By Rebecca Cahilly
City & Shore Magazine
Sustainability is a word on the tongues of most foodies, chefs, restaurateurs and publicity teams these days, but the concept is not new. (It was set in motion by the 1976 Magnuson-Stevens Act of Congress that began regulating marine fisheries operating in U.S. waters). While fish from Florida waters may be preferred for the localvores, sustainability means never over-fishing one area. Those chefs who wish to remain true to sourcing local simply offer a menu that changes with the day’s catch.
Down to the Sea in Sniffs: The freshest seafood? A chef follows his nose
It’s 10 a.m. on a Tuesday morning and Chef Aaron Black of PB Catch Seafood & Raw Bar has stopped by his favorite purveyor – Cod & Capers Seafood on Federal Highway in North Palm Beach – to check out the day’s catch.
“Come see what we’ve got for you today, Aaron!” The woman behind the counter smiles as she motions to the neat rows of stone crab claws, shrimp, snapper, tilefish, grouper, pompano, lionfish, scallops and a bin of glistening Venus clams.
As PB Catch’s Chef de Cuisine, Black surveys the fresh catch here on a regular basis. He knows many of his customers are oyster aficionados, and he delights taking them through “flights” of shellfish, from local and international sources.
“You have to have a good relationship with a good seafood purveyor because everything comes in randomly,” he says, focusing in this day on the bin of clams just in from the west coast. Nothing beats seeing – and smelling – the offerings in person on a regular basis.
“Smell this,” he enthuses, holding up a single Royal Red shrimp. There’s almost no smell, really; just a slightly sweet, briny whiff. “These guys are so deep in the ocean they have infrared eyes,” he explains. “They have a high fat content and almost taste like lobster. I love to use them when I make sauces.”
His menu changes each day and reflects what is the most fresh and inspiring, such as today’s find.
A favorite provisioner for chefs like Black, Cod & Capers has a wholesale market and a fleet of refrigerated trucks that deliver to seafood restaurants from Vero Beach to Miami. Former commercial fisherman Stephen Gyland opened the popular seafood market over 30 years ago, and it now offers an on-site café serving lunch and dinner.
Passionate about sustainability, Gyland does most of the buying himself from suppliers throughout the world. He says he loves working with chefs like Black who appreciate the efforts of sustainable sourcing. He never tires of seeing a chef inspired by a great catch.
Black, now inspecting the tilefish – a deepwater fish whose meat is light and flaky – breaks his focus on the display case to make a point about sustainability. “The consumer has to ask about the origin [of his seafood],” he says, Otherwise, “nothing will change,” and suppliers could get away with overfishing.
He makes a note to check back in about the Hamachi, arriving from Japan, and then turns to head back to the restaurant to start planning his menu. He’s smiling as he leaves, but a little distant, lost in thought.
“I’m [just] excited,” he explains, “about those Venus clams I’m getting tomorrow.”
PB Catch, 251 Sunrise Ave.,
Palm Beach, 561-655-5558, pbcatch.com
Cod & Capers Seafood,1201 U.S. Highway One, North Palm Beach, 561-622-0963, codandcapers.com
Some of the ways South Florida seafood restaurants source their seafood
15th Street Fisheries
1900 SE 15th St., Fort Lauderdale
At 15th Street Fisheries in Fort Lauderdale, North Star Seafood of Pompano Beach supplies Executive Chef Ulises Mar with fresh Florida stone crabs, red and yellow tail snapper, mahi-mahi, black grouper and swordfish, all caught locally. “The black grouper, for instance, is one of the most popular dishes we serve,” he says, “and its integrity as a fish caught in local waters, just off our shore, makes it truly exceptional. Our guests rave about it.”
Burlock Coast Seafare
and Spirits 1 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd.,
“Local sourcing in all things is a core component of the Burlock Coast Seafood & Spirits concept,” says Chef de Cuisine Gavin Pera of the new restaurant, in the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale. “That includes fruit, vegetables, artisanal goods and proteins, especially fish. There are select local purveyors we use; some of them service the best restaurants in town, including Burlock, and a few are specialty ‘sourcers’ we found as we did our homework. Not only do they offer us what is fresh and in season – much of it caught that very day and driven to our back door – but we can also ask them to keep us in mind when a particular fish is in abundance.”
