Got Geoduck? An Epic Clam Dig On The Olympic Peninsula

It’s a drizzly late March morning at Hood Canal, a fjord-like arm of Washington State’s Puget Sound two hours west of Seattle. The air is briny and pungent. Douglas-fir trees and fog-shrouded inlets dot the shoreline. Bald eagles soar overhead while dozens of harbor seals bob in the water.

Armed with a shovel, a hand trowel and a five-gallon bucket, I’m attired in hip waders and neoprene. I slosh through the shallow water — stumbling over oyster shells, tufts of eel grass and starfish — searching for telltale, two-inch, oval holes in the sand from which the tip of a mollusk siphon may protrude (a visual cue known as a “show”).

The elusive creature I seek is Panopea generosa (a Latin name that will seem far more hilarious when you check out the gallery below), the geoduck clam. At first glance, the geoduck is unarguably, hideously, phallic — there’s no polite way…ahem….around it.

Possessed of a leathery neck, or siphon, that stretches up to three feet in length, the world’s largest burrowing clam tends to freak Americans out. In Asia, it’s revered as a delicacy and aphrodisiac, yet it’s native to the waters of the Pacific Northwestern U.S.

[Photo credits: Langdon Cook]

%Gallery-151127%I, too, found geoduck disturbing, until I moved to Seattle, and found a small pile of it on my plate while dining at Spring Hill, award-winning chef Mark Fuller’s restaurant (recently rechristened Ma’ono). Dressed with a tart lemon peel relish, the meat was slightly sweet and briny, with a subtle, satisfying crunch. Fuller loves geoduck for its ease of preparation, and “mild, clean flavor and snappy texture.” He prefers to serve it raw, with some citrus, olive oil and a bit of coarse sea salt. The “king” clam is also used as sashimi, sautéed or hot-smoked.

Seattle forager, author (Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21th Century Forager, Skipstone Press), food blogger, and back-to-the-land Renaissance man Langdon Cook prefers geoduck in an Asian-inspired ceviche, marinated with lime juice, a touch of fish sauce and brown sugar, and diced red onion, Serrano chile and shredded, green (unripe) papaya or mango.

Since I love tracing food to its source, I asked Lang to take me ‘duck hunting. After catching the ferry to Bainbridge Island, we drove to the eastern side of the Olympic Peninsula; Hood Canal has a number of state parks with wild geoduck. While not seasonal, March is when mandatory harvest licenses are issued; you can obtain them here through the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. Low tides in July and August are ideal for geoduck harvest, because it stays light late, and the weather is at its best.

At Dosewallips Tide Flat (part of a lovely state park), we discovered the water higher than anticipated, but fortunately, we had Taylor Shellfish Farms manager John Adams to provide his considerable expertise. Instead of digging in sand, we’d be shoveling against the clock in heavy, sticky substrate. Despite this setback and even in drizzling rain, the aesthetics were spellbinding.

When I finally spotted a show, after much difficulty and with the help of my geoduck-senseis, we laboriously dug a three-foot-deep pit adjacent to the clam in the gloppy, shell-laden substrate. Since it was my story, I had the glory of actually winnowing the recalcitrant little bastard out of its burrow.

Immersed to the shoulder, sodden and stinking of tidal effluence, I finally manage to extract the clam. I triumphantly fist-pumped my three-pound prize in the air, while its leathery siphon drooped to the side like a dehydrated tongue. We capped off the day by collecting a bucket of littleneck clams from the beach, and then Lang took me to his home in Seattle for a tutorial on removing the “gut ball” from a geoduck. Unsurprisingly, gut ball soup is also a delicacy in Asia, but I can safely say this particular food trend won’t be catching on in mainstream America. You can quote me on that.

I went home with my siphon (I generously left Lang with the shell and gut ball; he did, after all, do most of the digging), and made sashimi. You know what? It tasted damn good. So did the clam linguine that followed.

Puget Sound’s Taylor Shellfish, a fifth-generation, sustainable mariculture farm, is the world’s largest producer of farmed geoduck. They’re sold live at Taylor’s retail shop in Capitol Hill in Seattle or online, $24.95 per pound (minimum two pounds). To order, click here. The site also features a video on how to clean and prepare geoduck.

Galley Gossip: Seattle – places to stay & things to do (with a 13 year-old boy)

Are you familiar with downtown Seattle? My 13 year-old son and I are going there for 5 nights in late August. What do you think is the coolest downtown hotel? We are looking at Hotel 100 and The W but can’t decide. We are open to all suggestions as well as any other hints you may have – Carole

I’m not sure what the “coolest” hotel in Seattle is, but I do know I’ve always wanted to stay at The Inn At The Market ever since my mother, who is also a flight attendant, told me about the place after having stayed there a few years ago. When I asked her if she thought it might be a nice hotel for a mother-son team, she said, “Well….the rooms are a little old lady-ish, but nice and clean.”

Old lady-ish? That doesn’t sound good. And something tells me this is not what a thirteen year-old boy has in mind when he’s on summer vacation. So I asked my mother to elaborate.

“I think the thing that may have made it seem old lady-ish was the flowered comforter,” she said.

That’s easy enough to fix. Just pull it off the bed and throw it on the floor! (Trust me, you don’t want to use that thing anyway.)

