Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bar or Loupe, the European Sea Bass. Bar or Loupe on French Menus. Searching for the Most Popular Fish in France.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

The European Sea Bass
Photography By Isidro Martinez.
European sea bass has a firm, delicate, white flesh, and whether caught at sea or raised on a fish farm they are a delicious fish and consequently are one of the most popular fish in France.  Despite the excellence of most farmed fish, in a blind tasting you will realize the fish caught at sea are tastier; even the texture is different.  Where fish are concerned, you are what you eat.

The names of the European Sea Bass in France.
Bar, Bar Commun, Bar Sauvage or Bar de Ligne, 
Loup, Loup de Mer or Lubina.
Sea Bass has quite a number of traditional French names used on menus. Do not worry, they are all the same fish. Most of the fish served in the center of France and along France’s Atlantic coast will be on the menus as Bar, Bar Commun, Bar Sauvage or Bar de Ligne.  In the South and along France’s Mediterranean coast the Occitan language remains with Sea Bass being called Loup or Loup de Mer. Close to Spain the Spanish name of Lubina may be on the menu.

Wild sea bass served with dried ham, and flavored with rocket and the mimolette cheese. All served in a razor clam sauce.
Photograph courtesy of ulterior epicure.
Wild sea bass and farmed sea bass in France.;
Sea Bass that have been farm raised will usually weigh less than 600 grams each, an even smaller fish may be served for one. A Bar Sauvage, or a Bar de Ligne, the European Sea Bass caught in the open sea, may easily weigh over two kilos. These and largee fish will be served as filets that are poached or baked,

On French menus look out for some of the dishes noted below:
Bar au Beurre Blanc – European sea bass with a Beurre Blanc Sauce.  A Beurre Blanc Sauce, often called a Sauce Nantaise, is one of  the best ways to enjoy a white fish.  
Bar de Ligne aux ormeaux et aux oignons nouveaux des Cévennes.
Wild European Sea Bass prepared with Abalone  and sweet onions. These are the Oignon Doux des Cévennes AOP. This is a sweet and tasty onion with a white skin that is practically hand-raised, and certainly hand-picked, on the terraced slopes of the Cévennes Mountains.   
Photograph courtesy of Inspirational Food
Bar au Four a la Graines de Fenouil – Sea bass baked in the oven with fennel seeds. Fennel has a stronger licorice flavor than its cousin dill. Wild fennel fruits, the seeds,  are mostly used by French chefs with fish and shellfish dishes. Many chefs outside the large cities have  wild fennel gathered for them as  it has a different taste to the herb bought from market gardeners.  Most  wild mushrooms gatherers, ramasseurs, also gather wild herb. These ramasseurs have specific chefs  and restaurants as their loyal customers from year to year.
Bar de Ligne, Artichaut Violet, Jus de Crustacés – Wild sea bass cooked with small violet artichokes, and seasoned with the cooking juices from shrimp and other crustaceans.  Bar de Ligne translates a European Sea Bass caught on a rod a line; however, it only shows that the fish was captured in the wild, not specifically on a rod a line. What counts to the chef here is that the fish did not come from a fish farm. The crustacean flavoring, probably mostly from shrimps comes from the shrimps’ shells and this natural sauce will flavor the whole dish..

Wild European Sea Bass served with Mussels.
Photograph courtesy of Phyllis Flick.
Carpaccio de Loup – A Carpaccio of sea bass. For more about Carpaccio in France click here:

Euopean Sea Bass, Loup, on sale in the fish marlet in Sete.
Sete is the largest fishing post on France’s Meditteranean coast and was built as the entrance to the Canal de Deux Mers.   Sete is also famous for its restaurant’s fish and seafood dishes.
Photograph courtesy of Jean-Phi92.
Filet de Loup Cuit à la Vapeur d'Algue sur Coulis de Poivrons (Le) –A filet of sea bass. Steamed over an edible seaweed, and served with a puree of bell peppers. The use of the word loup tells us that this fish was caught in the Mediterranean. The name loup comes from the Occitan language. Occitan lost out as the language that would unite France. France has over 25 local languages and dialects and Occitan is the most important. Over 50% of the French population will use or understand one of these languages.

The fishing port of Sete on France's Mediterranean coast.
Photograph courtesy of  Cees Wouda.
Filets de Bar Grillés sur la Peau, aux Senteurs de Provence – Filets of sea bass grilled in their skin, and flavored and scented with the Herbs of  Provence herb group.  For more on the Herbs of Provence click here.
The North America fish called bass
European Sea Bass and North American Sea Bass come from different families, but once cooked, and on your plate they will seem close enough. In any case, there are many other fish with the word bass in their names in North America.  These can be both fresh and saltwater fish. I, with my family, caught large mouthed bass in Maine and they were a very tasty, but a very different fish to the European Sea Bass. Many of the American fish with bass in their name are unrelated to each othet, and no one seems to worry too much about it.  The North American Sea Bass is the nearest you will come to the taste of the European Sea Bass,
The many names of the European Sea Bass.
It may seem strange that a single fish, the European Sea Bass has so many French names.  History, local languages and usage created many names and in North America and the UK that the European sea bass also has many English names. The English names may appear on a menu or in a fishmonger's and  include bass, common bass, sea perch, white salmon and king of the mullets.

N.B. There is one completely different fish that has one of its French names also used for the European Sea Bass is the Loup de Mer, the Atlantic wolfish; also called the Atlantic catfish. However, the Atlantic Wolfish is a very different fish, and can reach 12 kilos or more; when caught in the net they may end up baked, and served, as filets.  If you have, a choice for the best taste go with the European Sea Bass,
The European Sea Bass in the languages of France’s neighbors:

(Catalan – llobaro), (Dutch - zeebaars ), (German – wolfsbarsch, meerbarsch), (Italian- branzino),  (Spanish – lubina, lupi, lupa).
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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
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