Though the cooking technique dates back countless centuries to natives of the Pacific Northwest, here in latter day America, cedar plank salmon has largely become the provenance of upscale dining venues.
But don’t tell that to Flamin’ Salmon, a casual fired fish specialist serving Oceanside, Poway, and Hillcrest farmers markets. In what may be the best use of a market stall in the county, Flamin’ Salmon sets up a custom grill, where long strips of fileted salmon are staked to cedar planks that lean against one another to make an A-frame, allowing the fish to rest at an angle over the top of an open flame.
In the case of my Sunday visit to Hillcrest, the salmon was cooking over a flame of birch, though sometimes it’s avocado wood, and most often, oak. Regardless the fuel, the fiery rig proves an appetizing sight, defying passersby to not want a taste of that wild caught, Alaskan coho salmon.
You may order it a la carte if you like: four ounces go for $12, on up to eight ounces for $20. Tacos start at $6 apiece. But the better deal is to order the salmon with side of salad and either rice, potatoes, spaghetti noodles, or eggs and bacon: four ounces plus sides go for $16, on up to eight ounces plus sides for $22.
Having snacked around the market already, I just wanted a taste and opted for a $10 order featuring 2.5 ounces of fish over the pasta, tossed with garlic, oil, and parmesan.
It’s pretty simple stuff, offered with a side of herbed sour cream or honey mustard, but it wants for nothing. The fish pulls light flavor from a paprika and sea salt glaze, and of course the wood. But for the most part you get a delicate taste of salmon, flaking beautifully from its deliberate preparation, with succulence to spare.
The garlicky pasta paired perfectly, though I suppose the rice and/or leafy salad options would make this among the healthiest meals available at a farmers market. Either way it has to be counted among the best.