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KatyM

Influence on Diners: Professional Fishing Terminology on Menus

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I am a reporter working on an article about whether fishing-method terms on menus such as "Dayboat," Troll-Caught," "Harpooned" and "Line-Caught" mean anything to diners. Have you ever encountered these terms on a menu? When? Where? Do they confuse you or clarify things for you? Do you appreciate restaurants including this information or not?

I would love to hear from anyone who has encountered this terminology and can discuss it. Please email me your experiences at katy.mclaughlin@wsj.com either today (Mon), tomorrow or Wednesday. Thanks.

--Katy McLaughlin

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On the lunch tasting menu at Bouley, you'll find a "Scuba Dived Sea Scallop" on offer. This is certainly the only time I've ever seen "dived" used with a direct object. But grammatical issues aside -- and I assume that a scuba-dived scallop is the same thing as a diver scallop (i.e., it has been hand-harvested by divers) -- I appreciate knowing this. It might influence my order one way or another. Fish from the day boats is often attractive to me because it's more likely than most to be very fresh. So I approve of the descriptions if they're meaningful. It has become fashionable to make fun of menu descriptions that list the origins of ingredients and other details, but I see no problem with information. The problem I have is with misleading descriptions. For example, you'll see a lot of line-caught salmon on offer that was indeed line-caught -- but then it was frozen for shipping. So my feeling is I like disclosure, but I like full disclosure: "Line-caught frozen-at-sea Oregon Coho salmon. We got it in-house a few days ago but it's actually a few months old but it freezes pretty well. We defrosted it on Thursday but we smelled it this morning and it still seemed good enough to serve."

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For a while, adverse publicity about the negative impact created by huge nets encouraged the use of "line caught" descriptors. Same as "Dolphin-safe" labelling on tuna cans.

Ditto just "sea-bass" on menus in lieu of Chilean sea bass, which might (or might not) be endangered.

Or "peeky-toe crab" followed by the specific island in Maine off which the crab was allegedly taken. It conveys a more selective approach than "looked good, smelled OK, price was right"

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Hi FG,

After reading this posts I just got off the phone with Jack Rent at Pierless Fish in Maine. One interesting stat that he told me re Diver Scallops.

Out of 2500 or so scallop licenses an extremely small number go to scuba divers (20-50?). So where are all these Diver Scallops coming from?

No doubt the term evolved to mean any U-10 scallop.

Nick

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I assume that a scuba-dived scallop is the same thing as a diver scallop (i.e., it has been hand-harvested by divers) -- I appreciate knowing this. It might influence my order one way or another. Fish from the day boats is often attractive to me because it's more likely than most to be very fresh.

Mario Batali says that diver scallops refers to those that have not been preserved in that horrible liquid prior to sale. That would make sense that these are scallops that are hand-harvested. However, he did not mention the fact that a scuba diver goes down for each scallop.

To answer the original question, such a statement on the menu does make a difference to me because I cannot stand those scallops that are packed in that sulfite solution. They have zero texture.

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(6) Steamed Maine Diver Sea Scallop with Olive-Leek Emulsion

On Saturday night, I sampled a "diver" sea scallop item at Charlie Trotter's.

http://forums.egullet.org/ibf/index.php?s=...ST&f=36&t=11291

The idea of line-caught fish and/or fish from little boats (petits bateaux) (I am not addressing scalllops here, about which I have limited knowledge) is reasonably seen at at least a few French three-stars. The idea is, among other things, that fish caught from little boats stay on the boat for less time, and can be delivered to the applicable restaurants more quickly after they are terminated on the boat. Also, while I am not entirely certain, there might be notions that smaller suppliers have more of a stake in the integrity of the product delivered, somewhat along the lines of artisanal producers of such things as cheese.

Here is a report from Steve P on line-caught sole (note the spelling of the island should be checked with respect to geographical information):

http://forums.egullet.org/ibf/index.php?s=...ST&f=10&t=11232

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Rail, I believe it's Peekytoe ™ -- at least that's the case according to Browne Trading.

