La Vie En Rose. This past week Scallop sales have soared, with the happy little creatures fanning out to restaurants all over the Puget Sound basin and making inroads into Portland and San Francisco. Our fingers are shredded from packing those spiny shells, the divers are tired, but diners are happy, and we seem to be keeping up. We are deeply grateful to all of you who make the scallop magic happen on the plate. You are our partners in making the scallop dream a reality and proving to the State that this fishery is a thing of value. We are now delivering scallops to Seattle three Days a week, Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Limited Finfish and some other product also available Saturday. Scallop orders may be e-mailed in up to 6:00am Saturday Mornings. This goes for tomorrow morning. We and Joe Stephens, our dive master will be at F2C2 at Bastyr University in Kenmore this coming Monday shucking scallops at the boozy post-session reception. Come say howdy!
Traffic to our website has exploded. We want to share this moment in the sun with you. We have installed a Pink Scallop tab on our website which leads to names, logos, photos and testimonials from serving restaurants. If you would like to be included, please send on your relevant information and we will be delighted to post it.
Scallop Trivia...You Asked, We Answer.
Pink Scallops are both similar to and different from other bivalves. This makes a difference in the water, in the walk-in and on the stove. Living as they do at depth, and being mobile, pink scallops cannot close their shells all the way, unlike clams, mussels and oysters. In fact, scallops propel themselves by compressing water in their mantle and firing it out the slit openings on either side of the hinge. Therefore, Scallops do not retain water like other shellfish species. For a clam to be dry and gaping in the bag is a problem. For an oyster it is a disaster. For a scallop, it is normal. A gaping scallop is not a dead scallop--if the scallop is dead you will know it, and you will have no desire to eat, cook or serve it. When cooked or cut open, the exuded liquor originated from the scallop tissue, not the water in the shell. This makes for an especially intense flavored broth or raw-eating experience. Scallops should be stored cool, not cold, and dark. Please avoid direct ice contact.
Most scallops are drag harvested and the muscle cut off the shell and away from the rest of the animal. This is partially because muscle-only scallops are and have been the industry norm for centuries, but also because of arcane FDA regulations governing where shellfish may be harvested--FDA allows an exception for muscle-only scallop harvest. In other, less government-heavy nations, like Red China, whole scallops are commonplace in the marketplace. In the good old US the only scallops available whole that we know of are ours and limited volumes of Eastern Bay Scallops.
Our pinks are exclusively dive harvested and can certainly be processed thusly, but that is to lose out on a truly unique taste experience. Pink Scallops layer the sweetness and sea-freshness of a scallop muscle with the depth and umami of a whole clam or oyster, as well as having the high tones of roe--they all have either an egg or milt sack to top it all.
Sharp-eyed customers have pointed out a few concerns with the shellfish tags requiring further explanation. First the dates. Many of you have asked why the shellfish tags declare the harvest dates as being as much as a month prior to shipment date. This is because the scallop harvest date is determined as being the day the scallops are plucked from the depths. We then bring them to our farm, immerse them in our water and hold them for a minimum of two weeks. This is a Health Department requirement based on the byzantine shellfish handling regulations, and is known as a shellfish relay. Relays are primarily used in placed like New Jersey to allow harvesters to dig clams in proximity to petrochemical plants and sewage outfalls, then transfer them to cleaner water before selling. In this case, it allows us to harvest scallops in some of the cleanest water in the world, then move them to some of the cleanest waters in the world before selling. On the positive side, it also allows us to run a battery of tests on the scallops to ensure their wholesomeness. Once the two weeks pass, we bag and sell as orders come in. The sale date is what goes on your tag as the shipping date. You receive the scallops the same day they are pulled from our water, which is at least two weeks after being plucked from their natal waters. While at our shellfish farm, the scallops eat swim and play, they are stimulated with pattern recognition and simple color games and are as comfortable as we can possibly make them.
We maintain a safe and challenging habitat for our scallops.
Wild VS Farm Scallops
Other alert customers have noticed that the scallops are declared to be "Farmed Product of the USA" on the back of our tags. This is because we are using our general, clam and oyster tags. We are currently working on printing scallop-specific tags that will reflect the complexities of a shellfish product that is wild-harvested, then held at Shoal Bay until shipment. So the scallops are certainly wild-harvested, from the tide swept passages of the San Juans, specifically Rosario Strait. But they could also fairly be called semi-domesticated based on their time in the habitrail and there is some very specific legal language relating to shellfish relays and claims of origin (This relates back to the New Jersey folk not wanting to talk about the sewage outfall). We are currently consulting with WDFW and DOH to make sure we don't cross up any bureaucratic trip-wires.
We like them raw, crudoed, ceviched, steamed, grilled and broiled. We like them in stock, stew, paella, and casseroles. We like them with rice, we like them with bread. We like them with wine, we like them with milk. We like them up, we like them down. We like them in a plane, we like them on a train. We like them at Terra Plata, we like them at L'Oursin we like them at Elliots. We just plain love pink scallops.
Go to the Dahlia. Go to the Dahlia.....
Crab Wind-Down, Price Wind Up.
On the Coast and on the Inside, our crabbers, treaty and non-treaty, are winding down one of the best volume harvests in history, though with lower prices, it has been a solid, but not be a banner year economically. On the inside, between tribal crabbers, state crabbers and sport crabbers total catch may be an all-time record at 14 million pounds. Tribal crabbers pull pots tomorrow in the last wide-open area for the season. They will be occupied with halibut and prawn fisheries for the next few months until the summer-season pop-openers commence in June, though with ongoing small openings and test fisheries for some of the lower-Sound tribes, we will have local crab for the duration. Puget Sound state licensed crabbers remain on the water until the end of the month.
