If you haven’t stuffed your face full of fresh-from-the-Bay seafood yet this summer, it’s not too late. Perhaps you don’t know where to get that perfect lobster roll, how to eat an oyster on the half shell or where to have a great meal with a water view for days. Fret not. We’ve put together an allinclusive guide of where to get incredible seafood and even how to make some yourself. Read on to get the inside scoop on the delectable seafood the Bay has to offer, and where to find it.
Ocean to Market to Fork
“Farm to table” dining is undeniably a responsible and conscientious way of purchasing and consuming food. Unfortunately, the idea has been somewhat bastardized as a fleeting trend, or as a luxury for those living in the upper echelons of society. Luckily over the past decade, many chefs, restaurateurs and fishermen in Rhode Island have been fine tuning different systems that not only directly tap into our state’s abundance of seafood in a way that provides consumers with an “ocean to fork” product, but does so with affordability, access and transparency in mind.
Captain Richard Cook, founder of The Local Catch – a fishing and processing plant based out of Galilee – is at the forefront of this movement. On any given day Cook and his wife Ann can be seen at one of the many farmer’s markets across the state, selling some of the freshest seafood available to the average consumer. How? After years as a commercial fisherman, Cook decided to get licensed as a seafood processor and distributor, essentially cutting out the middlemen and the inevitable extra costs that goes along with them. Cook can now catch the fish, process it and get it packaged and ready for market within hours. He can tell you how the product was handled, how it was caught, the time frame of pro.cess – everything a consumer might want to know about the fish. Rather than selling to restaurants, The Local Catch focuses on selling straight to those perusing farmer’s market stands for fresh ingredients. The company also offers a Community Supported Fishery (CSF), which, acts like a debit system for loyal customers. Buy a half ($144) or full ($288) share and use the credit whenever it is convenient.
Brown Family Seafood (BFS) is another pioneer when it comes to bringing fresh, quality fish to the end user. While The Local Catch deals directly with consumers, Brown Family Seafood sells their product to restaurants around the state. “We’re a family company,” explains Sam Brown, son of fisherman and founder Chris Brown. “The seafood industry is more complicated than it should be. We get the fish direct.ly from my dad’s boat to the restaurant. There are no middlemen, and our traceability system verifies everything about our products – even tasting notes.”
Even though BSF sells to businesses, they do also sell at farmer’s markets, and it’s during these distributor-to-consumer conversations where the Browns see a demand for change in the industry. “At the markets, that’s where people are showing a lot more interest in the quality and history of what they’re buying. I now see soccer moms buying bluefish and other underutilized local species because they know that it’s fresh, they know where it came from, they can even ask about the boat,” he says. “Because we’ve cut out so many steps in the processing, it’s less expensive than the store, especially when buying something like scup, which is a high quality protein. Tuna isn’t available all year round, you can’t catch a salmon in Rhode Island; we are trying to highlight the ones we catch on a daily basis,” explains Brown.
–Elyena “Nellie” de Goguel