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This writer grew up on the shores of Connecticut and New Jersey, so there should be no question that he has an insatiable appetite and undying love for good seafood. My California quest began in 1968 when I moved to San Diego and has continues to this day. I settled in the Carmel Valley San Diego community in 1986 and it became the de facto center of my search operations.
Excluding the bad rap some seafood has for high levels of heavy metals, artificial coloring, mass farm production and over fishing it’s still one of the healthiest options available for a nutritious and great tasting meal. Please take care in what you buy and where you buy it.
Assuming we’re all in agreement on the above, where can a Carmel Valley San Diego community resident buy seafood and get the freshest and best variety at lowest price? And the answer is “Seaside Market” in Cardiff or “Whole Foods” in La Jolla Village (soon to be located at Flower Hill). These two purveyors, especially WF, rival the venerable “Point Loma Seafoods”, a San Diego standard setter and tradition since 1963. Many San Diegans rank PLS as one of the best seafood markets and restaurants on the west coast. Be sure to try it out if you’re in the Point Loma area.
Now about Seaside; it’s small, not a chain, and has the quality and service you’d expect from a neighborhood market. Ninety nine percent fresh…red snapper, always local cabrilla, grouper or sea bass, halibut, mahi mahi, shashimi grade ahi, and all the usual other fare and in abundance. You’ll also fine “dry pack” scallops, bay scallops, eastern oysters, and Maine lobster, live and cooked. You also might find some unusual things like opah, ono or Thai snapper. Their sword fish is consistently priced below everybody.
Seaside is also a specialty grocery featuring local produce and products. They have a terrific prepared food deli and a spectacular meat department. Again, these are professional butchers who care and can put together just about anything you want. The Stone Beer marinated pork chops are to die for…but as Alton Brown would say “that’s another show”.
Let’s drive about the same distance south to La Jolla Village where you’ll find “Whole Foods”. Please don’t see $$$$$$! Their seafood is competitively priced and the variety is huge. They too carry all the freshest of the usual suspects but then there’s much more…several varieties of salmon and oysters, seven types of cooked and raw shrimp, dry pack and bay scallops, albacore, yellowtail and shashimi grade ahi. On my visit a couple days ago they had fresh whole branzino, sea urchin and black and true cod…unbelievable!! You’ll also find a variety of prepared ceviches and pokes…assuming you don’t want to make your own…but that’s another show too. Talk to Ivana if she’s there and she’ll hook you up. WF also provides a clearly visible sustainability chart so you can see the environmental impact of what you’re purchasing.
One final option in case all else fails is “The Fish Market Seafood Market and Restaurant” on Via De La Valle. They have a very small cold case just to the left when you walk in the door with some of the best fresh seafood I have ever eaten. There is not much variety but the quality and price are fantastic. Great in a pinch.
Ralphs, Vons, Stater Bros., Henry’s, Jimbo’s, what about them you ask? You’ll probably find terrific raw frozen shrimp values at your local Carmel Valley San Diego community Ralphs and Vons weekly; and Ralphs Fresh Fare will usually have fresh red snapper and excellent shashimi grade ahi (really) but I try to stay away from the seafood at the others. Trust me, drive north or south and you won’t regret it.
Finally, I’d feel guilty if I didn’t tell you where I believe you can get the some of best prepared seafood dishes in San Diego, and that would be “Blue Water Seafood and Grill”. You must go there, trust me again.
Dave Clegg is a self-taught amateur chef and recipe author who has always been inspired by his Mom’s great cooking. He decided to create “Carmel Valley Kitchen” as a way to share his passion. Our name says everything about our philosophy of cooking great food. We use only fresh, basic, and readily available ingredients and we use only simple recipes where we stress versatility. As Emeril says “we ain’t builden no rocket ship here”. At CVK you’re introduced to cooking for the beginner/intermediate chef that includes a variety of lesson choices including two options for one-on-one learning and two options for creative cooking.