Typically, thoughts of the Pacific Northwest region bring to mind Seattle's historic Pike Place Market, Starbucks coffee, and the Oregon Trail. However, from a gastronomic standpoint, there is much more to this region. The late James Beard, who was born in Oregon, greatly influenced the culinary world. He wrote about the gastronomic riches of the Pacific Northwest in his book, Delights & Prejudices. Beard believed that bringing out the natural flavor of an ingredient is the key to good cooking. Many local chefs and small food producers in the Pacific Northwest follow this belief and use the simplest ingredients to create great foods.

The Pacific Northwest region consists of two states, Washington and Oregon. Foods such as apples, pears, berries, cherries, hazelnuts, mushrooms, herbs, salmon, mussels, and oysters are signature products of the area. Due to a cool and moist climate, which is ideal for growing apples and pears, the states of Washington and Oregon produce over 75% of those fruits eaten in the U.S.

Chef Tom Douglas has several successful concepts in the Seattle area, as well as a retail line of sauces. The entrepreneur offers consumers meat and seafood rubs, teriyaki sauces and barbecue sauces. A cooking school is in the works.

Seattle's Pike Place Market

The Pike Place Market was established by the city of Seattle in 1907, to create a farmers' market atmosphere and to promote the local producers of a variety of fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, dairy and baked products. Nearly 100 years later, Pike Place Market continues going strong, featuring over 100 vendors daily. On any given day, chefs and food product developers can be found among tourists, sampling and seeking new menu ingredients or product development ideas. It is not uncommon to walk through the market and find interesting products like a tomato-basil relish (made with tomato, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, balsamic vinegar and sea salt), pine nut butter (made with toasted pine nuts, rosemary, parmesan cheese lemon zest, butter, onions, and olive oil), or garvlax (fresh salmon, cured with kosher salt, sugar, crushed black peppercorns and fresh dill).

Some of the World's Best Seafood

Since the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River border both Oregon and Washington, they are the source of some of the best fish and shellfish available. As an example, Gerard & Dominique Smoked Salmon (Bothell, Wash.) has been the salmon of choice for many specialty markets, prestigious hotels, and elegant restaurants around the world for more than a decade. All of the company's products are made with fresh natural ingredients from the area—no preservatives or coloring agents are used. Its popular Pacific Northwest style Smoked Salmon is soaked in a signature brine mix, then smoked over Pacific Northwest fruitwoods and lightly brushed with a Honey-Sesame Glaze.

Gerard & Dominique also offers a freshly made seafood sausage, as well as smoked salmon, shrimp, spinach, fresh herbs and spices. The sausage is sold fully cooked, but lightly grilling or poaching it before serving enhances its delicate flavor. It can be sliced and eaten over pasta or served as a breakfast sausage with eggs.

Since the 1880s, Taylor Shellfish Farms (Shelton, Wash.) has been regarded as one of the most important commercial producers of shellfish in the Pacific Northwest. Using state-of-the-art farms, the company raises and sells some of the best-tasting oysters, clams, mussels and crabs. Taylor's specialty products include Teriyaki Smoked Oysters, Cajun Smoked Oysters, and Geoduck—a large clam indigenous to the Pacific Northwest that can weigh over five pounds.

Geoduck is shipped whole and frozen from Taylor's, to protect the delicate flavor and texture. The neck meat has a mild flavor, with the crisp and crunchy texture of a cucumber. The body is slightly milder. Geoduck can be used for sushi, sashimi or ceviche. Taylor Shellfish Farms has its own brand of tartar sauce and cocktail sauces (retail size in 8.5 ounces) to complement its shellfish product line. There also are two retail stores, where the full line of products is sold.

Three of Seattle's most successful restaurants are owned and operated by Chef Tom Douglas and his wife and business partner, Jackie Cross.

In 1989, Douglas and Cross opened Dahlia Lounge, which took the title as the one of the best Pacific Northwest restaurants. The menu changes daily at the establishment. A sampling includes veal sweetbreads, bacon vinaigrette chestnut honey with roasted spaghetti squash; roasted monkfish, sweet corn sauce, chanterelle mushroom hash and tarragon; pear tart with almond cream and caramel sauce. Douglas and Cross also own Etta's Seafood, a restaurant that offers an extensive menu of Pacific Northwest superlative seafood, and is situated near Seattle's Pike Place Market. A third restaurant is called Palace Kitchen, in which fresh lamb, duck, chicken and hens are cooked rotisserie-style over apple wood. Additionally, the couple also own Dahlia Bakery, which offers many types of cookies, tarts, pies, cakes, and artisan breads.

There's a full retail product line of barbecue sauces and rubs sold under the Tom Douglas' Seattle Kitchen brand. Douglas believes great barbecue and great beer belong together. So, he teamed up with Redhook, one of the Northwest's favorite breweries, to create a distinctive line of barbecue sauces. One popular flavor is Tom Douglas' Redhook ESB Barbecue Sauce made with accents of cumin, cilantro and smoked chilies combined with fragrant fireweed honey and Redhook's ESB (extra special bitter, full-bodied amber ale).

Douglas' line of rubs is called Rub with Love Rubs. Flavors include a Salmon rub, made with blends of Pacific Northwest herbs and spices. The chicken rub is made with a blend of star anise, cinnamon, coriander and ancho chiles, to be used on whole roasted chicken or grilled chicken pieces. There also are rubs for lamb, pork, steak, and seafood.

Gerard & Dominique’s offers European-style smoked salmon, Northwest-style salmon, smoked sturgeon, scallops, and seafood sausages and terrines.

Coffee and Tea

Not long ago, coffee was just simple coffee in the U.S. Since the early 1990s, coffee has taken a major shift. Due to the explosive success of coffee's pioneer, Starbucks, and other international chains, cafés, coffee shops, and carts, choosing the type of coffee bean and how it is roasted, and paying an elevated price for a daily cup of java has become as common in America as ordering hamburgers and fries. Mainstream companies such as Hills Brother's, Folger's, Maxwell House, and Nestle have reinvented their coffee businesses by developing extensive retail and foodservice lines of gourmet/specialty coffees. An upscale image must be created in order to compete with companies like Starbucks.

Boosted by consumer interest in the nutraceutical properties of green tea, the entire tea category has benefited from elevated sales. Tazo (Portland, Ore.) iced teas are made of freshly brewed Tazo tea and natural flavors, lightly sweetened with organic cane sugar; they are distributed worldwide The flavors are Lemon Green, Organic Iced Green, Enlightened Lemon, Organic Iced Tea, Lemon Ginger, and Yerba Mate. The flavored line of Tazo Juiced Teas includes Giant Peach, Passion Potion, Plum Delicious, Mango, Tazoberry, Brambleberry, Simply Red and Wild Orange.

In 1994, Oregon Chai Inc. (Portland, Ore.) created a line of flavorful, aseptically packaged teas such as Original Chai Tea Latte, Ice Tea Concentrate, Chai Tea Mixes, and ready-to-drink Tea Lattes. The most popular flavor, ready-to-drink Tea Lattes, is made with black tea, honey, vanilla, spices and soymilk, and prepared like a latte. Oregon Chai Inc. is distributed across America and Canada.

Oregon Chai (Portland) earlier this year launched iced tea with chai spices: Raspberry, Peach and Rooibus. They are available nationwide, and are 95% organic.

Website Resources

www.gdseafoods.com — Gerard & Dominique's web page
www.taylorshellfish.com — Taylor Shellfish Farms
www.tomdouglas.com — Website of Tom Douglas
www.tazo.com — Tazo's home page
www.oregonchai.com — Oregon Chai Inc. home page