Monday, March 9, 2009

Fishy-fish, fish, fish. fish

I've never been a big fan of fish. I should clarify that. I like looking at them. I am fascinated by aquariums of all sizes. From the six-foot one in the nursing home's dining room, to the giant ones with sharks and octopi swimming in them. I surprise myself that after nineteen years of living in Seattle I still haven't been to the local aquarium. (I need to rectify that). I used to go to the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma when I was a kid to watch the sharks and I am sure I must have been to an aquarium during the short time I lived in San Diego (I was three). When I went to Honolulu in 1990 I stayed in a hotel that had a huge, multi-story aquarium in its restaurant (I had the lobster). If I ever manage to go to the Bay Area again, I would like to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I used to waste many hours at work watching the penguins on the internet.

I enjoyed going fishing for Rainbow Trout in the Skokomish River and Lake Cushman with my parents as a kid. It is a happy memory. Sometimes I would go off by myself to fish for Blue Gill in Chambers Lake and Long Lake in Lacey (they were practically in my back yard). I didn't have much, if any, luck fishing in lakes. I would often see the fish but they were never interested in what I had at the end of my line. But I loved standing knee-deep in the cold water of a river. I didn't particularly care if I caught a fish, though I had much better luck, sometime catching a half dozen, but i'd keep at it until I caught at least two. I liked the challenge of reeling a fish in (finding a nice twelve inch trout, rather than a six foot tree branch, at the end of my lure was a rush).

I also like fishing equipment, much like I like guns. I don't need to use one, so I don't need to own one, but I still like looking at them and holding them. I think I might still have my spin-cast reel, but I lost my pole a long time ago. I think I still have a couple of lures. A Super Duper and a Red Devil. Something I never tried was fly fishing. My Mom did. She even tied her own flies. I've also wanted to try to talk my friends into chartering a boat and go salmon fishing out in Puget Sound. Now I'll have to try to find one that caters to wheelchairs if I want to do it (except no one in Washington does it. Florida yes. Washington no).

I've never really liked eating fish, so I stopped fishing a long time ago. For the same reason I don't hunt...if I'm not going to eat it I don't need to kill it. When I was a kid I found fish mostly tasteless, except for whatever seasoning was on it, lemon and pepper, for instance. I also had a trout bone stuck in my throat once when I was a kid and hated having to spend time there after searching for bones. I don't like working for my food. (Likewise I don't eat berries with seeds that I have to pick out of my teeth, and never again will I kill and pluck a chicken when I can go to the supermarket and buy one for five bucks).

I do love shellfish, which is not really fish, they just live in the same neighborhood. I remember, or at least I remember remembering, eating New England lobster when I was two years old living in Groton, Connecticut, the one year my Dad's submarine was stationed there. I also remember back when there were no limits or licenses for shellfish in Washington State, back in the late 60s, filling up the trunk with rock clams and oysters in Potlatch, then digging for razor clams in Ocean Shores.

I'm not a huge fan of tuna sandwiches, though my friend Todd made me a great one with horseradish and capers, and my Mom used to put in chopped up hard-boiled egg whites in hers. I also like tuna casserole, the kind with cream of mushroom soup. I add sliced button or Crimini mushrooms, Tabasco, garlic salt, and crushed black pepper. Some people add peas or crushed up potato chips, but that sounds gross.

I like salmon but never cook it. It seems like a lot of work and I prefer it grilled rather than steamed, and don't have access to a BBQ (or an oven for that matter). I leave cooking fish to the experts. There used to be a food stand at many Seattle Center events (Bumbershoot, Folk Life, The Bite) that made a great salmon sandwich, and I love smoked salmon.

They serve fish here in the home at least once a week. It is some kind of grey fish, often served on a grey pasta or grey rice. Its smell is nearly as bad as its looks. The only fish they serve that I eat is the occasional fish sandwich, much like the McFish, or whatever they call it at McDonald's.

Doctors say that it is important to include fish in ones diet because fish is a great source for Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and Vitamin D so I have tried adding more fish to my diet, but somehow I think canned tuna or a "fishwhich" is not the best source for these nutrients (I am sure I can ask my friend Paul if this is true. He is the healthiest eater I know).

Luckily, I love sushi. It is ironic that I had never had sushi before I went to Japan in early 1991, and didn't eat it there either (I was there four days and went to Shakey's, Burger King, and The Hard Rock Cafe).

