The story resonated with me. I had experienced a similar food letdown while climbing Mt. Rainier. A package of ramen at 11,000 feet hardly seemed like the right way—nutritionally or spiritually—to prepare for the summit. So I signed on, joining ranks with a few other hand-picked recruits: Eric Rivera, a young and wildly ambitious sous chef at Blueacre Seafood; Jennifer Adler, a kelp-eating kayaker, teacher, and sought-after nutritionist; and Scott Heimendinger, the mad scientist in the group, aka Seattle Food Geek, who would be an aide-de-camp to Eric.
We spent three days in an out of the way corner of the San Juan Islands, foraging, frolicking, and camping on a hidden, cliff-lined beach in preparation for the Big Meal that would take place on the final day. The foraging wasn't always literal—notably that bottle of Glen Livet found in Edmond's duffel that produced a late night '80s singalong by the fire (sadly not captured on film). But by and large, the ingredients for our meal came either from the woods and surf right outside our tents, or else—as in the case of some delicious free range duck eggs—from locally produced sources nearby.
That meal is etched into my memory along with a few other all-time favorites that transcend the idea of dinner. Part of it was the atmosphere. We ate on the beach at a table fashioned by Scott from found driftwood, with kelp candle holders made by Jennifer, and the fickle San Juan weather gods smiling sunshine on us despite ominous weather reports. Eric pulled off an epic 10-course extravaganza that combined local and foraged foods with his madcap imagination and a fitting sense of the absurd.
Riffing on our location, Eric, with help from Scott and Jennifer, produced dishes like Angry Crab (Dungeness crab claws mounded up as if ready to strike and bathed in a spicy red sauce), High Tide (you can see my version here), Low Tide (manila clams plated on edible sand made from Redhook malt), and a creative take on Pasta Carbonara using squares of kelp frond as the "pasta," the aforementioned duck eggs cooked sous vide, and morel mushrooms poached in locally cured bacon fat. The entire meal was cooked on the beach over a campfire. Shortly afterward, not surprisingly, Eric got lured away by Chicago's renowned Alinea.
The videos for this adventure in foraging and food were professionally shot and edited by a film team from Austin. You can watch them here.