Monday, November 16, 2015

The Bad News Bays

In my last post I waxed poetically about how maybe we were in the middle of the best week of the year, considering that we had both Nantucket Bay scallops and fresh king crab legs available. That week has come and gone and I may have been more on point than I initially thought, because, unfortunately, it doesn't look like we will be having either back in our market any time soon.  Fresh king crabs traditionally have been difficult to find, so their scarcity is nothing new.  What is troubling is that since that glorious week of decadence, I have heard nothing but the disturbing sound of crickets coming from our guy Jeff in Nantucket bay.  The scallops are missing, and that is not something normal, especially for this time of year.

Word is the eel grass is gone and fishermen are working double just trying to produce a pound of scallops. The eel grass is vital habitat for the scallops, no grass, no scallops.  Fishermen are postulating that nitrogen run-off has decimated the beds.  It can't help that water temperatures are much warmer than in recent years.  The combined effect has made scalloping an exercise in futility. Out of the 12 boats that work with Jeff, 3 have already called it quits for the year.  We could have the worst Nantucket Bay scallop season since 1995, a year in which you had a better chance of finding Wonka's golden ticket than procuring a pound of the "sea candy".  

Just because you see tiny scallops labeled as Nantucket Bays, be warned, it doesn't necessarily mean they are.  There are several bay scallops on the market such as Calicos, Peconics and Martha's Vineyard bay scallops.  They are delicious in their own right, but they are not nannys.  I would only purchase the bay scallops from purveyors that you trust to tell you the truth.  Unfortunately, this year the truth is not pleasant.  An item that was already precious has just become that much more scarce.  

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Best Week Ever?

Nantucket Bay scallop season opened November 1st and, as early as Wednesday November 3rd, we will be seeing our first shipment.  Receiving the ocean candy this early is no small feat considering that our guy Captain Jeff had a waiting list with more names on it than Santa's naughty child roll call.  Coinciding with the start of Nantucket Bay scallop season is the fact that we are in the middle of Alaskan king crab season.  This week BlackSalt will also be welcoming our first, and possibly only, shipment of fresh, never frozen Alaskan king crab on Thursday, November 5th.

Take that in for a moment...boom...  Mind.  Blown.  Two of the most delicious and most seasonal items in the seafood world available in the same week.  For people who love the best food on earth, this week quite possibly may be the nexus of flavor and fortune.

There are many scallops in the market year round such as sea scallops, calico bay scallops, and Chinese bay scallops, but none offer the full flavor, sugary sweetness that Nantucket Bay scallops deliver.  Some say it's the crisp, pristine waters, others say it's the copious eel grass beds, but, whatever it is, there is no denying that something separates "nanny bays" from all other scallops.  Our nanny bays are shucked in the morning and shipped the same day, reaching us full of the flavorful sugar that nature bequeaths.  There is no adulteration of the product and no need for it.  Trying them raw could change your life.

About 99% of the Alaskan king crabs available in the U.S. market are previously frozen.  Freezing causes the crabs to lose their natural sweetness and dulls the complexity of their flavor.  Only during the season are we able to get our hands on fresh, never frozen product, and this window can be quite tiny.  The season opens in October and closes when the quota is met.  This could mean only a couple of weeks of harvest and availability in some scenarios.  The crabs are harvested, cooked, and shipped the same day.  Shelf life is short, making timing extremely important and quality a premium.  This could be our only shipment of the season.

If I were looking for a week to splurge on deliciousness, this would be it.  Grabbing these two items in the same week is like taking your taste buds to the top of Everest.  It's a bit of a hike to get there, but once you've reached the top, the rest of the world rests below you.