Wednesday, April 5, 2017

SENA17: Seafood of Interest

Blue, green, grey, white, or black; smooth, ruffled, or mountainous; that ocean is not silent.”
--H.P. Lovecraft

Once again, I attended the Seafood Expo North America (SENA), a huge trade show for the seafood industry. SENA is one of my favorite food events each year, an Expo worthy of continued support and where you'll find fodder for many story ideas. The basic Expo events occur from Sunday to Tuesday, over the course of 19 hours, and as usual, I met with a variety of people, attended conference sessions, tasted loads of seafood samples, took plenty of photos and tried to learn new information about seafood.

SENA is the largest seafood trade event in North America, continuing to grow each year, constantly breaking records on its size and attendance, Last year, over 1259 companies exhibited at the Expo and this year, that number rose to 1327 exhibitors, representing 51 different countries. The total exhibit space grew to approximately 253,000 square feet. You'll get plenty of exercise walking down the roughly 34 aisles of exhibitors.

Over 20,000 people attended SENA, indicating the huge interest in this Expo. The exhibit hall gets busy, but far less than you would expect for an event this large, likely because the hall is so spread out. However, there is still a lack of civility from some attendees, as I noted last year. Even though the event lasts three days, that is still insufficient time to experience all the Expo has to offer. You'll have to make choices as to which booths and conferences you wish to visit, which people you choose to engage. The size of the event permits a great diversity in exhibitors, allowing you to find whatever interests you.

SENA is all about commerce, the buying and selling of products and services. Nearly all of the exhibitors are there to make money while most of the attendees are there to spend money. Attendees are seeking seafood, both fresh and frozen, as well as various processed seafood products, from crab cakes to salmon bacon. Others are there to buy processing equipment, cooking supplies, packaging machinery, labeling equipment, conveyors, and much more. Still others are seeking services, from food safety to third party certification.

Each morning, before the Expo opens, you'll find tables throughout the convention center filled with people conducting business. Once the Expo opens, much of the business will end up in the main exhibit hall, at small tables at their booths, though business will also continue to be conducted in other parts of the convention center. And this is clearly international business, with attendees from all over the world, trying to make deals.

What may not seem obvious is that SENA is not really about seafood. It's not??? Despite the many thousand pounds of seafood being showcased at the Expo, it is all merely a means to an end. SENA is actually about people and community. Seafood is only food, intended to provide sustenance and nutrition to people, and that is understood, though largely unspoken, by the exhibitors and attendees. SENA is much more about fishermen and fish farmers, distributors and retailers, inventors and importers. It is about all of the people involved in the seafood industry, and their economic well being. It is about the global economy as the seafood industry is truly international and affects people all across the world.

Concerns about seafood sustainability ultimately come down to the fate of people, whether future generations will have enough food to survive, and whether they will live in a clean world, with adequate resources. The fate of the oceans and the fish directly relates to the fate of mankind. When you understand that SENA is all about people, then the issues take on an even greater significance. We need to talk about this more, you ensure that everyone understands people are the primary concern. It is our future and nothing is more important than that. And that sentiment would be repeated at a couple of the conferences I attended.

Having said that, I want to highlight some of the delicious seafood I sampled at SENA. Many exhibitors offer tastes of their seafood products, and you'll find seafood prepared in many different ways, such as chowders, soups, pate, batter fried, marinated, pickled, dried, raw, smoked, salads, smoked, sushi and much more. Each year, there are plenty of new products offered, though you will likely find some prior favorites still around. Some of the best samples you will find are prepared by some creative chefs. It is just a matter of locating the booths of those inventive people. You can also feel good that at the end of the event, SENA donates several thousand pounds of seafood product to the Greater Boston Food Bank Network.

Onto my tasty highlights of the Expo...

I've previously tasted various seafood sausages, and you usually know exactly what you're eating. It is clearly seafood. However, the California Calamari Sausage (pictured above), made by Real Good Fish and apparently distributed under the Ocean Angel Brand (which is part of Del Mar Seafoods), is very different. The squid is sourced from the California Current, and these sausages are also prepared with fennel seed, dried sage, dried oregano, sea salt, black pepper, brown sugar, red pepper flake, ground clove,  cayenne pepper, and a lamb sausage casing. They are supposed to be high in protein, low calorie and have 0 grams of saturated fats. I loved these sausages, and they certainly tasted like a usual pork sausage, and not other seafood sausages. You likely would not have known they were made from squid. They have a nice blend of spices, a mild bit of heat, and an excellent texture. Being healthier than other sausages, these would be a good option, even for people who claim not to like seafood. Highly recommended.

