I can deal with tomatoes that aren’t as good as I had hoped - there’s always tomato sauce; an inferior cut of meat can lead to a great stew. But fish that isn’t the highest quality or supremely fresh? That is just unacceptable in my book.
Fortunately, we have a number of fish market options in Fairfield County, many of which are very good. Markets like Pagano’s in Norwalk, and Superior Fish in Westport certainly have their followings, but after doing a thorough sampling, I have found that one stands apart from its peers: Fjord Fisheries. Fjord gets my vote on two counts: quality and selection.
I recently spoke with Jardar Nygaard, Fjord’s owner, who shared the secret to his outstanding product. Fjord gets deliveries every morning, including Sunday, much of it right off the boats in Boston; the rest is sourced from dealers he knows in Boston and at the Fulton Fish Market in New York. He sends his own trucks to these markets, and brings the fish directly to Fjord’s facility in Norwalk (no middleman here). There, employees do nothing but process the fish (i.e.: cut the whole fish into steaks and fillets), so there is no interruption in their work, and fish can be kept at optimal temperatures before it is delivered to the stores in Greenwich and Westport.
Talk about fresh….By 9AM, the Greenwich store is stocked, and the trucks arrive at the Westport store by 10:30. Recently, I purchased monkfish that was line caught in Gloucester and shipped to the store that morning. It was spectacular! On my last visit, the soft shelled crabs and head-on shrimp looked as if they would start swimming happily again if they could just find their way to saltwater. Instead, they made it to my grill providing a great deal of on-land happiness.
Jardar’s philosophy is straightforward: “I only buy fish when it’s good. For example, you won’t find Shad Roe in the cases in February, because it doesn’t taste good until April.” He also says he keeps his “inventory tight” to ensure optimal freshness. On a recent weekend, Fjord sold over 1000 pounds of fish out of their Greenwich shop, leaving only 10 pounds that didn’t sell by close on Sunday.
In terms of selection, Fjord’s is plentiful. From the usual suspects (salmon, halibut, shrimp) to the less usual (skate, mahi mahi, monkfish), if you can’t find what a recipe calls for, there will be suitable substitutes and options. Fjord’s showcase doesn’t just display fish by name and price, but also tells you how and where it was caught. In recent weeks, I’ve been able to choose from line caught Sockeye Salmon, wild King Salmon, and organic farm raised Atlantic Salmon. When I asked about the source of the farm raised salmon on one visit, I was handed a laminated page describing the farm’s practices along with a photo of its fishing beds.
As a bonus, Fjord can also be a one stop shopping experience, a huge benefit on a beautiful summer Sunday when you don’t want to spend your day in multiple markets. Fjord sells a selection of produce, carries Wave Hill bread (which is awesome) and makes their own fresh marinades in 5 flavors: ginger sesame soy, ginger mustard, dill, mustard dill and miso. They also make cocktail sauce, basil and cilantro pesto, tartar sauce and Louis sauce. If you’d like to round out your meal with soup, you can take home South Beach Gazpacho with or without crab, Lobster Bisque, New Brunswick Fish Stew or Manhattan or New England Clam Chowder. Dave Franck, the manager at the Westport store won’t give away his recipes, but all around town you will find hosts serving up Fjord’s delicious Smoked Marlin Dip and Smoked Shrimp and Crab Dip and claiming it as their own.
Fjord also has you covered if you’d like to throw a lobster bake, but find the task too daunting. Does anyone prepare their own lobster bake anymore? It doesn’t matter. For $45 a person, you can take home oysters, clams, shrimp, 1 ½ lbs. of lobster, steamers, mussels, potatoes, soup, corn and coleslaw all ready to serve. The only thing you need to supply is the drawn butter. For added entertainment value, you can hire a cook to prepare your lobster bake ($125 for 4 hours).
Fjord Fisheries has two locations in Fairfield County:
1835 Post Rd. Westport (203) 255-9331
158 E Putnam Ave. Cos Cob (203) 661-5006