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Blog Archive for May 2011

May 27

Monsanto Medley Anyone?

Thoughts from Chief Fishmonger, Dale Sims

Today's Salmon Specials

"Waiter, please super size my order of genetically modified salmon." Boy, how close are we to this one. What should I do? Which side am I on? Do I support the genetic modification of animals because it might increase our food supply?

Am I opposed to genetic modification of animals on the grounds that this will spawn a new group — Frankenfood? I have friends in both camps, both supporters and detractors. I simply haven't made up my mind. I can't say I know enough yet to form a clear opinion.

The libertarian in me says if you want to grow genetically modified salmon, then grow it. Of course, I also support your right to be wrong and your right to look foolish. I frame this as an issue of choice. I have major concerns with agricultural GMOs. The right of a farmer to grow organic beets can be violated or compromised by cross-pollination with GMO beets. In fact, the spread of GMOs in agriculture is so extensive today that the definition of GM-free aquaculture feeds that include things like corn or soy or rapeseed oils is no longer 100% GM free. Rather, the definition is: "below the 0.1% limit of detection." The other aspect of freedom of choice is labeling. I want to know how my food is grown and what is in it. So by gosh, if you're proud enough to grow a GM salmon, then embrace it. Identify it, label it and proclaim it. We'll vote with our forks and our pocketbooks, and may the best man (or salmon) win!

In 1977 I was cooking in a little French bistro in San Francisco. A specialty of the house was the saumon en croute — salmon wrapped in puff pastry. We carefully took each serving and molded the puff pastry into the shape of a salmon. Whenever a waiter brought one of these into the dining room, the patrons all went gaga. We thought this was the cat's meow. Have you ever seen a beef wellington shaped like a cow? While reminiscing about this saumon en croute the other night, I came up with a solution for all salmon, whether it be wild, farmed, or genetically ignored. We won't need to harvest wild salmon. We won't need to farm any salmon, including one that's been altered genetically. My solution is somewhat akin to the Replicator on Star Trek.

Early on the NASA space program did research on growing food in labs from DNA. Well… let's do that now! We can take strands of salmon DNA and grow nothing but pure salmon meat, no head, no fins, no scales or pesky little bones, just pure salmon meat. We can reduce all kinds of labor costs by growing portion size pieces of salmon flesh. We can grow them in molds so that each portion is shaped like a little fish. We won't need any temples of fine dining like the French Laundry. Instead we can all go to eat at the French Laboratory. The waitstaff will be decked out in white lab coats with hairnets and rubber gloves. In furtherance of this idea here's a list of possible ways this pure salmon meat can be prepared and served on menus: Please feel free to send me your recipe suggestions too!

- Bunsen Burner Barbequed Salmon
- Petri Dish Provencale
- Test Tube Teriyaki Salmon
- Sandoz Salmon Sashimi
- Roche Roasted Salmon

And for those with larger appetites who enjoy seafood platters, we offer the Monsanto Medley.

Bon Appétit!

May 27

Friday Fish Review, No. 13

An unscientific, and often whimsical, collection of our favorite fishy finds of the week

Louisiana Pancake Batfish

May 25

Visit to Pacific Catch

With the world's FIRST EVER ocean-grown shrimp (Fisherman's Daughter) quickly approaching its public debut... Chef Chandon Clenard gave me a sneak preview of the three tasty dishes he will be unveiling at Pacific Catch in June.

Shrimp tomato bisque, blackened shrimp Sonoma style, and my personal favorite... a fried shrimp bánh mì sandwich!  My taste buds were not disappointed.  

View slideshow at full size

Try Fisherman's Daughter Ocean-Grown Shrimp yourself this June at all of Pacific Catch's restaurants.  

And if you're free on June 8th... head on down to the 9th Avenue location to celebrate with us!  (I'll be the gal hoarding the hors d'oeuvre plates.)

May 20

Friday Fish Review, No. 12

An unscientific, and often whimsical, collection of our favorite fishy finds of the week

Picture 75

May 20

The Legacy of Lonesome Larry

Thoughts from Chief Fishmonger, Dale Sims

Lonesone Larry Sockeye

From time to time, I've jokingly chided Nick Joy, Founder and Managing Director of Loch Duart, that he takes such care of his fish that he probably has names for each of them. I recall Nick saying to me in one of our earliest meetings, "Dale, it's all about the fish."

