MUKILTEO — Want in on a secret?
Step into Earth and Ocean. Behind the counter of the newly opened butcher shop on Mukilteo Speedway, you’ll find everything you need to grill a steak or shoot oysters with the finest epicureans out there. And you won’t need a culinary education, a no-holds-barred budget or even much of an idea what you’re doing.
That’s because the secret lies within the T-bone steaks and salmon fillets themselves.
In a sleek, clean shopping space just across from Paine Field, Earth and Ocean slices up fresh meat and seafood that even Gordon Ramsay would prize. Everything — from the ahi tuna steaks to the ready-to-cook crab cakes and marinated chicken wings — is prepared as if it’s about to get plated for its star turn on “Iron Chef.”
Founded by industry pros who’ve been cutting meat to high-end restaurant specs for decades, Earth and Ocean offers a curated selection of cuts, roasts, fish, shellfish and more with the home cook in mind.
That’s the trick, Earth and Ocean co-owner Chris Mills said. If you choose high quality meat and seafood cut the right way, half the battle is already won on serving a restaurant-level meal at home.
Before opening the shop in January, Mills and co-owner Fermin Lopez worked for large meat and seafood distributors that specialize in restaurant-quality meat and seafood. Earth and Ocean was built on the premise of bringing better-than-supermarket products to everybody’s dinner table — at accessible prices.
Take, for example, the dry-aged steaks you might order at a premium price in a fancy steakhouse. They age for several weeks after slaughter before going to market, allowing the meat to develop flavor and tenderize. A similar cut at your local grocery store was probably been slaughtered within the week, Mills said. At Earth and Ocean, all beef in the case has been aged at least 28 days.
Thanks to their connections and knowledge built over years in the industry, Mills and Lopez get access to distributors’ premium product lines — the stuff usually destined for steakhouses.
“So we both kind of know our way around the cutting industry, and we decided to bring what we get to eat every day — because we take stuff home to our families that could’ve been served in a restaurant — to the community,” Mills said. “You guys don’t really get that when you go to Safeway or Costco.”
Those links, and a keen eye developed over thousands of fish fillets, enable Earth and Ocean’s owners to be picky.
Lopez said the seafood side of the store — where vivid pink wild salmon lie tantalizingly on ice and fresh, Whidbey Island mussels await your inspection — is “kind of (his) baby” when it comes to freshness. He knew filleted fish bought from a seafood counter is often cut off the bone right after being caught — then chilled in a warehouse for several days before making it to your grocery store. By the time you take it home for dinner, the tender meat might have been exposed to the air for up to five days, and the depreciation in quality is evident when you know what’s good, he said.
It makes all the difference to keep fish whole until just before they’re sold, said Lopez, who won’t accept anything less for Earth and Ocean. He cuts only what they need to stock the case each morning, and ruthlessly culls what hasn’t sold after a couple of days. (That hasn’t been much of a problem yet in the weeks since opening, Lopez said; their Mukilteo community seems thrilled to have a well-stocked meat market in the neighborhood.)
The owners source seafood from Pacific Northwest waters whenever possible to maximize freshness. A newly added live tank heightens the pursuit of freshness even further, allowing customers to pick their own lobster ($27.50 per pound) and take it home still wriggling. But fish that must come frozen, mostly from Alaska, are air-thawed slowly to preserve flavor, not submerged in a water bath as big distributors do to cut time.
“When you have a fillet pre-cut and then soaking in water to defrost, so much of the natural juices and oils are going to leach right out into the water,” Lopez said. “And that’s sacrificing big on the final product. It takes longer and sometimes folks don’t want to wait, but you can tell the difference.”
That difference is apparent when you’re looking to make something simple but excellent, Mills said. While you can buy the same Kobe tenderloin ($70/lb) or Dungeness crab ($42.50/lb) at Earth and Ocean as you would get in a nice restaurant, you can’t necessarily take home the chef’s expertise.
“But if the meat or the fish is really high-quality, it doesn’t actually need much to make it taste like in a restaurant,” Mills said. “You’re looking for something that has enough flavor to stand on its own no matter how you cook it, and if you ask us, we can always help you figure out how you need to cook it.”
That being said, Earth and Ocean stocks plenty of spice mixes, marinades and more if you’re looking for a quick fix or to dress up a leaner cut. At a loss for where to start? It’s hard to miss with Seattle restauranteur Tom Douglas’ line of dry rubs designed to kick anything from salmon to pork chops and veggies up a notch. You can even pick up a lemon for 75 cents if you want to get to grilling that sockeye with great speed.
And for the truly impatient — or perhaps just the carnivorous and ravenous — the shop stocks a few ready-to-cook options such as party wings ($6.75/lb) and flaky, flavorful crab cakes ($9/lb). If you’re taking home some of their poké tuna ($14.75/lb), be sure to grab some house-made seaweed salad ($5.76/lb), too.
It’s all made in-house by executive chef Michael Macready, a veteran of restaurant kitchens whose creative flavors, when paired with the painstakingly sourced meat and seafood on offer, are sure to keep you coming back on a rotating schedule. And while he acknowledges his title of “chef” is premature, since Earth and Ocean doesn’t really have a kitchen at the moment, Macready said the owners plan to expand the shop to offer a limited menu of carnivore-pleasing takeout meals perfect to grab on a lunch break, like oyster po’boys and rockfish tacos.
“Our hope is that once we get people in here and realizing what we offer to the community, they’ll just keep coming back,” Mills said. “There’s really nowhere else around here where you can get products of the caliber we’re offering, and we think people are going to get a taste for it.”
Earth and Ocean, 10100 Mukilteo Speedway, Suite 110, Mukilteo. Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday. Call 425-510-4012 or go to earthandocean.net.