Friday, July 25, 2014

An Intro to Seafood Sustainability

          If you read my announcement recently, you know that I’ve teamed up with some other amazing local bloggers to form the SSBA, a forum to spread the word about sustainable seafood. Through weekly blog posts we'll educate and provide consumers with information and tools to shop for and consume seafood responsibly.

Check out some of our first posts:

Why Am I Doing This?

         I’ve blogged for the Boston Local Food Festival for several years and covered sustainability in my articles on their site. I’ve touched on some of these issues here in this blog and I'm excited to focus on them in more detail (in addition of course to my normal restaurant reviews and other food and wine posts!) Starting this week I'll post at least one in depth article a week and my regular day will be Friday. I've included an excerpt from the SSBA page below so you can see what I mean by sustainability.

About Seafood Sustainability

          “By 2050, the global population is expected to reach nearly 10 billion people, requiring the production of twice as much food as we currently consume.  Assuring food security will require improvements in farming methods, new technologies and superior stewardship of finite natural resources.  Seafood will play a vital role in a healthier future if wild fisheries can be managed well and best practices prevail in the aquaculture industry, a goal shared by many stakeholders in conservation and the food industry.  Today, aquaculture provides roughly 50% of seafood, expected to rise to 67% by 2050.  When consumers know the facts, we are convinced that they will embrace the ideas and spirit behind “Sustainable Seafood” and begin actively to search out producers of authentic, quality, responsible seafood products”

          There is a great debate around the issue of farmed vs. naturally raised. Many health advocates decry the dangers of eating farm-raised fish like salmon. But, if we don’t eat farm-raised fish we’ll quickly deplete our natural supply and add to the ever-growing list of endangered species. Perhaps the answer is not ignoring the farm raised fish altogether but rather finding farms that use good practices and raise fish as close to their natural environment as possible. There are farms that produce only organic, natural, grass fed beef. Why is there so little attention around seafood farms with similar practices? There are organizations that certify seafood farms that adhere to these high standards, and shops and restaurants committed to using them. So why does there seem to be so little information readily available (and easy to find) for consumers? Additionally, not all wild fish are endangered and not all sourcing methods are harmful. How can the average person make informed decisions while at the grocery store or out to dinner?

          I plan to cover topics such as healthy and sustainable farming methods, where to shop for sustainable seafood, key words to look for, questions to ask, recipe ideas, restaurant reviews, book reviews, and more. Check back here and my fellow SSBA members' pages for our weekly posts on all of these topics and more!

Up Next Week: A Review of Good Fish by Becky Selengut

What do you want to know about seafood and / or sustainability? Leave your topic suggestions in the comments section!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Brunch at Boston Chops

          Last weekend I headed to the South End for brunch with the Boston Brunchers at Boston Chops. I'd been for dinner before and was excited to check out the brunch menu. In true brunchers fashion we started out with several apps to share including oysters, donuts, and sticky buns.

          When these came out, I was glad to see the portions weren't huge. There are so many places with brunch appetizers so big you can't eat your entree. I usually want to try several things but don't because I know the portions will be so large. These were perfect to share, and I absolutely loved both the donuts (more like churros) with chocolate sauce and sticky buns with caramel and pecans. Another personal favorite is when brunch menus include a raw bar. Boston Chops had a nice selection including Island Creek Oysters with a house made mignonette.

          Our server (a gastronomy student at BU) was extremely excited and knowledgeable about the menu. When she said the maple bourbon cocktail was a must try, I knew I had to get it. She was spot on, and it paired perfectly wih some of the entrees that came out later in the meal.

          I ordered the fried chicken, which came with two boneless tenderloins (all white meat) battered and deep fried. There were tiny buttermilk biscuits on the side, and the whole thing was topped with sawmill gravy, with some red pepper jam on the plate. The bourbon and maple was perfect with the fried chicken, as well as the bite of French toast I tried from another blogger (not pictured).

          Some of my fellow brunchers ordered the heuvos rancheros and the turkey sandwhich with bacon, mornay sauce, and a fried egg. Our server had described the sandwhich as the best turkey sandwhich she'd ever had, and the two who tried it said it was delicious and incredibly rich. They had trouble finishing. 

