September 22, 2022

Tin Fish Date Night: A How To


Any parent knows that the first few months of new parenthood can be a rough adjustment and making time for your relationship with a newborn can feel impossible. Gone are the days of a weekend away in New York City or catching the latest Tina Fey and Steve Carell comedy with a moments notice. Is that an outdated movies reference? Who can even tell with an infant at home. Enter: Tin Fish Date Night. It may not sound like the most romantic fun date night idea to do together, but it has become our favorite way in this season of life to show and return our love as a couple.

The first four months of Alden’s life, sleep was not in his vocabulary. He was resistant no matter what book I read or methods we tried.

One night, after Alden was asleep; we opened a few tins of fish, cracked open a bottle of natural wine, grilled some bread in olive oil and sat down. The whole menu we served took only a few minutes to put together. We were exhausted, but the smoked salmon was as good as fresh salmon, the sardines were delicious and the mussels in escabeche sauce were perfect bites of spiced flavor bombs to rival any fried chicken you could think up.

Alden woke up something like an hour later, of course, kicking off our sleepless night early. Still, we got a solid hour of focusing on each other as a married couple enjoying food together and not just being parents. It feels like sometimes the best date night ideas are the most unexpected date ideas. We were hooked.

The next week, I intentionally planned a friday night tinned fish date night for us. We talked about it all week, picked out the perfect wine and sourced some tins of seafood that made us very excited. I pulled out the giant Boos block cutting board that we were gifted when we got married and dusted off my chef chops to plate the fish and accoutrements as if I were to serve it to a guest. When we took our first bites and poured our first glass of wine, Sathya was grinning from ear to ear. He leaned over and told me he had always dreamed of sharing a moment like this with someone he loved. Thus, Tin Fish Date Night was born. From that day on we have (for the most part) done it every Friday since.


Everyone wants to know the best canned fish that is out there. I wish I could tell you ‘the best canned salmon’ and hand out awards, but there are honestly too many fantastic products out there to praise only one! Our favorites are ever changing as we discover new items. Whether you are looking for tinned fish for beginners, or you are a tin fish pro here are some of our constant favorites.

If you’re scared of tinned fish but intrigued, never fear! Like any food you are not used to consuming, tin fish is absolutely something you can grow to accept or develop a palate for. I tend to recommend to beginners to start with a fish that they’re already comfortable with and branch out from there. If you like tuna fish sandwiches maybe start with the Fishwife Smoked Albacore Tuna or Smoked Rainbow Trout. Everything from Fishwife I hold in a high regard. The quality of ingredients and care they put into the product is exceptional. Not to mention, they are wonderful people to support.

If beautiful graphics are what are drawing you in – there is no shame in this! the beauty of the product packaging only elevates the experience for me. José Gourmet is a perfect place to start (or return) on this journey. The packaging are individual works of art, all designed by artist Luis Mendonça. The packaging is so stunning you will want to keep it. Artwork aside, their range of products is immense and the quality is consistent. A favorite of ours that repeatedly makes an appearance on our tinned fish date night boards is the tinned Mackerel Pâté. José Gourmet will allow you to step into the world of portuguese tinned fish from the comfort of your own couch. If Octopus is what you love, with José Gourmet you will find tender Octopus gems true to their flavor.

If you love their outerwear than you should not be surprised that Patagonia Provisions makes a quality product, as well. This company clearly knows what’s good. It is hard to find a tin of anchovies that can compete with the beautiful flavors of fresh boquerones (pickled white fresh anchovies) in my mind, but Patagonia makes a perfect attempt to rival even the freshest of preparations. Patagonia Provisions Spanish White Anchovies are a tin I can’t quite quit. The ability to take a shelf stable version of the tender and tart boquerones anywhere I go is a dream I am happy to have walked into. This tin shows how good anchovy fillets can be and makes a good defense for them to not just be destined for anchovy paste or fish sauce. While I love to snack on them, they make beautiful additions to recipes as is; like the perfect garnish for your favorite caesar salad.

Many fish brands make sardines packed in spiced tomato sauce which are a steady favorite for us. One that we eat again and again is the Nuri Spiced Sardines in tomato sauce. These are jam packed with flavor and you may even find a pickle slice or two inside your can!

If you’re looking for something unique to try and want to explore a bit more into the newer American tinned seafood territory, Scout Canning makes a wide array of products without the strong flavors of fishy-ness that people are deterred by. You can find specialty items like lobster or paprika and fennel mussels in their lineup that boast high quality and high flavor.


