Where can I get ahi-grade tuna in Orlando/Seminole County?
I got a sushi-making kit as a gift a few years ago, and have yet to bust it out. I would love to try it, though. I figure I could have some friends over and make California rolls (not my favorite, but usually well-received) and spicy tuna rolls, but can I just use the tuna from the Publix seafood department and serve it raw? Is it fresh enough, and safe? If not, is there a place that a normal person can get ahi-grade tuna? (I live in Casselberry, but can pretty much go anywhere around Orlando.) How much should I expect to pay for such tuna?
Ahi is a type of tuna (a particular sub-species of fish, yellow-fin - as distinguished from blue-fin, the other most common type of tuna used for sushi) and not a grade. I think what you are looking for is "sushi grade tuna" (ahi or otherwise) and what is at your average Publix is definitely not that. Indeed, if your local Publixs are anything like those here in Miami, there is very little I would actually eat from their seafood department, raw or cooked.
Though I don't know your neck of the woods, I'd suggest you look for either (1) a Japanese market; or (2) a good (not Publix) seafood market. A good Japanese market may have frozen sushi-grade fish. Don't necessarily be afraid of frozen, a good frozen sushi-grade fish will often be better than a lousy fresh one (which at many lesser fish markets may be frozen and thawed anyway). Indeed, some of the best sushi restaurants will often use fish that is flown in from Japan after being "super-frozen" (special freezing process at super-low temperatures that better preserves structural integrity and flavor) and locally in Miami I know of at least one Japanese market that can get super-frozen tuna and hamachi. Ask for instructions for how to thaw.
Most seafood markets will now make a point of advertising that they have sushi grade fish (if they do). I would only eat something raw from a reliable seafood market - but if they were reliable, I wouldn't necessarily limit myself to what's labeled as sushi grade (though I would definitely ask the fishmonger first).
I suspect you will pay somewhere around $15/lb for sushi grade tuna, possibly more.
Here's a thread I googled up on Japanese markets in Orlando:
Try Dong A on 17-92 just north of Mills (coming from Casselberry it will be on the left). It's a great store that has just about everything! (Also, here's a trick for your sushi kit: wrap your map in plastic wrap before you use it. Otherwise it's very difficult to clean!)
If you're up to the drive, there are a couple of seafood markets at Port Canaveral that are about as fresh as anything you're going to find. We buy most of our fish from Seafood Atlantic or Wild Ocean Seafood. We've been fortunate on several occasions to get fish right off the boat. Call ahead and find out what's the freshest.