I was surprised when I asked John Cleary -- owner of Newman's Fish Company in Portland -- how many local chefs stop by the 10,000 square foot North Portland warehouse to check out daily fish deliveries, cold smoking, live tanks and fish cleaning stations. For the most part Cleary says that the only chefs who stop by are ones that don't make the minimum delivery order of $100. Well, those are the lucky ones because there's a lot to see and learn especially if you're at the warehouse in the early morning.
A few weeks ago I wrote about Newman's Fish Company in City Market in Northwest Portland -- the retail arm of Newman's Portland that gets its pick of the lot in terms daily fresh and frozen deliveries. I met with Cleary at the Newman's warehouse on an early June morning when halibut was on the verge of becoming cost prohibitive. Cleary was on the horn back and forth with processors across the country trying to bring them down in price but not sacrifice quality. Halibut is a big deal since the company goes through 3-4,000 pounds of it a week.
Newman's isn't Pacific Seafood or Ocean Beauty -- it's a small 20-plus-years-in-Portland independent business with very high standards when it comes to sourcing but not as much leverage as the bigger guys. Cleary orders a lot of Newman's seafood air cargo as opposed to barged because he wants his fish hook to table as quickly as possible.