by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: PATRICK SAN MIGUEL  - West Coast Clams were served at the Oregon Bounty event of Feast Portland on a bed of sea lettuce, which WCC uses to keep the clams humidified while transporting them to chefs. Some of WWC’s clients are ordering more sea lettuce to serve as an ala carte item on their menu.  SUBMITTED PHOTO: PATRICK SAN MIGUELI made a lot of new friends at Feast Portland events last month. At the Oregon Bounty exhibition I met innovative chefs, ingenious creators of food products, craft beer makers, wine makers and other food artisans and harvesters — it was an exciting gathering of people representing what truly must be the best of what Oregon has to offer to world.

Today, I share information about two new friends who bring us gifts from the sea — West Coast Clams and Jacobsen Salt Co.

West Coast Clams, owned by best friends Todd Osten and Rob Taylor of Coos Bay, was founded in 2011, but the guys have been working to bring us wild caught, locally harvested clams for several years. For the past 20 years, Oregon’s wild clam industry has been shut down, due to regulations imposed by the Oregon and federal Departments of Agriculture and Oregon Fish and Wildlife.

“Nobody was willing to take on the challenge (of commercially harvesting wild clams),” said Osten. “It took us two years to get our operation certified.”

He explained the difference between farmed and wild-raised clams.

“Mother Nature plants the clams, grows them and feeds them, then we harvest them one by one.”

WCC has a team of four harvesters who dive down into the ocean to harvest the clams by hand. The clams are then fully purged in three to five days in approved waters prior to shipment. The clams are pulled from live storage and shipped to clients within one to four hours.

I sampled the clams at Feast Portland; the taste made me sigh with contentment. They are sweet and fresh tasting — ‘fantastic’ isn’t too strong a word.

“The response has been overwhelming,” said Osten. “The taste is so fresh and good. Once you start eating them you don’t want anything else.”

That is evidenced by the fact that Portland chef Gregory Gordeau used WCC’s butter clams in his entry in the 2012 Great American Seafood Cook Off in New Orleans — and won!

Sustainability is a big issue with Osten and Taylor. They have minimized packaging of the clams for transport. Frozen gel packs are put into boxes, covered with food-safe plastic and then sea lettuce is placed on top and wrapped around the clams. The edible sea lettuce humidifies the clams in their short transit to their clients. Some inventive chefs are using the sea lettuce — and in fact ordering more of it — to serve as an a la carte item on their menus. One chef is also ordering sea beans, which grow in the same area as sea lettuce and clams.

“It’s neat that items that nobody would have thought of using before are being utilized,” said Osten. “We are kind of creating an industry of sea products.”

Besides butter clams, gaper clams, cockle clams, Pacific blue lip mussels, West Coast Clams offers locally harvested mushrooms, fish and bay crab.Oh, and did I mention that the gaper and cockles make the most fantastic sashimi?

West Coast Clam’s motto is “From the sea floor to your door, it’s guaranteed fresh every time.” Ask for West Coast Clams at your favorite restaurants. Chefs can send inquiries to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Osten at 541-953-9483. The products may soon be available retail, too.

A second product of special note from the coast is sea salt - duh! Are you asking yourself, “why didn’t I think of that?” I sure did. We must not have the same tenacity as Ben Jacobsen. Jacobsen is originally from Vermont but attended school in Portland before going to college in Seattle. He then worked in San Francisco before moving to Scandinavia for four and a half years.He first tasted really good salt while living in Denmark.

“When I came back, the Pacific Northwest had evolved into arguably the leader in food culture and food economy nationwide,” Jacobsen said. “There was lots of experimenting going on, but the one thing that transpires all food — salt — nothing was being done with that. That got me curious and one thing lead to another. I got experimenting and testing and doing lots of weekend trips. It took three years to develop the process and find out my favorite spots, so it was not an overnight thing by a long shot. It took lots of hard work, lots of miles in the car and a lot of messed-up batches. It’s really, really easy to make bad salt, but tough to make great salt.”

Jacobsen said he tested more than 25 ocean spots from Coos Bay to Puget Sound and found that Netarts Bay had the best water. He explained that after he harvests the water, it is filtered many, many times, then boiled to remove volume and pare back calcium and magnesium, which he said gives a bitter taste.

The brine is then slowly evaporated; leaving him with a salt that is clean and briny. The whole process takes about 45 hours.

“It’s a incredibly labor-intensive, but it results in great products,” he said. It takes about 1½ gallons to make four ounces of his finishing salt. He processes about 800 gallons a week, which “sounds like a lot, but if you figure a backyard swimming pool holds 20,000 gallons it’s a small amount when you consider the resource of the ocean.”

You’ll be happy to know you can purchase Jacobsen Salt Co.’s sea salt at New Seasons at Mountain Park and at The Oilerie.

A big shout out and thank you to another friend I bet at Feast Portland, Patrick San Miguel, who shared his pictures with me. You’ll see many more in the weeks to come.

In the meantime, try these recipes for clams. The first is a quick and easy one from West Coast Clams, the second is my go-to favorite recipe from Anthony Bourdain for preparing mussels. I think it will work just fine with clams.

Bon appetite! Eat something wonderful!

Rob and Todd’s Favorite

Way to Cook Clams

1. Split the clam in half

2. Put clam halves on the barbecue and baste them with garlic butter

3. Cook on medium-low for 3 to 4 minutes

4. Eat ‘em! You’ve just created a truly mouthwatering and unforgettable flavorsome experience.

Courtesy West Coast Clams

Moules Marinières

(Mussels cooked in white wine)

Serves four

Some nice country bread is a good thing to have on the table, for you and your guests to tear at and use for mopping up the sauce.

4 ounces butter

2 shallots, thinly sliced

2 cups dry white wine

Salt and pepper

6 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded

4 sprigs parsley, finely chopped

Heat the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Once melted, add the shallots. Cook two minutes until the shallots are soft and just begin to brown. Add the wine and bring to a boil. (Crank up the heat all the way.) Season with salt and pepper.

Dump the mussels into the pot and slap on the lid. Cook just until all the mussels are open all the way (about 10 minutes). Shake the pot, keeping the lid firmly pressed on top. Then add the parsley and shake again. (You can toss in an additional knob of softened butter at this point, swirling it into the sauce for a nice emulsified, enriched boost.) If they don’t open, don’t eat them. Pour the whole gorgeous mess into a warmed serving bowl and serve.

Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes and Techniques

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-636-1281 ext 101 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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