Snuggled amongst the cedars at the end of Washington’s Long Beach peninsula sits the Moby Dick Hotel and Oyster Farm. Overlooking Willapa Bay, this century old inn blends the congenial warmth and funky personality of a first rate bed and breakfast with the amenities often found in a larger hotel.
Innkeeper Nancy Corbitt meets you at the door with a big smile, welcoming you and giving you the tour. From the comfy, inviting living rooms complete with a wide selection of books, movies and board games, to a swing through the tiny bustling kitchen, it’s clear from the start that Nancy has been captured by the eclectic charm of the inn and her love for it is contagious.
Built in 1929, the Moby Dick Hotel has a long history of serving visitors to Oysterville, Nahcotta, and the rest of the peninsula. “The Moby” as the locals call it, also has a history of serving its country, housing the U.S. Coast Guard Horse Patrol during World War II.
Breakfast at the Moby is an event, beginning with a steaming plate of plump oysters, harvested fresh from Willapa Bay, just a few steps behind the hotel. Lightly sautéed with herbs fresh from the landscaped organic garden, the oysters are served at their briny perfection.
Following these are fresh local fruits, rich coffee, and a choice of the traditional bacon and eggs entree or the daily experimentations of Chef Jeff McMahon. Jeff has been performing his magic in the Moby’s kitchen since April 2000, and was Chef at the Saucebox and Café when it was named the Oregonian’s Restaurant of the Year in 1998. His goat-cheese frittata is heavenly!
If you’re lucky, you might have the chance to meet long time friends of the hotel, Larry Warnberg and his wife Sandy, who own and operate the oyster farm just up the road. Larry was kind enough to take me out at low tide and show me the ropes, or in this case the stakes, of raising the succulent pacific oyster.
An outspoken advocate of non-chemical oyster farming, Larry is considered the local authority and driving force in keeping Willapa Bay pristine and pollutant free. What did I learn from an afternoon of prying the tasty bi-valves from their watery beds? It’s hard work! I think, in the future, I’ll let Larry and Sandy fight the knee-deep mud of the oyster fields while I cruise up to their roadside stand, buy my oysters fresh, and clean from the comfort of dry land!
(By the way, the Moby Dick Oyster Farm uses the same chemical-free methods of farming for the oysters harvested just behind the hotel.)
For those seeking more relaxing endeavors, try a hike through the towering forests and along the unspoiled beaches of Ledbetter State Park, walk hand-in-hand through historic Oysterville, slipping back a century in time, or stay right at home and enjoy a decadent hour in the hotel’s Japanese-style dry sauna, under a covered deck overlooking the bay.
Whatever you choose, be sure to work up an appetite, dinners are an extravaganza at the Moby Dick Restaurant! The dining room, with comfortable seating for up to thirty, is often reserved well in advance, and understandably so! Starting with a salad of pan-fried oysters on a bed of fresh spinach and red onion, then, pausing only to loosen my belt, I moved on to the entrée; roasted leg of lamb with romesco, herbed potatoes, and green beans.
The lamb was tender and delicately seasoned, the potatoes and beans prepared exquisitely, and the portions were such that I was provided with lunch for my trip to the beach the following day. As I watched other patrons enjoying the various menu options, the rolling of eyes and groans of pleasure were universal. Dinner was topped off with a generous pecan-caramel tart with vanilla bean ice cream. So much for my diet!
The rest of the evening was spent lounging comfortably on a plush couch in front of the fireplace, reading a paperback volume of, what else? Moby Dick!
Guests’ comfort reigns supreme here, from the plush terry-cloth robes in your closet, to the heavy white mugs of hot chocolate brought to your room by Nancy, before you retire for the evening. Of the eight beautifully decorated rooms, I chose the Safari. Snug and quirky, the bed was deep and soft and the view of the bay at sunrise breathtaking.
There is, of course, a copy of Melville’s classic is every room.
For rates and reservations call the Moby Dick Hotel & Oyster Farm at 360-665-4543, or you may also email innkeeper Nancy Corbitt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recipes: Steaming Oysters “At the Moby Dick Hotel, we steam almost all of our oysters,” says Chef Jeff McMahon, “it’s a simple process that gives a delicious oyster which can be used in countless ways.”
Place fresh, washed, live oysters in a large stockpot. Add 1″ of water. Place on the stove, cover and turn on high. Check after 10 -12 minutes. Carefully remove the cover, watching out for the released steam. Check to see if the oysters are beginning to crack open at the end opposite the hinge.
As soon as they are starting to open. Place them in a large colander in the sink and run cold water on them to stop the cooking. Shuck them when cool using an oyster knife and gloves. Rinse them well and store in the refrigerator.
Steamed oysters will keep for 3 – 4 days. (Use them in soups or salads. Coat them in panko and fry them in butter and olive oil. Add them to seafood stews. Serve them in a curried cream. Add them to a frittata or Spanish tortilla. Serve them for breakfast. You get the idea!)
Breakfast Oysters at the Moby Dick Hotel 3 Tbls unsalted butter
2 dozen fresh oysters, steamed and shucked
juice of 1 lemon
Salt to taste
Italian parsley, freshly chopped(or other garden herbs such as savory or chervil, maybe a little cayenne)
This is simple and perfect for the morning. Just melt the butter in a sauté pan and add the oysters. Warm them through. Squeeze the lemon juice right into pan. Add a little chopped parsley. Taste and add salt if you like
(Usually the oysters are just right without any additional seasoning).
Saffron-Pernod Cream Soup with Oysters 2 C white wine
1 C Pernod
1 Tbls saffron threads
2 Tbls butter
2 leeks, cut in half and very thinly sliced across the grain.
1 clove garlic, finely minced
3 C heavy cream
1 C clam juice (or fish stock)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Poached or steamed oysters
Italian parsley, freshly chopped
Measure out the wine/pernod and put in the saffron to soak. Melt the butter in a pan that is a little too big (to help prevent cream from boiling over). Sweat the leeks and garlic without coloring them.
When the vegetables are very soft, turn off the heat, pour in the wine/pernod/saffron.
Turn up the heat and reduce by 75%. Add in the cream and the clam juice. Gently bring to a boil and then simmer for about 1/2 hour, stirring and watching the pot. (The cream will try to boil over as soon as you stop watching it.)
When the soup is a nice consistency, season with salt and black pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Warm some oysters in the soup and garnish with chopped parsley.
- This article was the 52 Perfect Days 2008 Travel Writing Contest 3rd PLACE WINNER
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