Inevitably every year BlackSalt customers plan holiday menus only to find out two days prior that particular seafood items are not available. This year will be no exception I'm sure, but the evolving availability is starting to become a little clearer. The variety of species available for Christmas is usually not too bad, as many boats will bring their catch to the market the week prior to December 25. However, very few boats stay out fishing through Christmas and even fewer go fishing in the week prior to New Years. Throw in the possibility of a three day 40-50 mph Nor'easter, and you have a recipe for a potential disaster. The following is a list of our recommendations for the upcoming weeks along with the percentage odds of their availability based on the Market Watch by Tim Sughrue at Congressional Seafood.
HIGHEST RISK OF UNAVAILABILITY — 50/50
FRESH NOVA SCOTIA HALIBUT • Our first shipment of fresh halibut in a week will arrive on Tuesday (12/10) -- weather and fishermen participation will determine how much if any halibut is available for the Holidays. The small boats are all attempting to lobster, and the bigger trip boats (10-14 day trips) should unload prior to Christmas. The odds are poor that halibut will be available for New Years. If you are planning on having halibut at your dinner table over the holidays be prepared to stomach some lofty prices, especially for high quality product.
FRESH DANISH DOVER SOLE • This is a very unique item and if the weather in Denmark cooperates, we should be able to supply fresh Dover sole for the holidays. These fish are so fresh that they are still in rigor and look like you caught them yourself.
FRESH CRAB MEAT • Domestic crabmeat is not something you can count on this time of year. Crabs hibernate during the winter and that makes catching and picking them slightly difficult, even down south in the Gulf of Mexico. Crabmeat will be day to day throughout the holidays, but we will try to source some Jonah crabmeat from Maine.
MODERATE RISK OF UNAVAILABILITY — 70/30
WILD ROCKFISH • It has been a very strange year for rockfish. Prices are at all time highs. Maryland will have a short gill net season this week but that will not help us for the holidays. Virginia will be our only source and the fish have not shown up in any numbers yet, hence whole fish are currently fetching all time highs for this time of year. Will the fish show up? One would have to say yes, but even if they do, few fishermen have tags left to fill.
LOCAL FLOUNDER - FLUKE • This great local fish should have been a sure bet for any holiday menu but Virginia and North Carolina opened their trawl seasons at virtually the same time. Virginia has caught their quota and North Carolina will be done this week. That means fish will be affordable for this week and then skyrocket next week This is poor planning by the ASMFC. The only state open from Dec 16 through the 31st is Rhode Island and everyone will be begging for those fish. On January 1 New Jersey opens their fluke season just in time for… well its evident this opening coms a little late to the game. Prices will increase at least 50% from their current levels and there may not be enough fluke to supply all needs. Stay tuned This situation could change
LOW RISK OF UNAVAILABILITY — 90/10
DOMESTIC GENUINE AMERICAN REDS • This is an excellent choice for any holiday menu. Barring any gigantic storm in the Gulf, there should be plenty of fish for Christmas and New Years. We will also have smaller snapper if you want to serve a whole fish.
COSTA RICAN MAHI • Mahi season is full on right now in Central America. Landings are high and prices are low. No issue with supply
LIVE CANADIAN HARDSHELL LOBSTERS • The season in Cape Bretton Nova Scotia opened a week ago. The weather has disrupted fishing for several days already. Landings have been light and prices are inching upward. The catch in Maine is holding prices somewhat in check for now. Live lobster is always a popular choice for holiday menus and this year should be no exception. A large percentage of the Canadian catch is bigger lobsters (2-3's and larger). These lobsters are full of meat and very hardy, able to live several days out of water.
SWORD & TUNA • Both of these species will be an excellent choice for holiday menus. The full moon will occur just before Christmas when local swordfish bite the best. Our tuna sourcing is consistent and very extensive, such that supply should not be an issue.
ICELANDIC COD • We have had great success with offering high quality Icelandic whole cod and large cod loins. Availability should be okay absent any major storms off Iceland. We also get wolf fish with these shipments, so if you are interested in that item please call ahead.
OTHER WILD SPECIES • There should not be any issues with fish like monk, skate, and dry sea scallops. Scallops will be available but very pricey due to closures. Species like Bronzino and Dorade are farmed, so unless the planes from Turkey and Greece break down, we will have plenty. Other available farmed staples include rainbow trout, tilapia, and char.
SALMON • We have farmed salmon available this time of year. Our brands include Skuna Bay craft raised salmon and True North salmon. Both companies produce high quality, antibiotic and hormone free Atlantic salmon. Prices on these items should remain stable and product should be readily available.
SHRIMP • All shrimp proteins are overvalued right now, but we still have a full line of products in stock ranging from big head-on shrimp from Madagascar to all sizes of wild Texas Gulf brown shrimp. We should also have some fresh, never frozen, chemical-free Gulf white shrimp for the holidays from NC.