I had the amazing opportunity to spend this past Saturday morning on the dock in Montauk, Long Island with Sean Barrett the founder of Dock to Dish. Dock to Dish is a community supported fishery (CSF) where members, including individuals and restaurants, sign up to receive fresh, ethically caught local fish and seafood, delivered to various pick up points each week. It’s the same concept as CSA’s, which link up people with farms and fresh produce.
Sean, a life-long fisherman and restaurateur who was feeling the call to give something back to his community and the environment, coordinates with local fishermen from Montauk to bring freshly caught, sustainable seafood to Long Island and New York members. These days in America, restaurants and vendors place orders for fish and it comes to them from anywhere and by any means possible, the fish is often not the best quality and this everything, all the time mentality is wreaking havoc on our ocean’s ecosystem. Shockingly, 90% of the fish and seafood Americans eat is imported, and one-third of our local catch is shipped abroad.
In the case of Dock to Dish, what you get is the best of what is in your local waters that day. It’s a toss up, you never know what it will be – tuna, striped bass, scallops…. The day I was on the docks with Sean he was bringing back fresh fluke and Jonah crab to his individual members who were picking up from places like Amber Waves Farm in Amagansett, while his restaurant members including Nick and Toni’s and Almond in Long Island, and Dan Barber’s Blue Hill and Eric Ripert’s Le Bernadin in New York city were receiving the same, but in larger quantities.
When I was sorting through the photos I took with Sean on the dock, what struck me most were the faces of the fishermen. Sean is running a business that is about connecting people to their food and it was amazing to see these incredible faces responsible for what is on our plate. It made me think about how when you are in a great restaurant you often get to meet the chef, or at least you know who the chef is – it’s brilliant to get to do that with the raw ingredients that make up the heart of the dish. One of the fishermen I met that day was John Aldridge. He is a bit of a celebrity on the dock, having survived a dangerous night at sea, 12 hours in the water, after being tossed from his boat while out fishing for lobster and crab. I didn’t know John Aldridge’s story until after I met him. It is a spectacular story, but what you realize when you are on the docks is that everyone has a story, no matter what that story is. When you are part of a community, everybody is a father, a brother, a son, a friend to someone with something awesome to contribute. Dock to Dish sends out newsletters that give you a glimpse into who and what is happening at the dock.
Sean and I were talking about how pure and healthy this wild source of food supply is. There is nothing tainted, nothing processed, it is caught, kept on ice and delivered the same day. We were joking about how you could live forever eating like this. One of my favorite lifestyle articles in recent times was a New York Times piece about the island of Icaria, The Island Where People Forget to Die. A Greek man living in America was dying and went back to his hometown in Greece to live out the last days of his life. But then something entirely unexpected happened – he got well. The combination of fresh food and lifestyle healed him. We have been hearing so much about how important clean, healthy food is, but the other big healing factor in his recovery was being part of a close-knit community. Community sustains us in more ways than we realize. We all need to belong, to have purpose. Sean speaks the language of both the dock, and the restaurants and the people who consume the fish, bringing them all closer together. It’s smart to reinforce these mutually beneficial relationships. We all gain something when we act as a community.
Support your local farms, support local fishing, support the people around you and we just might live happier, longer, healthier lives. We may not all live to a hundred, but why not live better.
CRAB LINGUINE IN FRESH TOMATO SAUCE – Little Anthony, whose boat brought back the Jonah crabs, suggested this way of making a sauce by cooking whole crab claws directly with the tomatoes. You don’t pre-crack the claws, but some of their water and salt leaches out into the sauce infusing it with an incredible fresh crab taste. You can crack them later at the dinner table. It’s a little messy, but this is a great meal to get down with family style! I love using fresh tomatoes when they are in season; I picked the tomatoes for this sauce straight off the vine from Quail Hill, a local farm and one of the original CSA’s in the country.
2½ pounds of crab claws
a handful of course sea salt
1 lb. dry linguine
a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
a few cloves of garlic
about 2½ lbs. fresh tomatoes (You can use either whole small ones, I used wild cherry tomatoes, or large ones peeled seeded and chopped. You can also use a large can of tomatoes if fresh are not available.)
a cup of white wine
basil, a few leaves
a handful of parsley, chopped
*a cracker for the claws
Bring a large pot of boiling water to a boil.
Rinse crabs claws really well and soak until you are ready to use. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium heat and add garlic. Sauté until the garlic just begins to take on some color. Add tomatoes, when they come to a simmer add the crab claws, bring back to a simmer, add a generous pouring of wine and a large pinch of salt (you will use less salt than you think in this sauce because some leaches out from the crab). Let the wine cook off for half a minute, add basil leaves. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes, give it a stir a couple of times while cooking.
Add course salt to boiling water, add linguine and cook until al dente, usually about a minute under what it says on the box. Drain pasta and while it’s still dripping water add it to pan with the sauce. Mix together.
With tongs plate the crab legs first and then add the linguine on top, drizzle with some olive oil and garnish with chopped parsley.