We've been trying to increase the amount of fish we are eating and lower the amount of beef. Part of the training program we started before harvest last year that worked so well and kept us going through those long hard days. The hardest part though has been finding good fresh fish.
The selection in our local Nob Hill market is absolutely horrible. Farmed and dyed salmon, frozen things, farmed things, and nothing local or fresh. The really bad part is the selection is actually better than Lucky's or Safeway. Whole Foods is an option. There's one about 10 miles from us, and one that is off the freeway between home and the winery.
But really, scallops should not be $23 a pound. For $23 a pound I want Selma Hayak to come over and cook them for me. Sadly that's not going to happen.
There is an option though. Ranch 99 Markets. I, like most non-Asians I think, was completely intimidated to go into the Ranch 99 Market. Lucky for us though we found a great solution. A tour. Our good friend Ingrid took us one Saturday afternoon on a 'tour' of her local Ranch 99 market. Patiently translating things for us from Chinese and guiding us through the process to select and purchase fish from the amazing display of seafood.
We told her she could easily charge people for a tour like that. Put together a 'field trip' at $75-$100 a person and then cook an authentic hot pot dinner after the shopping. She thought we were insane. Kind of like my uncle thought everyone was insane for telling him in the 1970's he should bottle the fresh spring water on his New Mexico ranch. "Who would buy water?", was his puzzled reply.
Back to the plot. We've ventured out on our own now a few times to the Ranch 99. At first, still hesitant I stuck to the packaged fish. Still fresh, cheap, and far better than anything from the 'white peoples' market. Scallops, creamy, with a deep sea smell and only $10 a pound. Stefania ventured into the lobster tanks over Christmas. $8 a pound for live lobster. It's $24 everywhere else.
Yesterday though I decided to take on the whole fish section. I remembered Ingrid's instructions. Pick out your fish. I know how to look for the right one and selected a fine Branzini. You then take one of the bags at the ends of the iced section and grab the fish. Hold it high and soon one of the fish mongers will come to you. Call out your number. "3" means clean, scale and remove the head. Just how I wanted it. There is a helpful sign with a picture of each of the six services. "5" will get you cleaned, scaled, head and tail removed, and steaks made.
It occurred to me as the monger approached me with some reserve; he's probably as afraid of the coming exchange as I am. His English is no doubt just a bit better than my Chinese. That moment of realization made the entire event go so much easier. A few minutes later I headed back to work with my Branzini ready for baking last night with onions, fresh herbs, olive oil and lemons from our tree.
Today I think I'm going back for some live spot prawns!