In what has become a treasured tradition, we gather at Smarty’s for dinner every Tuesday night. It’s usually kind of a boy’s meal, but girlfriends, wives and moms often join. Kids and dogs are welcome, too. People pitch in and bring whatever they’ve caught, trapped, shot, foraged or found, but the featured entree is always something wild–ducks, geese, pheasant, quail, spot prawns, albacore, salmon, crab, deer, elk–and beautifully prepared by Smarty. Helene often makes her famous salad with fresh lemon, garlic and pine nuts. I usually bring brown-and-wild rice. Last night, it was fat, juicy Eastern Washington mallards, roasted hot so the skin crisped and the interior stayed blood rare, served with a sauce made from butter, sherry, worcestershire, current jelly and a few other top-secret ingredients. Pete brought fresh winter oysters and pan-fried them to a crisp, golden brown for our appetizer. It was, as usual, a meal you couldn’t buy at any price or beat at any restaurant.
A rotating cast of characters shows up, but it’s usually some combination of Smarty, me, Neal, Pete, John, Morgan, Helene, Sam, and whoever else is in town. A lot of us try to schedule around Tuesdays, and when I’m away, there’s always a pang of missing out, no matter how cool a trip I’m on, or how much fun I’m having somewhere else. In spite of the mind-blowing food, I think it’s really the company and the cadence of a regular check-in among friends, that makes these dinners so special. Wednesday mornings, I’m already looking forward to the next Tuesday. Huge thanks to Smarty for making it happen, keeping it going, and bringing us all together.
With the 2017 waterfowl season nearly upon us, Smarty needed to make space in his freezer. The solution? A 10-person wild duck dinner of (Russell) Chatham-esque proportions, featuring fresh Dungeness crab appetizers, wild rice, Helene Smart’s famous lemon-garlic-pine nut salad, and piles of whole-roasted, unstuffed mallards cooked exactly right–hot and fast. That’s the hunter/chef above, working the cutting board, and just a few of the ducks we consumed. (I eventually returned to the carcass pile to gnaw the chewy, flavorful legs.) I ate until I could eat no more, but woke up the next morning already craving the fresh version that’s soon to come. Clearing out the freezer is tough work, but someone had to make the sacrifice and help. And I did more than my share.You’re welcome, Smarty.