The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2018

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30  /  the tasting panel  /  march 2018 WHAT WE'RE W ise culinary travelers know to seek out the dishes that speak expressly to where they are. This is not easy in these days of express shipping—when a Maine lobster could be lounging in the Atlantic in the morning and on a table by the Pacific in the evening—but it seems like no restaurants rise to the challenge more adeptly than the many regional seafood eateries of America. When in New York, I visit the aptly-named Grand Central Oyster Bar, which is to a pescatarian what the Vatican or the Wailing Wall is to the observant. Walking into the restaurant's remarkable tiled room—with its coved ceilings and long marble counter—offers a thrill akin to being face to face with the Mona Lisa: a sense that this is it. The full list of oysters runs into the hundreds with descriptions of the flavor and size of each option, and although many of the oysters arrive from a distance, many more are local. Heading north, is there a better destination for a taste of the Chesapeake than the newly-opened Salt Line? Situated in the Navy Yard across from Nationals Park on the Anacostia River—which meanders into the nearby Potomac—Salt Line serves coddies (salt cod mixed with Yukon gold potatoes), stuffies (baked mahogany clams with smoked linguiça), and johnnycakes with smoked trout salad and marinated salmon roe. The local oysters include White Stone, War Shore, Harris Creek, and an oyster from Maine called Cthulhu Deep: an homage to writer H.P. Lovecraft. If you want to enjoy your seafood while bathing in history, head for the Old Union Oyster House, which has been in business since 1826 when, according to its website, "the American people were enveloped in an oyster craze." The toothpick was first introduced to America at the Old Union and President John F. Kennedy often dined there in the private upstairs room. The steamers are sublime, and no one makes better clams casino. And on the Left Coast, where sushi is the seafood of the moment, a personal culinary obsession of mine resides in Seattle not far from the iconic Pike Place Market: Ivar's Acres of Clams, which sits on Pier 54 on Puget Sound. The menu is long and heavy with fish, but I go there for the chowders, which I consider a near-religious experience—especially the clam chowder, which I would crawl across an acre of fish bones to reach. If Ivar's were open early, it would be my first choice for a straight-from-the-sea breakfast any day of the week. The Oysters Rockefeller at Grand Central Oyster Bar in New York's Grand Central Station. The coddies (salt cod mixed with Yukon gold potatoes) and stuffies (baked mahogany clams with smoked linguiça) are just a few of the seafood dishes offered at the newly-opened Salt Line on the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C. PHOTO COURTESY OF GRAND CENTRAL OYSTER BAR The Transcendence of Fish A ROUNDUP OF NOTEWORTHY RESTAURANTS DRIVING AMERICA'S STEADFAST SEAFOOD CRAZE by Merrill Shindler PHOTO: GREG POWERS

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