St. Barths Online

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Jun 7, 2010

THE GREAT FISH DEBATE

There seems to be a bone of contention among a few of my friends. Fine folks who love some of the finer things in life, such as Dover Sole That flat fish floating in butter and capers. Known in French as Sole Meunière, it is made from what is called in European fisherman vernacular as common sole...yet what a lovely way to dress up a common species. But the debate centers around the question of Dover Sole on the menu in St Barth, since probably the closest place you could catch said sole is in the Mediterranean, just a few thousand miles away. Now if we were some land-locked corner of the world, flying fresh fish a few thousand miles might make sense. But to fly it to St Barth, a tropical island whose warm waters are a veritable aquarium of diverse—and edible—fish. Of course the sole does not make a solo journey across the Atlantic… other European fish are packed up and sent on the voyage as well, along with scallops, oysters, mussels and other crustaceans and mollusks not native to our seas. Of course, quite a few oysters were shucked along the road to St Barth’s perch as the pearl of the Caribbean, where fine dining is high on the list of the island’s attributes. But I’d like to issue a challenge to the great chefs lurking in the local kitchens. How about ‘fresh fish month,’ a celebration of all that can be found by our favorite fishermen… and cut down on the carbon footprint of flying fish halfway around the world. In fact, the chef at Le Tamarin has stepped up to the plate already by creating “Bourse Meunière,” taking a local fish and turning it into a delicacy. Bourse is a fish one doesn’t make an appearance on menus too often, so try it out when you see it. Of course, mahi-mahi, wahoo, tuna, and bonita often take the bait when our fisherman head out to sea, as well as local lobster and the occasional marlin or even shark, as can be seen at the fish market in Gustavia. Other local fish range from rainbow-colored parrotfish to things called ‘grand guele’ and ‘coffre’ – all of which you’ll find on native tables. Of course the island’s native lived primarily on fish for hundreds of years: my husband says they ate it twice a day, six days a week, year in and year out (the only break in the pescatore platters was a bit of chicken or goat on Sunday). Fish on the BBQ, fish in court bouillon, fish every way you can imagine, other than meunière, which came to the island as part of the most recent European invasion. So should we be flying fish to the island or not? I’d say no, but when my husband, the native, orders Dover Sole, I guess there is more than one bone to pick around here.

Ellen Lampert-Greaux


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