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Once A Critic, Always a Critic

Date: Tue, Mar 19, 2013 Wine Tasting

Is being a restaurant critic the best job in the world? When I meet someone new and tell them that I write about food and wine, they often respond by telling me I am a lucky person to have such a great job. They want to hear the details, to know the names of my favorite restaurants and wines. They want to hear about my best and worst meals. Yes, I love what I do but, like any job, it is not perfect. And most restaurant reviewers would likely agree.

At the New England Food Show(NEFS), I attended an interesting panel, put on by the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, called Once A Critic, Always a Critic. The discussion dealt with: "What makes a great restaurant? Where do they usually make mistakes? What are new trends in dining (and what trends should end)? Join some of Boston’s most respected and influential food writers and critics for an open discussion about the restaurant industry in the Hub and as a whole. In this insightful and entertaining conversation, writers will share personal anecdotes and discuss their best and worst experiences (on and off the job), pet peeves, what always impresses them, and,favorite new local restaurants, and what keeps them coming back for more."

Moderated by Nicole Russo, Executive Vice President of 451 Marketing, the panel participants included (as pictured above):Mat Schaffer, a former Boston Herald restaurant critic and now the principal ofMat Schaffer Consulting,Jolyon Helterman, an Independent Writer & Editing Professional, and Amy Traverso, Senior Editor, lifestyle of Yankee Magazine. Nicole asked the panelists a series of questions, and then there was a time for questions from the audience. The panel only lasted an hour though could have easily gone for twice that length.

Please note that I am paraphrasing the responses of the panelists.

Is being a restaurant critic the best job in the world?
Amy: Yes, is is an amazing way to make a living.
Jolyon: There are beauty hazards and it is hard to keep the weight off
Mat: It can be the best job but still lots of work is involved. He had to eat out 5-6 times per week and had to be in mood for whatever restaurant cuisine his editor assigned to him that week. He used to eat at a restaurant, anonymously, 2-3 times and order lots of food. After quitting his job as a critic, he lost about 30 pounds. He notes that a restaurant critic must be objective, honest, fair and possess a professional attitude.

What type of feedback have you received from your reviews?
Amy: She related an anecdote about a hotel which was upset that it did not receive a magazine award. They bundled up copies of the magazine in a ttrash bag and delivered it to her office.
Jolyon: He mentioned that he has not written about some negative things he has encountered at restaurants as he felt it would not be fair to the restaurant, such as finding chewed gum in a dish.
Mat: He has received plenty of negative feedback from his critical reviews, from mass emails to profantity laced diatribes.

Where do restaurants make their biggest mistakes?
Amy: She is very sensitive to sound issues. Also thinks service is very important.
Jolyon: There is too much fancy plating at casual dining spots.
Mat: The "restaurant business is all about expectations" and they must meet or exceed them. He has little issue with noise but hates misspelledmenus.

What are some of your "go to" restaurants outside of reviews?
Amy: As she has a child, she now goes most often to casual spot. She really enjoys Area 4, Sofra, Puritan, Island Creek, and Marliave.
Jolyon: He searches for a perfect vibe, even if all of the food is not so good. Maybe a place does a great fried chicken but the rest of their menu is merely average. Also likes sitting at the bar. He enjoys Myers+ Chang, Coppa, Belly Bar, Westbridge, and Erbaluce.
Mat: He likes a number of places in Chinatown, such as Montien, China King, and some Hot Pot spots. He thinks that the best restaurant in the Boston area is Salts and that Clio is another top notch place. He also enjoys Stella's in the South End.

What are some current restaurant trends?
Amy: Experimental business models such as popups, underground restaurants, and food trucks. She likes the new restaurant Asta which only offers three prix fixes each night and there is no ala carte menu. She also likes to see old style recipes brought back, kind of retro for traditional dishes.
Jolyon: He likes the pre-order big dinners, like pig roasts, which become more of an event than just a dinner.
Mat: Cocktail culture, farm to table, other nationality cuisines.

How does the Boston dining scene compare to other cities?
Jolyon: He likes Boston but feels that Portland, Oregon and Seattle are kicking our butts. Much of that is due to the issue of liquor licenses as it is so tough for new restaurants in Boston to obtain them. That acts as a significant obstacle to potential new places.
Mat: He feels the Boston culinary scene is not as big as some other cities and that we lack sufficient resources to support many more restaurants. He is proud of our restaurants, feeling we have come a long way but that we still have a long way to go.

Who are some young chefs to watch?
Jolyon: Should keep an eye on the Chefs de cuisine who are working under the big name chefs.
Mat: Will Gilson and Louis DiBiccari

How has food writing changed in recent years?
Amy: Critics have been forced to review restaurants earlier. Used to wait 4 months but now only 2. A great restaurant review should present a historical/cultural context, and almost be like an anthropological study.
Jolyon: Immediate feedback. One of the biggest problem is a lack of calibration, where some writers let one small slight take over their entire review, rather than giving each element its proper proportional credit.
Mat: For bloggers and online writers, there often is no editor to keep them honest.

I asked them a question on whether restaurant critics should address drink programs in their reviews.
All of them agreed it was necessary and recommended critics gain wine/alcohol knowledge. They also mentioned there were three possible reasons why a review might not include coverage of drinks programs. First, it might be the fault of the critic. Second, it might be the fault of the restaurant which fails to emphasize its drinks program. Third, it could be due to editorial cuts in the review.

A few additional comments of note.
Amy stated some advice for writers. "The more specific your pitch the better."
It is hard to get attention from restaurant critics for a long term client. The new restaurants seemd to get all the attention.
It also seems hard for restaurants outside of the Boston area, such as in the suburbs, to get restaurant reviews.

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New England Food Show: Some Thoughts

Date: Tue, Mar 19, 2013 Wine Tasting

Along side the International Boston Seafood Show(IBSS), there is a smaller trade show, the New England Food Show(NEFS), and I always take some time to check it out, to see what new food & drink items are being showcased. The NEFS seemed more crowded than the IBSS on Sunday and Monday, and it was difficult to pass down the aisles due to the crowds. On Tuesday, it was far easier to navigate the NEFS, to check out the various booths which cater to restaurants, food shops and more.

I found numerous items that had been shown at the NEFS last year and some items which, though tasty, didn't impress me. I only found two items, one food and one drink, which were especially compelling, which I wanted to bring to the attention of my readers.

The Swatt Baking Company, located in New York, produces L.A. Cinnamon Bread, which they prepared with a sweet glaze atop it. I love cinnamon bread and this was an excellent example of such, with plenty of cinnamon flavor, a good texture to the bread, and the glaze added a nice sweetness without stepping over into being cloying. A two pound loaf of bread and a 15 ounce bottle of cinnamon glaze costs $7.95, with discounts for larger quantities. Unfortunately, their website has very little information about the product.

Want a new, tasty local drink that might actually be good for you too? Motto Sparkling Matcha Teawas created by two friends, Tom Olcott and Henry Crosby, and it was launched about seven months ago. This drink is crafted with premium matcha, basically ground green tea, as wellas apple cider vinegar, honey, organic agave, lemon juice, sparkling water and "other natural flavors." A 12 ounce bottle sells for about $3-$4 so it is priced similarly to other high end juices and carbonated drinks. A bottle also contains 70 calories and 16 grams of sugar.

