By now Edible readers are familiar with, and many are members of, CSAs (community-supported agriculture), which in turn for an upfront payment deliver a weekly box of fresh, in-season produce. There are honey CSAs, egg CSAs and even flower CSAs. But what about a fish CSA? This question had been haunting Sean Barrett ever since a visit to San Sebastián, Spain, where he ate some of the freshest fish of his life provided by the restaurant’s “concierge” fisherman. This past year he decided to do something about it.
Enter Dock to Dish, a community-supported fishery that provides same-day-sourced fish to members within a short drive. Barrett works with his friends and neighbors, Rudi and Rita Bonicelli, who were searching for a way to keep money in East End fishing fleets while expanding the supply of excellent local seafood. Using Barrett’s salesmanship, Rudi’s fishing skill and connections and Rita’s ability to navigate fisheries permitting, Dock to Dish buys from a network of small-scale East End fishermen, which allows it to offer an awesome diversity of species that represents exactly what’s running now—from flounder and herring coming out of pond traps in spring to squid and clams in the fall.
Barrett and the Bonicellis found an eager ally in the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, whose members had been keeping an eye on CSFs popping up in the region, says Jeremy Samuelson, the organization’s director. The group’s mandate doesn’t just include preserving Montauk’s open space but also preserving its waters and the people who work the waterfront. If sending fish to Fulton Fish Market was “an overly complicated, low-value, broken model” for small-scale fishers, says Samuelson, Dock to Dish was a simple, good value, brand-new model.
And, for a blissful month this past fall, Edible East End had the pleasure of being one of eight members who joined for the pilot run. The first week we got two pounds of cod; we fried some and made chowder with the rest. The second week was blackfish, so perfect we ate it raw. The third, black sea bass that we poached with soy sauce. The final week was striped bass, our region’s signature fish. Each week’s box came with a recipe, and a note telling the story of the fish, how it was caught, where and by whom. The striped bass note explained that it was the region’s first fish whose catch was regulated to help boost the population: it worked and has become a model for other species. The team has contacted nearby CSA farms (Quail Hill, Balsam Farms) to piggyback fish shares on produce shares and find common drop spots.
“Same-day-sourced seafood is about to become available to individual, family and restaurant subscribers on the East End,” says Barrett. “For a freshness most folks have never experienced before in their lives.”
Dock to Dish launches in June. Sign up by visiting docktodish.com.