By Deirdre Bourdet
Summer romances are as old as time, and like clockwork, I find myself falling in love every year around this time. I speak of course of fresh salmon.
Nothing says summer more enticingly than a huge piece of barbecued wild salmon, charred and smoky from the grill, its succulent pearlescent flesh crying out to be devoured. Unless you consider sweet and toothsome and absolutely impossible-to-say-no-to grilled corn on the cob… ; or the intoxicating fragrance of farm-fresh heirloom tomatoes seducing the unwary into $30 salads… or hunks of cold watermelon so juicy that you need a napkin just to think about putting a piece in your mouth.
But really, for me salmon is the perfect summer food. Its festive hue, its clean fresh flavor, its affinity for the smoke of the grill (and for corn, tomatoes, or watermelon salads with feta and mint…), its silky smooth texture, its pleasingly short cooking time, and its divinely sanctioned relationship with pinot noir all make me extremely happy to eat it on a languid summer night. ;
Wine country restaurants are not generally known for their seafood, but I’ve hit a few spectacular salmon preparations that should not be missed. Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar in Healdsburg pairs pristine slices of raw Tasmanian salmon with blood oranges, salty black beans, and chili oil in a completely original and utterly delicious crudo. Longtime local favorite Fumé Bistro does a perfect cedar plank-roasted filet, with garden-fresh ratatouille and roasted potatoes (they also have tons of local heirloom tomato dishes this time of year). And of course the Oxbow Wine Merchants in downtown Napa see me weekly for my fix of salmon BLT, of which I rave at every opportunity.
Some people claim to not like salmon. I say to them, good! More for me.
Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar
403 Healdsburg Ave
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 433-9191 www.willisseafood.net
4050 Byway E
Napa, CA 94558
(707) 257-1999 www.fumebistro.com
Oxbow Wine Merchants (in Oxbow Public Market)
610 1st St
Napa, CA 94559
(707) 257-5200 www.oxbowwinemerchant.com