Canada's Eastern Provinces (Part 2)
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.
Phone-1-888-FISHGUY or 1-773-283-8400