There are few things in life that a true Waterman loves more than diving. God, country, and mother do not immediately come to mind. Neither does holding hands nor long, reflective walks on the beach. A dive bar on the other hand is a part of the genetic make-up of every great diver. There is “B-A-R” in their DNA. That’s why I feel like a little piece of me died this week when word came down that the legendary Mermaid Bar in Hermosa Beach has shuttered it’s doors after 70 years.
Smelling of beach sweat and desperation with a decor that probably could give you tetanus just by looking at it, The Mermaid was your one stop shop for ice cold beer and a place to put your feet up and your butt down after a long day on the water. It wasn’t just a smarmy and poorly lit bar either. It was also a place of innovations. There was quarter beer night, dollar pitcher night, and pretty much everyone’s favorite, Blackout night. It was magnificent.
Now I know a lot of you never went to The Mermaid and now, sadly, you never will. I guess the point of this getting all nostalgic and crap is that places like this are where you make memories. Horrible,awful memories. You also make some fun ones as well I suppose but I digress. So let’s say so long to “The Old Maid.” I never figured she’d go out of business. I always assumed she would be torched for the insurance money. Just remember to enjoy your own special dives while you can and then take one last look at The Mermaid.
Just as getting the right gear together for a dive needs to be a deliberate and thoughtful process to ensure a safe and enjoyable outcome, so does picking the right post-dive libations. To help you along to that end, we offer up these three decompression delights from 3 different regions of California:
Green Flash Brewing West Coast IPA – While it is brewery described as “a tantalizing menagerie of hops. Simcoe for tropical and grapefruit zest, Columbus for hop pungency, Centennial for pine notes,” it’s doesn’t taste as lame hipster as that. It’s actually a nice slow-drink IPA that is surprisingly light despite the 8.1% alcohol content. With it’s grapefruit juice like hue, you can almost convince yourself that you are getting your RDA allowance of vitamin c. You’re not but you won’t mind.
2) Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA – A heralded hop-head from Healdsburg, this Northern California suggestion is the writers favorite. It has a great chew and a big hoppy flavor that drinks like a champ. It is the diver equivalent of Irish-food, satisfying and filling, perfect for a post-dive deco stop with an alcohol content of 7.5%.
3) Firestone Brewery Double Barrel Ale – The old hand on the list, this tasty beer has been brewed on the central coast for almost 20 years. Other craft brews have come and gone but this classic holds up very well and goes down very smooth. A full bodied ale with a great finish, this is the beer you want to crawl into after a boat out to Anacapa or Santa Cruz. With only a 5.0% alcohol content, you have to work pretty hard to do serious damage.
We know you have a lot to choose from when picking a end-of-the-day refreshment and wanted to share with you some of our favorites from over the years. Just remember that any beer shared with dive buddies is a good one. Except for Bud. Bud sucks.
For over 40 years, starting in the 1920’s, San Diego was the Tuna capital of the the world. With a massive fleet of fishing boats and a complex of processing plants supplying tuna to a hungry world, the fishery was the third-largest employer in San Diego to only the US Navy and the aerospace industry. It was truly a way of life for mid-century San Diegans. The good times didn’t last however. With the end of WWII, major corporations started buying out the local processors and alienating the independent fishermen. Japanese imports further eroded the market and concerns over dolphins made the move to offshore fishing cheaper, driving the final nail in the coffin for what was once the late, great Tuna Town. by 1984 it was all but over.
With Fish Friday falling on St. Patricks Day, I thought I’d take a little creative license and go with the Gaelic name of an invert we’re all familiar with. Say hello to the spiny lobster, a familiar and popular resident of the California Kelp forests. Unlike his Atlantic and Irish counterpart, he is clawless, but the fact remains he is everybody’s favorite dinner guest.
Have a great St. Patricks Day and an even better weekend. See you out there.
***************Quick reminder, the season ended so take a few minutes to send in your report card results to the CADFW. The information is invaluable and better data means better management.*********
Hi Kids. It’s lobster time again here in the southern California bight and with divers massing to make their first jump at midnight(and last at God knows when), let’s take a minute to think before we stride. I’ve put together a list of gentle diving suggestions that might help make this a memorable and/or enjoyable experience.
So from the top;
Diving at midnight is just a horrible idea. You’ve worked all week and hustled home to get your ship together to make an island-bound boat or meet up with your buddies to ply the local waters. Then you end up waiting around to take life sustaining equipment into the dark recesses of the Pacific at a point where you would normally be in bed. Why? Tomorrow you can dive at 7:30 pm and be home by 11. Camaraderie and seafood is overrated.
