Talking Shop

  
  

For those of you that haven’t gathered, I like fish.  I like to eat fish.  I especially enjoy selling fish.  I call myself a fishmonger.

I created a fresh fish buying club within my small land-locked community where grocery store fish just isn’t great.  Under the guidance of my boss and mentor, Matthew Rubiner, I strung together ideas and plans to transport some gorgeous fish from Portland, Maine every week.  Being a cheeseshop, we were worried about space and issues of scales on the cheeses or ‘fishy’ odors.  I am proud to say that the fish I bring in is so fresh that only the scent of the fresh and briny sea is noticeable.  As for the scales, they tend to fly about and end up in funny places..

Just like any other source of food, I need to know where it comes from.  I spend countless hours on computers, phones, and in books reading up on species, fishing methods and responsible seafood.  I know that this wild food is in jeopardy and precautions and measures need to be taken on my end to ensure safe, responsible and honest product.

I won a grant in 2010 to head up to Maine and spend 2 weeks learning and seeing where my fish came from and really gather some of the knowledge and skills to be a fishmonger.  I’ll be sharing my experience in the days to come.

It’s late now, tomorrow is Friday.  I have Mackerel to gut,  Striper Bass to fillet, Cod to bone, Diver Scallops to divide up and Oysters to shuck in our adjoining cafe.

-Austin Banach, fishmonger

Diver Harvested Scallops

Diver Scallop season is just starting in Maine.  Scuba divers risk extremely frigid waters for these gems.  After eating these throughout last season, I won’t eat any other Scallop besides these- it’s worth the wait.  Their sweet, crisp, creamy and elegant flesh is amazing raw or the simply seared in olive oil.

Here’s the method I use for Diver Scallops:

Pan-Seared Diver Scallops

Fish Library:  Scallops, Diver

Maine Pink Shrimp

Wild Maine Pink Shrimp are in season December through March or April.  These Shrimp are responsibly harvested using a Nordmore grid net which eliminates by catch and smaller immature shrimp.

Sucking the petite, sweet and delicate meats and briny roe from the shells should be done in an informal (or even private) setting.  Fry whole in olive oil and garlic and serve with pasta or a salad for a simple meal.  Poach last minute in an aromatic broth or soup for a stunning presentation.

Read the full Species profile at the Fish Library here.

Reflection: Mangalitsa

Today I reflected upon a past experience in Branchville, NJ about 4 years ago and a special breed of hog.  I left the entry just as it was written in a previous blog- a reflection of my writing as well.

It all started from a call from an old chef buddy of my boss’s:

“Hey I’m going down to New Jersey to bring back a Mangalitsa pig, thought you might be interested..send one of your guys”

On February 16-18 2010, I took part in Pigstock 2010 hosted at Mosefund Farm in Branchville, NJ.

 Who: A group of chefs, journalists, photographers, “foodies”

What: A 3 day Class in the slaughtereing/ preparing of organs/ and seam butchery of the Mangalitsa Pig taught by Cristoph and Isabell Wiesner of Austria.

When: February 16-18 2010

Where: Mosefund Farm Branchville, NJ

Why: Showcasing this heritage breed being introduced to America.

The Mangalitsa (aka Mangalita, Mangalica) Hog originated in Austria/ Hungary. This breed is bred and known for its extreme fat content. Basically it is a chef’s/ butcher’s dream. Pig Porn. 

Over the intense weekend I slaughtered the pigs, ate everything form the snout to tail, learned seam butchery (a method of cutting individual muscles) and met some amazing people.

I brought back 1/2 of pig. I sold the fresh meat in our store, rendered lard, and collaborated on a tasting menu my friend’s restaurant (Nudel).

This event changed my life. I can easily say that i’ve worked this hard in my field to achieve and attend such event. 

Beyond Four Fish

Paul Greenberg writes in his book, ‘Four Fish’– “Out of all the many mammals that roamed the earth, our forebears selected four- cows, pigs, sheep, and goats- to be their principal meats.  Out of all the many birds, humans chose four- chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese.  In the center of the seafood section four varieties of fish consistently appeared and had little to do with the waters adjacent to the market in question: salmon, sea bass, cod, and tuna.”  In a common market/ super market consumers know these types of fish as just flesh rather than the actual animal as a whole (similarly to most other land meat).  Even worse, some markets or restaurants are substituting one species for another and giving it one of the four common names.  Part of my job as a fishmonger is to open doors to new species and new ideas in selecting fish.  Persuading those so comfortable of these four fish to something more adventurous and perhaps more responsible is very rewarding.

Welcome

Here it finally is!  After much tinkering and procrastination, my blog finally is growing legs (or fins) and is ready to start streaming.  For those of you who don’t know me, read my bio.  I’m using my blog for a few things:

  1. Highlight my experiences and findings in a journal style approach (isn’t this what most blogs do?)
  2. Use this space as a reference and portfolio to friends, family, and clients.
  3. Just to have fun.

While my current focus and passion is all things seafood, I am obsessed and driven to anything food related.  Here I will share my food adventures (mainly focusing on fish) from spending time on Mussel rafts in Maine, packing Caviar at Browne Trading, a day at Rubiner’s/rubi’s (my full-time job),  attending various photo shoots and events through Culture or just foraging for wild mushrooms on a day off.