Food Friday: Naughty Nellies in Roche Harbor


What can you do after you have taken a boat deep into gelid Canadian waters to watch a school of orca whales tear a seal apart? Why, drive to Roche Harbor, drop by the Madrona Bar and Grill, and sit on a sunny deck by the water, and drink a Naughty Nelly. Of course you do!

We spent an unforgettable morning on a 30-foot boat out of Snug Harbor in Mitchell Bay with Spencer, our knowledgeable captain and naturalist. He trolled the water, with his ear clamped to a phone, listening to other captains nattering about orca whale sightings, at the same time identifying landmarks, birds, and lighthouses, while blithely dodging the surprisingly heavy ferry traffic. We barreled through the water, past waterside houses and summer cottages with another couple who had recently moved to Seattle. They were quite nice people, who were genuinely interested in chatting with the Tall One and the Pesky Pescatarian.

After about an hour of zipping along Spencer slowed the boat down and we were all agog as we caught a glimpse of our first troup of dorsal fins, and then the graceful arching black and white bodies, diving and whirling and powering through the calm water. We tracked their movements for about half an hour as they swam here and there and hunted. And then the mob clustered, and hit. Television nature programs do not prepare you for the sight of red blood frothing and spreading in the water. I never even saw the seal, which the Nature Channel probably would have anthropomorphized thoroughly. Instead of watching through a HD filter, we viewed the actual messy circle of life out there, and were amazed. Even the avowed Pescatarian was gobsmacked.

Amazement is tiring, and hunger-making. We made our way back to Snug Harbor and bade our companions a fond farewell. We sought sustenance, and our pack circled through the landscape, and tooled over to Roche Harbor. Roche Harbor is an attractive, yet slightly old time-y, Disney-fied resort, perched on another vertiginous, rocky hill. You could smell fresh paint and we had to admire the faux Craftsmen architecture of the newly-constructed vacation homes that lined a street sloping down to the water. There were American and Canadian flags fluttering from every possible perch, and baskets of draping watercolor flowers festooning the lampposts.

We walked past a beautifully maintained garden at the gingerbread-clad Hotel de Haro, which had precisely trimmed topiaries and sweeping bowers of fragrant wisteria. And swathes of grass that must have been precisely hand scissored at night by garden gnomes with tiny little pinking shears. There were beds of nodding peonies, interspersed with artful clumps of bleeding hearts; all very romantic and sweet. In some ways the Pacific Northwest reminded me of England: cool temperatures, lovely public displays of flowers, spurts of gentle rain and lots of good beer.

We had a table overlooking the marina at Roche Harbor, outside in the sun, where we basked like that unsuspecting seal. Luckily, we were met with excellent nibbles and not predatory orcas. The ever-hungry Tall One swarmed this: the Field & Stream Club Sandwich – a “Flame-grilled fresh Columbia River Steelhead, crispy bacon, tomato, green leaf lettuce and caper and artichoke aioli on grilled Focaccia.” The Pescatarian nibbled like a bunny on a green house salad.

On vacations I collect French fries, and frites, and homemade potato chips, and hash browns. I ordered Steak Fries for us to share as an appetizer – Best Beloved and I were still on East Coast time, and couldn’t eat much, yet. I was allowed 2 or 3 of the crispy, delicious garlic-y fries that I wrested away from our own young orcas. (Russet Steak Fries with Roasted Garlic Olive Oil [Gluten free!] Skin on Russet steak fries tossed with Parmesan, parsley, and steak salt and roasted garlic olive oil. Yumsters. We make a variation on this with potato chips at Christmas time.)

Mostly I was happy with the brew and the view. Years ago Best Beloved flew into Roche Harbor by seaplane, and it has been the stuff of family legend ever since. We were all happy to have a shared memory of it now.

And really – next week – Pike Place Market and Pike Brewing Company…

Garlic Parmesan Potato Chips

I tried it out on the neighbors last year at our little New Year’s Eve fete, and it was hoovered up in record time.

1 12-ounce bag of potato chips.
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons dried parsley flakes.
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic

In a small sauce pan, or frying pan, warm the 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Add the 4 cloves of garlic-pressed garlic. Cook at a low heat for 3 minutes, until fragrant. There nothing like garlic to make the house smell divine. Let the oil cool for about 5 or 10 minutes.
Put the chips in a large, shallow bowl. Drizzle with the garlic-infused oil. Toss the chips, gently. There is nothing worse than tiny little mingey bits of chips when one is trying to impress… Add the parsley and half the Parmesan cheese.
Warm the oven to 350°F degrees.

Put the chips on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Warm in the oven for about 7 or 8 minutes. Put the chips back in the original shallow bowl, scatter in the rest of the cheese, and toss. Serve warm. Yumsters.

Serve with Naughty Nelly ale, cheap white wine, or our favorite tipple, Prosecco, which makes it all taste so marvelous.

Pike Naughty Nellie Ale

Roche Harbor

Madrona Bar & Grill

“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
― Benjamin Franklin

“So, if people didn’t settle down to take up farming, why then did they embark on this entirely new way of living? We have no idea – or actually, we have lots of ideas, but we don’t know if any of them are right. According to Felipe Fernández-Armesto, at least thirty-eight theories have been put forward to explain why people took to living in communities: that they were driven to it by climatic change, or by a wish to stay near their dead, or by a powerful desire to brew and drink beer, which could only be indulged by staying in one place.”
― Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life

About Jean Sanders

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