Submitted by megan on Fri, 05/29/2009 - 21:31
I have a new love and it is fish.
Buying fish has always kind of scared me. It's complicated, what you should and shouldn't buy, ethically and for health reasons. And yes I know, I could print off one of those cards and carry it around but things seem to change an awful lot which is really just an excuse for I haven't and I know myself enough to know I won't.*
And now I don't have to.
Because here is the Sustainable Oyster & Fish Supply Store. It's the supply house for the Whalesbone Oyster House on Bank Street. I've never eaten there, though Michael and I did have a gossipy glass of wine there once.
I was walking home up Kent, a way I normally don't walk and I don't know why I was. But there was this Whalesbone sign. It didn't look like a restaurant. Did they...? Was it...?
There was a flyer in the door.
They did open a wholesale place, and it was occasionally open to the public. What did they have? They have fish and oysters, select fish and oysters, caught in sustainable ways.
Last week, Shelley and I walked in. There's a small open space, with counters to your left and right. No fish anywhere. We looked to one counter, looked to each other. Looked back. I had the thought to flee in the face of not knowing what to do.
"You're here to shop?" the man behind the counter on the left asked.
"Yes?" we both said.
"Well! You shop in the fridge!" He gestured grandly behind him at the claw handle in the white door on the white wall between the shelving units.
And you do. You go into the fridge, you say "I would like that kind, please" and they grab a big piece of it, plap it on the cutting board on the left hand counter, and you say "I would like that much please." And they cut it with their very sharp knives and they take maybe some extra bones out and they talk to you lovingly about how you should cook it to bring out the flavour.
They love working there.
Today I bought my second piece. Last week was a nice piece of Lake Erie pickerel. I pan fried it, added a little pepper, not much else. It didn't really taste like much, strangely, but the texture. Man. I'm not much of a texture person - it has to be something for me to notice, either way, and this was something. It had heft and bite, a bit of squeak. My mouth was entirely happy.
Thank you, fish.
I decided to do something fancier tonight. Since I was staying in all night, I knew I could take my time. I blanched some rapini, made some quinoa, sliced some red onions, chopped some garlic. I poached the troll-caught wild alaskan salmon in some of the broth I made last night, I sauted the rapini in olive oil, garlic and red chili peppers.
It was fucking amazing. The bitter greens stood up to the very dense salmon, the chilis gave everything a bit of a bite, a different zip from the liberal sprinkling of pepper on the fish. The stock gave every bite a faint fennel scent. The quinoa gave some spring to everything.
Thank you, Whalesbone.
I am never buying fish anywhere else again. Most definitely not from the Hartman's with their oft-unanswered fish phone and their fish-stinking stinky fish and their employees who look bored to damn death of fish. It may be slightly more expensive at WB, but not by much, and it is a couple of dollars well spent.
You know what they're also doing at Whalesbone Supply? They've ripped up a third of the parking lot and they're putting in a garden to supply the restaurant. You should walk by before they put the fence up, not long after they plant on Sunday. The rows of black earth are beautiful.
*Also I know I could be a vegetarian. I think it's a great choice to make, and I have been one and I enjoyed it. I still eat mostly vegetarian food. But I am not one anymore, by conscious decision, so I try to eat meat consciously too.