Green tea has a number of health benefits so this drink should provide some of those benefits, though I don't know how much matcha is in this drink or its rough equivalency to a cup of green tea. I may follow up on that matter with the creators. What appealed to me was its taste, which was only lightly sweet and with a prominent green tea taste. I am not a big fan of sweet tea, but the sweetness level here is low so I enjoyed it. It also has a clean and compelling taste which many tea lovers would enjoy.

There was a panel discussion, put on by the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, at the NEFS called Social Chefs: Using Your Followers to Build a Following. This discussion brought together four prominent Boston chefs who shared "some of their tips and tricks for converting virtual followers into regular customers." Though I was unable to attend this discussion on social media, I received some notes on the discussion that I wanted to share. Though much of this information is directed to chefs, everyone will be able to find value in these words in regard to the use of social media.

Chef Jason Santos:
-His phone is always in his pocket so it’s very convenient to be active on social. “I try to make is a part of my day.
-He doesn’t look at social as a competition. “We’re all friends. I just naturally go into it and use it to engage with my followers.
-His tactic is to keep it visual. He likes to excite people with what he’s doing. “Pictures add realism.”
-It is important to be active on social. “As chefs we are in charge of shaping the brand.”
-Always create a conversation. “I always end my posts with a question to keep people engaged.
-He thinks it is important to use hashtags on Twitter

Chef Joanne Chang:
-“It takes all of a minute. I try to engage my following by letting them know what’s going on behind the scenes.
-She gets ideas from other chefs/ restaurants and finds social educational.
-“I ignore negative feedback. If I can’t do it positively, I just don’t do it at all.
-“If you view social media as advertising, it will backfire.” Her tactic is to keep things educational and create a buzz.
-Twitter is her favorite social platform because it’s short.
-“My managers are busy engaging with guests, I engage virtually on social platforms.

Chef Jamie Bissonnette:
-Facebook is like a calendar, uses it to post pictures of events but mostly uses Twitter day to day.
-Engages managers and chefs to post on behalf of restaurants and wants them to be a part of their social voice.
-Social media allows for a new platform to learn about peers worldwide. “We don’t have to travel to France to see what chefs are cooking there. It’s a new way to get to know each other.
-“It’s all about PMA-Positive Mental Attitude. You have to support everyone and engage in friendly competition.”
-“We have our own voice in this city, we aren’t competing with the food scene in NYC or Chicago.
-“A chef is a teacher. I teach my employees but I learn from them too. It’s the same with social, it allows us to learn from each other.”
-When asked about negative feedback on social “I look at it as a door to turn the situation around.” Explains that he can reach out to them and listen to their concerns.

Chef Brian Poe:
-Uses Yelp to keep track of customer complaints and fix any reoccurring issues. “If I see continuous comments that a door guy is charging $20 to let people in, that’s something I wouldn’t have found out otherwise.
-Explains that building a following on social takes time. “Be patient.
-“The Boston food scene is becoming more serious, we have some of the best chefs, our clientele is becoming more educated.
-“Twitter is instant and more like a filter, Facebook has staying power.”
-At first his tactic was just to get people to go in and eat. He would use social to see what others were doing. Now he’s “grown-up” and working on his brand.

We can see that each chef views social media in their own way, though there are similarities between some of their positions. Each chef has provided some valuable insight here and it is worthwhile to consider their thoughts in our own use of social media. These are chefs who have been successful in their use of social media so they have the experience and knowledge to help others.

Would any other chefs like to add their thoughts on social media?

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Rant: You're Fat & It Is Your Fault

Date: Mon, Mar 18, 2013 Wine Tasting

Face the truth. The reason you are overweight is likely because you eat too much and don't exercise enough.

My Rant is not about those who have actual medical conditions that cause obesity, whether it be glandular or some other legitimate matter. I am addressing only those people for whom being overweight is due to lifestyle choices. Don't blame the soda companies, the candy makers, the cake bakers. Don't blame McDonald's, Burger King or Wendy's. Take personal responsibility for your condition. Own up to the choices you have made and accept your guilt.

Yesterday, I read an editorial in the New York Times called How to Force Ethics on the Food Industry by Michael Mudd, a former executive at Kraft Foods. Mr. Mudd wants the government to intervene "..to protect the public health by limiting the marketing tactics of food companies." Do we really need more government intervention into our lives, limiting our choices? Do we really need more laws? Mr. Mudd also suggests that the government institute taxes "..on sugared beverages and a few categories — snack foods, candy, sweet baked goods — that most undermine health." Do we really need more taxes?

My main problem with Mr. Mudd's editorial is it seems to absolve people of their personal responsibility for their own actions. Do we want people to start even more lawsuits against the food industry, blaming them for obesity? We already have far too many lawsuits where people try to blame others for their own stupidity or poor choices. I want people to stand up and accept responsibility for their own actions, for eating too much, for not exercising enough. I don't think we need more laws and regulations, but rather more education for consumers.

Interestingly, Mr. Mudd seems to believe education is necessary too, as he wants the taxes on sugary drinks and foods to pay for education programs. He also wants the government to support "community-based campaigns to inform and inspire better eating and more exercise." In the suggestion changes that Mr. Mudd lists in his editorial, none mention banning over-sized drink cups. It is obvious that at its most elemental, Mr. Mudd understands personal choice is at the bottom of the problem, though he would rather cast blame on the food companies.

I want the blame squarely on the people who make the choices which lead to them being overweight. Do food companies try to convince people to make bad choices? Sure, but people should be smart enough to know better. I am overweight, and the responsibility for my condition lies solely on my own shoulders. I eat too much and don't exercise enough. I understand and accept my own culpability and I don't place the blame on anyone else. Why can't everyone else do the same?

If more people accepted personal responsibility for their actions, in all arenas, then the world would be a better place.

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All About The International Boston Seafood Show 2013

Date: Fri, Mar 15, 2013 Wine Tasting

"It has always been my private conviction that any man who pits his intelligence against a fish and loses has it coming."
--John Steinbeck

This past week, I have been immersed in the ocean, swimming with the fishes. The 2013 International Boston Seafood Show (IBSS) is past and I have written a bunch of posts this week about it, exploring some of the stories I found there. To be beneficial for my readers, I am compiling all of the links to my IBSS articles into a single place. This post will be that repository, and as such will be updated whenever I write another related article about IBSS. There is a good possibility that I will follow up on certain seafood issues in the near future. And if you have any questions about the Seafood Show, feel free to ask.

On this past Monday at IBSS, the SeaFood Businessreleased its second Show Dailymagazine and I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of my tweets had been selected as their "Tweet of the Day." My tweet stated: "@BostonSeafood Show is healthy for you. Lots of exercise via walking, lots of Omega-3s from seafood, good info for your brain. #ibss13." As they select only two tweets during the entire show for their daily magazine, I was honored to have been chosen.

Here is the list of my IBSS posts:

Rant: Get Thee To The Seafood Show!
SeaShare: Seafood For Hungry Americans
Rant: Wake Up Japan, Bluefin Are In Danger
Rant: Stop Worrying, Seafood Is Safe
International Boston Seafood Show: Japanese Pavilion
Perceptions of Seafood Sustainability
Verlasso Salmon: An Update
International Boston Seafood Show: Food of Interest
International Boston Seafood Show: Some Highlights
International Boston Seafood Show: Fish Fun & Photos
Eat More U.S. Seafood: The Gulf Coast
U.S. Aquaculture Advocacy

Next year, the International Boston Seafood Show will be renamed the Seafood Expo North Americaas part of a global rebranding effort. Will you attend in 2014? I hope to be there.

