"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

18 September 2014


At 6 a.m. workers are inspecting shipments of gleaming ice-packed fish at IMP Foods, a company in San Mateo, California, that supplies sushi-grade specimens to Japanese restaurants and a coterie of some of the most famous—and famously picky—American chefs. Harold McGee is in his element. “Look at that, with that schnoz, and a whip coming out of its tail,” he says, stooping over what turns out to be acornet fish, a long, bony creature with a fluted tube for a snout, a strange rear end, and an altogether alarming red color. “In Japan we call it aka-yagara, which means ‘red arrow,’” says Glenn Sakata, IMP’s general manager. “It makes wonderful broth.”
A golden threadfin bream, itoyoriin Japanese, also catches McGee’s eye. Favored for sashimi, it’s quite lovely, with silver skin, luminous yellow stripes, a tail that blushes deep pink. Sakata mentions in passing that both fish are bought by the French Laundry, Thomas Keller’s four-star temple to cuisine in Napa Valley. The sea bream shimmers with freshness in its box of shaved ice. McGee, who is wearing a regulation-issue hairnet, bows over it and draws a deep, appreciative breath.
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