Wednesday, March 13, 2013

International Boston Seafood Show: Food of Interest

"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 Show is 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 from Spence & 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 Fisheriesin 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 Cove produces 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.

The British Columbia Pavilion offered samples of a number of different types of sustainable seafood. 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 the Northern 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


JacquelineC said...

Thanks Rich! Not having had time to walk the floor, it's great to see what was there through your eyes. Glad you could stop by and catch a few great tastes Chef Fong was putting out!

Jen Dorman said...

Looks like it was a great show with LOTS to see and sample. Delish!

Richard Auffrey said...

Chef Fong did a great job, but I am sure that was in part because he had an excellent assistant.

Next year, you should go to the Seafood Show. It is a great event.

Silver Salmon Fishing said...

What a great resource! Thanks and more power to you.