Thursday, January 6, 2011

Know Your Proteins

Looks like the good folks over at Top Chef need some flash cards to help them with their fish identification issues. There seems to be some mis-identification going on. First there's the title board for Chef Tom's Quickfire dish.

Then there's Marcel's dish using Tom's leftover fish.

So, yes, both identify Black Sea Bass as being the fish used. So here's a picture of a black sea bass.

That's a pretty distinctive looking fish, very dark in color, the tail fin is a triangular shape, not a v-shape, there's one long dorsal fin on the spine. Now check out the actual photos of Marcel cutting up the supposed black sea bass.

You play spot the differences...much more elongated head, v-shape in the tail, lighter color, the fins along the spine are much smaller. Which makes it look more like....

...a branzino or European Sea Bass. Here's a second look.

Yes, folks, that appears to be a European Sea Bass. In the grand scheme of things is this the most important mistake made in this episode? Oh hell no but what it does prove is that this blog has some very smart and very experienced readers, namely Captain Obvious who pointed this mistake out. Does the fact that you can tell the difference between these two fish make an important difference to your everyday life? Sure if you're going to the fish counter and want to make a purchase. I'm sure one costs more than the other, don't you want to buy the appropriate fish? If you order one in the restaurant, don't you want to be able to know how each fish tastes?
As for the producers of Top Chef we all know they enjoy pushing the drama aspects of the show much more than the food (unless you want to buy their cookbook, then they are all about the food to the tune of $20 - 25 depending on where you shop) but come on, you've got the Emmy now, let's not slack off completely.


the dogs' mother said...


Big Shamu said...

Know your bass from a hole in the ground.

MakingSpace said...

You were waiting all night to say that.

Melissa said...

I think this is a bigger problem than Top Chef, because YES, Shamy! I do want to know what I'm getting. And remember, friends, if I'm lucky, at least 48 weeks out of the year I shop for my fish in MISSOURI! Aside from dining in a nice restaurant, whole trout and clams at Costco, catfish or catching it fresh fish for me.

It's filleted, frozen and shipped to my HyVee or Price Chopper where it slowly thaws in the display case. THAT is not my complaint, that's just the reality of my hometown, which I love.

And, I do believe those fillets are often mislabled at my grocer and at restaurants where I am promised "fresh" fish. Many times I have bought or ordered the SAME fish (that loup de mer, Branzino..zini..ruti..tuti is particularly popular around here right now) and I would SWEAR it's not the same fish each time.

But I am not an expert. (When I question it, Ryan just takes another bite of his Kansas City Strip and grunts...he can tell THAT'S Cow.)

What's a girl who really does care about her fish to do?

Buzz Kill said...

I thought Tom burned his bass. He would have BUTTed heads with a cheftestant and this dish would never pASS.

Big Shamu said...

Melissa, you and I need to become DNA experts to start testing our fish. If anyone thinks that's a joke that's exactly what's happening in many parts of the country when a restaurant serves you a cheaper cut of fish telling and charging you the price for the more expensive fish.

Buzz, since only Padma was eating the fish, you know it wasn't a problem.

Captain Obvious said...

Captain Obvious says:

Big Shamu hits the nail on the head. Many restaurants around the country are doing this. EVEN all over NY. Luckily, Captain Obvious can identify fish very easily-raw or cooked, skin or no skin.

Captain Obvious has a story.

Captain Obvious got very angry one time years ago(and let management know this) ordering a Hamachi roll at a popular sushi restaurant in LA. Captain Obvious took a bite of the Hamachi roll(which is just supposed to be Hamachi and nothing else) and noticed that the texture wasn't very Hamachi-like. Upon further inspection, Captain Obvious saw that HALF of the supposed Hamachi throughout the entire roll was actually very finely julienned cucumber with the same translucency and almost the same color as the Hamachi aka you're paying full price for half of the Hamachi. Captain Obvious noticed other patrons ordering this and they didn't notice. Bad palates or not concerned on quality? Who knows.

That was just one example.

Captain Obvious read an article a few years ago where in NY, certain restaurants were duping customers that were buying Hamachi, Tai Snapper, seabass (or similar white flesed fish) sashim/sushi and substituting Tilapia.


Captain Obvious can't believe that people that frequent sushi restaurants can't tell the difference. All of those fish are so easy to distinguish from eachother taste wise or just looking at the flesh.

Captain Obvious would also tell people to KNOW what they're buying at grocery stores. Captain Obvious always laughs when people buy fish like 'white roughy', 'basa' or 'bocourti'. Captain Obvious knows there is no fish on earth that is geneologically named by those names and the fillet/flesh texture looked suspiciously like catfish. Upon further inspection, origin: Vietnam aka farmed catfish most likely from the Mekong river. There are many other examples, but Captain Obvious doesn't want to write a novel at this time on fish identification.

Captain Obvious said...

Captain Obvious just had some typos.

Captain Obvious is very passionate talking about fish and fish quality (and not having typos).

Captain Obvious will try to not let typos happen again.

MakingSpace said...

Captain Obvious is forgiven.

Making Space wants to go sushi bar hopping with Captain Obvious.