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Jenise

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I am local fish retailer Enemy No. 1

by Jenise » Wed Apr 16, 2014 8:23 pm

At least, at one end of town.

Just got off the phone from telling a brand new, native-owned fish market how NOT to sell fish. Stopped in there yesterday for the first time. Felt good about giving a native-owned store some business. Asked for a pound of the halibut after determining that their name for it "Halibut Fletch" only referred to a cutting technique. A 'fletch' is apparently one half of one filet, when a large filet is divided in two longways along the spine. The girl who helped me asked if I wanted my piece from the head or tail end. Head. She carried the piece to a cutting table at which her body was between me and the scale. While I glanced at the freezer cases to see what else they had around, she announced that "It's over by an ounce, is that okay?" Sure.

Only when I got home and unwrapped it did I realize that there was one question she DIDN'T ask: how many pieces she could carve off to make up my "about a pound". Here's what I got:

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This follows by about two weeks another experience at another local store with a fresh fish counter. I was buying salmon to prepare for a wedding. It was a Thursday and I was on the fence about buying it that day (convenient, I was there) or the next (possibly fresher). I needed 24 hours in which to cure it so Friday was ideal, it's just that going out on Friday to buy it wasn't.

"When did this fish come in?," I asked the young blonde girl I'd never seen there before.
"I think it was last Saturday," she offered, "but it might have been Monday." Remember, this conversation is taking place the following Thursday.
"YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING," I said, obviously disgusted. "I was under the impression that you get deliveries Mondays and Wednesdays."
"We do," said a placating male voice to my right, another meat department employee who had just wandered up, "and this is probably Wednesday's. Looks pretty fresh to me."
"I'm curing raw fish," I explained sternly, "and I can't go on looks. If you can't guarantee me that that's Wednesday's fish, I can't buy it."

I turned to leave. Before I got to the door, though, I saw the brand new store manager. So I decided to dump my story on him. I did so along with the news that his store has been something of a joke to locals ever since it opened for exactly this sort of thing. This wasn't the first, the second or even the fifth time I'd gone in there for something and ended up having to go to another store because they couldn't supply something fairly basic. "Well, she's only been here about a month," he said, in the girl's defense. To which I replied that in that case she'd been working there 29 days longer than she should have without grasping that there is nothing more important about fish than freshness, and I would not risk buying fish there again. Scary.

Harrumph.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Howie Hart

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Re: I am local fish retailer Enemy No. 1

by Howie Hart » Wed Apr 16, 2014 9:38 pm

Time to head out to the back yard with a rod & reel. ;)
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Jenise

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Re: I am local fish retailer Enemy No. 1

by Jenise » Wed Apr 16, 2014 9:54 pm

Howie Hart wrote:Time to head out to the back yard with a rod & reel. ;)


Howie, I realize you're joking but sadly, no fish there; not any more. Have seen a big difference even in the ten years we've lived here.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Carl Eppig

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Re: I am local fish retailer Enemy No. 1

by Carl Eppig » Thu Apr 17, 2014 12:33 pm

We are very fortunately to have a wonderful fish monger just down the road. They only sell fresh wild caught products both fin and shellfish. The only frozen product is their "chowder fish" that is simply wonderful for $3.75 a lb. We have use a lot of it and never been skunked. The sell lobster rolls for $6.95 that are as good as we've ever had. When we ask for something that the usually sell that is not in the case, they will call us when it gets in. They don't open until noon so they have a chance to clean out the old stuff and restock the new. I have snuck in early to get chowder fish, and found that cleaning out the old stuff involves all the ice that it was on, and hosing down the whole cabinet to insure nothing bad lingers.
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Mark Lipton

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Re: I am local fish retailer Enemy No. 1

by Mark Lipton » Thu Apr 17, 2014 2:15 pm

Wow, Jenise, there's just no excuse for that as close to the sea as you are. I'm used to this sort of cluelessness living as far inland as I do, which is why we now only buy our fish mail order from Alaska (flash frozen, but still far better than what we can get locally). And then, of course, there's whole issue of mislabeling of fish (both as wild-caught and as species)...

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Jenise

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Re: I am local fish retailer Enemy No. 1

by Jenise » Thu Apr 17, 2014 3:23 pm

Mark, I know. Seafood in this town really is problematic--when we moved here I thought we'd be eating a lot more fish, but it hasn't worked out that way. We only have one source that we trust, a barn in the countryside who buys direct from the native fishermen, and even then the only local catch is halibut, salmon and a type of cod we don't care for and only from April to September. We otherwise buy fresh in Seattle or do without.

