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Little Fish, Big Flavor

Sardines were the rage decades before “Cannery Row,’’ the 1945 John Steinbeck novel that brought the sardine industry to life. In the mid-to-late 19th century, demand for the best brands, in the best oils, led to huge importation. Special china was designed so you could set the tins in dishes that showed off their labels. The gustatory tide for the rich little fish is running high again and there’s a new addition to the short list of great sardines. Cole’s, packed in peppery piri piri sauce and (even better) in premium olive oil ($5.50 to $6 for a 4.4 ounce can), offers top-quality Portuguese sardines. Serve them with crusty bread or on a salad with pears to flaunt the luxurious taste.Available at Fruit Center Marketplace, 10 Bassett St., Milton, 617-698-2165 and 79 Water St., Hingham, 781-749-7332; and Bina Alimentari, 571 Washington St., Boston, 617-357-0888. © Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.