Over the summer I was having dinner with my wife at a Jersey Shore seafood restaurant we’d never tried. One of their “specialties” is a New England bouillabaisse; a pot of steaming seafood broth loaded with shrimp, scallops, clams, peppers, potatoes, and fish. I bit, and when I asked what kind of fish was in the dish, I was told it was whatever the chef was serving that night. Cool. This was, after all, a restaurant with the bay lapping against the back deck. But when our meal arrived I was informed the fish of the day was tilapia. I didn’t send it back, though I should have. Instead, I picked around the bland chunks and sulked. How dare place where you can smell the ocean when the door swings open serve me farm-raised white bread? Well, as it turns out I might be the crazy one, because a blind taste test judged by some high-end foodies suggests farmed salmon is far more delicious than wild-caught. Yeah, whatever.
According to this story in the Seattle Times, 10 different types of frozen salmon ranging from wild-caught in Alaska to farmed in Chile were prepared by the head chef of Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant Source. In the end, the panel ranked Costco’s frozen farmed salmon the best for taste and texture. At the end of the list was Costco’s frozen wild-caught coho. Everything else fell between, but farmed fish took the top five spots, and all the wild-caught rounded out the bottom. Frankly, I was floored. From the story:
When standout flavors were detected, it wasn’t in a good way. A couple of samples had off-flavors that were picked up by some tasters but not by all. And, although some samples had either the large flake and high fat content that gave them away as farmed, or the finer grain and meaty texture that identified them as wild, we could not consistently tell which was which.
Now, I’m not knocking fish farming. It has its place in the overall game of sustainable seafood. And fish are fine for lay people…but I’ve never met an angler that rushes to the Golden Corral to fill up on the lemon pepper salmon or mango-glazed tilapia. The best salmon I ever ate was hacked up in a Seward, Alaska, motel room with pocket knives and dipped raw in soy sauce from packets squeezed into a paper cup (it was all the lobby restaurant had). I had pulled the coho from Prince William Sound not two hours earlier. The rest we shipped home frozen, and it tasted just as good over the next few months.