Carl, you're so lucky!!!!
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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GeoCWeyer

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Re: I am local fish retailer Enemy No. 1

by GeoCWeyer » Thu Apr 17, 2014 9:20 pm

Here in the middle of the country I am known to be a "high maintenance" fresh fish customer. Since the Chesapeake did have is no longer with us we don't have anything around that likes scraps so I have the fish monger trim them for me. It is at times also a test for me to see if the shop knows what it is doing. When I go into the city to my favorite shop that is not a problem. In fact I even taught the guys something. When wanting salmon to cure I have them not only skin the filet but also remove all the grey flesh. The removal of the grey flesh before curing about doubles the palatable shelf life of the cured fish. At the other places asking them even to skin a fish is a joke. They have no idea how to handle fish. When I ask about whether the side muscles are still on the scallops they give me a puzzled look. I can understand it about seafood but how can any Minnesotan not be able to readily skin a filet.
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Dale Williams

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Re: I am local fish retailer Enemy No. 1

by Dale Williams » Thu Apr 17, 2014 11:29 pm

Unbelievable, sorry for you Jenise.
We're blessed to have lots of good options. We don't have a truly local seafood market anymore, but have very good but extremely expensive market in Eastchester (20 minutes) and extremely good and medium expensive in Mt Kisco (30 minutes), which we mostly visit for specialized orders or if in neighborhood.
But I mostly get fish from an Asian (cash only) market in White Plains. Generally about 15 options for whole fish on ice, plus clams, oysters, heads, etc. that you can pick yourself. Behind counter they have maybe 20 fish in filets, steaks, etc plus the squid, pulpo, conch, etc.
Then next most frequent is an HMart (Korean superstore), with huge # of choices , on ice or live in tanks(including abalone). Much of staff doesn't speak English, so they have cleaning by number (#1 is guts and gills removed & scaled or whatever, #2 is Asian style steaks, # 3 filets, etc).
Then Stew Leonards, whatever they have on sale moves very quickly (especially when they have $4 lobster).
Even my local Stop and Shop sounds better than Jenise's stores
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Jenise

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Re: I am local fish retailer Enemy No. 1

by Jenise » Fri Apr 18, 2014 8:04 pm

Asian markets are a wonderful source for seafood, Dale. You're so lucky you to have options nearby--obviously, we don't. But hey, abalone! Must be pricey, even if it comes from Asia (which it probably does). IIRC, they're so slow growing that it takes about three years or so to get a harvestable size, and even then it's small and nothing like the wild treasures of my pre-ban Southern California childhood.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Lou Kessler

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Re: I am local fish retailer Enemy No. 1

by Lou Kessler » Fri Apr 18, 2014 9:04 pm

Jenise wrote:Asian markets are a wonderful source for seafood, Dale. You're so lucky you to have options nearby--obviously, we don't. But hey, abalone! Must be pricey, even if it comes from Asia (which it probably does). IIRC, they're so slow growing that it takes about three years or so to get a harvestable size, and even then it's small and nothing like the wild treasures of my pre-ban Southern California childhood.

From junior high school age till 20years ago lived in SO CA most of those years in reasonable proximity to the beach. Did a great deal of diving for fish, lobster, and abalone in the local waters. Saved the large abalone shells, cleaned and shellacked them up a bit and gave them away to friends who in those days used them primarily as ash trays.We knew all the good beaches to dive at from La Jolla to 20 miles north of Malibu, plus many good days at Catalina. :D All those areas now are pretty much fished out, and have been for a long time. What a shame. :(
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Bill Spohn

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Re: I am local fish retailer Enemy No. 1

by Bill Spohn » Sun Apr 20, 2014 8:28 pm

Just an aside on words.

You have a fish monger (I guess if he sold eels he might be a 'conger monger'. You have a rumour monger. You have a coster monger (fruit seller). Ironmonger. War monger. Fear monger. Hate monger. Power monger. Can't think of any others off hand. Anyone else?

Seems to be politics or food for the most part.

And yes, sellers of fish that don't know if it is fresh are unfortunate.
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David M. Bueker

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Re: I am local fish retailer Enemy No. 1

by David M. Bueker » Sun Apr 20, 2014 9:04 pm

We have one really good place for fresh fish nearby. Sadly it is run by an #^%+}^{€.
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Mike Filigenzi

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Re: I am local fish retailer Enemy No. 1

by Mike Filigenzi » Mon Apr 21, 2014 1:40 am

I guess we're lucky here. We have a first rate fish market about a mile from the house (although their selection is usually pretty limited). Then there's Taylor's Market around the corner from our house, where they know their fish and will never sell you anything that's not in excellent shape (although you'll pay for the privilege). There are also a number of Asian markets a bit farther away which have very good fish at very good prices (although you need to be careful in what you pick out).
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Tom Troiano

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Re: I am local fish retailer Enemy No. 1

by Tom Troiano » Mon Apr 21, 2014 2:10 pm

Dale Williams wrote: Then next most frequent is an HMart (Korean superstore), with huge # of choices


Dale, I have an HMart close by to my house but the place makes me very nervous/uncomfortable. I'm not sure why. Have you always had good experiences with freshness?
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Bill Spohn

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Re: I am local fish retailer Enemy No. 1

by Bill Spohn » Mon Apr 21, 2014 2:16 pm

The other fishy thing that gives me the willies is prepackaged supermarket sushi......Noooooooooo......
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Mark Lipton

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Re: I am local fish retailer Enemy No. 1

by Mark Lipton » Mon Apr 21, 2014 2:33 pm

Bill Spohn wrote:Just an aside on words.

