Michael Cimarusti, the owner of and chef at Los Angeles's Michelin-starred seafood restaurant Providence, wants us to buy better fish – and to feel better about it at a time when most seafood has never been more expensive and the terms "farmed," "wild," "organic," and "frozen/defrosted" confuse nearly everyone. "Everybody feels comfortable walking into a butcher shop, and people buy chicken easily now that everything is so pre-packaged," Cimarusti says. "But when it comes to fish, it's more difficult, especially because, unlike with meat or chicken, there are absolutely no federal regulations."
With fish, Cimarusti says, you have to both trust the seller and possess some level of seafood-quality awareness in order to make the right decisions. Cimarusti doesn't recommend buying fish in a supermarket, or even most high-quality, organic supermarkets – dishonesty with respect to mislabeling and freshness runs rampant. "You need to find a real fishmonger, get to know him or her, and then to know what's fresh, and what's not," he says. "You need to go shopping armed with a set of questions you wouldn't need to ask a butcher." Buying fish doesn't require a Ph.D. – it just requires a little research and curiosity. "You're the one buying it, and you're probably the one who's going to eat it," says Cimarusti. With that in mind, Cimarusti also offered a few tips on cooking fish, as well as how to evaluate whether a sushi restaurant is good or not.
Eat local fish – except when you shouldn't.
"The closer you are to the water and point of harvest, the less expensive fish will be," says Cimarusti. "Look for local – every region has its own specialty." If you're in the Gulf region, look for snapper, grouper, or redfish. The Pacific Northwest? Salmon or halibut is your choice. Also on the West Coast: Get spiny lobster around the first of October, or wild Dungeness crab and halibut.
On the other hand, you don't always have to eat locally, he admits. In the long run, it's still better to eat sustainable and wild fish, even if that means getting it shipped across the country than to eat most farmed and unsustainable local fish.
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