Greetings From The Fish Plant

Here at the 24/7 Fish Smoking Factory, we’ve been kicking it into high gear. Good fishing means lots of work, but thoughts of mouth-watering, hot-smoked king salmon keep us toiling. And my one, treasured souvenir from Japan, a 10-inch, hand-forged blade crafted from 64 layers of razor-sharp stainless steel and purchased from Masahisa in Tokyo, made quick work of the butchering. Love Japanese steel.

First, a quick round of filleting, followed by cutting into strips and chunks for brining. That’s the better part of five kings, waiting to hit the salt and brown sugar.

After an overnight brine, the chunks dry on smoker racks with a box fan blowing on high for about five hours.

Then into the smoker over a mix of alder and apple chips and it’s time to eat. And start the cycle all over again for the next batch. Oh, those salty, sweet, smoky, oily belly strips! Love this time of year.


King Opener 2017

Things were a little hectic. We had one week after we returned home from Japan to prep fishing gear, get the boat running, dig up camping equipment and get over jet lag. Not to mention catching up with work. So yeah, I was frantic, crazed, sleep deprived and wondering if it was all worth it. At one point, it felt like I was trying to pack everything we owned–and a dog–into the car and boat.

As you can see, the annual camping/fishing gig for the king opener turned out fantastic. Though we missed our usual conspirators on this trip, we were happy Smarty could join in. The weather was windy but manageable, we ate well, and most importantly, the fish were there. That’s the first morning’s haul below.

We played on the beach, looked for rocks, enjoyed cooking and eating outside, made s’mores, and between fishing sessions, generally took it easy. Everyone, including Halo, had fun. And we came home with a box full of kings. Turns out all the prep chaos was worth it, and as so often happens, we came home happy that we put in the work and made it happen. Here’s to doing it all again next year.


Japan

Just home from an epic three-generation family ramble through the Ancestral Homeland. Organized by my mom, 19 of us–aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, friends–started in the hectic frenzy of Tokyo and made our way by bus, car, foot and bullet train on through Nagoya, Kyoto, Miyajima (pictured above) and Hiroshima. What an experience. The country mice from Bainbridge were blown away by the sheer volume of humanity, pace and size of Tokyo (below). And we found quiet, gorgeous settings more like home as well, in Miyajima, Kyoto, and other places along the way.

Too many individual experiences to list, but visits to the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo and Nishiki Market in Kyoto, making okonomiyaki (a kind of savory Japanese crepe-omelet sort of thing) in Hiroshima, hiking up Monkey Mountain to commune with our more distant relatives, a whitewater boat trip, and watching Skyla shopping for a kimono with my mom, all stand out. We also spent a great day fishing the saltwater flats east of Nagoya (more on that in a coming post) with our friend Hisashi Suzuki.

For me, though, it was the day-to-day excellence of the food that really blew my mind. From high-end sushi (above) to the greatest katsu in the world, to simple bowls of ramen in a back alley of Shibuya (below), everything we ate ranged from great to excellent to top-10-meal-of-all-time status. In spite of averaging about 15,000 steps per day in hot, humid weather, I gained seven pounds in 15 days!

But even more than the sights, and yes, even more than the food, was the experience of watching my mom introduce her grandchildren to Japan (that’s the three of them settling into the bullet train for a 170mph cruise to Nagoya). And the time we spent traveling together with friends and family. I think we all made a lot of lifetime memories. Thanks, Mom!