The annual influx of prized — and pricey — Copper River salmon from Alaska commenced today when Alaska Airlines landed at Seattle Tacoma International Airport with 22,000 pounds of fish. And that’s just the beginning.
Every year, Alaska Airlines holds a cooking competition at Sea-Tac with the ceremonial first fish, which is carted off the airplane by the pilot in front of a cheering crowd. This year’s cook-off pitted John Sundstrom (Lark), Stuart Lane (Spinasse and Artusi), and David Yeo (Wild Ginger) against each other. Sundstrom’s dish was deemed the crowd favorite.
It’s all one big show for what is said to be the best salmon in the world. At $50 to $60 a pound retail, and between $30 to $60 a plate at a restaurant (with sockeye being cheaper than king), diners plunk down some big bucks for this stuff.
Several elements are said to contribute to the fish's outstanding taste. The fishers and processors, in an effort to preserve quality, instituted careful handling practices for netted fish. The environment plays an important factor, too: The Copper River where the fish spawn is nearly 300 miles long and replete with challenges like extremely cold glacier-fed water and numerous rapids. The fish pack on the pounds to make the journey.
Copper River salmon are brightly hued and fattier than your average salmon. And the Copper River is the first wild Alaskan salmon fishery to open each year, adding to the excitement.
Starting today and continuing into the next week or so, the salmon will be for sale at local grocery stores and at Pike Place Market. See what all the hype is about at dozens of local restaurants, including Elliott’s Oyster House; Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar; Ray’s Boathouse; Wild Ginger; Lark; Spinasse and Artusi; Salt and Iron; Ivar’s Acres of Clams, Salmon House, and Mukilteo Landing; and more.
Know of other restaurants serving coveted Copper River salmon? Drop a note in the comments.