Archive for March, 2011

We were casting about the other day for a new place to celebrate a special occasion. Truth be told (and to hell with modesty), we have better food at home than most local restaurants can offer, and at less expense. I get cranky if at the end of an evening we’ve spent the equivalent of our waitress’ entire night’s earnings on mediocre food. What I do appreciate are restaurants that serve dishes that surprise me, with tastes I don’t regularly experience and ingredients that aren’t yet in my cupboard. Friday afternoon tamales at El Puente, for example. Or Hong Thanh, with their Bo Sot Toi (sauteed filet minon with garlic and pepper sauce over watercress) and Goi Cai Xanh (mustard green salad with shrimp). Since I don’t have my own hearth fired oven, I also love to sit with Bill at the chef’s table at Judy’s on Cherry, noshing on her delectable hearth-fired-crunchy-chewy-oven-baked bread.

The occasion–Bill’s birthday–was worthy of a stretch, so we looked farther afield than usual, scrolling through menus online at various places in Philadelphia. I couldn’t help noticing that certain restaurants featured a type of salmon by name. Every once in a while, you run into a menu that names the baby greens, preciously announcing that they came from Mr. McGregor’s secret garden on Nantucket, or some such nonsense. Or it might give the nationality, if you will, like “New Zealand lamb” or “Maryland crab cakes.” But not a name; not in my circles, at any rate. Except for Loch Duart salmon.

Salmon was my entree of choice until I learned that I could buy this stuff right here at Go Fish! in West Reading. I like to broil it, pulling it out while it’s still on the rare side. Or not. Loch Duart salmon makes exquisite sashimi.

First, Keith scales the mighty fish.

Here’s the deal with salmon: it’s endangered in the wild, so most Atlantic salmon sold commercially is farm raised. In 1999, salmon farming exceeded, weight-wise, the world’s entire wild catch, and has done so every subsequent year.

The problem with fish farming (aka aquaculture) is that most aquaculture systems result in ecological destruction. Each pound of farmed salmon requires about three pounds of wild fish as fishmeal, for a net loss of marine resources. And since farmed salmon are typically kept in crowded net pens where they are prone to disease, most fish farmers use pesticides and antibiotics that eventually end up in the environment.

Aquaculture is also a solution. It can take some of the pressure off wild salmon populations, but it must be done responsibly, in ways that are economically and environmentally sustainable.

The salmon I buy at GoFish! is flown in fresh daily from Loch Duart, Scotland. It is not organic, but it is sustainably raised and, hands down, the most delicious salmon ever. Unlike other fish farms (including many “sustainable” operations), at Loch Duart, each of the company’s nine sea loch sites is fallowed for a complete year in every three. Year-long fallowing with low density stocking gives the fish space to grow; one hopes they’re happy as well. The feeding regimen (no GMO food, growth promoters or antibiotics) mimics the irregular patterns of fish in the natural environment.

Expensive? Yes–$15.99/lb–but worth every penny. King salmon from New Zealand is currently $18.99, but expected to climb to the high $20s by late spring. Incidentally, we ended up going to a Portuguese place in Northern Liberties, the funky, newly hip section of northeast Philly. It was fun to go out. Lots of pork, seafood and potatoes with interesting spice mixtures. I would never order salmon, not when I can get the best there is right here in River City.

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