Choosing Seafood & Wine




Husband-and-wife team Howard and Ruth Milstein share their tips on selecting and pairing seafood and wine, and have another lively conversation on Big Blend Radio! Howard is a wine expert, and Ruth is the author of the Gourmand award-winning cookbook ‘Cooking with Love: Ventures into the New Israeli Cuisine.’

Ruth’s Tips on Buying and Selecting Seafood

The fish shop should not stink! Make friends with the fishmonger, and find out when the new shipments arrive and where they come from. The five Omega 3 champions are salmon, sardines, smelt, shad, and anchovies.


– Look for bright, clear eyes. The eyes are the window into a fresh fish.

– Fresh fish should be shiny, clean and metallic looking.

– Smell it. A fresh fish should smell fresh, like clean water. Nasty smelling fish won’t improve in cooking.


– Look for vibrant flesh. If the fillet still has skin, look for a glistening shine on it.
– Smelling the fish fillets is very important. They should not have a pungent odor.

– If the fish displays any type of liquidity, it should appear to be clean, not milky.


If you choose to buy a live fish, crab or lobster, look for a lively and scampering fish in its tank. If it’s sulking or hanging in a corner, do not buy it.


– Buy only at the finest fish market where turnover is rapid, so you can be assured of fresh mussels, clams or oysters.

– Clams and oysters are sold live! Dead ones do not open after being cooked. Throw them away.

– Scallops are almost always sold shucked. Look for ones that are dry packed and are not stored in brine. It is better to buy frozen, vacuum sealed scallops, which are perfectly good.


Buy them whole and frozen. The shell protects them from the rigors of being frozen without losing too much moisture.


– You should buy them frozen. Fresh are a bit rare. If you find it though, look first at their eyes, which should be clean and bright.

Howard’s Tips on Pairing Wine with Seafood

When it comes to the average wine enthusiast, food pairing can be quite important in getting the best out of your favorite wine and the wonderful meal you are going to eat. With fish, we have a wide choice of fine wine varietals that can easily fit the bill; thereby making a marriage in heaven!

For regular fish (non-shellfish) a fine French or California sauvignon blanc can be ideal. The lemon and grassy notes as well as the dry tropical fruit supplies a fine backdrop for all the types of fish we enjoy making. Other choices can be Muscadet, the French varietal that gives off that lush, mineral and stony fragrance of sea water as well as great acidity to complement the fish. Many people enjoy Chardonnay as well. However, I would suggest a good California or French Chardonnay would be ideal with shellfish, particularly lobster, with its slightly sweet meaty aromas. Don’t forget Italian varietals such as Vernaccia and Vermentino which are wonderful alternatives to the same old Pinot Grigio.

If one prefers red wine with their fish, the only real pairing that works is the good old Pinot Noir or Burgundy (France). No one knows why Pinot Noir goes with all foods, but somehow the medium body and supple, creamy tannins seem to complement fish and meat dishes. Oregon and California offer superb quality Pinot Noir at somewhat reasonable prices. If one wants to try a red Burgundy, be prepared to have a knowledgeable retailer help with your choices as these wines while being superbly crafted, do cost much more money to get one that will equal the quality of a domestic Pinot Noir.


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About the Author:

Howard is a wine expert, and Ruth is the author of the Gourmand award-winning cookbook 'Cooking with Love: Ventures into the New Israeli Cuisine.'

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