Friday, October 17, 2008
Road Trip Day 2, October 3: Let the Feasting begin!
Now, you don't think I could possibly talk about one whole day of our trip without bringing up food, do you? No, I've decided that the food is SO important that it demands postings of its own, dedicated to the art of eating while on the road. Let's just say that Buy Nothing Month was now over with a vengeance!
Our first official stop after leaving my parents' place was the South Beach Fish Market. This place should never, ever be confused with South Beach, Florida, or the South Beach Diet (whatever that is, anyway). Ever. One look at this place, pictured here, should convince you that this is the real Oregon deal - fresh seafood, fresh seafood, and more fresh seafood.
I had read that the South Beach Fish Market had the best fish & chips on the Oregon coast. Unfortunately I haven't been able to sample nearly enough seaside fish & chips joints to agree that this statement is objectively true, but I can say what they serve is darn good. The batter is light, almost tempura-like, and the fish really shines. Michael ordered the halibut version, while I stuck with the less expensive traditional lingcod. While both options were good, we both agreed that it was work the extra three or four bucks for the halibut. This fish was so flaky and sweet, with not a hint of the "fishiness" that can plague all but the freshest catch. The fries were crinkle cut, not as good as house-made, but still not bad for all that.
Good as the battered fish was, it was a shame to leave without trying any of the other offerings, which ranged from crab and shrimp cocktails to whole crabs that were cooking in the giant kettles out front. I was simply to full to think about another helping of any kind, but I did buy some canned Oregon line-caught tuna that I'm eager to sample.
While lunch was good but basic, for dinner we splurged on fancier fare at the Wild Rose in Bandon. Only a short drive from Bullards Beach State Park and a few blocks off of 101, Michael and I both agreed that the Wild Rose was a step above any previous camping dinners we'd had. I admit I was a bit shocked when I saw the prices after we were presented with the menu; I hadn't expected cheap, but I had thought there would probably be entrees under $20; not so. However, unlike the Seattle restaurants that are currently our city's "It" eateries, entrees here included your choice of a house salad or soup of the day. This appeased me somewhat, and I reminded myself that Buy Nothing Month was over, after all, and it was OK to go a little crazy.
And once I tasted my soup, and then the sea scallops I chose for my entree, I had absolutely no regrets about the choice I'd made. The sea scallops, in particular, were amazing. Truly, I have never had better scallops in my life. Succulent, sweet, sauteed to perfection so that the outsides were crisp and seasoned while the insides melted in the mouth, I felt that I was in heaven. And the artfully arranged fennel, arugula, and grapefruit on the side were the perfect complement. The only bad thing I could say was that the seasoning on the scallops was just the tiniest bit on the salty side. Michael, meanwhile, enjoyed a lovely dish of gnocchi with blue cheese, bacon, and caramelized garlic and shallots.
But I can't forget our starters - the carrot soup that came with my meal was also wonderful. I had to offer Michael a taste. "Wow," he said. "Why is this soup so much better than the carrot soup you made last week?" Gee, thanks, dear. But I couldn't really argue - this thick, brilliant orange soup flecked with cracked pepper was far more flavorful than the soup I'd made at home the week before. Michael's salad was also particularly good. We each washed it all down with a glass of Oregon wine - pinots, of course - a pinot noir for him and pinot grigio for me.
Now, before you go thinking that this all sounds unbeatably delicious, but a little pretentious, let me assure you that the Wild Rose itself is a pretty humble joint. The food may be fine dining, but the atmosphere is Oregon coastal casual - staff in jeans, simple wood booths that look like they spent time under the open ocean spray, a sloping floor covered with industrial grey carpet, and framed photo prints of black and white nostalgia shots featuring bubble gum factories and beauty queen spaghetti feeds.
Unfortunately I have no photos to share of this meal, as the one nod that they make to a traditional haute cuisine dining atmosphere is to keep the lighting very low, so all my hand-held no flash shots are a bit blurry and dark. Well, we can't have it all; I'll just have to be content with having had perfect scallops once in this lifetime.
If You Go:
South Beach is located just south of Newport. When coming from the north, you'll see it on the right-hand side of 101 not long after you cross Newport's iconic bridge. For more information (and how to order their great products online) see: http://www.southbeachfishmarket.com/
Unfortunately the Wild Rose has no website. It is located at 130 Chicago Street in Bandon, phone number 541-347-4428.