          Overall this was one of the best brunches I've had in awhile, from the food to the service and creative cocktails. I would definitely go back and try something new like the croque Monsieur or hash with beef tongue. Thanks to the Boston Brunchers and chops for hosting!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Martin Codax Wine Dinner at Row 34

          Last week I had the chance to attend a dinner at Row 34 hosted by the Spanish Wine Maker Bodegas Martin Codax. Bodegas Martín Códax was founded in 1986 and named after a Galician troubadour and poet. The winery was originally set up by 270 members, and relies on the collaboration of 300 families to supply grapes. As a big family, they work together to ensure their wines have the highest possible quality while also focusing the environment and reducing its carbon footprint. Promoting sustainability is an objective for all of the winery staff, making this a priority of all the members of the enterprise. 

          At the wine dinner, we sampled the 2012 Albariño which the tasting notes describe as

          "...delicate and medium bodied with a crisp, dry finish. Flavors of ripe apple, peach, pear and lemon zest are framed by bright minerality and hints of spice. This Albariño displays intense floral aromas and an attractive acidity, making it a versatile, food friendly wine.

          Albariño is generally intended to be enjoyed young within a year or two after harvest. For the perfect food pairing, try a glass of Martín Códax Albariño with seasonal shellfish. Due to its bright minerality and lively acidity, the wine lends itself perfectly to seafood fare and cuisine that is a mainstay of the Rías Baixas region where Albariño is grown."

           The description was spot on, and the Albariño was a perfect pairing with all of the dishes we tried including oysters on the half shell, ceviche, bass crudo, and butter poached lobster. It even went well with the pound cake for dessert!

          Row 34 is one of my favorite seafood restaurants, and while I've asked for wine recommendations in the past the Albariño could definitely be my new go to. At an average of $15 suggested retail it would be affordable even with the standard markup, and pair with just about everything on the menu!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Chopps American Bar and Grill

          Last weekend Blog and Tweet Boston headed to Chopps American Bar and Grill, a recently opened high end restaurant in the Marriot Hotel. Chopps is a modern Chophouse serving inspired American cooking including a variety of succulent cuts of all natural beef, fresh local seafood, and regional dishes created jointly by nationally acclaimed Consulting Chef Daniel Bruce and Chef de Cuisine David Verdo.

          We started in the lounge sipping champagne while we waited for everyone to arrive, and then moved to a table with a perfect view of the kitchen. The decorations were quite impressive.

          Several of the Managers and Chefs came over to welcome us, and they brought a sampling of appetizers and small plates. I would order any of the dishes again, but I think the tuna tartare and fried scallops and shrimp were my two favorites.

Maine Lobster Salad, Tarragon Aioli

Melon and Prosciutto, Arugula, Chili Oil, Hazelnuts, Balsamic

Flash Fried Scallops and Shrimp, Lime Tartar Sauce

Lamb Lollichopps, Yogurt, Cucumber, Lemon Tzatziki

Yellowfin Tuna Tartare, White Soy, Ginger, Crispy Wontons

          The next round of dishes included a mix of seafood and vegetarian options. I normally tend to order steak in a steakhouse, but Chopps might be the exception. I couldn't stop eating the Cod and Sesame Soba Noodles, despite all of the food I knew we had coming.

East Coast Halibut, Shimiji Mushroom, Carrot, Pea Shoots, Lemongrass Broth

Sesame Soba Noodles, Thai Basil, Heirloom Tomatos, Ginger Soy

Line Caught Cod, Fingerlings, Corn Puree
          Next were several of the steaks and Chopps from the menu along with some of the a la carte side dishes. The flatiron steak was perfectly seared and tender and the bone in delmonico was incredibly flavorful. I loved the fried artichoke side dish, but the group favorite was the housemade tots (insert Napoleon Dynamite joke).

Crispy Artichoke

14 Ounce Delmonico, Pineland Farms ME

10 Ounce Flat Iron Steak, Pineland Farms ME

Roasted Fingerlings

Housemade Tater Tots
          We ended on a sweet note with a sampling of desserts, and even sweeter - a signed copy of Chef Bruce's cookbook to take home. All of the recipes are two pot and take 45 minutes or less to cook. I can't wait to try them! 

Blueberry Rhubarb Crisp


Lemon Meringue Tart

          Thanks to Chopps for hosting such a fantastic meal. I definitely plan to come back soon!

Chopps American Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 14, 2014

Announcing the Sustainable Seafood Bloggers Association (SSBA)

          I'm so excited to announce the SSBA, a group I've formed recently with four other amazing local bloggers. Here's the info from our Press Release below, and stay tuned for weekly posts here every Friday on Seafood Sustainability!

Sustainable Seafood Bloggers Association:

Under the Sea and Onto Your Plate — Responsibly

July 14, 2014 Something’s fishy.

