Meatless Monday so where should you go out to dine? I have an unorthodox choice for you. It certainly would not be your first choice, and may not even be on your radar at all, but I think you should consider visiting the 2011 International Boston Seafood Show, currently being held at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. The show began today and runs through Tuesday.
So why am I recommending a seafood show? I'll get to that in a moment so please be patient. First, let me provide you a little background.
This year, I received a free ticket to the show from iPura, a food safety and quality assurance company, which has been showing its love for Boston Food Bloggers. (Above, that is Jason of iPura.) They are also holding a special contest for local bloggers, the 1st Annual iPura Tweet & Blogfest at IBSS 2011, where all you need to do is write a blog post about the show, and tweet about it five times. You can visit their site for the rest of the rules, which are relatively simple and straight forward. For me, as I would have written and tweeted about the show anyways, entering the contest was easy.
1. It is truly international.
Representatives of over 90 countries, including such places as China, Japan, Phillipines, Vietnam, Oman, Korea, Malaysia, Canada, Iceland, Scotland, Mexico, and Chile, attend this event. You'll also find representatives of a number of U.S. states, including places like Alaska, Florida, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Georgia. You can "visit" many different countries and regions yet never leave Boston. As you walk down the aisles, you will hear various languages spoken, and the diverse peoples seem to get along quite well. Maybe this should be a lesson for all international relations.
2. It is a huge event.
With over 800 exhibitors, there is plenty to see and a single day is probably not sufficient to visit even the majority of them, especially if you take the time to talk to the people behind the tables. But that size permits a huge diversity of products, appealing to different preferences, desires and needs. If you are not seeking ice machines for a restaurant or company, just ignore that booth and seek out what does call to you, maybe some oysters or shrimp. But also seek out something new to you, as everyone needs to expand their palates and you might find a new favorite. Be prepared to do lots of walking and standing, though you will find some places to sit for a rest.
Whatever booth you stop at will have its own interesting story to tell. It might be a family business, started a few generations ago. They might sell a less common seafood type, which you can learn all about it. The people might have created a compelling new product, and could have an interesting origin tale. Maybe they offer a sustainable seafood product but from a region not known for such practices. It is a fertile ground for writers who can easily find plenty of ideas for stories. And if you don't write, the tales are still fascinating to hear and will give you fodder for the watercooler the next day. Who doesn't enjoy a great story?
4. It is a business event.
The exhibitors and most of the attendees are there to do business. The exhibitors all have products or services they wish to sell, and you could see them taking care of business, seated with potential customers, speaking in hushed tones. You will be able to obtain ample brochures and flyers, and my own bag was quite heavy by the end of the day, stuffed with information about many different vendors. Many of the products displayed at the show may end up at local restaurants or grocery stores so you might be getting advance notice of something special.
You can learn many things at the various booths, about various types of seafood, from catch methods to recipes. You can also learn about the different regions where all the seafood comes from, such as the chilly regions of Iceland or the waters of Japan. Besides the booths, there are also educational seminars, in four different tracks: Retail, Foodservice, Processing/Service, and Sustainability. You can find sessions such as Salmon Summit, Selling Diners on Sustainability, and Puttting Sustainable Seafood Policies into Practice. If you have any questions about seafood, you may be able to get them answered here.
6. It is a fun event.
It is not "all work and no play." You can watch such fun activities as the 5th Annual Oyster Shucking Competition, a speed shucking contest. Hope no one slips with the knife! Or check out the Game Lounge, where you can take a break and play a Wii game, ping pong, or some other game. Some of the vendors have their own games or contests at their tables. For example, Copper River Salmon offered a trivia question, which I guessed correctly and won a small prize.
You will be familiar with much of the seafood that is available, but some may be new to you as well. Some of the selection includes: Arctic char, barramundi, catfish, cod, croaker, dogfish, flounder, grouper, hake, herring, mackerel, opah, perch, pollock, rainbow trout, sablefish, salmon, sardines, tilapia, tuna, turbot, and more. Which of those fish are new to you? I was happy to see all of the small fish which were highlighted, from anchovy to smelts, as they are usually a very sustainable choice. You'll find plenty of shellfish, including lobster, crab, scallops, conch, oysters and more. You'll even find more exotic fare such as alligator, caviar, frog legs, and eel. I do like alligator. There isn't much that lives in the sea which cannot be found here.
8. Sustainability is prevalent.
It seems that more exhibitors this year are concerned about issues of sustainability, as well as presenting more sustainable seafood. This is obviously a very good thing, as protecting the bounty of the sea is a crucial issue. I feel more positive about matters when I see so many exhibitors who are similarly concerned. And if you want to learn more about sustainability, you can discuss the issues with various exhibitors as well as attend some of the sustainability seminars. It was also good to see they will have a seminar, Selling Diners on Sustainability, which will help restaurants sell more sustainable seafood.
As I have written before, seafood is often a very healthy choice. Fish contains Omega-3s, polyunsaturated fats, which have been proven to significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular death. In fact, this is the only dietary factor where there is clear proof that it can reduce cardio-related deaths. The health benefits of seafood are highlighted by a number of exhibitors, providing additional reasons why you should be partaking of more seafood and eating less red meat.
10. There are tons of seafood samples available!
Even if you don't care about the previous nine items, this item alone should convince you. The vast majority of exhibitors offer free samples of their seafood, a diverse mix of delicious choices. Sushi to crabcakes, oysters to grilled lobster tail, fried shrimp to grilled catfish, and plenty more. There is so much food here, you won't need to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner because you will already be full and sated. I ate lots today, enjoying much of what I tasted, and I will highlight some of the foods in future posts. My only complaint is that they need more drinks available, even if only water.