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Sep 18, 2012 11:00 PM

Market Basket: Corn and Seafood

This has been my year to come to a new larger appreciation for corn.We have bought corn in many places: Verrill Farm, Union Sq Farmer's Market, Russell's Farm Stand, and MB (Woburn.) Yesterday I found myself making a huge pot of (my replication of East Coast Grill's) Corn, Sweet Potato and Clam Chowder. (Btw, the pot grew exponentially because in the first/starter batch, i baptised some black Mexican Smoked Salt from Cristina's Spices, and I hated it ; so I needed to increase all the other soup components to lose the acrid and overwhelming taste of that salt. *Fair warning*)

So,yesterday i ended up with corn from Verrill, Russell, and MB. And..... yep, you guessed it; the best, by far , was from the MB corn. Though many previous Verrill corn batches had been delicious, this light yellowVerrill corn had o.k. flavor but was very watery (never experienced that in corn before.) The Russell's was a mixed batch; the light yellow small kerneled ears had little flavor (we had had some like that from the Union Sq. Farmers Mkt in August) and the Butter and Sugar was pretty good. But the MB Butter and Sugar kernels were fresh, plump, dense, w/ a deep clean flavor of corn. I must say, we really were surprised, but delighted. I guess they have a good local corn connection. And, like the excellent MB watermelon wedges I've had all summer, i just wanted to share that rave. ( oh, i'm using 'butter and sugar' for corn that has a combo of yellow and white kernels; but maybe there are lots of corn types that have yellow and white kernels?)

And MB seafood: Aside from a summer's worth of wonderful sweet $3.99 lb. lobster from MB, we had never had any of their other seafood. But last and this week ,we got some wonderful silky deep orange steel head trout there (along with an oddly tough fibrous piece of salmon ).
*p.s. i don't know if it was an effect of the color, but the steel head trout tasted so much like salmon. Is it just me? ( or is fish nomenclature messing with us again?) Wiki here i come....

What has been your experience w/ MB seafood? Are there other 'dependably good' seafoods there? Thx much.

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  1. I shop MB's seafood all the time. It's always consistent and priced well. I've been "burnt" a lot with farm stand or even farmer's market corn quality and now mostly just buy it from MB. I try to be a patron of "local ingredients", but don't understand if farmer's are elimating a middle man, why are the prices to high at farmer's markets? Even though everything is fresh, just looking for a little better pricing.

    11 Replies
    1. re: mcel215

      The economics of farmer's markets may be a bit baffling, but I'm sure these farmers aren't getting rich. I have yet to run into one of them when I'm on the slopes.
      MB produce isn't as fresh as what you pick up at the market. But it matters less now since hybrids have been improved so they have longer shelf lives.

      1. re: mcel215

        The corn my local Market Basket sells comes from the same local farm where i have a CSA share. Same thing with the lettuce. MB tries to buy from local farmers whenever possible. I think because they are able to buy in such quantity they are able to keep prices lower than farmer's markets. Also..Farmer's Market prices seem to vary widely which I find annoying. I can go to the farmer's market in downtown Lawrence and the same farms are there selling produce for much less than they sell it for at the Andover farmer's Market.

        As far as seafood..I never buy seafood from grocery stores and after this week's Sunday Globe article on the water content of seafood at the grocery store..I am even less likely to buy there.

        1. re: BlueMagic

          I'm pretty sure they were referring mostly to frozen pre-packaged fish, but I could be wrong. I've bought MB fish many times, especially from Burlington and Chelsea, and always been pleased. The fish counters there are really busy and there seems to be lots of turnover.

          The only store I know that has packaged fish is the Somerville store.

        2. re: mcel215

          Supposedly, farmers markets aren't that efficient for them....they don't load that much into the trucks and they have to take the trucks to locations (not as green from scale of economy) and man the locations w/ people.

          And ditto farmer's markets being flaky...bought some white corn from Kimball Fruit Farm a few weeks back and half of them were rotted or had worms (they don't let you open the tips at the Davis Square farmer's market for some reason)-: The rest of the white corn had zero taste even though the guy I spoke to there said it'd be sweeter than the butter&sugar variety :-P

          We've also had a lot more consistent luck w/ MB corn. I've been guessing they were hybrid because there's no way they'd be that sweet after spending at least a few days of travel...the first batch we got that was sweet at MB was way back in May...

