Selecting Quality Ingredients and Understanding What They Are – Pt. 1 (Chef Sean Pals)

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ecently our Marketing Director, John Thompson, wrote a blog post of turning quality ingredients into fine art. Well, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Any of us can go down to the Seattle farmers market or grocery store and pick up ingredients that we think are of the highest quality. Is what you’re buying high-quality ingredients at their peak? Are you using those ingredients appropriately with proper technique? The simple answer is, not always. A lot of the products that we can buy on the market as individual consumers are not typically at their peak. This is especially true of produce, seafood and meat products. Just because you can get your hands on the finest ingredients doesn’t mean you will make a 5-star piece of artwork on a plate, and vice versa, that you can get low quality ingredients and make a 5-star piece of artwork. The biggest question remains; does it taste good?

Seattle Pike Place Market at night with vegetables

Large amounts of the produce we purchase in this country daily are picked early, before being allowed to fully develop to peak flavor, inspected, packed and then shipped to your local grocer. This process can take over a week and, in some instances, multiple weeks! You have a better bet getting the freshest and closest to peak quality ingredients at your local farmer market. If you’re not sure if there is one in your area, find one, almost all cities and neighborhoods have one. Better yet, grow your own produce year-round and you’ll have the best available. It’s simple!

This also applies to a large amount of the seafood and meat products we purchase from grocers, especially with the seafood. Being in Seattle with such a large abundance of fresh and amazing local seafood it is almost sacrilegious to go buy frozen or once frozen seafood at the local grocer. Head down to the Fisherman’s Terminal near the Ballard Locks for fresh day boat seafood when in season and, when not in season, find a local fish market and make the fish monger your best friend. When it comes to meat, stick with your local butcher. Typically, they are procuring meat from local farms which means it’s fresh and never frozen. Often, it’s far higher quality as well, with grass fed beef, pasture-raised free-range chicken, and pasture-raised pork as options. Even better, most of the time any of these choices will be cheaper than your grocer. Choosing quality ingredients will bring your prepared meals to the next level and make your food event a more memorable one!

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