June 26, 2013

Soup to Nuts: 'Freshest fish' closer than you might think

A couple of Portland businesses – Salt and Sea and Eat Local Fish – have adapted the CSA concept for the waterfront, selling just-off-the-boat seafood directly to you.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - Summer's the time that I like moving from chowders to fish cooked on the grill. It's a light meal, and combined with vegetables from the farmers market, you just can't go wrong.

click image to enlarge

Allyson Jordan on Holyoke Wharf in Portland with the F/V Jamie & Ashley, one of two fishing boats her family owns. The other is the F/V Theresa & Allyson.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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A delivery from Salt and Sea will contain “whatever’s freshest off the boats,” says owner Justine Simon.

Courtesy photo by Michael Ferry and Kelsey Kobik/Salt and Sea

Additional Photos Below

So my ears perked up recently at a dinner I attended during the Kennebunkport Festival when the topic of fresh fish came up in the conversation. A couple at my table, Burgess and Georgette Nichols of Quincy, Mass., raved about some fresh-off-the-boat Atlantic pollock and Acadian redfish they'd bought in Portland during one of their monthly trips up to Maine.

It was, Burgess Nichols said, "the freshest fish we've ever eaten."

When it comes to seafood, Portlanders have their secret sources -- a favorite, trusted fishmonger who sells them local mussels or clams, or a lobsterman they can meet at the dock when he motors in after a long day on the water. But when it comes to groundfish, things get a little tricky.

Don't get me wrong. I'm sure the haddock you buy at one of our local fish markets is, in most cases, relatively fresh. We do, after all, live right on the coast. But wouldn't it be nice to know for sure that your fish filets hadn't been languishing in the case for several days? And wouldn't it be nice to know that you don't have to settle for that previously frozen foreign product found in a lot of grocery stores?

Well, it turns out there are a couple of direct-sales options for fish right here in Portland. These two companies may be competitors, but their businesses work in two entirely different ways, so you can pick whichever method works best for you.

The Nicholses bought their fish from Allyson Jordan, owner of two fishing boats and a side business called Eat Local Fish (eatlocalfish.com). Jordan sells her fish online or over the phone, by the pound, and she'll personally deliver it right to your doorstep.

"Ninety-two percent of our seafood is imported in this country, from countries that have little or no regulations," Jordan said during an interview at Becky's Diner last week. "Another thing is, if you buy frozen-at-sea products, it can be thawed and frozen up to three times before you get it to your table, which is really gross because you don't know what chemicals they're using to freeze it."


The other buy-direct option is Salt and Sea (saltandsea.me), which is more of a traditional community-supported fishery that is less than a year old. Salt and Sea is similar to Port Clyde Fresh Catch, the popular midcoast CSF that has gotten nationwide attention but does not deliver to the Portland area. With this option, you pay upfront for several weeks' worth of deliveries, and pick up the fish yourself at one of several drop-off points.

Salt and Sea, started by Justine Simon and her fishing family, works with a handful of local fishing boats.

"We work with the fishermen," she said. "What we offer that day is whatever's freshest off the boats, so people don't get to select what kind of fish they're getting. That enables us to get whatever's freshest, but also, like in a vegetable CSA where your vegetable horizons are expanded, it lets people try fish that they might not necessarily buy themselves."

Allyson Jordan sells fish from her family's two boats, the F/V Theresa & Allyson and F/V Jamie & Ashley. Yes, that first boat is named after her -- and Theresa is her 70-year-old mother. "It was the last groundfish boat built in Maine at Washburn & Doughty (in East Boothbay)," Jordan said.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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A day’s catch bound for Eat Local Fish customers is off-loaded on the Portland waterfront.

Courtesy of Allyson Jordan/Eat Local Fish

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Eat Local Fish operations manager Allyson Jordan plans to focus her efforts this summer touting some lesser-known species, such as redfish.

Courtesy of Allyson Jordan/Eat Local Fish


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