People travel from all over the world to experience the rich culture of San Francisco. As a city perched right on the cusp of the ocean, San Francisco has a historic love affair with seafood deeply intertwined with our colorful culture. Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the most popular sights in the city and millions of people have walked its pathways bordered by water.
Eco-friendly San Francisco is gaining momentum in the sustainable seafood industry. We attract people – both residents and visitors – who care about the environment and who demand seafood options sourced with environmentally friendly methods, and restaurants are listening. As the first restaurant in Fishermen’s Wharf to offer 100% sustainable seafood, the Fog Harbor Fish House offers diners beautiful views and a guilt-free menu chock full of delicious sustainable seafood options. Bob Partrite, Chief Operating Officer for Simco Restaurants, gives us an insight into the motivation and commitment behind becoming certified by the Seafood Watch Program.
Can you give us a brief history of the Fog Harbor Fish House?
The Fog Harbor Fish House, a San Francisco dining landmark, offers the quintessential waterfront dining experience. Diners enjoy spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge while dining on the freshest 100% sustainable seafood and meats available. Created by the family who developed PIER 39, our history spans over three decades and includes three generations.
Where did the inspiration for converting to 100% sustainable seafood come from? Why do you believe this commitment is so important?
We are located right next to the Aquarium of the Bay on PIER 39. I would go to seminars about sustainable seafood and why it’s important. The Aquarium of the Bay works with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and follows the Seafood Watch Program. About three years ago I met with a team from the Aquarium and we looked over my menu to see what items met the Seafood Watch Standards. Seafood Watch uses a 3-tiered system that consists of: Best choice, or green; Good Alternative, or yellow; and Avoid, or red. After our initial review, we were about 60% green and yellow. My team and I worked very hard for about a year to convert the red list items. It took hours of research and tastings to find items that could meet our quality standards, fall into the yellow or green categories, and have the availability we needed.
This became very important to me as we serve TONS of seafood weekly. We wanted to do our part in helping preserve the oceans, help fisheries thrive and prosper, and educate our guests on the importance of choosing sustainable seafood.
What is the most difficult part about only serving 100% sustainable seafood?
Cost and availability. There are just some items we have to have. Some of those items, to be sustainable, will cost more money. Availability for certain items can be challenging, as well. As I said, we do go through TONS of seafood and having the consistent supply of certain items can be challenging at times.
What sort of process did the restaurant have to go through to meet the standards set forth by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guidelines?
At first Monterey had a paper assessment we had to fill out and submit back. The process is now digital and I fill out a form and list every species on my menu. Then I identify where each item is from, how it was caught, and if it was wild or farm raised. Once the assessment is reviewed and approved I have to make the commitment to continue sourcing and serving sustainable seafood. This process is done yearly.
Where does most of your seafood come from?
We serve so many different seafood items on our menus. I would have to say that most of the species are from the U.S., or at least North America. We do buy as much local product (when available) as we can. Our guests really enjoy the local product as they are looking for that fresh San Francisco seafood experience.
Do you believe your commitment to sustainability attracts more customers than other seafood restaurants?
Guests that come in knowing that our menu meets the Seafood Watch sustainability standards appreciate it and like coming back cause they know they can order anything “guilt free”. I also know that when we educate our guests on our commitment to serving sustainable seafood, they really appreciate it.
Do you think your model is possible for all restaurants in the Bay Area to follow?
I would like to say yes. I think that the more restaurants ask their seafood vendors for sustainable options, the inventory will start to shift. The less Red list items restaurants buy, the less the wholesalers will buy. Everyone must work together on this to continue to increase the public’s awareness of the importance of purchasing sustainable seafood.
Besides incredible seafood, what does Fog Harbor Fish House have to offer diners?
Well, most of my favorite menu items are seafood, like our local king salmon over a sauté of fingerling potatos, roasted corn, arugula, and a citrus beurre blanc, or the Alaskan Halibut over quinoa. We do have plenty for the non-seafood eater, like our Creekstone natural NY steak or Filet, pan seared chicken breast, salads, and pastas.
What are some of the most popular main dishes/appetizers?
On the appetizer menu, there are many favorites like the red curry PEI mussels, Red chili seared white shrimp, garlic roasted local Dungeness Crab, or the sliders with a toasted shallot aioli and Anchor Steam onions.
What exciting new additions have been receiving attention on the 2014 menu?
During the local crab season, the first several months of the year, we featured our local Dungeness Crab menu with over 20 crab dishes. We have since switched to the local salmon, and are waiting for the California White Sea Bass to become available.
Guilt-free and delicious
Offering sustainable options is the wave of the future for San Francisco restaurants, as increasing numbers of consumers become informed. It’s amazing to see a business in such a popular location make a commitment to protect the environment – and have their customers love them for it! It is essential that places like our beautiful city foster such eco-friendly development so that they can serve as role models for other cities and restaurants to work towards. Check out the Pucci Foods Catalog for your Marine Stewardship Council certified wholesale seafood today!