Lobster Bar Sea Grille
450 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
On Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, Lobster Bar Sea Grille does not source all of its seafood locally, but it puts great effort to source the very best and keep it fresh. “We are dedicated to quality ingredients, says Pano Karatassos Founder and CEO of Lobster Bar’s parent group, Buckhead Life Restaurant Group. “We aim for our fish to go from the water to your plate within 48 hours. When this fish comes in via refrigerated truck, we immediately store it in a 27-degree cooler with humidity control. We keep the fish in a pristine state until it gets to your plate the same day.”
Lobster Bar Chef Jeff Pfeiffer works with a team of suppliers and fishmongers, each responsible for a particular area and type of seafood. From Conrad Esser on the West coast, who sources wild New Zealand John Dory, tai snapper, golden snapper and oysters; to Stephen Garza in Sebastian, Fla., who brings “the best local oysters and clams I’ve ever had,” Chef Pfeiffer says organizing the daily shipments is well worth the effort.
“When you have the best ingredients you don’t need to cover anything up,” Karatassos says. Each fish, he adds, is timed and monitored for freshness with a cake tester. “If you go through the trouble to bring the fish in and don’t go through the trouble to [keep and] cook it right, what’s the point?”
The Rusty Hook Tavern
125 N. Riverside Dr., Pompano Beach
The Rusty Hook Tavern in Pompano Beach, with its 360-feet of free dockage, has a “you catch it, we cook it” policy for any fresh-caught fish brought to the restaurant. The charming waterfront eatery’s new “Florida’s Daily Catch” section of the menu features 12 local seafood favorites, from yellowtail snapper, black grouper, wahoo and mahi to Florida lobster, pompano and swordfish. Patrons are presented with a selection of 3-7 fish from this list, depending on the day’s catch. The fish are prepared seared or broiled with a choice of lemon caper sauce or tomato chermoula. When they run out, that’s it.
“We use two vendors for our daily deliveries,” says Proprietor Andy Patton, the third of a trio that includes Chef and Proprietor Nader “Ned” Jaouhar and Proprietor Kareem Lakchria, who met while working under Gordon Ramsay at the Boca Raton Resort restaurant Cielo. “We also use a couple of local commercial fishermen that will call us while they are still out on the water and let us know what they have for that day.”
3030 Ocean/Sea Level Restaurant and Ocean Bar Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa
3030 Holiday Dr., Fort Lauderdale
The fishermen must have a few chefs on speed dial, as Executive Chef Adrienne Grenier of 3030 Ocean at the Marriott Harbor Beach says that her reps text her with info on the daily catches as well. “They literally text me photos of the fish and I ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ them,” she says. “I use this information to plan my menu, put in my order and then hours later the fish is in my kitchen getting prepared.”
At Sea Level, another seafood-inspired restaurant situated on the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa property, Executive Chef Jason Connelly is experimenting with several initiatives wherein he can not only source local seafood, but trace its origins. “As the guest, you can know when your fish was caught, where it was caught, the name of the boat that caught your fish, the name of the captain of that particular boat, and in which manner your fish was caught,” he says. “We prefer ‘line caught’ to ‘net caught,’ which puts stress on the fish. I’m currently working with a few fisheries here in Florida with this initiative as well as in Boston and Southern California. We’re very excited about this.”
1555 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale
The “Hook to Table” menu at the recently opened Boatyard in Fort Lauderdale emphasizes simply grilled seafood, which diners can customize with a selection of sauces, from lemon herb vinaigrette to caper basil tomato brown butter. Boatyard offers a daily seacuterie plate with smoked and house-cured seafood, while a roving shellfish cart brings the raw bar to each table. “We are in constant contact with our fish mongers to check what’s been productive and what is coming to the dock,” says Executive Chef Peter Boulukos. “Fishing can change daily, so having a great partnership with our suppliers is extremely important.”