Anyone who tells you that the big bugs are hiding beneath the bull kelp is lying. They are not there. They were never there. They will never be there. They are also not really deep. Don’t be a diving shmuck. They are by the same spots you saw them hiding back when you dove the same area during the daytime.
It’s not a race. Bug fever is anti-social behavior. Shoving people by the gate doesn’t help get you any more lobsters. It only makes you a douche. Relax. It’s a big ocean.
If you’re standing at the gate wondering why you are getting ready to take a giant stride for your 3rd dive of the night at 3:54 am, turn around and take a forward roll into your bunk. Sleep to dive another day.
I know this may take some of the romance out of opening night but it’s a long season. Pace yourself and enjoy it. I think it was Lloyd Bridges who famously said “He who sleeps and snuggles away can always dive on Saturday.” Or maybe it was my 3 year old daughter. Either way, if you head out, be safe and follow the rules. No bug is worth getting a ticket or said ticket punched for.
I’ve spent a lot of time head down along the north coast searching for the ever delicious red abalone. Whether or not I pried one off the bottom, I still had to eat dinner. Lucky for all of us is that Nor Coast is also home to some of the the finest aquaculture products you’ll ever enjoy. So if you don’t score a few big red’s you can always enjoy some locally raised oysters to fill the gap. Hog Island is the central place for aquaculture up north and they’ve provided us with a great way to enjoy their product. This recipe is a perfect for an afternoon get together or even a formal fiesta. So get a grill, pop a beer, and enjoy a north coast treat.
So here is how you do it…
What you need for about 24 oysters:
1 cup of your favorite tomato sauce
5 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup clover honey
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo finely chopped
1 tbsp ground horseradish
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
24 large oysters
A nice loaf of bread for dipping
1. Place the first 7 ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Let the sauce cool and add in the horseradish. Salt and pepper to taste and set aside to let the flavors really meld.
3. Shuck your oysters and flip them in the bottom shell being careful not to lose the brine. it helps to put them on a flat try when your done for transport to the grill.
4. Fire up your grill to high and get ready to lay your shucked oysters.
5. Lay out your oysters with 1 tbsp of the sauce on top and cook for about 5 minutes with the lid down.
Some would say it’s a a little spicy, just like the author. I however would say I’m tall and really tasty, just like this recipe. So get to it. You can get great farmed oysters everywhere so make a batch for Memorial Day. You’ll be glad you did. Serve hot with bread and a nice white wine or IPA and make any day a special one.
Baffled by what fish is the best choice when the weather is rainy(Like today) and you have to go to the store to get your seafood fix on because you can’t catch your own stuff? Welcome to the club as conscientious folks all over California are asking the same questions at local markets and restaurants “What to order?” Luckily for about 200 people at Loyola Marymount University last night, The Los Angeles Food Policy Council set out to answer that question. Armed only with an array of delicious sustainable seafood samples and an equally impressively diverse array of experts to explain the what,where,why,when,and how of sustainable seafood, the LAFPC managed to educate, inform, and feed quite nicely a highly interested crowd.
As for the food, I could dazzle you right now with stories and photos of trout mousse, oysters Rockefeller, and smoked sable fish canapes but that wouldn’t be the point. What is important is that it’s foodie safe not to order the tuna, swordfish, or the chilean sea bass anymore. As Mary Sue Milliken, panelist chef of Border Grill and “Two Hot Tamales,” put it “Chef’s are creative” and making new food “sexy” is what they do. I feel in good hands.
From the scientific management standpoint, Mark Helvey of NOAA, as well as Sheila Bowman of Seafood Watch, made the argument that local is way to go. Tracking the sustainability of a local fishery and how the fish is brought to market is so much easier than trying to do the same thing with a shrimp brought in from Thailand. Fun, fascinating, and surprising facts that came out of the panel included that 70% of all seafood consumed is done through restaurants and that, according to Tim Aupperle of Whole Foods, consumers actually drive the buying practices of seafood retailers. That’s really good news.
I could spend a lot of time talking about how damaged and declined so many of our favorite fish choices have become but I don’t think that fear is the best way to move forward. Instead, I think we should take a different route by asking the right questions and influencing the people providing your seafood. Letting them know that you expect more and are willing to pay for your principles is just as important. That’s called market-driven change and is part of why economics are such a huge part of any sustainability solution.
In a time when popular and longstanding seafood stocks are either in decline or at risk as we fish our way down the food chain, making the right choice is just half the battle. We need to do better. The Los Angeles Food Policy Council just made our battle a little easier.
