Jul 23 2011

Sardines: Canned or fresh, it’s all good

The flavor of sardines at Presidio Social Club is a good match for cocktails. John Storey/Special to The San Francisco Chronicle

by Michael Bauer


Earlier this week, I was writing the introduction to this week’s Food&Wine newsletter which focuses on seasonal recipes. The topic was sardines, which drew out some long-buried memories.

Only a few years ago sardines were rare on menus, but now they’re coming into the spotlight as more people become aware of seasonality and sustainable seafood practices. The emergence of this strong-tasting fish on restaurant menus seems to parallel the growing cocktail culture. Sardines make great snacks with a stiff drink, which is why you’ll find them in the snack section on many menus.

Even though I only eat fresh these days, whenever I see the word “sardines” I first think of the canned variety. Growing up, tinned sardines and soda crackers were a lunch-time staple.

At least 20 years ago I dined with two food and wine legends in an East Bay restaurant — Gerald Asher, who was the longtime wine writer for Gourmet; and Elizabeth David, one of the most respected British cookbook authors. During that dinner we got into a discussion of sardines; both of them loved the canned variety. I was surprised to learn that they also both “aged” the tins for a time. From there the discussion turned to how long is ideal.

It’s been decades since I’ve had the canned product, but remembering this conversation I think I’ll go out and try them. Maybe they will be my new lunchtime staple a year or so down the line, once they’ve properly mellowed in their cans.

For now I’ll stick to fresh sardines. The 10 places below show how versatile this fish really is. If you want to try the Spoonbar or Gitane dishes at home, click here for the recipes.

Read the rest of the article here.


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