“Don’t Eat Seafood In A Landlocked State,” The Conventional Wisdom Goes, At Least For People From The Coasts.
This would be sage advice were it not for the reality that modern transportation and refrigeration make it possible for any city, including Las Vegas, surrounded as it is by desert, to receive fresh seafood. No one is quibbling about the quality of the seafood in Vegas, nor should they about the quality in Oklahoma.
DeLancey Miller has been bringing fresh fish and shellfish into Oklahoma for many years, and even now, as the regional sales manager for Frugé Seafood Company in Grand Prairie, Texas, he prefers the title “fishmonger.” Miller said that Frugé alone sells 3,500 to 4,500 pounds of fresh fish a week in Oklahoma City.
“We meet the airplanes at DFW or Love Field,” Miller said, “and then we take fresh fish to our facility in Grand Prairie. Four thousand square feet of the place is just a big cooler where the fish are processed.”
Miller and his partner Mike Frugé work with companies along the Gulf Coast, as well as farmers and fishing companies in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Chile and Scotland. The fish from domestic companies lands on your plate as quickly as 24-36 hours after being caught, and it is never frozen.
Frugé works with farmers and companies that practice sustainable aquaculture, too, meaning that rather than deplete the ocean’s resources, they are actively working to meet the planet’s seafood demands in ways that guarantee we will have fresh seafood 50 years from now.
“There is simply no way to meet the demand if it’s left up to catching wild fish,” Miller said. “We cultivate relationships so that we can meet demand, but we will only meet the demand sustainably.”
To further both their global responsibility and their food quality, Frugé is entering into a relationship with the Gulf Trace Register, an organization that tracks the provenance of fresh seafood and can tell restaurants the place, time, boat and captain’s name in reference to any fish. It is a remarkable system that prevents unscrupulous farmers or companies from delivering less than ideal product.
Randy Meyer of The Mantel, which he co-owns with Lorin Doan, uses Frugé for the restaurant’s fresh seafood. Garrett Myers, the executive chef, offers two or three fresh seafood specials per week, and fresh salmon is always on the menu. Meyer said he started adding fresh seafood to his menu about seven years ago when it became feasible to do so. Four years ago, he switched to all fresh seafood.
“The demand has grown over the years,” Meyer said. “I don’t know the exact numbers, but seafood is about one third of our sales now.”
The Mantel also gets seafood shipped direct from Hawaii, and the process is remarkably tailored. “It’s not unusual to get a call from the fishing boat about fish not on our order,” Meyer said. “The boat captain will call and tell me they caught a few fish not on our order, and if I want it, I can just have him add it to the shipping packs.” That allows Meyer to offer unusual and seasonal fish as feature items, expanding the menu and his customers’ palates.
The Mantel is one of many local restaurants offering fresh seafood. Miller started to make a list of places, but there are so many, it was impossible for him to catalog them all off the top of his head. Essentially, it’s a who’s who of local restaurants: Boulevard Steakhouse, Hal Smith Restaurant Group, The Metro, Nonna’s, Paseo Grill, Signature Grill and The George, and that is only a small sample. Oklahoma City has amazing access to a wide variety of fresh seafood every day.
Miller said the seafood arrives three times a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The trucks leave Grand Prairie at 2 a.m. on those days, and companies can order up until 4 p.m. the prior day, meaning fresh seafood is on the lunch menu in land-locked Oklahoma City.