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WHIDBEY ISLAND'S
MUSSLE BEACH:
Drooling over
Penn Cove Mussles

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- by Cap't Dave

Like Southern California, Whidbey Island has it's own "Mussel Beach".- Except without the weight-lifters and hoards of skinny girls in bikinis. (Girls, these are the kind of mussels you eat, not just look at.)

Penn Cove on Whidbey Island is home to Americas oldest and largest commercial mussel farm. After the long cool winter, locals claim these delectable blueish mollusks are at the peak of perfection in early March. They are actually great tasting all year round, but special attention is given in their honor to mark the beginning of the visitor season.

Each year in early March, the Penn Cove Mussel Festival is hosted in the town of Coupeville along the south shore of Penn Cove. This charming colorful little historic village is adorned with boutiques, galleries and classic B&Bs. "It's a perfect setting for a culinary event such as this" says Lisa Susan who is the Executive Director for the Central Whidbey Chamber of Commerce. Nearly 3,000 people attended last year's two day long festival. With chowder tasting, mussel eating competitions, boat rides to the Mussel Farm, and activities for all ages, this year promises to be filled with brilliant culinary delights and locally flavored fun.

This year according to Lisa, they are also adding a bonus event called "A Taste of the Cove" on the Friday night before the festival. Local restaurants will feature music, beer, brats and of course a taste of the famous Penn Cove Mussels for which all this hoopla is about.

What do mussels taste like? Mussels have a very unique flavor that is sites on the culinary palette somewhat between a clam and an oyster. They are typically steamed with garlic, parsley, onion and spices, and often added to seafood stews and pasta dishes. (A popular chef's secret is to steam mussels in white wine). To dine on fresh mussels in Coupeville is like going to Bordeaux, France for a wine tasting. Only here is where you will meet the the real mussel experts, so bring your recipe note books and taste buds, but leave the bikini at home.

The Penn Cove Mussel Festival is held on the first weekend of March each year. For more information, see ThePennCoveMusselFestival.com or call the Central Whidbey Chamber of Commerce at (360) 678-5434.

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