Although this article from the Portsmouth Times (Foster’s Portsmouth paper) reads like a press release for Senator Judd Gregg, there’s some information to be gleaned.
Isles of Shoals Supremes, the branded name for this aquaculture project brought about by UNH, have finally hit levels of reliable sale. We bought the ones pictured left at Seaport Fish, on rte 1A in Rye (near Foyes Corner) a few weeks ago. (And they were very very inexpensive. Inexpensive enough to be eaten many many times a week. Like Ramen for local food eaters. I’m a tad afraid to mention the price in case it was a mistake that won’t be replicated for me or anyone else again, because it didn’t seem very sustainable, and, to quote/paraphrase Rich Wood, “The thing about sustainable [aquaculture] is that someone has to pay for it.”) I’ve also seen them on menus as I walk about Portsmouth and glean pleasure from simply reading menus posted in restaurant windows. The article mentions Radici, The Portsmouth Brewery, Wentworth by the Sea, and The Black Trumpet specifically, though I think there are a few others.
I first heard about the Isles of Shoals Supremes program back in the spring at a wonderful series of talks put on by the Gundalow Company of Portsmouth entitled, “New England Fisheries: past, present, and future”. Richard Langan, Director of the Atlantic Marine Aquaculture Center at UNH talked about clean aquaculture and highlighted their development of the brand and process for Isles of Shoals Supremes. If I understood it correctly, fishermen would essentially become franchisees in growing and selling the mussels (without the normal franchisee garbage). I like the concept a lot – the “creation” of a recognizable local product that many fishermen could get in on, not just the one person who would have to put more time and energy than any one fisherman has into creating such a brand and the marketing that goes along with that. It makes me wonder what other local products have that potential.
So when I saw the sticker in the window of Seaport Fish advertising the mussels, I jumped. We brought them home and steamed them in white wine with onions and hot peppers. Once the mussels were cooked (about 6 minutes), we removed them and added a splash of whole milk to the broth, and cooked it down just a bit. The mussels were so perfectly clean, we didn’t have to scrub them at all. This was initially planned as a first course, but with a bit of bread, one bag was way too much for even us, big eaters that we are.
The mussels themselves are HUGE. Not every one, most are a pretty normal to good size, but a significant number are almost frighteningly large. Like I had to cut it up and eat it in pieces large. Another time I think I’ll separate these ones out and save them to chop up and put in a chowder or use for pasta.
Although Judd Gregg mentions “feeding the rest of the country” with the food from our waters, I’m glad to see that they are selling out continually at Seaport Fish – eat local folks. No need to share the good stuff.