Martin x Martin = Magic

Family fish team carves salmon niche

By Paula Johnson

Photo: The unique balance between smoke, salt and sweet is what makes salmon from family-owned Oaked & Smoked smokery so special

Boredom on a business trip led Martin Davis, Jr. to rummage around a bookstore in Silicon Valley. It was 1993 and Davis, a computer science Ph.D, was leafing idly through volumes in the cooking section, searching out new tips to improve the thing he was already becoming known for – artisanal smoked salmon. He’d had his first taste of it as a teenager in Alaska, and had been working on perfecting it since then. At every party, every holiday, every event, Davis was the provider of this increasingly-sought-after delicacy. He was looking to “up his game” – and that’s exactly what happened when he stumbled across a recipe suggesting reducing salt content, and a few other tweaks he hadn’t considered. Davis claimed not to remember the book’s title, but he still has the sheet of paper with his jotted notes. It certainly set him on the unexpected course his life subsequently took. His son, Martin Davis III, went along for the ride.

After a stint teaching at Wright State’s College of Business, Davis, Jr., went into business with his son doing web development. While he loved the opportunity to work together, he absolutely hated the work. Davis’s professional crisis prompted this exchange: Son: “Dad, what are you good at?” Dad: “I don’t know.” Son: “Well, no one ever turns down your salmon!”

So began the Martins’ smoked salmon saga.

Oaked & Smoked, with its carry-out location near the University of Dayton, and their online business, Martin x Martin Smokery, are the culmination of both the Davis’s exhaustive research, experience and experimentation. Though not chefs or food scientists (Martin III has a degree in Architectural Engineering from the University of Cincinnati), the duo have come up with a recipe and a process which has made them the only supplier in town to such stand-out restaurants as El Meson, Coco’s and The Dayton Racquet Club.

“Martin x Martin produces THE BEST smoked salmon I have ever tasted,” Racquet Club Head Chef Joe Fish said. “With my experience in Europe and on both coasts of the U.S., their product compares to none other.”

So, what makes it so different? Wild-caught Alaskan sockeye is treated with the Davis’ 3S process –Smoke, Salt and Sweet. The balance of these elements is the Martin secret. Smoke refers to their use of only 100 percent pure charcoal, no briquettes or fillers. “This allows us to totally control the flavor,” Martin, Jr., said.

After experimenting with several kinds of wood, oak emerged as the one to impart the smoky note they were after.

Smokin’ Hot

The Davises use a hot smoke process, as opposed to cold. “That’s the difference between smoked salmon and lox, something a lot of people don’t realize,” Davis, Jr. pointed out. After being smoked, hot smoked salmon has to be held at over 145 F for a certain period of time to meet FDA regulations. It’s fully cooked, whereas lox doesn’t get over 90 F, so it’s actually still raw.”

But before the fish gets to the smoker, it is brined first, and that brine might just be the thing which prompts Chef Fish’s praise.

Pure brown sugar is combined with salt. A lot less salt than anyone else is using, good news for people with hypertension like Davis, Jr. And less salt means a flaky, moist texture and mild taste. But how is he able to get by with a sodium content less than half of what is used commercially?

The answer is vacuum packaging – but not the kind you’d expect. “Smell this,” Davis, Jr. said as he handed me a packet of salmon in plastic. Surprisingly, it smelled like salmon. “This is why we can reduce the salt,” he continued. “We use a bag that’s porous, permeable. You want to be able to smell the fish. That means oxygen. Oxygen kills botulism.” He explained the history of vacuum packaging invented in the 1970s, and the subsequent rise in botulism cases. Botulism only grows in environments which are oxygen-free. So, if an airtight process is used, a lot of sodium has to be added along with cold storage to discourage contamination.

“Commercial operations use a ton of salt and smoke the heck out of their fish because of their packaging,” Davis, Jr. said. “That’s why ours doesn’t taste like what you can buy in the supermarket.”

So, where can Daytonians get a taste of the storied Martin x Martin salmon? Oaked & Smoked has just opened its doors in a former pizza place on Wayne Avenue. It’s carry-out only, but customers can order and pay online for a quick pick up. Salmon Bites, in 4-ounce portions, are available for $9. A $35 one-pound fillet comes in two convenient pieces which can be thawed separately. One of the most popular offerings is a kit featuring a frozen white pizza and their Salmon Crumbles to top it off for $15. Future items to look out for will be special seasonal flavors and salmon “candy,” a kind of jerky Davis III tasted in Alaska. The Davises display a recipe card collection to give people suggestions. “Because of the controlled balance of smoke, salt and sweet, it’s highly versatile as an ingredient in everything from curry to a reuben sandwich,” Martin Jr. said.

One final note: Yes, I tasted it. Yes, it’s that good. And that’s no fish story.

For Dayton Racquet Club Head Chef Joe Fish’s recipe for Cauliflower Soup with Martin x Martin Smoked Salmon, please visit

Oaked & Smoked is located at 2920 Wayne Ave. For more information, please call 937.609.4681. For local orders, please visit For all other sales, please visit

Chef Joe Fish’s recipe for Cauliflower Soup with Martin x Martin Smoked Salmon

Cauliflower Soup with Martin x Martin Smoked Salmon

Soup Base Ingredients

2 tablespoons Blended oil

4 cups yellow onion (small-diced)

3 tablespoons garlic (minced)

6 heads cauliflower (trimmed in florets)

6 each potatoes (peeled and small-diced)

1 quart white wine

1-1/2 gallon chicken stock

1 gallon milk

1 pint heavy cream

3 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons horseradish

Garnish Ingredients

2 tablespoons blended oil

2 quarts yellow onion (small diced)

1 quart celery (small diced)

1 quart carrot (small diced)

1 quart smoked salmon (minced)

2 cups dill (stemmed, minced)

2 cups scallions (finely chopped)


1. In a pot, sweat the onions over medium heat in the blended oil for 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Add cauliflower, potatoes and garlic and cook until aroma of garlic (approximately 10 minutes).

3. Add white wine and deglaze the pot and reduce wine until almost dry.

4. Add chicken stock, milk, cream and bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cooking until cauliflower is completely soft (approximately 1 hour; do not boil).

5. In a second pot, add second measure of blended oil and sweat onion, celery and carrot over medium heat, do not add any color to the vegetables.

6. Using the inverted blender, puree cauliflower, adding the lemon juice and the horseradish until silky smooth.

7. When smooth consistency and texture is reached, add to the second pot and raise to a boil and simmer.

8. Check for seasoning and adjust if needed.

9.  Only at time of service add the smoked salmon, dill and scallions. Do not bring soup to another boil. it will ruin the color of the soup.

10. Serve immediately.

Reach DCP freelance writer Paula Johnson at

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at

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