Monday, November 6, 2017

Fish-O-Gram Digest!! Oyster Tastings!! Urchins are Going Fast! Fall Crab Exceed Expectations!! Spot Prawn Surprise!

Dear Snow-Surprised Customers,

Friday Morning at Jones Ranch

Much to our shock and horror last night's gentle rain turned into an inch or so of nasty white powder along with a driving Northeast wind.  Packing shellfish this morning was a deeply painful experience.  
However, the children enjoyed it, and it is a timely reminder that it is time to set aside the last vestiges of high-season seafood and pick up wintery menu items.   Halibut closes November 7 after a solid, satisfying season.  Coho and a few straggler kings are still trickling in, and the newly opened Alaska winter troll fishery is off to a sputtering start, but salmon is pretty well wrapped up.  Black Cod is generally available from our Neah Bay friends and will remain so through the holidays.  Rockfish, cod and smaller flatfish are, for the moment, readily available.  Order at will, but consider the fruits of the season we find ourselves in.  JFF has an inside track on the shellfish, specialty and frozen products to nurse you through the long months 'till West Coast finfish kick back in.  

Sales Plugs and Highlights:
Urchin continues into November, with spectacular quality, flavor and high uni yields.  Casey Palermo of the Willows Inn on Lummi reports that this season's uni is the nicest he has ever seen.  That's the good news.  The bad, unfortunately, is that with demand skyrocketing and prices climbing, the urchin fishery, long a genial throwback to the days of old-time fisheries, has become another crazed race to finish quota.  Divers are on a 2000#/wk quota for both reds and greens.  With a total state quota for each of around 260,000# and 25-some boats diving, the quotas are going fast.  For the first time ever, we find ourselves rooting for nasty weather to just slow things down a little.  The tribes, of course, have an equal quota.  They are moving a little slower on harvest but we should all expect the entire fishery to be wrapped up by the new year.  Anything beyond that will be a joy and a bonus.  

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Never been better

This summer sport and tribal crab harvests were uniformly disappointing, with few and small crab to be found in the usual hot spots.  It seemed that the long-predicted, ever-postponed slump in crab numbers was upon us.  Both state and tribal fleets kicked off their regular fall seasons October 1 with low expectations.  The tribes pulled off the water after 6 days to focus on fall salmon fisheries, while the state fleet ran, as usual, through the end of the month.  Despite all expectations October crab catches were tremendously strong.  In 30 days the state fleet landed 2,039,000# out of a 2,760,000# quota.  Now the tribes are back on the water and doing well.  The unexpected strength of catches was enough to drive price down well lower than we expected.  Prices are now up a bit, but still very reasonable.  The Quinault tribe opens on the coast November 15, followed, hopefully, by the Washington and Oregon state fleets on December 1, and sometime around then California will kick off as well.  Pricing should remain relatively stable and reasonable through the new year.  Now is a great time to run a crab program.  

Spot Prawn Surprise. 
Alaska Spot prawn season is mostly wrapped up following another successful season.  We are enjoying the first air-freighted 2017 prawn tails.  Pricing is high but fair and quality is very high.  However, in talking to one of our suppliers, we stumbled onto a stash of impeccable 2016 product that had been forgotten in the freezer.  We sampled the prawns and are delighted to report that they are as good as new and much, much more reasonably priced.  We have a limited quantity of 2016 available, and are happy to hold prawns if paid for in advance.  Product is glazed, jumble-packed prawns in 2# boxes. Shout out for a sample.  

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Just as good as the new season product

Oyster of the Month.
A few weeks back, during and around our October Pig Roast, we conducted a marathon oyster tasting over three days with four different groups of tasters.  The runaway favorite was the Hammersley Inlet extra-smalls.  The Hammersleys, grown by Calm Cove Shellfish in South Puget Sound, is embarrassingly good.  Beach grown, Hammersleys have the polish and depth of a mature South Sound oyster, but  maintain a degree of delicacy not common in the lower regions of Puget Sound.  Sizing is uniform, shells lovely and the Hammersleys have excellent shell closure and shelf-life attributes.  Calm Cove has been on something of a seeding frenzy these last years, with the result that their beaches are fully stocked, oysters are allowed to come to full flavor fruition before harvest and pickers have enough variety to sort to exceptional consistent specs.  This oyster has the unique distinction of being both the current favorite on our list, and the least expensive.  For the month of November, the Hammersly is value priced for happy hour but good enough to match the best for Saturday night or Sunday morning.  

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Belle of the Ball

Why We Love Shellfish.
Please pay special attention to our oyster price list this week.  We have added new offerings and adjusted pricing downward.  Seattleites--come see us at Elliots Oyster New Year on the 11'th.  We'll sneak you in the back through the crew bathrooms.  

When it comes to seafood quality, F.O.G. is an unabashed partisan of the West Coast in general and Washington State in particular, not to mention our own little blessed corner of it all.  Our native superiority shines through on shellfish like nothing else.  Washington State has the largest, most productive and innovative shellfish growing sector in the nation and the finest, best tasting oysters in the world.  Some of this supremacy is just luck--geography and hydrology, but a good portion is due to far-sighted policy and the endless dedication of the Washington State shellfish grower corps.
We've got something nobody else got....

