I’m still wandering, at least mentally, through Neah Bay, Washington, on the Makah Indian reservation. And also wondering why I didn’t buy more of the smoked salmon we bought during our visit and just finished up at lunch today.
Neah Bay is a small, very isolated town on the far Northwestern corner of Washington State. There is only one road that leads to it, and it’s an incredibly scenic but tortuous road that hugs the coastline for mile after mile of tight turns and drop dead scenery. Perhaps all too literally, as it would be way too easy to be distracted by the views, swerve off the highway and plunge into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
We camped a few miles outside of Neah Bay, at Hobuck Beach Resort. Very nice spot as we could look out onto the Pacific Ocean from our tent.
Even though we were camping, we indulged ourselves by driving back into town for food. Driving down the main street we saw a crudely painted sign saying “smoked salmon” with an arrow pointing down a side street and thought we’d look further. Following the arrow led us to what could best be described as a shack. A smoke shack.
Why, it’s the “Take Home FIsh Co”! The name kind of reminds me of something from a children’s story book by Richard Scarrey. I’m not sure why. I almost expected to find Huckle Cat inside.
After parking, we walked inside a dark room that had a chest cooler in one corner, a counter top in the middle, and on the other side of the room a large 55 gallon metal drum with a fire glowing beneath. The man behind the counter didn’t say anything, but slowly reached over for a packet, slid out a piece of smoked salmon, and cut off a generous piece for each of us to try. Mmmm. Mmmmm. Mmmmmmmmm!!!!
I asked “how much?” (which seems like all I know to say on this reservation) and he said $15 a pound. And then he did talk a little more, saying that there wasn’t any hot salmon available, as the first batch in the smoker wasn’t done yet, but there were vacuum sealed containers ready. I poked around the cooler and picked out a package, paid for it, stared a little longer at the room, then left.
We returned to our campsite and feasted on crackers with cream cheese and smoked salmon. That day, and the next, and the following. Truly, the best smoked salmon I’ve ever had.
The culture editor for the New York TImes (note: I really really want this job…….) wrote this place up a few years ago, and posted this video. I enjoyed watching it when we got home. The companion piece was also interesting. This paragraph in particular is worth reading:
In Neah Bay, the smell of the sea gave way to the scent of burning wood, of salmon sizzling above it, to the perfume of alchemy. At its source we found a Makah named Kimm C. Brown, who runs the ramshackle Take Home Fish Company, a salmon barbecue shack that produces food more than worthy of the journey: delicious, fat king salmon, smoked hot in a drum over wet alder. The fish is sprinkled with herbs, then suspended over the smoke for 20 minutes or more. What herbs in particular? “It’s a special mixture passed down from the forefathers,” Mr. Brown said, standing over a platter of his fish, a glossy cat beneath him on the floor rooting at a discarded carcass. He held out a jar of the stuff: Lawry’s Garlic Salt, coarse ground with parsley. “I buy it by the case,” he added, laughing.
Hard place to get to, but highly rewarding. Next time I’ll know to stock up better.