A restaurant observation and how to grill salmon vs. mahi mahi …

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Curious place, our little town. The largest of our three very small water districts won’t sell water meters to owners of vacant parcels who have been making payments to build their retirement dream cabins. In fact, that renders their properties worth very little at the moment. It also prevents a modicum of population growth we need to support our community.

At the same time, restaurants and watering holes are popping up like dandelions. The fact is, many of these new businesses are struggling. There aren’t enough locals to fill the seats during the week. What’s more, there aren’t enough visitors to fill all the seats on the weekends.

The truth is, competition breeds higher quality. It is true that some of these optimistic restaurateurs won’t make it. I hope they realize that promoting their businesses will help them succeed. Without newspaper advertising, without reasonable weekly and daily specials, without social media, they will never get the attention of a large segment of our visitors.

The flow of Pacific Crest Trail hikers is keeping the cash registers ringing for now. Yet, when I drive around on weekends, on both days and evenings, I see a lot of empty establishments. One reason is there are too few residents, too few visitors and too few lodging rooms and campsites to keep this many businesses afloat. It is a lack of balance.

It is a sad truth that many who want to live and work here open the businesses they want, not necessarily what we need. Many of us who dine out try the new places and often the “learning curve” of new owners can run us off … sometimes for good.

Again, those who wish to survive take note. If you want to hear the “ching ching” of the register, give the people what they want — excellent food, ample portions, local and daily discounted specials, and, perhaps, coupons to generate action.

The bottom line is, if the food and service are not up to par, you’re doomed from the start. See who is packing them in and ask yourselves why. Locals for the most part are not wealthy, and restaurants can’t make it on tourists alone.

Nuff said, I’m off the soapbox. I really want everyone to prosper; the fact is, most restaurant owners are my friends.

So, about grilling salmon vs. mahi mahi. There are two big differences in these fish. Salmon is oily and mahi mahi not so oily.

Get the grill hot. Season either type of fish fillet with salt, seasoned salt or soy sauce. Add pepper, if you like it on fish, even a bit of oregano, onion powder or cayenne, etc. Your call. Sriracha sauce is awesome if you like a little heat. Then brush the fillet with oil. Olive oil is fine; sesame oil is terrific, as well.

Here is the deal: Oiled salmon can go right on the grill skin down first (if it has skin). Cover the grill. Flip after a couple of minutes if the grill is hot, and cook it first in one direction, then in the other to get a nice cross-hatch of grill marks. If you think it may be done, it’s done. It cooks quickly. It will feel firm to the touch (like your palm) and flake easily. If this is your first try, break off a piece and taste it.

Few like hot, undercooked fish, and they don’t like dried, hard-overcooked fish. All grills are different with regard to heat and time. Ten minutes is too long for a ¾-inch fillet. Maybe try a small piece first to get the sense of timing before you invite the queen for salmon.

Mahi mahi, similar to cod, is a drier fish. After it is seasoned and well oiled, place it on aluminum foil not directly on the grill. Use a piece of foil larger than the fish so you can flip it over and it will still be on the foil. Cover the grill. You will hear it sizzling on the foil. It will stay moist since the fire won’t be scorching it.

After about two to three minutes, flip the fillet with a spatula and keep it on the foil. The oil should let it release easily. Another minute or two and again, flip the fillet directly onto the grill and throw out the foil. A minute or so and flip to the other side for a flavorful grill texture as opposed to a baked texture, without drying out the fillet. Again, it should be firm but pliable.

Like the salmon, try a sacrificial piece first to get the timing down. If the test piece looks good, turn your back to the guests and quickly eat that thing before anyone sees you.

A quick tip: Break the fillets up and serve on heated flour or corn tortillas with a mix of mayo and Sriracha sauce, then add shredded cabbage or lettuce. Add some shredded cheese and perhaps some avocado and you will hit it out of the park. Enjoy.

Questions? Email me at vicsirkin@yahoo.com.

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