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There are many things to enjoy about the Northwest Coast during the fall and winter. For one, it's delicious. While many think of spring and summer as the "fresh months," the culinary season on the coast is definitely a year round affair. Even while summer is hanging on, the foodie fall fun begins. Coastal commercial fishing for Chinook Salmon opens in September and foragers begin collecting the first of the season's mushrooms. Fresh Columbia River sturgeon can show up on the menu beginning in October. Some Pacific seafood is at its firmest, plumpest and most abundant during the quieter seasons on the coast. During fall and winter, oysters are at their peak and in December, the commercial Dungeness crab season begins.
Lynne "Red" Pelletier, Executive Chef at The Bridgewater Bistro always looks forward to wild mushroom season, incorporating them into a wide variety of preparations. "My favorite mushroom by far is the King Boletus (or Porcini)," she says. "When I receive a box of these awesome mushrooms, I dive in. Slice them about 1/4-inch thick, brush them with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with season salt and roast them in the oven, turning after about 10-15 minutes until they are browned and crispy. Roasted this way, according to Chef Red, they taste similar to bacon, making it a challenge not to just snack away. "The first out of the oven never make it to storage!," she adds. "One of the dishes we like to feature is pasta (linguini or fettuccini) with these unbelievable roasted mushrooms, gorgonzola cheese, diced pears and toasted walnuts all smothered in a Cream Sauce."
Peter Roscoe, chef-owner of Fulio's Pastaria, Tuscan Steak House and Delicatessen is also a mushroom fan. "When I think of fall, I think of mushrooms - chanetrelle, boletus and morels," he says. "I love to use them in rissotto." He also looks forward to the first of the fall Razor clams and Chinook salmon.
At Silver Salmon Grille, fresh local fish like salmon and sturgeon is a fall favorite of Chef Jay Funk and Owner Jeff Martin. Coastal chefs have the opportunity to buy fresh from local fishermen, which is important, according to Martin. "A lot of times, fish will be caught in this area, shipped elsewhere, then shipped back here to be sold in stores. It makes a huge difference to use the freshest fish and our fish comes straight out of the water and into our kitchen." One of the popular favorites on the Silver Salmon menu is Parmesan and herb-encrusted grilled sturgeon. The sturgeon is coated with fresh herbs (basil, dill, chives) and shaved Parmesan then is grilled. Sauteed gulf shrimp and an avocado lime hollandaise sauce finish the dish that is often featured at wine dinners the restaurant hosts in partnership with Astoria's Cellar on 10th wine shop.
Oysters and Dungeness Crab are often available fresh year round at coastal restaurants and seafood counters, but fall and winter usually promises top quality and the most abundant supply of these two Pacific delights. It's hard to beat fresh local oysters plucked from the chilly waters just hours before and served raw on the half shell with a drop of lemon, cocktail sauce or a mignonette of shallots, wine and vinegar. Chefs employ many cooked oyster preparations too, with local favorites including pan-fried variations and rich oyster stews. Likewise, crab is often enjoyed simply cooked and served chilled. Use a small amount of lemon, cocktail sauce or butter if desired. Crab cocktails, salads, and of course, crab cakes are common restaurant selections, but you'll find chefs employing a wide variety of preparations and imagination to utilize the freshest products of the season.