Friday, February 20, 2015

The Raw Bar Has Frozen Over

It is cold.  Well...that's an understatement.  It's so cold that I am pretty sure that you-know-where has frozen over, and that is not good for our East Coast shellfish.  We haven't seen conditions like these in the Chesapeake Bay area since 1977.  Boats cannot get out on any of the rivers, and oystering and clamming have become impossible.  The Bay is frozen solid between the eastern and western shores and if you look north conditions get much worse.

So what happens to our oysters, clams, and mussels when everything is frozen solid?  Well, to put it simply, production stops.  We will not be seeing much product coming from the Chesapeake Bay area to Prince Edward Island, Canada in the next week.  Shellfish of all varieties are either buried under feet of ice or, even if they are accessible, die in the freezing temperatures above once pulled out of the water.  These temperatures and conditions are making it impossible to source shellfish on the East Coast.

Local oysters will be nearly impossible to get in the next few days, except for some wild product, so don't expect your local oyster bars to have a broad variety.  If you don't see any little neck, top neck, or cherrystone clams at your local raw bar this weekend don't make too much of a fuss.  Clamming operations are at a standstill and will be until some thawing action happens.  More bad news:  Mussels will likely not be on the menu next week.  P.E.I. is frozen over and many harvest locations have become inaccessible due to extreme weather.

When the conditions are right, large bodies of water can freeze pretty quickly.  Such cold can freeze the Bay for miles in just a few minutes.  Unfortunately it will take a couple of days to thaw.  When Mother Nature wants to, she can put a big damper on your raw bar selection.  We all, shellfish lovers included, just have to suck it up and wait.  Remember that the oyster farmers are doing their best to harvest what they can, and accomplishing this in weather that would have most of us running for our homes and space heaters.  If you think it's brutal walking the 25 feet from your car to the house, imagine being on the water for hours at a time, where the wind is multiplied by a hundred and the cold just doesn't quit.  So if you find yourself in front of a few bi-valves in the next week, take a moment to appreciate what it took to get them there and be thankful you didn't have to do it.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Why Seafood Is Sexy

Valentine's Day is next weekend and if you are a truly romantic person you most likely already have the what's and where's planned for your one and only sweetheart.  If you are one of those people who likes to wait, or just doesn't put much thought into the whole ordeal, then you still need to pay some heed and get on the ball.

Flowers are great, but don't have staying power.  Diamonds are beautiful, but you know eventually they can lose their luster, significance or, as often happens, can even get lost themselves.  Dinner, now that's an idea.  When you take your loved one out, or stay in, for dinner, you are creating an experience, a memory.  Staring into each other's eyes over a delightful meal creates a moment shared in time that can't be undone.  Food brings people together.  It's that necessary adhesive that can all at once soothe, enliven, transform, and translate all of life's importance with a single taste.  If you are still with me on this and agree, here's my argument why seafood should be on your Valentine's Day menu.

Seafood represents life and vitality.  The ocean is the source of all life and seafood embodies this idea of magnitude and mystery on the plate like nothing on hooves can.   Instead of the heavy thud meat and poultry leave in your bellies, ocean fare will not weigh the rest of your night down.  Your romantic trysts will not get stuck in the mud with seafood, leaving you free to experience the moments beyond the plate.

You can eat seafood in the raw, undressed and unburdened of the heaviness of preparation.  Open up an oyster and experience the excitement and pulsation of naked flavor.  You can feel the transformation of life and taste how slippery such great moments can be.  Raw fish can dress a plate so seductively that food becomes a show, its contorting essence encapsulating the tension between art and function.  Food can feed more than just our mouths, particularly seafood.  Seafood, especially when eaten crudo, can reveal natural flavors exotic and foreign to our tongues.  Some meals are just to get us to the next one and some are events in our lives.

Though healthy for your body, seafood is often seen as an extravagance reserved for special occasions, especially when dining out.  So it only makes sense that if you are catering to the heart of your loved one, you want to go all out for them. Dining on seafood will make you both feel luxurious and special.

Seafood is sexy.  It's unfamiliar, it's alluring, it's a portal into the great mystery of the deep.  This Valentine's Day, don't be landlocked with the familiar dishes that garnish your plate weekly.  If you are looking for a memory, or at least the excitement of making one, I urge you to set the table with something from the ocean.  Allow the fascinating flavors to erase the boredom from your palate, and the night will follow suit.