Tuna, Crunchy Crab, and Sandwiches

TIP-TOP TUNA

When Joe Malley sent 30 samples of tuna to the lab, he was putting his entire business on the line. Malley is the skipper of the fishing vessel St. Jude and a pioneer in environmentally sound sustainable fisheries here in the Northwest. The 30 samples sent to an independent testing lab in Portland, Ore., came from albacore tuna jig-caught by the St. Jude on its last voyage to the mid-Pacific. Mercury-uptake by Pacific tuna has become a significant human-health concern, but Malley was betting his fish would meet or exceed the strict mercury standard set by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (itself three times more stringent that the FDA's). The result? St. Jude's target catchyounger, smaller fish avoided by efficiency-driven big fishing boatsregistered less than the minimum mercury detectible by the tests: under .1 parts per million.

St. Jude's been pushing the envelope back on shore, too. They recently contracted with Primavera Imports of Woodinville to provide extra-virgin Casa Brina olive oil for St. Jude's premium canned albacore product, which is available at Whole Foods, Larry's, and premium Thriftway outlets.

CRUNCHY CRAB

Everybody knows that Dungeness crab (Cancer magister) is the world's finest, right? I mean, it's settledno argument. But if you pay any mind to effete immigrants from the East Coast, you'll often hear them claim there's another crab worth eatingthe blue crab, native to Chesapeake Bay, particularly in its "soft-shell" form. Crab have to molt their shells to grow, and a soft-shell crab is just a plain old crab right after it shucks its old chitinous integument. The incipient new shell underneath hardens up fast, so your window of opportunity to eat the crab "soft shell" and all is eight hours or less. So how the heck does Richard Malia's Ponti Seafood Grill manage to serve them 3,000 miles from their native shallows? Actually, the crab on Ponti's menu, dipped and deep-fried in a light cornmeal tempura batter, arrive in Seattle recently deceased, deprived for tidiness reasons of their gills, sex organs, and face at their point of origin (Crisfield, Md.). When Caprial Pence introduced Seattle to soft-shell crab at Fullers in the mid-1980s, the crab came as live "leatherbacks," with shells already beginning to toughen. They didn't stay on the menu long. It wasn't the kitchen staff that balked at the icky job of "skinning" them. The waitstaff flatly refused to serve them. The movie Alien was fresh in everybody's mind, and a just-peeled soft shell crab looked too much like the hatchlings that chewed their way through the crew of the Nostromo.

NAKED LUNCH

When is a sandwich not a sandwich? When it's naked. What's a naked sandwich? Meat in a bowl. Where can you buy such a delicacy? Protein Planet, the new cafe-store downtown. Furthering their plans for world domination, Atkins dieters are no longer settling for the old buy-a-Big-Mac-and-throw-away-the-bun routine. They're creating their own breadless sandwiches and selling them, too: chicken breast with an herbal mesquite rub; flank steak marinated in soy sauce with pepper flakes; lightly seasoned turkey breast; all of these naked sandwiches are available in neatly packed to-go bowls (6 oz. $3.99/10 oz. $5.99). Hankering for egg salad without the pesky bread? No problem. Protein Planet has naked egg salad and tuna salad, too (6 oz. $1.99). What would the Earl say?

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