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Tales of the Testers: Scraps for the Asking

Great bouillabaisse starts with great fish stock, of course. (Mette Randem for The Washington Post)

A lot of prep goes into the making of today's bouillabaisse recipe from Andreas Viestad, a.k.a. the Gastronomer. Fully aware of that, I asked one of our more assiduous volunteer testers to handle it, rather than choosing the first responder to my call. (Is that cheating, in the world of first-come, first-serve testing? I say nah.)

The strategy paid off: He said the recipe was fun. (Ed, my hero.) He went to the Maine Avenue wharf to get the freshest fish. He interviewed vendors there to gain insight on their delivery schedules. He also steered toward the stalls with the biggest customer crowds.

All of his moves paid off, too. He purchased impeccable, clear-eyed whole fish, which he needed to make a rich fish stock and for the soup itself. The fish required filleting, of course. He was directed to the estimable Virgo Fish Market fish-cleaning service at the wharf. It's a 365-days-a-year operation; on hot, busy holiday weekends, customers are draped all over Virgo's porch like beach towels drying in the sun. And if they've been around the wharf a few times, so to speak, they know to pack a cooler with ice so the fish they've just bought stands a good chance of remaining in pristine condition until the Virgo crew can do its thing.

For a small fee, our tester got professionally filleted fish and more than enough scraps for the stock. Happy tester, happy bouillabaisse.

-- Bonnie Benwick

P.S. The guys at Virgo are not prone to giving away scraps that never were part of your original fish purchase. An employee named Mike told me on Monday that they used to, but someone tried to sue the business. (Bad bones?) Let the guys know upfront what you need, scrapwise, and see what happens. And here's a tip: If you happen to find a phone number for Virgo, don't bother calling it. Mike said the phone's in a different building and nobody's around to answer it.

By The Food Section  |  May 27, 2009; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Tales of the Testers  | Tags: Andreas Viestad, Bonnie Benwick, Gastronomer  
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