The most recent data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations shows annual world fishery production of 158 million tons, up an astonishing 345% from fifty years earlier. Global per capita consumption of seafood has nearly doubled to 19 kilograms annually in the last 50 years, and by 2050, the population is expected to balloon to 9 billion. Despite the vital importance of seafood as a world food supply, there is relatively little conversation outside the scientific, activist and conservation communities about how to replenish and maintain it. Everyone plays a role in the health of the oceans, and with more information, can contribute in ways that accumulate to make a sizeable difference.

Enter the Sustainable Seafood Bloggers Association (SSBA). Five independent bloggers from the worlds of food, science, culture and regulation have banded together, each creating weekly blog posts to bring seafood sustainability into ongoing conversations about food, corporate responsibility and environmental stewardship. Together, their social media channels reach roughly 50,000 subscribers, a substantial audience and robust network for the SSBA to begin its campaign.

     Richard Auffrey of The Passionate Foodie is a licensed attorney in Massachusetts, an award-winning food and drink writer and a sake educator.

     Holly Henschen of The Futurist Farmgirl is a long-time food journalist, nature-lover and former Midwestern farm dweller who’s written for publications including: The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and Food Manufacturing.

     Tom Siebertz of Chews-Worthy, formerly of the NOAA’s Marine Fisheries Service, is a regulatory & food labeling specialist, as well as a student of food science, business and regulatory affairs.

     Jason Simas of The Food Safety Blog is founder of Grant, Hamilton & Beck communications consultancy and directs social media communications for the food safety and sustainability life science company iPura Foods.

     Kerrie Urban of Urban Foodie Finds co-founded Blog and Tweet Boston and writes on topics such as organic vs. natural foods and sustainability, as well as local farmers and small businesses.

The growing world population taxes water supplies, as well as the wildlife and food sources that inhabit them. Sustainable practices are vital to cultivating the seafood that remains and ensuring these creatures continue viable food sources for years to come. Look forward to cogent conversations from the Sustainable Seafood Bloggers Association that aim to integrate this imperative topic of choice into the growing movement toward responsible food.

Visit the Sustainable Seafood Bloggers Association members on their respective blogs and on Twitter at #SSBAFish.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Moko Sushi

          I recently tried Moko Japanese Cuisine, a tiny sushi restaurant on East Broadway in South Boston. I've been looking for a neighborhood spot since moving to Southie earlier this year, and after scoping a few of them out this seemed the most promising.

          I started with an order of tuna tartare with crispy rice chips. I loved this dish, it was very spicy topped with both spicy mayo and hot sauce. 

          The bf enjoyed his generous portion of steamed pork gyoza.

          The specialty rolls range from $10-$14 each, and Moko has tons of creative options. We enjoyed two, the Spicy Crazy Maki (Shrimp tempura, avocado, and cucumber topped with spicy tuna and cream cheese) and Tornado Maki (Shrimp tempura, cucumber, and avocado topped with crabstick, spicy mayo, scallions and tobiko). 

          The sashimi appetizer was my favorite; this was the Chef's choice of six pieces and came out with salmon, tuna, and yellowtail. I wouldn't normally order sashimi the first time I try a place, but we were seated right in front of the sushi bar and it was full of beautiful cuts of fish. These were no exception.

          We also tried the spinach with sesame sauce, which was rich and flavorful.

          I'm picky about my sushi (the grade of fish has to be top notch) and tend dine at the high end gourmet style places, but less often than I'd like because they're so pricey. Moko is more casual, traditional style sushi with excellent quality for a good value.  This is a place I would go every week.

Moko on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Cafe Polonia

          Cafe Polonia, a tiny hole in the wall spot in South Boston is the only authentic Polish restaurant in the area. The atmosphere is exactly what I would expect with rustic wooden booths and chairs, and feels like you've stepped into Europe.

          I recently took my Dad there for Father's Day with the rest of the family, and we shared a mix of dishes - starting with some chicken fingers for my niece.

          The rest of us shared some of the more authentic items including kielbasa twists, potato and cheese pierogies, and potato pancakes. Everything looked amazing, and people dove right in before I could snap pictures of everything. Here are a few I managed:

          My favorites were the grilled kielbasa (not pictured), pierogies (I loved the seared onions on top) and potato pancakes with sour cream and applesauce. I would definitely go back for any of these dishes, and my Dad loved being able to dine like he was back in his Polish Grandmother's kitchen!

Cafe Polonia on Urbanspoon