Ron & Nick, I'd say it's either overtly dishonest or just plain ignorant for a chef to call anything a diver scallop that isn't hand-harvested by a diver.

Here's an interview with a scallop diver, for those who are interested:

http://www.cheftalk.com/HTML/Education/pas..._interview.html

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Rail, I believe it's Peekytoe ™ -- at least that's the case according to Browne Trading.

Ron & Nick, I'd say it's either overtly dishonest or just plain ignorant for a chef to call anything a diver scallop that isn't hand-harvested by a diver.

Here's an interview with a scallop diver, for those who are interested:

http://www.cheftalk.com/HTML/Education/pas..._interview.html

Absolutely agreed. I call such things jumbo, dry etc. But never "Diver"

Nick

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“Day boat” and “diver scallop” might entice me for the reasons already stated but the other terms sound like marketing more than anything.

“Line caught" conjures up images of individual fishermen with rod and line but is likely to mean industrial scale long line fishing with thousands of baited hooks strung from kilometers of line. The fish is may be less damaged than those caught in a net and crushed by the other ton of fish, but they’ll probably still be frozen at sea. (My father-in-law was one of the last deep sea line fisherman working out of Aberdeen.)

I’d never heard of ”troll-caught” but it means the same thing as "line caught".

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I'm inclined to agree with glyn. One caveat. It was explained to me that fish caught and landed on monday but not sold until wedsday can still technically be called "dayboat"

Nick

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Nick, what would you say is an inclusive list of criteria for fish that you'd have access to in your fantasy restaurant? Here's what I've got so far:

Species

Method and location of capture

Date caught

Type of processing shipboard

Date landed

Any subsequent processing

Shipping method

Date arrived in restaurant

It's a lot of information, but it's not as though it would take up all that much space on a menu if you did it on one or two lines. But of course restaurants don't want their customers to know that for the most part they're eating old and/or frozen fish and that in so many cases the chefs themselves haven't got a clue where it came from or what happened to it -- and they don't care.

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Here's what I've got so far:

Species

Method and location of capture

Date caught

Type of processing shipboard

Date landed

Any subsequent processing

Shipping method

Date arrived in restaurant

Don't forget to include:

Time fish left distributor

Time fish arrived at restaurant

Temperature of transport interior

Packing type (directly on ice -- flaked, crushed, etc. -- or in protective wrapping

Temperature of fish upon receipt

Amount of time fish sat in kitchen [temperature of kitchen] before being moved to storage

-------------------------------------

I could add even more, but I haven't done receiving in over a year. Yes, I actually had to record all of these, except the last one. :biggrin::biggrin:

Would I ever put ANY of these on the menu? Only one: species. The rest is just too twee.

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I would appreciate the restaurant giving the detailed information, if it is accurate. I remember several years ago on Montreal local television, the head chef of Montreal seafood restaurant Maestro SVP stated live on-air that he uses diver scallops for his restaurant. I got excited, as I never heard of a Montreal restaurant using diver scallops. After doing some investigation of my own(originally Maestro SVP would not tell me, from what distributor they get their diver scallops). Eventually I located their distributor. It turns out, the Maestro SVP diver scallops come frozen to them. These were huge scallops(the largest I've ever seen), but in my eyes, they shouldn't have called them diver scallops(also listed on their menu as such).

-----------------

Steve

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I believe that the reason to prefer diver scallops over non-diver scallops is that the shells of the former are less likely to be damaged. How frozen diver compare with fresh non-diver, I wouldn't like to speculate.

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I believe that the reason to prefer diver scallops over non-diver scallops is that the shells of the former are less likely to be damaged. How frozen diver compare with fresh non-diver, I wouldn't like to speculate.

Yes Glyn, Correct. I was told this, this afternoon. Never knew it.

You smug scientific guys *do* know it all :biggrin:

Nick

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Thanks for the link FG. Regarding your question about fish criteria; I suppose that all of it would be welcome. Unfortunatly only shellfish is tagged in such a fashion as to hit all of your bases. It is important to develop some close ties within the wholesale industry. I find that as much as we chefs think we know, the reality is that aside from cooking, many of us don't know that much. I truly depend upon my wholesalers to educate me.

