So, on my way down the Haarlemmerstraat to the gym today (good boy!), I was walking past Meeuwig & Zn., and I had some sort of xtra-sensory twitch that told me that they stocked one of Mr. Rosengarten's top-shelf tunas. Actually, I knew this because I'd been in there on Thursday buying stuff for that dinner party, and when I saw the Great Tuna Taste-Off (which this post assumes you've examined), I knew one of the brand names rang a little mental ding-a-ling but couldn't 'member whichie one.
Turns out it was Ortiz, who came in 4th place in the Ventresca tasting, and 1st place in Rosengarten's olive oil tasting (Google reveals that Ortiz also took first, second, and third place in a Cook's Illustrated tuna tasting). Meeuwig & Zn. had 7 different Ortiz products, and I marshalled every functioning brain cell I had in an attempt to remember which product he'd tasted.
As Eddie the Dane would've said, turns out I was half-smart. I got the right Ventresca, but I got the wrong Atun Claro...this one's not actually bonito del norte (light), it's albacore (white). Here's a rather half-assed breakdown of tuna varieties from the Palm Beach Daily News.
Anyway, I'm going to try not to further geek out with excessive, florid tasting notes or anything, but I will try to pinpoint what's so different about this stuff. First of all, they both strike a crushing deathblow to my Dani Bonito del Norte that I was so in love with yesterday. I'mstill so in love with it, actually, because it's half the price of the Ortiz Atun Claro stuff, and one-fifth the price of the Ortiz Ventresca. And I can get it right downstairs at the Turkish place.
Right. The first thing I opened was not actually either of these, it was a tin of sardines in olive oil made by a man named Lou Ferrigno. Why would I trust the deaf, bodybuilding, former Incredible Hulk to deliver a superior sardine? In retrospect, good question. It was the one (of a possible three) the sales guy suggested (you do know that the Hulk had nothing to do with this, right?). In his defense, he said he'd never tried it but that it was "popular". Not in this house it wasn't. I expected a cleaner, fresher aroma and taste from a top-shelf sardine (3 euro per tin), but the best thing about the scent here was that it smelled like good extra-virgin olive oil.
Good olive oil in which three very average-smelling sardines sat. The Moroccan brand I normally buy, Tagine, is far superior, definitely in scent, but even more so in texture...the Ferrignade were worryingly soft. Me no like. Into the trash. This made me a bit nervous about my own imminent personal Tuna Taste-Off (notice I didn't capitalize the P). Had I just spent 13 euro on mushy, fishy filth muck?
I had zero to worry about. The Atun Claro was first, and...it just looks good. Mara has the camera with her, so I'm left with only a scanner to document this...and while it worked fine with the packaging, I'm just sure that putting the actual tuna in the scanner would've caused problems. I'm no techie, though, so what do I know? Send me your tuna/scanner stories in the comments.
So, Atun Claro. It was as much better than the Dani bonito (I just said this out loud. You try it. Dani bonito.) as the Dani bonito was better than the regular ol' grocery store tuna (UPDATE: after re-tasting the Dani against the Ortiz, I have to scale this back a little bit. Where the Ortiz really beats it is: in elegance [you would immediately guess that the Dani stuff is not freshly cooked tuna, good as it is]; texture [the Dani is a little too firm], and complexity [the Ortiz is ready to serve, whereas you'll want to do something to the Dani because it still seems like tinned tuna]).
Even more so than the Dani product, there's nothing canned-tasting or generically "fishy" about it at all. The cats didn't even come snooping around after I popped the top, and that never happens with grocery store tuna. The Atun Claro tastes like a fully-cooked fresh tuna steak, but with none of the unpleasantness that that connotes: board-stiff, bone-dry, chewing forever, a challenging swallow, etc. The olive oil is so fundamentally integrated with the fish that, while it's still very firm, it's completely juicy and full of olive-oily goodness. And it's salted perfectly, on the aggressive side of moderate. Great stuff.
OK. I thought, how much different can the Ventresca be? The good news is, it doesn't proportionally extend the Atun Claro: Dani Bonito: BumbleBee trend. This is good news because I can't afford to buy it very often. It is, however, even more refined and more like a finished dish than the Atun Claro. Most of this has to do with its startling appearance (not my photo, totally stolen):
So it's these long, thin strips of firm, white tuna belly...perfect for artfully fanning across a plate for an appetizer. The above photo is of course not what they look like when they come out of the can, this is a picture of an Argentinian recipe: ventresca on a sandwich with red peppers, olives, garlic, and vinegar...sounds devastating. But I just ate them out of the can, unadorned, and it's like Rosengarten says, it's not really like anything else. The texture is much more like salmon than any tuna I know, firm and silky (Penthouse Forum?) without really flaking at all, and the taste is sweet and mild, with just the tiniest tang of what you think of when you hear the words "fully-cooked tuna steak".
Whew, that was hard work. I'm no food writer, obvs. I just had to follow this Dani Bonito thing to its logical conclusion. Which I think I've done. I'll probably end up renting Romancing the Stone, or Get Shorty, or something else he was in, and then trying some more fancy tuna brands at some point and documenting their supple breasts and heaving thighs, so don't be surprised if we see a Chapter Three, hookas.
THE USUAL HEAVILY PARENTHESIZED UPDATE: I had the rest of the Atun Claro for breakfast, and in this non-gourmet context (coming out of the refrigerator), to my tastes, it was every bit as enjoyable as the ventresca (although I couldn't do a direct comparison because the ventresca was, well...gone), although the ventresca is definitely prettier to look at. I'm sure that the oil had...emulsified? is that what olive oil does is the fridge? In any case, I think that this actually had a weirdly positive effect on the texture. It was kind of...luscious. Call El Bulli. Do they serve refrigerated oil dishes yet? Anyway, I had some of this by itself, and then with my new BFF, toasted blanched almonds, golden raisins, and mint leaves. Simply great. Pitts (code name for dear Mother): buy some now.
SOURCES: It would be remiss of me to mention Meeuwig & Zn., where I very rarely shop, and not mention Hollandaluz, which is right across the street from Meeuwig, and where I shop at least once a week, three times a week if I'm lucky. In fact, I don't know why I haven't tried any of Hollandaluz's tunas...I guess I never get any farther than the refrigerator full of home-made albondigas, aioli, gazpacho, and paella. Or the warmer full of empanadas, croquetas, morcillo (um...blood sausage), and (Spanish) tortillas. Or the counter where they sell (among others) a perfect bocadillo of membrillo (quince paste) and manchego on crusty, freshly baked bread. OK, so tht's why.
Ortiz Ventresca de Bonito del Norte €7,50 for 110 grams. Ortiz Atun Claro €5,50 for 250 grams. Dani Bonito del Norte €1,50 for 110 grams.
for comparison's sake:
John West (the StarKist/Bumblebee of Holland) €1,17 for 200 grams.