Local Seafood

Believe it or not, it's not an oxymoron

In 1918, Mose Iacino launched a family fish business in Colorado by bringing fresh seafood into Denver on railcars. The supply came from Seattle, Wash. and, in order to keep the catch fresh, new ice was added every time the train stopped on its multi-day journey.

Daily refrigerated air transport from Seattle Fish Company still brings seafood into our locked land of enchantment, providing fish to restaurants like recurrent Best of Santa Fe winner Mariscos
"La Playa."

Today Santa Fe can coax the coast a little closer when it comes to offering top-notch seafood fare with quality markets down the street and a handful of sushi bars around the corner. Noshing a lobster roll and fried clams seems more appropriate in Freeport, Maine than near the Palace of the Governors or Taos Pueblo, but regional cuisines are evolving with technology.

Thanks to that technology, which brought us flash-freezing to ensure safety and quality, fish found in Santa Fe can rival that found in many port cities.

The Whole Foods Santa Fe seafood department agrees. Roan Carrillo, five-year veteran of the Whole Foods seafood department, says the store's stock "is the widest selection of sustainably fished, best-quality seafood you can find in all of New Mexico." It sources its products from five vendors, including the Seattle Fish Company's New Mexico branch and the smaller, locally owned Above Sea Level. Above Sea Level, a Santa Fe company, provides fresh and frozen fish to many restaurants around town including El Nido, Santa Fe Steamer and Steaksmith at El Gancho.

But where's the place for aquatic edibles in the realm of locavore concerns? Carrillo notes that "while [Whole Foods carries] some Colorado trout, shoppers don't seem too worried about 'local' as much as food quality."

But even seafood that isn't sourced locally may be purchased locally. The newly remodeled Kaune's Neighborhood Market (511 Old Santa Fe Trail, 982-2629) is just the ticket. The 50-year-old store celebrated its grand re-opening on June 13.

Kaune's has always been known as a small specialty neighborhood market, but it has recently been revamped to focus on its perception of community needs. In an effort to compete with big-name groceries, Kaune's is now brighter, fuller (the produce section has been plumped up and over 700 wine labels are available) and exudes a distinctly co-opey vibe. The fish section includes beautiful steaks and shellfish, and the employees manning the counter are eager to answer any questions.

Kaune's gets its seafood from Above Sea Level, and while its selection may not be as expansive as that of some larger stores, the purchase price will flow right back into Santa Fe both through Kaune's and Above Sea Level.

There are surprises in calculating the carbon footprint of buying seafood (or any other food for that matter) according to a 2008 study, "Food-Miles and the Relative Climate Impacts of Food Choices in the United States" from Carnegie Mellon University researchers Christopher Weber and H Scott Matthews. The report states, "Different food groups exhibit a large range in GHG (greenhouse gas) intensity; on average, red meat is around 150% more GHG intensive than chicken or fish…Shifting less than one day per week's worth of calories from red meat and dairy products to chicken, fish, eggs, or a vegetable-based diet achieves more GHG reduction than buying all locally sourced food." Chew on that, Rocky Mountain-raised buffalo burger.

In New Mexico, buying seafood sourced globally may not affect our carbon footprint as much as previously thought, but what should concern us instead is how that seafood is environmentally managed in the first place—and, once those bases are covered, who and what is being supported with each purchase. Kaune's remodel has made buying from local businesses even more enjoyable, and Above Sea Level's fantastic fish selection makes it palatable too.

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