Three restaurants participating in the Pier to Plate program aim to promote dogfish and skate on their menus this summer.Text by Lisa Cavanaugh | Photography by Julia Cumes Pictured at top: dogfish tacos with chipotle slaw and lime cream, a new creation of Far Land Provisions’ Chef Wes Martin.
Pan-seared skate wings. Blackened dogfish. Mediterranean roasted skate with fennel, tomatoes and Kalamata olives. This summer, intrepid foodies on Cape Cod will have the chance to try some local fish caught nearby in abundance yet little known. The Pier to Plate program, launched by the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance and funded by a federal Saltonstall-Kennedy grant, is providing locally caught skate and dogfish to a variety of Cape Cod eateries. Chefs will then prepare dishes to delight any seafood lover. It’s all part of an ongoing effort to build awareness and demand for the healthy and sustainable fish. Here are three restaurants that have taken on the challenge—and opportunity—to introduce these under-loved species to their customers.
Far Land Provisions
Customers at Far Land at the Beach could quite possibly watch their next day’s meal being caught this summer. Fishermen from the local fleet often catch dogfish off the backside of Cape Cod, and sometimes even in view of Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown, where “Provincetown’s Corner Store” has the summer food concession.
Wes Martin is the chef at Far Land Provisions—a deli, market and bakery on Bradford Street. He heard a story on the Cape and Islands NPR station about developing a dogfish market, so he connected with the Fishermen’s Alliance. “Everyone who comes to the Cape looks for a good fish sandwich,” says Martin. “Cod and haddock are scarce now, so this is a sustainable fish that we feel good about introducing to our customers.”
Pier to Plate made perfect sense to Far Land Provisions’ owners Jim Farley and Tom Boland. They have a 10-year contract with the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service to run the seasonal Herring Cove beach food concession. “Our partners at the National Seashore are hip on sustainable products,” says Farley. Boland adds that the program fits with their mission to share what it means to eat local food. “Along with the [National] Seashore folks, we want to promote and support our local community.”
Far Land plans to offer healthy food along with typical beach fare and will include fried dogfish sandwiches and dogfish tacos on the menu. To encourage their customers to taste something new, the Far Land team will educate their employees and get them enthused about the fish.
“We have a great lunch crowd at the beach, and we are doing a lot to encourage them back out for dinner,” says Farley. Far Land at the Beach will offer live music, informational nature programming and possibly a tasting evening featuring these intriguing fish. “We are jazzed about all these pieces of the puzzle coming together,” he says.
The Brewster Fish House
“Skate is one of my favorite products to use,” says Jeremiah Reardon, the executive chef at The Brewster Fish House. “It’s really versatile.” Reardon, who heads the kitchen at this popular high-end seafood restaurant on Route 6A in Brewster, is excited about serving locally caught skate this summer.
The Brewster Fish House has adventurous diners, says Reardon, and it won’t be hard for them to love skate once they try it. He is planning to add it to the menu or include it as part of an early summer tasting menu. “People are more likely to try a new fish if they hear about it from their servers,” he says, “rather than read it on the menu.”
Born in Hyannis and raised in Orleans, Reardon has an affinity for local fish and is friends with a number of Cape Cod fishermen. After the Fishermen’s Alliance approached The Brewster Fish House with samples of skate wings, he decided to join the Pier to Plate program. “It’s the right thing to do. Whatever we can do to help fishermen is important,” says Reardon. “We like to support the people who support us.”
In terms of preparation, he muses that he might pan sear the fish with a truffle emulsion or Meyer lemon. He has contacted his local farmer network for produce to include in the recipes and his kitchen team is excited about it. “People trust that our restaurant will give them a quality product,” says Reardon. “Skate is popular in cities like New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco. I hope that it takes off here on the Cape, too.”
Red Nun Bar & Grill, Dennisport
“Customers always enjoy dogfish once they try it—they are just nervous due to the name,” says Pete Allard, executive chef of the Red Nun in Dennisport. Allard started cooking with dogfish and skate through the Fishermen’s Alliance programs to help expose customers to these two species. The Red Nun has experimented with a few different dogfish preparations to showcase the best ways to use the fish. Allard’s favorite recipes include beer-battered fish and chips, a Portuguese-style stew and blackened dogfish over black beans and rice with pico de gallo and a cilantro-lime crema.
“Our original location is in Chatham and the fishermen are a major part to our success there,” says Allard. The Red Nun doesn’t get to work closely with fishermen often, so they felt Pier to Plate was a great opportunity to partner with the local fleet.
Now, it’s up to customers to embrace dogfish—despite its off-putting name. Allard says it becomes easier to sell to customers once they start seeing it on the menu. “The waitstaff explains that it comes from local fishermen down the road. Customers want to try the dishes once they learn that it comes from our waters.”