"It's not much but it's ours"

Saturday, April 10, 2010


A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from a gentleman in Los Angeles who had read and enjoyed my book (who said "there had to be one"?). It has been one of the greatest pleasures of the last year or so, that people have not only shelled out their hard earned cash to read my freshman ramblings, but have also then taken time to contact me via Dos Hermanos.

In this instance, the e-mail came from my new chum, Robert Gurfield, who was kind enough to invite Sybil and I to join him for lunch. He suggested we meet with him at Quality Seafood Inc. at Redondo Beach and, after a slightly tortuous drive we arrived to find him waiting outside clutching a copy of Eat My Globe.

Quality Seafood has been around since the mid-1950’s but, the owning family have been selling fish for much longer. Its location in King Harbour is close to Redondo Beach Pier and contains a number of long counters where you can buy an astonishing variety of live seafood or fresh fish. In one part of the market, were nearly twenty types of oysters and clams sitting in water tanks alongside four or five varieties of fresh crabs. In another part there was an impressive display of fish, ready to be filleted and in one more area, there were pre-cooked slabs of fish and spindly spider crab legs ready for the eating.

As well as selling the fish for cooking at home, Quality Seafood Inc. also offers you the chance to sample some of their achingly fresh stock right there and then. It’s a simple operation. You point to the variety of crabs, clams, oysters that you would like to try and they charge you for them by the lb. The crabs are tossed into a plastic bag and straight into a steamer. The clams are given a quick dousing of wine and then cooked in the same way. While that is happening, you find a space at one of the concrete tables in front of the market, cover it with newspaper and then order drinks at a small concession. You can also “rent” a wooden crab mallet for $3, the assumption being that most people will keep them as a souvenir.

By the time we were all set up, the clams arrived. We had chosen two types, “savoury” and “Littleneck” and they had opened in the steam to add their own juices to the cooking liquid. Both were meaty and delicious, but the Littleneck’s came out on top needing just a few drops of juice from the lemons Robert had collected with our drinks.

Sybil held back as Robert and I tucked in. “I am all about the crab” she informed us and once Robert returned with the steaming bag containing three prime specimens of the local variety, we knew she was not kidding. I mentioned recently, after a visit to Boiling Crab, that I find the reward:effort ratio for crabs an unbalanced one and rarely order them. However, in the company of two people who had obviously devoured hundreds in their lifetimes, I saw how it should be done.

As I hammered at claws to little effect, Sybil and Robert began to methodically reduce their crabs to nothing more than a few remaining splinters of shell, removing every last fragment of meat from any place where it might be lurking. I did my best to keep up and began to see the light when Robert inculcated me into the wonders of drinking the liquid contained in the shell. “Add a few drops of lemon juice” he told me and “it’s just like Bouillabaisse” He was not wrong and a few seconds later, I was slurping the last drops from its crabby bowl.

While we had been ordering our seafood, Sybil had spotted some of the spiny wonders that are Sea Urchin bobbing up and down in a small tank. Over the years, I have developed a rather expensive habit of eating portion after portion of this delicacy at every decent sushi restaurant I visit. I have to admit, however, that I had yet to sample one direct from the shell. So, I watched with intrigue as the fishmonger began to slice the top off one of the urchin and then offered it to us to scoop out the orange insides with a plastic spoon. Even if the rest of the meal had not been so memorable, it would have been worth it just for that experience.

As I have found to be the case so many times in the last three years, people who love food also tend to be good people and despite our protestations, Robert insisted on picking up the tab as “a wedding gift”. It was an unnecessary, but hugely appreciated act of generosity and we accepted only after extracting a promise that we could reciprocate soon.

After a brief walk around the harbour, Robert left us and we headed back towards Quality Seafood Inc. to buy some fish to take home with us. En route, we passed another small Korean restaurant called The Pacific Seafood Company. In front of the open kitchen were dozens of huge, meaty looking shrimps wriggling around in glass tanks.

Sybil looked at me and I looked at Sybil. We didn’t need to speak and, without a word between us, we ducked inside and I was soon handing over $40 for 1lb of live shrimps. They asked us how we would like them prepared and, although we were tempted to go sashimi style, we again chose to have them steamed. When they arrived, we did not regret our choice. Our money had brought us into close contact with eight beauties, from which we ripped the shells, sucked out the juices from the heads and tails before revealing the plump pink bodies.

As we sucked and chewed, I mumbled at Sybil “this is the sort of food that makes me really, really happy”. She just nodded.

I see a lot more seafood in our future.

Oh, the last picture is to prove that although I am now 46 and about to get married, I am still an immature child and laugh whenever I see the word "ass"

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

that's my dream lunch. what's most upsetting is a) i've not yet managed to find it and b) i stopped at redondo beach last year on my way down the coast and had no idea there was anything like this in the vicinity.

basically, my whole LA trip was too early. i should have waited until you shipped out there first..

enjoying the mix of LA and UK posts by the way


Monday, April 12, 2010 12:42:00 pm  

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