Scary Fish
By Lydia on September 10, 2008 4:50 PM| | Comments (6)
I've been, I fear, particularly absent in recent weeks. I blame the weather and the high cost of at-home internet service to one who lives alone. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade my roommate-free existence for anything, but there goes my fleeting dream of being able to afford the interweb...

In any event, my days have been fairly full of food, most of it maritime, most of it popularly undesirable. Welcome to Lydia Clowney's World of Fish, in ascending order of creepiness/ickyness.

Level One: The Approachable
I've been eating a really absurd amount of sushi, and I must say this: as much as I love Sushi-yama, I find it annoying that they are not open at dinner time. Actually, I can get around their hours, I understand that in their location there aren't all that many people around past 5pm most nights. What I cannot forgive is the existence of a "dinner entree" section on their menu, and their refusal to make dinner entrees at lunchtime, i.e., the only time they are open. How, exactly, am I to try their bibimbap, and how, exactly, am I to write my big bibimbap comparison article with only two restaurants weighing in? That really isn't too heavy of reporting, am I right? Get it together, Sushi-yama, I want us to be friends, and I want to try your damn bibimbap.

Now, I recently made friends with the very odd gentlemen of Flying Bridge Fish Market on Leonard and Plainfield. They are rather large, dour men, but they gave away their inner softy by playing Christina's Court on the TV. We all know about Christina; she takes the law into her own heart. They complimented me on my moped, and I told them how much I liked their nautical decor. Who knows, maybe they can be a sponsor for Fleet Week 2009. (Side note, Fleet Week is the Moped Navy's rally, to be held in the spring. um, epic...) Flying Bridge sells a number of different fishes, including lake and ocean perch, tilapia, catfish, and smelt, by the pound, or as "dinners" with fries. I got Herm the ocean perch, which, at 8.99 was about 4 dollars cheaper than the freshwater variety, and I got the smelt.

Getting the fish back to Vertigo was a mite rough, as Flying Bridge doesn't have takeout containers as such, but uses open paper dishes inside a paper bag. This means that it is likely your tasty fried meal will tilt slightly and cause the bag extreme transparency, making it impossible to kid yourself that fish is a delightfully healthy food, and that you are doing you body a really good thing by eating it.  That said, if you get the smelt, you might as well eat them out of a paper bag, as they are the ultimate fishy finger food. If you combine the fries and the fish together and douse them with vinegar and hot sauce, you have one of the most perfect out-of-bag meals ever. They ones I had were crispy and perfectly fried, with tender fish interiors. I am actually salivating a little writing this.

Part Two: The Suspicious
I like making pizza a lot. You throw flour, yeast, salt, water and olive oil together in the food processor, and then let it sit for a couple of hours. In my experience, this is the perfect time to call your friends and ride your bike up to the Meanwhile Bar for a couple of pitchers. Properly sauced, you ride home, throw some garlic and onion and a can of tomatoes in a pan with a little diced carrot, grate some cheese and 8-12 minutes later, Voila! Quicker than delivery!  If you are really lucky, you have a can of anchovies in the cupboard. Drizzle the packing oil onto the crust before the sauce, then top with anchovies and cheese. I like to chop the anchovies and sprinkle them on, that way you get more funky, fishy flavor, and less of that furry sort of mouthfeel that anchovies tend to have. I think it is something about the tiny bones that are in the filets, but the actual canned fish part may have something to do with it.
Pizza Crust:
3 cups flour ( I use whole wheat typically)
1 teaspoon instant yeast
2 teaspoons kosher salt (or any coarse salt)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup water
Put dry ingredients into food processor, turn on, add olive oil and water through feed tube. After 30 seconds or a minute it should turn into a ball, if not, add a tad more water. Knead the dough for a minute, then put into an oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise in a warm place for a couple hours.When you are ready to make pizza, turn the oven on as hot as it will go. Knead the dough a minute more, then separate into as many pieces as you need (dependent on how big your pans are) and let "puff" for 10-20 minutes. (I skip that step sometimes.) Roll the dough out. It is easier to roll if you flatten it, then let it sit a bit to trick it into letting you roll it more. It can be very elastic, which can be frustrating. If you get pissed at it, let it sit for another minute before keeping on. Sauce, top, bake for 8-12 minutes and let the thing cool if you can before you eat it. I usually can't.