Of course, Nick doesn't name each fish coming out of Loch Duart's hatchery. When I think about it, I can recall knowing about only one particular salmon that was given a name. This salmon wasn't named in a hatchery at birth. It was a wild sockeye salmon and it was named only when it died. The wife of a marine research biologist named it Lonesome Larry the sockeye salmon.

Redfish Lake is in the Sawtooth Mountains of the Stanley Basin in Idaho, some 900 miles from the Pacific Ocean. It gets its name from the thousands of sockeye salmon that would migrate there every summer to spawn and die. These were beautiful sockeye, fat and strong. That 900-mile swim upriver included a vertical climb of roughly 6,500 feet, past eight concrete dams — four on the Columbia River and four on the Lower Snake River — before heading into the Salmon River up to Redfish Lake. In addition, the sockeye had to get past numerous other small private dams built by logging and mining operations and irrigation. Redfish Lake sockeye, as well as the remaining Snake River sockeye population, are now on the endangered species list.

It is estimated that roughly 150,000 sockeye salmon returned to the Snake River Basin every year in the 1850s. In the summer of 1992, Lonesome Larry made that long, difficult, uphill migration to Redfish Lake. That year, Larry was the only sockeye that returned. There were no more wild sockeye.

Pacific salmon return to the lakes, stream and rivers where they were born to spawn and die. The reverse happened to Larry — he died, then he spawned. He was pulled out of the water live and clubbed over the head. His milt was removed and used to fertilize hatchery-bred sockeye. From 1993 through 1997, a total of only 10 sockeye were counted returning to Redfish Lake. As of August 12, 2010, there were 2,126 sockeye salmon counted as they passed the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River, a record number since the dam was finished in 1975. Of these, 701 fish were trapped at the Sawtooth Hatchery or in Redfish Lake Creek as part of a captive breeding program. These sockeye are the progeny of Lonesome Larry.

The breeding program has three goals:

1. Preserve Snake River sockeye from extinction 
2. Remove Snake River sockeye from the endangered
    species list
3. Re-establish a recreational sockeye fishery on the
    Snake River and its tributaries 

Full regeneration is still a long way off. But today, at least, we have hope.   

May 13

Friday Fish Review, No. 11

An unscientific, and often whimsical, collection of our favorite fishy finds of the week

Screen Shot 2011 05 13 At 10.20.33 Am

May 13

The Truth is Out There

Thoughts from Chief Fishmonger, Dale Sims

Frankie & Annette

What connection can there be with young lovers on the Florida Coast and dams in the Pacific Northwest? It's a matter of recognizing Truth. Some years ago when I was a young man, a woman I loved expressed a particular thought to me. Geography separated us. She moved to Seattle. I stayed in Florida. Some forty plus years have passed and though my memory of her has dimmed, the words she spoke remain indelibly inscribed in my thoughts. I retrieve them in moments of reflection, particularly in times when reality betrays expectation.

Her words: "The Truth is less likely to collapse than the forms in which we are used to having it occur." It's estimated there are more than two million dams in the United States. From the '40s through the '60s, America went on a dam building spree. In the peak year alone, 1960, we built more than 3,000 dams.

Truth #1: The creation of the BPA and dam construction that followed created jobs and helped America rise out of the Great Depression in the 1940s.

Truth #2: Hydropower from dams in the Pacific Northwest played a vital role in the war effort powering factories beyond the reach of Axis bombs, factories building airplanes that helped turn the tide in favor of the Allies, powering the factory that built the Enola Gay.

Truth #3: Pacific Northwest hydropower fueled the growth of aluminum factories and played a large role in transforming America into an industrial nation and super power.

Truth #4: Water diverted by dams for agricultural purposes turned the rich but arid soil in eastern Washington into thriving farmland.

That's how truth manifested itself 50, 60 and 70 years ago. These are not the truths of today. The Columbia River that Woody Guthrie sang about in 1941 is barely recognizable today. The once mighty river has been tamed. Dammed into submission, it drifts along with a listless laziness, only rolling when man chooses to lift the gates.

Here are the forms of Truth today:

Truth #1: The Hanford Nuclear Power facility initially built with hydropower is now the most contaminated nuclear site in America.

Truth #2: Today the EPA lists five distinct Pacific Northwest salmon runs as “Endangered,” 23 as “Threatened” and another two as “Species of Concern.”

Truth #3: Removing certain select dams that either block or restrict passage of adult salmon seeking to return to their natural and historical spawning grounds is needed to promote the regeneration of wild salmon.

