Tuesday, April 3, 2018

SENA18: The Seafood Expo (Part 3)

What were some of the most interesting seafood products that I found at the 2018 Seafood Expo North America (SENA)?

I previously wrote about some of the most interesting seafood products I found at SENA and I'm back to describe more impressive foods, as well as highlighting a few of the chefs who were preparing delicious seafood dishes.

The Boston Smoked Fish Co. may be the only smoked seafood company in the Boston area. The founders, Chris Avery and Matt Baumann, began in 2013 by experimenting with a home smoker and a myriad of varied brine recipes, different fish and various hardwoods. They now use local seafood, various herbs and spices, and then smoke it in small batches. You can find their products at the Boston Public Market and assorted local grocery stores. I tasted several of their different products and all of them were delicious and flavorful, highly recommended.

Some of the products you'll find include: Simply Smoked Salmon (Norwegian Atlantic Salmon) for $8.99/4 oz, Smoked Wild Haddock (line caught haddock from Georges Bank) for $8.99/4 oz, Smoked Salmon Pate for $8.99/6 oz, Smoked Salmon Bacon for $8.99/3 oz, and Smoked Bluefish Pate (Cape Cod bluefish smoked over hickory hardwood) for $8.99/6 oz.

There were samples of their Smoked Salmon Bacon and it was a rich and smoky treat. They use salmon belly for the bacon as the belly is thinner, with more fat, and takes to the smoking better. I could have easily consumed all of these compelling samples, loving the bacony salmon taste.

Simple and tasty smoked salmon.

Both the Smoked Bluefish and Salmon Pates were delicious, presenting a creamy and complex taste, with a smoky kick as well as the richness of the seafood and nicely balanced spices. These would create impressive appetizers for a party, or just for a dinner for two.

Seek out Boston Smoked Fish Co. for their locally sourced seafood products!

At the Japanese Pavilion, I stopped at the Banjo Foods booth, drawn to the large advertisement for "Sweet Miso Wasabi." The company was established in 1952, in the prefecture of Shizuoka, and produced wasabi powder. Over time, they have expanded their production to include wasabi paste, ginger paste, eel sauce, salad dressings and more. Wasabi remains a dominant ingredient in most of their products. Wasabi and horseradish are both plants of the Brassicaceae family though much of the "wasabi" you see at local Asian restaurants is primarily horseradish, with little, if any, actual wasabi. You'll usually see actual wasabi grated, with sharkskin, tableside atop your sushi or other dish.

The Sweet Miso Wasabi is a sauce/condiment created by a blend of coarsely grated wasabi (from the stem) sourced from Shizuoka, horse radish and Shinshu (yellow) miso. It is gluten free, and doesn't contain any MSG or artificial colorings. I very much enjoyed enjoyed its rich and complex flavors, the intriguing blend of spicy heat, sweetness, and saltiness. This is a versatile item, which can be used as a condiment atop sushi, or as a dip, sauce, or spread. This could be used with many type of protein, from seafood to beef, chicken to pork. I have some of the Sweet Miso Wasabi and look forward to experimenting with it. Highly recommended!

Basically every bit of the wasabi plant is edible and Banjo Foods also makes a Chopped Wasabi Stalk, another type of sauce/condiment which is made from 100% wasabi stalks from the Shizuoka prefecture. It has a predominantly spicy taste with herbal accents, a pleasant complexity. It too is versatile and they even recommend mixing it with cream cheese or mayo.

Besides the various seafood products at SENA, there were numerous other booths showcasing other elements of the seafood industry. The City of Gloucester has had a booth at numerous Seafood Expos, showcasing the famed fishing community, local seafood, and sustainability. This year, their booth also created a Monkfish Stew for sampling.

To promote their community, they created an initiative, Gloucester Fresh, noting that: "Gloucester is a fishing town with both triumph and loss. Seafaring and fishing have always been, and will continue to be, a very dangerous undertaking. Gloucester, Massachusetts has lost more than 10,000 fishermen to the sea since its founding almost 400 years ago." I've long advocated that Americans should eat more local seafood and Gloucester is certainly an excellent source for such fish.

Gloucester Fresh has long tried to promote using more seafood species than just the usual suspects. This year, they chose the Monkfish, which some think is one of the ugliest fish in the sea, with its big head, beady little eyes, and huge mouth filled with lots of sharp teeth. The North Atlantic is one of the main regions where monkfish are harvested. Looking past its appearance, the Monkfish has delicious meat, with some calling it a "poorman's lobster." Commonly, the tail meat is used, a lean, mild-tasting white meat, though the cheeks and liver are eaten as well. The tail meat doesn't flake like a cod, but is more firm like a scallop or lobster. It is sustainably harvested and can be bought relatively inexpensively.

Cooks acquired from Snapchef, a large culinary training and staffing company located in New England, created the Monkfish Stew.

The stew was made from chunks of monkfish, onions, celery, carrots, tomato sauce, oil, salt, pepper, and chopped fresh parsley, which was poured over white rice. With a spicy kick, the stew was tasty, with plenty of tender, and slightly sweet, pieces of monkfish. It is the type of stew that any seafood lover would enjoy, and which would also convince people that monkfish is a delicious seafood that they should be eating.

There was a celebrity chef at SENA too, Robyn Almovodar, who has been a contestant on two seasons of Hell's Kitchen, as well as episodes of Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen (winning both episodes). I got to taste a couple dishes she prepared, including a Spicy Tuna Poke and a Seared Tuna with Ponzu Sauce, and I was impressed with the blend of flavors in each dish.

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