Sunday, December 25, 2005

Long life to fresh products... well, I mean, freshly defrosted products!

It would appear that in U.S. restaurants "fresh products" is a denomination that has more to do with temperature than with time. Let me explain: when you're told about "fresh fish" or "fresh vegetables" for example, from I have witnessed so far, what is meant is "freshly defrosted"...

I again experienced this last week while having "freshly defrosted fish" at the restaurant Catch in San Francisco. This restaurant had been recommended to me multiple times and I was told about "fresh fish" and that it was from far the best fish and seafood restaurant in the city, and that I had to go, etc, etc... And let me clarify that people who know me a litte know that I am "somewhat picky" and therefore, recommending a restaurant to me is not a small matter and is always a risky thing to do. Anyway, before going, I checked out the restaurant's website which mentions in its first sentence: "Catch serves fresh, affordable seafood and landfare in a casual, cozy atmosphere". Sounds good!

So, here I am at Catch in a decor that I have to admit immediately reminded me of those new corporate-looking restaurants that you can find in the Palo Alto area for example: everything is new, everything is clean, everything is fake and insipid. I'm being seated next to a fake fireplace (which when I walked in, looked very real), I open the menu and everything seems fine... that's until I hit the Atlantic salmon and the Prince Edward Islands mussels. I close the menu immediately, which causes a big "clap" that incidentally fits my mood of the moment: exasperated, not to say upset. I look around me looking for the waiter. Exchange of information:

- waiter: "do you have a question?"

- me: "yes, this is my first time in your restaurant and I wanted to ask you, all the seafood is from the area, right?"

- the waiter doesn't answer, looks at me with big eyes as if I had just landed from another planet. Well, that is something that I'm used to, so I'm staying cool, while I realize that my question was inappropriate (since I already knew the answer), so I quickly add:

- "I mean, which is the local seafood on the menu today?"

- the waiter glances at the menu and answers: "everything is fresh, but we don't have any local seafood on the menu"

- after a 5-second pause, which I needed to interpret his answer and to realize that telling him "c'est du poisson d'avril alors?" is a joke that would not work in English, I finally manage to say something: "oh, I see, thanks!"

Clap! I'm closing the menu again, time to re-concentrate. It's not the end of the world, I just need to calm down a little. Oh, let me order a bottle of white wine, that should help!


I think the waiter summarized the situation perfectly when he said: "everything is fresh, but we don't have any local seafood on the menu". I must admit that I'm not really surprised, since I have had a similar conversation with a work collegue who was recommending a sushi restaurant to me and explaining that it was the best in San Francisco because the seafood was fresh (as in: freshly imported from Japan). That being said, I'm still hoping to find fresh seafood in San Francisco one day. There's always the fresh crab at Fisherman's Wharf but I can't see myself eating crab every week, plus it's only available on certain seasons. And... it's at Fisherman's Wharf... (well, let me save that topic for a future post...)


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