Thursday, January 19, 2012
Part of me thinks it’s kind of cool when I discover that, say, there’s a cheese out there worth $500 a pound – and it’s from Swedish moose cows.
But when I learn that a bluefin tuna sold earlier this month for what it might cost to acquire several houses, it makes me a little seasick.
The record sale: $736,000, which means, as locally based Tag-A-Giant Foundation sadly points out, “it no longer seems far-fetched to imagine a million-dollar fish.” And when demand continues to push prices to absurd places, that means the supply goes bye bye. No more bluefin on the plate, and, more importantly, no more bluefin occupying an apex place in the oceans’ food chain, which terrifies anyone who’s waded into ocean science just a little bit. For the less sophisticated, just think of bluefin extinction as a key stop along the way to farmed fish and jellyfish sandwiches for everyone.
Yes, the state of the oceans can look as ugly as a goliath grouper. But there is plenty to believe in, nationally and locally.
This month our country became the first to ever impose catch limits for every species it knows. (More hopeful news given the partisan pitch of most everything political: It’s a policy that actually hatched under George W and came to fruition with Obama.) Even if we can’t stop the international ships from raping bluefin populations, we can sustain our own commercial and recreational angling for the foreseeable future.
“I think it’s really promising,” says sustainable guru Cindy Walter of Passionfish (655-3311) in Pacific Grove. “There are 528 species fished commercially in our country. To put catch limits on all of them is pretty cool.”
Just this week an impressive coalition of eight sustainable pioneers including New York’s Blue Ocean Institute, Boston’s New England Aquarium, Santa Cruz’s FishWise and Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch debuted Be Happy, a brand new social media push that invites Facebookers to harvest recipes from sustainable experts, pledge support of smart seafood habits, catch fun fish trivia – scallops have as many as 100 eyes! – and upload pics of their most profound pinched-cheek fish faces.
“We found our partners all over North America had the same message,” says Kassia Perpich of Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium. “Your seafood choices matter and make a positive difference in the world’s oceans.”
Meanwhile, friends at aforementioned FishWise and Moss Landing Marine Labs flagged the fact that, as of this month, Blue Ocean Institute and Chefs Collaborative have partnered to bring about Green Chefs, Blue Ocean, an online sustainable seafood training aimed at culinary students and chefs. An online, interactive course is the heart of the site, touring visitors through two hours of tutorials on wild finfish, farmed finfish, shellfish, regional and imported seafood and even menu design. It’s all free at www.oceanfriendlychefs.org.
Finally, Local Catch Monterey (345-5153) and its community-supported fishery, where members buy shares like they would for a CSA box of produce, launched this week with fresh Monterey Bay Dungeness crab, plus a video newsletter, recipes and a bio of John Hulliger, the local who caught them.
“Everyone picking up their shares today was super-psyched,” reports co-founder Alan Lovewell.
And everybody who showed is automatically more engaged, he adds. “Ultimately this is the way to reconnect people to fisherman and the ocean,” Lovewell says. “There’s no better way to get people interested than through food.”
Next week: herring or black cod. And sign-ups are still open, for now, at www.localcatchmonterey.com. Get hooked. The ocean needs you.
• Leon Gomez knows his tortas. The local engineer, guitarist and Mexican food authority turned me onto take-me-back-to-Oaxaca quesillo tortas ($5) at hidden treasure Cypress Bakery (899-4144) on Broadway in Seaside, one of the only locally owned spots that’s open late in the whole city. Crucial discovery. Now, at my flat-out favorite joint for grilled Mexican sandwiches, La Tortuga (899-8429), he’s spotlighted two tastes that somehow beat my former go-to’s (the al pastor and the vegetarian): The cecina ($5.85) with thin-sliced, marinated pork, and the chicken breast ($5.85), also sliced thin and blessed with jalapeño, refried beans, avocado and more. Meanwhile, the chilaquiles breakfast ($9.20), with a 16-ounce carrot-orange juice ($3.22), represents one of the tastiest and authentic breakfast bargains between Big Sur and Santa Cruz.
• Scheid Vineyards has two new reserve tasting flights flowing at its also-new tasting room-by-the-sea (656-9463) at San Carlos and Seventh in Carmel, across from Nielsen’s Market. They include a Pinot four-play with Scheid’s 667, 777, Santa Lucia and reserve wines.
• A free basic composting workshop happens 11am-12:30pm Saturday, Jan. 28, at the truly world-class Monterey Regional Waste Management District in Marina. Trust me on this one: It’s easy and actually more than affordable to take scraps out of the landfill and transform them into soil amendments (you buy less soil and inputs). The good feeling is but a bonus. 384-5313 or www.mrwmd.org.
• Andre’s Bouchee (626-7880) has its annual cassoulet night coming Jan. 27. Days goes into the making of the wonderland of stuff like Toulouse sausage and duck confit. Doesn’t take remotely that long to consume. Three courses run $40.
• Here come the rains – and the mushrooms. Fun guy Phil Carpenter (who’s also a shroom savant) leads an excursion 10am-3pm Saturday, Jan. 21, at Garland Park for $20-$22. www.mprpd.org.
• “The cure for anything is salt water,” Isak Dinesen said, “sweat, tears, or the sea.”