Last week I heard that Dave Pasternack, fisherman, chef, and co-creator with Mario Batali of Esca in Manhattan was going fishing for salmon on Lake Michigan. My friend Diane had told me about their amazing expedition in the Long Island Sound this summer for the upcoming season of Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie so I just had to tag along. Early Monday morning, especially challenging after a wine-paired dinner in his honor at Sepia the night before, I found myself bracing against cold wind and waves alongside Dave aboard the King Fisherman. I joined a few other hopeful fishing guests, including Bruce Sherman, chef and partner of North Pond, the fiercely local and seasonal restaurant on the grounds of Lincoln Park.
The captain kept us out the rip raff and we dropped some monkey puke, but never did find a honey hole and didn’t even get a bump.
To translate the fisher-speak, we avoided the strong shore current, lowered some distinctive green trolling lures, but didn’t find a cache of fish, nor did any even nose our lines in interest.
“I can’t believe we’re gonna get skunked,” said Dave with disgusted disbelief, clearly unused to fishless trips.
He was in town for his beautiful new book “The Young Man and the Sea: Recipes and Crispy Fish Tales from Esca”. The Sepia dinner had included pristine crudo of Nantucket bay scallops with lemon and chervil, as well as meaty roasted monkfish with cauliflower stewed with saffron and Gaeta olives, recipes from the book.
On the boat, while we waited in vain for a bite, he lovingly described how he’d prepare our fish. “I'd just like to fry it up so the skin gets nice and crispy,” said Pasternack. Another passenger asked if temperature mattered. “Absolutely,” he said, “you want to keep it low so the fish stays moist.”
Ultimately a high wind advisory with oncoming 45-mph winds kept us away from the fish, which were about an hour out. That was nothing to Dave though - he'd just survived a storm three weeks ago that even he described as rough. It took him eight hours to get back to shore. My stomach lurched into my throat just thinking about it.
Dave will be opening a fish shack at the new Shea stadium (aka Citi Field, new home of the Mets in Queens). He said he’s thinking about seafood hotdogs and fried clams and oysters. “I want to keep it simple,” he said, “something you can eat and still watch the game.” Look for it, along with an outpost of Shake Shack, on Opening Day 2009.
And remember to check your local listings for Dave on Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie early next year on PBS to see if he had better luck on his home surf. (Spoiler alert: Diane said he did. Wait until you see what he caught and how he cooked it. That’s what got me out on that boat.)
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