|St. John's, Newfoundland
| November 2002 |
After meeting over 30 producers in Halifax the previous
days, it was a welcome change to be on a drive to the
mussel farm located on a picturesque cove. It's easy to
see how someone could still enjoy the hard work involved
with harvesting these mussels considering the magnificent
surroundings. After the tour, the owners were pleased
to steam up a large bowl of their harvest for us to sample
and as you can imagine, they were delicious. What a breakfast!
And it was off to the airport.
St. John's is the oldest city in North America. On the
ride from the airport to the lovely Fairmont Hotel, you
couldn't help but gape at the stately mansions built by
wealthy sea captains in days of yore. The view from my
room was spectacular, overlooking the sheltered deep-water
harbor of St. Johns. The warm gulf-stream waters merge
with the cold Labrador Current off the coast and provide
for some of the riches feeding grounds in the world for
countless species of fish and crustaceans.
Our most congenial host from Chicago's Canadian consulate,
Cathy Cameron hustled us off to a briefing with Derek,
Sean, and Michael from the Department of Fisheries and
Aquaculture. We prepared for the following days meetings
and met later for a walk down Water Street to the historic
harbor and yet another amazing meal.
I have got to say, the cuisine reminded me a lot of the
coastal inns and pubs in Ireland. Everything is locally
harvested from land and sea and prepared very simply.
Sounds like a lot of mission statements from menus prepared
by media relation firms, but all the meals we enjoyed
here were just marvelous.
Nicely smoked trout (Labrador steelhead), simple dishes
of steamed haddock or cod, and of course, plump lobsters,
fresh from the sea. Snow crab, oysters, mussels, cold-water
shrimps (Pandalus Borealis), rich brothy paella, scallops,
mackerel, and on and on. It just kept getting better and
better. It's certainly worth mention that the Alberta
beef was also excellent. It is raised naturally with no
growth hormones and was offered widely throughout the
island. Personally, I was most interested in the supplies
of Labrador steelhead trout, arctic char, mari-cultured
halibut, and "ranched" cod.
Cod is being raised from the juvenile stage and grown
in pens six to twelve miles off the coast. All the aquacultured
feed is produced on island from shrimps, mackerel, herring,
and squid. A far cry from the "trout chow" used in inland
fresh water operations. In many cases, the farmed Atlantic
salmon receives the same high quality diet.
All the products we sampled at various meals were prepared
from fish still in rigor, and were wonderful. We even
had some of the cod prepared sashimi style and it was
unbelievable. And talk about fresh halibut! In season,
I sell the Alaskan product like everybody else, but you
can simply not get it anywhere as fresh as this product,
which in most cases was brought in that morning.
We started the day with a ride up Signal Hill where Marconi
received his first radio transmission from London. This
historic spot with its ancient battlement overlooking
Cape Spear is the eastern most point of land in North
America. Cavernous openings through the misted cloud cover
invited expansive curtains of sunshine onto the cobalt
sea, spotlighting a homebound fishing vessel. It took
my breath away.
Although I expect a similar sensation upon my return to
my wife Stephanie in Chicago, I won't have another chance
to witness such dramatic beauty for some time...
I have met with over forty-five producers in three days
of intense discussion. It will take a little while to
digest all the information, but I am excited about the
many new opportunities. The overall message I got from
these fine people was that in today's fledgling economy
it was high time to consider bypassing the broker/distribution
channels traditionally used in Boston and New York City.
It was agreed that cutting out this huge middle market
culture could be a very good thing for them as well as
end-users west of New England.
So whether your needs are procuring larger amounts of
crabmeat (Jonah, snow, rock), cold-water shrimp, lobster
meat, etc…or a couple of boxes of lobster and a mixed
bag of shellfish, my goal is to increase the bottom line
(substantially) of all parties concerned.
After all, wouldn't it be nice to deal with fishermen
who pull alongside icebergs so they can chop off what
they consider to be "the world's finest drinking water"?
And remember, in a couple of years when you sit down at
your favorite neighborhood sushi bar and the chef recommends
propeller clams, you heard it here first. Better yet…beat
them to it and stay ahead of the trends. Dulse anyone?
Written By Bill Dugan-owner/operator of Superior
Ocean Produce and the Fishguy Market, both located in
Chicago. He is also the outside sales representative for
the unique line of SeaTech products produced in Chile,
Argentina, and China. He serves on the board of advisors
for the culinary arts program at Robert Morris College.
Contact-email: [email protected]
Phone-1-888-FISHGUY or 1-773-283-8400
What did you think of this article? Email
us your feedback