"But more wonderful than the lore of old men and the lore of books is the secret lore of ocean."
--H. P. Lovecraft

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U.S. Aquaculture Advocacy

Date: Fri, Mar 15, 2013 Wine Tasting

"Oysters are the most tender and delicate of all seafoods. The stay in bed all day and night. They never work or take exercise, are stupendous drinkers, and wait for their meals to come to them."
--Hector Bolitho

As I have mentioned before, about 50% of the world's seafood production is through aquaculture and it is necessary if we intend to expand our seafood consumption. There is an insufficient supply of wild stocks to fulfill all our needs, especially if we can get everyone to eat seafood at least twice a week. The U.S. imports an unbelievable 91% of our seafood, and much of that comes from foreign aquaculture. Such aquaculture may not be sustainable and the media has indicated all of the problems, actual and potential, from those operations. The U.S. has little control over this overseas aquaculture, so what can we do?

What about U.S. aquaculture?

The U.S. currently engages in only a small amount of aquaculture and we rank13th in total worldwide aquaculture production. Most of U.S. aquaculture is made up of freshwater farms, the majority which raise catfish. About 20% of U.S. aquaculture is for marine species, and 80% of that is for shellfish, such as oysters, clams and mussels. This marine aquaculture provides only 1.5% of U.S. seafood consumption. There have been a number of calls for increased aquaculture in the U.S. and that might be exactly what we need to increase U.S. purchases of domestic seafood.

At the International Boston Seafood Show, I stopped by the booth of theNational Aquaculture Association(NAA), an advocacy group for U.S. aquaculture. Their mission is "To provide a unified national voice for aquaculture that ensures its sustainability, protects its profitability, and encourages its development in an environmentally responsible manner." The two main issues that get raised about all aquaculture are whether it is sustainable or not, and whether it is safe or not. The media often likes to talk up the risks and dangers of aquaculture, exaggerating the perils. That can create in the mind of the general public an undue paranoia against aquaculture.

In the defense of U.S. aquaculture, the NAA cites the alphabet soup of federal agencies that govern the various aspects of aquaculture, such as the USDA, EPA, NOAA, FDA and USFWS. In addition, there is a long list of stringent state and local regulations which are applicable to aquaculture operations. All of this oversight and regulations should make Americans feel more secure with domestic aquaculture, more confident that it is safe and sustainable, despite fear mongering by some of the media.

All of these legal restrictions, regulations and agencies apparently have succeeded to a large extent. According to the Seafood Watch, much of the U.S. farmed seafood is considered sustainable. For example, U.S farmed channel catfish, oysters, mussels, shrimp, Coho salmon (farmed in tank systems) and others are listed as Best Choices. The same cannot be said for many instances of foreign aquaculture. It seems that U.S. aquaculture is largely sustainable so consumers have more reasons to be confident and secure about domestic seafood.

As for the potential risks from mercury/PCBs in seafood, I have already written about that issue, that the health benefits from seafood consumption far outweigh any minimal risks. It is essentially a non-issue. Again, consumers have little reason to worry.

As I said before, you should give your support to domestic seafood, and that includes both wild and farmed seafood. It will be good for you, good for your community and good for our country.

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Eat More U.S. Seafood: The Gulf Coast

Date: Fri, Mar 15, 2013 Wine Tasting

In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans.
--Kahlil Gibran

As I previously Ranted, I am disturbed that the U.S. imports 91% of their seafood, up 5% from 2010. It isunbelievable that less than 10% of the seafood we consume is from our own country. We need to give much more support to our local fisheries, to savor and cherish the abundance of seafood that is available from our shores. When I was at International Boston Seafood Show (IBSS), I wanted to highlight at least a few domestic fisheries, to showcase the reasons why consumers should choose U.S. seafood.

In New England, we have some amazing seafood, but there are concerns about depleted fish stocks. Consider the recent drastic cuts to the allowable catches of cod due to severely low stocks. The rest of the country also has fish species which are unavailable in our waters. Though we need to support our New England fisheries, that doesn't mean we can't also support other U.S. fisheries. For example, rather than purchase foreign shrimp, we could purchase shrimp from the Gulf region.

At IBSS, I spent some time talking with representatives of theGulf Coast Seafoodcoalition, which includesAlabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. The Gulf of Mexico is a fertile marine region, and yields a greater number of fin fish, shrimp, and shellfish annually than the south and mid-Atlantic, Chesapeake, and New England regions combined. The Gulf produces about 82% of the U.S. total of shrimp and 59% of the total of oysters. Why shouldn't we enjoy this rich bounty?

Much of my time was spent time chatting withChef Justin Timineri, the executive chef and culinary ambassador of theFlorida Dept. of Agriculture, as well as several other Gulf representatives.Chef Timineriis also the resident chef on How To Do Florida, a television series where he primarily discusses and cooks seafood. Chef Timineri was very personable, and obviously passionate about Gulf seafood.

One of Chef Timineri's primary goals is to get people comfortable with eating and cooking seafood. He shows them how to simply prepare seafood at home, to reduce the intimidation factor so that they are more apt to eat seafood. He suggests that they start with easier seafood, such as shrimp and clams, and then work their way up to fin fish. That is good advice for people all over the country and not just in the Gulf. To get more people to enjoy seafood, they need to be led there, to have it made easier for them.

Many people complain about the higher price of seafood, and there is validity that seafood often costs more than other proteins. However, Chef Timineri rightly pointed out that such people ignore the long term price of eating cheap processed food. Though seafood might be more expensive in the short term, its great health benefits more than outweigh the long term price of processed foods. People need to consider the long term rather than the short. In addition, they need to consider portion sizes, and they don't need to buy huge pieces of fish to have a good meal.

The waters of the Gulf of Mexico are rich in nutrients, providing great flavor to the seafood. That means that the seafood can be enjoyed with only simple preparation and Chef Timineri enjoys creating recipes with light preparations. Last year, I asked a number of Gulf fisheries whether the BP oil disaster of 2010 still plagued their waters or not. In general, they all answered in the negative and this year, the answer was the same. The waters are clean and consumer confidence is high. As for any worries of mercury/PCBs, Chef Timineri advised that people diversify what they eat, similar advice to what others have said at IBSS.

With sustainability being so important, the Gulf region has been working on numerous initiatives to indicate the sustainability of their fisheries, such as 3rd party certifications. For example, the Louisiana blue crab fishery becameMarine Stewardship Council(MSC) certified in 2012, the first such blue crab fishery to acquire that certification. The Gulf region has also recently instituted theGulf Seafood Traceprogram, a way to track exactly where seafood comes from. This is a way to tell the story of the seafood, a way to help market their seafood as well as show its traceability. Approximately 56 seafood businesses, 25% of the total amount, are currently part of this program.

The seafood in the Gulf is seasonal and it is worthwhile to purchase what is in season, as it will tend to be less expensive then, as well as at its best taste. Chef Timineri wants to emphasize that Gulf seafood is very flavorful and is also some of the most highly tested seafood in the U.S. The top three seafoods in the Gulf are shrimp, oysters and then blue crab. I asked Chef Timineri his favorite Gulf seafood and he said Stone Crab Claws, followed by Pompano. Outside the Gulf, he prefers King/Snow Crab.

