We headed out to explore Hood Canal today. We're staying right near the town of Hoodsport on Hood Canal near the Olympic National Forest in Washington. Hoodsport is apparently renowned among SCUBA divers as a staging area to view the giant Pacific octopus (cool!!!)
The shores along the canal are mostly rocks and shells (oyster, clam). Clam season is apparently over, but oyster season is not, and there were plenty of people out doing what looked like gathering shellfish as we drove past.
We were headed down toward Shelton to Taylor Shellfish Farms to pick up some of their Shigoku oysters (our favorite). Shigokus were developed by Taylor Shellfish Farms (right here!) and we were lucky enough to discover them about 1/2 mile from our house in Portland at our local market that happens to carry them most of the time. (But it's still fun to get them right from the source!)
Taylor Shellfish is quite an operation.
The seafood store had everything we wanted (Shigokus, and the tiny Olympia oysters) and we left with four dozen Shigokus and two dozen Olympias. Hey guess what we're having for dinner tonight and tomorrow night??
Shigoku oysters are grown in floating bags that are attached to stationary lines and floats that rise and fall with the tides, so the oysters are tumbled twice a day. This low-energy, low-maintenance method is a variation on British Columbia’s more labor-intensive Kusshi, and it continuously chips off the oysters’ growing edge and forces them to “cup up." The shells end up deep and scoop-shaped.
This results in a small, dense oyster with a light clean taste of cucumber and salt. (My mom does NOT like oysters, and she liked these, so if you're not an oyster fan but want to be, try the Shigokus.) Also, they're super easy to shuck compared to many other oysters.
More scenery along the canal:
The road runs right along the water in most places:
Cute little beach house:
Our next stop was the Hardware Distillery Co. in Hoodsport. I read about this place online and decided we should check it out. The owners, Chuck and Jan, started the distillery a few years ago near their vacation cabin in Hoodsport and it's become quite a little hot spot in town!
Chuck was pouring today, and started us right off the bat with their award-winning aquaivit. (It was great!) He had a special bottle from the freezer out for the folks who were finishing their tasting as we arrived, so in all the excitement we were included in that special moment, and then started at the beginning with the vodka made from peach wine (oh hey, and ended full circle with another tiny pour of cold aquavit).
We bought a bottle of the R Gin and a bottle of the Bee's Knees Plumb. For the R Gin, Chuck takes up about 100 pounds of barley to Hama Hama Oyster Co. (just up the canal a bit) and they cold smoke it in their big smoker. R Gin has a subtle smoky taste, and the name comes from the (discredited) old wives’ tale that oysters are best in months with the letter "R".
The Bee's Knees Plumb is a distilled honey mead, made from 80% honey and 20% plums from Chuck's friend's plum trees. It's good! I'm not sure what we'll do with it yet, but we'll figure it out.
The building housing the distillery used to be the Hoodsport Hardware Store, hence the name Hardware Distillery. They've got a great vibe in there, and the decor is all old hardware and cool distillery equipment. Definitely worth a stop if you're coming through and are into this kind of thing. We also tasted in sequence the white dog, and then the same spirit that had been aged for just a little while in that small barrel...interesting to taste the difference a little wood makes.
Next we headed back up the canal and decided to try the Hama Hama Oyster Bar for lunch.
There's a market where you can buy fresh oysters and clams and other stuff, and outside around the corner they've got a "snack bar" where they're serving up oysters (raw and grilled), crab cakes, steamers, etc. while you sit outside on the water, in the sun, having a totally chill day eating delicious fresh seafood.
Fun atmosphere, great service, nice people, delicious seafood! We had some grilled oysters (since tonight's meal will be mostly Shigokus and Olympias on the half shell), a crab cake, some steamer clams, and a glass of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc. Everything was delicious and we'd come back here in a second!
The grilled oysters with served two sauces: (1) a chipotle bourbon sauce (so good!) and a classic escargot sauce of butter and herbs (also good, but I loved the chipotle bourbon one best).
Hoodsport is a cute little town, and this whole area feels authentic and not too touristy at all. There are several state parks along here that (of course) are pretty dang crowded right now (a sunny weekend in July) but overall the place still feels pretty mellow.
We're just back hanging out at the Airstream now. The RV park here (Glen Ayr Resort) is totally fine. It's nice, right across the road from the water and we're backed up onto what I hear is a small creek (I'd have to go check to verify). We've got full hookups, but their internet is out (we're using our AT&T datacard with router and doing just fine). I'd stay here again, but I might try to see if this place had any waterfront spots first, because it looked fabulously close to the water as we drove past an hour ago. :)