Monthly Archives: March 2011

Behind the Scenes at the International Boston Seafood Show

Recently Sarah and three colleagues from Quality Seafood Market attended the International Boston Seafood Show – the largest seafood trade show in North America. The exhibition hall was filled with 1700 vendor booths, all pushing their product or service. Here’s a list of some of Sarah’s favorite sites, flavors, and other experiences from Boston, Mass…

  1. CleanFish’s Amazone Paiche – This freshwater fish is native to the Amazon River. The wild populations are suffering from overfishing, but CleanFish has a more sustainable farm-raised product. Paiche actually has lungs and surfaces for air. Fish or mammal? Friend or food? Who cares! It’s delicious.

    Amazone Paiche

    Paiche fillet

  2. Ballard Fish and Oyster Co. – No picture for this one. But pictures of raw oysters rarely do the bivalves justice. This shellfish purveyor had a raw bar set up in the exhibition hall where you could sample their Cheriton oysters and Littleneck clams. Highly recommended if you’re in Cheriton, VA and have access to these.
  3. The Shrimpster – Sadly, this chopper was not for sale. Sarah’s boss attempted to take a photo of Sarah next to the bike, but she was too tall to fit in the frame.

    Wanna ride my Shrimpster?

  4. Loch Duart’s Kiln-roasted Salmon – The best smoked salmon we sampled at the entire show, and quite possibly the best smoked salmon Sarah’s ever sampled. Yes folks, you need to buy some.

    Kiln-Roasted Salmon

  5. Pearl Reef Gulf Coast Oysters – Each pint of shucked oysters comes with a real live-cultured pearl. How cool is that? Eat enough oysters and you’ve got a necklace!

    Pearl Reef Gulf Coast Oysters

  6. Giacomo’s Fried Calamari with “Hot Peppers”– We waited almost an hour outside Giacomo’s Ristorante (355 Hanover St Boston, MA), but as soon as we sank our teeth into this appetizer any lingering impatience was swept away. When Sarah asked the waitress what kind of peppers were served with the squid, she bluntly replied “hot ones.” The homemade marinara was heavenly, the staff all spoke to each other in Italian, and a “glass” of red wine would qualify as a half bottle in other establishments. Two words: go there.

    Fried calamari at Giacomo's Ristorante in the North End

  7. Raw bar at the historic Union Street Oyster House – How neat to get to visit the oldest operating restaurant in America! You’d expect it to be cheesy (it wasn’t) and touristy (it sorta was), but the ambiance, the food, and the service were out of this world. A must visit.

    The Union Street Oyster Bar

In addition to touring the floor, the Quality Seafood team also attended several educational seminars designed for industry professionals. You can read a recap of the panel “Restoring Consumer Confidence in Gulf Seafood” on the Quality Seafood Market blog.

 

The Quality Seafood Market delegation: Sarah Harper, Tom Cantu, Lee Chandler, and Carol Huntsberger with rep from Pacific Seafood Group

 

 

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Amateur Hour: Homemade Bread

We’ve discovered that, once mastered, the art of making bread is infinitely more cost-effective and more scrumptious than purchasing it (even from a reputable local bakery). As you might have guessed…it’s the “mastered” part that’s the most difficult to achieve. Sure anyone can combine flour, yeast, and water to create dough, but only truly experienced bakers can create perfect loaves – with hard crusty exteriors, good “crumb,” and soft velvety interiors, free of air pockets. We are at a slight disadvantage, being that we do not possess a convection oven or even better, a wood burning oven. Even with a pizza stone, a spray bottle and a cast iron skillet filled with water to create steam, we’re hard-pressed to create a crust worthy of a photograph for this blog. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy these photos of the kneading and rising processes, and we welcome any bread baking, crust-making wisdom that you have to offer. Feel free to use the “comments” section to share tips.

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Bella Storia, or How a Cat Came to Love Two Dog People

For nearly a month, a tabby cat has been hanging around outside our apartment, meowing for attention. She wasn’t afraid to come right up to a complete stranger and solicit their attention. This forward behavior took us by surprise, and quite frankly, scared the living daylights out of Sarah for the first few weeks. Neither of us are “cat people” (i.e., we’ve always had dogs). Sarah was even afraid of them. Something in the silent independence of a cat is unpredictable – not to mention the whole nocturnal thing. So at first, when this very social cat would approach Sarah, she would hustle into the apartment as quickly as possible, fearing the worst – a bite or a scratch – which she now knows to be utterly ridiculous.

