"I've been smoking salmon," Joel Harrington says. "They're absolutely beautiful."
The chef of Lido Bottle Works — the newly opened Newport Beach restaurant that serves locally grown food and 15 beers on tap — is in the kitchen, lacing up an apron and talking about his special for the day.
He enters the walk-in refrigerator and pulls out a bucket of chilled fish purchased earlier that morning from the nearby Dory Fishing Fleet Market.
Then, on a pan, he sears black cod — a white fish prized for its succulent and velvety texture — and spoons a mix of sweet corn, jasmine rice, Chinese sausage and shredded carrots onto a plate.
"I love this stuff," he says.
Harrington, 45, has long had an interest in and love for locally sourced seafood, vegetables and poultry.
It's one of the many reasons why the restaurant and bottle shop's owners at Lido Marina Village selected Harrington, a former culinary director for critically acclaimed chef Marcus Samuelsson, to lead and define the restaurant's sustainable menu.
Harrington grew up in Burlington, Vt., in a family that tended their garden of herbs and vegetables and regularly fished and hunted.
After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Harrington was hired by Samuelsson at Aquavit. The Scandinavian restaurant garnered greater culinary recognition, earning a number of awards and accolades from the Michelin Guide and James Beard Foundation.
Harrington eventually led kitchens for Stephen Pyles and Charlie Palmer and worked primarily at large hotels, many with well-regarded restaurants, including Ritz-Carlton properties in Laguna Niguel, Dove Mountain, Ariz., and Dallas.
In February, he returned to Orange County to helm the Lido Bottle Works kitchen after the restaurant's founders — Bill, Eric and Kyle Paine, Brett Karas and Kirk O'Brien — conceptualized a waterfront dining spot that touched on the neighborhood's nautical history and cuisine.
Now that he lives near the Wedge in Newport Beach, Harrington says he'll wake at 6:30 a.m. and ride his bike 2.8 miles to the Dory Fishing Fleet Market to hand-select the catch of the day.
"For me, the connection with Dory is so special because they're such a landmark and all that goes on the plate," he says. "I go where the locals go, and I think of the construction workers and the electricians, the working class, who made this peninsula. You have to honor the place that has that something special about it."
The Dory Fishing Fleet started in 1891 when a fisherman, tired of selling his fish to the wholesalers, began marketing to the public on the beach. Today, the market that is located alongside Newport Pier is a registered historical landmark — the last beach-side cooperative of its kind in the United States.
He'll pluck vegetables from the Lido Bottle Works garden in Costa Mesa — and herbs like thyme, dill and tarragon from the pots he planted outside the restaurant — and shop the Santa Monica and local farmers markets.
To develop the restaurant's appetizers and entrees, which include charred eggplant hummus and pork belly bao buns, Harrington says he looks at the census to learn the type of foods eaten in the region, along with researching 1930s newspaper articles that detail school lunches.
"It gives me an idea of what we can celebrate," Harrington says. "I don't want to make food that doesn't make sense."
Scott Breneman, a fourth-generation Dory Fleet fisherman, will call Harrington to update him on the fresh catches of the day.
"He does his magic with it," Breneman says.
The local production, Harrington says, remains true to his practice of sustainability and respect of organic farmers, ranchers, fishermen, winemakers and cheesemakers.
"Each dish has a story," Harrington says, "and that makes it personalized."
Lido Bottle Works is at Lido Marina Village, 3408 Via Oporto, Ste. 103, Newport Beach. For more information, call (949) 529-2784 or visit lidobottleworks.com.