One of the most common tinned seafood products are the ever flavorful anchovies. I have two favorites for this fish.
In terms of packaged boquerones, I love the Ortiz Conservas line boquerones that you can find in refrigerated sections of specialty grocers. While this product is quite common, if you are unable to find it near you, my close second for packed boquerones is the Patagonia Provisions White Anchovies that I mentioned above. These babies are a perfect way to satisfy that craving with a shelf stable product you can easily source online.

When it comes to cooking or inclusions in recipes, salted anchovies for cooking are what I am looking for. The Agostino salted anchovies in extra virgin olive oil are a product I came to know and love working at a fine dining restaurant in San Francisco. They introduced me to a world of high quality cooking anchovies that elevate your dish to the next level. I even throw them into every batch of kimchi that I make at home! Lucky for us all, they make a 3oz jar version so you don’t have to buy the commercial large batch tin to get this ingredient at home.


Wild planet tuna is a favorite grocery store tuna of mine for recipes, but in terms of fancy; Tonnino in olive oil is my current obsession. I love putting the giant flakes on a salad and chowing down.


Unfortunately, there is no perfect one stop shop or tinned fish market I can send you to. Canned fish can be hard to source (apart from canned tuna fish in the grocery store) but that is part of the fun! Small, specialty shops are your best bet when comes to sourcing in person. If you have a small specialty grocer, a nice wine shop, or an unsuspecting boutique with some pantry products in your town, you may be in luck! In San Francisco, one of our favorite places to shop in person happens to be a knife shop!

Despite living in San Francisco Bay Area, we end up sourcing most of our tin fish online as we just can’t find every item in person. For this, there is Amazon; but there also are quite a few online storefronts for small businesses that sell fish like Caputo’s or Rainbow Tomatoes Garden. Not to mention, you can always purchase straight from the source from American companies like Fishwife, Tiny Fish Co or Scout Canning. You can even find a tin fish subscription online like the one from Cratejoy!

Some cities will have a tin fish restaurant that specifically features the little fish in a tin perfections on their menu. We went to Good Funk natural wine and tin fish bar in Chicago on our recent family trip this month. It was phenomenal!


I first start with tinned fish brands I already know and trust. When venturing from that, I look for fish I already know we love like canned mackerel or tinned sardines in spiced sauce. Above all, trust your own palate. Think about what appeals to you in a fresh fish and consider that direction in tins. If you truly love clams with some garlic and lemon, consider a tin of clams or cockles with fresh garlic bread and a squeeze of lemon. The tin is just a way of preserving, after all. The fish is still the fish that you know and love.


I am frequently asked things like, “Is it healthy to eat anchovies? What are anchovies health benefits and how do anchovies vs sardines differ?” “Is eating sardines bad for you?”

I am a firm believer that ‘healthy’ is subjective to the individual inquiring. What you may need for your body in your stage of life is likely different than mine. That said, there are distinct health benefits to tin fish that are widely accepted as truth. If calcium intake is a focus of yours, than you will be pleased to know that the canning process of fish breaks down their bones in such a way that they are easily digestible and edible. I would even go so far as to say that I find them, texturally, quite enjoyable to the palate! The calcium in fish bones is also one of the easier ways for your body to process and absorb calcium.


Many followers have asked me to address the concern of mercury as it appears my tin fish intake is quite high. While mercury is a concern when it comes to seafood; it is important to note that, in general, the larger fish hold the highest concentrations of mercury while the smallest remain the safest. Most tin fish we consume in our house fall in the smaller fish and mollusk categories. Even still when we do consume larger fish, as long as we are careful about moderation (no more than a few times a week) there is no reason to be alarmed. Imagine tinned fish exactly as if it were fresh fish when it comes to mercury concerns and you will do just fine. When you consider that the oily fish are an excellent source of calcium and omega3s it’s hard to even consider them in the same sentence as ‘bad for you’.


“How do you eat tinned fish?” is one of my most frequently asked questions. For the most part, it is quite simple for us! While I do occasionally use the tins to make tinned fish recipes, the taste of the fish is perfect on its own. Just pop open a can and they make perfect room temperature dishes with little to zero effort. I like to think that the fun of Tin Fish Date Night is composing unique bites through the evening. I rarely think about what goes perfectly with what fish and mostly think about putting things we love to snack on, on the board. That being said, I have some tried and true favorites we constantly return to.

Potato chips and mussels with hot sauce. Sardines, sourdough, tomatoes and manchego cheese. Soft cheese, prosciutto and a jam or quince paste. These are all perfect bites for any date night. Unlike a date night movie, this cute date idea allows you to have an easy flow of conversation and an activity composing your own perfect bites. Get creative and use the moment to truly engage with each other.

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One response to “Tin Fish Date Night: A How To”

  1. Daniel Monks says:

    What (sea) fresh hell is this?

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