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Oakroom hosting rare Copper River salmon dinner June 10

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Bobby Benjamin, chef de cuisine, The Oakroom. (Click to enlarge)

Think you know what salmon tastes like?

No, I’m not talking about the Dreamsicle-orange stuff you got from the supermarket, I’m talking about the real deal, the nearly red-fleshed, wild-caught sockeye from Alaska’s Copper River.

Ever had that kind?

Likely not, which is why the Copper River Salmon dinner at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, June 10, at The Oakroom will be such a rare treat.

Here’s why this is such a big deal.

Since it’s caught in the wild, its diet was shellfish and any interesting riverbed vegetation, not soy-corn balls that are fed to farm-raised salmon. Plus, the sockeye will only be available for a few weeks this summer.

Oakroom Chef de Cuisine Bobby Benjamin explains the Copper River beast this way: “Its natural fat is distributed throughout the muscle like good marbling is distributed through a dry-aged rib-eye steak.” The result, he added, “is tremendous flavor and texture, much cleaner than what most people are used to. It’s a true salmon flavor you get from fish that are larger and more mature than most of what’s now called ‘wild-caught now.’ ”

But there’s more: Salmon caught on the Copper swim 300 miles and 1,000 feet up in elevation to their spawning grounds, presenting an enormously varied eco-buffet that influences those fishes’ flavor. I’ve also been told by folks in the fish trade that the icy cold waters from the Alaskan snow melt-off makes the meat more tender.

Benjamin, an admitted non-fan of salmon, says he loves Copper River sockeye and thinks you will, too.

“Salmon has become the green beans of protein, partly because farm raising takes so much flavor out of it,” he said. “The whole idea of terroir in wine is what’s behind Copper River salmon. Everything that’s in that river influences the way that fish tastes. It’s the only kind I like.”

Still not convinced? Then check out the menu created by Benjamin and wine-paired by and sommelier Julie DeFriend:

First course: salmon tartare with Ikura wild roe, crème fraiche panna cotta and Fiedler Farms prosciutto served with R. Stuart & Co. “Big Fire” Rosé (Oregon, 2010)

Second course: salmon ceviche with cucumber slaw, coconut broth, cashew and opal basil served with L’Ecole “Walla Voila” Chenin Blanc (Columbia Valley, Washington, 2009)

Third course: salmon seared with Israeli cous cous, golden raisin, house-made bacon and pickled ramps served with King’s Ridge Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, Oregon, 2009)

Fourth course: “Sense of Place” dessert of Lambchopper cheese (sheep’s milk) and wild berry bacon jam served with Edmunds Saint John “Wylie Fenaughty” Syrah, El Dorado, 1997

Price for the fish feast is $89 per person—all inclusive—the deal of the week in town.

So stop drooling and start dialing to get your seat by calling Julie DeFriend at 643-0046, or Jennifer Biesel at 585-9292. You also can reserve your table online by clicking here.

The Oakroom is in the Seelbach Hotel at Fourth Street and Muhammad Ali Blvd.

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