Thursday, July 16, 2009

Top Quality Seafood

In the greater Philadelphia area, we should be swimming (pardon the pun) in good, fresh seafood.  Our proximity to the northern Atlantic (lobsters, rockfish, bluefish), the Chesapeake Bay (crabs, scallops, striped bass), and some of the best fresh water fishing on the east coast in northern PA and southern NY (bass, trout, perch) should result in fish markets with high quality, diverse fish and shellfish fresher than any other city.  While downtown Philadelphia boasts Ippolito's fish market on 1300 Dickinson St., Marco's Fish Market on S. 9th St., and I suppose Under the C in the bowels of the Comcast building, out in the burbs we do not really have a lot of great choices for fish markets.  

There is one shining beacon of light.  Hills Seafood, with locations in Media, Exton, Kennett Square and Newtown Square, is providing our area with great fresh seafood.  They promote wild caught fish, which really matters for taste: farmed fish can, and often do, loose flavor from lack of natural habitat and prey.  Farmed fish are fed things that normally would not be in the fish's diet, therefore promoting flesh that does not mimic that of its cousins living in the ocean/river/lake.  

Just tonight, I picked up a few dozen top-neck clams, little-neck clams, and mussels to put is a slow cooking spicy marinara with tomato concasse, garlic, minced onion, italian herbs and red chili flake.  Both the littleneck at $5/lb. and top-neck at $5.99/lb. (a bit larger than the littleneck) clams were sweet and tender, with very little sand to wash off, although I always recommend thoroughly scrubbing clams before cooking.  The mussels, however, were a little disappointing.  Advertised in the store as Prince Edward Island mussels for $3.49 a lb., they were smaller than PEI mussels, but tasted fine.  The thing that was most off-putting was the fact that I specifically asked if they were de-bearded, to which I received a response in the positive.  When I got home and opened the bag I found that only about half of the mussels were indeed de-bearded, a very annoying process if you have not had to do it yourself. 

Overall, however, Hills Quality Seafood Markets is a winner and miles above other seafood outlets in the West Chester area.  They provide several not-so-often-found fish like bluefish, Hawaiian Opah, Mako Shark, Shad, Wahoo, and Lemon Sole.  Some of these are upon request, but the fish monger will take requests for his 7:00AM daily order for easy pick up on the way home from work.  Some of the standard choices are a bit pricey though.  Tonight I saw dry packed scallops for $17.98/lb.  While the difference between dry and wet scallops will most likely be a separate post soon, these scallops, while MUCH better than wet scallops, are a bit overpriced.  

Hills Quality Seafood Market is worth a trip for anyone looking to get out of the grocery store and into some better quality ingredients.  You will find what you need at Hills if you are looking for anything living in water, and most things that compliment those dishes (like fresh corn, lemons and Old Bay seasoning).  So, go visit and become a regular eater of good seafood.

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