Anna Larsen of Siren Fish Co.
January 2012: Catching Up with a Few of Our Favorite Bay Area Seafood Wranglers.
Siren SeaSA is Anna Larsen's "obsessively curated" seafood subscription service modeled after a traditional community-supported agriculture (CSA) membership (boxed fruit and vegetable delivery) program and sonamed after her operatic talent. Each week's catch comes straight from the boat directly to subscribers with only minimal handling along the way.
Current 'hood? Petaluma
Gig? North Coast Fisheries quality control assurance manager.
Part-time gig? Seafood Slinger for Siren SeaSA
Part-part-time gig? Opera singer
Background in fishing? I went clamming and fishing with my dad growing up. I used to go to his duck blind out by China Camp and fish off of the porch while he was rebrushing. I would pretty much just catch stingrays, but I have always loved being on the water. But I am determined to get out for some salmon fishing when the ocean sport season opens again.
How fresh is the usual Siren delivery? Caught on Thursday, filleted on Friday, delivered on Saturday
Fish that doesn't make the cut? I immediately walk away from fish that doesn't meet my time constraints. If it looks like it has been out of the water for three days, it has. Also, I want to talk to the fisherman myself and see the Fish and Game tag. If I cannot do both of those things for whatever reason, I do not buy the fish. Most seafood purchased at retail has been flash frozen at sea.
How does that quality compare to the seafood you provide? It really depends on the kind of fish they are catching and how they are treating (freezing) it on board. Salmon hold up to freezing very well and frozen-at-sea salmon should be comparable to what I was able to get last summer. I thought the Bodega Bay King salmon last year was among the best salmon I had ever tasted from anywhere. I cannot say for sure why that was, but I think it has a lot to do with the freshness. Those fish were never frozen and were treated very delicately by the fishermen after they were caught. They were gorgeous.
When can we expect our first sea urchin delivery (wink)? Sea urchins are too delicate, crayfish are too lively and live crab is too vicious! There's a hook-and-line rockfish operation out of Morro Bay that I would LOVE to buy from, but they are just too far away. These are the conundrums that keep me awake at night.
Species you'll never have because of sustainability issues. Well, anything trawl-caught presents a sustainability issue. No sharks, ever. That is for sure.
Would you say you've lucked out this winter with the lack of rain and stormy weather? It has still been very hard to buy fish, despite the calm weather. The whole fishing community focuses on Dungeness crab from mid- November when the season opens to mid-February when the demand tapers off. It has mostly been an issue of finding anyone who is out there catching anything but crab. My plan for crazy weather: tears. Is that a plan? Well, I have some more salmon put up that I can smoke and I have almost cracked the great live crayfish conundrum. My halibut guys are supposed to start going out again in late February, so I am hoping for a couple of calm Fridays so they can get out.
What seasonal seafood in spring and summer are you looking forward to? Salmon! It is not a seasonal constraint, but I am really hoping that some one in Bodega Bay gets quota for a hook-and-line rockfish operation. That is a huge hole in what I can buy locally. Fishing boats on your wish list? Squid boats! They go out in the middle of the night and use bright lights to attract the squid to the surface. They look like spaceships out on the water. And I would really love to go out on a big trawl boat, just to see firsthand how they operate and what the relationship with the on-board observer is like.
Number of fishing boats on the hook? Eleven
Target numbers you'd like to reach? Four hundred deliriously happy subscribers by the end of 2012. And I want to find more fishermen to buy from.
Any time for singing when you're not elbow deep in squid ink? Yes. I practice a lot and do the occasional coaching. I am working hard to get my voice back into "fighting shape" right now. I have done a couple of gigs over the last year. My number one 2012 goal is to sing more!
Random last question: Ever had to sing for your supper? I was very broke doing a summer program in Austria and I did some busking so that I could afford to eat good food and drink good beer. I was singing for my beer money.