At one time, San Diego had a bustling fishing industry, luring immigrants from Italy, China, Japan, and Portugal. Canneries came and our local fishermen sold to them. We were the "Tuna Capital of the World." But as price competition encouraged canneries to buy from other countries, the local industry began to wane. At one time we had thousands of commercial fishermen in San Diego. Now there are 121 commercial licenses issued and, according to Catalina Offshore Products' Tommy Gomes, only 85 of those holding the licenses are working--and 65 percent of them are over the age of 55.
I'll be working on that story soon for Edible San Diego, but in the meantime, the San Diego Italian Film Festival is presenting a culinary event this week to highlight the contributions of local fishermen like Mitch Hobron, Mike Flynn, Cliff Hawk, and Zack Roach--and promote the use of local fish of all sizes and species caught by local fishermen to supply San Diego chefs, according to Catt White of San Diego Weekly Markets. She is producing the event with the San Diego Italian Food Festival, Slow Food Urban San Diego, and the San Diego Fishermen's Working Group.
Dine on the Dock, will be held this Thursday, May 31 at 6 p.m. at Driscoll's Wharf/Pier 4 (4918 N. Harbor Dr. in Point Loma). It will feature the catch by these local fisherman who have been paired with chefs Chad White (Gabardine), Amy DiBiase (The Shores), Andrew Spurgin (Campine), Melissa Mayer (Martini Media), Craig Jimenez (Craft & Commerce), Pete Balistreri (Tender Greens), Trey Foshee (Georges at the Cove), Lhasa Landry (Lion's Share), and Peter McCall (Whisknladle). Specialty Produce will be providing the chefs with fruits and veggies. The pressure will be on for the chefs, who won't know until the last minute what the catch of the day will be, but it could be anything from sea urchin, local black gill rockfish, and octopus to sand dabs and spider crab. I don't think they're at all worried.
|Local Octopus Salad by Trey Foshee|
|Chad White's Grilled Sardines at Sea Rocket Bistro|
The event also is serving another purpose, to introduce San Diegans to the idea of having a local fisherman's farmers market on Driscoll's Wharf, run, of course, by White.
"The idea is that we'd start with a weekly Friday market with fishermen, farmers, and artisan food along the long walkway in from of American Fish, on the water where the fishermen unload," she explains. "Then it would morph into a [San Francisco] Ferry Building type scenario."
Chef Chad White is enthusiastic about the idea. "How cool would it be to have a co-op on the dock where people can come up and buy their fish fresh! It's important for our fishing community to grow and for us to be known again as a great fishing town."
Victor Laruccia of the San Diego Italian Film Festival notes that they've been involved for awhile now with Slow Food Urban San Diego in their CineCucina event, so a food event wasn't a stretch for a film organization. Then he and Pete Halmay of the San Diego Fishermen's Working Group were introduced and the two saw a nexus between the Italian community and the fishing community.
"We saw a common cause immediately and asked what could we do to pull that together. So we came up with an event of local food cooked Italian style," explains Halmay. "The idea was to show the people of San Diego that there's a vast rich history of fishing in San Diego."
Laruccia agrees. "Italian cuisine makes use of the kinds of fish caught here, so what would happen if we began to introduce dishes that incorporate the kind of fish we have here? And, for the Italian Film Festival, it represents our culture, so we're interested in that. It's education and exposure, but in a way that appeals to the senses."
Throughout the evening Laruccia will also be airing three short documentaries by director Vittoria De Seta. Originally from Calabria, but an immigrant to Sicily, the director went out with a camera himself, making films that preserved the culture of the 1950s, including three about fishing.
Tickets for the event are $85 and available for purchase online at www.dineonthedock.com.