FROM ICELANDIC SHORES TO CZECH DOORS, THIS SEAFOOD BOX IS A GREAT CATCH
Just in time for Easter celebrations and spring barbecues, Boxxi launches a delivery service for seafood lovers in a landlocked country.
In A Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare makes a puzzling reference to the shores of Bohemia, but despite the bard’s best efforts, the Czech territory remains resolutely landlocked – a geographical inconvenience that has led to a startling statistic: Czechs consume a mere kilo per year of seafood year versus the EU average of 8 kg. Compare that with Norway's annual consumption of 25 kg and it isn't difficult to see why high-quality salmon and other seafood delights don't often make onto the average Czech's plate.
A new delivery-box service wants to balance the scales by bringing high-quality Icelandic fish directly to homes in the Czech Republic – while making it easier for those accustomed to better quality cod, salmon steaks, and seafood delicacies to enjoy the sublime taste and great health benefits of fresh catch.
Boxxi’s story began in the Arctic north when founder Marek Jirovec took a trip to Iceland. There, he was astonished by the quality of the local, freshly-caught fish. It looked and tasted so different from the fish that he was accustomed to in Prague, and he soon discovered that fish caught in Iceland’s frigid waters is some of the healthiest and tastiest in Europe.
Iceland produces such high quality fish because, unlike other fishing grounds in Europe, it waters are not contaminated with hazardous substances. These pristine seas give the fish the ideal conditions required for growth and development and the resulting catch is firm, tasty, and nutritious. In fact, Arctic salmon from Iceland has up to twice the amount of omega-3 fatty acids that are found in other salmon species.
Before long, Jirovec was importing salmon to the Czech Republic, albeit on a small scale, limited to friends and family. However, he soon found that word of this fantastic fish had spread. “The number of friend’s friends was increasing, soon the demand for fish had gone beyond the capacity of my living room,” he says, “so I started looking for a solution and came up with the idea of expanding.”
Jirovec's partner Katy Youngová who was familiar with the product as one of the first fans of his Icelandic fish imports quickly saw the potential for a successful business model and helped him get started setting up an e-shop.
“I was fascinated by the idea of fish boxes, as they allow you to serve nutritious food quickly and with a minimum of hassle,” says Youngová who is now Boxxi's sales and marketing specialist and house sommelier.
The Boxxi concept is simple. The service ships two-portion packages of vacuum-packed frozen fish in polystyrene thermoboxes. The fish is shipped with dry ice, to keep the temperature low during transport, and the fish can either be stored in the freezer or thawed for immediate use. As the fish is frozen when it is freshly caught, once defrosted it can be treated as if it were fresh.
The quality of the fish is also affected by the method of fishing, explains Jirovec; therefore, Boxxi works with Icelandic fishermen who catch in the traditional way - with a hook and a line – and who return to port with the catch on the same day, where the fish are processed as soon as it is landed.
“We use the IQF method to gently preserve the fish. This means that the fillets are frozen at -60°C, which preserves the nutritional value, texture, and taste of the fish,” says Jirovac. “The fish remains unadulterated throughout, there’s no added water or additives, so the weight for each portion is the actual weight of the meat.”
The fillets are then vacuumed, packed, and prepared for shipment. Once thawed, the taste and nutrient content are comparable to freshly caught fish, enjoyed on a plate in Iceland.
Fast-forward a year and Boxxi now operate a successful online shop (which has just launched its English-friendly pages) offering tuna, salmon, and other Icelandic fish paired with an impressive selection of wines, chosen by Youngová who is also the in-house sommelier.
“Wine is my guilty pleasure,” she says, “I believe that choosing the right wine for a specific fish can really enhance the wonderfully complex flavors of fresh seafood.” The full range now includes set boxes, made-to-order boxes, and an assortment of seafood and deli products, all paired with carefully selected wine.
Boxxi are committed to sustainability, and all of their suppliers strictly adhere to international standards of sustainable fishing, be they farmed or caught on the high seas.
“The Arctic salmon comes from a fish farm nestled in Icelandic fjords,” says Jirovec. “They are raised naturally, without GMOs, antibiotics, and growth additives. After each farming cycle, the area is allowed to rest to regenerate and re-create natural conditions for future generations of salmon. Meanwhile, species such as cod, and redfish are caught on the high seas, using the sustainable hook-and-line method.”
They are also conscious of keeping their carbon footprint as smallas possible. The fish is shipped from Iceland to mainland Europe by sea freighter, before continuing over land to the Boxxi House in Prague’s Nusle district. From there, they deliver to homes all around Prague, but also to Boxxi Points in towns and cities as far away as Zlín and Brno.
Jirovec hopes the project will increase awareness of the importance of marine fish to a healthy diet while giving people a taste of seaside vacations and distant shores at a time when they need it most. "There's also something to be said for experiencing fish at home the way it was meant to be enjoyed: swimming in wine."