The Gulf contains some intriguing creatures and ways to cultivate them.

In Florida, they raise alligators for their meat. Chef Timineri states that alligator is great to cook and versatile as well as high in protein and low in fat. He likes to make gator chili or Italian dishes like piccata, treating gator like veal. He also feels that the ribs are unique and he has even been experimenting with the tongue.

Stone crabs possess a large crusher claw which contains delicious meat. It is sustainable in a more unique way. Fishermen can tear off the claw and then throw the crab back into the water, where the crab will regenerate its claw although it appears the crab can only do this three or four times during its life.

Gulf oysters are often triploids, sterile creatures that put their energy into growth rather than reproduction. They are plump, with good color and have a nice salinity, though they are less briny than oysters in New England. They are grown in cages near the top of the water so there is less waste. In addition, as the cages can be easily moved, the oysters can be tailored to meet specific demands, such as creating a larger cup in the shell.

So why aren't you enjoying more seafood from the Gulf?

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International Boston Seafood Show: Fish Fun & Photos

Date: Thu, Mar 14, 2013 Wine Tasting

Fish is held out to be one of the greatest luxuries of the table and not only necessary, but even indispensable at all dinners where there is any pretence of excellence or fashion.
--Isabella Beeton

While I was at the 2013 International Boston Seafood Show (IBSS), I took plenty of photos of interesting items, from fish heads to stuffed bears. Many of these pictures did not easily lend themselves to a full post so I chose to collect them here for your viewing pleasure. Have fun!

A badass Fishy Biker!

The Chicken of the Sea Mermaid. A seafood you were not allowed to sample. Look but do not touch.

An old time fish truck. Maybe we need to bring back these to deliver local fish.

Gator burgers, anyone?

A huge scary Polar Bear. Those eyes really do it!

The poor Panda is getting too heavy to climb the bamboo any more.

A can with claws? Will you be eating the crab or will it eat you?

Cats & fish. I bet they become fast friends.

Capt'n Catfish. How would you like him to be prepared?

No one will ever find me hiding in here. And if they do, they will lose their hand when they reach into grab me,

What kind of pickles would sea cucumbers make?

Blah, blah, blah. Stop talking about yourself.

These phallic looking creatures are Geoducks, pronounced "gooey ducks."

How the hell do I get the pearl out of this oyster?

Beauty is skin deep, but ugliness goes down to the bone.

Gimme a big, wet one baby!

What is a better house pet, a catfish or a dogfish?

Raise your claw if you love crab!

And the middle fish wins the race by a nose...and a lip.

Moonfish. Sunfish. C'mon, I can't be both at the same time.

Pure butter-covered lobster heaven

These are my lemon slices. Touch them and lose a finger.

The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
--Vincent Van Gogh

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International Boston Seafood Show: Some Highlights

Date: Thu, Mar 14, 2013 Wine Tasting

To me the sea is a continual miracle; The fishes that swim–the rocks–the motion of the waves–the ships, with men in them, What stranger miracles are there?
--Walt Whitman

The2013 International Boston Seafood Show(IBSS) is now over and it is nearly time for thisFish Head Whispererto take a rest. The3rd AnnualiPuraTweet & Blogfest at IBSS 2013is also winding down, and will end at midnight on March 15. This is a special contest for Boston area bloggers in which they compete to offer the best coverage of the seafood show. An impartial third party judges the contest and the top prize is a hefty $1000. I am certainly competitive so am working hard this year to try to win it. I would cover the Seafood Show even if the contest did not exist, but the contest provides some added incentive.

I was the champion of the 1st AnnualiPuraTweet & Blogfestand in their 2nd Annual Contest, they added a prize for Best Coverage of Seafood Sustainability (sponsored by Global G.A.P.), which I won. This year, it appears there will only be a single prize for best overall coverage so I am working toward becoming the champion once again.

It was a long but fruitful three days at the IBSS, meeting great people, learning plenty, tasting delicious seafood and finding fascinating stories. I have already posted a number of articles about the IBSS and here I want to provide a general overview and highlight some other matters which I previously have not yet mentioned. There will be a few omissions here as I also have a few more articles about the IBSS to post.

Last year, I posted the Twelve Things You Should Know about the IBSS. That article provide an idea of the scope, diversity and depth of the seafood show, and give you reasons why you should attend it. Nearly all of those twelve points are still applicable so I won't repeat them here again. I will only note any changes and additions. The numbering system here does not coincide with that prior article but I will reference the prior numbers when applicable.

1.It is a huge event (#2 last year).
Continuing its trend, this year's IBSS was their largest ever, with over 1000 companies exhibiting in approximately 1850 booths. The attendance was expected to be over 19,000 attendees. Despite the large number of attendees, it is still relatively easy to navigate through the hall and there rarely is a significant line at any booth. You can also make appointments prior to the show with any exhibitors if you desire.

2. It is very international in scope (#3 last year).
Last year, about 42 different countries exhibited at IBSS and this year saw an increase to 46. Growth continues each year.

3. Shrimp is dominant but salmon is ubiquitous (#8 last year).
As it was last year, shrimp was the seafood available from the most amount of exhibitors at IBSS. However, samples of shrimp were much rarer. Salmon is the second most available seafood yet it seemed like the top choice because so many samples of salmon were available. That makes sense as salmon occupies the #1 spot in fin fish, about 37.8% of the dollar share with tilapia at #2 with 25.2% dollar share. Last year, salmon increased 16.2% in total dollars and salmon prices decreased 7.3% to $7.24 per pound.

4. Sustainability is prevalent(#9 last year).
Seafood sustainability continued to be a prominent topic this year. Some of the seminars on this topic includes: Tuna Forum, Seafood Sustainability in the Developing World, and Perceptions of Sustainable Seafood Production & Marketing. It seemed as if there were more signs at the booths too indicating the sustainability of their products.

5. Seafood Mislabeling takes center stage.
After a number of high profile media articles about the problems of mislabeled seafood at restaurants and stores, it is not a surprise that this topic would be addressed at IBSS. There were three seminars on this topic, includingCombating Seafood Substitution & Mislabeling: Facts, Fictions & Initiatives,Panel Discussion on Species Substitution, Mislabeling & Fraud andConvergence of Seafood Traceability & Species-Identity Technologies. This is an issue that the seafood industry needs to address, and quickly, to ensure confidence in the seafood industry. Americans already don't eat enough seafood and scandals such as this don't help.

6. Caviar was prominent.
I usually see one or two caviar exhibitors at IBSS but this year there seemed to be far more. There were about 18 exhibitors with caviar though maybe 6 or 7 exhibitors who showcased it prominently at their booths. And the emphasis seems to be on sustainable caviar, which please me immensely. Two caviars even ended up in my Food of Interest post. Seems that luxury products like caviar may be rising in popularity, despite our tough economic conditions. That is surprising but maybe it is indicative that positive change is coming.

