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Big Pimpin’ in Seaside

It is my belief that Lewis and Clark,

Soggy and suffering from a recurring strain of malaria, were looking for one thing and one thing only when they stumbled into Seaside, Oregon. It wasn’t money or fame, or even a decent bed or the company of a good (hopefully syphilis-free) woman. It was the thing we all seek at one point in our lives. The thing that brings us together, binds man to sea and potato to shellfish.

That’s right. Clam Chowder.


-M. Lewis, January 8, 1806

It wasn’t the chowder specifically that brought Yean and I to Seaside a couple weeks ago, but I will say that our journey did involve a lot of food hunting. Portland’s turned a bit chilly by now, but Seaside was still a comfortable mix of sunny and breezy. I always feel bad when we head to other places on the coast like Astoria, because we end up passing through Seaside without a second glance. We scoff at the Pig n’ Pancake and outlet shops and go on our merry way. But there’s more to seaside than whet you see along the highway! This is alarming to me, as someone from a beach town that’s pretty much exactly what you can see from highway 1.

Seaside is kind of like if Monterey and Santa Cruz had a baby. And then that baby started banging Pier 39. It was October, so it was a little on the dead side, but there’s a long touristy street with bright ice cream and fudge shops and semi-shady nautically themed restaurants/bars. At the end of that is a little turnaround with the statue from the top of the post, and a looooong hotel-lined boardwalk extending in either direction. We walked up and down it exactly 5,000 times.

I’m not ashamed to say our first stop was The Buzz On Broadway, an enormous candy shop boasting fudge, gummies, and A LOT of bacon-related goodies. Now, I am not one to be swayed by candy shop selections. I work with sugar all day. I’ve seen it all. And there’s no nostalgia factor for me because my parents did not let me eat that shit. But I am strangely taken with these gummi cola bottles, which smell like ass but taste delicious. Also there is a massive fudge selection. You can get a “6-pack” of fudge, ensuring you’ll never have a real six pack but oh who cares it’s buy four, get two free, or B4G2F. Faced with the undeniable bargain of B4G2F, Yean and I bought six initially impressive pieces of fudge which we of course had no desire to finish after day three. We liked pumpkin the best, creamsicle the least. Peanut butter swirl was good but needed more peanut butter. Chocolate-walnut and milk/dark layered were good but nothing to write home about, and maple pecan was…sweet. Very sweet. And the nuts could have been fresher. I gained five pounds regardless.

Then we went to the Aquarium! To see seals! The Seaside Aquarium is one of those old-timey boardwalk attractions that has somehow survived despite the fact that it looks like a place where fish go to die. But hey! The aquarium has octopus and a giant lobster exoskeleton and a thriving Harbor Seal breeding program. These are no loose seals.

Is it wrong to say that I found this really enjoyable? The dorky laugh at the end of the video is me being alarmed at the splashing of some frustrated seals who had HAD IT UP TO HERE with the tourists next to us, who were being indecisive with handing out the little fish you can buy at the ticket booth. Sadly, it had the opposite effect the seal intended and we all ran away giggling instead of giving up the tasty snacks. Later they had a “real feeding” with bigger fish, and the noise was fucking ridiculous. I found myself jealous of these seals. “Those fat bastards.” I thought. “I’d like to swim around all day while people give me treats. I guess it would get boring, but then you could just go hump something.”

We really needed a vacation, is what I’m saying.

Then we went for a nice little walk on the beach, which was surprisingly clean and condom-free. There wasn’t even a Taco Bell to interrupt the view. SERIOUSLY, THIS BEACH TOWN GIRL IS CONFUSED. You actually use your beaches for recreation? And people are okay with that?

We rounded out the day with linner at Norma’s Ocean Diner, which had sub-par chowder but DE-FUCKING-LICIOUS fried oysters. Even the tartar sauce was amazing, and I am not necessarily a big tartar sauce person. Yean had a salmon BLT, which she claims was exactly as wonderfully decadent as it sounds. I didn’t try it because I didn’t want to share my oysters. Sometimes it’s like that when we eat.

I can’t even feel bad about the chowder, which was a tidge skimpy on the clams and very, very potatoey. But I knew from the start it wouldn’t be my One And Only Chowder. It says right on the menu that it’s pork-free, and me, I’m a pork girl. The search continues! Side note: why do saltines taste so good in soup? They’re so bland otherwise. But put a soup cup in front of me and I go all Napoleon Dynamite.

“You gonna eat your ‘tines?”

Yean gave me hers. She didn’t even make me bark for it. I did slap my belly, though.


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Today in Canned Things: Astoria and Cape Disappointment

So, Lewis and Clark.

They came, they saw, they all got malaria. The Northwest is filthy with L&C landmarks. You can’t spit without hitting the Historic Place Where Clark Peed Himself That One Time. I admit, I’m a sucker for it. There’s something so fascinating about this wildly optimistic, mistake-riddled journey. Something, dare I say, so American.

Right, enough of that. Let’s get some fish.

Along with our Flavel House visit a couple weeks back, Yean and I hit up some of Astoria’s more accessible tourist attractions.

I’m pretty sure this jail was still in use. But oh, what a historic treat for the inmates. I hear the drunk tank even has original fireplaces. Or maybe I’m thinking of the Flavel House next door.

I like to do this thing when I take pictures. Someone once told be it was only good to take a landscape photo if there were people in it. It makes sense, when paging through picture after picture of indistinguishable ocean views. So when Yean and I are admiring a view, I like to back up a few paces and take a picture of her looking pensive and thoughtful.

This is the view from the Ship Inn, where we had a late lunch/early dinner (henceforth referred to as “linner”) of oyster fish and chips. Oh my God. It was so good. I like that right away they ask you if you want lemon and extra tartar sauce, which is fantastic. We had a bit of trouble finding it at first, but discovered that if you so much as mention it to a local they’ll give you detailed directions, along with a gushing “mmm!” noise and a mini-review of the food.

Did you know there’s a Pier 39 in Astoria? And you can shop there? Well, there is and you can. There’s a little area with a couple surf/kayak shops, a nice but touristy bar, a cute coffee shop and a little free museum where the old cannery used to be. I’m also so into old canneries, even though it’s a dying industry and there are tricky sustainability issues. But this place was fascinating, and a little creepy. In one room there was a random tv turned to static, with a radio recording about canning blasting in the background. I tried to capture the Ring like quality.

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Also, there was this.

And this.

Hey, uh…soo…why do ya think they called him, uh…um. Well. Let’s not go there.


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