Consumers who want to make seafood choices that are good for their health and the planet often find themselves in fishy moments.
Is farm-raised fish and seafood better than wild? What is overfished?
New developments in the fresh and salty water worlds can help with the conundrum.
The conscionable eat-out crowd in Atlanta may already know that Drift Fish House & Oyster Bar in Marietta joined the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program last year as one of more than 135 restaurant partners around the country committed to serving only sustainable seafood. The program offers a free mobile app that diners and home cooks alike can use to stay afloat to know what’s kosher from fresh and salty waters. (Find the guide at seafoodwatch.org.)
Similarly, sister restaurants Kimball House in Decatur and Watchman’s Seafood and Spirits in Inman Park have built a reputation for oysters and raw bar offerings because they make it a point to know and vet purveyors.
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Among recent oyster arrivals, Kimball House and Watchman’s partner Bryan Rackley is enthusiastic about the Divine Pine oysters, available for a limited time at both locations. This rare North Carolina oyster shares waters with algae that turn the oyster a unique jade olive color, Rackley said. Besides Kimball House and Watchman’s, look for Divine Pine oysters for a limited time at C&S Seafood and Oyster Bar.
If you are interested in diving beyond a dozen Divine Pine oysters, mark your calendar for Feb. 16. That’s when Garden & Gun is hosting an oyster tasting and education event at its Garden & Gun Club at The Battery Atlanta, adjacent to SunTrust Park. Attendees will taste their way through a bevy of raw, steamed and grilled oysters prepared by chef Ann Kim. Moreover, they will get an earful from oyster expert André Gallant.
“There are still a lot of myths about oyster eating and aquaculture in the South,” said Gallant, an Athens resident.
Gallant is the author of “A High Low Tide: The Revival of a Southern Oyster,” published last year by the University of Georgia Press. The book focuses on efforts to revitalize the Georgia oyster industry.
For Gallant, the most exciting thing in the Georgia scene is the growth of the McIntosh family business, run by father and son Earnest McIntosh Sr. and Earnest McIntosh Jr. of Harris Neck. “Seeing them, a family that has been involved in the Georgia seafood business for years, get a piece of this action is important,” Gallant said.
While the McIntosh family is a likely topic of conversation during Gallant’s Garden & Gun Club talk, Gallant has advice for anyone who wants to learn about the ecology of oysters. “If you had an oyster that appeals to you, learn about that place, look into its history, the company that produces them. Oystering is richly tied to place and tradition.”
Talk of seafood and fish will soon take place beyond Atlanta. The Southeastern Wildlife Expo is slated for Feb. 15-17 in Charleston, South Carolina. During this three-day event, Southern food ambassadors Matt and Ted Lee will emcee the South Carolina Department of Agriculture’s culinary stage, where chefs will be paired with the farmers, fishermen and food producers. Among the nearly 40 people who will take the stage, a demo on Feb. 16 will see second-generation fisherman Mark Marhefka paired with “Chopped” contestant and College of Charleston executive chef Tonya Mitchell.
“He’s one of the keystones to the Charleston food community,” said Ted Lee, who referred to Marhefka, 57, as a “fish whisperer.”
Marhefka supplies fish to some of Charleston’s top restaurants, including FIG, McCrady’s and the Grocery. He also co-owns wholesale operation Abundant Seafood, which runs a community-supported fishery (CSF). Similar to a community-supported agriculture (CSA), shareholders pay a monthly fee to reap the rewards of fresh-caught, sustainable seafood, all the while backing the fishermen who pull in the catch. Marhefka’s was the first CSF in North America.
Atlantans may not be able to subscribe to Marhefka’s CSF or hit up Charleston for a weekend road trip to learn about the ins and outs of his life on the waters, but Marhefka does have advice for consumers looking to make sustainable choices: Consider the carbon footprint it took for you to enjoy that fish.
“Minimize the missions it took to get the product to the plate,” he said.
That means asking questions about how the fish got from catch point to you, he said. In addition, he advises paying less attention to when the fish was caught and more to the handling process. “It breaks down to the integrity of the flesh,” Marhefka said. More touches on the fish equate to a less quality experience for the diner, he said.
Time-pressed home cooks wanting to go the sustainable route have more options than ever. Colorado-based LoveTheWild is launching three sustainably farmed fish kits. Barramundi with Mango Sriracha, Shrimp with Cajun Creme and Rainbow Trout with Salsa Verde are the latest additions to its line of single-serving kits. The newest products, sold for $6.99, will be available at all metro Atlanta Whole Foods Market locations in March.
Oysterfest at Park Tavern
Try fresh, regional, fried, raw and steamed oysters, Park Tavern’s fried shrimp, beer, cocktails, live music and a DJ. For ages 21 and up.
1 p.m. Feb. 9. $20. Park Tavern, 500 10th St. NE, Atlanta. bigtickets.com/e/spiral/oysterfest2019/
Southeastern Wildlife Expo
Feb. 15-17. A three-day celebration held in various locations in South Carolina of wildlife and nature through fine art, conservation education, sporting demonstrations, food, drink and the people who honor them. One-day general admission, $25; three-day general admission, $50. sewe.com.
Oyster tasting and education event
2-5 p.m. Feb. 16. $35. Garden and Gun Club. 2605 Circle 75 Parkway, Atlanta. 770-726-0925, gardenandgunclub.com.