7. McDonald's supports sustainable seafood.
There are probably few people who have not heard the new "Fishy Fishy" commercial from McDonald's which introduces their new Fish McBites. These bite-sized pieces of fried fish are made from wild-caught, Alaskan pollock. And most importantly, they are certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwiches are also made from this MSC certified pollock. Over 14,000 McDonald's restaurants in the U.S. have received MSC certification. This is huge as McDonald's is such a dominant restaurant and could expose many more people to the idea of seafood sustainability. It also shows other large chain restaurants that they too can carry sustainable fish in an affordable way. Though there do not appear to be sales figures for the new Fish McBites yet, overall McDonald's has recently posted a financial loss. Hopefully more people who do patronize McDonald's start eating more fish.

8. Maine lobster certified as sustainable.
At IBSS, it was announced that the Maine lobster fishery has received the Marine Stewardship Council’s Sustainable Seafood Certification. Governor Paul LePage stated, “The Marine Stewardship Council’s certification will provide the Maine lobster industry with a globally-recognized seal of approval.” This should give a boost to this local fishing community and will also allow them to penetrate additional markets. Some of the large chain supermarkets, such as Walmart, will only carry MSC-certified seafood. So, even if a fishery was sustainable, a lack of MSC certification could prevent them from access to Walmart. And there is no substitute for a tasty Maine lobster. Spiny lobsters just are not the same.

9. Sable fish rocks!
Some of my favorite samples at the IBSS were sable fish, also known as butterfish or Alaskan black cod. In Boston, sable fish hit the news when the Boston Globe accused Ming Tsai of mislabeling his fish, by using the term butter fish rather than the more proper sable fish. Sable fish are found in the North Pacific and Alaska boasts the largest population in the world. Sable fish is very sustainable and is very good for you as it is high in Omega-3s. The flesh has a high fat content so it can be prepared in a myriad of ways, and even an amateur cook will find it difficult to prepare it poorly. It is delicious, with a soft, velvety texture, which is why it is sometimes called butter fish. Nearly 20 exhibitors had sablefish, though it still seems rare on Boston menus. Boston area chefs, bring on the sable fish!

10. The media needs to stop fear mongering.
At two different seminars, and in discussions with multiple people at IBSS, the issue was raised that the media far too often mentions the risks of consuming seafood rather than the benefits. In fact, their negative articles appear to be four times as great as their positive articles. This is despite overwhelming evidence from many scientists and health professionals that the health benefits of eating seafood far outweigh any minor risks such as from mercury/PCBs. Such fear mongering obviously raises attention and sells more newspapers and magazines but it does a disservice to the public. People need to eat seafood at least twice a week, and should not generally worry about it. The seafood industry needs to be more proactive in trying to get media to tell more positive stories. They also need to educate consumers more, to show them that their fears are essentially baseless.

"Chance is always powerful. Let your hook always be cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be fish."

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Thursday Sips & Nibbles

Date: Thu, Mar 14, 2013 Wine Tasting

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I briefly highlight some interesting wine and food items that I have encountered recently.
1) On March 14th, from 7pm-10pm, Towne Stove and Spirits will host an event to benefit Boston Children’s Hospital: Fill with Bills. At this charitable fete, the team at Towne will urge guests to drop bills into the Boston Children’s Hospital glass donation vessel, that permanently lives at the top of the stairs in their Uptowne dining room and bar area, in support this ever-worthy cause. At this celebration of generosity and care, guests will enjoy complimentary hors d’oeuvres by Executive Chef Mario Capone and cocktails like their signature Uptowne Punch (wild tea vodka, cranberry simple syrup, triple sec and hard cider). At the end of the evening, the funds raised will be graciously presented to the Hospital.

To attend this event, Towne Stove and Spirits kindly requests making a donation to Boston Children’s Hospital at the door. To RSVP, please contact: kritter@towneboston.com.

2) Join The Beehive for a special Easter jazz brunch on Sunday March, 31 from 10am-4pm. Enjoy world-class music and a three course prix fixe meal for $33.95 per person featuring comfort cuisine classics from Executive Chef Rebecca Newell. Start off with options such as Greek Easter Lemon Lamb Soup or House-made Granola & Yogurt with Fresh Berries before indulging in the main event with choices that include Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon, Ham or Short Ribs and Easter classics such as Roast Leg of Lamb with Tomatoes, Capers, Olives & Oregano Potatoes, Baked Spiral Ham with Charred Pineapple Glaze, Peas & Whipped Potatoes, and The Beehive’s acclaimed Eggs Shakshuka (sunnyside eggs baked “North African Style” with tomato sauce and polenta). Or, opt for more traditional fare with The Beehive’s Prime Cheeseburger. For kids, The Beehive has a “Little Bee’s Kids Menu” ($12) to order from before they scurry off to partake in the annual Easter egg hunt from 10am-3pm.

The Beehive is also serving Easter Dinner from 4pm-10pm with live jazz performances until 12am. For reservations please call (617) 423-0069.

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International Boston Seafood Show: Food of Interest

Date: Wed, Mar 13, 2013 Wine Tasting

"Scallops are expensive, so they should be treated with some class. But then, I suppose that every creature that gives his life for our table should be treated with class."
--Jeff Smith

One of my anticipated pleasures of attending the International Boston Seafood Showis the opportunity to gorge myself on a smorgasbord of seafood, to partake of new products and old, of shellfish to sushi, fried shrimp to smoked salmon. Exhibitors desire to entice potential purchasers to their booth so many offer samples of their foods. In addition, these exhibitors hope to ignite some positive press for their products. Most of them have been very open to me, sharing information, and I enjoy highlighting those foods which most enticed my palate.

I taste many different items at the show, enjoying the majority of them, but I only choose to mention a small number, those which especially appealed to me. I want to share with my readers the best of the best, some of the most compelling products at the show. With over 1800 exhibitors, I know I did not sample seafood from each and every booth, so I may have missed some exceptional foods. If you attended the Seafood Show, and have your own favorite samples, feel free to tell me about them in the comments.

There is a ton of salmon available for sampling at the show. Some of my favorites came fromSpence & Co., Ltd., which primarily is a purveyor of smoked salmon though they currently sell over 80 products. The company was founded by a Alan Spence, a master smoker from Scotland. They produce smoked salmon in a traditional Scottish method, which gives it a more restrained smoky taste. Some of their more unique items, which I did not taste, include smoked salmon from New Zealand, which uses Manuka wood, and salmon from recipes by famed chef Charlie Trotter, such as the Darjeeling Tea & Ginger Cured Salmon.

Last month, the Japanese government placed unagi, the Japanese eel, on the Environment Ministry's Red List, listing it as Endangered. Catches have been at record lows, declining to about 5% of what were caught in the 1960s. Japan is the primary consumer of these eels, eating about 70% of the production. percent of all eel produced worldwide. The Red List is more an advisory and does not create any legal regulation, so hopefully the government will take notice and actually do something to protect the unagi. To protect the unagi, it would be beneficial to find other sustainable fish which might closely replicate the taste of unagi.

Triad Fisheries,in Alaska, has created one such option, and I was impressed with the result. Their Alaska Sablefish Unagi Style recently won two Symphony of Seafood awards, including #1 2013 Foodservice & People's Choice Seattle. This product is wild Alaskan sablefish, with an unagi marinade, which is precooked and ready to heat and serve. First, I found this fish to be absolutely delicious. It seemed to share some of the texture of the unagi, which is important, and a bit of the taste. It may not be a perfect replication of unagi, but because it is so tasty, and has a similar texture, I think this would be a very good replacement.

