Two ways to support your local fisherpeople and get high-end-restaurant-quality fish in Seattle.
Alex Whetstone is a charmingly salty guy who supplies super-fresh, right-off-the-boat local fish to some of Seattle’s best restaurants. If you’ve been to Canlis, Salare, Bar Sajor, RockCreek, or Art of the Table, you might have eaten some of what he purveys through his company Northwest Bounty — which is just Whetstone, buying fish out on the docks of Neah Bay and La Push on the Olympic Peninsula, and his nephew, who brings it over to Seattle.
Now, through his new outfit Bestcatch Seattle, Whetstone and his nephew are offering the same hyper-fresh, never frozen, sustainably caught fish direct to Seattle’s fish-loving citizenry. The idea is a beautifully simple one: Like a CSA — a community supported agriculture program, where you subscribe to get regular boxes of fresh produce from a local farmer, helping them stay in business — it’s a CSF, or community supported fishery. CSFs are dotted all over the place, yet surprisingly, this is the first one for Washington coast fish in Seattle.
How Bestcatch Seattle works: You buy a share, then pick up your fish on Wednesday at one of a half-dozen Seattle locations (or Port Angeles). Joshua Theilen of Stumbling Goat Bistro will be doing all the filleting (“In my opinion, the most underrated chef in Seattle,” Whetstone says). At $20 a week for a pound to a pound-and-a-half of fish, Bestcatch isn’t cheap, but when you do the math on restaurant portions and prices (consider halibut, for instance), and weigh in the fact that you can cook it exactly how you want it, it might just pencil out for you. Right now, it might be black cod, rockfish, or just-in-season king salmon.
Moreover, if you’re concerned about human rights abuse in the global fishing industry — and if you eat fish, you should be — a good CSF means you know exactly where, when, by whom, and by what methods the fish was caught. Whetstone says Bestcatch Seattle also makes sure the species they’re selling are sustainable. He also, somewhat selfishly, thinks we should be eating more of our own great local fish rather than seeing it frozen and flown off to elsewhere. Bestcatch’s motto: “What’s caught in Washington should stay in Washington!”
I called Whetstone “charmingly salty” above; at one point, he compared our (admittedly protracted) correspondence about his new endeavor to having dental work done. And don’t get him started on Copper River salmon; he thinks it’s “Marketing 101,” and he vastly, possibly violently prefers Washington fish.
Nonetheless, venturing outside of Washington and up to the Copper River, you can also get sustainably caught fish from another Canlis supplier: Drifters Fish. They also operate on a CSF model, and they’re a two-person show from stem to stern: husband and wife Michael and Nelly Hand. They’re up in Alaska as we speak, readying their 31-foot boat, The Pelican, to go catch Copper River salmon that they’ll sell fresh to Canlis this summer and frozen to share-buyers in the fall. Nelly grew up commercial fishing in Alaska with her family, while Michael started fishing 10 years ago. This is their third year selling direct as Drifters Fish, and Nelly says they’ll be supplying other top Seattle restaurants soon. Here are the details on how you can support their work (and eat their fish!).