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Fresh for the taking

Advice for selecting the finest meat, seafood and produce.

Story By Bailey Gilliam

Meals made with gourmet ingredients just taste better. The better the fish, the better the steak, the better the experience. The next time you’re hankering for a magnificent cut of meat, a fantastic fillet or some perfectly-ripe produce, consider a specialty market over a traditional grocery store. 

“I wouldn’t recommend buying your fish from a grocery store because that’s not what a grocery store does,” said Sean Ready, owner of Nantucket’s Meat & Fish Market at Tanger Outlets. “Grocery stores sell commodity cereals and middle-aisle stuff. If you’re able to go to specialty stores or markets, you’re going to have more success.” 

To get the freshest and best products, Ready recommends talking to the experts. 

“The number one thing is to ask your butcher, ask your fishmonger,” he said. “That’s what these guys do. It’s their livelihood, and they’re so good at it. And they’ll tell you which fish looks the freshest, which steak looks the best today. That by far is the best thing you can do.” 

Here are a few other nuggets of advice for selecting the highest-quality meats and produce, with images of the selection available at Nantucket’s Meat & Fish Market. 


Gone fishing 

“You’re going to know by sight and smell. You’ve got to use all of your senses,” Ready said. 

  • What to look for: Whole fish, clear eyes, shiny (not dull) skin, non-fishy smell. 
  • Questions to ask: When did the fish come in? Where did it come from? What’s your best
    fish today?
  • Best local crustaceans: Shrimp
  • Best to grill: Swordfish 
  • Best to bake: Cod 
  • Best by: Keep on ice, eat within the next few days or vacuum seal and freeze. Do not refreeze. 
  • Tip: Does not travel well. 

Beef up

“You’re going to look and see if it’s that bright, vibrant color, and you’re going to see if the place is busy. You go to a busy place, they’re going to sell more meat. If they specialize in those products, you’re going to get fresher stuff,” Ready said. 

  • What to look for: Bright and vibrant in color, busy meat counter. The redder the meat, the fresher it is. 
  • Choosing a cut: What would you order if you went out to a nice steakhouse?
  • Questions to ask: How would you prepare this? If I like (insert cut), what should I try for something new?
  • Most flavorful: Aged beef
  • Easiest cut to cook: Sirloin tips
  • Hardest to cook: Steak
  • Best by: Eat by the end of the week. 
  • Freezing: Vacuum seal or use freezer paper.

Forbidden fruit

“Choose those that have a good shape, texture and color and a fresh smell. It is best to shop for fresh produce often and buy only what you will use within a few days,” Ready said. 

  • What to look for: Vibrant color, a spot from where it’s been on the ground
  • Storage: Do not put bananas near other fruit. 
  • Best local produce: Stone fruit, corn, peanuts

A Fresh start 

Ready opened his first market following the inspiration of his mother’s store. She had opened a store in Shelbourne, Vermont, and he loved working there. “It was really customer-focused, food-focused, and I just loved the atmosphere,” he said. “I loved the family business feel. And I decided that’s kind of what I wanted to do, but I didn’t want to move back to Vermont,” Ready said. 

After graduating from college and realizing his love for the market life, he decided to open a store in Martha’s Vineyard, where he had summered as a child. Five years later he opened up the market in Nantucket. While he had no intention of opening more locations, he realized the need for this type of business in other communities. The potential of a location near Hilton Head came about after a golf trip with his father. “Just like every golf foursome, we figured we’d get some steaks for dinner, but there was nowhere to get one, other than grocery stores,” he said. “And we couldn’t believe it.” 

And the rest is history. Nantucket’s Meat & Fish Market is celebrating one year of business at Tanger Outlets in Bluffton. Check out their offerings at nantucketsmarket.com.