Perfect Seafood Pairings – Seafood Markets
The coastal Pacific Northwest’s bounty of cold-water seafood and food-friendly wine is the force behind the region’s land-meets-Seafood Pairings.
Talk to chefs in any of the three largest cities in the coastal Pacific Northwest about the local seafood Pairings, and you will find yourself swimming in a sea of superlatives.
Executive Chef Ned Bell of YEW restaurant + bar at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver says, “We are very fortunate on the West Coast to have what I would consider the best halibut in the world. First and foremost, it doesn’t get any fresher—the most important thing with seafood Pairings.”
Vitaly Paley, executive chef and owner of Paley’s Place Bistro & Bar in Portland, Oregon, was both a James Beard Award winner for Best Chef Northwest in 2005 and a victor on the Food Network’s Iron Chef America in April 2011. His culinary passion is prawns. Here, the locals call them spot prawns.
“They come from up and down the coast, all the way up to Alaska,” Paley says. “They are incredibly versatile. The flavor that comes out is amazing—sweet, like little lobsters. I really love them!”
In Seattle, Chef-Partner Kevin Davis of Steelhead Diner and Blueacre Seafood feels he is at the seafood Pairings.
“Our mussels and clams are on a par with anywhere in the world,” he says.
When asked to list the Northwest’s bounty, Davis rattles off a lengthy list of somewhat rare local favorites: “razor clams, geoduck, line-caught lingcod, yellow-eye rockfish (you broil and eat it like lobster tail; it tastes like crab, with lobster texture). And Dungeness crab, of course! I’m from Louisiana.”
Davis concludes, “I’m blown away by the quality of our Northwest crab… if the Cajuns knew we had this here, there wouldn’t be a Cajun left in Louisiana!”
Salmon and crab, oysters and sablefish, calamari and octopus; all of these and more are available at fresh seafood markets throughout the Northwest coast. Aficionados speak of such flavors in near-reverential terms.
Seafood marketing consultant Jon Rowley uses the term “mer-oir” to describe the particular flavors of locally cultivated oysters, comparing it to the terroir that great vineyards display.
As is true in many wine-producing regions, the local viands seem to match up naturally with the homegrown wines. Northwest white wines—whether Oregon Pinot Gris, Washington Riesling or racy Chardonnay from the Canadian Okanagan—are vivid and tangy, well-matched to the briny flavors of the shellfish.
The heartier fish—notably salmon and halibut—can accommodate both white and lighter red wines. Once you’ve tasted Oregon Pinot Noir with Columbia River steelhead or Copper River salmon, you will forever understand the red-wine-paired-with-fish phenomenon.