The Boil Advisory, Issue #9
An interview with Fish Hawk and some non-recipes to chew on
Today’s newsletter is the first in what I hope will be a series, interviewing entrepreneurs who’ve started—or significantly pivoted—a food business during the pandemic. Restaurants and startup food businesses tend to run on slim margins, and while many have struggled amid the chaos of the last 15 months, a few have managed to find new footing, and may even be ushering in changes to how we dine out and access local food moving forward.
First, though, a personal note in celebration of a life that was lost all too soon. Early last week, my brother-in-law died from hypoxia after battling COVID-19 for several days. Stephen was 46. He was the youngest in a very tight-knit family, and he greatly adored my sister Jessica and their two children, MaryAnna and Peyton. He will be remembered for his quick sense of humor and his love of food, family, Jimmy Buffett, and all the places those intersected. His death is a harsh reminder of how serious and unpredictable this virus can (still) be; for those of you who’ve lost loved ones to COVID, I’m deeply sorry for your loss.
If there’s an upside to be found in such a heavy week, it’s that my dad, stepmom, brother, and his girlfriend, were all able to come to NOLA for a couple of days after the funeral. On Saturday, we fested in place, huddled around a pile of crawfish while listening to Cha Wa and Monk Boudreaux play from a stoop in Mid-City. One thing I’ve really appreciated about this city is its ability to bring people together, and to balance out life’s hardships with very visceral and uplifting sensations—food and music, especially.
Pandemic Profiles: Fish Hawk
I love fish: cooking and eating it, fishing, and anything fish-related, really, especially if what we’re talking about is local. I’ve lamented the fact that New Orleans doesn’t have a robust, tourist-attracting fish market since I moved here; Big Fisherman and Captain Sid’s are great, and the Westwego Shrimp Lot comes close, but I’m talking about something more akin to what you find at Pike Place Market in Seattle. We have the industry to support it: In 2018, the combined ports of Empire and Venice—located just 60 miles downriver from NOLA—accounted for the second-highest volume of seafood landed at U.S. ports. As locals, we should be eating all of this up (literally).
That’s where Luci Winsberg and Tyler Correa come in. In October, they opened Fish Hawk and started slinging prepared fish dishes as well as fillets and value-added seafood products through pop-ups and local markets. Luci and I sat down to talk about where the concept came from and where she and Tyler hope to take it.
Both are veterans of Zasu—Luci worked as sous chef, Tyler as bar manager and then, through the pandemic, as general manager. Luci tells me that they had already been dreaming up a space of their own: “We had this whole concept of a bar/restaurant, and then COVID happened. [Zasu] kind of shut down for a little while—we were still helping out—and I started really thinking about what the city needed, and a concept that was just a little bit more unique. I've always thought that we needed something like a fishmonger-type fish market. That doesn't exist here, and it exists in so many cities, even landlocked cities.”
Luci and Tyler left Zasu at the end of September and took two weeks off. “Then we were like, ‘We have to start making money.’ We were ready and we were excited to jump into it.” At the time, the pop-up scene was growing quickly, so they decided to test the concept and reached out to Leah Vautrot at Coffee Science, asking to join their Sunday market. “We weren't even thinking about slinging fish at that point,” Luci recalls. “We just wanted to do a seafood-based pop-up, and then had the idea, longer down the line, to open a brick and mortar that had a fish market and a seafood restaurant kind of wrapped into one.”
That’s still the vision moving forward. Luci explains that “the concept is that we would have a fish market where we get in whole fish every day, most of it local, and then probably bring in some cool specialty things from other places. Then the fish market would basically feed into the restaurant and vice-versa.” In all of this, sustainability is important, as is working with local suppliers—which can be challenging as a pop-up. Fish Hawk currently sources through Jensen Tuna out of Houma and Inland Seafood in New Orleans, taking in bycatch like vermilion snapper and porgy in addition to menu staples like flounder and speckled trout. Eventually, Luci says that they hope to build relationships and to work directly with fishermen as consumer demand grows.
We talk about our favorite fish to eat, our favorite crawfish spots, and about the community—the rising tide of support currently lifting a lot of small businesses. That conversation brings us back to Coffee Science and the Sunday markets. “I feel like they were one of the first ones to really start doing that. And there's so many now in the city, but when we first got in there—it was early on in Fish Hawk—we felt revitalized, and that there was this sense of community.”
Coffee Science’s market is all outdoors, filling the shop’s backyard and adjacent parking lot. Weekly food vendors—including Brown Sugar Boulangerie, Flour Moon Bagels, Jamboree Jams, Gourmand, Kin Ichi, Wolf ‘n’ Swallow, Buttery Spell, and Farm to Funk—sell prepared goods, fresh produce, soaps, house plants, and more. For more about Coffee Science and the community that their team has created, check out Jason Vowell’s recent piece for Country Roads.
Where to find Fish Hawk:
In the fridge at Piece of Meat
At Pal’s Lounge on Friday evenings
At the Coffee Science market on Sunday mornings
About the Name
The name “Fish Hawk” comes from one of Luci’s best friends. She explains that it’s “kind of a play on hawking fish. We’re fish hawkers—like fishmongers. Fish hawk is a name for an osprey, as well, which is a beautiful fish-eating bird. Fish hawkers, fishmongers, Fish Hawk.”
