A tour with Dave Pasternack of the New Fulton Fish Market
Thu Apr 9 2009
In the wee hours this morning, the Feed followed Esca's Dave Pasternack, who was pointing out boxes of soft-shell crab ("you want 'em to be soft and smooth") and introducing his shrimp guy ("he's like the Bubba Gump of the shrimp world") to a crowd of NYU students who'd sacrificed a night of sleep to take a guided tour around the New Fulton Fish Market. The tour, devised by Annie Meyers and Carla Fernandez, cofounders of the NYU student-led group Radishes and Rubbish, was the second in their spring series of trips to destinations that bring to light the less-visible links in our foodways.
Pasternack bounded between vendors while the group followed, narrowly avoiding collisions with forklifts. "Sweet 'n' white—this is the fish the Fulton Fish Market was founded on," he said, pointing to a box of whitings. When we spied scallops, Roberto, Pasternack's fish buyer, steered us clear of the pale, nearly translucent specimens that were an arm's length away, noting that their pallor showed they had been frozen and were pumped full of chemicals. "I hated fish when I was a kid," Roberto revealed on the walk over to a superior lot of scallops. "The smell, and all those bones!" The second batch seemed right just by the look of them—varied in size and color, they spilled from cloth bags like cream-colored jewels. Students asked the chef and accompanying sous chef Katie O'Donnell questions about seasonality, overfishing, and sustainable practices, while others were more focused on the breakfast that would follow after the tour wrapped up.
At 4am in the kitchen of Greenspaces, a shared office space in downtown Brooklyn, O'Donnell took out a striped bass and got down to work. "If bluefish is a boxer, striped bass is a ballet dancer—it's a graceful fish," said Sean Dimin of the nonprofit Sea2Table, who aided in organizing the tour. No crudo for breakfast today—O'Donnell got an eclectic mix of pans going on all six burners of on an ancient stove, threw together some onions with soy sauce, sugar and a little paprika, scrambled a wok full of eggs, and in the time it took for the sun to rise, had produced a fisherman's breakfast. With the satisfaction of a night's adventure to Hunts Point lingering somewhere between dream and fading memory, the light, buttery meat, just charred on the outside, tasted like we'd caught the fish ourselves.—Jeanne Hodesh