Two very popular foods from the West Coast are trending in two very different directions, so here's a road map to explain where your purchases should tread.
Spring sprung the heat right out of the gate for our West Coast brethren, so quickly, in fact, that waters warmed at extraordinary rates. This bodes well for you sunbathers, but not so much for oysters. The warm water temperatures cause oysters to spawn, making their meats listless and soft, with "off" flavors. If this wasn't bad enough, warm temperatures also cause bacteria in the water to become more active, which could lead to illness if the oysters become infected. Luckily for us though, Washington State has become a lot more proactive in how they deal with warming temperatures and oyster safety. These days, when temperatures get problematic they simply shut down harvesting. Precautionary closures are somewhat new to Washington State, but other states have previously adopted these measures to combat foodborne illnesses before they are present. Other measures, such as laws restricting the methods and time of harvest, have been enacted and enforced to ensure that the harvested oysters are kept at cold temperatures throughout the process from the water column to your plate. In a nutshell, due to preemptive closures, expect your West Coast oyster varieties to be safe, but severely limited in options during the summer.
You can't mention heating up and the West Coast without mentioning wild salmon. Whether it be kings, ivories, or sockeyes, you just can't go wrong with wild salmon right now. The fishing is reaching a fever pitch as fish pour in from areas such as Yakutat and Cook Inlet, Alaska. I have not seen quality this sound with prices this low in several years. Right now you can purchase sustainable wild salmon for about the same price as farmed, and you don't have to be standing on the docks in Alaska to do so. Bristol Bay, one of the largest sockeye runs of the season, is just opening so I expect the trend with sockeyes to continue, with coho salmon season kicking in shortly. I am not sure, however, how much longer we will see these great deals on kings and especially ivories, so I advise everyone who understands how delicious fatty king salmon can be to get to the market and get their fair share.
As the fishing heats up with the water temperatures, it's time to put the burgers and steaks away and try grilling some healthy seafood. Summer selections include domestic favorites such as rockfish, bluefish, sable, halibut, tuna, swordfish, wahoo, tilefish, tautog, and of course wild salmon. Bi-valves may not be at peak, but you know what they say, there are plenty of options in the sea.