Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.
June 18, 2013 at 6:03 AM
Late bird’s lament at Ocean Beauty Seafoods in Ballard
The event of my Saturday morning was the dock sale at Ocean Beauty Seafoods. Really it isn’t on a dock, but at a warehouse on a dirt road over the railroad tracks by the south end of the Ballard Bridge.
I was late. The sale went from 8 a.m. to 11. I got there at 9:45: too late for the black cod. Too late for the sea bass. Still, there were bargains. I bought two 10-pound boxes of Pacific cod fillets, individually quick frozen, for $25 each. That’s $2.50 a pound for the stuff of the best fish and chips. Not pollock. And not breaded.
Tom Sunderland, vice president of marketing, told me the cod market had crashed. There has been a “huge rebound” in the biomass of cod, both in the North Pacific and elsewhere, and prices are way down. “It’s $3.99 a pound at QFC,” he said.
There was another box, of individually packaged 4-ounce portions of salmon with garlic pepper sauce. Twenty portions, $5: a salmon meal for two bits! A small meal, to be sure; if you wanted a big serving, it would cost you 50 cents.
“It was a retail product that got discontinued,” said Sunderland. “I don’t have a place for it.”
I did. I had the first pack for lunch.
Then there was the cioppino sauce, in a 28 oz. frozen block: 50 cents.
Ocean Beauty is one of the big fish companies in Seattle, which processes fish from the North Pacific and Bering Sea. The company doesn’t sell a lot of things here: it sells them in Asia, in Europe and on the East Coast. The dock sale is a chance of getting in on some local products (salmon, mussels, black cod) and some not-so-local ones (my salmon packs were from China).
The customer base of this sale is heavily Asian. More people of those traditions know how to prepare fish. There is also prepared food, for the gastronomically challenged.
There are drawbacks to buying fish this way. You have to plan ahead, because the sale is only on the third Saturday of each month (except December). You can get on the company’s email list, and find out a product and price list a few days before the sale. It’s different each time. You have to get up: to get there at 10 a.m. is worthless. You have to have freezer space, otherwise there is no sense in buying a 10-pound box. And it pays if you take the time to repackage things that otherwise would get freezer burn.
But the deals: “Cold smoked Atlantic trim” (i.e., lox) 8-pound bag, $15. Rockfish fillets, individually quick frozen, 10 pounds, $20. Salmon burgers, case of 34, $10. That’s 29 cents each.
On the waterfront, life can be good.