affectionately referred to as “Kumos,” these morsels from Hayes Oyster Company in Tillamook Bay boast what Hogan and Powell describe as “a mildly fruity finish and a rich buttercream texture.” Manageable in size and subtle in flavor, kumos are the model choice for half-shell first-timers. 


The Northwest’s only truly native oysters, Olympias thrive in coastal estuaries from Northern California to British Columbia. Warm water has delayed their arrival this summer, and connoisseurs anxiously await the fall. “Think of the rain falling on the steep hills along the fjords of the Hood Canal,” waxes Hogan. “It’s true terroir.” 


HOW TO: Shuck It

With four simple steps, you’ll be cracking the bivalve code in no time. 

Step 1 
Place the oyster bottom-side down on a folded towel and insert an oyster knife through the hinge (the narrow end of the oyster).



Step 2
Use light but firm pressure while twisting the oyster knife from side to side until it catches, separating the shell halves with an audible “pop.”



Step 3
Slide the knife along the inside top of the shell until you slice through the adductor muscle (the little band that clamps the two sides of the shell together).


Step 4 
After discarding the top shell, sever the bottom part of the muscle using the same method. Check for any shell or grit, and serve immediately.




Image: Michael Novak

Former fish-on-wheels driver Lyf Gildersleeve spreads the word on Oregon’s best catches. 

When Lyf Gildersleeve first opened Flying Fish in Portland in 2010, hawking slabs of fresh chinook salmon from the back of his truck on SE Division Street, he was carrying on a family tradition. Indeed, Gildersleeve hails from a clan of “fish missionaries”: sustainable seafood advocates who set up shop and bring the local catch to market. With new digs next to Kruger’s Farm Market on SE Hawthorne Boulevard, Flying Fish has become one of Portland’s most reliable spots for super-fresh seafood, with loyal patrons and top local chefs clamoring for a taste. Gildersleeve has spent the past two years combing coastal fisheries and hobnobbing at seafood-industry hot spots to cultivate a deep network of local suppliers. His web of troll-caught albacore specialists from the coast, salmon co-ops out of Alaska, and trout-slingers from the Columbia River make for a pescatarian’s paradise. 

Fragile bites like Alaskan halibut cheek, sushi-grade Hawaiian yellowtail, and East Coast scallops undergo a dry-pack just moments after they are caught. Also lining the freezer: an impressive stockpile of land animals, from locally raised beef and pork to game meats such as elk and venison. In the name of a fresh catch, Gildersleeve regularly takes a truckload of his wares up to St. Johns and Sauvie Island to spread the seafood gospel far and wide.

Undersea Treasure

Five rare jewels from Oregon’s ocean

 1. Sacred Sea Wild Albacore

Sacred Sea founder Rick Goche has served on just about every fish-related commission in the state—it’s no wonder his canned tuna’s so damn good. Sacred Sea’s tiny fishery on the Oregon coast uses old-school trolling methods to catch low-mercury North Pacific albacore; then the tuna is cooked in its own juices for an especially succulent bite. 

2. Coeur de la Mer Boquerones 

You might dismiss this Astoria-based seafood company as another StarKist, but their boquerones (marinated Spanish anchovies) are some of the best around. Caught off the Oregon coast and spiced with garlic, chile, or curry, these velvet-smooth fillets are a classy addition to Caesar salads, or atop crostini with skordalia (garlic and white bean purée) or roasted red peppers. 

3. The Smokery’s Smoked Salmon

Hot-smoked, cold-smoked, maple-brined, and whiskey-soaked—the Dublin natives behind the Hillsdale-based Smokery (a farmers market favorite) do it all. The best of the bunch is an “Old Irish” variety, imbued with brown sugar, molasses, onion, garlic, and dill for a savory ode to the Jacobs family’s Irish roots.

4. Columbia River Fish Co Caviar

Simon Sampson, known at the PSU Portland Farmers Market as the “salmon man,” hauls chinook, coho, steelhead, and walleyes out of the Columbia River with ancient Native American fishing techniques. Get to the market early and be prepared to fight Portland’s Eastern European gourmands for Sampson’s bright orange pearls of salmon roe.  

  COMING SOON: Olympic Provisions tuna

After conquering whole-pig butchery, salumist Elias Cairo and his team are moving on to the ocean. Prepare to have your definition of “canned fish” changed forever, with Oregon tuna bellies slow-poached in good olive oil and canned for an on-demand seafood arsenal. Look for products at Olympic Provisions in 2013.


HOW TO: Hook fresh fish    

Spot the market’s best catch.

Look: Fresh fish should have a bright, glistening, oily luster with uniform color throughout—no shaded spots or brown edges. 

Touch: Lightly press the fish with your thumb—while halibut will always be softer than salmon, the flesh of any fresh catch should bounce back from a gentle indentation.

Smell: Just-caught fish will always give off the sweet smell of salt-water. It should never smell sour
or chlorinated. 

Filed under
Show Comments

More in The Food Lover's Guide to Portland

Food Lover's Guide to Portland

The Food Lover's Guide to Destination Markets

For these food impresarios, grocery shopping isn’t just business. It’s personal.

  • By Benjamin Tepler and Karen Brooks
  • Published 08/23/2012


Slide Show: Portland Pantry

Fifteen local condiments and goodies for your cupboard

  • Published 08/25/2012

Food Lover's Guide to Portland

The Food Lover's Guide to Meat

All good carnivores should know where to get their fix—and how to fix it.

  • By Benjamin Tepler
  • Published 08/23/2012


Slide Show: Game of Cones

Portland screams for ice cream . . . in ever-odder flavors, it would seem, given the wild scoops local artisans are swirling together. Try to pick the true licks from the fakes.

  • Published 08/25/2012

Food Lover's Guide to Portland

The Food Lover's Guide to Global Foods

Mexican cuisine is soaring in popularity. So where can we find the finest and freshest ingredients?

  • By Karen Brooks
  • Published 08/23/2012

Food Lover's Guide to Portland

The Food Lover's Guide to Oils & Spices

Take a tour of the local spice trade with salty sage Mark Bitterman.

  • By Rachel Ritchie
  • Published 08/23/2012

Food Lover's Guide to Portland

The Food Lover's Guide to Sweets

Portlanders have a serious sweet tooth. Cheese Bar boss Steve Jones points out classy confections.

  • By Karen Brooks and Rachel Ritchie
  • Published 08/23/2012

Food Lover's Guide to Portland

The Food Lover's Guide to Baked Goods

Our reverence for artisan bakery bounty borders on the fanatical.

  • By Zach Dundas
  • Published 08/23/2012

Food Lover's Guide to Portland

The Food Lover's Guide to Cheese

A cracker is downright useless without a gob of Gouda or a bite of Bleu. Pacific Northwest Cheese Project founder Tami Parr takes us a-whey!

  • By Kasey Cordell
  • Published 08/23/2012


Excerpt: The Mighty Gastropolis

Food editor Karen Brooks’s new book charts the rise of America’s most original food destination.

  • By Karen Brooks
  • Published 08/23/2012


Games of Cones

  • Published 08/23/2012

Food Lover's Guide to Portland

The Food Lover's Guide to Portland: The Shops

We've wrangled all of the local shops where you can find the ingredients for your own culinary conquests.

  • By Karen Brooks and Rachel Ritchie
  • Published 08/27/2012

Related Content