Jinmyo has a point when in an earlier thread she implied that she'd just as soon not know every detail about every food item. What matters is what's on the plate from a cooking (and eating) standpoint. This can be quite enough for any chef to contemplate. So the truly knowledgable people (vendors and other points of sourcing) become very valuable. They are willing to share much information if you show the right kind of polite interest. Just as a diner in a restaurant, I find that this type of interest also rates you a little extra attention when it comes to your meat or fish.

Nick

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Jinmyo has a point when in an earlier thread she implied that she'd just as soon not know every detail about every food item.  What matters is what's on the plate from a cooking (and eating) standpoint.

I agree to an extent with Jinmyo. I would take issue, however, when a menu states that diver scallops are for sale and what I am buying, and paying a premium for no doubt, was not harvested by a diver. Given the huge pressure in the restaurant industry to sell sell sell, I have a very high base level of skepticism about such things.

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I would take issue, however, when a menu states that diver scallops are for sale and what I am buying, and paying a premium for no doubt, was not harvested by a diver. Given the huge pressure in the restaurant industry to sell sell sell, I have a very high base level of skepticism about such things.

That really is the heart of the issue, isn't it?

If you describe a product for sale that doesn't have a clear and unambiguous definition, accepted by both the buyer and the seller, then what do you have?

Jumbo, economy, fresh, organic, diver, day boat all have widely different interpretations, it seems.

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Day boat fish is generally better - IF - it's been well taken care of after catching. Promptly and cleanly gutted and well iced. Some people (I was going to say "guys" but more and more women fish now) take care of their fish very, very well and others not quite so well. But usually day boat fish, or boats that go out for two or three days is better than fish from a big dragger that's out for 10-14 days. Also on the big boats the first fish caught get a lot of weight on them by the end of the trip.

Then also, even with short trip or day boats, there's how well the fish are taken care of after they leave the boat. If you want good fish there needs to be a succession of people all along the way that care about the fish and want to give you the best they can at a fair price for what they're delivering.

The same goes for shrimp and scallops. I'll see if I can get a local diver to post his thoughts on the latter here.

And yes, I like to see how something was caught on the menu - if for no other reason than supporting a smaller owner/operator boat than a fleet of corporate boats that care for nothing but the bottom line.

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Day boat fish is generally better - IF - it's been well taken care of after catching. Promptly and cleanly gutted and well iced. Some people (I was going to say "guys" but more and more women fish now) take care of their fish very, very well and others not quite so well. But usually day boat fish, or boats that go out for two or three days is better than fish from a big dragger that's out for 10-14 days. Also on the big boats the first fish caught get a lot of weight on them by the end of the trip.

Interesting that you say this nickn. One guy I was chatting with said that he'd rather describe his primo fish as "top of the catch". That is the fish caught the last day at sea, being that which is on the top of the pile when landed.

Nick

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I'm not sure how much of that information is really useful to the end consumer as it appears the top restaurants may use a term to mean one thing, but other restaurants down the line use it to mean something else. The range being from fresh scallops havested by a diver to large frozen scallops. In the end, your only guarantee is the reputation of the chef who's writing up the menu. If you're eating scallops at le Bernardin, you have every right to expect them to be the very best available in NY at that time of year and it really doesn't matter what the menu says, but I value the information as education rather than as a guaranty.

Arzak in San Sebastian made quite a point of the fact that his squid were line caught. He felt they were less likely to be bruised than net caught squid.

I suppose the most ridiculous sort of labeling goes along the lines of "ocean fresh." That's the equivalent of creamery butter and garden peas.

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I think this practice has a much larger potential constituency among

soft-core environmentalists as opposed to e-gullet types, especially when you consider that we don't think it's enough information. Plenty of diners make their decisions on these methods sounding more environmentally sound, as opposed to being the freshest, or best, way of obtaining fish.

I haven't seen it (nor will I ;-)), but it wouldn't surprise me to see line caught as a descriptor on a Red Lobster menu at some point- certainly on chains with less doors.

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