Thursday, February 21, 2013

Seafood Fraud in the News

I wanted to share an article released today by Oceana on seafood fraud.  The reports are a little disturbing.  CNN is also airing a report on the subject today.  From the report you can see that mislabeling is happening nationwide and it is a problem that needs a bigger bandaid.  There are many different cases and situations, but frankly customers deserve to know what they are eating.  Whatever we have to do to accomplish this, we need to do it, and enforce it.  BRG is teaming up with Congressional Seafood, one of its suppliers, and beginning a traceability program for its restaurant's menus.  This is just one step we are taking to ensure that we are getting the fish that we pay for, and in turn, our customers are certain that when they come to our restaurants they are served exactly what is stated on the menu.  Remember that when you go bargain shopping for your seafood, you might not be getting the deal you bargained for.  You can view the article here and here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Norway Delivers Beautiful Crab

The fresh king crab season for Alaska lasts about three weeks from October until the quota is hit.  That doesn't give us much time to enjoy one of nature's tastiest, most sustainable seafood items.  You can get frozen king crab just about anywhere, but enjoying right off the boat fresh is something only about 5% of the population gets to enjoy.  Truly, it's an experience meant for a king, no pun intended.  Insert Norway here.

The Norwegians are now producing a fresh, never frozen king crab that equals it's Alaskan counterpart in quality and flavor.  Pinnacle Seafood processes king crab on the coast of Finnmark, Norway live, fresh and frozen and delivers to the States the very same day.  The crabs are caught by day-boat off of the coast of Norway and the fishery is supported by the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace.  The legs yield about 90% meat.  This means that when you break into a juicy leg, your reward is a fat, buttery, mouth-watering chunk of crabmeat.  BlackSalt is carrying the fresh, never frozen product while demand lasts.  The flavor is unequaled in my opinion, fresh king crab just may be the most delicious seafood item out there.  There is no need for sauces or cooking.  Just purchase a cluster, crack open a leg, and let your mouth experience the fresh ocean goodness.  King crab is rich and fatty, so you don't need a ton to get your fill, but on the other hand it won't leave you feeling like you just ate a Buick.  I recommend them at room temperature and naked.  I liken the experience to tasting an ocean truffle; it's rich, smooth, balanced with salt and fat, and induces a crescendo of delight that resets your taste buds and makes you rethink all of your previous food experiences.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Valentine's Day, So You're Gonna Need a Lobster

If you have a 'someone special' then listen up, Valentine's Day is next Thursday.  If you don't have a special someone, but would like one, its also best to pay attention.  Behind New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day is one of the busiest days for restaurants across the country.  Tables get booked weeks in advance and usually for the restaurant staff the day goes by in a blur of commotion and execution as table after table is turned, until finally everyone tiredly makes their way home.  It's nice because you feel as though you were a part of someone's love story, but at the same time it's quite a daunting feat to welcome 200 people in 2 hours.  Couples visiting restaurants encounter and become a part of the same madness.  Booking a reservation and making it to the restaurant on time are two different things, with everyone going out, traffic can be brutal.

 It's always fun to be in a crowd and everybody loves a scene.  But if seclusion and privacy is your thing, you are best off preparing a quiet, romantic meal for two at home.  For it to be special I recommend staying away from the chicken and steak, besides no one wants feel like they just ate a ton of bricks, especially if you have after dinner plans - like dancing.  From my experience, for no known reason, nothing says 'I love you', or 'I like you', or 'you're pretty ok' like lobster.  Tried and true, every Valentine's Day I see more and more lobsters being sold through the market.  Some do it every year.  Some have never done it before.  Usually those are the ones with a lot of questions and even more trepidation.  One thing is certain though, everyone returns happy and amazed at how easy and delicious live lobster can be to prepare.  Here's a quick guide to preparing your love bugs at home. ('Bugs' is another name for lobsters - seriously, ask anybody north of New York)