Truth #4: Replacing other old, outmoded dams with modern pumps can provide water for agricultural activity without killing young salmon migrating downstream.

Truth #5: The Pacific Northwest aluminum industry is on life support today, unlikely to recover and continuing to reel from the asbestos legacy of cancerous mesothelioma.

The Most Important Truth — The Truth going back to when mankind came out of the caves, down from the trees, discovered fire, began domesticating plants and animals and found the gift of language, this truth: We are a part of nature not separate from it. As an organism with the ability to reflect, as the only creature on this planet conscious of consciousness, it is our duty not just to ourselves, it is our duty and responsibility to life itself to practice stewardship… not exploitation.

As for that young woman, I have no idea where she is or whom she might be with today. But I do recall the words I whispered to her that summer night so many years ago, sitting on the beach beneath a shimmering sapphire of a moon. I'll repeat them today for all the world to hear: "Jodi Moore, you're the sort of woman men write poetry about!"

May 10

What Does "Sustainability" Mean To You?

It has replaced organic and local as the newest buzzword for the consumer’s conscience. The word is usually defined as the ability to endure. In the case of our food system, it more often reflects the ability of a particular system to support itself. The word suggests a more distant goal of limiting overall carbon footprint and establishing a regenerative cycle of production. And the word is only becoming more difficult to define as government regulation, technology, and environmental changes evolve.

The issue may be complex, but the conversation is imperative to our food future.

Last Saturday in the Ferry Building as we sampled Loch Duart farm raised salmon house cured by San Francisco Fish Company we asked…“What does sustainability mean to you?”

What consumers said:

“Maintaining a balance between consumption and nature. Working together to negate the depletion of our finite natural resources.”

“As consumers we are interested in awareness and careful consideration of our planet.”

“America is not on board from a sustainable standpoint, other countries are passing us.”

“Sustainability is working with nature and the environment rather than against it. Using the ‘fruits’ of nature to improve our lifestyle as humans and harnessing the earth’s energy in a waste-free and healthy way.”

What professionals say:

“Seafood is sustainable when the population of that species of fish is managed in a way that provides for today’s needs without damaging the ability of the species to reproduce and be available for future generations. If you buy fish managed under a U.S. fishery management plan, you can be assured it meets 10 national standards that ensure fish stocks are maintained, overfishing is eliminated, and the long-term socioeconomic benefits to the nation are achieved.”
—NOAA Fishwatch Program

“In referencing conscious fisherman he summarizes: “But many of them are also trying to responsibly preserve a culture—to retain and enhance fishing traditions driven by appetite and engagement with the natural world, rather than scolding.”
—Peter Jamison, SF Weekly  

“We are working for healthy and well-managed fisheries, as well as for fishing practices that no longer negatively impact on marine habitats and other marine species”
—World Wildlife Federation

“Sustainable fisheries are a very complicated issue constantly in flux; blame cannot be laid at the doorstep of one group or reason. When trying to make responsible decisions about what we eat we must be aware of the many mitigating factors that effect our fisheries; International and domestic politics, trade, population growth, economics, personal property rights and climatological change all have an effect.”
—Monterey Fish Market

Picture 40

What CleanFish says:

“Understanding your global footprint…and making it as tiny as possible.”
—Kelsi Boyle, CleanFish

“Sustainability is a BS word, it is impossible to achieve because modern society is unsustainable. Unless you are totally independent from fossil fuels you will not be sustainable. The industry has usurped the word, it is relative to each person.”
—Mike Murray, CleanFish

“It means that every product sold keeps the producer alive and growing. Respect for the ecosystem and the people who are part of the chain.”
—Karim Machi, CleanFish

I found Karim’s definition to most resemble my own. It reminded me of a lecture I recently attended by Daniel Imhoff editor of CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation): The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories. Karim’s sentiments were echoed by Imhoff when he said: “we are all on a continuum and our relationships are important.” These relationships are the web, and progress is never linear. The strength of a system is in the integration of its parts and their ability to adapt. After all, weather changes, sales fluctuate, compromises happen. In most cases, it is what can be removed from the system — not what can be added — that will insure its survival. For now, my working definition is: sustainability is our attempt to mimic natural systems.

Let the conversation continue! (on Facebook)

May 06

Friday Fish Review, No. 10

An unscientific, and often whimsical, collection of our favorite fishy finds of the week

Screen Shot 2011 05 03 At 3.08.16 Pm




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