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Food and Drink

What’s Eaten Where: Washington

Seafood chowder at The Paris Bar & Restaurant at South Street Seaport.

Washington is the quietest state in the USA, one of the few places you can still find tranquillity in this rapidly urbanising nation. This is largely thanks to the Olympic National Park which is not bisected by flight routes or roads. Carefully monitored for noise intrusion, this pristine, untouched and ecologically diverse environment even boasts a research project known as ‘One Square Inch of Silence’: a patch of the Hoh Rainforest considered to be the most naturally silent place in the US.

The weather makes for excellent farming: the state fruit is the apple, and Rainier cherries (named not for the climate, but for Mount Rainier, which in turn took its moniker from Rear Admiral Peter Rainier) are a local hybrid said to be the most delicious variety around. But, with all that Pacific coastline, seafood also deserves a major mention…

Salmon and oysters abound of course, but it’s the geoduck that’s most iconic. A local favourite, the geoduck is far from fowl. Rather, this is a species of very large, edible saltwater clam which takes its name from the native Lushootseed dialect. Enjoyed for its savoury flavour and crunchy texture, the geoduck is particularly prized by the Asian market (in China, they’re cooked a fondue-style; in Japan geoducks become sashimi and dipped in soy sauce and wasabi; and in Korea they’re eaten raw with spicy chili sauce). But here in Washington, this strangely-named crustacean is more often blanched, stir-fried or cooked up in chowder.

Local cuisine generally focuses on fresh, organic ingredients, and even the state’s many immigrant communities have incorporated the fresh produce in their fare; popular dishes include the Seattle roll (a makizushi roll that typically contains cucumber, avocado, raw salmon, and masago or tobiko), and hot pho (Seattle is home to a huge Vietnamese community). And to drink? Well, coffee is the norm, but a plain glass of Washington water is said to be the best in the nation – so good that the city of Olympia has turned its artesian well into a tourist attraction.

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