Monday, July 30, 2007

The Freshest Fish in the West

One of the more common questions people ask when they're driving through town, sticking their head out the window, yelling at you for directions, is "where can we buy some fresh___" (insert favorite type of locally caught seafood... halibut, salmon, crab, oysters, etc). It's one of the quintessential things to do when you're on the coast - the search and acquisition of fresh seafood.

Here in Westport, my favorite finds depend on what is in season, and as you get to know the locals, more often than not, someone will just bring you a fresh piece of salmon or halibut or a few dungeness crabs when their husband/cousin/brother comes in from a particularly fruitful trip. But the one favorite that I will pay the premium for all year long are local spot prawns. My husband is a shrimp fiend, and so we have always consumed more than our fair share of tiger prawns and mystery shrimp from Safeway. But since we have discovered Spot Prawns, this is all we can ever stand to eat. They are local, so you can actually buy them fresh, not frozen, and they are absolutely rich and tasty. It's like eating little tiny lobsters. I highly recommend everyone try them when they find them.

But I digress. The point of this post was to provide a primer here on the best places in town to hit when the urge hits:

(1) Merino's Seafood Market, 301 E. Harbor Street, in the Westport Marina. Merino's always has a fresh supply of whole and sectioned dungeness crab, crab cocktails, spot prawns, shrimp cocktails, razor clams, and whatever fish happens to be in season. They also sell the "fixin's": seasoning packets, cocktail sauces, tartar sauces, panko (for your fritters and crab cakes), as well as canned and smoked fish and seafood meats of all types. The best part is, if you're kind of squeamish, they can clean everything, for example, taking all the guts out of the crab so that you are just left with a perfect, shelled crab, to have the experience of cracking crab without all the yellow goo. Plus, if you're on your way out of town, they can package your catch on ice in a cooler, and even ship it ahead of you.

(2) Seafood Connection, Float 8. Besides the "atmosphere" of actually walking down a dock to buy your fresh fish, this little market offers most of the same seafood that Merino's does. They are basically brokering a deal between the consumers walking the marina and all the individual fishermen. The fish is "the freshest" available. This is where I go to get my spot prawns. The cool thing is that they have some great specials when the fishing is great (like albacore tuna fillets for $3.50/lb a few weeks back)

(3) "Boat Sales". Sometimes, and I have no idea what the rhyme or reason for these signs, but fishermen will decide to offer whatever they've caught right off their boat. So keep your eyes open for the signs, which are typically handmade a-boards on Montesano as you enter town. They'll usually give you three key pieces of info: (a) What's for sale (fresh-bled tuna is a popular one) (b) What float they're at and (c) the name of the boat to look for.

(4) Nelson Crab. Not quite in Westport, but in Tokeland, 15 minutes south, Nelson Crab is another old favorite that people know-of-but-can't-seem-to-find. So here's the basic directions, head South on Highway 105, turn left into Tokeland when you hit the casino (you'll know you're in the right place because the speed limit changes dramatically), and go all the way down until you see the Nelson Crab on the left hand side of the road (across the water). They have their own brand of canned crab, as well as fresh and frozen, shelled and whole, dungeness crab. I don't know the pattern for the other stuff, but they do carry a selection of other types of seafoods that I haven't every really paid much attention to. I have used Nelson Crab to ship crabmeat back to family in Hawaii, and can vouch for their professionalism in doing the crab shipping.

I hope this helps you find the fresh fish you've been dreaming of!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Shopping the Westport Marina

Today was one of those picture perfect sunny days that makes me remember what brought me to Westport to begin with. Since I had some visitors in town, we decided to walk the Westport Marina, and since I had my camera out, I thought it would be a good time to point you all out to some of the best shops on the Marina.
Yes, there is shopping in Westport, and its not all kites and T-shirts. The first store I'm going to talk about is the Picaroon Pelican. This is a very cute tea-themed shop that sells everything you need to put on a proper afternoon tea, as well as collectible teacups and tea paraphernalia. The owner is also the woman who coordinates the annual Pirate Daze festival, and she is very friendly. She also runs a little english tearoom out of the back of the store, but I have not made it in there as yet, so can't vouch for it. The next stop as you walk west (toward the blue tower) is Miss Avenue. This is a little clothing boutique which doesn't look like much from the outside, but has some surprising inventory on the inside. In addition to a cute gift section for little girls (think pink princess themed), Miss Avenue also carries some of the hippest stylish clothes West of Olympia. Her inventory includes 7 for all mankind and Citizens of Humanity jeans, as well as other lines that I'm clearly not hip enough to wear. They also have a great selection of accessories and other fun stuff. Definitely worth popping in.

Further down the marina, you'll find Cutting Edge Kites, which has every kind of bright flying item that you might want. Today there were some particularly cute garden spinners that looked like woodys (the surfers station wagon) with wheels that spun. (Note to self, buy one of those when you have a garden to show it off in). They also carry cheap kites for the day tripper, and elaborate set ups for those wanting to do kite fighting or kite ballet (see the post on the windriders festival).

At the end of the marina, there are two artsy galleries; the Albright Jewelry Gallery, and Art Talks. Both feature jewelry and glass art by local artists. Art Talks also sells a lot of local metal art, and lot of beach themed treasures. These places have stuff for inexpensive souveniers, the sometimes collector, as well as high end art. Needless to say, I can't bring baby in either store anymore, because I'm not interested in buying something he's broken, but I love to covet the beautiful metal sculpture in Art Talks.

