Dooger’s fried razor clams and sweet potato fries
I thought that the prohibition against abalone fishing in California many years ago would spell the end to the most delicious mollusk steak ever to cross my lips. I remember when I was a kid, my father, brother and I went fishing for them around Monterey where my father grew up. My mother would steam and slice them, and we would enjoy them dipped in soy sauce. Later, as an adult, seafood restaurants in Southern California would serve them fried as steaks. I loved, absolutely loved these. Then, because overfishing depleted the abalone stock, the ban in California happened and I was not a happy camper.
Fast forward to when my family moved up to the Northwest. The first time I sampled fried razor clams, the taste brought back memories of those blissful Southern California days. This is not to say that razors taste exactly like abalones, but their unique flavor reminds me of them in some big way. Dooger’s serves them to perfection at each of its three locations in Oregon (Seaside, Warrenton and here in Cannon Beach) and one in Washington (Long Beach). The clam really doesn’t need any sauce, either the catsup or tartar sauce that come with any order.
As with any mollusk, they don’t require much cooking. Pan-frying them just needs but a few minutes. Beyond that, they can become rubbery, vulcanized. Dooger’s does a fine job; you have the option of having them sautéed instead.
Note: since I wrote this, the Cannon Beach location has closed its doors. Service continues at Seaside and Warrenton in Oregon and Long Beach in Washington.
Sea stacks, those lonely rock sentinels off the coast that punctuate the seascape, are Oregon’s distinctive shoreline features that draw admiring tourists and photographers. They are the remnants of millions of years of erosion of headlands that have unevenly given way to the forces of water. They are no more picturesque than the Three Graces at Tillamook Bay that invite visitors to admire and ponder their formations. We happened to be there at low tide where we could walk up to them and touch them.
Hug Point used to be used as a trail by stagecoaches. Its name derives from how closely the carriages had to “hug” the point, even at low tide, to get around. Now it is part of a state recreation site for public day-use. The tide was getting higher when we arrived, still low enough that we could round the cape and do some exploring. There were some interesting barnacle and mussel colonies. A half hour later, we had to wade through about six inches of water to return to the beach. There is a warning for visitors to be mindful of tides to avoid getting stranded.
Barnacles and tiny mussels
Being the largest sea stack off the coast of Oregon, Haystack Rock stands like an intertidal sentinel just south of Cannon Beach and is responsible for much of the tourist industry here. We approached it from the south on foot, after parking our car in a neighborhood and finding a public access path to the beach. Since it was past low tide, we couldn’t walk up to it like we did at the Three Graces earlier in the day. Cannon Beach is one of the most developed towns along the Oregon coast, with hotels and condominiums and a commercial district of shops and restaurants. For obvious reasons, the rock is a favorite subject of photographers and artists.
Whenever on the Oregon coast, we seek out fried razor clams, especially in season. Down the street from our lodging (Garibaldi House) was Pirate’s Cove, a seafood restaurant that happened to have the clams on their regular menu but featured them on the specials board as well. The menu has a long list of seafood preparations that feature shellfish, crustaceans and fish. We simply ordered the razor clams off the menu, as well as a ling cod and Dungeness crab combination from the board.
The razor clams were curiously flavorless, or I should say the extraordinary taste of the clams was very subdued. Perhaps they had been previously frozen and then rinsed too much, I don’t know. Though they emerged from the kitchen with a nice golden crust, I’ve never had razors so insipid.
Fried razor clams
A Parmesan batter coated the ling cod, which tasted fresh, accompanied by shelled Dungeness crab leg meat. There was certainly nothing to complain about here, but not anything worth singing praises about either.
Parmesan-crusted ling cod and Dungeness crab
14170 Hwy 101 N.
Garibaldi, OR 97118