          1. re: Spike

            that's interesting, spike. maybe i misinterpreted what i read over the yrs., but i read that corn, as it sits, has its starch convert into sugar...which i thought indicated it got sweeter, but maybe, eventually also mealy? Help, ScienceChick, where are you?

            1. re: opinionatedchef

              Huh....I don't know where you read that but the sweet tasting sugars in corn start to convert to starches immediately after it is picked.
              I have read that sweet corn has an 80-20 sugar-starch ratio when picked but within 3 days that ratio will shift to 20-80 which would make it mealy.

              1. re: opinionatedchef

                Infomaniac is correct, as corn sits it gets more starchy tasting cus the sugar starch ratio begins to deteriorate quite rapidly. Corn should be cooked and eaten as soon as (possible) after it's picked. Thought a chef , even an opinionated one, might know that. BTW - this summer I saw a local farmer delivering a pick up truck full of fresh picked corn corn to an MB store.

                1. re: treb

                  FWIW, almost all sweet (that is, non-feed) corn sold in supermarkets and farmstands in the Northeast are hybrids that don't deteriorate that quickly anymore. (See the threads from Hounds who miss the old-fashioned corn, btw; most Americans, however, are relatively happy with corn that does not convert very quickly to starch within hours.) Kept in the husk and chilled, they stay sweet and toothsome for days; if they are not chilled, conversion occurs more quickly, but nothing like the bring-the-boiling-pot-out-to-the-cornfield days of yore.

                  1. re: Karl S

                    If you get really fresh corn, it can be eaten right off the cob without any cooking. Works best if you prefer your (cooked) corn plain. If you like butter and salt, or white cheese, mayo and lime, hot corn works best.

                    BTW: I once had a co-worker who told me he would dig up baby potatoes and eat them raw, that they had a sweet flavor unlike any other. At the time I was horrified, as my mother had told me that raw potato was poisonous. Anyone else told that myth?

                    1. re: jira

                      I think only potatoes that have gone green under the peel are poisonous. And my understanding is that it's a toxin in such small quantities that children and pregnant women should avoid, the rest are probably fine.

                      1. re: jira

                        Yes, I've eaten raw corn fresh from the farm, awesome.

            2. MB has very excellent fish counters, at least at the Chelsea and Reading locations that I shop for fish at 3x a week. I think their quality is better than Whole Foods. It's probably because they have a demanding clientele of people who eat a lot of fish and won't take crap for lack of knowledge of fish, and therefore very high turnover. If you become a regular, the better counter folks will steer you well....

              Steelhead trout is a cousin to arctic char and a second cousin to salmon. It's an excellent buy at MB when they have it (especially the occasional wild stuff).

              FWIW, the tilapia at MB is also good (and I had hated the tilapia I've had a restaurants until I tried MB's - always farmed in the Americas (Ecuador, Costa Rica/Honduras or the USA - mostly Ecuador; the central American stuff is particularly good). The haddock (frozen or fresh) is usually excellent.

              9 Replies
              1. re: Karl S

                Wondering about the pre-packaged fresh fish at, for example, the Somerville location, which does not have a traditional fish counter. I've had great luck with fresh fish at the Chelsea location so I assume the quality still holds. But I can never get myself to the buy the packaged stuff. Any experience?

                Mussels are always good in my experience, and half the price they are elsewhere. Frozen fish that I've tried (smelt, sardines, mackerel, tilapia) has been very good too, but I tend to get confused with some unfamiliar types. I try to eat "sustainable" and keep a mental list of "good choices" etc. But then I see frozen "Red Fish" from Portugal, or Conger Eel and I don't know what exactly I'm buying.

                1. re: deglazer

                  I don't have any experience with the prepackaged fish.

                  1. re: deglazer

                    I've gotten the pre-packaged fish at the Somerville MB a few times, (haddock, flounder and swordfish.) I always look through the packages to find the freshest sell-by date, and base my purchases on what's fresh.

                    It has all been very good, but I do notice a quite a variation in the dates and am not sure the older stuff would be very fresh. I don't think I'd be comfortable buying packaged fish at most other places, but will do so again in Somerville.

                    1. re: bear

                      that's good to know. I was in the Somerville MB two days ago and the packaged fish area did not smell good at all.

                  2. re: Karl S

                    Steelhead are rainbow trout, born in fresh water, flushed down river to the ocean. They stay in salt water for either 2 or 3 years, and then head back upriver to the same stream where they were born. Idaho is blessed with a healthy wild steelhead run that is supplemented with a hatchery program. The fish in the picture is a Clearwater River wild 43 inch "three ocean" (three years in The Pacific) fish. He went back in the river to spawn. Only hatchery fish can be kept.