In our never ending though sometimes interrupted quest to bring you seafood options when you can’t catch your own stuff, we at CFD thought you might enjoy a chance to hear from a panel of experts about today’s sustainable seafood options. Presenting at Loyola Marymount University next Thursday the 27th at 6pm, these fish food aficionados will also shed a little light on what sustainable really means and how to be aware of your best options as you go from place to place looking to get your seafood eats on. Toss in tastings and it’s a intellectual feast for your ocean-minded brain that your stomach will back you up on.
In all seriousness, the panel will include representatives from NOAA, Seafood Watch, and Whole Foods Markets. Toss in legendary Los Angeles Chef Mary Sue Miliken(One Hot Tamale) and California State Senator Ted Lieu and you’ve got yourselves a broad spectrum of expertise and or a Fish Dance Party.
There’s never been a better time to think about how we eat from the ocean. As divers, we spend so much time in and around our local waters that we see the impact of non-sustainable fisheries every time we make a jump. If you been diving more than 20 years, you know how different things used to look down there. If you’ve been diving less than that you don’t know what you’re missing. Or what is missing. We’re talking whole species reduced to essentially biologically extinct populations. Most divers don’t know what an abalone looks like outside of pictures and probably never will. That’s the whole point of the sustainable seafood movement. To keep ocean species on your plate and out of the history books.
So come on by with your friends and eat, drink, and see Mary…Sue Miliken. Sponsored by the LA Food Policy Council and supported by such CFD favorites as Santa Monica Seafood and Heal the Bay, this event only costs $10 dollars. What a bargain! To RSVP and get more coherent information, click on the poster below.
Okay “Lob-stars,” you’re almost 6 full days into the season and we here at CFD hope that you’ve been having a safe and productive start out there. There is almost nothing tastier than fresh lobster, hot out of the pot or off the grill, especially when you’ve caught it yourself. A beautifully cooked bug, some melted butter, and a cold beer can be one of the most satisfying meals you’ll ever eat. That’s not to say that it’s only way to go about enjoying our spiny friends however. So it is in the spirit of going the extra step to enhance your diving experience that we offer you Lobster Thermidor, a French treatment that you won’t be turning your nose up to.
Now as the name thermidor suggests, this epicurean treat is finished in a hot oven but it’s a delicious path your dinner guests of honor will circumnavigate before they enter those hallowed heated halls. Along the way, your meat will be treated to a hot bath before joining a delicious herbed-bechamel sauce in it’s own shell on the road to golden brown deliciousness. I’m talking cheesy, herbal, vineity goodness with a little crunch. Once you have it, you’ll want it over and over again.
So join us know as we travel to lobster nirvana with these easy to follow directions.
First off, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
Then it’s lobster time. You’ll need the following:
2 legal lobsters giving you 2-2 1/2 pounds of meat.(Only 1 If you use a Maine bug, market size with claw meat).
2 lemons, halved
Bring a pot of salted water containing the lobsters to a boil. Add the lobsters, head first, and cook for 8-12 minutes. Remove them from the pot and place in ice water to stop the cooking process.
Once the lobster is done you move onto the bechamel sauce. It looks a little complicated but it’s not. Remember to take your time. Have all your ingredients pre-measured and ready to go. They are as follows:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1/4 cup white wine
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped terragon
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
In a sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour and mix for 2-3 minutes to develop a sauce base called a roux. It will be slightly golden and look a little like paste. Add the shallots and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the wine and milk. bringing the liquid to a boil. Immediately reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 3-4 minutes until the sauce thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Then add a little salt and pepper. At this point, remove the sauce from the stove and stir in the mustard and tarragon. It will smell amazing.
Finally, you want to put it all together and into the oven. You’re going to split the whole lobster in half and remove the tail meat. Retain the shell halves. Dice the tail meat and fold into the bechamel sauce. Stir in the 1/2 cup of cheese and check your seasoning.
Divide the mixture and spoon into the 4 lobster tail shells. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and place them on a baking sheet in the oven. Bake for about 8-10 minutes until the top is golden brown. Lay the lobster halves face up on a plate and garnish with chopped flat leaf parsley. Enjoy with a nicely chilled white wine until you are face down. Dive, rinse, and repeat as necessary over the course of the season.
We hope that you enjoy this recipe and well as the rest of the bug season. It’s a big ocean out there so remember to dive safe and take responsibly.
We here at California Fine Diving would like to wish all our diving friends out there a great opener as well as a safe one. Best wishes on full game bags and smart diving. When you’re lined up at the gate for a third dive at 4:00 am, ask yourself if your bunk isn’t a better option because you can do a jump at 8:00 pm tomorrow.
Also, remember to accurately fill out your report cards. Good data makes for better management,