Thursday, January 21, 2016

Another Bay, Another Way

With the winter wrath in full tilt and Nantucket and New Hampshire Bay scallops nowhere to be found, we have yet another player coming through in the bay scallop game.  This week, and hopefully going forward, Black Restaurant Group is happy to welcome back Peruvian Bay Scallops.

Peruvian bay scallops are sustainably farm-raised in Sechura Bay, Peru.  Divers gather these scallops from the sea floor, causing no damage to the environment and with no by-catch of other unwanted species.  Sechura Bay lies at the edge of the Northern Peruvian Upwelling System (NPUS).  This area is a transition zone where tropical and upwelling currents intermingle to cause a swell of nutrients upon which the scallops feed heavily.  They are a different species of bay scallop, but are very similar in size and flavor to our native Nantucket and New Hampshire bi-valves.  Peruvian Bays are harvested, hand shucked, and shipped the same day, delivering to our doors sashimi grade product of a very high quality.

Don't let the winter lock you in before you get to taste these South American candies.  We may not be able to get our homegrown treats during the frosty season, but it's nice to know that these sustainable, Friend of The Sea certified, precious morsels are available to allay our craving for sugar-coated seafood.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Future Is Farmed

Predicting the future is never easy.  If it were, many of us would already be Powerball champions.  But even though most outlooks are hazy at best, there is one trend that looks to have staying power: Farmed seafood is the future of seafood.  I just don't think there is any way around this truth.

Wild seafood resources are either at their maximum harvests or are rapidly approaching those levels.  Stocks that are not being reliably managed and harvested are either being rebuilt or are overfished, and are not optimal choices for feeding the masses for any extended period of time.  Factor in the appalling amount of waste that gets swept under the seafood industry's proverbial rug with a growing population and growing demand, and we have a vast, gaping hole left in the supply chain.

Responsible aquaculture (seafood farming) fills this void with high quality, nutritional products that meet the highest standards.  Aquaculture is the fastest growing product segment of the seafood industry.  Recently the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) opened waters in the Gulf of Mexico to large-scale, sustainable aquaculture.  Similar efforts are being made in northeastern states.

 If you think about it, this only makes sense.  The U.S. owns 4.4 million miles of operable and exclusive coastline, which is by far the most of any nation in the world.  This geographical clout provides the U.S. with the opportunity to not only furnish citizens (out of work fishermen and life long watermen especially) with vital jobs in the aquaculture field, but also equips our country with the power and resources to become a leading nation in providing the world with healthy, sustainably farmed seafood.  The U.S. has the opportunity to lead by example, creating the blueprint of how resources can be managed in a responsible way, ensuring that future generations will have safe seafood to eat and that our oceans and their inhabitants will remain healthy and intact.

Farmed seafood is slowly gaining notoriety and acceptance from consumers and critics.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium recently added many farmed seafood choices to their "green" list.  Many farms are working towards and receiving sustainable merits delegated by third party auditors.  Farmed fish is winning over chefs around the world, taking first prize in blind taste tests and making its way onto menus in the finest dinning establishments.  Farmed seafood often gets to your plate much sooner and fresher than wild alternatives.  The fish are harvested to order and shipped right away and they are also "safer" to eat considering they grow in a controlled environment without the worry of parasites or infection.  If farming in this country stays the course - that is, if we continue to promote the growth of farms that sustainably manage their operations, from product, to feed, to the environment and resources in which they use - then feeding our nation and our world sustainably with seafood appears to be not only a reachable goal, but a prosperous endeavor.  

Saturday, January 9, 2016

King Of The Offseason

Wild King Salmon season is now closed for the next few months and seafood customers who are conscientious of what they eat are scrambling to find a suitable salmon alternative.  If you have picked up a newspaper or scoped the online press in the last few months, you couldn't have missed reading about the farmed 'Frankenfish' that will soon be "invading" a seafood market near you.  'Frankenfish' is the inciting moniker given to the salmon created by AquaBounty that can grow faster and reach market size sooner than traditional salmon.  These fish acquire these traits by undergoing a genetic modification in which three different species are cross-bred in order to create a new species.  Without getting into the debate, I comment only to point out that the news has put many customers on edge.  Knowing and understanding what we are eating is an important priority for many.  Right or wrong, many guests are now hesitant to purchase farmed salmon due to the possibility of a boogeyman that goes by the initials GMO that could be lurking behind their salmon's label.

Insert solution here: meet the Ora King Salmon.  Ora King is a brand, actually a bloodline, of king salmon that is farmed in the Marlborough Sounds of New Zealand.  In this sanctuary, fish that have been selectively bred and are fully traceable grow with ample room to live.  The stocking densities are extremely low, allowing the salmon to develop in a more natural way.  The diet consists of a mix containing only 10% fish meal, which is sourced from sustainable pelagic fisheries and is approved by the World Wildlife Fund for its use in aquaculture feed.  Did I mention that these fish have received a "Best Choice" rating from the renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch?  Not too bad.

So Ora King Salmon is good for the environment, but what does it taste like?  Well, it has been compared to Wagyu beef by the company's CEO and many chefs who have tried it have expounded profusely on the merits of its exquisite, natural flavor and perfect texture.  It only makes sense, seeing that the fish have literally been bred and selected for this excellence.  Ora's innovative selective breeding program employs traditional husbandry techniques in an extreme effort to produce the best possible product for all discerning chefs.  The result is a delicious, environmentally friendly selection that gives us all an option when choosing what to eat during the offseason.