Photo by Jessica CalkinsI'm not a big fan of salmon. But I am a big fan of free. So, when McCormick and Schmick's invited me to eat free salmon—salmon that has never before seen the lower 48—I put on my best too-tight jeans, grabbed a photo intern and rowed into seafoodtown to see what the stink was all about.
When we arrived, the first dish I spied was Commie Girl. She was sitting in the corner of the patio smoking and hiding from Ruth Ko. We joined Commie Girl for some carcinogen—and to help camouflage her—and sampled the champagne and apps. The oysters with watermelon salsa were particularly fresh and delish, although not so watermelony but the bubbly was many steps above my usual Freixenet experience.
Three glasses of it and some yummy scallop food things later, we three fled to the dining room for our Chignik meal—and a lot more alcohol. Our taste buds were still blowing a 0.5, however, when we engaged the sockeye salmon Asian Tartare with a truly awesome Bonny Doon Dry Reisling '98. We at first groaned all over the Reisling—until it buttered down our throats; the sounds of much clinking glass followed.
The salmon corn cakes in white-corn puree came next. Now, since I had just made this the other day for lunch, my critical, if not quickly pickling, eye, was on the lookout for any flubs. But, melty, melty, melty once again—even better than mine. It was at this point that Commie Gal started in on the commie talk. I know she said something interesting, but since I was getting tanked and only looking at her cleavage anyway, I just nodded a big "you're so right!" every time she paused.
Gloria Zigner, dressed in a fancy green pantsuit, made the chatty rounds, whizzing by our table and keeping me somewhat focused with shoptalk just as our pan-roasted salmon and broiled lamb chop trotted over. Alas, I'm sorry to say I don't remember a thing about this meal. Not even what it looked like—so it's good there's a picture of it above. However, the Pinot Noir that side-cared with it—mmm, mmm, mmm.
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After dinner, the cute-as-a-button Gordon McIntosh—the man who spears the Chignik ("big wind" in Aleutian)—stood up and told us not the tale of the reclusive Chignik (which we had been on pins and needles for), but the one about how his dream to share this salmon with the world has been realized by the divine McCormick and Schmick's. He was probably sincere, but somehow I wondered if there was a harpoon strategically placed from a fern at his back. In any event, he was such a dear we completely forgave him for going corporate and making our delicious meal possible. We do not, however, forgive the lesbian in the back with the rattling keys who, just as we were done being lectured to and readying to dive into our carmelized banana rum tart, asked Gordy a seven-part question. We were tired, lady. We were drunk. We had to start entertaining ourselves at the table with decorative gummy fish in chocolate sauce. But worst of all, to fill the time, I started thinking fish shtick:
"It all started very oily this morning. I put on my new rig—it was a little bit scampi—and went out with the other gulls down to the local sandbar. It was a real dive. "I was getting ready to go around fivefish when all of a sudden I was hit on the head—shell-shocked. I conked out. I started to whale, 'Kelp! Kelp! Is there a sturgeon in the house?!' "'Oh, my cod! I didn't do it on porpoise!' Gil said. So finally the carps came in and threw the locks on him. 'What are you, hard of herring? You're coming to the crustaceon!' the carp bubbled, and they tossed the sorry sole into the can on squid row. We, however, were off the hook and fishtailed outta there."
Damn you, lesbian with the rattling keys, damn you!
McCormick and Schmick's, 2000 Main St., Irvine, (949) 756-0421.