Journalists, we all know, may be trusted implicitly in all things, but in two things in particular: food and liquor.
This is especially true of British journalists who, as well all know, are even more above-board than we American sorts. So, when the managing editor of the Daily Astorian recommended a particular fish restaurant to us in his home town, there was little choice but to have dinner there.
Patrick Webb is a Brit who somehow landed at this wee paper at the mouth of the Columbia River. We met at a newspaper conference in Tacoma and, as we were headed to Astoria the next day, inquired of the food. Perhaps not surprisingly, he suggested the only English-style fish and chips pub.
As it happened, Mickey Cox, our B&B hostess (a nice lady in her late 60s or early 70s) confirmed Patrick’s suggestion of the Ship Inn down on the water next to the trolley. Off we went.
We dropped Patrick’s name with the waitress, who confirmed that he’s a fan of the scallops. This did not, however, get us a free or discounted meal. (It’s OK, Patrick, you’d have the same experience using my name in Idaho Falls. On second thought, using my name might get you tossed right out.)
I ordered my pint o’ Guinness (one does not eat fish and chips with anything but Guinness), and was disappointed that it didn’t come with a clover carved into the foam. (Patrick, they do this for me at my pub in Idaho.) This being the Oregon coast, I got the breaded oysters and Kathleen played it safe with the halibut. A half-order each (see, Patrick, not all Americans are gluttons).
But first, a cup o’ the chowder. (This is where my eyes roll back in my head, the spectacular salty-creamy taste of the chowder still fresh in my mind.) If not for Mickey’s spectacular and filling breakfast of apple German pancakes, fruit and sausage the next morning, we’d have headed back to the Ship Inn for another cup before heading southward down the coast.
Long story short, dinner was delicious and was followed by a stroll down the trolley track (there were no tragic collisions, the trolley having retired for the evening).
The next morning there was coffee on the Astoria Inn's porch overlooking the cargo ships on the Columbia River as a soaking rain fell and the sea lions barked away (as they had all night) We made a couple of obligatory stops the next morning -- the Goonies house (look it up), a local shop for smoked salmon, the Columbian Café (for cayenne and jalapeno jellies). Before leaving Mickey's place, however, she pulled out a bottle of her son's pinot noir, suggesting it would go well with our smoked salmon that evening. Much more of that and she's going to seriously eat into what must already be modest profits. (Mickey, it seems, was taken with my knowledgeable and passionate monologue on fine cigars and good whiskey -- bad habits I share with her son.)
Despite our Cadillac sharing a B&B parking lot with a Lincoln Continental and a Towne Car, Astoria is not just a town for old farts -- there seemed to be a fair share of perfectly harmless but dangerous looking young people rambling around with unwashed hair and jeans. We’d have stayed longer, but the clarion call of the Oregon coast was too much to bear. And there were the reservations in Depoe Bay that we couldn’t cancel. And, Mickey, the pinot was the perfect pairing.