Another Alaskan treat was the Aqua Cuisine Seafood Lit'l Sammies Smoked Salmon Cocktail Franks, which also won a Symphony of Seafood award for #1 2013 Smoked. These are made from 100% wild Alaskan Salmon and are all natural, with no artificial ingredients. They are low in fat, high in protein, and free of nitrite and nitrates. They had a nice texture, just a bit looser than a regular hot dog, and you definitely tasted the salmon and mild smokiness. They would make a great alternative for a cocktail party or tail gate party.

Almost hidden in the rear of the show, amidst a number of Korean booths, I stumbled upon HaeMatt Co., Ltd. which produces Korean Myeong-Ran, a roasted laver. You probably are more familiar with laver by its Japanese name, nori,which is often used to wrap sushi. In Korea, roasted lavery is associated with fertility and is often served at weddings. It may also be eaten as an appetizer or snack. This seasoned laver is made from laver, brown rice, pollock roe seasoning, perilla oil and sesame oil. Some chili pepper powder may have been added as well. I enjoyed the seasoned laver, which I found crunchy with a nice depth of seasoning though I did not find it spicy. I could see though how it might be an addictive snack. And you could always add your own hot spices.

Black Diamond Caviar, produced by Warbucks International Seafood, is produced in Louisiana and they make three different types. In general, the caviar costs about $50 for a 3.75 ounce jar. I believe that the caviar I tasted was from the bowfin, known locally as the choupique. It is a freshwater fish, more ancient than sturgeons, from Louisiana and their roe is naturally black. I liked the taste of this caviar, which had a mild brininess, no fishy aftertaste and has a silky smooth texture. A good, sustainable choice.

I love a good mussel, and the type of broth they are prepared in matters a lot.Canadian Coveproduces Prince Edward Island Mussels, which are rope grown and sustainable. The mussels are good for your health too as they are low calorie, a good source of lean protein, and have plenty of Omega-3s, iron and Vitamin B12. The mussels were large and plump, cooked in a Sweet Thai broth, and really satisfied me. Fortunately, they also had slices of bread for dunking into the flavorful broth.

TheBritish ColumbiaPavilion offered samples of a number of different types of sustainableseafood. In British Colombia, they produce over 100 species of seafood, exporting about 80% and the U.S. receives about 57% of those exports. Salmon accounts for about 40% of all B.C. production. British Colombia is big on food safety, traceability and sustainability.

At the show, their chef was Nathan Fong, a food stylist, journalist, and TV personality, who was born in Vancouver. Next to Nathan, you may recognize Jacqueline Church, the Leather District Gourmet, who assisted Nathan at the show. Nathan spent lots of time preparing various dishes, showcasing the delicious seafood of British Columbia. I stopped by their booth several times to see what the next recipe might be. A luscious sablefish, caviar & scrambled eggs, uni, fried rockfish, and more. Overall, this ended up as the tastiest booth at the entire show, with an excellent variety of delicious seafood, prepared very well.

Salmon on a stick!

One of the treasures from the British Columbia booth was theNorthern Divine Caviar.This is the first certified organic caviar in North America, from thirteen year old White Sturgeons. The company began producing caviar in 2011 but became a commercial entity in 2012. The sturgeon was raised in tanks on land and they produce only a few hundred kilos each year. They have been certified by Canadian Organic Aquaculture as well as Global Trust. Currently, they are sold mostly in Canada, though you can find it in the U.S. and they are seeking more distributors. It is pricey, at about $88 for 30 grams, but then caviar has never been an inexpensive luxury. The taste is exquisite, smooth, briny and buttery without any fishy aftertaste. One of the better caviars I have tasted in the last few years. And paired with even scrambled eggs, they make a great dish. Splurge and check out this caviar.

The sea hath fish for every man.”
--William Camden

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Verlasso Salmon: An Update

Date: Wed, Mar 13, 2013 Wine Tasting

"We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came."
--John F. Kennedy

Everyone needs to eat more seafood but the stocks of wild seafood are insufficient to fulfill that need. Aquaculture is necessary and currently supplies about 50% of the world's seafood consumption. However, aquaculture can create problems and may not always be considered sustainable. The practice of aquaculture though continues to improve and we need to support those doing it well.

Last year, at the International Boston Seafood Show, I met with Scott Nichols, a Director atVerlasso Salmon, a salmon farm in Chile which seeks to be sustainable. Scott was very forthcoming, answering all of my questions. In my prior post, I explained their practices as well as described the taste of their salmon. I concluded that: "Verlasso seems to be headed in an excellent direction, working hard to be sustainable, and I applaud their efforts." This year, at Seafood Show, I met again with Scott to get an update on Verlasso and to check out their new product, Smoked Salmon.

As they are a new company, their focus last year was on acquiring distributors, to obtain companies to distribute their salmon across the country. They have not yet become nationally distributed but they are multiregional, and continue to seek distributors to fill in other regions. The closest distributor to Massachusetts is currently in Philadelphia, but they are still seeking a distributor in the Northeast.

Their new focus this year will be on connecting with retailers. They see chefs as thought leaders and have conducted numerous events to broaden the discussion about their product. They desire to help the counter staff as they feel that the point of sale conversation is vital. They want the counter staff to be succinct and thoughtful, and even provide them one sheets and wallet cards to better able explain Verlasso salmon. They also supply gill tags for the fish, both whole and fillets, which can be given to customers. The gill tags have QR codes on them to provide more information.

Scott made a compelling statement, that "fish cannot tell their own stories, so you have to tell it for them." That has always been one of my guiding principles when I write about the Seafood Show, telling the stories of fish that they cannot. It is what retailers, at restaurants, supermarkets and fish shops, also need to do, to explain the stories of the fish they sell. Such stories will help them sell more fish. Unfortunately, some retailers will resist this practice as they consider it too much work. Their failure is to their detriment.

For some retailers, price is also an issue, as it is with many consumers. The Verlasso salmon generally sells for about $15-$16 per pound, but it can be found cheaper as well. How do you overcome the price barrier? One way is to tell a compelling story about the fish, to provide reasons why the fish is worth the price. Each convert you can persuade with your stories may help to educate others.

As for some more technical matters about Verlasso, their “fish in, fish out” (FIFO) ratio remains at 1 to 1, an impressive result when many other salmon farms have a higher ratio, often 3:1 or more. This helps makes the farm more sustainable. Their pen density remains as low as previously noted and their double net system has still not had any escapes. Their Omega-3s are about 1.5-1.8% and the fat content is approximately 12%, which is higher than many wild salmon, usually around 8%, but lower than other farmed salmon which may have 17%-22%. This generally means Verlasso salmon has a cleaner taste than many other farmed salmons. On a positive note, Verlasso used to use chemically synthesized betacarotene to add color to their salmon but now use all natural betacarotene. Finally, their harvests have been even greater than expected.

According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, most Farmed Salmon is listed as Avoid, though they have begun to note there are some exceptions. Verlasso has become part of a limited pilot program with the Monterey Bay Aquarium for an external assessment of their sustainability. The Aquarium is trying to become a bit more specific in their recommendations, as their broad stroke pronouncements have been criticized.