We are, of course, absurdly blessed with our abundant coastline.  From the Willapa to Totten Inlet, San Juan Islands to Oakland Bay, Washington State has a huge amount of shellfish-worthy marine territory.  But lots of states do.  Rhode Island is essentially a giant shellfish bed with just enough dry space around the edges for a few yacht clubs, a statehouse and some excellent strip joints.  Washington actually ranks only 13th in the nation by rank of waterfront footage, the Chesapeake states have vastly more shellfishable waters and Louisiana, when not buffeted by hurricanes and oil spills, can produce circles around Washington State in volume.

A Quahog is a Rhode Island clam.

Our Own Private, Half-Shell, Washington.
What we do have is the world's best conditions for growing premium half-shell oysters.  This comes down to two main factors, private ownership of tidelands and our status as the farthest north temperate growing area in the world. 

Firstly, due to a biological quirk of our native Olympia Oyster--a full Fish-O-Gram on this to follow--Washington State has allowed for private ownership of tidelands.  We are the only state in the nation to do so.  This alone would be enough to guarantee an oyster sector without parallel.  Other states have robust wild oyster fisheries, but a wild harvest model will never produce a consistent, high quality, raw-eating oyster.  Other states and Canadian provinces have patched together complex lease and grant arrangements to allow growing on public lands, but this structure has hobbled the industry--leases are inherently squirrely, ever-subject to cancelation, revision and unrealistic conditions.  

It's All About Latitude.
Most growing areas in the nation, and for that matter, in the rest of the world, are in locations with much less tidal range than Washington State.  Cheaspeake Bay, for instance, ranges between a 1-3' tidal range, while our effective range is about 14' or greater.  This is a function of lattitude--the closer to the equator, the smaller the tides, the more extreme the latitude, the greater the tides.  Growing oysters in a limited tide flow area means less water circulation for one thing, and that oysters are grown on sub-tidal bottom or in suspension and never go through the exposure and immersion of on-beach tidal cycles.  This can make for a weak, flaccid oyster with poor shelf-life and undeveloped flavors.  All southern-grown oysters and most Antipodal oysters fit this description.  On the northern reaches of the American and Canadian East Coasts and in Alaska, tidal range is huge, but harsh winters freeze out oysters growing in the inter-tidal range, again requiring sub-tidal suspension growing. 

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It's the tides that make us special.....

Thanks to the benign influence of the Japanese Current, we enjoy the farthest north, temperate growing climate in the world, along with some portions of Northern Europe.  As such, most of our Washington State oysters are finished directly on the beach.  As with humans, a little adversity goes a long way to building character, flavor and texture.  Washington oysters  have a polish, authority, shelf-life and fullness that is unique in the world.  Furthermore, substrate strongly influences oyster flavor, as do variables in water quality, circulation, etc, gives us more truly distinct oyster flavors, bay to bay, inlet to inlet, than anywhere else.  Our oyster list is the Marinelli Shellfish oysters list and has been carefully assembled from the best independent oysters over the decades by the Marinelli Crew.  Washington state oysters are the best in the world and Marinelli Shellfish oysters are the best of Washington oysters.  

Dig Deep Bivalve Event:
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Industry peeps and serious oyster nerds are invited to join the crew of the White Swan and Nick Jones Weds. the 8th at 5:30 for a oyster tasting/clinic.
Jones' own Lopez Island Euro Flat, Olympia and Pacific oyster will be featured, as well as an assortment of Jones' top picks from the rest of the region, including Hammersley Inlet, Wolf Beach, Nisquallys and Flapjack Point oysters.  The format will be casual and informative, with a blind taste testing and lots of insider oyster talk.
The White Swan crew will be mixing up their usual magic behind the bar and in the kitchen.  Attendance and oysters are complementary, drinks and additional food will be charged as usual.
RSVP  to

There's a new tumbled oyster on the market: A Chico Bay from Dyes Inlet grown in the central sound near Silverdale. This tumbled beauty is claiming to be like a Shigoku, but fatter and with more character- Available to order for this week.

AND in case you missed it, Providence Cicero does it again with her Pink Scallop writeup...https://www.seattlet he-beloved-pink-scallop-resurf aces-deliciously/

Don't Forget. 
Oyster New Year- Saturday Nov 11th 5-8 pm at Elliott's Oyster House. We'll be there-tasting all of the latest and greatest. Come by and say Hello. 

As the days draw shorter, don't despair! JFF has a full line of shellfish and frozen and specialty seafood items to see you through.  Less halibut means more menu room for Uni!! As ever, we continue to offer the finest in finfish from other parts of the globe.

Call! Email! Text! We are your oyster taste-testing, prawn bargain-hunting, inter-tidal oyster-growing JFF Crew!

Nick & Sara & the Transport Team

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Thanks, Nick, for an informative write-up on what is going on in the world of fish and shellfish! Gotta get some of those Hammersley Inlet oysters!

    Shannon Borg