I always want to write “San Jose” with the accent mark, like this: “San José.” I don’t think that people do that here in California. Hmm.
Well accent or not, we know the way to San Jose and the excellent though easily overlooked, L and F Fish Market. This hole-in-the-wall Portuguese fish market right off CA-101 across from a beautiful Portuguese Catholic church is worth a visit if you love salt cod.
Hegui read the Mark Kurlansky book, Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World. That author credits that humble fish with allowing Europeans to finally settle the New World, as it was one of the few foodstuffs that could survive the long passage across the Atlantic. Certainly the Portuguese and Spanish still eat this fish. In Brazil salt cod has a long cultural history connected to Europe. That’s why we eat it at my house. Hegui, a Brazilian, knows how to prepare it into wonderful and flavorful creations. I especially enjoy his bacalhoada and arroz de bacalhau com broccolis.
Since Christmas is right around the corner, we made the forty-five minute schlep to San Jose to get some cod at L and F.
The shop is run by a father-and-son team. It’s not much to look at outside or in, and since you have to make a complex turn off the exit from 101 South, it is east to miss. Inside they sell a number of dry goods like Portuguese olive oil, canned sardines, olives and, of course, wine, Port and Madeira. But here it is all about the fish.
We haven’t tried their fresh fish though we saw dramatic whole albacore tuna and several other whole fresh fish. But when we’re here, we’re looking for the salt cod. The Norwegian is thought to be best but the Canadian is fine, too. We got both. The younger, cuter owner cuts the fish to size for you with a massive jigsaw behind the counter. He doesn’t wear gloves, which scares me in two ways: obviously, he could hurt himself, but also the salted fish can burn and the smell easily permeates the skin. I hope that he’s got good health insurance, but more importantly, that he’s already coupled up.