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THE LOCAVORE

Fish so fresh they're still flopping at Ventura Harbor

June 27, 2013|By Isabella Alsobrook
  • You can't beat the freshness at Ventura Harbor.
You can't beat the freshness at Ventura Harbor. (Isabella Alsobrook )

A certain member of my family has grumbled about the lack of seafood during my monthlong 100-mile diet. This shortage is in no way related to the restrictive radius -- the Pacific Ocean takes up about a quarter of my range -- but I have been doing the vast majority of the shopping this month and fish is hardly one of my favorite foods. Still, I must pacify my fish-loving family, so I putted up to Ventura for a market selling locally caught fish.

Every Saturday, a few fishermen haul in their catch and set up stands behind Andria’s Seafood Restaurant and Fish Market in Ventura Harbor Village on Spinnaker Drive. Crowds start to line up at 7:15 a.m., though the market does not open until 8 a.m. I made a rookie mistake in not arriving until 9 a.m., by which point some of the fish had sold out, leaving a limited selection. 

Yet, even as a latecomer, I saw the fish, sharks and crabs flopping (or crawling) around in their respective coolers as I milled about with the locals. I purchased four pounds of English sole -- it's actually a West Coast member of the flounder family -- for $2 a pound and carried my purchases to Andria’s Seafood, where they expertly clean and fillet the fish as a complimentary service for most vendors, although tipping is encouraged.

Most of the shoppers are regulars, all eager to share fish recipes and some of the bargains they have found. One man described, spreading his arms in the classic “this big” way, a 35-pound tuna he bought; a few women suggested I ask for the backbones when the fish is filleted, as they make great stock; and everyone insisted that this was the best and only worthwhile place to buy seafood. With such devoted customer loyalty, it’s no wonder shoppers start arriving 45 minutes early.

I view fish as a simple vehicle to transport lemon into my mouth. Thus, I roasted my fillets in a sea of lemon juice, zest, salt, and pepper and, once the fish was cooked and transferred to another plate, I reduced the juices with white wine and more lemon.

Although drowning in lemony goodness, it was probably the freshest fish I have ever eaten. Served with corn on the cob and a few slices of an heirloom tomato, it was a perfect dinner to celebrate the first weekend of summer.

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