Seattle's Top Seafood

5 Seafood Shopping Tips

How to bring home the best possible salmon, oysters, and other local seafood.

By Allecia Vermillion January 23, 2013 Published in the February 2013 issue of Seattle Met

Image: Michael Byers

1. Chat Up the Fishmonger
The person who’s selling your fish is selling a perishable product that’s going bad by the minute. His object is to try to sell the oldest piece of fish first. I don’t go into a seafood market with a dish set in stone; you let the seafood market dictate what you’re going to cook. Be open minded; a great piece of petrale might be better than a crappy piece of Dover sole. If you don’t know, ask the person, “What is the freshest piece of fish you have here? What would you eat?” Nine times out of 10 you’ll disarm them. —Kevin Davis, chef, Blueacre and Steelhead Diner, elder statesman of Seattle seafood sourcing

2. Trust Your Nose
Fresh just means “not frozen.” Something could be two weeks old and be fresh. Just not good fresh. Your eyes and your nose are probably the best tools. Smell the fish, though a lot of times that’s not even necessary because the fish will have a bright, fresh look to it. People talk about looking at the fish’s eyeballs, but people don’t really buy whole fish anymore. —Jon Speltz, co-owner, Wild Salmon Seafood Market, Fishermen’s Terminal institution

3. Buy Domestic
Most of the worst problems with overfishing or antibiotic use are from imported sources. You cut out a lot of the worst problems by making sure fish were caught in U.S. waters. Our environmental standards are higher and our fisheries management is more on top of things. We still have Alaska as our last wonderful example of how to manage fisheries. Once you’re aware, you can buy fish at Costco, or anywhere, as long as you look for things like Alaskan king salmon or Oregon pink shrimp. If you’re going to PCC, you can buy anything they have there; you don’t have to look at the label. Or buy from a fisherman at the farmers market. Don’t outsource your knowledge of seafood. —Becky Selengut, chef, instructor, salty-mouthed author of the Good Fish cookbook

4. Rethink Farmed Salmon. Really.
There’s a new project going on that’s farming coho salmon from Washington. It’s called SweetSpring and it’s getting the super thumbs up. It has a super green rating from Monterey Bay Aquarium. It’s upending everything we think we know. The bottom line is whether in Seattle they’re ever going to be accepted because farmed salmon has such a stigma. SweetSpring people are the type of people who are really aggressively looking for solutions so we don’t have to rely on our wild stock. —Seth Caswell, former chef, Emmer and Rye, sustainability pacesetter

5. Read the Label
When buying oysters, ask to see the shipping tag. Stores don’t always display these tags, but they have to have them and they have to show them to you. You can look and see when the oysters were harvested so you know how fresh they are. Once you do that bit of work, a good oyster feels heavy in the shell. They’re fresh and plump and have been eating well. —Jon Rowley, marketing guru for Taylor Shellfish Farms, shellfish czar at large


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