I am a transplant to the The South (North Carolina to be exact), originally from the Pacific NW. I grew up eating tasty, wild-caught, Alaskan fish. I LOVE salmon! The greatest drawback to my move has been finding wild-caught/Alaskan salmon. I’ve finally found a few places that are excellent sources and thought I should share them with my friends down here…and when in doubt, ask! Your local fish monger should be able to tell you where to look in your area if he (or she) can’t get it for you.
Vital Choice (www.vitalchoice.com):
They have the best quality fish of any place found since I’ve moved. And because I travel a lot for work during the week, I need foods that are frozen or have a long shelf life. They also have options that include individual portions which are perfect!
Even more perfect? Their tataki fishes (seared salmon and tuna loins)…they are pre-seared fish that are ready to serve out of the package (once it has thawed, of course). If you like your fish more cooked, you can also choose to finish cooking them through before serving.
All of their fish (I believe – you should double-check on their website) is sashimi-grade. All is sustainable. And their other products (nuts, berries, spices, etc.) are organic. Their prices are somewhat higher than if you were to find the fish in a supermarket, but be aware that there is no shipping charge on orders over $99 and it comes second day on dry ice to your front door.
My personal favorites: salmon and tuna tataki, halibut, and any of their salmon varieties. Oh…and their smoked fishes make wonderful treats.
For the kids I get their salmon jerky dog treats.
Please go check out their website!
- Salmon filets
- Canned salmon
- Pre-packaged frozen fish (salmon burgers, tilapia, Alaskan cod, etc.)
If you have a Costco near you (and a membership) go check out their fish case back in the meats section (typically I find the fish in the cases in front of the meat counters). I came across Coho salmon filets there late last summer. Sometimes you might also get lucky with their weekend fish monger, though usually they tend to serve up more local seafood (great days to buy crab and clams!). Be sure to read the label on the canned salmon (found in the dry goods area…it keeps moving, so I can’t really give you a good idea of which aisle to look down). The Costco out here carries Bear & Wolf wild Alaska salmon (excellent stuff!) but they also carry a more inexpensive farmed Atlantic salmon (icky, nasty, avoid at all costs!).
Also check out their frozen foods and see what they’ve got there. I found some great deals on tilapia, Alaskan cod, and salmon burgers. But again, be sure to read the packages to see where the fish is coming from!
Harris Teeter (or other local grocery stores):
- Salmon filets/steaks
- Canned salmon
Harris Teeter (the local grocery store chain out here) often carries Alaska salmon in their fish department during the summer, however, it is definitely a seasonal item. I was also informed this morning by a friend that they carry canned Alaskan salmon.
The best advice here is to talk to the store fish monger and request Alaskan/wild-caught salmon. Even if they don’t carry it regularly, chances are they could order it in for you if it is available to them. Get to know the monger (and the meat guy!)…they are great sources of info about where they get their fish, how it is prepared, packaged, and shipped to them, etc.
Some notes about fresh bought fish vs. frozen:
The only problem I have with store-bought fish is that it should have been frozen prior to shipping (this is a good thing when you are talking about buying fish from the opposite coast) and then has usually been thawed at the store. Re-freezing it tends to give it an icky texture if you are wanting to buy it to store (which is why I like the Vital Choice fish…it is frozen at sea, stays that way through shipping, and when it arrives and I can keep it that way). Use the grocery stores for “per meal” shopping and order online or look in the frozen foods sections if you are looking to stock up.
Also, make sure you do not have a self-defrosting freezer if you are planning to store your frozen fish for any length of time. The warming cycles that keep self-defrosting freezers free of well, frost, are very hard on meats and fish. They will not last as long. I hit up Sears during a fabulous sale and purchased a chest freezer that I keep in my garage. The good news is that a non-defrosting freezer is less expensive, though, it will need a little bit of maintenance over the years.
And make sure to set your freezer really, really cold. 0 is good. You want your frozen meats and fishes to stay that way until you are ready to thaw and eat them.
Safe Fish/Seafood Recommendations:
Do your research when buying new varieties of fish. Many farming practices have badly damaged wild fish populations (I akin farmed salmon to processed foods like cheese) and the fish are usually not as nutritious as their wild counterparts. Also beware of overfished varieties. Many fish (orange roughy is an example that comes to mind immediately – we used to eat it all the time when I was a kid) have been over-fished and their populations are in danger of disappearing.
Monterey Aquarium Seafood Watch:
The Monterey Aquarium is a great resource for info about fish. The above link leads to their pocket guide options (including mobile apps). They are an excellent source of what fishes are good to purchase/eat and which are not (possibly due to over-fishing and low populations or due to the negative impact of the fishing method, farming practices are also considered). I use their iPhone app with my current location to give me targeted info on fish I am more likely to see out here. The list changes slightly when I go home to visit family in Seattle.
With all that being said, salmon of course is not the only fish on the face of the planet, but it is by far one of my favorites and I do what I can to encourage others to give it a try. A friend here used to tell me that she hated salmon. That lasted until Neil smoked some Alaskan salmon in his smoker…she’s decided that she does indeed like it and has been more adventurous in trying it in different preparations. Why the change? She was used to the nasty, mushy, tasteless farmed Atlantic stuff that is typically served out here. I must say, I am still hard-pressed to find restaurants out here that serve Alaskan salmon. Typically the menu will say, but if not, I ask before ordering. If they can’t tell me where it is from, I avoid their fish all together. And this happens even at the very high-end places around here.