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Great fish


Liza
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For those in the NYC area: do try to get some of Alex Villani's fish. He's at Union Square Market on Wednesdays and the Tribeca market on Saturdays and it would be selfish of me to keep him to myself. I have never sampled better nor fresher fish or shellfish. If you're in the mood to cook, make a bee line towards his stand and you'll be justly rewarded. In season now: tuna, swordfish, scallops, wild mussels, Spanish mackerel, sea trout, blue fillets, lobster, fluke. Look for black fish fillets and clams in the fall.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm re-invigorating this thread. Alex is a treasure. We just enjoyed his mussels (cooked over the grill with hickory chips) and two whole trigger fish.

Come on, New Yorkers, check him out on Wednesdays at Union Square and Saturdays at the Tribeca Market, on Greenwich at Reade. He's the real deal.

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Yall in NYC have THE BEST seafood resource in the country, the Fulton Fish Market.  (I know this, I'm a seafood company consultant, and have been to 150+ seafood co.'s in the US)

The trick to good seafood is knowing what to look and ask for.  For instance, for scallops ask for dry pack, not processed.  HUGE difference: 40%+ water and tri-poly phosphate added.  Get someone to show you dry and processed side-by-side and you will be able to pick out the good ones in the future.

With shellfish it's a matter of taste, and harvest location and date.  It's the law that all shellfish must have a tag on the bag or box with harvest information.  

For mussels farmed PEI's are all the rage, and they are good.  But my fav's are from a company in RI that gets wild ones, then then sorts and de-sands and de-beards them.  They are the only company that I know that does a taste test on every batch and directs the fishermen based on results.

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To be clear Alonso you are talking about a commercial source. Consumers cannot buy from the Fulton Fish Market. They are not even allowed in without special arrangements. The questions you suggest asking will be answered by blank stares at most retail fish outlets don't you agree?

The Fulton Fish Market is a good source of bulk wholesale fish but many restuarants that want the best have established supply lines outside the fish market. It is also completely corrupt you must know.

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I've heard that Fulton Fish Market is not so great, due to the corruption problem. I guess you need to know which vendors to go to. As a mere consumer, it's a moot point for me.

But, about the scallop comparison -- I've learned how to choose a fresh fish by reading and asking questions and experimenting. But I remember how intimidating it was at first. Are there any classes in fish-buying for neophytes? A couple of guided hours in Chinatown would give anyone a jump start in both identification and quality-judging, since there is quite a range of both.

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Um, ok.  yall had some good points, and some myths.

First off, quality.  While there will always be old, bad fish at any market, Fulton gets some of the best product in the country consigned directly to it from the source fisherman/farm.  Most of the NY/NJ/CT area wholesalers have buyers at the market every night.  Also most of the stalls get more product in every night than they can put in thier coolers at the end of the day.  That market moves huge volume.

The main point is buying.  Sure you can, on a cash (as in folding green stuff) basis.  But yes, there are some limitations that make it a bit of a challenge.  Like the fact the market goes from 4am to 9am.

How to do it: Show up on a Tues. or Wed., as they are the slower days, before 7am.  The stalls primarily sell in bulk, but most stalls will have a table out with pieces (individual fish, boxes of shrimp, etc.) that they will sell by the lb, each, etc.  Pick something out that and ask how much.  If you want it the guy will weigh it and give you a ticket.  Take the ticket to the cash window, pay, and take the reciept back to the guy and get your fish. Almost none of the places cut product, so you have to buy whole fish, which I think is a good thing....  If you want pointers, forgive me for being un-PC, find some oldish immigrent-looking lady walking around with shoppingbags and watch how she does it.  Stalls specialize.  Shellfish places may break boxes or bags.  most will sell .5 gal scallops (4lb).  If you have rubber boots ware them and tuck your pants in.  As you are wandering around folks may say "buyer-seller" to you.  Answer buyer.  

It's an amazing, and intimidating, place.  You can see fish there that you won't see an fish markets.  If you live in or visit NYC and like seafood you owe it to yourself to do it one morning, and see what goes on behind the curtain.  See it before it's gone.

Corruption, not realy, not anymore.  Usedtowas.  I have been deep enough into several Fulton shops to know.  Seafood is a cash for commodity business, so/and it looks rough, but the organized crime element has been disenfranchised to the point where folks do basicaly straight business.  For instance vendors sending product in used to have to give thier driver ฤ to pay off the mob so the truck got unloaded... mayor G fixed that years ago.

B Edulis, a how to buy trip around chinatown sounds like a hoot.  I live in MD, but if we had enough takers it could be a great field trip.

Not to be harsh, but if the people you buy your fish do not know farmed/wild/producer/where from/dry vs. processed, go buy somewhere else.   Find a place where you can get good info. on the product.

-Nef

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I would recommend against buying the FFM dregs at 7:00am. What is sold to the occasional consumer who sneaks past security is not the best. Those quantities also are still very large by normal consumer standards. Also too labor intensive.

The FFM is still quite corrupt. The Obermayer cleanup did something to push out the most visible mob elements but there is still deep corruption and dishonesty at many levels.

If you look at the purchasing patterns of the best restaurants you will find they get much of their fish from non FFM sources. Sushi places in particular get a lot of fish FedEx direct from dock. If I ran purchasing for a small restaurant I'd work directly with all suppliers and cut the FFM out altogether.

Visiting the FFM is not that interesting. It's mostly truckloads of frozen fish.

Retail fish counters such as at Citarella sell very good fish. Not usually as good as what the better restaurants get but better than what the average restaurant gets. But the people working these counters know very little about fish. There is a knowledgeable purchaser in the back somewhere who might make an appearance from time to time but the average counter person cannot help you with much other than repeating whatever is on the signage. It is not practical to shop only where there are expert counterpeople. That is not the New York reality or the reality in any big city.

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Not to be harsh, but if the people you buy your fish do not know farmed/wild/producer/where from/dry vs. processed, go buy somewhere else.  Find a place where you can get good info. on the product.

In between Saturdays I shop for fish in Chinatown, and the vendors there are usually not very helpful. First, they are often very busy, second, their English ranges from not-so-good to non-existant. But the price, variety and vicinity make up for it. I have gotten scattershot help and tips from other shoppers, and they are gorgeous rainbow of folks from all over the world. It would be fun to do a Chinatown sidewalk collection of fish recipes....

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  • 9 months later...

Some of the best pricing on C-town fish Ive seen is at 214 Canal bet Mulberry and whatever the next block going east is its too early to remember.

Where in the Chelsea market does your guy set up...is he *in* the established fish store (granted its been eons since Im over there) or where?

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The fish store in Chelsea Market is The Lobster Factory. Our guy, Alex Villani, is at the Union Square Greenmarket on Wednesdays on the Broadway side, and the Tribeca market on Saturdays.

Other terrific fish is from the Karlin family, who also fish the LI Sound - they're at Union Square on Saturdays on the Broadway side nearer 14th Street, and also on Mondays.

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No, I think Liza is saying this Alex guy is at the Union Square Greenmarket on Wednesdays

and at the Tribeca Greenmarket (Greenwich Street, I presume?) on Saturdays

and that he is totally unrelated to anything at Chelsea Market.

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