My mother also had this to say, “The view out the window of the Puget Sound was incredible. From the hotel we could look right down on the market. I literally stepped out the door, turned to the right, and within a few steps I was at Pike’s Market (pictured below). The hotel has an outside patio area where you can sit and watch the sun go down at dusk. Off in the distance you can see the ferry lights. It’s beautiful. “

I don’t know about you, Carole, but location, for me, is everything, regardless of a floral comforter! And I can’t think of a better place to be in Seattle than right next to Pike’s Market. Yeah, it’s touristy, but so what! I love that place. All flight attendants do. It’s always a big part of our layover routine.

If you’re determined to keep it cool, a few people I know suggested these hotels:

Hotel Max & Hotel 100: “Both are hip and cool,” said Shannon

Sheraton : “For best location, rooftop pool, and Chihuly glass throughout,” said Scott Laird. (I can second that!)

Hotel Andra: “It’s quite nice – and Lola (one of Tom Douglass’ restaurants) is on the 1st floor. Mmmm!” said Geraldine

The Edgewater: “It’s right on Puget Sound, amazing views, walk to aquarium and Pike’s Place,” said Allison Carter.

As for things to do with your son, take him on the underground tour of downtown Seattle or have the hotel arrange a tour of the Boeing plant. Take the ferry to Bainbridge Island and have lunch. The scenery on the ride over is just breathtaking. Ride the monorail to the Space Needle. Or just walk around. There are so many things to do and see. A pilot on my last trip went hiking. I’m not sure where, exactly, but I bet the hotel can direct you if you’re interested. There’s a little red trolley you can hop on and off for a quick tour of the city. This might be a good way to familiarize yourself on your first day. Of course you can’t leave Seattle without eating clam chowder out of a bread bowl at Anthony’s. Again, touristy, but I do it on every single layover!

Check out my other Seattle post about Seattle- it’s all about kids, trains, and food!

As well as these other Gadling posts…

10 places to eat in Seattle

Budget Vacations from Seattle: Puget Sound and San Juan Islands

Budget Vacations from Seattle: Bainbridge Island

Budget vacations from Seattle: Bainbridge Island

I arrived in Seattle on my birthday last week, which just happened to be the city’s hottest day in history. Temperatures across Puget Sound reached 106 degrees! Needless to say, I needed a break from the heat — and a break from long hours of driving up the northern California and Oregon coast. A mini-vacation on Bainbridge Island was an ideal break from both the heat, the car, and the city.

With a resident population of less than 2,000 around 24,000, Bainbridge Island is a unique weekend getaway that is just a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle. Ferries leave for the island from Seattle every hour from Pier 52, and downtown Bainbridge is a short 5-minute walk from the terminal. You can walk ($6.80 per person RT), bring your bike, or drive your car ($10 RT) onto the ferry.

Where to stay
There are three places to stay that are conveniently located close to the center of town.

  • Best Western Bainbridge Island Suites (350 High School Road NE; #206.855.9666): This pet-friendly option is nestled among forested hills and quiet harbors, yet is far enough away from the bustle of downtown Bainbridge that you’ll be able to have a little peace and quiet.
  • Island Country Inn (920 Hildebrand Lane NE; #206.842.6861): Escape the “sameness” of chain hotels and experience the casual, yet professional appeal of the island country inn, which is a perfect retreat setting.
  • The Eagle Harbor Inn (291 Madison Ave S; #206.842.1446): The Eagle Harbor Inn offers a unique “petit hotel” experience, with just five one-of-a-kind rooms and three custom town homes — all built around a garden-filled courtyard.

Where to eat

With over a dozen eateries to choose from, you will not be short on food. The most popular restaurants are all within walking distance from the ferry depot.

  • Harbour Public House (231 Parfitt Way SW; #206.842.0969): Its fish and chips are legendary and the patio seating has great views of the harbor. Only the best local brews are on tap.
  • Four Swallows Restaurant (481 Madison Ave N; #206.842.3397): This is the finest dining experience you will get on Bainbridge, but unless you splurge heartily your bill for two will still run you less than $100. The Four Swallows specializes in Northwest cuisine.
  • Town and Country Market (343 Winslow Way E; #206.842.3848): This great little market in the center of downtown Bainbridge has great coffee and other local goods for reasonable prices.

What to see and do
Whether you are walking, biking, or driving around, there is plenty to keep you occupied on Bainbridge for a full weekend.

  • Walking or biking: There’s a helpful Bainbridge Walker and Bicyclist map that you can pick up upon arrival at the ferry terminal that gives you the complete lowdown on things that are withing walking and biking distance. Nearly every month in the spring and summer there are cool walking and biking events on the island.
  • Kayaking: Bainbridge is an ideal size to explore by kayak. There are two outfitters in town that can help you rent water gear: Back of Beyond Boathouse and Exotic Aquatics Scuba & Kayak.
  • Wine tasting: There are at least three wine tasting rooms within the three block along downtown’s main strip. Tasting fees are $5 per person, and all wines are locally harvested.
  • Shopping: There are more than twenty shops and boutiques within downtown Bainbridge, and bargains are easily found!

Check out more budget summer vacations here!