From Dock to Door
Eating locally includes the sea!
You’ve heard the phrase “farm to table”––but how about “dock to door?”
It’s the slogan of the New England Fishmongers––a local fishery with a newly opened restaurant and seafood market in Kittery, Maine––and a good reminder that eating locally includes the prolific and beautiful oceans of the Seacoast region.
The New England Fishmongers are Captain Tim Rider, Kayla Cox, a dedicated crew, and a recently renovated boat, the Finlander II, and they set sail nearly every day in the Gulf of Maine. Depending on the season, they will be fishing for groundfish or scallops––and it’s not easy work. The boat pulls away from the dock at 4AM, and doesn’t return until after dark. The hours in-between are filled with navigating and operating a boat; maintaining and prepping equipment; lowering lines; and reeling in, cleaning, and brining the catch. The work isn’t done when the boat returns to harbor either––that day’s haul must be unloaded and readied for deliveries the next morning.
It’s labor intensive, and just like there are multiple ways to farm, there are multiple ways to fish. But for Rider and Cox, hook fishing or jigging––where you are using heavy-duty rods and poles that can catch multiple fish at a time–– is worth it. This approach has been dubbed “craft fishing” by some for similarities to craft brewing: independently owned, small scale, high-quality. Rider and Cox fish this way because it’s a more sustainable approach with less impact on the environment. With hook fishing, they can: focus on a specific type of fish and thus waste less; avoid major distribution to the marine ecosystem that occurs with tub-trawling, another method where large nets are dragged along the seafloor; and throw back smaller fish that often die in the nets before they can be sorted. As Rider puts it:
“Inefficiencies can be a good thing.”
Off the boat, Rider and Cox are busy tending to their new restaurant and seafood store at 57 State Road in Kittery, ME. The business adds fish to what locals call “Gourmet Alley” where shoppers can purchase local pasta, bread and baked goods, meat, and produce, and much more at Terra Cotta Pasta, Beach Pea Bakery, Carl’s Meat Market, and Golden Harvest Market.
The brick-and-mortar market and cafe is the next part of the fishmongers’ plan to keep their business financially afloat while also making local fish more accessible in the region. Local fish seems like a no-brainer for the Seacoast, but the wholesale supply-chain most grocery stores rely on means fish is sourced from across the globe. The New England Fishmongers, like many local fish markets, supply fish caught in local waters while adding on a whole other layer: they caught the fish themselves. At the fish market, customers can purchase mackerel, squid, haddock, cod, pollock, tuna, scallops, monkfish, oysters, mussels, littlenecks, and steamers as well as their popular gluten-free fish fry batter and house seasoning. What Rider and Cox can’t source themselves, they buy direct from fishermen––locally if it’s available or from the United States if it isn’t.
If running a fishing boat, restaurant, and fish market weren’t enough, Rider and Cox are also working to reinstate a government program that previously granted permits to hook-and-line fishermen to fish in restricted waters. The program ended and so the fishmongers lost their permit. They are feeling the pinch, now fishing alongside larger operations whose nets can scare fish away from their lines. They have no qualms with their colleagues on the waters, though, rather they hope that regulations will shift to support their style of fishing and a sustainable business model. In the meantime, Rider, Cox, and their team carry on: making plans to scallop into the summer months; expanding the hours of their market and restaurant; and hosting Captain’s Dinners.
It’s a special thing to eat anything from the hands of the people who grew, raised, or, in this case, caught it, so when I visit the restaurant for lunch and Captain Tim Rider suggests I try the scallop chowder, made with freshly caught scallops, I don’t refuse. The bowl arrives steaming hot and garnished with chive oil. The buttery broth makes my mouth water before I even taste it. When I do, it’s easily one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.
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You can support the New England Fishmongers by:
- Eating more fish, especially what’s in-season
- Shopping at their fish market online, at their storefront, or at one of SEL’s Winter Farmers’ Markets – stop by and say hello!
- Dining at their restaurant with a menu prepared by Chef Jackson Casey (formerly the head chef at Vino E Vivo in Exeter, NH)
- Subscribing to their newsletter and following their Facebook and Instagram pages
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Check out the NE Fishmongers website to learn about sourcing, taste, texture, color, health benefits, seasonal availability and health benefits of more than a dozen species.
If you aren’t sure how best to cook fish, you can’t go wrong pan-frying any white fish in butter and sprinkling salt, pepper, and lemon juice on top.
If you are looking for a more affordable option for eating fish, you can use white fish as a substitute for chicken in pot pie. That way you can stretch the purchase while also repeating the nutrition of fish which is plentiful: omega-3’s, vitamins D and B2, calcium, phosphorous, and more.
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New England Fishmongers can be found at their new storefront, located at 57 State Road in Kittery Maine, as well as markets in Kittery, Bedford, Nashua, Portsmouth, Salem, Exeter, and Concord. Their products are also sold year-round at Tendercrop Farm and The Golden Harvest.