It's best to buy your bugs live and ask for hardshells.  Hardshells are lobsters that have not recently shed their outer skin and usually pack more meat than the softer shelled lobsters.  Now remember they don't turn that bright red until you cook them, so when you greet your guy it'll look a lot darker.
 I feel like 1 1/2lb lobsters are the perfect size for one, but I do recommend bigger eaters going for the 2lbers.  That sounds like too much, but remember a pound of lobster will only yield you about a quarter pound of meat.  What is gratifying is that lobster meat is very rich and good for you, so a little goes a long way, though it won't weigh you down like other non-seafood proteins.  The easiest way to cook your lobster is to boil it in flavored water.  I usually use black peppercorn, salt, lemon, and bay leaves, but feel free to add your own spices to your liking.  Submerge two 1 1/2lb lobsters after the water comes to a boil and 12 to 15 minutes later you are adding butter to the meat and serving.  Really it's that easy.  If you want to steam them just use less water, still season it, and add on about 10 minutes of cooking time.  Lobster meat when done will be white.  If you get a female you may find coral, when cooked it's red and raw it's green.  Don't shy away from it, it can be quite tasty.  You can crack the claws with the back of a chef's knife.  Just turn the claw on it's side and strike.   Twist the knife handle to split the claw.  It's easier to do this if you remove the rubber bands and moveable appendage of the claw first.  There is great meat in the knuckle area of the arm, so be sure to crack those too.  Use the knife to split the back of the tail to extract the meat.  Here is where the drawn butter comes in.

With a simple internet search you can find other recipes for lobster.  Some of my favorites include lobster pot pie, lobster poached in butter, and lobster salad.  Most markets will sell you lobster meat, just make sure it is fresh cooked and never frozen.  Preparing the lobsters yourself is always the better solution in my opinion, you can't get it any fresher than out of your own pot.  You shouldn't feel any pity for the lobsters either, after all they're just bugs, delicious bugs, but bugs all the same.  Lobsters have an underdeveloped nervous system, so their pain receptors are nothing like a humans.  Lobsters can lose an appendage in the wild and not miss a beat.  Usually the arm will grow back like nothing happened.  So if you are looking to avoid the whole Valentine's shuffle and do some entertaining of your own in the comfort of your home, I am recommending the love bugs for your love bug.  It tastes like you've been in the kitchen all day, but it actually frees up your time for more important things - like that last minute Valentine's Day card you forgot to get.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sea Lice in Ireland, Not a Problem?

The seafood business is ever evolving, ever changing.  Information gets updated, thrown away, revisited, proven and disproven on what seems like a weekly basis.  It's hard to keep up with what's fact and what was just yesterday's headline.  Adding to the confusion are the plethora of groups publishing 'facts' about what seafood is safe to eat, what is good for the environment and what is bad.  Bad press sells, especially when it comes to farmed seafood.  Oftentimes the public will take what is stated in print - be it over-zealous or questionably influenced - as the final answer.  With all the studies out there, the fact that the people publishing these articles are supported and influenced by outside parties with hidden agendas gets lost sometimes.  Whenever I research a seafood related subject, I try to glean information from as many reputable sources as I can.  I even read through some of the non-reputable sources, just to get the full picture.  I usually begin my search with government associated agencies, such as NOAA, and end with third party audits and those associated closely to the source, such as fishermen.

A recent article published in the Journal of Fish Diseases here , got me thinking about what is considered common knowledge, how it became that way, and what it means for the future of the seafood business.  The article presents a study done in Ireland by the Marine Institute that suggests sea lice infestation from salmon farms may not have as negative or encompassing effect on wild salmon stocks as was once thought.  Sea lice are marine parasites that occur naturally on many wild fish but are notoriously associated with salmon farms.  It is believed by many that the infestation of salmon farms by sea lice pose significant threats to surrounding wild salmon populations.  Just a few sea lice can kill young wild salmon fry.  If you do an Internet search for "sea lice and salmon farms" you will find that the two are associated with the mortality of wild salmon.  However, this recent study makes claims that previous investigations were flawed in their design and that what was once held as common knowledge, now, under closer scientific inspection, does not appear to be the truth.  The experiment highlighted in the article makes a claim that sea lice affect less than 1% of wild salmon stocks and are not a significant detriment to the wild salmon population in Ireland.  Norway did a similar study and found similar results.  

So, who do we believe? Who do we listen to?  Is this report a clearer view of what's happening?  Are sea lice in Canada responsible for the deaths of thousands of wild salmon and one of the major reasons wild salmon stocks there have declined?  The purpose of this post is not to answer that question, but to highlight the fact that common knowledge is not always the truth, it's just common.  That could be because previous studies were flawed or they were influenced by the private interests of invested parties, or the science was just outdated, in any case it's always important to question our sources and their motives.  So, I am just presenting another article that just happens to fly in the face of common beliefs shared by anti-farmed salmon lobbyists.  It's just another piece of this puzzle that we are trying to put together to get a clearer view of what it means to eat informed.