As you probably know by now, Bumble Bee Foods has decided to close their Prospect Harbor ME sardine cannery - the last sardine cannery left in the United States and the home of Beach Cliff brand sardines. I thought that I had reviewed Beach Cliff sardines at some point, but I found that I was mistaken. I'm sorry I never got around to it, because this post - number 31 in my "fishy delights" series - is going to be more of eulogy than a review. Once that factory is closed and remaining stock "in the pipeline" is sold off, whatever Bumble Bee brings out afterwards isn't going to be "Beach Cliff" any more. That's really too bad, because the sardines Bumble Bee sells under it's own name are less than spectacular.
I wasn't able to try every variety of sardine produced by Beach Cliff because the stores in my area never carried every single kind. But I was able to enjoy five flavors, and I've written up reviews for them. Act quickly if you want to try them for yourself - the last cans will be rolling off the packing lines soon.
Sardines in Soybean Oil - Usually three or four sardine cuts in each can, in a decent-quality light soybean oil. Flavorful without being too "fishy," the sardines were of excellent quality despite their larger size. And they were certainly fairly priced at about a dollar a can on sale (or about $1.25 a can at full price.)
Sardines in Tomato Sauce - Larger size sardines, as with the plain ones packed in soybean oil. I liked the tomato sauce they were packed in - there were notes of garlic and horseradish and some herbs; the sauce was tangy and flavorful.
Sardines in Mustard Sauce - Plain and simple mustard sauce with no adornments. There is something about the sharp flavor of mustard that is very complimentary to sardines, and this variety was excellent - the same high-quality wild-caught Gulf of Maine sardines as in the others.
Sardines in Louisiana Hot Sauce - Nothing packed in "hot sauce" or advertised to a mass market as being "extra spicy" is ever very spicy, and this variety was no exception. That being said, however, this was my favorite of the five flavors I was able to find. The hot sauce, despite its shortcomings, delivered a decent kick with a good pepper flavor behind it. I'll miss this flavor most of all.
Sardines in Soybean Oil with Hot Green Chilies - Another flavor that didn't actually deliver the promised spice level (although there was indeed a little boost.) But there's something about sardines and chilis that have a natural affinity, and because this was the hardest kind of Beach Cliff sardines for me to find, they were always a treat when I got ahold of them.
So there you have it. A day late and a buck short, as my douchebag junior high gym coach used to say, but at least it can stand as a farewell to yet another bit of vanishing New England.