The first time I ate sushi was with my friend Stefanie. It was a late night in Spring 1991. I had already gone to bed after a twelve-hour shift doing customer service for Eddie Bauer. She rang my buzzer one evening and invited me out. I didn't know her very well at the time, only that she was hot and I felt we made a connection at a party (we were both very high and very drunk). I buzzed her in and got dressed as fast as I could. At the time she was roommates with my friend Todd, before they hooked up and wound up being a couple for a few years., but at the time I thought she was single. When I answered the door, she was there with her "surprise!" boyfriend, Patrick, an oceanographer and a bit of an dick and a know-it-all pretty boy. Now Stefanie lives in Santa Monica and after 18 years she is still one of my best friends, but anyway, thanks to her I was introduced to sushi. They took me to a place called Hana, on Broadway and I loved it. I couldn't get enough of it. I think I ate everything on the menu, from eel to deep-fried shrimp heads. If sushi wasn't so expensive, I would eat it everyday.

I soon learned that Seattle is a great city for sushi and Hana isn't even in the top 20 except that it is really cheap compared to better places, but it is better than grocery store sushi.

Over the past eighteen years, since that first night, I have been to many places for Seattle, maybe a dozen, but I still have a couple dozen to try (many more if I leave the city limits).

Whenever I go someplace new I usually order the same three things.

#1 A Rainbow Roll (a California Roll with various fish and avocado wrapped around the outside). I find this to be very economical because I love California Rolls (especially if they use real crab instead of Krab) and it's a way to test the freshness of the sashimi (raw fish).

#2 A Salmon Skin Roll

#3 A Shrimp Tempura Roll

These three tolls are usually more than filling enough, and usually wind up costing me about $20. But if it is someplace new I will also ask the chef what is fresh.

When I eat alone I like to sit at the bar and watch the chef work his/her magic. I also find if you talk to them they'll sometimes slip you something special an unique in the house. Since I've been in the chair I have only gone out for sushi once and had to sit at a table. It was a little Bento place in Shoreline. The sushi was fine but maneuvering myself into the place was very difficult and detracted from my enjoyment. Before I spend all of my income tax return I'll give a different place a try. Maybe when I go see the Watchmen.

Sushi Restaurants In Seattle that I Highly Recommend

Aoki (uses real crab in California Roll)
Saito's (where Ichiro goes)
Red Fin Sushi
Sushi Tokyo (uses real crab in California Roll)
Ototo (try the Lobster Roll)
Shiro's (Seattle's most beloved sushi chef)
I Love Sushi

Honorable mentions

Hana (cheap)
Best Of Bento (cheap)
Kozue (cheap)
Musashi's (cheap)
Tokyo Gardens (cheap)
Rice-n-Roll (weird ingredients like steak)
Blue C Sushi (if you like conveyor belts)
Bush Garden (not great, but fun)
Benihana (see Bush Gardens)

Sushi Restaurants In Seattle that I still want to try

Wasabi Bistro
Toyoda Sushi
Umi Sake House
Moshi Moshi

There are a lot more and they open and close all the time. Even with this economy there will always be great sushi, and seafood restaurants in general, in Seattle. (San Francisco and Los Angeles are great for sushi too, but I haven't been to enough places there to recommend a place to eat).

I also collect sushi cookbooks (an oxymoron). You only need one or two, but I like looking at the pictures, so I have at least four. Ones that I recommend:

The Complete Book of Sushi

The Book of Sushi
Easy Sushi
The Great Sushi & Sashimi Cookbook

I have made sushi myself on a couple occasions. It is incredibly easy. If you can make rice, you can make sushi. Even rolls. I have made California Rolls (Crab, Avocado, & Cucumber) and Seattle Rolls (with smoked salmon, cream cheese, green onions). If you want to go with a traditional Maguro (Tuna) Roll or Nigiri (individual piece of fish on rice) you can usually find sushi-grade tuna at seafood stores and at Whole Foods, Uwajimaya, or online.

Here are some decent sites to get you started making, or just eating, sushi:

Make Sushi At Home
Make My Sushi
Sushi Encyclopedia
Sushi Day (Blog)
Eat Sushi
Sushi Dictionary
Sushi FAQ
Sushi Links
Sushi on Flickr

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