Empire Fish Co. Photo courtesy of Wauwatosa Chamber of Commerce.
A fete for the olfactory senses. That is the gift of shopping for fish. But truly, a good fish market shouldn’t make you cover your nose with a hankie. Put your freshwater and saltwater needs in the hands of two local reliables:
Empire Fish Co. stocks its fish case with catches from respected vendors practicing sustainability – the index of a good monger. Sign up for the mailing list on empirefish.com, and you’ll receive emails on what’s fresh – whether it’s skate wing, tilefish or Viking Village scallops – and seasonal, like wild Alaskan halibut. 11200 W. Watertown Plank Rd., 414-259-1330.
St. Paul Fish Co. is as much a restaurant as a market. Bivalve lovers throw down Blue Points at the oyster bar; diners at the chrome four-tops attack bowls of bouillabaisse and $13.95 lobster dinners. You can’t pass the case of fresh catches without brushing against the coolers of crab legs packed on ice. The fresh fish case may hold such delights as blue marlin, walleye, red grouper and monkfish. Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water St., 414-220-8383, stpaulfish.com.
The coppery flesh is firm and rich. This sweet-savory, briny smoked trout can take over for salmon anytime on a bagel with cream cheese. The fish in question comes from the chemical-free, temperature-controlled waters of the state’s largest rainbow trout farm – Rushing Waters Fisheries, located in Palmyra (about 45 minutes southwest of Milwaukee). Known for a fresh, pristine-quality product, Rushing raises its fish in natural spring-water ponds in the Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest. You’ll spot it on local restaurant menus like La Merenda’s (chefs like to identify it), and its popularity has made the fish relatively easy to find at the retail level. (Both Empire and St. Paul carry it.) Ordering directly from Rushing Waters is another option. The company sells fresh and smoked trout filets (Alaskan salmon, too), and a creamy smoked trout spread that takes a tablewater – or any neutral-flavored – cracker to the next level. 800-378-7088, rushingwaters.net.