On the Coast all sectors will continue banging away until September 15. The vast majority of the catch has been and gone at this point. On the coast the heavy hitters, or Cream Skimmers--ie, big boats that travel coast-wide chasing different fisheries-- have already moved on to herring, bottomfish or are taking a seasonal rest. The boats that remain in the fishery are the non-migratory variety, plus the tribal fleet. Prices are rising gently but steadily. During times of glut--defined as moments that prices fall below $3.50# to the boat, huge volumes of crab are cooked and frozen, to be sold either as "Whole cooks" or portions, or to be thawed and picked for crab meat. Almost all the picked crab meat on the market is actually frozen and slacked and picked to order. In this way crab processors can maintain a steady flow of picked meat. Now prices have risen, and the market is entirely focused on live crab, both domestic and for export.
This is where some of the better situated and capitalized crab brokers have their moment in the sun: Most crab brokers and small, turn-and-burn outfits. Crab are purchased, sorted, graded and sometimes claw-banded, then sold for a modest mark up-$.25-$.75#, generally. Our favorite Lummi crab buyer's motto is, "Don't let the sun rise on crab" meaning do what it takes to move all your crab, every single night. Profits are modest, but risks are low, and expenses are moderate.
A handful of operators have the ability to hold huge volumes of live crab. Most of these outfits also chill and direct-ship crab, meaning their average mark-up is more like $1-$2# . Puget Sound, with excellent water and access to airports and logistical chains is the national headquarters of this business, with crab coming from as far as California and Alaska to Puget Sound plants. Imagine filling a plant with 250,000# of $4.00 crab and holding them until they turn into $5.00 crab. Then you can fill your plant with $5.00 crab and hold them until they turn into $6.00 crab. And this is on top of the typical mark-up. To hold crab, however, is vastly more labor, and when things go bad they go bad in spectacular style. More than once we have been at the Skagit dump when literal dump-truck loads of dead crab have come in from one of the big-dog crab buyers in Anacortes. Still, when the call comes from Shanghai, or from LA, and you have the goods, and no-one else does......
Worth more each passing day.
When it comes to crab, we venture to boast that our live crab program is the best in the market. We get the pick of the litter from our Anacortes Crab Broker. Once pulled from the water they are at your door within hours, large, perky, angry and well-priced. Island Customers get crab direct from our tanks. Order with Confidence. We've got the goods.
Local Halibut--Hurry Up and Wait, or, All Baited Up and Nowhere to Go.
Greetings. Can you tell us where to find a Federal Judge?
Halibut officially opened on February 11 coastwide, but you wouldn't know it around here. We have begun trickling Alaska fish, and some Canadian product is going to hit this coming week. Northern-waters halibut is all well and good, but we have been a bit peckish around here. San Juans halibut is our glory, the best halibut in the world, one of the high points of our year, and the ongoing delay is getting old. Briefly, the wrangling between Coastal and Inside tribes has reached a fever pitch, almost to the point of a complete melt-down in relations. The Makah, Quileute and Quinalt are insisting on waiting for a fair weather window with low ocean swells, in the face of a continual string of weather fronts. Swells of more than 10ft makes the fishery dangerous and makes getting in and out of harbor very difficult. Based on a series of court decisions, the tribes are obligated to fish all together. Meanwhile, the tide series continue to cycle in and out of favorable conditions for longline fishing, which doesn't mean much on the Coast but is all-important on the Inside. Had the fishery opened as scheduled on the 11th the fishermen would have had excellent tides. By Tuesday the 14th the tides were horrible. Sunday marks the first day with decent tides since then, but if the fishery slips to later next week, the tides will deteriorate again.
Tribal managers have maintained a daily teleconference since the 7th with no resolution. The latest is that the fleet will likely fire off Monday at 7am and fish 'till midnight Tuesday, but we will know more after tomorrow morning's call.
On the Inside, the weather has been consistently much better than forecast, which is driving the fishermen wild. Most folks baited their hooks last week and had to scramble to make room in the freezer for fishing gear. Crabbers have pulled gear early to clear the decks for halibut. With Alaskan and Canadian fish showing up the market is dropping fast--assuming the first opener will land 300,000# or so of halibut, the economic hit to the fleet of missing the early market will likely be in excess of $500,000. That kind of money slipping away, and the kind of frustration that comes from being on pins and needles for 10 consecutive days is beginning to tell. Your Fish-O-Gram corresponding spoke this afternoon with a highly placed Tulalip who reported that the inside tribes are contemplating going it alone, on the premise that, legal or not, the fishery can be done and over by the time anyone gets a judge out of bed. So what happens now is anyone's guess. WE WILL UPDATE YOU THE MINUTE WE KNOW SOMETHING!!! PRAY FOR MODERATE SWELLS AND FAIR TIDES!!!!!
In consideration of our lucky position at the head of the food chain on halibut, to maximize value to the fishermen, and to help jump-start the spring sales push, we are laying plans to offer sweet pricing on halibut fletches from these superlative fish. Look for pricing updates as pricing solidifies. For this first opener, we aim to be the low price leader on local halibut fletch. Call, Text or E-Mail.
So much more to report, but time is short. Until next time, we are your Hard-Sell, Whole-Scalloping, Crab-Tanking, Halibut Howling, Fletch Friending JFF Crew. Just a call, text or E-mail away!!