Scott noted that one of their biggest challenges was getting out their message as too many people see aquaculture as monolithic. Seafood Watch has contributed to that public perception with their general warnings, which often failed to consider specific exceptions. People need to realize that how their food is raised matters. Verlasso salmon is not the same as other farmed salmons, and it needs to be examined and assessed on its own merits rather than grouped together with all other salmon farms.

Verlasso continues to move in the right direction and it is worthy of your support.

I was served some Salmon En Papillote, atop rice, and it was as tasty as it was last year. A clean flavor, with a prominent salmon taste, and a good texture. This is the type of salmon which will appeal to all seafood lovers. Some other farmed salmons seem too fatty but this does not. Taste is vital and this salmon performs well in that regard.

They have a new product, a Smoked Salmon, which they have created in partnership with Acme Smoked Fish, under the Blue Hill Baylabel. This is all-natural and preservative free, and created with natural green tea, celery extracts and aromatic hardwood smoke. This is a mild smoked salmon with hints of a herbal taste that enhances the fish. They have gone for moresubtlety than in-your-face flavors, and it worked for me.

What are your thoughts on Verlasso?

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International Boston Seafood Show: Japan Pavilion

Date: Tue, Mar 12, 2013 Wine Tasting

Fish is meant to tempt as well as nourish, and everything that lives in water is seductive.
--Jean-Paul Aron

It is no secret that Japan is a country that loves and admires seafood. Seafood is essential to their cuisine and approximately 80% of the seafood they consume derives from 18 different species. In comparison, 90% of the seafood consumed in the U.S. comes from only 10 types of seafood. Once again, the Japanese Pavilionat the International Boston Seafood Showpresented numerous unique and tasty treats and I wanted to collect them together into a single post. Besides their booths, they also ran a series of small cooking demonstrations, showcasing their foods and recipes.

S. Marche Co., Ltdhas a fish farm inKagoshimawhere they breed Yellowtails, which are also known as Hamachi or Buri. Sometimes those terms are used to specify the size of the Yellowtail, such as Hamachi being under 80cm and Buri being over 80cm. The Yellowtails that S. Marche raises are not given any antibiotics and curiously,kurozu, black vinegar,is added to their feed and it is supposed to make them healthy. As kurozu ferments for a longer period than regular vinegar, it is thought to contain more healthful nutrients. They sell several different Yellowtail products include a Yellowtail Fillet, Yellowtail Teriyaki, Zukedon of Yellowtail (which is suitable for rice bowls), and Mago-Chazuke of Yellowtail (which is sesame flavored). The Yellowtail isvery tasty, with a firm consistency, a smooth texture in the mouth and a pleasant, mild taste.

Last year, I gave kudos toAhjikan Co, Ltd.for theirSushi Tamago, which is said to be the number one in the U.S. market. When I order sushi, I usually add anorder of tamago as I enjoy its slightly sweet taste but not all tamago is the same. Some is thin and almost too watery, while some is too thick and tough. Ahjikan though produces an excellent tamago which possesses the proper balance of texture and moistness, and has a rich, eggy flavor with a hint of sweetness. Yum.

Kunihiro Inc.exports seafood, mainly oysters, from the Seto Inland Sea, around Hiroshima. They use state of the art technology to process their oysters, ensuring they are safe of any toxins, bacteria or viruses. This technology also succeeds in sealing in the umami though the items are frozen. They sell a variety of oysters products, such as Frozen Oyster Meat, Sushi Oyster Meat, and Sakura Smoked Oyster Meat. to the world.

I attended a demonstration of their Fried Breaded Oysterswhich was also educational. For example, oysters are sometimes known as the "milk of the sea." In addition, the Japanese advise that you should eat three oysters a day for your good health. The fried oysters were delicious, with a crisp, crunchy coating and juicy oyster meat inside.

The longest line at the Japanese Pavilion was at the Rumi Japan (Morimatsu Suisan Reito Co., Ltd.) booth. The company is located in Shikoku, facing the Kurushima Strait in the center of the Seto Inland Sea. They have been a seafood wholesaler for over forty years and now are also a seafood processor. Their products include a variety of fresh and frozen fish, as well as some processed foods like rice cakes.

What were so many people waiting in line to taste? Yellowtail nigiri. Rumi Japan uses a special technique, called Ikijime, to prepare their Yellowtail. This is a nerve-removal processing where the head and gut are removed and cut into three pieces. The bones are then removed so only the meat remains and this is supposed to preserve freshness for a very long time. I don't know how long this Yellowtail will remain fresh, but I am sure that it is absolutely delicious. It is tender and flavorful, a fine piece of sushi. I have devoured several pieces of this Yellowtail over the last couple days. And everyone else that I know who has tasted it, has really enjoyed it.

Daiei Foods Co., Ltd., located in Kanagawa, was founded in 1973 as a food processor company. They produce a variety of seafood products, from salads to raw fish. I got a chance to try their Tobiko, a frozen, seasoned flying fish roe. What a beautiful orange color! And it was tasty, with a crunchy texture and a mild brininess. This would be great for using with sushi.

The origins ofFutaba Co., Ltd.extend back to 1948 and then are now a producer of Dashi, a type of broth or soup. It is the foundation of Japanese cuisine and is the basic component of many of their dishes. Futuba currently makes over 300 Dashi products,

Chef Akira Inoue, pictured above, introduced me to three of their liquid seasonings, versatile liquids which can be used, in varied proportions, to make many different dishes. The Don Don Series Katsuo-Tsuyuis a basic Dashi stock which can be used to make soups though it can also be added to noodle dishes, rice bowls and more. The Don Don Series Shiro-Tsuyuis also a Dashi stock but it also contains a special white soy sauce. It too can be used in soups and many other Japanese dishes. Finally, I tried the Don Don Series Kappou-Dashiis a different type of Dashi stock, made with shaved bonito. I tasted all three and each was rich in umami with very pleasant flavors. I got to try a mushroom soup made with one of these liquids and it too was flavorful and rich in umami. These are easy to use, and you can avoid having to prepare your own dashi stock.

They also produce a Fish Jerky, made from thick, shaved bonito chips without any additives. To prepare them, you just pop them into a microwave for about one minute to make them crispy. They were crispy, like a thin bacon, with a mild fish taste. They would make for a cool snack, especially with a glass of Sake.

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Perceptions of Seafood Sustainability

Date: Tue, Mar 12, 2013 Wine Tasting

One thing about which fish know exactly nothing is water, since they have no anti-environment which would enable them to perceive the element they live in.
--Marshall McLuhan

This was the second conference I attended at the International Boston Seafood Show where it was mentioned how the media distorts the risks of seafood, though they were in different contexts. In the previous case, it was used in the case where the media emphasizes the minor risk of consuming seafood while failing to give proper coverage to all of the health benefits of seafood. In this conference, the media was alleged to be trying to tie in health risks into the sustainability issue, again greatly exaggerating any such risks.

I attended the What the Industry Experts Say: Perceptions of Sustainable Seafood Production and Marketing conference, which was presented by Wendy Weisman and Tracy Van Holt, who are working together on the SustainableCFood project. They conduct research, trying to determine significant communication gaps that exist in the topic of sustainable seafood. This conference was even part of their research, involving an anonymous survey and a discussion on sustainability issues. So, it was a very interactive session, and there were roughly 25 or so attendees.