Osprey can be found throughout Louisiana’s coastal wetlands and are a personal favorite of mine to watch when I’m on the water—I keep a mental journal of all the places I’ve spotted them while fishing from my kayak. Sometimes I also keep a visual journal:
Redemption! I may have missed the boat on thistle, but I’ve recently spotted several mulberry trees around our neighborhood, and successfully harvested a haul last week with a couple of food friends. Mulberries are fleeting, and nowhere near my favorite berry, but they’re a low-stakes find and one of the few foods that connect me to all of the places I’ve lived as an adult.
I wish I could tell you that I made a quick jam with them for hand pies or a galette, but with the funeral and family in town, I’ve just been eating these straight from a bowl in the fridge. Rémy tossed some in lemon juice and a little sugar, and enthusiastically proclaimed that the additions “made the mulberry experience akin to magically seedless blackberries.” Go pick some while you can!
A Non-Recipe for Pan-Fried Creole Tomatoes with Collards, Black-Eyed Peas and Chili Vinegar
This combo—or some iteration of it—is a go-to for me when I need nourishment but don’t want to think about cooking. Or, when I want to feed the family staying in my guest room…and don’t want to think about cooking.
Breaking this dish into steps makes it sound far more complicated than it is, but stick with me. You can substitute just about every ingredient here to make use of excess produce from your CSA or backyard garden, and/or breathe a little life into veggies that you might not love enough to eat raw. Add a fried egg and a buttery piece of toast and you’ve got a breakfast that will fuel you all morning.
Make Ahead: Vinegar Hot Sauce
I’m of the strong opinion that most food needs more acidity—or, at the very least, would benefit from it. I’ll squeeze lemon on just about anything, but when it comes to collard greens, green beans, or black-eyed peas, I usually want vinegar, and I’ll always welcome a little more spice. We kept a bottle of Trappey’s in the fridge when I was growing up, and I can still remember that smell, even though I haven’t had it in the kitchen in years. Now I just make my own version—I like Fresnos, but you can use any fresh chili.
What you need:
A jar or squeeze bottle
8 oz. white wine vinegar
4-5 fresh chilis
Cut the tops off the chilis and slice them in half length-wise.
Stuff them into your bottle or jar.
Fill with vinegar.
The mixture may take a few days to take on the flavor of the chilis, but it will keep in the fridge for a very long time, and when you start to run low, simply add more vinegar. The peppers will break down and lose color long before they stop adding flavor or heat.
Pan-Fried Creole Tomatoes
This works for any tomato, but I especially love it for Creoles or the rare occasion when I have a couple of hot-house tomatoes on hand.
What you need:
2 medium tomatoes, halved
3 Tbsps. olive oil
Heat the olive oil in a nonstick or well-seasoned cast iron pan over medium heat. (A sauté pan also works, but may be harder to clean after.)
Place the tomatoes sliced-side-down in the oil. Cook for several minutes, until they caramelize and start to break down. Gently flip each half and continue cooking until they’re soft and tender all the way through.
Season with salt to serve.
As the tomatoes break down, the liquid mixes with the oil and creates a rich pan sauce. It also leaves a lot of splatter on the stove, but I promise the result is worth the clean-up.
If you have been raised, as I was, to believe that collard greens have to be stewed for hours to be edible, I bring good news: They don’t. You can sauté young collards in a little olive oil over medium heat, and they’ll be tender in minutes—even a little crispy in spots if you first let the pan get really hot. I usually stir in a tablespoon or two of the vinegar once they’ve cooked through, then put a lid on the pan to let them braise for a couple of minutes. Salt, pepper, a little more vinegar to finish, and these are good with any bean, but sometimes I get a craving for canned black-eyed peas.
Plate with a pan-fried tomato and throw your fried egg on top:
Open: Seafood Sally’s! And Leo’s Bread!
Gourmand and Backwater Foie Gras are teaming up for a French picnic on May 15.
Dakar Nola has a spring dinner series going at Margaret Place Hotel, including a collaboration dinner with chef Nini Nguyen on May 18.
Yan Chen, a horticulturist with LSU AgCenter, is experimenting with tea.
In crawfish news, Louisiana Cookin’ recently reminded us of this recipe for crawfish ravioli, and Ficus Ceramica now makes a crawfish tail you can pinch all year long.
In broader food news, food media folks are talking a lot about Epicurious’s decision to cut the beef and Eleven Madison Park’s decision to go vegan.
Lastly, Sunday is Mother’s Day, and it’s also the last day of spring squirrel season, so don’t forget to pick up some flowers (and squirrels!) for the mom(s) in your life while you’re out in the woods.
Inboxes are very personal spaces and I greatly appreciate you letting this newsletter into yours. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve met several people who subscribe or follow @theboiladvisory on Instagram in real life—I hope that continues, and that we have the chance to share a meal together sometime soon. Until then, I’ll see y’all back here in two weeks.