Part 3: The Unthinkable
I get these epiphanies sometimes. It's not something I can control, it's just sort of like, "Hey! I'm sick of using juice as a mixer, maybe I should use beer!" OK, so I'm kidding. But in the course of my boredom behind various San Chez bars I have come up with some pretty good drinks. Que Bruja was a cucumber-mint martini based loosely on raita, the indian yogurt condiment. The Monocle, a little-appreciated drink that unpopularly used Campari, was pretty and pink, and  had a neat orange wheel floating on top.  The Bear Trap, coming soon to a San Chez drink menu near you uses Assam tea, Berenjager, and muddled berries. All these pale in comparison to the genius that we call the Black & Bloody.

My latest baby is a squid-ink bloody-mary martini. It is black, murky, and terrifying. It has a very round, full flavor, not fishy, but reminiscent of the sea. It is minimally spicy, and has a nutty quality from the sherry. It comes garnished with a sherry soaked stuffed date, and a tentacular calamari clinging to its edge. It is an awesome drink. You heard it here first:
Black & Bloody
1 1/4 oz Chopin Vodka
1/2 oz Oloroso Sherry
TINY splash squid ink
Zing Zang
Shake and serve up, garnished as above.

zing zang?


I have refrained from commenting on your blog until this moment. Frankly, I can resist no longer. This is one hell of a great post.

I get a little thrill of excitement when I see "Scary Dinner" on the left hand nav. In fact, after I saw that you had made a new post, I made myself save it for reading at work this morning - an incentive to arrive on time and start the day off right.

San Chez has always been a quite a dud for me. When friends insist on birthday dinners and special events there, I grin and bare it, but always leave feeling disappointed. The menu seems like so much oil, white flour, and cheese. Time and time again, I have given it another shot - hoping they tore off the country kitchen border in the upstairs mezzanine, hoping the waiter won't insist on a regional theater proclamation when announcing my food, and hoping I can get out of there without thinking of the shoes/records I could have just purchased in lieu.

So, I am asking you to stop posting such delicious incentives to purchase rare ingredients and possibly give San Chez another chance. The fact that I don't like going there has served me well so far - I am on a budget damn it!

YOU DID IT!! Sis, what did you stuff the dates with? I haves to know.


1. Zing Zang is a bloody mary mixer. It is one of the better pre-made ones. I tried using actual tomato juice, but it made the drink thin and insipid. Zing Zang is thicker, and has some kick to it.

2. Thanks Johanna! That makes me really glad! I also dislike many aspects of the Chez, grease and cheeiness (dairy and decor alike) being in the fore. The funniest part is that so many people we serve think of the Chez as haute cuisine on the forefront of culinary ingenuity, challenging tastebuds right and left...

3. Ryan, I couldn't have done it without your help. I wish I had a picture of that diagram note you wrote. The first date I stuffed with a piece of feta from Kat's salad, as I was in a hurry. It made the drink a little oily though, so in the end I piped in a bit of the goat cheese.

your blog makes me hungry, and thirsty for a good drink. We have ONE sushi place in this little city and as I was reading your blog I had to go find their phone number, only to find out that they too, close at 5:00. 11-5. Ug, what to have for dinner now? I think I'll make some rice and try to make something tasty to go with it. But definitely no Black and Bloody ingredients around....
Hey, next time you go to Ann Arbor call me up as there are two fantastic places for Bibimbap there, and then two more that are so-so. Even if they can't be part of your local comparison, it will be some damn good food. (There is also a severe lack of Korean food in Marquette, yet some fantastic Thai food! I can't complain as I knew these facts moving up, but I still can crave it). Thank god we like to cook and finding fresh ingredients isn't a prob.
Missing you from the U.P.

remember weird fish in SF?
that place was awesome.
remember fish and chips in tobago?
ayo's naturalness?
mmm even better.