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Celebrating People, Places & the Good Life in SW Washington State
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Posts from — March 2010

Vancouver Farmers Market Opens!

There are close to 5,000 farmers markets in the US, according to the Department of Agriculture. My favorite? The Vancouver Farmers Market, of course!

Opening Day at the Vancouver Farmers Market

The market opened on Saturday and it was packed. The sunny weather helped attract a crowd that was absolutely elbow to elbow during the noon hour. We were pleased to purchase a whole, cooked crab, beets, pears, carrots, Chinese broccoli and, for Gary, a massive ginger snap cookie.

Many food booths were doing a line out the door business, so to speak. Paella, gumbo, stir fries, seafood chowder, strawberry shortcake, there were plenty of choices. My favorite tamale stand wasn’t there but will be in the near future.

Stir fry in process

Third batch of paella for the day

The bread from Julia Bakery is always amazing

As always, the flower vendors were making spectacular bouquets, although I always worry about the daffodil and tulip combos because, if not soaked alone for 24 hours, daffodils secrete a sap that can destroy the tulips. Nonetheless, the arrangements were stunning.

Flower arrangements unlimited

The crafts are always colorful at the market and beautifully made. These felt hats could have been the subject of a still life painting.

Fabulous felted wool hats

And no market is complete without entertainment. A belly dancer provided the noon time performance. I covet her flat stomach!

Belly dancing at the market

One of the best things about the market is knowing that it will happen every weekend now through October. Except for perhaps kayaking, I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday morning.

March 22, 2010   5 Comments

Have You Entered The Happiest Place in SW Washington Contest? Do it Now!

March 31, 2010 is the deadline for ZEST’s first contest “Where is the Happiest Place in SW Washington?” YOU could win a $50 gift certificate to the restaurant of your choice in SW Washington!

Where is the happiest place in Southwest Washington?

Where is the happiest place in Southwest Washington?

The rules are simple. Tell us in 75 words or less why your suggestion is the happiest place in Clark, Cowlitz, Skamania, Wahkiakum, Pacific, Klickitat or Lewis counties. One entry per person. It should be a location that is open to others, not, for instance, your backyard, happy as it may be. There will be one grand prize winner. In the case of duplicate suggestions, the first person to comment will be eligible for the prize.

The prize? A $50 gift certificate to the restaurant of your choice in Southwest Washington.

Deadline: To be eligible for the contest, you must submit your comment on the blog by Wednesday, March 31 at 12 noon. Entries will be judged by a panel of happy, local people. The winner (and honorable mentions) will be announced on Tax Day, April 15 – a day when we can all use a little extra happiness.

So tell us, where is the happiest place in Southwest Washington? CLICK HERE, read the entries and then add your own comment. Best of luck!

March 18, 2010   No Comments

In Search of Razor Clams on the Long Beach Peninsula

“Four day razor clam dig opens on Peninsula” The Columbian headline said it all. We already had reservations at the charming Shakti Cove Cottages in Ocean Park for the weekend. I had never dug for clams. I brake for seafood. The stars had aligned. It was time to go clam hunting.

The goal: a plate of razor clams

First things first. I started where I always start all new projects –on the Internet. There were plenty of Web sites offering me advice on equipment, digging, cleaning, cooking, licensing requirements, ideal (and legal) times hours for digging. I had a lot to learn. Clearly it would be easier (and cheaper) to go to a seafood market.

Preparing to Dig Clams
I think Gary would have settled for the seafood market-bought clam route but I nagged all the way to the coast until we arrived at one of my favorite stores in the world, Jack’s Country Store in Ocean Park. While Gary bought groceries I slipped back to the hunting and fishing section where I chose a 24” plastic clam gun, which sounds like a weapon but is just a tube with a handle (the back breaker model, Gary later told me). With the purchase of the “gun,” a bucket and a license, we were committed. We would be ready for the evening low tide, the next day. Except for the clothes.

Years earlier, I tossed my leaky rubber boots, which had served me well while working in an Alaska fish cannery in the early 1980s. So a stop at another favorite store, Dennis Company in Long Beach, yielded new boots, heavy socks and gloves. These yet-to-be caught clams were getting expensive.

