On October 2, I celebrated locally-caught fish and the local fishing industry at the Boston Local Food Festival on the waterfront at Fort Point Channel in downtown Boston. I had the not-too-shabby job of being one of four judges rating the cooking skills of two Boston celebrity chefs during the Seafood Throwdown on a beautiful sunny Saturday. The Top Chef-ish event pitted the chefs against each other to create a delicious dish within an hour from local seafood and local ingredients from the farm stands on the festival grounds.
The chefs – Didi Emmons of the Haley House Bakery Cafe in South Boston faced off against Jason Bond, formerly of Beacon Hill Bistro and No. 9 Park – were tasked with preparing pollock and butterfish. The dishes were rated on taste, originality, presentation, and use of the whole fish.
Jason Bond prepared a delectable pollock with a mustard seed crust and fresh pasta made from local whole grain flour, topped with the butterfish and cooked with pureed fresh corn. Didi Emmons prepared amazing fresh fish chowder with potatoes, leeks, and a variety of fresh vegetables, along with a fresh salad of kale, leeks, beets and other greens topped with sautéed butterfish. Both dishes were tasty but the winner was Didi Emmons.
Angela Sanfilippo, president of the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association, prepared a wonderful redfish stew for onlookers to sample.
Cape Ann Fresh Catch, run by the association, provided the fish for the Seafood Throwdown. This Community Supported Fishery (CSF) works the same way as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which requires members to pay a season’s worth of produce at the beginning of the year to receive a share of the farmer’s harvest each week. Cape Ann Fresh Catch supplies fresh seafood caught by Gloucester fishermen to 14 communities in Greater Boston and the North Shore. One difference between the CSF and CSA is that you buy a share in a CSA for an entire season (usually May or June through October or November) while the CSF works in shorter time frames in eight or 10-week shares throughout the year.
Buying local fish supports the local fishermen and related shore-side industries, creates jobs, and keeps delicious, fresh seafood on tables across the Commonwealth. So think about where you seafood comes from and ask markets and restaurants where they get their seafood. Try – and encourage others – to make local choices that benefit our local fishermen in our communities!