At the Japanese Pavilion, Daiei Foods Co. Ltd., a seafood wholesaler founded in 1973, presented samples of their Wasabikko, Wasabi Flavored Seasoned Flying Fish Roe. It is an intriguing idea, blending spicy wasabi with salty fish roe, and this would make a nice addition on sushi. I liked the taste, and the heat was evident though not overwhelming.

Seaweed snacks have been popular for quite some time and Ocean's Halo is upping the game with their line-up of Seaweed Strips. These Strips come in four flavors, Almond, Chocolate Almond, Coconut and Chocolate Coconut. They are made from only a few ingredients, including seaweed and a complex sauce base. I tasted the Chocolate Almond & Chocolate Coconut flavors, and they were an intriguing blend of briny and sweet flavors, like drinking hot chocolate made from sea water. Though it may sound strange, it was tasty, and the added texture of the nuts and coconut enhanced the treat. The flavor may not appeal to everyone, but at least be open to trying it.

Another more unusual flavor combination is the Coppa Candied Salmon Caramel Ice CreamCoppa, which opened in September 2013, is a handmade ice cream and coffee shop in Juneau, Alaska. Currently the ice cream is only available at their shop, which caters to the many cruise passengers that stop by the area. However, they are seeking ways to make distribution more cost-effective so they can sell it across the country. The ice cream is made with Sockeye Salmon from Taku River Reds, as well as milk, cream, sugar, maple syrup, butter, sea salt, guar gum, and gum arabic. I found the ice cream to be creamy and delicious, with a sweet and salty element, the merest hint of salmon. I know plenty of people cringe at the idea of fish in their ice cream, but if they tasted this ice cream, they would change their minds.

Caviarum, a Canadian company, produces Faux Caviar, which is intended to be less expensive and more sustainable than actual caviar. They sell their products to restaurants and food service companies. In short, to create their faux caviar, they use "molecular science technology by extracting fish broth and using fish oils to create a formulated liquid." That liquid is then processed into small balls, like fish eggs. Overall, I think these can make a nice substitute, unless you are a connoisseur who doesn't mind paying the steep prices for actual caviar.

They make four different types, including:
--Crown Osetra: To represent wild Osetra sturgeon from the Black Sea. This was probably my favorite of the four. Tiny, dark "roe" with a delightful briny and fishy taste.
--Royal Beluga: To represent wild Beluga sturgeon from the Black & Caspian Sea. These "roe" are larger, though also with that pleasant briny and fishy taste.
--Albino Gold: To represent the extremely rare wild Albino Beluga from the Caspian Sea. These were intriguing, possessing a touchy of smokiness that enhanced the more briny "roe."
--Pearl D'Escargot: To represent the wild Escargot from the ancient European oak forests. These also had a more unique flavor, more earthy notes with plenty of umami. Would love to have some of this with a glass of Sake.

At the Louisiana booth, Chef Michael Brewer prepared a few different seafood dishes during the course of the Expo. Last year, I wrote an article about him, Louisiana Seafood & Chef Michael Brewer, and it is worth a read.

One of the dishes he prepared this year was Alligator Sausage Cheese Cake. This was prepared with 60% farm-raised alligator and 40% for, as well as a proprietary spice blend, cream cheese, & sour cream. This was moist and flavorful, with a little bit of spicy heat, pleasant sausage spices, and a nice texture. It is always a pleasure when a Chef at the Expo prepares something original as there isn't enough of that at the Expo.

I was very pleased to finally get the chance to meet Chef Diane Kochilas at the Expo. Chef Kochilas, an expert in Greek cuisine, is the consulting chef for Committee. She represented Selonda at the Expo, a Greek company which produces and supplies Sea Bream and Sea Bass.

Chef Kochilas simply prepared some Sea Bream, also known as Dorade, and it was quite good, with a nice firm texture and moist, white flesh. I've often advised people to seek out less common fish to enjoy, rather than the most popular types. And Sea Bream would be a good choice.

What foods did you particularly enjoy at SENA17?

The sea can bind us to her many moods, whispering to us by the subtle token of a shadow or a gleam upon the waves, and hinting in these ways of her mournfulness or rejoicing. Always she is remembering old things, and these memories, though we may not grasp them, are imparted to us, so that we share her gaiety or remorse.”
--H.P. Lovecraft

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