Back to the research – How to Razor Clam (a grammatically incorrect but interesting use of words) taught us to, in a nutshell:
-Be in the right place (this was an Oregon publication so it forgot to mention Long Beach)
-Be there at the right time (two hours below peak low tide, preferably a minus tide)
-Find a clam (WAY easier said than done)
-Start digging (no mention the possible need for chiropractic services or massage later on except for the phrase “use proper lifting technique”)

The Hard, But Fun Part
We made our way from Shakti Cove out to the surf and joined hundreds of clammers who were bent over from the waist, scrutinizing the sand and beating the beach with sticks. It only took about 10 minutes for Gary with his highly trained eyes to spot a dimple in the sand. (That OSU engineering education pays off again!)

That was it! I tamped. A hole opened. I followed my How to Razor Clam instructions to the letter by placing the clam gun over the hole but slightly toward the ocean and bore straight down, feeling a sad, tell-tale crunch as I pushed. I put my finger over the air hole on the clam gun and slowly pulled up. Out came our first mollusk – a slightly cracked but whole 5” long clam. At that moment, we all (Gary, me, the clam) were hooked.

Even though our limit was 15, we left the beach (and the rain, wind and my sore back) with eight clams. An experienced clammer, who was grousing that “they weren’t showing,” told us we did well.

The new clam gun, bucket, boots and, ta da, the clams!

I was satisfied and prepared with my next Internet find: How to Clean Razor Clams.

Preparing the Clams
I followed the instructions – putting them first in salt water on the beach, then fresh water so they would pump out sand. I placed the clams in a colander, dousing them with boiling then cold water. Then the slimy work began – pulling the clam body from the shell, snipping off the tough part of the neck, scissoring up the zipper (strange term!), pulling out the “digger” and (the gross part) removing the “dark material” from it. I then cut everything so the pieces would lay flat.

Cleaning the clams

Cooking the Clams
Finally, I was ready to cook, except I hadn’t a clue what to do next. I forgot to bring a recipe. Back to Jack’s, I thought they must have a seafood cookbook. They had recipes for crab and salmon but nothing I could find on clams. Desperate, I accosted a couple who were carrying a new, very nice (not my “backbreaker“ model) clam gun. I pleaded for their advice. Turns out the husband was the clam chef of the family. He led me to a box called “Dixie Fry,” a naturally seasoned coating mix.

Thank you anonymous couple with the cool aluminum clam gun in Jack’s Country Market! I hope you found all the clams you could legally harvest!

Back at the cabin, I followed the recipe, coating the clams with the Dixie Fry, frying them in vegetable oil until they were golden brown. The verdict? They were fantastic. “These are sooooo good,” my reluctant clammer spouse kept saying. Yet another reason why I love Southwest Washington.

The clams and a lovely glass of Riesling from Clark County's East Fork Cellars

Note: New tentative digging dates for razor clams have been announced for March 26-April 1 and April 16-18 on the Long Beach Peninsula. This is dependent on marine toxin tests. Details are at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

March 15, 2010   12 Comments

Notes of Passion. Nerves of Steel. Nine Impressive Young Artists Perform in Vancouver.

With performance skills way beyond their years, nine talented musicians filled the hall with stunning music yesterday at the 16th Annual Young Artists Competition of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Anyone who doesn’t believe in music education should attend a competition for young musicians.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons, and you will find that it is to the soul what the water bath is to the body.” The performances immersed the audience in a rich “music bath” for two hours. Three of the musicians were selected by long deliberating judges to perform with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra on April 17th and 18th at the Skyview High School concert hall. Each also won $1000 scholarships.

There is something very humbling about hearing a 14-year-old, who debuted with a chamber orchestra three years ago, move so gracefully through a Chopin concerto or a confident 16-year-old violist play Bartok. Like Yo Yo Ma and Joshua Bell, who first picked up their instruments at age four, most of the Vancouver competitors started playing music at very young age.

In the end, 16-year-old Fred Lu won the piano competition for his performance of Rachmaninoff’s Concerto for Piano no 1, op 1 in F-sharp minor.

Gold Medalist Fred Lu Playing Rachmaninoff

Daniel Vasey, a 15-year-old alto saxophonist won with John Williams’ Escapades, movement 3.

Gold Medalist Daniel Vasey Plays John Williams

Natally Okhovat, 17, won the strings competition, impressing the audience with Saint-Saens popular and moving Introduction and Rondo capriccioso, op 28.

Gold Medalist Natally Okhovat Plays Saint-Saens

Stunning, inspirational performances—it was enough to send one home to practice for a long, long time.

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March 8, 2010   No Comments