Sourcing Sea and Land in San Diego, with Gusto

spinylobSometimes it’s right under our noses, literally.

Two of San Diego’s unique, in sync companies caught my attention recently on tours with fellow IFWTWA (International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association) members from southern California.

At Catalina Offshore Products, the sea and its intensity permeate the vast space.
Starting out as a sea urchin diver in Two Harbors, Catalina, Dave Rudie has grown the business over forty years through commitment to responsible sourcing of seafood.  On a tour with Barbara Fasching, the retail operations manager, we find the retail store bustles on Saturday morning.  In the warehouse, many of the staff have been on the job since the wee hours.

Exuding passion for his life’s work, the owner demonstrates the grading of the gigantic Ahi laid out on stainless counters.  The cherry-red core sample from the Yellowfin tuna given the #1 rating is choice for sushi.

Safety standards, savvy shipping methodology, development of a core group of reliable, responsible individuals and fisheries, and comprehensive use of product are vital.

Catalina Offshore Products is the sole San Diego exporter of sea urchin.  We pause to observe the delicate yellow, tongue-shaped Uni placement onto small wooden crates by an intent gloved and gowned “Uni crew” behind glass walls.  Later, the taste is surprisingly delicate and buttery.

Spiny lobster season started three days before our visit. The creatures were lively in the tanks. Our hosts have the opinion that these have more meat per pound than their Maine rivals.

Marketing Manager Rebecca Gardon piqued our interest when she shared  Catalina Offshore Products’ community and charity affiliations. The non-profit Collaboration Kitchen has it going on with evening events with San Diego chefs for banter and sashimi in the warehouse!  Tommy Gomes, the fishmonger, oversees and designates the recipient of the proceeds.  Check out www.facebook.com/collaborationkitchen.

IMG_0006Our next venue, Specialty Produce is a co-sponsor of the Collaboration Kitchen.  Fresh hits us as we enter.

Family-owned Specialty Produce’s retail manager, Cassandra Poindexter, introduced us to the largest wholesale produce company in San Diego County. From a small retail store in La Jolla to a warehouse operated 24/7, the focus here is on quality and diversity.

Social media is no joke, as you will see when you take a look at FB, Twitter and the Specialty Produce App (www.facebook.com/specialtyproduceapp). Indeed, the SM wall may appear incongruous among rows of towering fruit and vegetables in crates and boxes, until you notice that the electronic entries are from local chefs and the culinary community who are ecstatic about this relationship and the produce. Chefs and local restaurants look forward to their Farmers Market Truck (#FMTruck) delivery Thursday, Friday and Saturday with whatever’s fresh and delicious. You will see it on the weekend menu.


Anyone can shop here, yet only 1% of the sales are walk-in.
It’s fun to experience the organic cooler dedicated solely to gorgeous micro greens and the “cheese wall” HachiyaLJRwith 40 varieties.
Tastes of unique (red meat radish, finger lime) and known varieties (Fuyu and Hachiya persimmons) at peak were a treat for us.
Our grandson declared the Hachiya persimmon a hit with yogurt and almonds for both breakfast and lunch.
You can sign up for the Farmer’s Market Box and recipes/ $20/week to support 13-18 local farms.
Next?  A test kitchen and cooking classes.
Though most of the produce is from California, they seek the very best in the world. When owner Bob Harrington states “There are no limits,” you believe it.


4 thoughts on “Sourcing Sea and Land in San Diego, with Gusto

  1. Interesting food tour! This is one the hubby would absolutely love since he’s the seafood lover in the family — and the fresher, the better. I’d love to hear what the Maine folks have to say about the lobster meat per pound claim! 🙂

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