                    1. re: justicenow

                      <He went back in the river to spawn. Only hatchery fish can be kept.>
                      He told you he wasn't a hatchery fish.......and you believed him? :-}
                      What a beaut! and thanx for the education. Do you think they taste alot like salmon, as I did?

                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                        Do you see the small fin above my left hand on the top of the fish? That fin is removed on hatchery fish before they are released into the river. They do taste very much like salmon.
                        I have had my share. I figure any fish determined enough to swim the entire length of the mighty Columbia River and get back to Idaho deserves to make babies. :-)

                        1. re: justicenow

                          brilliant evaluation!
                          but just as point of education, steel head trout only spawn there?

                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                            There are various rivers all along the Pacific Coast that have steelhead runs. The Rogue River for example is famous for the steelhead it produces. Steelhead, like salmon, return to where they were hatched to spawn.
                            Alaska salmon can travel all the way to California while growing, but will still go back to the same river in Alaska they were born in to spawn.

                  3. I've bought their squid and it's been good. Also the steelhead trout, which is - it seems - more sustainably farmed than Atlantic salmon. The Chelsea fish counter is so busy, I think they turn their product a lot.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: lergnom

                      My neighbor is a recent CA transplant and she swears by MB. I don't have the experience of these other spots (we only go to the Woburn MB and occasionally the Union Sq. one) but she says this is the descending order from Best on down, for the MBs she frequents:
                      just wanted to pass that along here.

                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                        There is one in Lexington??? The one in Burlington rocks!

                        1. re: shaebones

                          I think oc meant Burlington. If the reports on Wickedlocal are accurate, there's going to be one in the old Polaroid space near Rte. 20 in Waltham soon. I'm totally psyched.

                          1. re: bear

                            sorry; she must not realize that it's burlington, and i've not been. Waltham eh, that's going to make a lot of people happy!

                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                              I have been getting most of my fresh fish at H-Mart, where there's never been a low-tide smell at the larger, more varied seafood counter. It's a stone's throw from MB and I can see where MB would have to be vigilant about its seafood dept in order not to lose business.

                              Interesting about the MB corn, which I have never bought because the husks are always drier looking than optimal. I get corn at Griggs Farm or East Street Farm but perhaps so does MB. There are 5 MBs within a 4-mile radius of me.

                        2. re: opinionatedchef

                          I live in Brookline, so the Chelsea store is easiest. Union Sq. is closer but the traffic there has become one of the worst messes in the region.

                      2. I've had good luck with the mussels from the Somerville MB. Have also had good pre-packaged catfish and tilapia. I also agree that MB corn is better than 90% of what I've gotten at farmer's markets.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Parsnipity

                          I REALLY want to buy MB fish but i can never get past the smell..I go to the Reading store which I love. Its clean and friendly but i always smell the seafood and it stops me from buying, slthogh I must say I noticed Stop and Shop the other day had way worse strong fish smell all the way down the aisles. Is it possible that its the sushi dept that causes the smell and not the fish in the case? I never smell the fish at Whole foods, so I am trying to figure out why the difference in smells? I also got some really good corn at MB which compared well to Canaan Farm, the West Peabody Lake St stand, and COnnors Farm. Last month i noticed a lot of black worm rot at the top of corns at the stands, esp at COllarusos, so I wonder if MB corn has more pesticides on theirs to keep it more worm free. So if I get braver and try the fish, how is the flounder and swordfish? They seem to have off the norm fish like hake and perch.. Any good?

                          1. re: chompie

                            well , hubby just told me that one week he saw a bunch of the black tipped corn at MB so I guess its just everywhere. This year corn seemed more sweet and less starchy so we had a lot, but the season seemed to be shorter and more wormy..
                            I have another MB produce question.. I have been disappointed in blueberries for years, always seem too tart and or too mushy but this summer we got some that were soooo good like i remember from childhood for 2 bucks at MB. They were firm and sweet and were surprisingly Ocean Spray brand! I have never seen them since that week. Anyone else seen or tried them? Blueberries are probably gone now anyways.. oh well..

                            1. re: chompie

                              I think the smells come from wrappers and maybe the case itself. I have definitely got fish home, got a whiff of something fishy, but once I get it out of the plastic and styrofoam, have never had the actual fish smell off.