Wendy Weisman

It is obvious that there are significant communication gaps in the discussion of sustainability. So many people define the term differently, often based on their own needs and experience. Trying to reach some sort of consensus on a definition is a worthy, though difficult, goal. In researching these issues, Wendy and Tracy engage in "cultural consensus analysis." Tracy stated that "shared knowledge equals culture," a reason why they have chosen acultural consensus analysis.

That process is similar to the use of focus groups but it also allows each person's voice to be considered individually. The analysis seeks to determine the areas where people agree and disagree on these definitions and issues. They also engage in news analysis, determining what the media says on the topic, both the regular media and the trade.

You can take their surveyonlinethough I am unsure of the actual value of the survey. I found a number of the questions to be too vague or confusing so it seems the answers might not reflect true perceptions. It was clear from our discussion of answers to those questions that many people wanted to clarify their answers, that the answers were not as simple as the questions permitted. Instead, I believe the questions are much more useful in starting conversations about these issues. That seems to be a more valuable reason to present the questions rather than seeking the truth of any such question.

Tracy Van Holt

The discussion moved onto an analysis of news articles dealing with sustainability. The regular media has created the allegation that sustainability in fisheries has a lot to do with important health issues. For example, they promote ideas such as wild seafood is safer for you than farmed seafood. They highlight mistrust and mislabeling, creating the impression that sustainability is unprofitable. The trade media though does not connect sustainability and health. Rather, they emphasize issues of transparency and trust, promoting that sustainability is profitable.

In further media research, they examined Seafood Sourceand learned that thedominant conversation concerning sustainable revolved around certification. It was also learned that this discussion was often separate from a discussion of fishers. On a related issue, they examined the question of who the media saw as responsible for creating and promoting sustainable fisheries and both the regular media and the trade were in agreement that Companies were most important.

There was an intriguing aside, analyzing the effectiveness of a logo. I thought that the Brunswick Catch logo was the most effective, and I ended up in agreement with their prior survey. What seemed to matter to the public was a logo with the name of the place, that showed a fishermen as well as his gear.

Trying to reach a consensus of sustainability definitions is a worthy and necessary endeavor so discussions in this area are warranted. It is also a glaring issue that media depictions of seafood are negatively slanted and that is an area where the seafood industry needs to take charge and present a more balanced view. That is also part of what I do, trying to present more balanced articles for the average reader. More people need to eat seafood and they should not be scared away from eating it due to the drastic exaggeration of any minor risks.

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Rant: Stop Worrying, Seafood is Safe

Date: Mon, Mar 11, 2013 Wine Tasting

Fishes live in the sea, as men do a-land; the great ones eat up the little ones.
--William Shakespeare

I still see far too many stories in the media warning of the dangers of seafood consumption because of mercury and PCBs. Previously, I tried to show the truth, in my postEat More Fish! Significant Health Benefits. Yet it seems people still are not listening. They need to stop worrying and embrace seafood because it is safe and the potential health benefits far outweigh any limited risk.

On the first day of the International Boston Seafood Show, I was pleased to see a conference onDebunking the Risk Myths: Seafood's Success Story. The conference was supposed to mention the health benefits of regular seafood consumption as well as to discuss how to educate consumers about the truth. Overall, it was an informative session, supporting my previous facts about seafood health and discussing numerous methods to educate and inform consumers. At the most basic, it is the consumer that needs to be convinced that seafood is safe and healthy, especially considering the often greater cost of seafood.

Dr. Roger Clemens of the USC School of Pharmacy began the discussion and indicated that he had been involved in the creation of the government's Dietary Guidelines. He went over some of the thought processes and analysis that went into the creation of the guidelines concerning seafood. First, determining and defining the questions is the first major step. He provided an acronym, PICO, for the analysis, which means Population, Intervention, Comparison & Outcome. The outcome needs to be clinically relevant, have biological significance and be translated into public policy.

After all of the evidence and analysis, they determined that modest consumption of seafood (about 250-500 mg of EPA & DHA) is associated with a reduced risk of Coronary Health Disease, though increased consumption did not provide any additional benefit. The basic guideline then was a recommendation of two servings (3-5 ounces each) per week of seafood. That amount will differ based on the type of seafood which is consumed, whether it is high or low in Omega-3s. It is best to eat a balanced seafood diet, only rarely eating the accumulator fish, those most prone to mercury/PCBs. He also encourages pregnant women and women who are nursing to eat seafood too, for the health of their baby.

Dr. Michael Morrissey, Director at the Oregon State University Food Innovation Center, started by noting that there is much conflicting evidence concerning the safety of seafood consumption. The key to resolving this problem is proper communication, and science-based information must form that basis. Consumers noted that they like to receive their information from brochures as well as the Internet. He continued to explain the development of the Seafood Health Facts website, which was launched in February 2012.

I have previously explored that website and found it to be an excellent reference for facts on seafood and health. I highly recommend that you check it out, and you can even use it to customize personal guidelines for your own seafood consumption.

Dr. Morrissey also mentioned that the main health risk from seafood is exposure to pathogens, and not mercury of PCBs. That means that basic food safety knowledge is vital when preparing and eating seafood.

Doris Hicks, a Seafood Technology Specialist from the University of Delaware, discussed how to frame the message about seafood. Consumers lack plenty of information about the safety of seafood and they need to learn the truth. She also believes that seafood consumption needs to be personalized for everyone, considering everyrelevantfactor. Are you eating at home or at a restaurant? Did you catch the fish yourself? What type of fish do you eat? How often? What is your condition? And more more questions. All of these questions designed to create the safest plan for your seafood consumption.

Linda Cornish, the Executive Director of the Seafood Foundation, is part of the Seafood Nutrition Partnership, a group dedicated to raising public awareness of the safety of seafood consumption. I chuckled when she announced, "I am not a scientist but I am a nerd." She started by mentioning that heart disease is the #1 killer of women, a major reason why women should be eating seafood. It is the #1 killer overall, taking nearly 600,000 people each year. The U.S. pays a great deal of money every year on health care, including on preventable diseases. That could be saved if more people ate seafood and lowered their chances of coronary health disease.

Just eating eight ounces of seafood each week can reduce your chance of heart disease by 36%. In addition, if women avoid, or eat very little seafood, while they are pregnant, that could have detrimental effects on the health and growth of the child. Why wouldn't you want to eat seafood with such benefits?

Linda further mentioned a study where it was shown that the media writes far more stories about the alleged risks of seafood as opposed to the potential benefits. 90% of the seafood consumed in the U.S. comes from 10 types of seafood, and none of them include those few species which might pose a danger to a pregnant woman, such as swordfish, tile fish, shark and king mackerel. It was also shown in another study that only about 22% of the population eats seafood at least twice a week, the recommended amount.

So many people need to be convinced to eat more seafood and it is a tough battle to convince them that it is safe to do so, especially with the media highlighting the risks, far out of proportion to the actual risk that exists. However, it is a worthy benefit as not only will it help each individual person, but their better health with help our entire society through reduced healthcare costs.

Stop worrying. Seafood is not only safe but it is extremely beneficial.

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"Dimat" is a major Poker Book publisher, with a popular Poker Forum, which originated from the book Internet Texas Holdem, by Matthew Hilger. Internet Poker Rankings tracks the top online poker players. Poker Bonos Gratis was designed to bring Free Poker Gifts to the Spanish Speaking Market.