So there you have it, my five favorite stores on the Westport Marina. I do stroll in the others, even the Charter offices, from time to time, because you never know what you might find. And of course, there's always Pomegranate's in Grayland, which is the queen of all coastal gift shops. But next time you're in Westport, stop in and see if you find a treasure to take home with you.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sometimes it rains in July...

This weekend we were supposed to be having the annual Hot Rod Show and Shine, which is a very cool car show for pre-1949 cars. Last year, I missed it because I was home with a 3-week old, and I was really looking forward to it this year. However, a major glitch that was ruining weekends from Bellingham to Eugene was ... the rain.

Yes, it does rain in July. Actually, I don't mind the rain so much (I accept the weather patterns I live in, and happily deal with the October through June onslaught of drizzle, clouds, fog, and other weather that makes most tropical folks run and hide), except that when it happens in late July, we all feel a little cheated. This is made a million times worse when it happens in late July on a WEEKEND. I mean, after all, there are five perfectly good work days when the skies could gray over and no one would care.

The good news is the plants get the water they need, the streets get rinsed, and my car (which rarely sees a car wash out here in the sticks) gets a washdown.

AND, interestingly, the surfers were still out in force, despite the weather. When I took a walk by the jetty, there seemed to even be more of them out than normal. I guess the storm that brought the rain must have brought some great swells as well. Seeing this reinforces that voice in the back of my head that wants me to try a surf lesson. Oh well, maybe when the sun comes out again.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Windriders Kite Festival

Prior to this weekend, the idea of hundreds of adults getting together to fly kites simply didn't trip my trigger. However, encouraged by a picture in the South Beach Bulletin, we packed up Baby and headed to Grayland Beach, which for those who've never heard of it, is about 5 minutes south of Westport, for the Annual Grayland Windriders Kite Festival.

And oh my goodness, if you have never seen a thousand kites flying in a beautiful blue sky, it is quite a sight. Kite enthusiasts take these festivals very seriously, staking out their areas with personalized "colors" that display the names of each person in their group. They had areas for novices, "kite acrobatics", and kite fighting. "Kite Ballet" set to music was almost as fascinating (sans the loud engines) as the Seafair Blue Angels. Baby was highly entertained by the various flags and balloon like wind socks that dotted the beach.

The weather started out overcast in the morning - a typical day at the beach, but by noon on both days, it was downright warm, high 60's at least, and warm enough for the water to be full of kids and adults playing and fishing in the surf.

So, as I understand it, these kinds of kite festivals are held all year long, from Bellingham, WA to Lincoln City, OR. The big mama of Kite Festivals is held in Long Beach, WA, every year. All are spectacular to see, the nice thing about this local festival is that its big enough to be worth attending, but small enough that you can attend without fighting traffic and getting lost in the crowds. It's one of the best small town festivals I've attending recently.

The Windriders Kite Festival is sponsored by the local Kite Flying community and local merchants in the South Beach area, and definitely worth a trip down to the beach next summer. And now, the mommy in me will end with the obligatory picture of baby with kite.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Zen Fishing

Occasionally I see men out in the surf fishing and I wonder what the heck they are fishing for (I supposed I could ask someone) and how it could be worth standing in that cold water for so long. But on days like today, when the weather is clear and the temperature is hot, I almost wish I was out there with them.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Fireworks, pyrotechnics

Okay, I get it, you guys like to blow stuff up. Yes, its fun. But its been 3 days since the holiday, can you please knock it the hell off!

Tourism is good for the economy.... tourism is good for the economy... tourism is good for the economy.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Visiting the Westport Maritime Museum

Calling all lighthouse lovers and coast guard buffs:

You should definitely check out the Westport Maritime Museum and the Grays Harbor Lighthouse. Both properties are operated by the South Beach Historical Society, whose mission is:
"to interpret and preserve the history of the South Beach area of Grays Harbor County in Washington State, with an emphasis on the impact of local natural resources on the regional growth and development of our maritime community."

Actually, the Museum itself is right on the Westport Marina, and its an old Coast Guard Station that was built in 1939. It was dedicated as a museum in the mid-80's once the modern Coast Guard facilities were in place at the east end of the Westport Marina.

Exhibits include some science related information about the ocean and what lives in local waters; local history; information about the local Cranberry industry; Whales and whaling history (including a full Whale Skeleton that has its own building); and the lighthouse lens from the Destruction Island lighthouse. There is also a "discovery room" which has activities and hands on exhibits for the kids.

I took baby into the discovery room on the 4th of July and he was a little young at 13 months to do anything more than stack and unstack the shelf of kids books, but there were other kids in there that seemed to enjoy the puzzles and toys (I am guessing the right age range is probably in the toddler to maybe 8 years old).

The Destruction Island lens is quite a site. It's in a separate building on Museum grounds, which has a skylight, and the lens flashes colors throughout the building. There is a great scientific explanation about the various types of lighthouse lenses and how they work for geeks, and for everyone else, its just darn pretty.

You can find their hours on their website: and the fee to get in is nominal (a few bucks, I'm not exactly sure). The volunteers are friendly and excited to be involved in the museum. I'm glad we finally got around to visiting and plan to be back soon!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Happy Independance Day!

The beach was made for the Fourth of July, and today did not disappoint. From the Maritime Museum's Old Fashioned Community Festival, to the fireworks on the beach, the area was hopping. It was hard to believe it was a Wednesday and we all had to wake up for work the next morning, but nonetheless, it was a fitting celebration.

Hope you all enjoyed your day off!