One evening, we were in the car port brewing beer, and this cat peeked her head around the corner. She meowed, and headed straight for Sarah. Christian tried to calm Sarah, assuring her that this cat had approached him before and that she was very sweet. Frozen solid, Sarah didn’t move as the cat came closer. To her surprise, the cat brushed up against her leg and nuzzled her soft head on top of Sarah’s foot. The cat meowed and looked straight up at her. Maybe cats weren’t so scary after all. Maybe this cat just wanted a friend…someone to pet her and hold her in their arms. No sooner had the thought entered Sarah’s mind when the cat jumped into Christian’s arms, nestled in, and began to purr loudly. Clearly, this cat was in the market for love and affection.

It took a few days before the cat worked up the courage to follow us into the apartment, and she hasn’t left since. We named her Barley. (We had been brewing beer on the night we met her, and since our neighbors are Barley & Pfeiffer Architects, it seemed appropriate). Soon after, we learned from our friend Lynne Connellee that Barley was actually named “Bella” and that she was supposed to be staying with our neighbors whose two cats and one dog weren’t very welcoming to their feline house guest. So Bella sought out a new home while her real parents were away on business in Madrid  (they return in June).

We are so happy to welcome Bella. She loves to perch herself in the window sills, soaking up the cool breeze, and she’s already claimed Bruce’s spot on the bed at night. At first Sarah was a little uncomfortable with Bella occupying what had been Bruce’s sleeping place, but perhaps Bruce may be showing us, through Bella, that he’s still here. 

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A soirée at Asia Café

Last Sunday we were on the hunt for some BBQ but ended up having a Chinese brunch at Asia Café. Random yes, sad no. JR’s Texas-Style BBQ was closed for the weekend, and Franklin BBQ was swarmed with hipsters in town for SXSW. Not wanting to settle for ordinary BBQ just to satiate the palate, we turned to our trusty copy of Austin Monthly, which recently published a story on Cheap Eats in Austin. The article raved about the Szechuan-style chicken in chili oil and black bean sauce at Asia Café. So we jumped in our trusty VW and headed north.

The dining room at Asia Café was massive, with a menu to match. There were nearly 1,000 items numbered, and we were convinced that 3/4 of the people sitting in the dining room weren’t even ordering off the menu. We kept glancing at people next to us who had ordered scrumptious-looking steamed buns and fried rice cakes, but to our dismay, neither was listed on the menu. Clearly, these people were pros. Once we reached the front of the line, we told the cashier we would like to order the Szechuan-style chicken (we too were beginning to feel like pros, as this dish wasn’t listed on the menu either). To our dismay, the cashier just gave us a blank stare and said, “we don’t serve Szechuan-style chicken.” Huh? We mentioned the article we had read and how the reviewers had raved about the chili oil and the black bean sauce. We must have this chicken! The cashier wouldn’t budge. She pointed to a menu of approximately 40 daily specials that the cafe was “known for.” Unwilling to play her game, we orderd off the menu: no. 775 (spicy green pork), boiled dumplings, and a bowl of homemade sweetened soy milk (only available on weekends). All this for just $17.

As we waited for our food to arrive, Christian noticed that the runners were calling out ticket numbers in Mandarin first, then in English; clearly, this place was “legit,” he proclaimed. Our disappointment over the Szechuan chicken quickly faded after our meal arrived. The spicy green pork was flavored with green chilis, scallions, and snap peas, and it had just the right amount of heat. The dumplings were quite possibly the most tender we’ve ever tasted, and Sarah thoroughly enjoyed sipping her soy milk from a bowl – something she’s not allowed to do at home. The sweet, nutty taste helped wash away any inkling of sadness that this did not turn into a BBQ Sunday. Clearly, Asia Café could compete with the best of Texas cuisine.

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Afternoon delight: agua fresca de sandía

Here’s a step-by-step process for making agua fresca de sandía (aka, watermelon juice). Buy personal watermelon at HEB or other reputable grocery store. Take watermelon home. Cut in half. Submit to the unmerciful powers of the Breville Juice Fountain Elite (you may also use a blender and a fine mesh sieve, although this is technically considered a less “ruthless” way to make juice). Pour over ice. Add a squeeze of lime juice. Enjoy a refreshing cup of afternoon delight.

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