Sunday, March 22, 2015

SENA15: Food of Interest

"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

The USDA recommends that Americans consume 26 pounds of seafood annually. While I attended the Seafood Expo North America (SENA), I felt as if consumed a year's worth of seafood over the course of three days. It's a gustatory pleasure to walk the aisles of SENA, sampling the multitude of seafood that is available. The exhibitors provide these free samples in order to showcase their products, to entice potential purchasers. You'll find seafood samples that are cold and hot, raw and cooked, fresh and processed, simple and complex. You'll find salmon and oysters, shrimp and lobster, crab and trout, and much more.

If you attend SENA, I recommend that you sample seafood that you've never tasted before, to broaden your palate and hopefully discover something new and delicious. I taste many different items at the show, though certainly not everything as there is just too much for any single person to taste. I want to experience new dishes and products, to find some new favorites. Out of everything I taste, there is only a small number of items which I deem worthy of special mention, to be highlighted here. There are the best foods I savored at SENA and I want to share them with my readers.

Once again, for the third year in a row, my favorite foods at SENA were created by Chef Nathan Fong at the British Columbia, booth. Chef Fong, a food stylist, journalist, and TV personality, was born in Vancouver, and he uses sustainable seafood from BC to prepare a variety of creative and delicious dishes. He is passionate and energetic, talented and personable. He created more than 7 different items, maybe a greater variety than any other chef at the Expo.

Overall, much of the seafood at SENA is prepared very simply, and in some respects, creativity takes a back seat. There are plenty of raw items as well as fried products, so the actual cooking is not as extensive as it could be. There are definitely some chefs who do their best to produce enticing dishes, imbuing them with creativity and passion.

The first seafood sample I had when the Expo opened on Sunday was Chef Fong's French Style Eggs with Smoked Caviar & Northern Divine Caviar, a decadent and delectable dish. I had more on Tuesday morning too.

This is a partial list of the menu items that Chef Fong created during the Expo. I should note that the few items he fried used a special Nextjen Gluten-Free batter blend. You'll never realize that this batter is gluten-free as there is no sacrifice of taste. I also tasted a piece of raw Geoduck, which was chewy but not rubbery. It had a clean, briny taste, and had been harvested by deep water SCUBA divers. Geoduck is from a Hadii word that means "big foot," and geoduck in British Columbia gets much larger than they do in Mexico.

My good friend Jacqueline Church once again assisted Chef Fong, and she worked hard over those three days helping him prepare all of those seafood dishes.

As I've said multiple times before, more attention needs to be given to Peruvian cuisine. With its intriguing spices, tons of different potatoes, and other unique ingredients, it can present some amazing and complex flavors. The Peruvian booth at SENA was no exception, presenting several tasty dishes, including Ceviche.

The Scallops Cau-Cau was a delicious stew with potatoes, green peas and turmeric. Traditionally, Cau-Cau is a tripe stew but there are numerous variations.

The Peruvian Shrimp Chupe (chowder) is made with peas, corn and aji planca (a type of chile pepper). I was enamored with this chowder, finding a great depth of flavor within it, a creamy texture and a unique spicy kick to it. A perfect winter chowder which will warm your body and soul. It's probably a simple dish, but its flavors will impress.

Last year, one of the big surprises for me were the Kelp dishes from Ocean Approved, a kelp farm located in Maine that was also the first kelp farm in the U.S.  Their kelp is 100% all natural, gluten free and very healthy for you. It is low in calories, carbohydrates and fat, and is also an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron. In addition, it is one of the few foods with the nutrient iodine, which is essential for hormone balance. I had a Kelp Smoothie last year which I enjoyed.

This year, I had a different Kelp Smoothie, which was made with kelp, spinach, banana and apple, and once again, it was delicious. They have a new product this year, pictured above, which are kelp squares. They make it simple to use in creating smoothies, soups, sauces, and more. You just add one cube, per serving, to a blender and puree it with the other ingredients; If you aren't big on eating vegetables, using these would be an excellent way to get their nutrition.

Kanefuku Co., Ltd. is a Japanese company that has been involved in natural seafood for over 30 years. Mentaiko is the marinated roe of pollock or cod, and is made in a variety of flavors and colors, and spicy mentaiko is very common. It is commonly eaten with onigiri, a rice ball, or you can enjoy it alone with a glass of Sake.

This Mentaiko was placed atop some white rice, and it had a pleasant spice kick and a slightly briny touch. An interesting addition which I think could accent many other dishes. Though they also had some atop mac n' cheese, and I wasn't a big fan of it. I much preferred it atop the plain, white rice.

Epicurean Butter makes infused butters, using natural ingredients, which home cooks can use to enhance their dishes though food service companies can benefit from their use too. Chef John Hubschman creates their butters,  They make at least 15 different flavors, including 8 Savory, 4 Sweet, 2 Premium (Black and White Truffle), and 1 Holiday (Pumpkin Spice). Each 3.5 ounce butter sells for about $3.99, except for the Truffles which are $7.99.

I loved the Black Truffle Butter, finding it creamy and earthy, a nice balance of flavors that I could see being smeared atop Chilean Sea Bass or Sablefish.

The Caramel Sea Salt Butter was also a delight, though it is more for desserts and generally not something for seafood.

This South African Hake, which is wild caught and MSC Certfied Sustainable, as a delicious piece of fish, moist and flaky, with a bit of sweetness to the flesh. It was simply prepared and the purity of the fish stood out.

I need to give another shout out to the people of the California Sea Urchin Commission, who support sustainable caught sea urchin and has established best practices for divers and processors. They once again offered Uni Shooters for sampling, which I had with uni, Sake and wasabi. Damn, that tasty! And it was extremely popular at the Expo, as they almost couldn't keep up with the demand. I savored a spoonful of the uni on its own too, such a creamy and briny delight. I've said before that Uni and Sake make a great pairing, and I continue to believe that is true.

What did you enjoy sampling at the Seafood Expo?

1 comment:

Susan Holaday said...

Yes! The British Columbia booth had amazing food - the last day we tasted a veggie and seafood chowder that was to die for. I'm going to enjoy SENA much more next year when it's on it's own and I'm not working another show at the same time. I even missed the polar bears this year - very sad :)