You have a fish monger (I guess if he sold eels he might be a 'conger monger'. You have a rumour monger. You have a coster monger (fruit seller). Ironmonger. War monger. Fear monger. Hate monger. Power monger. Can't think of any others off hand. Anyone else?

Seems to be politics or food for the most part.

And yes, sellers of fish that don't know if it is fresh are unfortunate.


Bill, don't forget Emily Weissman, your friendly Winemonger. :D

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Jenise

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Re: I am local fish retailer Enemy No. 1

by Jenise » Mon Apr 21, 2014 2:57 pm

Mark Lipton wrote:
Bill Spohn wrote:Just an aside on words.

You have a fish monger (I guess if he sold eels he might be a 'conger monger'. You have a rumour monger. You have a coster monger (fruit seller). Ironmonger. War monger. Fear monger. Hate monger. Power monger. Can't think of any others off hand. Anyone else?

Seems to be politics or food for the most part.

And yes, sellers of fish that don't know if it is fresh are unfortunate.


Bill, don't forget Emily Weissman, your friendly Winemonger. :D

Mark Lipton


When I lived in England I collected a list of mongers, I found the name so charming. There was a version of 'monger' applied to the electrical/lamp store I went to to buy plugs for my appliances, but I can't recall the name.

Oh, and there are book mongers.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Dale Williams

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Re: I am local fish retailer Enemy No. 1

by Dale Williams » Mon Apr 21, 2014 3:08 pm

As Mike alludes in his response, the Asian markets (including HMart) tend to be very good- for the careful buyer. If buying whole fish, I check the eyes and the gills. I've had good luck with pre-filleted fish at HMart, but have no hesitation re asking to smell if filets look the least bit questionable. And in tanks I point out the lively fish or lobster I want.
Jenise, the HMart usually has both farmed (I think $3 each) and caught ($10-12 IIRC) abalone. I've never bought, but should try soon (as an East Coaster I'll have to look up prep)

When they renovated my local supermarket, they restored seafood dept (for a couple years previously just had packaged filets that I think butcher put in a case). Young careful guy managing there, and I sometimes buy fish there, though not my preferred destination. When I get littlenecks he checks every one (and throws in a couple for luck). But when he wasn't there, replacement checked clams, but then tried to put in a plastic bag till I stopped him. Even worse, I once got squid that smelled when I opened (I returned). So it can be who is on duty.

At non specialty markets, it is often wise to buy what is the advertised special is as it's likely to move faster IMO.
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Rahsaan

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Re: I am local fish retailer Enemy No. 1

by Rahsaan » Mon Apr 21, 2014 5:58 pm

Initially I was worried about what our move to Chapel Hill, NC would mean for fish/seafood, because Nyc obviously had access to the top quality stuff but the options are more limited down here. Plus Chapel Hill is a bit inland and we much prefer ocean fish to river fish.

But, despite our diminished array of choices, there is an excellent fish shop that is only open 3 days a week (Thurs, Fri, Sat). The owner goes to the coast on Wed, gets all sorts of stuff, and brings it back to sell on Thurs/Fri/Sat. The quality of all sorts of fish, scallops, crab, shrimp has been excellent and I not only can't complain, I am very very happy.

All is well!
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Jenise

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Re: I am local fish retailer Enemy No. 1

by Jenise » Mon Apr 21, 2014 8:42 pm

Rahsaan wrote:But, despite our diminished array of choices, there is an excellent fish shop that is only open 3 days a week (Thurs, Fri, Sat). The owner goes to the coast on Wed, gets all sorts of stuff, and brings it back to sell on Thurs/Fri/Sat. The quality of all sorts of fish, scallops, crab, shrimp has been excellent and I not only can't complain, I am very very happy.

All is well!


Ah, you are to be envied! As is Robin, who sits in the middle of the country and seems to get the best from all of America's coasts.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Frank Deis

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Re: I am local fish retailer Enemy No. 1

by Frank Deis » Tue Apr 22, 2014 10:26 am

Tom Troiano -- the thing that makes me trust H Mart is their huge customer base of Koreans. They appear to be very fond of fish, and very fussy about quality and freshness. And not at all shy about complaining when there are problems. I had a friend who was complaining about buying "blackened catfish" in restaurants with a Cajun slant, saying "it's hardly ever really catfish". I told her, just go to H-Mart, you can pull on the whiskers and prove it's a catfish before you buy it and then cook it yourself! I generally am very happy with everything I buy at H Mart.

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