KC’s Soaring Seafood Scene

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Story by Dave Eckert

I’ve lived in Kansas City for more than 20-years. There have been a myriad of dramatic changes during that time-the development of a vibrant downtown that includes a new sports arena and a performing arts center, the emergence of The Crossroads District as a place to drink, dine, and live, and the opening of so many micro-breweries and distilleries in the metro that it’s hard to keep track to name just a few. But, as a foodie, perhaps the most dramatic shift I’ve noticed in my time in KC is its development as a first-class destination for fresh seafood. Yes, landlocked Kansas City has some of the best seafood offerings and seafood-based restaurants in the Midwest!

If you’d told me even five years ago that some of my favorite restaurants and courses around town would feature fresh seafood, I would not have believed you. But, it’s true. With restaurants like Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar, Jarocho Pescados y Mariscos, Jarocho South, and The Bristol leading the way, and so many others following suit, you can find incredibly fresh, amazingly delicious, sustainably sourced fresh seafood in scores of restaurants across the metro!



My mouth waters just thinking about some of the seafood dishes I’ve had here: baby octopus in a spicy sauce and whatever whole fish Carlos Falcon has secured for the week at Jarocho, fried calamari with mango-chile mojo and lime aioli, ahi tuna “new style,” and every single seafood crudo creation they’ve sent my way at Jax, the whole fried seabass with Thai vegetables and a “Tiger Cried” hot sauce at Waldo Thai, the best fish and chips in town at Brady’s Public House , the mussels at District Pour House, and my favorite of them all-oven-roasted Chilean seabass over Boursin-infused mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus with some fried spinach leaves and a “five day” reduction sauce at Chaz at The Raphael. And, I’m just dipping my toe in the water.

“We get everything flown in fresh, either FedEx or UPS. Honolulu Fish Company sends tuna, salmon, anything you want, and it comes in a giftwrapped box that’s just beautiful. You’ve also got companies like Seattle Fish that deliver fresh product that they bring in right to your door,” Chaz Executive Chef Shawn Hartwig told me. “I’m originally from Minnesota and I spent a lot of time in Chicago, so I understand living in landlocked cities, but there’s no longer a disadvantage of sourcing fresh seafood in a landlocked city.”

In fact, Dave Query, the owner and founder of Jax, which operates restaurants in Colorado and Missouri, two landlocked states, says there can even be an advantage to securing your seafood here. “Because we’re in the middle of the country, we fly in seafood from all over – West, East, and South. Whereas, if you have a restaurant in Seattle, New Orleans, or Baltimore, you’re much more likely to feature only seafood from your own backyard,” Query shared.

Query says he views airports as seaports, so wherever there’s an airport, at least a substantial one, restaurants can acquire fresh seafood. Clearly, Hartwig and others around town concur and are following his lead. “I’m getting prawns from New Zealand, not shrimp, but fresh prawns. I can get Scottish salmon delivered from a dock to an airplane to us three days a week,” Hartwig stated.



Another significant mover in the local fresh seafood procurement push is Seattle Fish Company, which supplies fresh seafood to six states out of its Kansas City office: Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, and Nebraska. Seattle Fish processes more than three million pounds of seafood per year at its Riverside, MO facility, and another 12 million pounds at the company’s Denver location.

“We service over 400 restaurants in the states we serve out of the Kansas City office. If you include our retail business, we service nearly 600 customers and stores total,” said Taylor Laitsch, who handles Marketing and Communications for Seattle Fish’s KC and Denver operations.

The retail aspect is important to note because it gives consumers the chance to purchase the same high-quality fresh seafood that’s being featured in area restaurants. Believe me, as someone who grew up in the Chicago suburbs in the late 60’s and 70’s where fresh seafood was virtually non-existent, that is huge. “We partner with several retailers of all sizes between our Kansas City and Denver locations, including but not limited to: Price Chopper, Sprouts, Consentino’s, Reesers, Broadway Butcher, Uptown, Whole Foods, and King Soopers/City Market,” Laitsch shared.

But, it’s not just about quantity for Seattle Fish. Laitsch says quality has been the goal since the company’s founding back in 1918. “Seattle Fish Company was founded on the principles of quality and customer service – core values which we are still paramount for us today. Our focus has also grown to include sustainability, responsible sourcing, and a deep sense of community in the areas that we serve,” Laitsch told me. “We have vendor partners – fantastic fishermen and women, growers, and farmers all over the world. We work with them to source the best products available and bring them directly to our customers.”

One more indication of how far KC has come with fresh seafood – back with Hartwig at Chaz, that seabass dish (which he buys from Seattle Fish) has become his number one seller. So, at a restaurant where you’d traditionally go for rack of lamb or a great aged steak, a seafood entrée is number one with a bullet. Way to go Kansas City. We are a Cowtown no more!



Chilean Seabass Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 Seabass Filets
  • Flour
  • Butter
  • 2 diced Russert Potatoes
  • 3oz boursin
  • 2oz melted butter
  • 4oz hot cream
  • 30 pieces asparagus
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 10 beef bones
  • 1 chopped tomato
  • 3 onions halved
  • 6 carrots sliced into 1” slices
  • 1 celery head washed and chopped into 1” squares
  • 1oz fino sherry

Seabass Filets

  • 2 Seabass Filets
  • Flour
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Cut 2 Seabass Filets into 4 Pieces. Season with Salt and Pepper and roll in flour. Sear Seabass in cast iron pan with butter till golden brown on all sides. Place in a 450 degree oven, turning every 2 minutes till fish is cooked through (if you can push a paring knife through it and easily come out its ready) should be 10-12 minutes.


Boursin Mash Potatoes

  • 2 diced Russert Potatoes
  • 3oz boursin
  • 2oz melted butter
  • 4oz hot cream
  • 30 pieces asparagus
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Boil 2 diced Russert Potatoes till tender. Then, rice through a food mill. While still hot, place in a stand mixer and add 3oz boursin, 2oz melted butter, and 4oz hot cream. Mix and season with salt. Grill 30 pieces asparagus with olive oil and salt and pepper till just tender and lightly charred. Fry 2 cup fresh spinach till crisp and season with salt and pepper.


Sherry Demi

  • 10 beef bones
  • 1 chopped tomato
  • 3 onions halved
  • 6 carrots sliced into 1” slices
  • 1 celery head washed and chopped into 1” squares
  • 1oz fino sherry
  • Salt

Roast 1 Chopped tomato, 3 Onions halved, 6 carrots sliced into 1” slices, 1 celery head washed and chopped into 1” squares. Roast everything separate slowly at 250 for 4 hours. Then cover Beef Bones with Cold Water and bring to a simmer and cook for 24 hours. Strain and save broth, recover the bones and cook again for another 24 hours. Add the two broths together and add roast vegetables. Cook for 6 hours, and strain. Reduce done for another 4-6 hours till 1/3 amount of broth is left. Add 1oz fino sherry to every 20oz Beef reduction. Season with Salt and Enjoy.

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