Dish of the Week
Crispy Skin Striped Bass with Tapenade, Tomato Relish & Mediterranean Vegetables
Mike the fish guy is what you’d call a raconteur. A charmer and a storyteller with a hint of malarkey in his smile. He’s one of the few purveyors I’ve ever seen Chef stop work to spend time with ~ the genuine hospitality in his voice can lift your whole day. Sure, he’s selling fish, that’s what he does, extremely well as it turns out. But this lovely man’s personality flows from a interest in people, in being connected to them.
Ryan’s known Mike for 18 years, and he’s been supplying Barndiva with much of it’s fish since we opened ~ we made the switch with him when he moved to Aloha from Royal Hawaiian. If you don’t live by the sea or have fishermen stopping by the back door, as we used to daily, you need a good fishmonger more than they need you.
But as we’ve grappled with ~ and shared with our customers ~ questions of sustainability that bump up against the wide range of what's available and tastes the best, Mike has happily gone along for the ride. He’s never given up trying to convince us to buy farmed fish, going so far as to put together a Clean Fish seminar here at Barndiva a while back, open to any local chefs who wanted to attend. He put himself out for that knowing, going in, he probably wouldn’t convert us to farmed. But as long as we had questions, he wanted to try and answer them.
On Friday Mike bounced through the kitchen and caught Chef and I talking in the office, which led to a riff of funny fish stories, one after another, that ended with him cajoling Ryan into frying up a striped bass he'd brought for us to try. It was farmed not far from Sacramento. Ryan obliged, in part because he’s been dreaming of crispy skin fish of late and wanted to taste through a presentation using tapenade and a medley of Mediterranean vegetables. He had the idea to use thin discs of watermelon radish as a foil for the fish and olives, heirloom cherry tomatoes, baby artichoke hearts, squash, minced carrots and confit garlic. Lots of rich, competing flavors which frequent bites of cooling radish helping to differentiate them.
Alas, though the dish was a success, when we put it on the menu later this week it will not be with the farmed bass. Chef will go in search of something wild that will deliver crispy skin without sacrificing a sweet flesh that holds its texture, which the farmed bass did not. Eric and the staff, who tasted the dish with us, said it reminded them of bottom feeders, like catfish. Fish like that need a heavy crust to offset the hint of muddiness that comes in the finish. Sorry Mike. But come back soon. We miss you already.
And on the home front...Goldie delivers!
More newborn news this week with pictures of the day-old chicks born to Goldie, Lukka and Daniel's favorite hen. What with their Mule Foot pigs, trapping wild boar, starting a huge new garden and documenting every apple tree up on the farm, these guys are on a roll.
All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales (unless otherwise noted.)